29 April 2016

Something’s got to give in Islamabad

April 29, 2016

By removing 13 of his officers, the army chief has all but asked the Prime Minister to quit — and the oligarchic warfare in Pakistan has turned more complex than ever before

So is Pakistan’s military getting ready to take over the government for a fifth time in its 69 years of existence to play its self-acquired additional role of defending national integrity? The country’s all-powerful army chief seems to have implicitly asked the third-time elected prime minister to quit. After names of some members of Nawaz Sharif’s family appeared in the recent Panama Papers leak, General Raheel Sharif made a pitch asking the Prime Minister to offer himself for an above-the-board accountability, which basically means to resign. The general is now joined by the GHQ’s new political creations, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP). Mr. Sharif snapped back by giving a televised speech in which he questioned the moral authority of the military to question him. Given excessive publicity since he took over as army chief, General Sharif seems to have greater moral authority to poke Mr. Sharif where it hurts. The television speech did not earn the political Sharif kudos, but it did indicate his intent to fight back.

** The Impact of Cyber Capabilities in the Syrian Civil War

April 26, 2016 

The Impact of Cyber Capabilities in the Syrian Civil War


The Syrian Civil War has been ongoing for nearly five years and has captured the news headlines for its brutality. It is also notable because communications and social technology have pervaded almost every aspect of this conflict. These technologies have played such a prominent role that the conflict has been described as “…the most socially mediated civil conflict in history [1].” The emergence of this type of conflict was predicted in 1982 by William H. McNeill, who argued that mass communications technology would reduce the ability of governments in developing countries to use police force to stay in power [2]. McNeill’s prediction came to fruition as the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War were facilitated by social media technology. However, once hostilities broke out, the belligerents began to use cyber capabilities to further their side of the war.

Cyber capabilities are the use of social and communications technology to sabotage the enemy or to gain a tactical or strategic advantage in a conflict. This can encompass the use of a wide range of technologies. Cyber capabilities can include the simple use of social media to garner support for a particular side of the conflict. However, they can also be more sophisticated. For example, enemy websites can be disabled through distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks or defaced by hackers. Hackers can also be employed to gather intelligence from the devices of enemy operatives. Lastly, cyber capabilities can also be used to disable military equipment and infrastructure. Many have hailed the use of cyber capabilities as revolutionary to warfare and argued that it would have a profound impact on military tactics and strategy. Recent experiences in the Syrian Civil War, indicate that this is largely true as cyber capabilities have greatly increased the propaganda abilities of the belligerents and have allowed non-state actors and even noncombatants to meaningfully engage in the war effort.

** Keeping the EU together is in the United States’ interest, but it doesn’t have the means or ability to do so.

By George Friedman
April 27, 2016

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics.

Obama and the European Union

U.S. President Barack Obama has re-emphasized the importance of the European Union, saying it was one of the most important inventions of the past 70 years. This claim comes after he told the British public that they should vote to stay in the EU, to the anger of those supporting an exit. They felt that Obama was interfering in British internal affairs by taking sides in a domestic dispute. Obama claimed that given historical U.S. involvement in Europe, in wars and recovery, this was justified.

A distant second after the more important question of why Obama is involving himself, is whether he thinks his opinion actually matters. Assuming he understands that his views matter in Britain about as much as British Prime Minister David Cameron’s opinion on the Republican primaries matters in the U.S., we need to think through what Obama is trying to do, since he clearly knows that he carries little weight in the matter, and might actually alienate British voters.

To begin at the beginning, European integration was an American idea. While Paul-Henri Spaak and Robert Schuman may have thought of the idea, it was the Marshall Plan that first had increased European integration as one of its goals. The Americans believed that their mission was to revive Europe and that the infusion of money wasn’t enough. Creating a harmonized economic structure was central to the recovery, so the United States pressed for some form of integration.

France resisted integration at first because it was not prepared, so soon after the war, to collaborate with Germany. The British rejected the idea because they felt they had a special relationship with the United States given the wartime alliance, and didn’t want to be tossed in with the rest of Europe, particularly the French.

** Ghosts by the Water Line China has moved mountains and dammed rivers to pump water to a thirsty Beijing, but the colossal project could destroy the lives of millions in the heartland.

APRIL 26, 2016

On a rainy evening in September 2015, the fisherman Cao Suizhou, his hand on the diesel engine, steers his small motorboat by sightline of the shore. There are no stars visible above, nor lights from homes along the boundary of the water.

This is not a natural lake, but a vast, man-made reservoir — and the site of ongoing controversy and clashing ambitions in central China. The Danjiangkou reservoir — created by the damming of a major Yangtze River tributary in the late 1950s — was expanded in 2011 so that it now holds almost 30 billion cubic meters of water, which runs from the artificial lake to Beijing through an open concrete canal 790 miles long, comparable to the full length of Texas.

The channel, known as the central leg of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project, was built as a lifeline to supply water to China’s dry and populous northeast. Four-fifths of the country’s water naturally flows through the south, yet the burgeoning capital, two-thirds of China’s agricultural land, and much of the country’s heavy industry are in the parched north. In the northern plains, over-pumped and dwindling aquifers already endanger the nation’s breadbasket. The channel brought some relief when its water began flowing through Beijing’s faucets about a year ago.

* President Xi Jinping’s Most Dangerous Venture Yet: Remaking China’s Military

By Jeremy Page 

BEIJING-China’s stock market was swooning. Investors were panicking. Yet when Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke that first Monday in January, he didn’t address the global angst about the world’s second-largest economy.

Clad in an olive-green Mao suit, he was talking instead to Chinese troops about another challenge that consumes his time and political capital: the biggest restructuring of the People’s Liberation Army since the 1950s, a plan that unnerves America and its Asian allies and could upset the global balance of power.

“We must emancipate our minds and change with the times,” he told troops of the 13th Group Army on Jan. 4. They should not, he said, “wear new shoes to walk the old road.”

Four days earlier, Mr. Xi had started to implement a plan to transform the Soviet-modelled military, long focused on defending China from invasion, into a smaller, modern force capable of projecting power far from its shores.

The plan, to be implemented by 2020, is one of Mr. Xi’s most ambitious and politically risky undertakings yet.

If it succeeds, it could lay the ground for China to conduct combat operations as far afield as the Middle East and Africa. That would mark a milestone in the nation’s emergence from a period of isolationism that began under the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century.

It could enable China not just to challenge U.S. military dominance in Asia, but also to intervene militarily elsewhere to protect its shipping lanes, resource supplies and expatriates, as other world powers have. While an expeditionary Chinese military could help in humanitarian and counterterror operations, the concern for the U.S. and its allies is that Beijing might use force in ways that conflict with Western interests.

U.S. Pushes to Quickly Implement Intelligence Sharing Agreement With India

Sushant Singh
April 27, 2016

With Modi as PM, the Obama administration was hopeful of India signing the agreement.

Amidst talks over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to the United States in June, American officials are grappling with Indian government’s reluctance to sign the Defence Intelligence Sharing agreement between the two countries.

Indian officials confirmed that US Defence Secretary Ash Carter had raised this issue in delegation-level talks with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar at Delhi earlier this month. Senior government officials, however, said that while the US had been insistent on it — and has raised it at political, bureaucratic, and military levels — they have told the US that “we are not ready for it yet”.
Two senior American officials from the US Defence Intelligence Agency are scheduled to visit Delhi next month to deliberate over the agreement. However, sources said, their meetings with senior Indian officials were yet to be confirmed.

“Defence intelligence cooperation is mentioned in the Defence Framework Agreement signed between the two countries in 2015. Enhanced exchange of military intelligence has also featured in all the discussions between PM Modi and President Obama but we have seen no progress in operationalising it,” a US official told The Indian Express.

Senior Indian military officials dealing with intelligence said that while they have regular meetings with US military officials, signing the agreement was a political decision in which they had little say.

Kashmir on the edge: Peace is far from sight

By Gaurav Dixit
28 Apr , 2016

Four persons were killed and nine others were injured as personnel from the Rashtriya Rifles and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police allegedly opened fired on the protesters in the Handwara town of Kupwara district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir last week. The protestors had attacked an Army bunker at Handwara Chowk and pelted stones on the army camps. The protests had erupted as rumors of allegation of molestation of a girl by an army man got fanned through the volatile district.

Situation in many parts of the ever-volatile state of J&K, including Handwara, Kupwara and the areas in Baramulla, can be described as depicting a ‘dangerous deterioration in the political situation’

Kashmir again appears to be trapped in a riotous time and the impressionable youth in the Kashmir Valley has once again taken to the streets, taking law and order in its hands. Discontent in this region is growing and the level of violence has become more severe. Situation in many parts of the ever-volatile state of Jammu and Kashmir, including Handwara, Kupwara and the areas in Baramulla, can be described as depicting a ‘dangerous deterioration in the political situation’

The last Ruling King of India

By Ravi Rohmetra
28 Apr , 2016

“Maharaja Hari Singh” a patriotic daring, dignitary and dynamic personality of the royal family ascended to the throne of Jammu & Kashmir State in 1925. He gained acclamation for being “The Last Ruling King of Independent India”. Since he continued to be Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir till 5th November 1952. He was born on 23rd September 1895 in Amar Mahal Jammu. Son of Raja General Amar Singh and nephew of the then highness of Jammu & Kashmir State Maharaja Partap Singh.

Maharaja Partap Singh discarding the right of his only adopted son Raja Jagdev Singh of Poonch considered the all-round brilliance, suitability and competence of his highly qualified (from Britain) Nephew Hari Singh, who had already become the senior member of the State council at the age of 27th then he was declared his successor.

In 1934, there erupted “Roti” and “Cow” agitation in Jammu which was handled by Maharaja Hari Singh with utmost care and caution.

When he was 13 years old he was sent to “Mayo College of Princes” for studies. Soon after his admission in the Mayo College his father Raja Amar Singh died. After his father’s death British Govt. in Delhi took keen interest in his education and bringing up. A British Army Officer was deputed as his guardian with the responsibility of ensuring proper education and training with the aim of grooming him to be a good ruler. After completing his education in Mayo College he was sent to “Imperial Cadet Corps” at Dehradun to imbibe in him military and martial traits as well as polishings his English language. Maharaja Hari Singh married Maharani Tara Devi in 1928. Yuvraj was born to them on 9th March 1931 as the next Heir apparent.

Russia ready to join Afghan talks: Interfax cites Russian official

Apr 27, 2016

Russia is ready to join stuttering peace talks on Afghanistan if interests of all parties taking part in them are respected, including Afghanistan itself, Interfax news agency cited Russian envoy on Afganistan Zamir Kabulov as saying on Wednesday.

Russia considers inefficient the current format of the talks, sponsored by the four-power group of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China, and does not plan to join in, although Moscow is ready to create a new format, he said.

The Afghan government refused to take part in the talks just a week after a massive bomb blast in Kabul killed at least 64 people and wounded hundreds on April 19.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt, writing by Denis Pinchuk; editing by Dmitry Solovyov)

Dharamsala Conference: Message To China And Pakistan – Analysis

By Amulya Ganguli* 
APRIL 27, 2016

By deciding to host a conference of Chinese dissidents in Dharamshala, India has shown some spine in its dealings with Beijing after many years of playing the nice guy. However, by first granting and then withdrawing the visa for the Uyghur nationalist Dolkun Isa, whom China brands a “terrorist”, presumably because of the Interpol red corner notice against him, New Delhi has shown that it is yet to firm up its China policy.

Moreover, the flip-flop has cast doubts over the conference itself. If anything, the episode has underlined the Narendra Modi government’s inexperience in matter of international relations since it should have checked out Dolkun Isa’s background more thoroughly before extending the invitation to him.

It is too early to say if the latest developments presage a return to the pursuit of mealy-mouthed policies with China once again. At one time, India appeared so eager to keep the Dragon in good humour that it even treated the Dalai Lama with uncommon rudeness. For instance, the Tibetan pontiff was once hustled out of his residence in New Delhi and taken to 7, Race Course Road, where he was ushered into the prime minister’s presence by a side door.

Not surprisingly, the Nobel laureate was reported to have been “shaken” by the encounter, for he had never before been treated so shabbily by the Indian leaders who had till then been unfailingly courteous towards the holy man.

Pakistani Army: Stop Being Nation, Instead Assist In Nation-Building – OpEd

By Brig. Anil Gupta (Retd.)*
APRIL 27, 2016

The anti-India belligerent attitude of the Pakistani army has seen an upswing in the recent days. There is no doubt that all is not well internally in Pakistan and that the tussle for supremacy between the two Sharifs – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Raheel Sharif – continues unabated. The recent terrorist attack in Lahore has completely exposed the hollowness of the Pakistani army and its failure to tame Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) despite its much touted all-out military offensive in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) codenamed Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Whenever the Pakistani army is faced with such challenges at home, it resorts to its time-tested formula of upping the ante against India and raising the Kashmir bogey. The Pakistani army believes that its raison d’etre is to “annex Kashmir”- its so called jugular vein and unfinished agenda of the partition. Having failed miserably in annexing Kashmir and the people of Pakistan refusing to be stirred anymore by the ‘K’ chant , it has now started blaming India for the rebellion it faces in Balochistan. Notwithstanding the fact that the Baloch problem has persisted since Pakistan’s independence, and has been further compounded by total lack of governance and brutalities committed by the Pakistan Army, the recent attempts to shift blame on India is a clear indicator of growing paranoia of the Pakistani army viz-a-viz India.

General Raheel Sharif while addressing a seminar in Gwadar a few days back not only openly blamed India for supporting subversive activities to destabilize Pakistan, but he also added a ‘China Factor’ to it by adding that Indian subversive activities in Balochistan are focussed on undermining the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is an ambitious $ 46 billion project aiming to link Gwadar port in Baluchistan to Kashgar in Xinjiang province of China through a vast network of highways, expressways and railways. Other major projects include up gradation of Gwadar port, special economic zones, motorways, pipelines and cross border optical fibre project connecting the two countries.

Nuclear Armed Submarines: Menacing Murky South Asia – OpEd

APRIL 27, 2016

Pakistan lately has expressed concern over the latest Indian test of a submarine capable of firing nuclear ballistic missiles, saying the “act will impact the delicate strategic balance in the region”. The test of the nuclear-propelled submarine has been stated as “serious development” resulting into “nuclearization of Indian Ocean”. In general the event is taken as worrisome development for the region and the international community. Pakistan also showed concern that the ballistic missile test conducted by the submarine was not notified to Pakistan, notwithstanding the agreement on pre-notification of test launch of ballistic missiles. In line with the agreement the test should have been notified to Pakistan as any test of missiles, whether launched on the surface or sea, can be mistaken by the other country as an offensive act.

In a world with economic and military development, as viable cooperation’s coming up, oceans are having a significant role in strategy and tactical maneuvers. The economic worth of Indian Ocean was highlighted through the exploration of oil by the Gulf States, however later the trade interests multiplied the significance and security challenges in the region. The Indian Ocean has now become a place of trilateral security competition among China, India, and Pakistan. The bilateral contention between China and India as well as India and Pakistan are intensifying the nuclear activities in the ocean.

The evolving naval nuclear dynamics in South Asia would start a new competition in the region with alarming future prospects. Both states are said to be developing their naval nuclear forces. India, the world’s largest weapon importer, has already approved $16 billion for nuclear powered submarines and naval warships. Reportedly, India plans for developing more than 160 ship navy, 3 aircraft carriers and more than 40 warships and submarines that includes anti-submarines corvettes and stealth destroyers. India is one of the three Asian countries to maintain aircraft carriers. On other hand Pakistan has lately approved a proposal to purchase eight diesel-electric submarines. However viewing India’s naval ambitions, Pakistan will look to neutralize developments with India and it may prove an initiative for having permanent sea-based deterrent equipped with submarine launched variant of cruise missile (Hatf-7- Babur). According to a 2013 policy brief on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.

The US Cancelled a Scheduled FONOP in the South China Sea. What Now?

April 27, 2016

The United States canceled a scheduled maritime freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea, a government source told the Wall Street Journal. According to a report published in theJournal Tuesday evening, in a bid to “lower the temperature” in the South China Sea while still demonstrating resolve to China over possibly intensifying activities near Scarborough Shoal, the United States chose not to hold a freedom of navigation operation this month and instead carried out air patrols near Scarborough Shoal. As I discussed earlier this month, the reported freedom of navigation operation in April would have been the third since the United States began challenging excessive maritime claims in the Spratly and Paracel Islands. One operation was held in October 2015, in the Spratly Islands, and another in January 2016, in the Paracels.

The circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the operation aren’t fully known, but it is likely that the United States wanted to manage the diplomatic fallout with China in the South China Sea. Instead of another FONOP, which would have drawn a negative reaction from the Chinese foreign ministry, as previous operations in the South China Sea have, the Obama administration chose to signal its support for the Philippines. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was in the Philippines earlier this month. As my colleague Prashanth Parameswaran discussed in some detail, among other things, Carter’s visit was the first high-level U.S. official visit to the country–a U.S. ally–since the activation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which will allow U.S. forces rotational access to Philippines bases. Additionally, Carter became the first defense secretary to observe the bilateral U.S.-Philippine Balikatan exercises.

Is China A Neocolonial Power In Africa? – Analysis

APRIL 26, 2016

China-bashing has predictably reemerged as a familiar theme in the current 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, with the frontrunners of both parties attacking China for having committed a myriad of alleged outrages against U.S. interests.1 Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, is of special interest, as she had prominently accused China of engaging in neocolonialism in Africa during her 2011 visit to Zambia in her position at the time as U.S. Secretary of State.2 The Chinese have not forgotten this slight, and the state-owned Xinhua news agency recently published an opinion piece critiquing Clinton’s accusation of China’s alleged neocolonialism, concluding that:

“Accusing China of being a neo-colonialist in Africa puts the biased West in an absurd scenario where the robber acts like the cop.”3

As I recounted last year, China has indeed been very active with its various economic projects in Africa. To briefly recap: “Recent examples of such projects include China Railway Group’s Light Railway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the first phase of which was recently completed; China Railway Construction Corporation’s Abuja-Kaduna railway in Nigeria, which was completed in December 2014, and which is the first phase of a larger railway modernization project connecting Lagos with Kano; and the Lobito-Luau railway in Angola, also built by China Railway Construction Corporation, which will eventually be connected to the Angola-Zambia and the Tanzania-Zambia railways. Likewise, Chinese engineering firms … are constructing airports across the continent, including airports in Angola, Comoros, Djibouti, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, and Togo. Apart from the transportation sector, Chinese companies are also involved in Africa’s energy sector, including hydropower dams in Ethiopia and Uganda; biogas development in Guinea, Sudan and Tunisia; and solar and wind power plants in Ethiopia, Morocco, and South Africa. Other economic sectors Chinese companies are actively involved with in Africa include agriculture, construction, healthcare, mining, and industrial manufacturing. A recent count estimates over 2,000 Chinese companies are engaged across almost every country on the African continent.”4

Fewer Foreign Fighters Joining ISIS, Pentagon

April 27, 2016

Fewer foreign fighters joining Islamic State: Pentagon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria has decreased sharply in the past year to about 200 a month, a U.S. military official said on Tuesday.

That is a drastic decline from about a year ago when between 1,500 and 2,000 foreign fighters were joining the group in Iraq and Syria each month, said Air Force Major General Peter Gersten, deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the U.S.-led coalition, during a news briefing.

Earlier this month, the State Department said the number of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria was lower than at any time in the past two years.

Syria has become the main global incubator for a new generation of militants as Islamic State recruited as many 31,000 foreign fighters in the past 18 months, according to a report published by a former British spy chief last year.

Gersten added that the number of fighters defecting from Islamic State was increasing as well, but he did not give a specific number.

“We’re seeing a fracture in their morale, we’re seeing their inability to pay, we’re seeing the inability to fight, we’re watching them try to leave Daesh in every single way,” Gersten said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Deja Vu All Over Again: Why Won’t the War on Terrorism Ever End?

April 26, 2016

Counter-Terrorism: The War On Terror Repeats Itself

The War on Terror that was declared after September 11, 2001 soon evolved into a Moslem civil war between those (mainly Islamic terrorists) who want a worldwide religious dictatorship run by themselves, versus those representing the majority of Moslems who are getting tired of being threatened and murdered by Moslem religious fanatics. The majority of Moslems are not against the idea of a global Islamic dictatorship but that plan has never worked and most simply want a better life in a nation that reflects their own local culture as well as “universal Islam.”

The reality is that the War on Terror consists of many individual wars in which local power struggles, often centuries old, have become more violent because Western forces, seeking to eliminate base areas for Islamic terrorists attacking the West disabled local dictatorships that had long kept the local Islamic terrorists under control. But since the 1990s that traditional control has been breaking down anyway and, as has happened so often in the past, the West sent its own forces to deal with the matter. This is not a new problem for the United States and is an ancient one in Europe. For example in the early 1800s American merchant ships were beset by seagoing Moslem terrorists. These were the Barbary pirates, freebooters who operated out of bases in North African ports. The rulers of the North African kingdoms (the Barbary States) tolerated the pirates (considering it their God given right to do so) for a cut of the loot. Nations could protect their citizens from pirate attacks by paying large sums of money (tribute) to the rulers of the North African kingdoms who would then restrain the pirates. Today, we call this a protection racket. America paid the tribute for a while, but when asked to pay even more, the cry went up, “millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.” In went the U.S. Navy and Marines and that was the end of the Barbary pirates. Thus the Marine Corps hymn contains the line, “to the shores of Tripoli”.

The Current State of ISIS In Iraq

April 26, 2016

Iraq: The Curse That Keeps On Killing

While the Americans have doubts about Iraqi forces taking Mosul by the end of 2016 all agree that it’s not a matter of if but when. Retaking Mosul is a top priority for Iraq and all those concerned are cooperating to help make that happen sooner rather than later. The Iraqi government is apparently willing to risk embarrassing battlefield setbacks in order to keep the advance on Mosul moving. Iraqi Army forces have been steadily advancing from the south while Kurdish forces have been moving down from the north. The U.S. led coalition is ready to provide a lot of air strikes to keep things moving. Iran has assured Iraqi leaders that Iranian military trainers and advisers with the many Shia militias are under orders to keep those militias from misbehaving (murdering Sunnis, looting or interfering with army operations).

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) forces are not demonstrating any ability to stop the advance. Although ISIL keeps bringing more fighters into Mosul it does not help a lot because losses and desertions remain high and morale quite low. This can be seen by the increasing use of mass executions of ISIL fighters (often poorly trained new recruits) who flee a battle or otherwise refuse to fight.

In a recent incident ISIL executed 45 of their men by locking them in industrial walk-in freezers for 24 hours and then displaying some of the frozen bodies around Mosul as a warning to everyone. The 45 victims here were among the defenders of the recently (April 8th) lost town of Hit. Located on the Euphrates River some 200 kilometers from Baghdad Hit is near the al Asad airbase, where many U.S. troops have been stationed since 2015. Hit had a population of 100,000 in mid-2014 but by the end of the year the arrival of ISIL had led nearly half of the people to flee. Another 10,000 civilians fled in last week of the battle. ISIL only had a few hundred men defending the city and they used snipers, hundreds of landmines, roadside bombs and ambushes to delay the army advance. ISIL leaders were dismayed when most of the Hit defenders fled as troops began moving into the town. ISIL can still get men to volunteer for suicide bombings but large scale attacks by ISIL gunmen are a risky proposition now because the average ISIL fighter is not up to it in terms of skills or motivation. For that reason ISIL counterattacks tend to fail and simply boost the morale of the advancing Iraqis and Kurds.

ISIS Spreading in Europe, DNI Clapper

April 26, 2016

ISIS Spreading in Europe, U.S. Intelligence Chief Warns

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State is operating clandestine terrorist cells in Britain, Germany and Italy, similar to the groups that carried out the attacks in Paris and Brussels, the top-ranking American intelligence official said on Monday.

When asked if the Islamic State was engaging in secret activities in those nations, the official, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said: “Yes, they do. That is a concern, obviously, of ours and our European allies.” He then added, “We continue to see evidence of plotting on the part of ISIL in the countries you named.” ISIL is another name for the Islamic State.

Mr. Clapper, speaking to reporters at a breakfast meeting organized by The Christian Science Monitor, became one of the most senior Western officials to publicly acknowledge the Islamic State’s extensive reach into Europe, which has set off growing fears among American and European spy services and policy makers. The Islamic State has vowed to conduct attacks in those three European countries.

Western experts, however, emphasize that it is impossible to know where the next attack might take place.

Spurred by the Paris attacks in November and the assaults in Brussels last month, the United States has rushed to provide allies with intelligence from a variety of technical and human sources, as well as to offer long-term structural fixes to the Europeans’ failure to share intelligence effectively and to tighten porous borders.

Obama is Right: The Gulf Arabs Ride Free on Terrorism

April 26, 2016

President Obama missed the last real opportunity of his administration to urge the Arab Gulf monarchies to finally adopt a no-tolerance rule toward all terrorist groups and to end the inexcusable impunity of terror financiers in their territory. Rather than calling out how certain Gulf states have failed to honor their commitments in this regard, President Obama used language that patted them on the back for half measures during his visit to Riyadh last Thursday for a Gulf leadership summit.

Back in September 2014, just before the start of international airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria, the United States released a document called the Jeddah Communiqué. In it, the State Department announced that the Gulf monarchs and several other Arab allies of the United States had committed to “countering financing of ISIL and other violent extremists, repudiating their hateful ideology, ending impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice.” And just this past week, the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Councilreiterated their “shared commitment to defeat terrorism in all its forms.”

So how have the GCC states actually fared, compared to their promises? Well, if you listen to President Obama this week, they’ve already succeeded. He bragged to the press in Riyadh on Thursday that “during the course of our administration, the GCC states have extensively cooperated with us on counterterrorism” and “on curbing the financing of terrorist activities.” The summit’s joint communiqué said the United States “commended” the Gulf states for their “rigorous efforts. . . to prevent terrorist attacks,” including their efforts to “counter violent extremism.”

Updating U.S.-Saudi Ties to Reflect the New Realities of Today’s Middle East

April 25, 2016

When President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia last week to participate in the U.S. summit with the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, he landed in the midst of regional turbulence and major economic and foreign policy changes by the Kingdom.

Today, the Middle East remains caught up in a period of fragmentation and competition for influence among the leading powers in the region. In the aftermath of last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and other global powers, President Obama has yet to achieve the new equilibrium in the Middle East that he envisioned. His recent suggestion that GCC countries “share” the region with Iran received a cool reception in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the GCC. Saudi Arabia—along with other GCC countries—remains deeply concerned about Iran’s subversive activities in the region, including its support for terrorist groups and ongoing conventional military efforts, such as its ballistic missile program.

This current period of insecurity following the Iran nuclear deal is the latest episode in a U.S.-Saudi relationship roiled by tension for more than a decade. Since 2000, the decades-long foundation of close relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia—namely, regional stability, energy security, and military cooperation—has come under considerable stress. The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the 2003 Iraq war ushered in a rocky phase in bilateral U.S.-Saudi relations. These two incidents—along with the end of the U.S. policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq—led to a decline in mutual trust between the United States and Saudi Arabia that’s now reaching critical mass.

Security Of Nuclear Weapons Challenges For South Asia And The Muslim World – Analysis

By Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury*
APRIL 27, 2016

The apprehensions that nuclear weaponry might fall into undesirable hands are growing. President Barack Obama of the United States has given leadership in bringing the issue to the fore in the just-concluded Washington conference. With the forthcoming changes in the US Administration, greater responsibility will devolve on to the international community in this regard. The imminent Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Turkey should take up the cudgels in this matter in real earnest. This would bring credit to the leaders of the Islamic world in their countries, and beyond.

The fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington is over. This could also spell the end of the American initiative to keep the nuclear genie, now out of the bottle, under control. President Barrack Obama had made non-proliferation and nuclear safety a major pillar of his external policy. Like in most things, he did not achieve all that he set out to do. But a modicum of success is indeed owed him, given that over the last four year period, coinciding with his second term, twelve states, including his own, France and Russia have decreased their stocks of weapon-grade nuclear materials. One country, Uzbekistan, has removed the total amount altogether. This score is somewhat tempered by the fact that the UK, Japan , the Netherlands, North Korea and Pakistan would see their levels either plateau or rise.Of course, what also led these States to do what they did, was not necessarily to please Obama, but because they assessed this policy to be in consonance with their perceived national self-interest.

Russia vs. Japan: Asia's Forgotten Island Fight

April 26, 2016

Over the past few years, attention on territorial issues in Asia has largely centered on China, which has a raft of disputes with its neighbors, including Japan and many countries in Southeast Asia. A less discussed, but still strategic, rift is that between Japan and Russia over the Southern Kuril Islands, which Japan often refers to as the Northern Territories. The Kurils are a chain of more than fifty islands that stretch north from Hokkaido in Japan to Kamchatka in Russia. The islands are currently administered by Moscow and have been under effective Russian control since the end of World War II, following the defeat of Japan. Tokyo, meanwhile, maintains its claim of sovereignty over four islands in the chain (Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai), claiming that the territories were illegally annexed by the Soviet Union following the war.

The islands are often cited for their value in terms of energy and resources, but they are also of key strategic importance. By that yardstick, the Kurils are more valuable to Russia than they are to Japan. These islands are important to Moscow because they preserve Russian naval access to the Western Pacific and play a critical role in Russia’s nuclear deterrence strategy. Unfortunately for Japan, because the islands’ strategic value to Russia has been only increasing in recent years, Russian willingness to compromise on the matter is likely to correspondingly decrease.

Russia May Deliver New Fighter Jets to Myanmar By End of 2016

April 27, 2016

Russia plans to deliver three fighter jets to Myanmar by the end of 2016, media sources reported Tuesday.

Earlier this year, information from the 2016 acquisition plan of the Russian aircraft manufacturer Irkut had indicated that a batch of Yakovlev Yak-130 (Mitten) combat trainer aircraft and associated equipment could be delivered to Myanmar this year, along with a specialized full-mission tactical simulator to be delivered by the end of 2017. At the time, no further information about the exact delivery schedule was provided on the aircraft, which has an approximate export price of $15 million.

Now, a source has confirmed to the Russian daily Kommersant that the transfer will occur by the end of this year.

“The plan provides for the transfer of three aircraft to them [Myanmar] in 2016,” the source reportedly said.

The Yak-130, a Russian-made subsonic, two-seat, new-generation aircraft, was originally developed in the 1990s, with the prototype subsequently completing test flights and joint tests in the 2000s. Though it is classified as a lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT), which allows pilots to familiarize themselves with aircraft, it can also fly on genuine combat missions. And owing to several hard-points under each wing, the aircraft can support a combat payload weight of up to 3,000 kg, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, free-fall bombs, rockets, gun pods, and precision-guided bombs.

Russia's new tank comes with a drone

April 25, 2016 

Russia's new Armata tank will come with its own unmanned aircraft.

The Armata has already grabbed attention with its highly automated design, in which the turret is unmanned and the three-man crew sits in the hull. Now, manufacturer Uralvagonzavod intends to package a UAV with the vehicle, according to the RT news site.

“It is a necessary element at a tactical level," Uralvagonzavod director Oleg Sienko said. "It is very hard to move forward in the column ‘without eyes;’ that’s why the UAV is provided there and we will be actively introducing it."

RT reported: "It is not yet known which UAV will be used to fit into the vehicle, but it will certainly be one made in Russia, Sienko said, adding that it is for the Russian Defense Ministry to decide which device to choose as it runs the trials."

The Armata — a family of armored vehicles that can be built as tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other versions — is now under development. The first batch of 20 tanks will be delivered to the Russian military in 2016 or 2017, RT said.

A Major German Exporter Struggles

By Lili Bayer
April 26, 2016 

Germany’s export-dependent economy is highly vulnerable as China slows down and a crisis of exporters unfolds. Last week, all eyes were on Volkswagen as the German company reached a preliminary agreement with the U.S. government following its emissions cheating scandal. The company has to pay $18.28 billion as a result of the scandal and might end up facing even higher costs. Nevertheless, it is the financial status of another German automaker, Daimler, that points to an even more serious problem for Germany’s economy. Daimler’s first-quarter report indicates that German exporters may be struggling to adjust to a global economic slowdown and may be using unsustainable business choices to keep export volumes high in the near term.

According to the World Bank, exports amount to about 45 percent of Germany’s GDP. Last year, Germany was somewhat able to compensate for falling demand in economies like China with increased exports to European markets and the U.S., as well as with domestic demand. But there are now growing indications that domestic demand and exports to alternative destinations are no longer shielding Germany from the global exporters’ crisis. Official data from Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs has shown that in February factory export orders fell 2.7 percent compared to the previous month. Notably, orders from the rest of the eurozone fell by 3.7 percent. Domestic orders rose merely 0.9 percent. At the same time, German businesses are beginning to grasp the extent of the challenges facing the country’s economy, with a business climate index compiled by the Ifo Institute for Economic Research showing that confidence has fallen for four out of the past five months.

Funding economic change with fracking revenues

Mark Muro and Devashree Saha
April 25, 2016 

First, the fracking boom strained state and local governments as unconventional oil and gas development generated population spikes, heavy truck traffic, and new service demands.

Now the fracking bust is straining government again. This time the pain involves idled drilling rigs, worker layoffs, and gaping budget holes.

Isn't there a better way? There is, as we argue in a new paper released last week. States that are immersed in the hyperbolic boom and bust cycles of the fracking economy should move in two simple ways to smooth the ride out. They should tax extraction and then manage the revenues for the long term with permanent trust funds. Do that, and more “fracking patch” states will have a good shot at managing the cycles more strategically while at the same time working over the longer haul to “remake economic development,” as our colleague Amy Liu has said many places should.

The need for reform has become glaring this spring. Given the sheer scale and speed of the fracking-driven oil and gas boom and bust in recent years, the problem posed for governments—and state economies—by commodity price cycles has been thrown into stark clarity.

Important Papers

Troubles, They Come in Battalions: The Manifold Travails of the Indian Air Force http://carnegieendowment.org/files/Tellis_IAF_final.pdf

President Xi Jinping’s "Belt and Road" Initiative http://csis.org/files/publication/160328_Johnson_PresidentXiJinping_Web.pdf

Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ) no. 81 (2nd Quarter, April 2016) http://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/JointForceQuarterly81.aspx

o Crafting and Managing Effects: The Evolution of the Profession of Arms

o Errors in Strategic Thinking: Anti-Politics and the Macro Bias

o Strategy 2.0: The Next Generation

o Rediscovering the Art of Strategic Thinking: Developing 21st-Century Strategic Leaders

o Strategic Agility: Theory and Practice

o Sustaining the "New Norm" of Jointness

o The Future of Senior Service College Education: Heed the Clarion Call

o Officers Are Less Intelligent: What Does It Mean?

Parameters, Winter 2015-16, v. 45, no. 4

o Rethinking America's Grand Strategy: Insights from the Cold War

o Landpower and American Credibility

o To Win Wars, Correct the Army's Political Blind Spot

o Will Army 2025 be a Military Profession?

o America's All Volunteer Force: A Success?

o The 'War' in Russia's 'Hybrid Warfare'

o On Strategic Leadership: An Interview with David H. Petraeus, General (USA Retired)

o The Utility of Nuclear Weapons Today: Two Views

o On ”Expanding the Rebalance: Confronting China in Latin America”

Open-source intel: NGA taps crowd for better tools

April 26, 2016 

When the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency released eight new open-source coding projects earlier this spring, the move marked a milestone in the agency’s efforts to share the task of software development with the wider developer community.

“They are doing exceptional work,” said Brian Monheiser, director of U.S. federal programs for open-source geospatial software provider Boundless Spatial Inc. “They are sharing their expertise with a much broader constituency, putting themselves out there to collaborate with a community of people they have never worked with before.”

In 2014 NGA became the first intelligence agency to use GitHub, a publicly accessible software development network with more than 14 million users and over 35 million repositories. The agency has since launched a steady stream of projects there.

Asking questions in a big room 

In its most recent round of projects released on GitHub, NGA is seeking help with software spanning a range of topics, said Chris Rasmussen, manager of NGA’s open-source Pathfinder project. A few examples:

Storytelling: This project asks developers to construct better ways for NGA to present information in a usable format, especially when multiple authors are putting together an intelligence narrative. When working with geospatial intelligence, or geoint, “sooner or later you are going to have to convey that in English to somebody,” Rasmussen said. Better coding could make that easier to do. 

A $15,000 phone promises more cyber security, for some

April 26, 2016 

Bridging the divide or widening it? Sirin Labs, a British-Israeli startup, plans to sell highly secure phones aimed at executives next month. But the phone's features could eventually trickle down to mass consumer devices, some technologists say.

In the wake of a growing debate about government surveillance and "back doors" into encrypted phones and other devices, a slew of smaller companies have emerged to compete with Apple and other tech giants by emphasizing their commitment to customers' privacy and security.

On Monday, a startup called Sirin Labs upped the ante, saying it would introduce in May a highly secure smartphone that runs on on Google's Android software that is two to three years ahead of the current technology available on the mass market – but at a steep price. The phone, known as "Solarin," will likely sell in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, the British-Israeli startup's president says.

In an era of ubiquitous electronic surveillance and security concerns, the phone raises anew Constitutional questions: Is privacy an inherent right or something now only available to an elite who can afford it? Will this phone (and others like it) widen the digital divide – providing cyber security for the wealthy – or could Solarin's success lead to improving smartphone technology overall in years to come?