29 June 2016

The Potential For Sino-Indian Tension In The SCO – OpEd

By Daniel Urchick
JUNE 28, 2016

The member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) cover more than three-fifths of Eurasia and are home to a quarter of the world’s population. SCO membership, as well as observer and dialogue partner status, must go through a unanimous voting mechanism to be successful. Full members can exploit the SCO’s consensus-based decision-making to veto SCO activities like widening membership, which they do by calling for further studies. This fickle expansion system has left the organization at near continuous loggerheads on the issue of India and Pakistan for the past several years. The Central Asian states have feared having their power diluted by growing numbers, and China in particular has largely opposed the dual expansion plan as well, fearing it would move the group beyond its manageable control. Despite these misgivings, both India and Pakistan will be one more step closer to full membership when the accession procedure is expected to take place at the June 23-24, 2016 SCO summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

India’s primary interest in the organization appears to be the anti-terror component. India has been plagued by terrorist attacks, from homegrown Islamic terror groups to communist-Maoist Naxalites. India claims many attacks come from alleged Pakistani state-sponsored groups, a potential point of contradiction for Pakistan and the SCO’s policies. The SCO’s regional anti-terrorism structure (RATS) is an enticing security mechanism for a country facing a large and ever growing terror threat. However, the SCO has demonstrated that it is an organization committed to not only fighting the traditional Western concept of terrorism but also to anti-revolution and pro-government intervention in insurrections, insurgency and civil war. India has little to gain from supporting these more implicit missions and could not be counted on in China’s efforts to build a coalition should it ever choose to. Even if India were to participate in such operations, it is not likely they would perform well under Chinese leadership (assuming China even took the lead) with the current levels of antagonism.

India hits the Great Wall as China refuses to play ball on India seeking NSG Membership

By Col (Dr) Tej Kumar Tikoo (Retd.)
28 Jun , 2016

China cleverly masked its real reasons for opposition to the Indian membership by insisting on the plea that India was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This opposition was merely a technical cover up for some deeper strategic calculations which China was unwilling to spell out, but were quite apparent right from the beginning. In fact, China could barely hide these concerns, when its official media stated that India’s membership of the NSG would “jeopardise” China’s national interests, besides touching a “raw nerve” in Pakistan.

Right from the time when India submitted its application for grant of full membership of NSG on May 12, 2016, China through its various channels, made it abundantly clear that it was going to oppose India‘s entry into the NSG.

Hectic diplomatic outreach by India preceded the plenary session of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in Seoul where India’s membership of this elite club was to come up for discussions 24 Jun 2016.

The NSG consists of 48 nations which can legitimately trade in nuclear material. As per the existing rules governing its various provisions, entry of any new member into NSG can only be permitted if there is complete consensus among its 48 members on such entry. Therefore, if even one country were to oppose the new entry, there will be no accretion to the club’s strength.

Finally Roads to the Borders?

By Claude Arpi
28 Jun , 2016

Is the Indian Government slowly waking up from its slumber? 

It seems so, but it is wise to not celebrate too early.

Union Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that his government was “hopeful of completing by next April the construction of highways through Uttarakhand for Kailash-Mansarovar to make it easy for people to visit the abode of Lord Shiva. “

The Minister told PTI: “Kailash-Mansarovar is the identity of our rich ancient culture and heritage. …We are cutting rocks through Himalayas to make a new alignment of highways through Uttarakhand for going to Mansarovar.”

Though this sudden interest in India’s borders is welcome, it is not clear if the minister is aware that ‘Shiva’s abode’ is not located in India, but in China. Mr Gadkari claimed: “We can reach Mansarovar directly through Uttarakhand,” it is not certain that Beijing, in its present mood, will agree to receive hordes of Indian pilgrims.

Though it did not receive the same publicity than the Lipulekh road, the Jammu & Kashmir government last month ‘approved’ the construction of the 150 km long Chushul-Demchok road. It was a positive move, though the proposal has now been sent to National Board for Wildlife for clearance!
And as usual in India, ‘final clearance’ may take years …and the construction decades.

One Belt One Road: Slippages on Smooth Silk?

By Rameshwar Roy
28 Jun , 2016


When in 2013, Xi Jinping announced the One Belt One Road (OBOR) and Maritime Silk Route projects, many thought it would be a game changer in the following years, as far as power projection and economic might of Rising China was concerned. But, down the line, one has been hearing more about it as a news making event only. Going by the fact that this project was meant to create demands for overseas markets and also offset structural weaknesses in Chinese economy, does China’s economic slowdown have anything to do with it or are there other impediments to its progress ?

Although, the silver lining has been the train to Tehran in February this year and micro progress on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) announced in April 2015 during Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan- a fifteen year $46 billion project, passing through the controversial Pak occupied Kashmir and security torn areas of Baluchistan.

Let us have a look at its failings and successes as the project unfolds, notwithstanding the fact that it may be too early a time to review a project of such grandiose scale.

One Belt One Road

Should Afghanistan Exist?

An approximate map, based on UNOSAT data, of Afghanistan’s major ethnolinguistic groups; striations indicate mixed areas

Here is a map of Afghanistan. Versions of it adorn conference rooms in military bases, ministry buildings and NGO headquarters. The first question it raises is: “Why does Afghanistan exist?” The country contains about a dozen ethnic groups, whose distribution is shown here in simplified form. There is no coast to attract people and trade. One should also bear in mind Afghanistan’s tribal divisions, particularly within the Pashtun ethnic group, which is split into numerous clans and smaller descent groups. These are too complex for a cartographer to suggest.

Then there are the affinities that the various groups feel to one or other of the country’s neighbors. Concentrated in the south and east, the Pashtuns have an attachment to their fellow Pashtuns in Pakistan. The Uzbeks and Turkmens are adjuncts to bigger communities beyond the northern border, while the Baluches, down in the south-east, maintain ties with their (again, more numerous) kinsmen in Pakistan and Iran. The Tajiks, by contrast, are more local in their loyalties. These affinities scorn the country’s frontiers as they were drawn by British and Russian officials around the turn of the 20th century, when Afghanistan was a buffer between the Tsar’s dominions and British India. Pashtun tribesmen don’t recognize the Durand Line dividing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nor do the Taliban and the US, fighting their mobile war. Baluch drug smugglers cross into Pakistan and Iran at will.

CPEC: The Real Game Changer For Central Asia – OpEd

An exceptional geographical location makes Pakistan a real gateway between South Asia and East Asia, and the actual hub of business activities in the region. The fact that this position is not merely confined with the CPEC, but already exists, together with the current Corridor project will further facilitate the smooth connectivity between South and East Asia. This geographical situation gives Pakistan a central position in terms of increased regional connectivity.

Economic development in modern times is mainly dependent on tbetter infrastructural conditions essential for the trade and transport activities. China’s active investment in agri-business and telecommunication, natural resource extractions including oil, gas, and uranium, gold and copper enhance the exports greatly help the boost of the Central Asia economy. However, such immense natural richness of resources will hardly contribute to the national development and the enhancement of the living standards if Central Asian states obstruct and face limitations in terms of their trade and export activities.

China has been a major player for the infrastructural and economic development by building roads, tunnels, railway tracks, power lines and oil refineries in Central Asian states. China has also been instrumental in development of the two most important Central Asian road connections of Osh-Sarytash-Irkeshtam and Bishkek-Naryn-Torugart in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan respectively. The Irkeshtam Pass crosses through the Osh–Sary Tash of Kyrgyzstan to the Kashgar in China. Whereas, the Bishkek-Naryn-Torugart road is the other most significant transportation link route connecting the Kyrgyzstan with parts of Europe-East Asia and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Transport Corridor and serves as key regional economic hub by connecting the landlocked CAREC countries with the Eurasian and global markets. The road essentially links three administrative regions of the former Soviet Union, i.e. Chui, Naryn and Issyk-Kul and connect the territories of Kyrgyzstan and China across the Tian Shan mountain ranges of Torugart Pass and the northern settlements of Kordai. Ultimately, this important transit traffic route between Kyrgyzstan and China connects with the Karakorum highway of Pakistan providing access to Russia and Kazakhstan to access the ports of Indian Ocean.

As China Woos South Asia, India Remains Wary – OpEd

By Rashmi Saksena*
JUNE 28, 2016

The flowers in the ‘spring city’ of Kunming, capital of China’s southwestern Yunnan province, were in full bloom and the pleasant weather was at its best as it played host to the 4th China-South Asia Expo and the 24th China Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair (June 12-17). At the end of the six day Kunming Expo and Fair co-hosted by China’s Ministry of Commerce and the provincial government of Yunnan, foreign trade contracts and agreements of intent worth USD 24 billion were signed.

With the exception of India, the other participating 89 countries plus regions were apparently in the grip of this ‘spring’ when it came to building trade ties with China. On the other hand, a winter chill seemed to have had enveloped India’s participation in the event. The cold reflects the fact that trade and business interests have been overtaken by New Delhi’s concerns over Beijing’s perceived geopolitical ambitions and aims. Obviously, India has chosen to sacrifice economic potential and opportunities presented by the likes of the Kunming Expo and instead concentrate on its foreign policy narrative as it tangos with China.

Without doubt New Delhi remains peeved with its gaping trade imbalance with China (34% deficit for India during 2015). However, the apparent studied lack of Indian excitement at the Kunming Expo goes beyond.

Playing It Big Or A Proxy?: Bangladesh’s Growing Closeness To China – Analysis

By Amitava Mukherjee* 
JUNE 28, 2016

In the last week of May 2016, Bangladesh had hosted the Chinese Defence Minister, General Chang Wanguan,in a quiet manner. But, the visit must have raised eyebrows in the corridors of power in New Delhi because it has signaled the possibility of China and Bangladesh serving each other’s strategic and military needs in near future which may go against India’s interests in South Asia.

A subterranean tension between India and Bangladesh over the latter’s foreign policy initiatives exists, but this may get a new dimension after Chang Wanguan’s visit. Welcoming the Chinese Defence Minister, Abdul Hamid, the President of Bangladesh, had said that his country totally supports China so far as the latter’s core interests are concerned including Beijing’s One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative and its interests in the South China Sea.

Nothing can be more provocative for India as China considers control over the Indian Ocean a matter of core interest and its increasing forays into the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean have raised the prospect of the region’s militarization. Equally interesting is the attitude of the Bangladesh army which is now showing signs of transgressing into areas which are traditionally reserved for political executives in a parliamentary form of government. During his last visit to Beijing, Abu Belal Mohammed Shafiul Huq, the Bangladesh army chief, had not only expressed his desire for training of Bangladesh army personnel by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China but had also talked about broader and deeper cooperation between the armies of China and Bangladesh.

Get Ready to Fight ISIS's "Virtual Caliphate"

June 27, 2016

2016 continues to see young Muslims inspired by radicalism commit terrorist attacks across the globe. In Orlando, forty-nine were killed and fifty-three more injured at the hands of Omar Mateen, a single gunman who pledged allegiance to ISIS. In the Philippines, at least eighteen soldiers were killed and fifty-two injured in clashes with Abu Sayyaf militants. In Indonesia, eight were killed and twenty-four injured in several explosions directed by ISIS. The events, though unique in scale, felt eerily familiar for the United States and the rest of the world. They are a continuation of ISIS’s rhetoric falling on receptive ears, with social media often being the tool used in the recruitment process aimed at reaching even the lowest-end user, as seen by Orlando’s lone-wolf attack.

In fact, as ISIS loses territory and is driven off the battlefield, it is likely to further turn to social media to groom future lone wolves to carry out attacks at home. Look no further than ISIS’s official spokesperson and senior leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani’s statement that “The smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would do if you were with us.” Indeed, ISIS is evolving into a “virtual caliphate.”

The Broader Range of Threats

Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy

The United States needs to do far more than simply taking a stronger stand in dealing with the immediate fighting in Syria and its narrow focus on ISIS. Yes, ISIS (ISIL, Daesh) is a very real threat, but so is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—which is the primary extremist threat to Saudi Arabia. Syria is a terrible human tragedy, but so are Iraq, Libya, and Yemen.

An “ISIS-centric” strategy for fighting extremism can, at best, defeat one movement while generating new movements and threats. A “Syria-centric” strategy ignores the equally grim realities developing in Iraq and Yemen, and the failures in all too many other Middle Eastern states—as well as in Central and South Asia—that well ensure new extremist threats rise and continue.

Ever since the uprisings in the Arab world began in 2011, the United States has faced far greater challenges than ISIS or the overall threat posed by violent Islamist extremism. It has been faced with the fact that far too many governments in the region have failed their peoples in key aspects of governance and economic progress. The United States has seen upheavals that show all too clearly that several states face critical tensions on a sectarian, ethnic, and tribal level. And finally, the United States has seen the struggle for the future of Islam increasingly become a struggle that divides Sunni and Shi’ite, and separates religion from the forces needed to provide secular progress.

Does Obama Really Play the Foreign-Policy Long Game?

June 27, 2016

It is unfortunate for Derek Chollet that the infamous David Samuels interviewwith Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes has rapidly emerged as the definitive summary of the foreign-policy approach of the Obama administration, with, as Peter Apps of Reuters noted, its focus on the insularity and inexperience of the president’s inner circle, as well as its supposed reliance on spin substituting for policy achievement. It is to be hoped that with the release of his magisterial recapitulation of Barack Obama’s approach to U.S. national security and America’s place in the global order—The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World—Chollet, who helped to formulate and execute the foreign-affairs policies of the United States, will be able to shift the conversation back towards the actual record of events.

As outside observers of the administration’s efforts from our perch in the National Security Affairs department of the Naval War College, we note that Nikolas Gvosdev’s assessment of the Obama approach as one of “strategic patience” is confirmed by an insider—one who served as principal deputy director of the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department, as the senior director on the National Security Council for strategic planning, and as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Chollet terms the Obama approach as the “long game”—an effort to renew and sustain American power in the world for the foreseeable future, rather than have it be frittered away chasing ephemeral and, in many cases, unrealizable short-term objectives.

The Celebrities Who Sell Iran's War in Syria

June 27, 2016

How does Iran sell its engagement in the Syrian conflict to its own public?

Celebrity TV hosts, actors and rich kids come in handy when pitching a farrago of nationalistic and religious causes to justify Iran’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Iranian officials rarely mention bolstering Syria’s Bashar al-Assad or maintaining access to Hezbollah in Lebanon as reasons for Iran’s intervention in Syria. Instead, defending the Shiite shrines and keeping ISIS away from Iran’s borders are the official theme vindicating Iran’s presence in Syria.

And a rather peculiar method is employed to peddle Iran’s message: formerly or currently banned celebrities now receive coverage from Iran’s conservative outlets, in exchange for offering favorable views on Iranian policies in Syria.

Reza Golzar was a leading actor in Iran, with a huge fan base among young teenagers. He was put on a blacklist and his picture was banned in movie theatres intermittently for sixteen years. That is apparently because his lifestyle was out of step with what the Islamic Republic’s rulers deemed acceptable. But his views on Syria are conforming to Iran’s policy.

Third Rome Rising: The Ideologues Calling for a New Russian Empire

June 27, 2016

Russian society is actively discussing the recent visit of President Vladimir Putin to Greece, where he took part in the celebrations of the thousandth anniversary of Russian monks’ presence on Mount Athos. During his meeting with the clergy, the president said that Mount Athos is the source of society’s moral foundations. The leading Russian media, either on purpose or due to ignorance, embellished the ceremony at Mount Athos, claiming that Putin sat on the throne of the Byzantine emperors. In fact, Putin spent the service in a stasidion—a monastic chair with a folding seat designed for high-ranking honored guests in the temple. Nevertheless, Putin’s symbolic visit sparked joy among those conservatives in Russia who see this as a sign of ideological revival, under the slogan, “Moscow is the Third Rome.”

Many experts who are close to the Kremlin believe that Russian politics and diplomacy have led to a renewal of faith in great and mighty Russia. Thus, the well-known philosopher and writer Alexander Prokhanov states that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has begun the path to recovery by rejecting liberal Western civilization. Prokhanov identifies three characteristics of this revival: Russia’s victory in the war against Georgia in 2008, which led to the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia; the return of Crimea which, according to Prokhanov, marks the beginning of the Russians’ union; and, finally, the third sign—a Eurasian Union. The Russian philosopher has written that the Eurasian Union would be Russia’s “fifth empire,” with several capitals and several control centers. In general, Prokhanov’s approaches are echoed in the works of many influential members of this community of conservative Russian experts.


JUNE 27, 2016

Last week’s vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union not only reflects the country’s history of globalization and suspicions of continental domination, but also discontent with unaccountable and out-of-touch elites. Fewer people remember the horrific events of the two world wars and the Cold War which provided much of the impetus for integration. The victory of the “Brexiteer” campaign is indicative of a growing trend of agitation against the establishment in both Europe and the United States. If what we saw in Britain heralds a trend, this could be the beginning of a shift away from the integrated economic and security institutions that have been the bedrock of global stability since the end of World War II. More immediately, the European Union will be weaker at a time when Russia is resurgent. The United Kingdom, United States, and European Union need to take steps to ensure Brexit has a minimal negative impact on international security.

The worst-case scenario for security in the wake of the Brexit would be an isolationist Britain that retreats from the entire world, not just the European Union. NATO with a less-engaged Britain would be severely weakened. A United Kingdom with an even smaller defense budget would be unwilling and unable to deploy forces to deal with transnational threats. Consequently, a diminished European Union could fall into internecine squabbling about the way ahead. Unhampered by a solid Euro-Atlantic front, a resurgent Russia could continue its efforts to build a de facto buffer zone in Eastern Europe at the expense of NATO members and partners. Even progress toward a global structure of free trade, democracy, and human rights risks slowing, stopping, or even being reversed. Luckily, none of this need come to pass. If all parties adopt a proactive stance, they can reassure Europe and other British allies and partners around the world and minimize the potential impact to global and regional security.

Brexit And Burst: Britain Plunges Into The Unknown – Analysis

By Daniel Twining*
JUNE 28, 2016

The UK votes to leave the EU, and fury over cross-border economic and political cooperation won’t subside.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is emblematic of a wider shift in Europe’s geopolitics. As much as the British want to believe their islands have a destiny separate from that of the continent, they have in fact been pacesetters for Europe writ large, from the consolidation of parliamentary democracy to the industrial revolution to the market reforms of the 1980s. The “Brexit” debate, although in many ways peculiarly British, amplifies broader trends in European politics – including questioning the fundamentals behind the unity of the continent – that are likely to intensify rather than subside. In unsettling ways, the June 23 referendum has put the future of Europe, the transatlantic alliance and the international liberal order itself in play and done little to settle them.

First, globalization has produced a backlash in which national and local identities are ascendant. The British referendum campaign has underlined how a country whose cosmopolitan capital is a hub of global finance nonetheless prizes a more narrow English nationalism – even as the likelihood of pro-EU Scotland threatening to secede from the UK grows in the aftermath of Brexit. Residents of London, a bastion of “Remain” voters, see a hugely successful city whose multiracial, multilingual population resembles the world in miniature with even more richness. By contrast, many Brexit voters apparently viewed such diversity as a threat, succumbing to nativist appeals to clamp down on immigration – even though it has made Britain more prosperous and dynamic. “Leave” voters were willing to risk economic calamity, including a collapsing stock market and currency as well as an expected serious hit to household incomes, to assert their “independence” from Europe – attesting to the reality that people can be motivated by considerations other than just prosperity.

What Now For Britain And EU? – Analysis

By Aédán Mordecai* 
JUNE 28, 2016

Britain voted to end its long-standing membership with the EU and in doing so started a possibly long period of economic insecurity with global repercussions. Borne from the disillusionment of the working classes, many wonder what will be next for the UK and the EU.

Following the 23 June 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum, we have a clear picture of a divided United Kingdom: London and Scotland unequivocally voted to remain, however the white working class in England made the difference and swung the vote, allowing “Leave” to edge “Remain” in the end. This means the UK will begin the process of leaving the European Union. The country now enters a period of uncertainty, which could take years.

The lead up to referendum day contained the predictable toing and froing from both sides. The Remain campaign opted for the doomsday warnings (coined ‘Project Fear’ by the Leave campaign), focusing on the economic repercussions of leaving the largest trade bloc in the world. The Leave campaign went for vague rhetoric of how Britain would be in greater control of its destiny and released from the shackles of the cumbersome EU without ever truly outlining a concrete alternative.
The National Debate

Brexit, Europe And The EU’s Passion Deficit – Analysis

By Ronald J. Granieri*
JUNE 28, 2016

(FPRI) — As of this writing, we enter the first full week of a new era in European and world politics, Anno Brexitae—the years after British voters decided to leave the European Union. This era is full of uncertainty—giddy and hopeful uncertainty for those who embraced the idea that Britain’s future required leaving, glum, fatalistic uncertainty for those who fear the loss of the benefits of EU membership.

Interested readers have already been treated to a flood of publications on the Brexit vote, a flood that will continue to gather force as Britain and its European partners negotiate the terms of the divorce. FPRI Radio has already devoted an episode to immediate reactions, and there will certainly be more to come.

As we sift through both the political complexities to follow and the even more complex analyses thereof, it’s an opportune time to consider one salient feature of the Brexit campaign, and indeed of most discussions of the fate of the European Union—not the Democracy Deficit (as significant as that is), but the Passion Deficit.

Brexit’s Impact On Asia – Analysis

By Pradumna B. Rana*
JUNE 28, 2016
The aftermath of Brexit is unfolding, hence its impact on Asia is difficult to assess. It is, however, likely to be moderate and manageable. In response, Asia should strengthen its regional financial safety net.

The shocking decision of the United Kingdom to pull out of the European Union (EU) has reverberated around the world. Financial markets have been jittery. In the UK, the centre of the storm, the pound sterling has plunged to a four-decade low and the FTSE has fallen sharply. Moody’s quickly downgraded the UK’s credit rating from stable to negative and a number of US banks in London have initiated the process of relocating to other European capitals. Bank of England has announced a 250 billion pound sterling contingent facility.

“Contagion” effects of Brexit has been felt worldwide. In the US, the Dow Jones plunged by more than 500 points last Friday. Asian markets also crumbled with Tokyo’s Nikkei falling by 7.9 per cent – its worst fall since March 2011. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell by 2.9 per cent and Singapore’s benchmark Strait Times index by two per cent. A flurry of high level meetings are also being held both in the UK and various European capitals on how to deal with the first exit by a sovereign country from the EU. Leaders of the EU are worried about the demands from populist anti-EU parties in France and the Netherlands for referendums of their own on EU membership. Scotland could pull out of the UK and Northern Ireland could reunify with the Republic of Ireland.


JUNE 27, 2016

Mr. Trump,

I am writing to you about your statements about the Muslims living in America. I will not comment on your much-debated opinions about banning immigration from certain countries. I am more concerned about your comments that directly speak to the Muslim citizens — and, to an extent, legal residents — of the United States.

Recently, you openly suggested that the Muslim population in the United States should be profiled. Furthermore, you incriminated millions of U.S. citizens (3.3 million, according to Pew) as accessories or accomplices to terrorism and hate crimes by implying that they “know something” (about terrorists and their plans) but keep it to themselves. Put simply, your statements constitute a recipe for disaster. I say this as a Muslim-American, a father, and a professor of strategy who specializes on the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

I am a Muslim-American who was naturalized in 2011. I was born and raised in Istanbul and lived there until into my mid-20s. I came to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in political science and became an American citizen right after I earned my degree from the University of Chicago. I spent my life as a member of Turkey’s ultra-secular minority (perhaps around 25 percent of the population), and cannot be called a religious person. But, if we are to follow your advice for profiling, that is irrelevant. I was born in a Muslim-majority country. That would be sufficient for you to profile me as a Muslim.

Israel, Water, & Palestine

Access to water is one of the most fundamental and least discussed issues underpinning the Israeli – Palestinian conflict (as well as the recurring pattern of Israel’s conflicts with Syria and Lebanon). Control of the West Bank’s water resources is intimately tied into the growing pattern of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and, if left unchecked, Israel’s inevitable annexation of Area C (60%) of the West Bank (thereby formalizing the Gazification of Areas A&B). Water resources are also intimately woven into pattern of destruction in Israel’s siege of the Gaza ghetto.

Most Americans remain unaware of water’s central importance in this conflict. Yet a fair and equitable solution to this issue is a necessary albeit not sufficient condition for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on terms that do not sow the seeds for future conflict.

The parameters of the water question in the Jordan River Valley have been long understood, if ignored, by American policy makers (see the 1955 Johnston Plan and the Johnston Plan Revisited). Indeed, in its current context, the these parameters reach back to the 3 February 1919 Zionist proposalto Versailles Peace Conference for a Jewish national home (do a word search for “water” and think about the implications of the highlighted text). More generally, the history of access to water in this region reaches back to the dawn of civilization and the creation of agriculture. The Jordan River drainage system (along with Lebanon’s surface water systems) together with the aquifers in the highlands of the West Bank (and Lebanon) connect the two wings of the Fertile Crescent stretching from the Nile River system in the West to Tigris and Euphrates River systems in the East. It is no accident that the location of one of the world’s oldest cities, the Palestinian canton of Jericho, was determined in large part by its access to the wells and springs in the center of this link.

We Buried the Disgraceful Truth

by Eric Fair

An Army National Guardsman at the armory in Jamaica, Queens, where he and other soldiers were gathered for deployment to Iraq, January 2004; photograph by Thomas Roma from his 2010 book Dear Knights and Dark Horses. It includes an introduction by Alec Wilkinson and is published by powerHouse.

Since 2001, at least 2.5 million members of the American armed services have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Among returnees, between 11 and 20 percent are estimated to suffer in any given year from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. The PTSD label is loosely used, but under the clinical definition of the National Institute of Mental Health, an afflicted person may experience for at least one month a combination of symptoms including flashbacks, bad dreams, guilt, numbness, depression, sleeplessness, angry outbursts, and partial amnesia. The sheer size and diversity of this injured population are astounding.

Newspaper reporters including Dana Priest and Anne Hull of The Washington Post and David Phillips, now of The New York Times, have documented the military’s shabby, at times cynical response to this social and medical crisis. The subject has also given rise to memorable written accounts of personal experience. David Finkel, in his remarkable book Thank You for Your Service, chronicles returning veterans of brutal combat in Baghdad and presents nuanced accounts of dysfunction, suicide temptation, and redemption. Matthew Green, in his book Aftershock, introduced British readers to the same crisis and showed how that country’s military health system has failed to reduce the stigma of PTSD. Redeployment, a collection of short stories by Phil Klay, a former Marine officer who fought in Iraq, which won the National Book Award in 2014, is one volume among several that suggest the emergence of raw, distinctive fiction by and for America’s post–September 11 generation that sometimes touches on the PTSD crisis.

Britain and the EU

How to minimise the damage of Britain’s senseless, self-inflicted blowJun 24th 2016

HOW quickly the unthinkable became the irreversible. A year ago few people imagined that the legions of Britons who love to whinge about the European Union—silly regulations, bloated budgets and pompous bureaucrats—would actually vote to leave the club of countries that buy nearly half of Britain’s exports. Yet, by the early hours of June 24th, it was clear that voters had ignored the warnings of economists, allies and their own government and, after more than four decades in the EU, were about to step boldly into the unknown.

The tumbling of the pound to 30-year lows offered a taste of what is to come. As confidence plunges, Britain may well dip into recession. A permanently less vibrant economy means fewer jobs, lower tax receipts and, eventually, extra austerity. The result will also shake a fragile world economy. Scots, most of whom voted to Remain, may now be keener to break free of the United Kingdom, as they nearly did in 2014. Across the Channel, Eurosceptics such as the French National Front will see Britain’s flounce-out as encouragement. The EU, an institution that has helped keep the peace in Europe for half a century, has suffered a grievous blow.

Fear and Loathing in Britain: Brexit Is an Act of Deliberate Self-Mutilation By Christoph Scheuermann in London

A British expat in Hong Kong watches the British pound fall after the Brexit vote on Friday.

Britain's vote to leave the EU was a gut decision, an emblem of a country in retreat. The island nation is getting smaller and smaller.

Brexit was a decision based on gut instinct rather than reason. The predominant sentiments in play were nostalgia, fear and a vague hatred of the establishment. On top of this comes a fear of foreigners that was deliberately stoked by Brexit strategists during the campaign -- and that's what makes this decision both sad and depressing.

It's also a lashing out against "the powers that be" in both London and Brussels. The British have followed a patriotic whim. All the flags, the drumming, the pledges and promises of the Brexiteers worked in the end -- and that's what makes this day so frightening.

Brexit has come to pass largely because of voters in England and Wales. A majority of voters in London and several electoral districts in southern England voted to remain in the EU, as did Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is now possible that Scotland may soon hold a second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. It is a possibility that the United Kingdom could break apart. The economy is already in tumult.

Brexit Referendum

Fear and Loathing in Britain: Brexit Is an Act of Deliberate Self-Mutilation

A British expat in Hong Kong watches the British pound fall after the Brexit vote on Friday.

Britain's vote to leave the EU was a gut decision, an emblem of a country in retreat. The island nation is getting smaller and smaller.

Brexit was a decision based on gut instinct rather than reason. The predominant sentiments in play were nostalgia, fear and a vague hatred of the establishment. On top of this comes a fear of foreigners that was deliberately stoked by Brexit strategists during the campaign -- and that's what makes this decision both sad and depressing.

It's also a lashing out against "the powers that be" in both London and Brussels. The British have followed a patriotic whim. All the flags, the drumming, the pledges and promises of the Brexiteers worked in the end -- and that's what makes this day so frightening.

Brexit has come to pass largely because of voters in England and Wales. A majority of voters in London and several electoral districts in southern England voted to remain in the EU, as did Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is now possible that Scotland may soon hold a second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. It is a possibility that the United Kingdom could break apart. The economy is already in tumult.

Brexit Referendum

Official Denies OSCE Arming Itself, Claims Rumors Endanger Cease-Fire Mission

By Paul D. Shinkman
June 23, 2016

Amid a spike of violence in the Ukraine war, the group monitoring the fighting suffers from false claims it will take up defensive weaponry, its chief says.

Demonstrators gather for a rally in the city of Donetsk, the main base of pro-Russian insurgents in east Ukraine, on June 10, 2016 , to protest the presence of Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors in the war-ravaged region. (ALEKSEY FILIPPOV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

KIEV, Ukraine – A senior official with the international organization charged with monitoring the ongoing violence in Ukraine is distancing himself from speculation among the region's top leaders that it may soon take up arms, saying the discussion is unfounded and potentially dangerous to the group's continued front-line work.

"Unfortunately there is quite a bit of 'megaphone diplomacy' going on, so everyone has an idea and broadcasts it," says Alexander Hug, the principal deputy chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. "But there is no plan."

Remarks for Irregular Warfare Scholars and the Special Operations Campaign Artistry Program

David S. Maxwell
June 17, 2016

Good morning. Congratulations on your graduation from what I think is one of the most important programs in today’s military. I wish that the Irregular Warfare Scholars and the Special Operations Campaign Artistry Programs had existed when I was in the Army. I would have fought to be part of these programs. Perhaps you think it odd that I envy you but someday in the future you will be grateful for the education you have received and say you were fortunate to have been here at Ft Leavenworth which after all is the center of universe (or at least the other center when you are not at Fort Bragg). The late Colonel Ola Mize used to say that a Special Forces soldier should only want to be in two places during his career – overseas working with indigenous forces and back in the schoolhouse training and getting educated.

There are a few standard things that are said at all graduations. Almost always you will hear speakers say that you will not remember what the graduation speaker said and everyone hopes the speaker will follow the rules of my mentor Bob Collins who told me long ago the three rules for briefing which are known as the “Three B’s” - “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.” Since no one can bat 1000 I am hoping for a 600 average and get two of three right; brief and gone, but in the end I know I will maintain a solid 300 by being gone at some point.

But I do remember some graduation speakers. When I graduated from SAMS the former CSA General Sullivan was our speaker. He had been our CGSC speaker the year before and gave a formal address as senior leaders must do. However, when he spoke to us at SAMS after his retirement he gave an unforgettable speech as he started out telling us about the time he could now spend with his grandchildren and how he was able to read children’s books that he realized had strategic leadership relevance. He proceeded with the rest of the speech telling us the leadership lessons from Dr. Seuss and while humorous and enjoyable it was actually quite brilliant. While in retirement he had a lot of time to engage with his grandchildren yet it was clear that he had not lost one of the most important traits of a senior leader; which is to be a lifelong learner and even as a former CSA he could still learn from Dr. Seuss. I would offer one quote that that sums up the importance of being a lifelong learner:

Inside the Pentagon's secretive preparations for a 'cyber 9/11'

SUFFOLK, Va. — The massive coordinated cyber attack began with rolling blackouts throughout the electrical grid stretching across the Midwest, leaving up to 10 million Americans' homes without power and businesses unable to process credit and debit card purchases.

Then came the inexplicable malfunction at a large oil refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, which spewed an oil-slick five-miles wide along the gulf coast shoreline. The governors of Texas and Louisiana declared states of emergency. In southern California, the attack shut down several major ports by disabling hydraulic systems. Dozens of cargo ships were stranded off Los Angeles, unable to offload their stacks of truck-sized containers.

Attacks on the Defense Department's networks threatened the systems that monitor North American airspace and the radars on which the U.S. military relies.

Total mayhem.

This fictitious scenario was laid out for nearly 1,000 military, government and private sector personnel here at this year’s Cyber Guard exercise, the nation’s largest test of its network defenses. Conducted over nine days in June, the event offered a disturbing look at the type of catastrophe that could unfold during what the government's top officials call “cyber 9/11.”


JUNE 27, 2016

Unscrupulous middlemen or “agents” are found at the heart of many defense scandals, and changes in the global arms market are only creating more opportunities for misbehavior.

What a great plot for a Bond film. A 350-pound Malaysian contractor with an absurd alias seduces high ranking officers of the U.S. Navy with prostitutes, cash, and lavish entertainment, gaining sensitive information on U.S. ship movements in the Pacific while lining his pockets with the spoils from juicy defense contracts. The only thing missing to turn the sorry escapades of the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet into a top notch spy thriller is a nuclear missile-wielding North Korea connection…or at least that’s what Washington hopes.

Yet, the Glenn Defense Marine Asia scandal is anything but fiction. Earlier this month, “Fat Leonard”, AKA Leonard Glenn Francis, chalked up yet another spectacular fall from grace when Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau admitted he had made false statements to federal investigators. He is now the 11th and highest ranking officer to have been brought down by the weight of greasy side-deals from the corpulent, corporate middleman.