26 June 2016

** Gonna Be Bad Day: Britain Votes to Leaves the EU, Cameron Resigns, Stocks Plunge

Britain Votes to Leave E.U.; Cameron Plans to Step Down
Steven Erlanger
New York Times,June 24, 2016
LONDON — Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a historic decision sure toreshape the nation’s place in the world, rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West.
Not long after the vote tally was completed, Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign to remain in the bloc, appeared in front of 10 Downing Street to announce that he planned to step down by October, saying the country deserved a leader committed to carrying out the will of the people.
The stunning turn of events was accompanied by a plunge in the financial markets, with the value of the British pound and stock prices in Asia plummeting.
The margin of victory startled even proponents of a British exit. The “Leave” campaign won by 52 percent to 48 percent. More than 17.4 million people voted in the referendum on Thursday to sever ties with the European Union, and about 16.1 million to remain in the bloc.

“I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months,” Mr. Cameron said. “But I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.”
Despite opinion polls before the referendum that showed either side in a position to win, the outcome nonetheless stunned much of Britain, Europe and the trans-Atlantic alliance, highlighting the power of anti-elite, populist and nationalist sentiment at a time of economic and cultural dislocation.
“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, one of the primary forces behind the push for a referendum on leaving the European Union, told cheering supporters just after 4 a.m.
Chuka Umunna, a Labour lawmaker, called the vote “a seismic moment for our country.” Keith Vaz, another Labour legislator, said: “This is a crushing decision; this is a terrible day for Britain and a terrible day for Europe. In 1,000 years, I would never have believed that the British people would vote for this.”
In Berlin, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, called the news “truly sobering” and said, “It looks like a sad day for Europe and for Britain.”Photo
Supporters of the campaign to leave, one draped in Britain’s Union Jack, in central London on Friday. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

Britain will become the first country to leave the 28-member bloc, which has been increasingly weighed down by its failures to deal fully with a succession of crises, from the financial collapse of 2008 to a resurgent Russia and the huge influx of migrants last year.
In response, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said the assembly would hold an emergency session on Tuesday to address the decision by British voters.
It was a remarkable victory for the country’s anti-Europe forces, which not long ago were considered to have little chance of prevailing.
Financial markets, which had been anticipating that Britain would vote to stay in, started plunging before the vote tally was complete, putting pressure on central banks and regulators to take steps to guard against a spread of the damage.
Economists had predicted that a vote to leave the bloc could do substantial damage to the British economy, but Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England, sought to address those concerns on Friday, saying the bank had made extensive contingency plans and had taken “all the necessary steps” to prepare.


VOTESPCT. Remain 16,141,241 48%
Leave 17,410,742 52%

Mr. Cameron had vowed before the vote to move quickly to begin the divorce process if Britain opted to leave. But he said on Friday that he would leave the start of the formal process to his successor while seeking in the interim to calm the atmosphere before taking any action. In the meantime, nothing will change immediately on either side of the Channel, with existing trade and immigration rules remaining in place. The withdrawal process is expected to be complex and contentious, though under the bloc’s governing treaty it is effectively limited to two years.
For the European Union, the result is a disaster, raising questions about the direction, cohesion and future of a bloc built on liberal values and shared sovereignty that represents, with NATO, a vital component of Europe’s postwar structure.
Britain is the second-largest economy after Germany in the European Union, a nuclear power with a seat on the United Nations Security Council, an advocate of free-market economics and a close ally of the United States.
The loss of Britain is an enormous blow to the credibility of a bloc already under pressure from slow growth, high unemployment, the migrant crisis, Greece’s debt woes and the conflict in Ukraine.
“The main impact will be massive disorder in the E.U. system for the next two years,” said Thierry de Montbrial, founder and executive chairman of the French Institute of International Relations. “There will be huge political transition costs, on how to solve the British exit, and the risk of a domino effect or bank run from other countries that think of leaving.”

Europe will have to “reorganize itself in a system of different degrees of association,” said Karl Kaiser, a Harvard professor and former director of the German Council on Foreign Relations. “Europe does have an interest in keeping Britain in the single market, if possible, and in an ad hoc security relationship.”

While leaders of the Leave campaign spoke earnestly about sovereignty and the supremacy of Parliament or in honeyed tones about “the bright sunlit uplands” of Britain’s future free of Brussels, it was anxiety about immigration — membership in the European Union means freedom of movement and labor throughout the bloc — that defined and probably swung the campaign.

5 reasons why India needs that NSG seat

June 24, 2016 
India will have to wait for some more time to gain membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group as the 26th plenary meeting of the elite grouping in Seoul, South Korea concluded on Friday without any discussion on its bid.
Even as allegations and counter-allegations fly thick and fast, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares his defence on why despite his personal charm and trips to NSG member nations he couldn't muster enough support to get India a seat on NSG's high table, the million-dollar question being asked is 'What's the big deal about an NSG membership."
Rediff.com gives you a lowdown on why NSG membership important for India? Scroll down to read:

* The Nuclear Suppliers Group is in a sense a traders' cartel. Even though India can indegenously work on its nuclear programme, it needs access to state-of-the-art technology to compete with global leaders (NSG member states). NSG membership helps India to be part of the global commons.

* China has been hammering home the point that India's refusal to sign the (Nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty has been blocking its entry into the 48-member elite grouping. However, New Delhi's reluctance stems from the fact that signing the NPT would hinder its development of a nuclear arsenal. That situation is unlikely to change in future.

* India plans to have nearly 15,000 MWe of nuclear capacity on line by 2020. In 2008, the United States gave a waiver to India allowing it to import nuclear power plants and uranium fuel and to put itself more fully under the international safeguards regime without having to abandon its nuclear weapons. However, there are more advanced technologies in operation with other NSG members. And India -- as China advised it to do after the NSG's Seoul plenary -- will have to think 'out the box' to get access.

* Joining the NSG would trigger manufacturing and innovation in India through which it stands to gain economic and strategic leverage over its neighbours. That India knows how to build reactors is no secret, but given the fact that neighbouring Bangladesh is trying to get access to Russian reactors and New Delhi's existing nuclear cooperation agreement with Sri Lanka, an NSG membership would enable it to offer low cost 'Made in India' reactors to them.

* This one's a long shot. For a new nation to enter the NSG, all 48 members have to give a consent. India being a member would effectively negate Pakistan's chances of entering the grouping. May be that's why Beijing had been insisting on NSG members looking at Pakistan's case for membership. But given Pakistan's chequered nuclear proliferation record, India won't be the only country rejecting Islamabad's bid.

*** The Top Secret CIA Cold War Plan to Blow Up the Middle East Oil Fields

Steve Everly
June 23, 2016

The Top-Secret Cold War Plan to Keep Soviet Hands Off Middle Eastern Oil

n a cool summer day in London in 1951, an American CIA officer told three British oil executives about a top-secret U.S. government plan. The goal was to ravage the Middle East oil industry if the region were ever invaded by the Soviet Union. Oil wells would be plugged, equipment and fuel stockpiles destroyed, refineries and pipelines disabled—anything to keep the USSR from getting its hands on valuable oil resources. The CIA called it the “denial policy.”

Such a plan couldn’t work without the cooperation of the British and American companies who controlled the oil industry in the Middle East, which is why the CIA operative, George Prussing, ended up at the Ministry of Fuel and Power in London that day. To the British representatives of Iraq Petroleum, Kuwait Oil and Bahrain Oil, Prussing detailed how their production operations in those countries would in effect be transformed into a paramilitary force, trained and ready to execute the CIA’s plan in the event of a Soviet invasion. He asked for their help, and they agreed to cooperate. He also emphasized the need for security, which included keeping the policy secret from the targeted Middle East countries. “Security now is more important than the success of any operations,” Prussing told them.

The CIA’s oil denial policy is a snippet of a Cold War history that is finally giving up more of its secrets. In 1996, a brief description of the plan emerged after the Truman Presidential Library mistakenly declassified it—a security breach the National Archives deemed the worst in its history—and some additional details have trickled out over the years. But a recently discovered trove of documents stashed in Britain’s National Archives, along with some key American documents, now declassified, provide a more complete and more revelatory account—published here for the first time.

Why Is Congress Abandoning Our Afghan Interpreters to Their Fate?

Jeane Shaheen
June 23, 2016

A Broken Promise in Afghanistan

LIKE many Americans, I am still haunted by images from the last days of the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975. Newscasts showed South Vietnamese desperately trying to scale the walls of our embassy in Saigon to board the last helicopter flights out of the country. The fear in their eyes was chilling. Many of these Vietnamese had assisted the American mission. As the North Vietnamese advanced on the city, these people knew that they faced a harsh fate if they were left behind.

For the last three years, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and I have been trying to prevent history from repeating itself, this time in Afghanistan.

Since the American-led invasion in 2001, our service members and diplomats have relied on thousands of Afghans, particularly as interpreters. These are brave men and women who put themselves and their families at risk to help American officials and troops accomplish their missions and return home safely. Implicit in their willingness to help the United States is an agreement that they’ll be protected.

The State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program allows these Afghans to seek refuge in the United States. These visas are reserved for men and women who undergo rigorous screening and can demonstrate at least two years of faithful and valuable service to the United States.

South China Sea Clashes Are Fracturing ASEAN

June 24, 2016

As The Hague’s arbitration ruling on the South China Sea territorial conflict—levied by the Philippines against China in 2013—is approaching, questions abound whether the United States and its allies can maintain peace amid rising tensions stemming from an increasingly assertive China. While the ruling may set a precedent in strictly legal terms, it will ultimately be nonbinding, with the tribunal lacking the power to enforce its decision. Beijing has not spared the rod in condemning the “unilateral” move by the Philippines, and has managed to coax some forty countries onto its side in an attempt to prevent the UN General Assembly from discussing the territorial disputes any further. Moreover, a number of ASEAN states with no territorial claims in the South China Sea have broken ranks and signed a statement agreeing not to let the dispute affect relations with China.

In any case, China has already preemptively rejected the outcome of the tribunal, arguing that the arbitration “is neither well-grounded nor justified” and that the decision “won’t affect China’s sovereignty over South China Sea islands, or whitewash the Philippines’ illegal occupation of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea.” As J. Michael Cole has pointed out, this condemnation is based on “the historical narrative of ’national humiliation’ and the belief that as a product of Western imperialism, global institutions and the legal architecture of international law are little more than mechanisms to maintain a skewed distribution of power.” In effect, the court’s ruling against China is “evidence” that the West is attempting to keep China down. In the wake of the ruling against it, China is expected to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone over the disputed area with the Philippines to protect its interests, as it did over the East China Sea in 2013. U.S. officials have expressed concern, stating that an ADIZ would prove provocative and destabilizing.

The Fight Inside China Over the South China Sea

JUNE 23, 2016
Even Beijing isn’t sure what it wants. Small wonder regional tensions are flaring.

With a decision from an international ad hoc tribunal tasked with reviewing China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea looming, regional tensions are running high. A key problem is that no nation involved in the current round of tension — not even China itself — has a crystal-clear view of what exactly Beijing is trying to achieve in the South China Sea. That’s because three different schools of thought are each struggling for dominance in Chinese analytical and policy-making circles. A look at the debate within China helps explain the lack of effective communication and the rise of strategic distrust between China, Southeast Asian nations with competing claims, and the United States.

China’s leaders — from President Xi Jinping to Foreign Minister Wang Yi to military leaders like Admiral Sun Jianguo — repeat the well-worn lines that the South China Sea islands have always been Chinese territory, China’s actions are legitimate measures to safeguard its own sovereignty, China will not pursue expansive policies beyond legitimate territorial claims, and limited military installations on newly built islands are for defensive purposes. Some countries in ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), however, find these explanations unconvincing, feel threatened by China’s island-building, and therefore want the United States to check Chinese power. Some U.S. officials have claimed that China is seeking “militarization” in the region, or even “hegemony.”

Forget Brexit. Rexit Is The Real Problem.

India's central bank governor Raghuram Rajan railed against crony capitalism. But now that he's leaving, who will rein in the country's corrupt…

Confronting Conflict In The ‘Gray Zone’

June 23, 2016

A notional Russian strike on the Baltic States and Poland (CSBA graphic)

A new Army War College report, Outplayed: Regaining Strategic Initiative in the Gray Zone, argues that the United States should adopt innovative approaches against a new and more complex set of international security challenges. “Outplayed” is the culmination of a nine-month study effort that was sanctioned by the Army Chief of Staff and sponsored by theArmy Capabilities Integration Center and the Joint Staff’s Strategic Multi-Layer Assessment Branch. The report concludes that — absent American adaptation and activism — the United States hazards substantial future strategic setbacks.

The “Gray Zone” Challenge

Strategy for Saudi-Iran War to Come?


A 30-year-old prince disillusioned with the U.S. is running the show in Saudi Arabia—fighting Iran directly and through proxies all over the map. Is there a strategy?

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 30-year-old son of the king and ever more obviously the heir apparent, is just winding up a fairly low profile public relations tour of the United States. Last week he met with President Barack Obama in Washington. This week he got together with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York. In between he visited Silicon Valley and talked up his Vision 2030 program to overhaul and modernize Saudi Arabia’s economy.

But MBS, as he’s known, has attracted the world’s attention since his appointment as deputy crown prince and minister of defense early last year mainly for his heavy-handed efforts, including a war in Yemen, to contain and roll back Iranian influence in the region.

When MBS met with Obama, according to the official read-out, they discussed “Iran’s destabilizing activities and agreed to explore avenues that could lead to a de-escalation of tensions.”

After Orlando: What Is Different About Current Islamic State-Inspired Attacks? – Analysis

By Clint Watts*
JUNE 24, 2016

(FPRI) — Omar Mateen’s violent rampage that killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016 solidified a dangerous new trend of cascading terrorist attacks in the West. Successful directed attacks both encourage networked terrorist attacks and mobilize inspired supporters to commit violence in their homelands. Dating back more than a year ago to the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, tracing responsibility for terrorist attacks to either the Islamic State or al Qaeda has become increasingly challenging.[1] Some attacks demonstrate direct linkages back to top terror leaders. But most attacks have differing degrees of connection to either terror group’s central headquarters. As of today, the two most recent mass shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando show no direct connection between Islamic State and its inspired supporters.[2] In some cases, inspired attacks show an affinity for the terror group’s online propaganda and/or leaders. But the greater the distance between the attack location and Syria or Iraq, the more muddled the linkages become between attackers and terror groups.

The Islamic State’s successful direction of the Paris attack sparked a rapid increase in networkedattacks – attacks committed by terror group affiliates and former foreign fighters operating in cells acting largely on their own initiative, but relying on support from their chosen groups network. In the weeks after the Paris attacks, Islamic State affiliates perpetrated a suicide bombing in Tunisia, a car bombing and assaults in al Arish and Giza, Egypt, a car bombing in Yemen, a suicide bombing in Istanbul, Turkey, and a multi-prong attack in Jakarta, Indonesia.[3]

The Enormous Political Risk of Saudi Arabia's Oil Reform

June 24, 2016

On June 7, Saudi Arabia laid out its National Transformation Plan to shift away from an oil-based economy. To do so, the plan’s architect, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, intends to create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, to float an IPO of the world’s most valuable oil company and to cut welfare for some of the world’s most heavily subsidized people. Given all of the superlatives, it’s hard not to speculate about the plan’s ambition and viability. And many have. GE has already made an enormous bet, promising to invest at least $1.4 billion in the country.

But even if he can check off all the items on his wish list, the deputy crown prince may not guarantee a prosperous future for his kingdom. By cutting subsidies and ceding some control over its oil industry, Saudi Arabia might surrender an asset rivaling oil in value: political order in a region engulfed in conflict.

The primary cause of difficulty will be the belatedness of the post-oil push. Large economic transitions are most attainable when coffers are full and revenues are high. Saudi Arabia is setting out on a path for diversification under a chronic deficit and persistently low crude prices.

Revealed: How America and Britain Planned to Destroy the Middle East's Oil

June 24, 2016
If Soviet tanks had invaded the Persian Gulf in the late 1940s, the U.S. and Britain had a plan.

Declassified documents show that Anglo-Americans were so pessimistic in the early days of the Cold War about their chances of defending the Middle East, that they resolved to destroy the oil fields rather than let them fall into Soviet hands, according to writer Steve Everly. In an article published in Politico, Everly describes how in 1948, as the Soviets were blockading Berlin, the Truman administration approved a plan in which American and British oil companies, such as Aramco (Arabian-American Oil Company) and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (an ancestor of today’s BP) would cooperate in the destruction of their own oil facilities. A Central Intelligence Agency operative told British oil-company representatives "how their production operations in those countries would in effect be transformed into a paramilitary force, trained and ready to execute the CIA’s plan in the event of a Soviet invasion," Everly writes.

The goal of the American plan "was to keep the Soviets from tapping Saudi Arabia’s oil and refined fuels for up to a year in the event of an invasion," according to Everly. "The plan would unfold in phases, starting with destruction of fuel stockpiles and disabling Aramco’s refinery. Selective demolitions would destroy key refinery components difficult for the Russians to replace. This would leave much of the refinery intact, making it easier for Aramco to resume production after the Soviets were ousted."

Why Turkey and Israel Are Back on Speaking Terms

June 24, 2016

Turkey and Israel are reported to be on the verge of reestablishing full diplomatic ties after more than half a decade. This will have implications for the Syrian conflict, natural gas exports and Saudi-Israeli relations. The history of how Israel and Turkey had such a deep falling out goes back seven years. In January 2009, at a World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, members of an international panel were waiting to wrap up and get to dinner when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanded to respond to Israel’s President Shimon Peres. Taking off his simultaneous translation earphones, he told Peres, “Maybe you are feeling guilty and that is why you are so strong in your words. You killed people. I remember the children who died on beaches.”

A little over a year later, on May 31, 2010, nine Turkish activists from IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation were killed during an Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara cruise ship that was trying to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Erdoğan ordered the Turkish ambassador to leave the Jewish state immediately, claiming the raid was contrary to international law and tantamount to “inhumane state terrorism.”

Iran's Foreign Policy Is in Chaos. How Should America Respond?

June 23, 2016

Iran’s foreign-policy establishment is in chaos. The last week has seen a catena of maneuvers by the system’s key players. Rumors, reassignments and threats have been the order of the day. Yet determining how America should respond won’t be easy; indeed, it requires a fundamental vision of the U.S. approach to Iran.

Things kicked off last week when a former leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) alleged that Abbas Araghchi, a senior foreign-ministry official and nuclear negotiator respected by Western interlocutors, is a member of the IRGC’s external action wing, the Quds Force. The Quds Force has been linked to numerous terrorist plots, and its members face restrictions; as Al Monitor’s Arash Karami notes, this could lead “foreign delegations [to] request that Araghchi no longer be involved in ongoing negotiations over the implementation of the nuclear deal,” hindering those negotiations and thereby increasing pressure on Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

Then, last Friday, Al Monitor’s Laura Rozen reported that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had “signaled that he has more authority on the Syria file than he has had until now, and that Iran may be prepared to show more flexibility to advance a political solution.” Rozen linked this to a meeting between the Iranian, Russian and Syrian defense ministers in Tehran earlier this month, which saw similar signals by Iran, and to the subsequent appointment of Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani to handle “political, security and military affairs with Syria and Russia.” This would shift the Syria file away from the de facto control of the IRGC.


JUNE 23, 2016

The battle against the Islamic State in Libya may be at a new and optimistic peak, but politically, the country is still a chaotic mess. The multi-pronged battle to wrest control of the Libyan coastal town of Sirte from the Islamic State may be distracting the transitional, U.N.-sponsored Government of National Accord (GNA) from uniting the country’s warring factions and reaffirming trust in unbiased, national-level institutions. The international actors that have thrown their weight behind GNA as a channel to counter the Islamist state may be well advised to seek out an alternate strategy if this transitional government falters in its mandate.

In the two years since Libya’s descent into violence, competing political groups and the array of militia groups scattered under their respective military umbrellas have driven rival factions to splinter, leaving space aplenty for the Islamic State to exploit. The Islamic State embedded itself in Sirte late last summer and expanded its territorial holdings across more than 100 miles of Mediterranean coastline and into southern regions. Libya’s disparate political-militia groups, now including those affiliated with the GNA, are competing to be the main expeller of the Islamic State from Libya.

A Stark Nuclear Warning

by William J. Perry, with a foreword by George P. Shultz 
William J. Perry; drawing by James Ferguson

I know of no person who understands the science and politics of modern weaponry better than William J. Perry, the US Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997. When a man of such unquestioned experience and intelligence issues the stark nuclear warning that is central to his recent memoir, we should take heed. Perry is forthright when he says: “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”1 He also tells us that the nuclear danger is “growing greater every year” and that even a single nuclear detonation “could destroy our way of life.” 

In clear, detailed but powerful prose, Perry’s new book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, tells the story of his seventy-year experience of the nuclear age. Beginning with his firsthand encounter with survivors living amid “vast wastes of fused rubble” in the aftermath of World War II, his account takes us up to today when Perry is on an urgent mission to alert us to the dangerous nuclear road we are traveling. 

Reflecting upon the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Perry says it was then that he first understood that the end of all of civilization was now possible, not merely the ruin of cities. He took to heart Einstein’s words that “the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking.” He asserts that it is only “old thinking” that persuades our leaders that nuclear weapons provide security, instead of understanding the hard truth that “they now endanger it.” 

Brexit Shock: Markets Buckle as Britain Plunges Into Isolation


The pound and global market futures crashed as the Brexit campaign to leave the European Union pulled off a shock victory.

LONDON—Britain has voted to leave the European Union, stunning global financial markets and sending a seismic shock through the Continent.

The pound suffered its worst day in more than 30 years, plunging downwards, as DOW futures and other markets prepared for a huge jolt to the global financial system.

A leading anti-European Union campaigner, who had earlier said he expected to lose the referendum, reappeared as dawn broke over Britain to claim a dramatic victory.

"Let June 23rd go down in history as our Independence Day," shouted Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party, with both arms held aloft.

As he spoke, billions of pounds was already being drained from the British economy.

Divided Britain: how the EU referendum exposed Britain’s new culture war

23 JUNE 2016

The EU referendum exposed a gaping fault line in our society – and it’s not between left and right.
There are streets in Hampstead, the wealthy northern suburb of London, where the pro-EU posters outnumber cars. A red “Vote Remain” in one. A “Green Yes” in another. The red, white and blue flag of the official campaign sits happily next to a poster from the left-wing campaign Another Europe Is Possible proclaiming that the world already has too many borders.

If you were looking for an equivalent street in Hull, in the north of England, you would look for a long time. In the city centre when I visited one recent morning, the only outward evidence that there was a referendum going on was the special edition of Wetherspoon News plastered on the walls of the William Wilberforce pub in Trinity Wharf. Most of the customers agreed with the message from the chain’s founder, Tim Martin: Britain was better off outside the European Union.

“Far too much Hampstead and not enough Hull” – that was the accusation levelled at the Remain campaign by Andy Burnham in the final weeks of the campaign. He wasn’t talking about geography; Remain’s voice is persuasive to residents of Newland Avenue in Hull, where I drank a latte as I eavesdropped on a couple who were fretting that “racists” would vote to take Britain out of the EU.

Russia Building SIGINT Site in Nicaragua, Report

Bill Gertz
June 23, 2016

Moscow Building Spy Site in Nicaragua

The Russian government is building an electronic intelligence-gathering facility in Nicaragua as part of Moscow’s efforts to increase military and intelligence activities in the Western Hemisphere.

The signals intelligence site is part of a recent deal between Moscow and Managua involving the sale of 50 T-72 Russian tanks, said defense officials familiar with reports of the arrangement.

The tank deal and spy base has raised concerns among some officials in the Pentagon and nations in the region about a military buildup under leftist Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega.

Disclosure of the Russia-Nicaraguan spy base comes as three U.S. officials were expelled from Nicaragua last week. The three Department of Homeland Security officials were picked up by Nicaraguan authorities, driven to the airport, and sent to the United States without any belongings.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the expulsion took place June 14 and was “unwarranted and inconsistent with the positive and constructive agenda that we seek with the government of Nicaragua.”

Palantir v. U.S. Army Over Intelligence Contract

Rowan Scarborough
June 23, 2016

Palantir Corp. to sue Army over ground intelligence network contract

The Army has a new adversary in its battle to build a ground intelligence network the way it wants.

Palantir Corp., whose data processor has won praises for reliability and ease of use from troops in the field, has given written notice to the Army that it plans to file a protest lawsuit.

The Silicon Valley tech firm accuses the Army of illegally excluding its off-the-shelf software from an ongoing project to build the next version of the Distributed Common Ground System, known as Increment 2.

With millions of dollars at stake, Palantir asserts that the solicitation is written in a way to accept only newly developed systems from Army contractors.

“The solicitations refuses to solicit or accept bids from any offerers who have already built a data management platform as a commercial product and could begin immediately fielding it to soldiers in harm’s way,” Palantir says. “Instead the solicitation seeks to begin another costly and risk-prone major software development project while soldiers wait. This approach is unlawful, irrational, arbitrary and capricious.”

Palantir also argues that the Army is violating a call-to-arms from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who repeatedly has reached out to Silicon Valley to form partnerships with the armed forces to produce the best information technology possible.

Neocons Like Kagan Love Hillary. But Does Hillary Love Them Back?

June 23, 2016

So Robert Kagan will be speaking at a fundraising event in Washington, DC for Hillary Clinton. This report from Foreign Policy magazine’s John Hudson should come as no surprise. Kagan has been playing foreign-policy footsie with Hillary Clinton for some time now, trumpeting his disdain for Donald Trump in the Washington Post and making his sympathy for Clinton clear. It’s an audacious move on his part, one that allows him to jettison much of the baggage of his incarnation as a neocon promoter of the Iraq War and to morph into a liberal hawk.

In a Clinton administration, he could play the role of a Jeane Kirkpatrick, a Democrat and Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the United Nations. Like her, he would have a bully pulpit from which to denounce America’s foes and defend a muscular foreign policy. Like her, he would be a political defector. And like her, he has a long record of writing on foreign policy.

But would Kagan actually exercise political power in a Clinton administration? Would the neocons more generally exercise influence over foreign policy in a Clinton administration?

Obviously, it’s politically opportune for Clinton to take on board neocons and foreign policy realists during the campaign. Her aim is to sunder the Republican foreign policy establishment from the GOP itself. Former national-security adviser Brent Scowcroft has also endorsed Clinton. A number of other realists such as Robert Zoellick, in an open letter, have already indicated that they refuse to support Trump (which does not automatically mean that they support Clinton).


JUNE 23, 2016

The question of how to best deter Russia looms large over the upcoming NATO Summit hosted in Warsaw. If this week’s news is anything to go by, the annual NATO gathering promises to be an eventful one. Germany’s Foreign Minister Steinmeier recently ridiculed the alliance’s BALTOPS exercise as “saber rattling,” while U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus defended the event. The chief proposal for enhancing NATO deterrence on the table this year is the establishment of four multinational battalions to rotate through the Baltics, but NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Soltenberg said there was no “immediate threat against any NATO country from the East,” implying that despite being branded as a deterrent this is more about reassurance. The past two weeks in the run up to the summit makes one wonder, what exactly are we doing here?

In my critical essay last month, I challenged the current thinking on NATO’s deterrence problems in the East, taking on prominent advocates for deploying U.S. forces in the Baltic in the quest of strengthening deterrence. Part of that article took aim at RAND’s wargame and similar arguments from deterrence proponents like Elbridge Colby. The goal of that article was to take one-sided policy advocacy, rarely the stuff of good decision-making, and turn it into a more substantive discussion. In this essay, I circle back to the problem of fixing NATO deterrence and the policy implications, with a crystallized and hopefully better distilled approach to the argument.

Russia seen putting new nuclear-capable missiles along NATO border by 2019

Jun 23, 2016 

Russian servicemen equip an Iskander tactical missile system at the Army-2015 international military-technical forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow, Russia, June 17, 2015.

Russia is likely to deploy advanced nuclear-capable missiles in its European exclave of Kaliningrad by 2019, casting the move as a reply to a U.S.-backed missile shield, and may one day put them in Crimea too, sources close to its military predict.

That would fuel what is already the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War and put a swathe of territory in NATO members Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the cross-hairs.

Russia would probably have deployed the missile -- called the Iskander, the Persian name for Alexander the Great -- in Kaliningrad regardless, and the targets it will cover can be struck by longer-range Russian missiles anyway.

But Russian and Western experts say the U.S.-backed shield, which Moscow says is aimed at blunting its own nuclear capabilities, gives the Kremlin the political cover it needs to justify something it was planning all along.

Why the GOP is trying to stop the Pentagon's climate plan


The Defense Department, long in the vanguard in dealing with climate change, may see its latest plan defunded.

In Washington, big agencies rarely get high marks for innovation and foresight. But when it comes to coping with climate change, the largest federal agency—the Pentagon—has taken a spot in the vanguard. As far as back as the George W. Bush administration, the Defense Department was warning that global warming posed a threat to U.S. national security, and that the military needed to be preparing accordingly.

This year it went further, laying out a new game plan that assigns specific top officials the jobs of figuring out how climate change should shape everything from weapons acquisition to personnel training.

Last week, however, House Republicans voted to block it. By a 216-205 voteThursday, the House passed an amendment prohibiting the department from spending money to put its new plan into effect. Not a single Democrat voted for the amendment, which was attached to the defense spending bill. It’s the second time in just a few weeks that the House GOP has tried to halt the Pentagon’s climate policies; a similar measure attached to the House’s defense authorization bill, which also received no Democratic votes, passed in May.

The False Lure of Military Intervention in Syria

JUNE 22, 2016

The criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to the war in Syrialeveled by 51 midlevel State Department diplomats has raised again the issue of whether limited military strikes by the United States against the government of President Bashar al-Assad would help push it toward a peace deal.

The escalating war in Syria has killed 400,000 Syrians, mostly by Mr. Assad’s forces, and displaced 12 million others. Efforts to maintain a cease-fire by the many sides involved in the fight — the Assad forces, their alliesRussia and Iran and the various anti-Assad opposition groups — have crumbled, while the Islamic State, which has established a stronghold in Syria, threatens the region and the world.

All this deeply frustrates many American diplomats. But describing the crisis is not the same as having a workable and rational alternative strategy. The diplomats have not made a case for direct American military action thatPresident Obama and his senior aides have not already considered and wisely rejected. The administration believes that such action could lead to even greater chaos while committing the United States to a deeper role in yet another Middle East war.

Obama’s Syria Policy: The Dynamics Of Engagement – Analysis

By Priyama Chakravarty*
JUNE 24, 2016

One of US President Barack Obama’s core campaign promises during the 2008 Presidential election was a military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Following through, his actions seem to have prioritised diplomacy over interventionist military responses, and policies of ‘strategic patience’ and the prudent use of power where necessary. Part of the policy package has been the shift from the model of fighting expensive large scale ground wars, to capacity-building in partner countries to prevent the growth of violent extremism and conflict.

Syria is a classic example of this strategy. It can be argued that the US’ policy is aimed at avoiding repeats of interventions in Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq – whose outcomes are virtually impossible to determine, in addition to getting bogged down in expensive nation-building exercises with no definable exit option. This is possibly why despite limited training and capacity building of a select few “moderate rebels,” the administration has been remarkably aversive to play an active role in the war theatre. This has been frequently done against overwhelming allied disapproval, including holding back on the proposed joint strike in Syria with the French forces in the wake of the Ghouta chemical attacks. At best, the US’ air strikes have focused on achievable outcomes. Tactics of coercion and dissuasion have been employed to eliminate the Syrian government’s arsenal of chemical weapons through diplomatic means, and specific targeted strikes have been carried out by fighters and drones against carefully selected ISIS targets by the CIA, and by having local players do the heavy lifting.