9 March 2016

Politicising Ishrat Jahan

March 8, 2016,m R. K. RAGHAVAN
New revelations of bureaucrats being bypassed or browbeaten in the 2004 case must be looked into. It is also time to repair the relationship between the CBI and the IB
It seems the Ishrat Jahan controversy over an alleged fake encounter near Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004 — in which the 19-year-old girl from Mumbai and three others, all suspected of having links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), were killed — will never die away.

The episode has acquired heavy political overtones, with reports of an alleged cover-up by the then United Progressive Alliance government being aired every day, much to the delight of our TV channels and the confusion of their viewers. Caught in the crossfire have been a few civil servants and police officers, many of whom are honourable men merely discharging their duties. Some of them could have been overzealous, or had possibly buckled under political pressure. But, to date, none of them has been accused of a personal agenda.

New twists in an old plot
What has given new life to the controversy is the totally unexpected press statement by former Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai a few days ago. A normally low-profile and suave civil servant, one with a huge reputation for integrity, Mr. Pillai sprang a surprise, saying in unequivocal terms that a vital change to the second affidavit filed in the Gujarat High Court in 2009 — about a month after the previous one — was drafted not by him, but by someone above him at a political level. It was obvious he was referring to the then Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
Mr. Chidambaram is not apologetic about the change he made in the affidavit to omit a reference in the earlier affidavit which had identified Ishrat as an LeT person. No one can dispute his right, as the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) supreme boss, to tinker with the draft affidavit put up to him. What is being questioned by the Bharatiya Janata Party and others is his reason for doing so.
The point is the charge that Ishrat was an LeT operative was based on categorical Intelligence Bureau (IB) reports. To date I have not come across any claim that the information was flimsy and uncorroborated. Mind you, the IB is an attached office of the MHA. This means Mr. Chidambaram disbelieved his own organisation, one that enjoys an enviable reputation for blunting the edge of terrorism. Nothing else could demoralise as sensitive an organisation as the IB as this rejection of its stand.

NSA Doval has struck gold


The government’s Pakistan policy is highly accident prone, and, therefore, let me strike when the iron is still hot. But what needs to sink in is that slowly, steadily, a meaningful engagement between Delhi and Islamabad seems to be getting under way.
Of course, it faces the risk of sniper fire not only from right-wing nationalists (who are in unholy alliance on this turf with the political opposition), but also from within our establishment. The sharp remark by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and the Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit’s prompt clarification last week testify to how the bureaucracy is indulging in vanities without knowing what is happening. Basit obviously knew much more than he was willing to admit. (here andhere).
These are early days, but the sharing of intelligence by Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Naseer Janjua with our NSA Ajit Doval regarding the strong likelihood of a major terrorist strike in India suggests that a critical mass is possibly developing in their mutual engagement. If so, it could presage a breakthrough that has only few precedents in the tortuous India-Pakistan discourse. (here).
Doval’s strength is that he is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trusted aide on foreign and security policy front, while Pakistan’s interest would lie in developing a matrix of mutual understanding with him precisely for that reason.
It could be that the Pakistani side is testing the waters — how far Doval is willing to take a walk into the night with his counterpart. On the other hand, paradoxically, this is an instance where we can only sincerely hope that Lt. Gen. Janjua raised a false alarm.
Nonetheless, it is significant that Lt. Gen. Janjua appears to have named the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e Muhammed. A strong case can now be built to mount a crack down on these terrorist groups. Is the crunch time coming for the jihadi leadership?
Equally, we need to appreciate this stunning development against the backdrop of a much bigger canvas, which is strongly suggestive of a clean break in Pakistani policies, both internal and external – execution of Mumtaz Qadri, which is undoubtedly a brave and audacious decision by the civilian and political leadership of Pakistan (here), as well as the signs of a profound shift in the Pakistani strategy towards Afghanistan (see my article in Asia Times entitled Pakistan shifts its Afghan strategy: To what end?)

India must worry over China's $150 bn defence budget

March 07, 2016
'While China has been hiking its defence spending, India has done precious little in implementing the Manmohan Singh government's decision of raising a 90,000-strong China-centric Mountain Strike Corps,' says Rajeev Sharma.
China's defence budget this year has been pegged at $146 billion, though some reports say it has crossed $150 billion for the first time ever.
In any case, either figure is four times than India's current defence budget.
This is definitely a cause to worry for India. Don't forget the fact that in the aftermath of the nuclear tests of 1998, then defence minister George Fernandes named China as India's number one potential security threat.
Well, these are just figures. These relate to the defence budgets of the two countries in question. But when you talk of defence spendings by the two countries concerned, the figure is much more substantive in both cases as both countries tend to show their actual defence spending in other accounts.

But be that as it may, the basic equation remains unchanged in any circumstance. The fact is that China has been pumping much more money into defence than India for well over a decade.
The rate at which Chinese defence spending has been increasing can be gauged from the fact that China has quadrupled its allocations under this subject in the past decade as per official Chinese statistics though the fear is that China may have pumped much more into the defence sector all these years than it has shown in the books.
For example, China spent $216 billion on defence in 2014, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, though it's official figures under this head showed only $132 billion.
Going by this, one can well understand what the actual Chinese defence spending may be currently.

Decorated washerman waited for promised land till his last breath

Posted at: Mar 7, 2016,
MVC Dhobi Ram Chander
Civilian Dhobi Ram Chander was part of a convoy proceeding to Jammu under the command of Lt FDW Fallon on December 18, 1947
When the convoy reached Bhambla, it was ambushed by the enemy who had created a road block by removing the decking on a bridge
Dhobi Ram Chander helped the convoy commander replace the decking while the bridge was under continuous fire
On Lt Fallon being wounded, he took the officer’s rifle and helped in holding the enemy at bay and was responsible for inflicting five to six casualties on the enemy
His tale of courage is as old as the history of Independent India. While it is rare for a civilian to be decorated for gallantry in war, it is not so rare for the government to forget such tales and leave them in the lurch.

The Punjab government is yet to fulfil its promise of allotting 10 acres to Ram Chander, a washerman hailing from Jalandhar, who was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) in the 1947 operations against Pakistani intruders. He is one of the only two civilians to have been awarded the MVC.
Ram Chander unsuccessfully struggled for the next 50 years to get his due from the government. After he died in 1998, his widow, Tara Devi (75) made several representations to the state government and even met the Jalandhar DC but to no avail.
A civilian washerman attached with an Engineers company of Madras Sappers, Chander was part of a convoy proceeding to Jammu under the command of Lt FDW Fallon on 18 December, 1947. When the convoy reached Bhambla, it was ambushed by the enemy who had created a roadblock by removing the decking on a bridge. Chander helped the convoy commander to replace the decking while the bridge was under continuous fire.
The officer was wounded and Ram Chander took the officer’s rifle and helped in holding the enemy at bay and was responsible for inflicting five to six casualties on the enemy.

The convoy commander was forced to abandon his vehicle due to heavy enemy firing and in the process both he and the convoy commander got separated from the rest of the convoy. He helped the officer, who was in a state of collapse due to loss of blood, to the nearest post which was eight miles away.
Ram Chander’s wife Tara Devi, who was here along with her son Mukesh to attend the ongoing Triennial convention of the War Decorated India, an association of gallantry award winners, is living in penury and manages her affairs with a monthly financial assistance of just Rs 5,000 that is given to spouses of MVC awardees.
“My husband could not get what was promised to him and now I am also in the twilight of my life. I have three sons and a daughter and my only wish is that they should get the land promised to their father for his courage and devotion to duty. It will ensure a good future for my children who doing small-time jobs,” Tara Devi said.

Why India Should 'Look West' Instead

India’s ‘Look East’ policy is based on realistic aspirations, but there are limitations to India’s outreach.
By Akhilesh Pillalamarri,  March 07, 2016
One of India’s most important modern strategic and diplomatic initiatives–at least in theory–has been its Look East Policy, which has lately been transformed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi into an “Act East Policy.” The policy, as The Diplomat’s Prashanth Parameswaran put it, “seeks to strengthen relationships with ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] specifically and East Asia more generally.”
India should definitely not neglect the region to its east, and the policy seeks to correct an almost inexplicable negligence by India toward its Southeast Asian neighbors from its independence until the 1990s. There is definitely scope for enormous economic benefits and increased trade between India (as well as some other South Asian countries, like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) and Southeast Asia. And when it comes to East Asia, ore generally, China continues to be India’s largest trade partner; India and Japan also have strong strategic and economic ties.

Yet, despite all this, there are limitations to looking or acting east for India. It is, in a sense, peripheral and shut out of a region that has already been fairly well integrated. No contribution or action by India can reorient the region toward South Asia and away from East Asia. Rather, Southeast Asia is locked into a growing web of economic and physical interconnectivity with China, with its security needs mostly provided by the United States.

Gilgit Baltistan as Fifth Province: Reconciling with the Status Quo?

Priyanka Singh,  March 04, 2016
A high level committee in Islamabad is cogitating over a proposal to amalgamate Gilgit Baltistan as Pakistan’s fifth province. Previously referred to as Northern Areas, Gilgit Baltistan constitutes a major geographical chunk of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Located in a strategically pivotal positon, it serves as the only land link between Pakistan and China. Media-spurred conjectures indicate that the provincial gambit is being done at China’s behest.
Apparently, China is concerned with Gilgit Baltistan’s undetermined political status and recurrent local protests in the region for representation in Islamabad. Hence, China is keen to get rid of all roadblocks before taking the grand geo-economic plunge with an investment of $46 billion in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will connect Western China with the warm waters of the Arabian Sea via Pakistan. The CPEC package includes a string of infrastructure, power and connectivity projects lined up till the Gwadar Port in the restive province of Balochistan in Pakistan. The ongoing political contemplation within Pakistan over statutory warranty for Gilgit Baltistan is being linked to reassuring China and providing a constitutional shield to the strategic corridor worth billions.

Notwithstanding the CPEC quotient, significant inferences can be drawn from Pakistan’s bid to elevate Gilgit Baltistan as a province. Gilgit Baltistan’s absorption may signify a fundamental shift in Pakistan’s Kashmir strategy. The ‘strategic northern frontiers’ have been in a state of constitutional and political limbo since 1947, pending final settlement of the Kashmir issue. Unlike the so called Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) which is governed under an interim constitution (introduced in 1974) with cosmetic state-like trappings, Gilgit Baltistan has been administered through provisional frameworks for governance introduced intermittently as stop-gap measures. The region remained disenfranchised till 2009 when the empowerment and self-rule ordinance ushered quasi popular representation, alas without representation in the National Assembly.

At cultural crossroads

Naseer Memon March 6, 2016
After nearly seven decades down the road, obstinacy with one language still persists and continues to erode national unity

February was a month of literature buzz in Pakistan. Karachi and Lahore literature festivals were organised with usual fervour. These two events have gained wider popularity in the literary landscape of the country. Amidst these high profile events, a remarkable debut was made by the Pakistani Mother Languages Literature Festival. First of its kind, the festival was attended by a humongous crowd of people from every corner of the country representing linguistic mosaic and cultural tapestry of the country in its federal capital.
The mother languages festival was attended by writers, poets, singers and audience from a wider spectrum of languages of the country. More than 150 writers spoke in two dozen literary sessions mainstreaming the commendable literary work of more than a dozen languages of Pakistan. A multilingual poetry recitation and multilingual musical performance were the magnetic attractions of the colorful event.

A fledgling organization, Indus Cultural Forum, organised this event with the support of Pakistan Reading Project, Lok Virsa and Strengthening Participatory Organisation. The Lok Virsa hosted a rainbow of cultures in its salubrious premises to celebrate and promote cultural diversity of Pakistan.
The literary sessions and performances were not confined only to the major languages of the provinces but also had representation of Seraiki, Pahari, Chitrali, Burushaski, Shina, Kashmiri, Wakhi, Torwali, Balti, Gojri, Darri, Hazargi, Brahvi, Hindko and Pothohari. This rare cultural convergence gave a political message demanding the due share and respect for the long-ignored (if not ostracized) native cultures and languages of the country.

Buying influence in Washington

March 8, 2016
AP“Scarcely a month after the 9/11 terror attacks, Gen. Musharraf faced pressure from the Bush White House to allow the transit of enormous U.S. military supplies through Pakistan as the campaign to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan kicked off in earnest.” Picture shows Gen. Musharraf with Mr. Bush in 2004.
America’s decision to supply Pakistan with F-16 fighter aircraft, despite protest from India, suggests the effectiveness of lobbying within the ambit of Washington’s Beltway politics
A shockwave ripped through South Asian policy circles in mid-February when the U.S. confirmed that lengthy negotiations between Washington and Islamabad had resulted in a decision to supply Pakistan with eight F-16 fighter aircraft worth $699.04 million, despite a year of unrelenting protest from India.
The deal marked the continuation of standard U.S. policy on Pakistan, namely support for an “ally” in the global fight against terror, including against a myriad of hardcore militant outfits on Pakistani soil.
Yet it reflects a troubling conundrum for India, which is that Washington appears to be unable or unwilling to scale back military transfers to Islamabad despite the available evidence of complicity between the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and various extremist groups.

Unflagging support to an “ally”
With the sale announced a little more than a month after the Pakistan-origin attack in Pathankot, India’s ministry of External Affairs immediately summoned U.S. Ambassador Richard Verma to express its “displeasure,” and in Washington Republican Senator Bob Corker described vowed to block the sale to the country that is acting as a “duplicitous partner” and providing safe havens to terror groups.
Yet even as the Modi administration fumed and as Mr. Corker and other Congressmen dashed off sharply-worded letters to Secretary of State John Kerry, threatening to block U.S. taxpayer funds to support the sale of the jets, the Secretary in his annual budget sent to the U.S. Congress proposed a financial assistance package of $859.8 million for Pakistan, including $265 million for military hardware.

Between China and Myanmar: The Battleground Region of Northeastern Myanmar Faces an Uncertain Future

The region deserves urgent attention as the country’s opposition prepares to take power.
By Edith Mirante,  March 07, 2016
This article is part of “Southeast Asia: Refugees in Crisis,” an ongoing series by The Diplomat featuring exclusive articles from scholars and practitioners tackling Southeast Asia’s ongoing refugee crisis.
Bordering China, northeastern Burma (also called Myanmar) pays the price of resource extraction in human displacement and environmental degradation. As Burma’s new National League for Democracy (NLD) led government calibrates its relationship with China and honors commitments to the rights of ethnic groups, this battleground region will need urgent attention.

Known for remote, forested mountains with an array of minerals, including jade and gold, Burma’s northeastern region is a strategic crossroads where Kachin State’s east and Shan State’s north border China’s Yunnan Province. Struggles for control of resources and trade routes, dating back to World War II, have militarized the region.
Companies from resource-hungry China have logged the region’s biodiverse forests, dredged for gold using mercury in the rivers, run petroleum pipelines through Shan State and attempted to build the enormous Myitsone dam in Kachin State, which could threaten the entire Irrawaddy River watershed. Heroin refined from opium poppies grown in the region and methamphetamine manufactured there are trafficked to China.
During the 1990s, ceasefire agreements were reached between Burma’s military regime and many of the ethnic armed opposition groups which had been fighting for independence, federalism or autonomy for decades. During a 17-year ceasefire, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), one of the largest of those groups, enjoyed a peace dividend as the area it administered on the China border thrived, but at the cost of the large-scale loss of forests to Chinese timber companies. In northern Shan State, narco-warlords presided over ceasefire-enabled prosperity (including casinos catering to gamblers from China.)

** In China, Ulterior Motives In The Fight Against Corruption

07 March 2016,  from STRATFOR
Chinese President Xi Jinping is promising to ramp up the state's anti-corruption campaign; however the move is not as altruistic as it may appear, and Xi has much to gain from the expansion. As 2015 ended, China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Communist Party's top anti-graft agency, promised to massively expand the Chinese anti-corruption campaign in 2016.
According to the agency, more than 100 inspections are to take place this year - far more than were conducted in any previous year. In addition, at least one anti-corruption inspection is to be carried out on each of the 280 state and Party organizations accountable to the central government by the time the 19th Party Congress starts in 2017. Though the Party's intent to intensify the campaign had been well publicized, the means by which it could be expanded and its exact targets have only recently become clear.
On Feb. 19, Xi completed a tour of each of China's three top state media agencies: Xinhua, the People's Daily and CCTV. He stressed to the agencies the need for the news media to demonstrate absolute loyalty to the Party, which is increasingly being defined as unquestioning loyalty to Xi himself. State media responded with fervent praise of the Party and of Xi, displayed on their front pages and online homepages.

Xi's words heralded a grander political agenda, which became clear just days later when Wang Qishan, Politburo Standing Committee member and head of the CCDI, convened a conference preparing for the launch of China's first round of anti-corruption investigations in 2016. The Party's Ministry of Propaganda and the related State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television - responsible for carrying out censorship directives - were identified as the first targets in the CCDI's largest investigation to date. It is clear: Xi is using the menacing anti-corruption campaign to crack down on the Chinese media and better control the dissemination of information.

But, as central as the media is to this year's anti-corruption push, it is not the only focus. The CCDI announced 36 targets in total - four provincial governments and 32 central government organizations, including industry-related ministries such as the National Development and Reform Commission, the economic planning body; the State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the body overseeing all of China's state-owned enterprises; and the State Administration of Industry and Commerce, among others. The high number of targets that have a role in formulating and executing industrial policy suggests that this round of investigation is also intended to support China's priority economic goals for 2016, such as reducing industrial overcapacity and merging key state industries. Of course the two focuses are related: China is trying to push forward significant economic reforms. To do that it is clearing possible opposition from within state agencies and securing control of the media to manage the narrative and maintain public support.

Recent events suggest that, contrary to original reports that the CCDI would not expand in size, the agency is in fact adding personnel. At the end of 2015, the CCDI included 15 teams, which were capable of conducting a total of 30 investigations within a single inspection round. However, the expansion of target sets suggests that this year the CCDI will expand to at least 20 teams (16 to investigate government ministries; four to investigate provinces) - double the number when Xi began the anti-corruption campaign in 2013. Assuming three rounds of investigation in a year, the CCDI could conduct anywhere from 108 to 116 inspections this year, depending on whether it chooses to continue provincial inspection tours.

Without Foreign Military Tech, Where Would China's Military Be?

The overwhelming majority of Chinese technology depends on systems acquired from foreign producers.
By Robert Farley,  March 08, 2016
How dependent is China on foreign military technology? Despite enormous progress over the past two decades, the answer remains “a lot.” But the reasons for this dependence are complicated, and in any case the situation appears to be changing fast.
Much discussion of the competition between the United States and China concentrates on American vulnerabilities. Analysts have conclusively established that China can threaten critical elements of the U.S. reconnaissance-strike complex, if not yet defeat it outright.
At the same time, however, the overwhelming majority of Chinese technology depends on systems acquired from foreign producers. Liaoning is literally a former Soviet aircraft carrier, and the next Chinese carrier will likely be derivative of that design; the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile system includes tech derived from the Patriot missile systems; Chinese submarines depend on various generations of Soviet technology (along with a few secrets appropriated from the United States). Similarly, Chinese surface vessels use a variety of components copied or derived from Russian or Western European models.

On the aerospace side, the J-10 resembles the Israeli Lavi (and perhaps the F-16), and the J-11, J-15, J-16, and JF-17 are obvious clones or derivatives of old Soviet aircraft. China’s chief long-range bomber, the H-6, is derived from a Soviet bomber that first flew in 1954. And as I discussed two weeks ago, China has likely copied drone technology from the United States and other producers.
Long story short, both the Chinese military and Chinese defense industry depend on Western and Russian technology, perhaps half a generation old. China’s central achievements have been architectural; reconfiguring systems and components to produce more lethal weapons. China’s formidable cruise and ballistic missile arsenals testify to the success of this approach.
The J-20 and J-31 have the opportunity to change that. Notwithstanding evidence that both aircraft depend on acquisition of information from the United States, they each appear to represent significant engineering breakthroughs on the part of the Chinese aviation industry. And they have the potential to catapult Chinese aerospace achievement past the Russians, and to some degree past the Europeans (although the Rafale and Typhoon represent achievements that China has not yet equaled). The J-20 and J-31 will likely both become operational before either the KFX or the F-3 enter service.

The Implications of China’s Military Reforms

What does China hope to achieve with the current round of military reforms?
By Ying Yu Lin, March 07, 2016
Since the second half of 2015, there has been considerable speculation about China’s rumored military reforms. Speculation became especially intense after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a plan at the September 3 military parade in Beijing to cut 300,000 troops.
In fact, news reports about the replacement of military regions with battle zones first began to emerge in 2012. It was not until Xi made important remarks at a meeting of the Central Military Commission (CMC) on military reforms in November 2015 that the goals and objectives of the reforms were revealed, encompassing the replacement of military regions with battle zones as well as other major organizational overhauls. By January this year, the restructuring had begun to take shape.
At the forefront of the reforms is the replacement of four general departments of the CMC with 15 new departments, signaling not only a change in name but also a complete transfer of functions. It also represents a demotion for the four general departments. The General Staff Department (GSD), for instance, used to be known as the number one organ in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), partly because it was in charge of operations and intelligence, including human, electronic and Internet intelligence, and partly because it was in command of the army, which, in turn, controlled the seven military regions across the country. The GSD has now become the CMC Joint General Staff Department, with its original intelligence units and functions integrated into the new Strategic Support Force (SSF). It no longer exercises operational control of the army, which now has its own headquarters. The new Joint General Staff Department will function purely as a staff organization, similar to the joint chiefs of staff system of the U.S. The inaugural commander of the SSF is Lieutenant General Gao Jin, a long-time member of the Second Artillery Corps, now renamed as the Rocket Force, before becoming assistant chief of GSD and President of the PLA Academy of Military Science. With outstanding credentials as a commanding officer, Gao is seen as having the requisite expertise in operations and intelligence exchange. Putting the SSF under Gao’s command implies that SSF retains part of the functions of the former GSD.

China's Aircraft Carriers: The Ultimate Paper Tiger?

Dave Majumdar,  March 6, 2016 
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) aircraft carriers won’t be able to conduct blue water operations in the way the U.S. Navy’s flattops do. Nor will the PLAN have global power projection capabilities akin to those afforded by America’s fleet of supercarriers. That’s the assessment of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.
“The aircraft carriers that they’re building will not have the same blue open ocean capability that our aircraft carriers have,” U.S. Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Service Committee on March 2. “Nor will it be able to execute air operations the way we use our carriers.”

Chinese aircraft carriers—at least initially—will be focused on local operations in the seas surrounding China, Stewart said. Most of China’s efforts seem aimed at securing Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea and its so-called nine-dash line.
Indeed, China’s current aircraft carrier, the 55,000-ton Liaoning—which was originally built in Ukraine before the collapse of the Soviet Union—is about half the size of an American Nimitz-class vessel. Moreover, the Chinese carrier is equipped with a ski-jump rather than catapults—limiting its ability launch heavier aircraft.
China’s follow-on aircraft carrier—which is under construction at the Dalian shipyards—is also based on the Russian Project 1143.5 Orel design like Liaoningand Kuznetsov. That means, until China develops an indigenous aircraft carrier with either steam or electromagnetic catapults, the PLAN will not have a flattop comparable to a Nimitz or Ford-class carrier.

* Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export Of Wahhabism – OpEd

There has long been debate about the longevity of the Saudi ruling family. My initial conclusion when I first visited Saudi Arabia exactly 40 years ago was: this can’t last. I would still maintain it cannot last even if my time line has changed given that the Saudi monarchy obviously has far greater resilience than I initially gave it credit for. One major reason for the doubts about the Al Saud’s viability is obviously the Faustian bargain they made with the Wahhabis, proponents of a puritan, intolerant, discriminatory, anti-pluralistic interpretation of Islam. It is a bargain that has produced the single largest dedicated public diplomacy campaign in history. Estimates of Saudi spending on the funding of Muslim cultural institutions across the globe and the forging of close ties to non-Wahhabi Muslim leaders and intelligence agencies in various Muslim nations that have bought into significant elements of the Wahhabi worldview range from $75 to $100 billion.
The campaign is an issue that I have looked at since I first visited the kingdom, numerous subsequent visits, when I lived in Saudi Arabia in the wake of 9/11, and during a 4.5-year court battle that I won in 2006 in the British House of Lords. It is an issue that I am now writing a book about that looks at the fallout of the campaign in four Asian, one African and two European countries.

The campaign is not simply a product of the marriage between the Al Sauds and the Wahhabis. It is central to Saudi soft power policy and the Al Saud’s survival strategy. One reason, certainly not the only one, that the longevity of the Al Sauds is a matter of debate is the fact that the propagation of Wahhabism is having a backlash in countries across the globe. More than ever before theological or ideological similarities between Wahhabism or for that matter its theological parent, Salafism, and jihadism in general and the Islamic State in particular are under the spotlight.
The problem for the Al Sauds is not just that their legitimacy is wholly dependent on their identification with Wahhabism. It is that the Al Sauds since the launch of the campaign were often only nominally in control of it and that they have let a genie out of the bottle that now leads an independent life and that can’t be put back into the bottle. That is one major reason why I argue and will do so in greater detail in these remarks that the Al Sauds and the Wahhabis are nearing a crunch point, one that will not necessarily offer solutions, but in fact one that could make things worse by sparking ever more militant splits that will make themselves felt across the Muslim world and in minority Muslim communities elsewhere in multiple ways including increasing sectarian attitudes in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Future Outlook Of Military Cooperation Between Iran And Russia – Analysis

By Hossein Kebriaeezadeh*
Any assessment of military cooperation between Iran and Russia would be meaningless outside the general framework of the two countries’ relations. Therefore, study of the two countries’ relations and approaches to each other will shed more light on the future outlook of military cooperation between these two neighbors, who seek revision in the global order.
It must be admitted that relations between Iran and Russia have their roots in a background of suspicions and misunderstandings and are, therefore, quite vulnerable. Historically humiliating experiences of two Golestan and Turkmenchai treaties, which led to disintegration of Iran under the Qajar rule, and the occupation of the northern parts of Iran by Russians during World War II have forced Iranians to historically look upon Moscow as an untrustworthy party which is prone to breaching its promises. Of course, such bitter experiences are not just about past relations between the two countries. Major examples of bitter experiences that Iran has had with its northern neighbor in contemporary times can be summarized as great delay on the part of Russia for making Iran’s nuclear power plant operational in the southern port city of Bushehr; limitations for Iran in the Caspian Sea; lack of Russia’s active support for Iran in the course of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear case; Russia’s close relations with Israel; Moscow’s lack of commitment to the two countries’ security and weapons agreements, and many other similar cases.
The wall of perceptual distrust between the two sides is so high that Iranians believe that Russians look at Iran from an instrumental and tactical viewpoint, considering Iran as a country whose foreign policy problems they can use at regional and global levels and take advantage of it as a card in bargaining with the West. On the other hand, Russians believe that relations with Iran are only limited to challenging and troublesome areas, which cost Moscow very dearly.

Al-Qaeda Does Governance Too

Posted by Steve Ferenzi on Mar 6, 2016 |
Sorry Osama, your unruly affiliates continue to defy you even in death. Although discussion today often focuses on how much of a “state” the Islamic State actually is, al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliates like Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have been in the business of governing territory for quite some time despite their dead emir’s guidance against it. Newly declassified documentsfrom the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan shed more light on al-Qaeda’s internal disputes, specifically the thorny issue of controlling territory as part of their grand strategy. What are the implications of AQ’s evolution for US national security? Are they a terrorist organization, or do they look more like an insurgency seeking to become a state?
Al-Qaeda has always been a state builder in concept despite its primary role as the vanguard of a broader jihadist movement. Its methodology does not support AQitself becoming the caliphate, but rather it serves in an assisting role for a caliphate that will materialize in the future.

In 2004 Abu Bakr Naji published a treatise entitled “The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will Pass.” It provided a playbookfor how to manipulate state collapse and establish a new political system from the ashes. He specifically addressed the need for administrative cadre to manage the chaos resulting from “vexation and exhaustion” operations and eventually transition to “establishing the state,” a process analogous to Mao Tse-tung’s theory of protracted war that secured communist victory in China. Among the several requirements for successfully managing state collapse, he lists: “spreading internal security; providing food and medical treatment; securing the region of savagery from the invasions of enemies; and establishing Sharia justice among the people.” The Islamic State adopted Naji’s blueprint for their caliphate project along with the label of an actual state.
Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) even flirted with announcing an “emirate” in Syria to provide rhetorical support to its governance structures on the ground, the“soft power” approach complementing its military capabilities.

From the Levant to Libya, This Is How You Beat ISIS


We still have a chance to stop ISIS in Libya before it really takes root. Part of the answer is military—but only part.
In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 25, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper delivered a grim assessment of the threat posed not only by ISIS’s core in Iraq and Syria, but by its “emerging branches in other countries.” Indeed, ISIS is throwing off malignant spores, and if left unchecked, they will grow and propagate the death, destruction, and despair that define the areas under ISIS control.
As we continue to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, we must recognize that the threat is also changing as it is spreading. In North Africa, and particularly Libya, where the danger is most acute, our counter-ISIS strategy must combine the coordinated use of military power, strong diplomacy to end the political infighting, capacity building, and efforts to sow division between local ISIS affiliates and their terrorist sponsors.

It is imperative that the United States, along with our allies, must continue to conduct military operations in Libya to deny ISIS a sanctuary where it can organize and train recruits, derive resources from taxation or oil, establish expeditionary bases or provinces, and threaten the fragile governments of neighboring countries. Last week, the U.S. military conducted a successful airstrike in Libya targeting an ISIS training camp and a senior facilitator, Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian national who is suspected in the March 18, 2015, deadly attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis, and who facilitated the movement of potential ISIS-affiliated foreign fighters from Tunisia to Libya and beyond.
The removal of Chouchane and the camp will disrupt ISIS’s ability to recruit new members, establish bases in Libya, and plan attacks against us and our interests in the region. But the United States and its allies must go further to deprive ISIS of this alternate safe haven with a more robust tempo of operations, and a broader military campaign to roll back ISIS’s territorial gains.

The Greatly Exaggerated Rumors of Islamic State's Demise

Reality Check
A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics.
March 7, 2016,  By Jacob L. Shapiro
IS' position in Syria and Iraq remains strong, despite reports to the contrary.
Three months ago, we published a detailed analysis of the Islamic State’s military strength in Syria and Iraq. Since the publication of that report, Iraqi forces drove IS fighters out of Ramadi, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have advanced about 40 miles from al-Hasakah to al-Shaddadi and Russian air support has allowed Bashar al-Assad to consolidate his position in Aleppo province. This flurry of tactical activity is not immaterial, but also does not change our overall assessment. The Islamic State continues to dominate its core area between Raqqa and Deir el-Zour and to demonstrate flexibility on the battlefield.

Of the four vulnerabilities laid out in our December report, we pointed out the most appealing avenue for a force looking to cripple IS was a southward drive from al-Hasakah to al-Busayrah. The SDF, supported by American airstrikes and special operations forces, has in the last three months advanced approximately 15 miles along this axis. According to a U.S. military spokesman, the SDF launched an attack on al-Shaddadi on Feb. 16 with a force of approximately 6,000 fighters. By Feb. 24, the SDF claimed it controlled al-Shaddadi, and there have been unconfirmed reports of SDF forces making significant headway as far south as Markada.


March 6, 2016 ·
Interview: Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc
Two years after forces under Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Gen. Frank Gorenc, head of US Air Forces in Europe, still believes that Russia is the No. 1 threat to his area of responsibility.
Lara Seligman, Defense News
This interview was originally published March 1 
ORLANDO, Fla. — Two years after forces under Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Gen. Frank Gorenc, head of US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), still believes that Russia is the No. 1 threat to his area of responsibility. Gorenc has watched with rising concern as Moscow intervened in Syria with little regard for civilian casualties, repeatedly invaded our allies’ air space, and demonstrated a troubling long-range strike capability.

In the face of the growing threat, Gorenc is working tirelessly to reassure our allies in the region. This year he will have more resources to work with: President Obama’s latest budget request more than quadrupled the amount of overseas contingency operations money funneled into what is being called the European Reassurance Initiative. But there is always more that could be done.
Gorenc spoke with Defense News on Feb. 26 about what Russia’s resurgence means for the Air Force.
Top Pentagon commanders have labeled Russia the number one threat to America. Would you agree with that statement and how does that impact you from a force and training perspective?


In the winter of 2015, as Britain released its latest statement of its national orientation, there was every sign that the wishes that had underpinned its statecraft were being blown away.
The Middle East is imploding through sectarian bloodletting and the wider Saudi–Iran cold war. Against optimistic expectations, the jihadist wave unleashed on 9/11 is not spent. Islamic state zealots are not a super-threat, but they attack interests and profane standards that Britons care about, from Palmyra to Paris. Power continues to violently fragment across parts of North Africa. Breakdown continues in Libya, despite efforts to forge a unity government, where in 2011 Britain had joined a coalition to steer the tide of the Arab Spring in the right direction. Having waded through blood to survive, Assad has not agreed to exit stage left. A flight of people escaping this distress brings upheaval to the wider Mediterranean world and to an unprepared continental Europe.

More globally, a slump in Chinese demand, and China’s volatile economy generally, threaten to bring on another recession. Though sanctions have punished Putin’s regime for its aggression in the Ukraine, NATO observers fear that an extension of Russia’s adventurism to the Baltic states could touch off an escalating crisis. We are not living through the most dangerous moment in memory. The Cold War was worse and more violently turbulent, not less, despite the rose-tinted memories of many observers. But today’s security environment is undeniably deteriorating. There hasn’t been a better time since the fall of the Berlin Wall to reassess British power and the balance of its power with its ambitions.

BlackEnergy malware activity spiked in runup to Ukraine power grid takedown

Posted on March 5, 2016 
Fresh research has shed new light on the devious and unprecedented cyber-attack against Ukraine’s power grid in December 2015.
A former intelligence analyst has warned that launching similar attacks is within the capabilities of criminals, or perhaps even hacktivist groups, since most of the key components are readily available online.
Zach Flom, an intelligence analyst at threat intelligence firm Recorded Future and a former US DoD computer network defense analyst, has published a study on the BlackEnergy malware, noting a spike in activity prior to the Ukraine attack that left more than 200,000 people temporarily without power on December 23.
“In 2014, shortly after being picked up by APT [advanced persistent threat] groups and becoming more modular, we see a large spike in references to the malware and its increasing usage in European countries, namely Ukraine,” Flom notes.

“Whether or not the attack was nation state-sponsored, the source code for most of the components that were used is available for purchase and download on the open Web,” Flom writes. “It’s no longer far fetched that a similar attack could be conducted by non-nation state-sponsored groups for criminal purposes.”
BlackEnergy has evolved from a “relatively simple” distributed denial-of-service attack tool of early 2007 to a highly capable blob of malware over the last eight years, according to Flom.
The warning of potential future misuse of BlackEnergy comes days after a US government report concluded that the December 2015 power outage in Ukraine – which affected 225,000 customers – was caused by outside attackers.

Apple Vs National Security

There is an opportunity for a global treaty to balance security concerns and privacy
Written by Kamlesh Bajaj | Published:March 7, 2016 
With the major technology companies’ revenues heading south in most geographies, after the Snowden incident, industry leaders gave strong signals against the the surveillance programme to the US government.
Following the FBI demand that Apple build backdoors to enable it to open iPhones and access encrypted data of users, CEO Tim Cook’s message to Apple’s customers around the world, on February 16, 2016, argues that such backdoors can fall in the hands of the very criminals that the government is trying to protect people from, even as it is prone to being misused by the government itself.
This is not new. Similar comments have been made since the Edward Snowden incident — which brought to light that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had worked with vendors to weaken encryption, and that it could break encryption.

Then came the iPhone with stronger encryption. Even Apple can’t access the “keys” to unlock an encrypted phone — only the user controls them. The San Bernardino case, in which 14 innocent people were killed by an Islamic terrorist couple, has validated the Apple claim because the encrypted data on their iPhones could not be accessed by the FBI. Apple could not help either. Hence, the demand for building an operating system that allows backdoors to circumvent security, under an archaic law, is a dangerous precedent according to Cook. “Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.”

Goldwater-Nichols 2.0

By Mark F. Cancian,  MAR 4, 2016
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has focused Washington’s attention on management headquarters and command relationships through a series of hearings that the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has held in recent months. The senator has vowed to make major changes, so the national security community is paying close attention. These prospective changes are sometimes referred to as “Goldwater-Nichols 2.0,” envisioned as a follow-on to the original, and highly influential, Goldwater-Nichols legislation of 1986. That legislation made major changes, such as designating the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be the principal military adviser to the president, making joint service mandatory for general/flag officers, and strengthening the combatant commanders.
More than 30 top experts in the national security community testified at these SASC hearings. Their testimony covers a lot of ground. In an effort to identify common themes, CSIS analyzed the testimonies (and some related work) and categorized the recommendations into nine areas. CSIS is publishing the resulting spreadsheet to help the dialogue within the national security community. (See the last paragraph for a technical description of the spreadsheet.) This analysis is part of a broader CSIS effort on defense reform.
The testimonies overall. The most striking insight arising from the hearings is the lack of a common problem statement as there was before the original Goldwater-Nichols legislation. In the 1980s, there was a clear consensus that joint operations of the armed forces needed to be improved. Interservice coordination failures at Desert One (the failed 1980 raid in Iran), the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon (1983), and the invasion of Granada (1983) convinced many that changes were needed. Today, although the experts identified a variety of shortfalls and weaknesses in the defense enterprise, no such common theme emerges.
The testimonies by category. CSIS divided the proposals into nine categories, which are analyzed in detail below.
Military Personnel and Training. There were several recommendations to make officer selection, management, and promotion more flexible but no single recommendation about how to do this. There was also concern that the large number of required experiences for general and flag officers, including the requirement for joint duty, creates a system that moves officers through assignments too quickly.
General Staff/Joint Staff. Probably the most controversial recommendations would change the Joint Staff into a General Staff in order to improve strategic thinking. The best-known model of a general staff is the German general staff as it existed from the early nineteenth century to 1945. That consisted of a cadre of specially selected and trained officers who spent their entire careers focused on military plans and operations. Russia has had a similar system.


The Unquiet Frontier: Rising Rivals, Vulnerable Allies, and the Crisis of American Power, by Jakub J. Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell (Princeton University Press, 2016)
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference last month, Sen. John McCain noted that our “vision of world order is under assault today … in the Asia-Pacific region, right here in Europe, and nowhere more graphically than the Middle East.” The assault is happening because predatory powers and extremist terrorist movements like the self-proclaimed Islamic State are seeking to drive the West back. According to McCain, “The world order that we built, our dearest inheritance, which we tended to and shored up every year here at Munich, is coming apart.”

This assault and this unraveling or world order, so evident in the South China Sea and Ukraine, is the basis for The Unquiet Frontier. The authors present a future grand strategy for the United States based upon U.S. leadership of a revitalized network of allies to counter the predatory pressures of revisionist powers at the frontiers of freedom. To Grygiel and Mitchell, the frontline allies of the United States are the central mechanism for containing rivals seeking to undermine the current balance of power. They claim that the value of strategically placed allies near Eurasia’s major powers will only grow as our relative technological and military superiority erodes. Thus, they conclude (a bit inartfully) “the time has come for the United States to develop a grand strategy for containing peer competitors centered on the creative use of frontline allies.”
Grygiel and Mitchell contend that the United States has embraced a policy that emboldens revisionist states and weakens the confidence of our partners. They observe:

By virtually any measure American alliances are in a deeper and more prolonged state of disarray than at any point since the Second World War. The decay is greatest precisely in those regions where we have argued the United States needs its alliances to be strongest — the front line rimland states, where the need for effective U.S. security patronage is greatest, the doubts about its fidelity are deepest, and the exposure to its rivals’ probes are the most severe.


March 7, 2016 ·
His analysis offers personal insight and anecdote together with a virtuoso, extensive knowledge of operational detail. This is to be expected as the author, who began his military career as a simple Australian infantry officer before researching (well before the attack on the World Trade Centre) Islamic insurgency in Indonesia, has a long and close acquaintance with his subject. He’s worked as a senior counterinsurgency adviser with US military commander David Petraeus in Iraq and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington. He’s written books on this subject already (these feature on staff college reading lists). As such, it’s no surprise to discover that Kilcullen brings his research together cogently and effectively. It also seems fair to ask, “what’s new, and why should I bother buying yet another book?” What does this work add that isn’t already available elsewhere? The answer depends on how desperately the reader wants to understand the subject.

The book does offer a definitive snapshot of where the so-called “war on terror” has us left us stranded today. By focusing relentlessly on the operational level of the conflict, Kilcullen fashions a key that can be used to unlock a deeper understanding of not just Islamic State, but why this insurgency is ripping across the world. The reader becomes quickly convinced the author is a sure guide, capable of not merely charting a path through this amorphous war but also of drawing credible conclusions about exactly why things have turned out the way they have. What he won’t do, however, is sheet home the blame for the current failure. Perhaps this is because he’s been a participant in much of the strategic decision-making. This provides both the great strength, and weakness, of the book.

For those prepared to think things through his strategic snapshot provides an implicit and devastating critique of current policy. A reader doesn’t need to be particularly astute to discern exactly where things went wrong. Kilcullen’s analysis is, however, rarely explicit. A journalist might be far more ready to share out blame and identify the culprits and those who are responsible for the blunders than Kilcullen: then again, a journalist would lack the inside knowledge and understanding he possesses. His restraint contributes significantly to making each chapter a precise, easy to understand contribution to understanding why the war developed as it has.