28 August 2016

*** Potent Indigenous War Unfolding in Jammu & Kashmir

By Brig Narender Kumar (Retd.)
26 Aug , 2016

The real problem is not the terrorists or separatists, but the fragmented approach of the government. All stakeholders should ideally work in an integrated manner and not independent of each other. If the military is taking tough action against the terrorists, the police must act against the workers on the ground to prevent the atmosphere from being vitiated by them. The political leadership should play a role in keeping the channels of communication open so that at every stage there is a window of opportunity to negotiate and cool down the tempers.

People of Kashmir believed that resolution of conflict was possible and peace was achievable if a political consensus was achieved between India and Pakistan. It was indeed cautious optimism but surely not a forsaken idea. The period between 1990 and 2006 saw cross-border terrorism driving the agenda in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). After the initial euphoria, local support started dwindling for terrorists and a majority of Kashmiri Awam realised the futility of a proxy war because this started hurting the Awam economically, politically and proved to be a threat to their own security. Thus for peace and development, the choice was obvious. This was also facilitated by an effective counter-insurgency grid and improved law and order situation.

But in 2010, the proxy war took a turn for the worse and the focus was on Intifada or agitational strategy since terror outfits were under tremendous pressure from security forces. This agitational strategy has been carefully crafted and security forces have no answer to this shift in strategy. Organised stone pelting, public disorder and obstruction in the conduct of anti-terror operations have become a powerful tool to break the counter-terror strategy of the Indian Army. The ground situation that was considered stable has become volatile and the Valley is plunging into instability.

*** Socio Economic Transformation: Through Ex-Servicemen

By Lt Gen SK Gadeock and Col Nishant Sharma
26 Aug , 2016

Ex-servicemen are ‘role models’ of ethical leadership with ingrained morals and value systems focused on ‘Duty, Honour and Country’ contributing to society and nation building in substantial proportion with a great sense of commitment towards multi-faceted progression and excellence in all spheres of activities. Perhaps the first step in this direction is to identify the cardinal segment of the rural economy, which has so far not attracted adequate attraction of the policymakers but which deserves focus in the new government strategy.

The latest Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme has ranked India 135 in a list of 187 countries…

The contemporary world presents a transformed scenario of a human society undergoing a rapid transition in terms of role and expectations. For the emerging nation states and powers, the principal task is to plan and achieve rapid economic development so that the trajectory of high, inclusive growth can be achieved and poverty can be rapidly ameliorated.1 The objective is to create an economic and social order based on equality of opportunity, full employment and provision of adequate means of livelihood. It is multi- dimensional task, encompassing an extensive range of activities, viz economic, social, technical and cultural.

From the days of Independence till the opening of the economy in 1991, the government both at the Union and State levels were guided by the socialist ideals of the Constitution and played a major role in the funding and execution of all major development programmes and projects in many key areas of the economy. In terms of social stratification of the people, success could not be achieved because of the deteriorating law and order situation, corruption, spiralling price index, criminalistion of politics, poor ethical and social norms and degeneration of our value system.

** The Long Arm Of Russian Intelligence


-- this post authored by Scott Stewart

After Russian 800-meter runner Yulia Stepanova and her husband exposed the systematic state-sponsored doping regimen pervasive in Russian athletics, the couple and their young son fled to the United States, fearing for their safety. Now it seems that their fears were well founded.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced Aug. 13 that hackers had illegally accessed Stepanova's account in an agency database, which contains, among other personal information, her family's address in the United States. (Athletes are required to maintain current address information in the WADA system to facilitate unscheduled, off-competition drug testing.) WADA also noted that no other accounts had been accessed in the data breach, suggesting that Stepanova, who has since moved again with her family, was the specific target of the hack.

That someone's personal information was compromised by a data intrusion is hardly surprising in this age of widespread hacking. It is unusual, however, for hackers to home in on a single person in the course of an attack. Given the strange and sometimes fatal incidents that have befallen other figures involved in the Russian doping scandal, Stepanova and her family had good reason to relocate immediately in the wake of the breach. The investigation that the runner and her husband incited, and the mass suspension of Russian athletes from the Summer Olympics that it precipitated, was a black eye for the Russian government. And Moscow does not take kindly to embarrassment. The Kremlin's track record in dealing with those who cross it - even people who seek refuge in the West - proves that the Russian government has a long reach, made all the longer by the country's prodigious hacking capabilities.
Moscow's Wet and Dirty Work

* Quantum Keys for Classic Codes: China's New Satellite

By Jacob L. Shapiro 
Aug. 22, 2016 

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

Beijing’s recent quantum satellite launch gives us a glimpse at the future of secure communications. 

China announced on Aug. 16 that it had successfully launched the world’s first quantum satellite. The technical name of the satellite is Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), and according to Xinhua News Agency, the satellite will establish “ultra-secure quantum communications” that will be “un-crackable.” China Daily noted it was just the first step toward China’s goal of creating a space-based unbreakable quantum communications system by roughly 2030. 

China's quantum satellite - nicknamed Micius after a fifth century BC Chinese scientist - blasts off from the Jiuquan satellite launch center in China's northwest Gansu province on Aug. 16, 2016. STR/AFP/Getty Images 

QUESS is going to be performing a variety of experiments over the course of its two-year mission. One will be conducted in conjunction with the Austrian Academy of Sciences and will test the phenomenon known as quantum entanglement. Another will be an attempt to set up extremely secure communication between Beijing and Urumqi in Xinjiang province using what is called Quantum Key Distribution.

Quantum entanglement is what makes all of this possible. It is possible to “entangle” two very small particles, meaning that the two particles share physical properties. When a feature of one particle is measured, the other particle’s corresponding feature is instantly known, no matter how far away the two particles have been moved from each other. Einstein famously called this phenomenon “spooky action at a distance.”


26 August 2016

The Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly, set up through a democratic election witnessed by international observers, had voted for Kashmir's accession to India. No plebiscite was needed as the people's representatives had spoken

In a strange melange of violent and hot-headed adrenaline rush, the only immutable strategy in Kashmir presently is the coming together of the rival factions of the separatist hawks — Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Farooq and Yasin Malik. For they believe that the pellet gun is the strongest visual reference of ‘damning violence’ against Kashmiris. Kashmir’s recent history will tell you that the germ is passed onto a new carrier every time a new wave of violence has been unleashed, be it 2008, 2010 or 2016. This confluence of minds is dangerous for the simple reason that Indian intelligence agencies had managed to break and divide the Hurriyat to keep them apart.

With the soft separatism of Mehbooba Mufti being marginalised, violent separatism is once again the flavour of the season. Kashmir sadly has become an echo chamber of the clarion call for self determination/azadi till this day and at the vanguard now are these same Sunni separatists. After over a month and half of a shut down in the Valley, it is good to see the Prime Minister coming forward and taking stock of what is now a frightening situation.

As one uncoils history, what is thrown into stark relief is that once the people demanded a Constitution, created not by a Maharaja (as was done through the J&K Constitution Act, 1939), but by the people, of the people and for the people, and since Clause 7 of the Instrument of Accession of 1947 did not commit J&K to adhere to the Indian Constitution then being debated in Delhi, a J&K Constituent Assembly was set up through democratic elections that were witnessed by international observers and were conducted on the basis of universal adult franchise — never mind that Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference party was the only in the fray with its insignificant rival, the Praja Parishad, deciding to stay away.


25 August 2016

By honouring the PLA Unit closest to India's vulnerable Siliguri Corridor, Beijing has responded to Delhi's efforts to assert itself along the border through improved military presence and development of border areas

Lord Curzon was a man in a hurry. In 1904, he decided to march to Lhasa to open negotiations with the Tibetan Government which had stubbornly refused to talk to the British Crown’s representatives. A year earlier, Colonel Francis Younghusband, accompanied by 500 troops had been dispatched to Khamba Dzong, which commanded the entry into Chumbi, the first valley in Tibet (bordering India’s Sikkim State and Bhutan).

The Tibetan Government tried to stop the young colonel near the border with Sikkim, but the small British Army continued to advance toward Khamba Dzong. Lhasa was living in the ‘white clouds’; wishful thinking, rhetoric andmantras weren’t enough to counter-balance imperial power. Lhasa had to ultimately listen to the British.

Khamba Dzong was again in the news this week whenXinhua announced that President Xi Jinping, Central Military Commission’s Chairman, presented honorary titles to two military units for their outstanding services. One is Unit 77656, a ‘model plateau battalion’, which was awarded for its performance “in safeguarding borders, ensuring stability and helping disaster relief” (The other award-winner is the PLA Navy Submarine Unit 372 posted in the South China Sea). Xi said that the “whole Armed Forces should learn from both examples.”

Kashmiriyat Is Dead: ISIS-Isation Of The Valley Means Insanity Trumps Insaniyat

August 25, 2016

The old Vajpayee line of “insaniyat, jamooriyat and Kashmiriyat” is past its sell-by date as the world around Kashmir, and us, has dramatically changed.

What we are essentially witnessing is the ISIS-isation of the Kashmir Valley, with self-radicalised youths, additionally instigated by the Pakistani Deep State, using “azaadi” as a slogan for Islamist mobilisation and jihadi violence.

Muzaffar Hussain Baig, the articulate member of Parliament from Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and former Deputy Chief Minister of J&K, last night (24 August) gave us good reasons to believe that old Vajpayee line of “insaniyat, jamooriyat and Kashmiriyat” will not work. Narendra Modi has been a recent convert to this line of thinking to bring peace to the valley, but the reality is that the idea is past its sell-by date as the world around Kashmir, and us, has dramatically changed.

The cries of “azaadi” raised by teenage radicals and young jihadists no longer mean what they meant some time ago. They are about‎ Islamisation and radicalisation that have nothing to do with what India is, or is not, doing to bring peace in Kashmir.

Baig ‎made some important points while speaking on TV channels yesterday. We have been aware of them at the peripheries of our collective vision, but have been reluctant to acknowledge them. Baig was fine with the “insaniyat and Kashmiriyat” line, but added that there is now a strong strain of “Pakistaniyat” in the Valley, with some of the strains of “azaadi” merging with ideas of global jihad and Islamic State (or ISIS). So, without actually saying so, he implied that the old attempt to start talks on greater autonomy within the Indian constitution and abandonment of the BJP focus on article 370 may not be enough bring peace.

Dahi Handi & Jallikattu: SC’s Meddling In Hindu Rituals Is Direct Attack On Freedom Of Religion

August 25, 2016

Courts are shrinking the boundaries of Hinduism by striking down one ritual after another citing that this or that ritual is not ‘essential’.

What is ‘essential’ is not defined in Hinduism. Justices should stop applying ‘Abrahamic’ test to Hindu rituals.

Courts in the country have been making it a habit of interfering in centuries-old Hindu traditions. The judiciary has taken upon itself the job of ramming its diktats down the throats of the silent majority in the garb of ‘reform’.

From Shani-Shingnapur to Sabarimala to Jallikattu and now to Dahi Handi, the black robes have hardly let go of an opportunity to target local customs to make it more palatable to the tastes of some civil society groups with no skin in the game while trampling on the sentiments of Hindus who do.

This is in direct violation of the article 25 of the Indian constitution which guarantees all persons the right to practice any religion of their choice. Obviously, as is the case with any other freedom enshrined in the constitution, the freedom to practise one’s religion of choice also comes with ‘terms and conditions apply’ tag.

So, the said right is subject to public order, morality and health, and the power of the State to take measures for social welfare and reform. Now these T&Cs are so broad that any religious practice that the courts or the State deem inappropriate can come under scrutiny. Governments are restrained by electoral calculations but the justices are not. Hence, such freedoms are more likely to come under the gavel - and they have.

However, disproportionally. For instance, the Supreme Court has been overeager to intervene in Hindu traditions, whether it is setting the maximum height of pyramids for Dahi Handi or a ban on Jallikattu. The argument is human rights or animal cruelty.

Who’s Altaf Hussain?

August 24, 2016 

Despite accusations at home and investigations in the country he chose to live in, Mr. Hussain continues to remain a major figure in Pakistan’s troubled politics.

Altaf Hussain, the self-exiled leader of Pakistan’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), is once again facing the charge of inciting violence in Karachi, the country’s largest city.

On Tuesday, Mr. Hussain, while addressing a group of MQM supporters protesting against “media bias” outside Karachi’s press club via phone from his London office, said “Pakistan is a cancer of the entire world.” MQM supporters went on a rampage on TV stations in Karachi after his speech was telecast. Mr. Hussain later apologised for his comment, but it’s unclear if the apology would have any lasting impact on the way the MQM functions.

The party, which represents the Mohajir community — the Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated from India to Pakistan during the Partition — had faced several allegations in the past of indulging in violence in Karachi.

Like others in the community, Mr. Hussain’s parents also fled India during 1947 and settled in Karachi, then the capital city. The Mohajirs were an influential community in Pakistan’s power corridors in the 1950s and 60s, but lost their clout in the wake of surging Punjabi and Sindhi influence. Mr. Hussain was one of the first politicians who tired to address these grievances. He founded the Mohajir Quami Movement, the predecessor of today’s MQM, in 1984 as a political platform for the Mohajirs.

In Mind and in Sight: The Persisting Legacy of Karzai in Afghan Politics

By Chayanika Saxena
26 Aug , 2016

Following almost four decades of violence and conflict, a new political framework was introduced in Afghanistan on the back of international and regional material and moral support. Beginning 2001, Afghanistan was inducted into the world order as a nascent democracy and a new republic. What was called as the ‘Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-Establishment of Permanent Government Institutions’ – more popularly known as the Bonn Agreement of 2001 – laid down and defined the political journey that this country charts to this date with its feats and defeats alike. It was during these negotiations that the leadership of Hamid Karzai, its former president, was given a definite role in the post-Taliban Afghanistan. 

Leading a country whose political cleavages are organized around tribal and ethnic affiliations, Karzai, who was in New Delhi this week and has been seen as a friend of India, was no stranger to the politics of Afghanistan for he belongs to a highly politically involved and prominent Popalzai tribe. As a member of a tribe that was essentially the founder of the modern-day Afghanistan – Durrani Pashtuns – an educated, politically active Karzai had both the support and legitimacy of those ‘prominent Afghan figures’ who had gathered during the Bonn negotiations to determine the future course of this nation. Chosen as the Chairman of the Interim Administration for six month and then subsequently as the Interim President of Afghanistan by the Loya Jirga (Grand Council) in 2002, Afghanistan witnessed two consecutive stints of Karzai as its President – in 2004 and 2009.

Ratifying a constitution that bars a suitable individual from being elected as the President more than two times – consecutively or otherwise, it is known that unless for a change in the constitution, Karzai would not be able to return to power as the President of Afghanistan. However, even as formal provisions keep the former President from being in active politics in the capacity he had hitherto enjoyed, it does not limit him from taking up other posts or partake in the political and social processes that are active in the country.

"War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable"

August 24, 2016

Among US analysts, war with China is no longer a taboo subject. RAND Corporation has now tackled the issue head on, publishing a lengthy analysis titled: 'War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable'. So far, Paul Dibb and Mike Scrafton have provided two excellent assessments on what this means for Australia. This review evaluates RAND’s assessment itself.

RAND presents four conflict scenarios over two different time periods: low-intensity and high-intensity, short and long duration, and occurring either in 2015 or 2025. The low-intensity conflicts are fairly straightforward; however, RAND’s high-intensity 2025 scenario draws a number of contestable conclusions, namely that:

-Escalation to the nuclear level in any US-China conflict, however intense, is very unlikely;

-War would be far more devastating for China, with an estimated 25%-35% reduction in GDP after one year, as opposed to a 5%-10% reduction for the US;

-A long conflict would test the internal stability of the Chinese state; and

-The prospect of major land operations is low, unless the war was on the Korean peninsula.

RAND’s ultimate conclusion is summed up by this quote: 'China could not win, and might lose, a severe war with the United States in 2025.'

NSG and China’s Grand Strategic Flip-flops: Some Plausible Explanations

By A Vinod Kumar
26 Aug , 2016

When India responded cautiously to the international tribunal’s rejection of China’s claim over the South China Sea (SCS), many commentators construed it as India ceding crucial ground on an issue where a tit-for-tat response would have been more appropriate to China’s ‘sabotage’ of India’s admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). For South Block mandarins, a low-key diplomatic reaction to the tribunal’s verdict was an opportunity to not ruffle Beijing’s feathers and keep a window open for engagement with China on the NSG affair. The latter tactic seems to have been effective with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to India– ostensibly to prepare for the upcoming G-20 and BRICS summits in Hangzhou and Goa, respectively – opening the space for dialogue on both the NSG and SCS. While Beijing evidently wants to buy New Delhi’s silence on the SCS at these summits, the possibility of a quid pro quo on the NSG was highlighted by the conciliatory voices in the Chinese media.

A commentary in Xinhua noted that India had ‘wrongly’ blamed China for the NSG episode, and that New Delhi should not be “downhearted as the door to the NSG is not tightly closed.”1 This apparent toning down of rhetoric is a far cry from the days when the Chinese official media spewed vitriol on India’s NSG quest, to the extent of warning India against letting “its nuclear ambitions blind itself.”2Is a quid pro quo possible or tenable for India, especially since the SCS and NSG have emerged as strategic arenas for both powers to grapple with each other in their power balancing quests? The answer may lie in understanding China’s recent grand strategic behaviour, including why it blocked India’s NSG bid.

The ‘hedge’ finally takes-off

Japan’s 2016 Defence White Paper Raises Concern On China – Analysis

AUGUST 24, 2016

The Japanese government issued its annual Defence White Paper on 2 August. Its contents have become the issue of debate in China, who reacted strongly on its contents. The main highlight of the Defence White Paper is that Japan has called North Korea’s nuclear and missile development a “grave and imminent threat” to the region and international security. The report also criticised China’s increasingly assertive military action in the Asia-Pacific region and its defiance to the ruling on 12 July by the international tribunal on the South China Sea. The significance of the observation in the white paper cannot be missed as the Japanese government under Abe Shinzo is pushing for Japan to take on greater military roles abroad.

The key points in the 484-page report focus mainly on three points: North Korea’s nuclear and missile development program, China’s assertive posture and maritime claims as well as air activity, and China’s interference in the East China Sea. First, the report expressed alarm that Pyongyang is suspected to have achieved the capability to miniaturise atomic weapons for warheads, as well as acquired a missile capable of reaching as far as 10,000 km (6,200 miles), and therefore has “become a grave and imminent threat not only to Japan but also to the security in the region and the international society”.


26 August 2016

Like most of the developed world, China initially ignored the environmental consequences of rapid economic growth. Now that it has reached a high GDP level, it is making an extensive effort to clean up the mess

A major challenge that the world faces is in respect of decoupling economic growth from greater use of energy, particularly fossil fuels. Such a move has already taken place in several parts of the world, but given the economic growth taking place in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations, the total demand for fossil fuels is likely to go up, if decoupling does not occur.

The Chinese economic situation is going through a period of transition. In retrospect, it is now apparent that China pursued the same path as that of the developed world wherein the environmental consequences of growth were initially ignored, and whatever cleanup is needed takes place at a much later stage when high levels of GDP are attained.

The Chinese economic scene provides several lessons for India, similar to the record of the developed countries, but which, unfortunately, most countries in the developing world, including India, have ignored. The Chinese authorities and people in that country are now intensively focused on improving the environment and setting an example on the global stage, particularly in dealing with climate change. In this, of course, they also anticipate the growth of business opportunities, because global markets for environmentally friendly products and low carbon processes are bound to grow with increased efforts worldwide for tackling climate change.

Germany and Turkey's Quiet Alliance

Aug. 25, 2016

Though Berlin and Ankara's relationship is often contentious, they know they need each other.

Germany and Turkey are highly interdependent. Ankara relies on trade and funding from Germany while Berlin needs Turkey’s cooperation on the refugee crisis. Ongoing diplomatic spats and political clashes between Ankara and Berlin mask the depth of this mutual dependency. Both the German and Turkish leadership have strong incentives to put differences aside, make concessions and continue working together closely.


Over the past few months, it has become common to hear Turkish and German politicians publicly exchange harsh words and accusations. Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Berlin, German members of parliament have called for an investigation into alleged Turkish spying, and leaders from both sides have threatened to renege on previous agreements. And yet the German-Turkish relationship remains strong.

Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export Of Wahhabism – Speech

AUGUST 24, 2016

This book project on Saudi public diplomacy using primarily the kingdom’s financial muscle has had a long gestation. It focuses on the impact of various policies of the kingdom on Muslim communities and nations across the globe.

In doing so, I will concentrate on Saudi government policy and actions as well as those of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family rather than wealthy individuals who may or may not be associated with them. As a result, theological and ideological differences between various expressions of Muslim ultra-conservatism fall beyond the parameters of what I am looking at.

My thinking on this has evolved in the past year despite having covered the Saudi efforts for many years from very different angles and multiple geographies. The evolution of my thinking is reflected in the fact that were I looking today for a title for these remarks, I’d call it Saudi export of ultra-conservatism rather than Wahhabism. The reason is simple: Saudi export and global support for religiously driven groups goes far beyond Wahhabism. It is not simply a product of the Faustian bargain that the Al Sauds made with the Wahhabis. It is central to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to position itself internationally and flex its muscles regionally as well as on the international stage and has been crucial to the Al Sauds’ survival strategy for at least the last four decades.

There is a lot of talk about Saudi funding of Wahhabism, yet in the mushrooming of Islamic ultra-conservatism in the last half century, Wahhabis as a group form a minority in the ultra-conservative Muslim world. The reason for this is fairly straightforward: For the Saudi government, support of puritan, intolerant, non-pluralistic and discriminatory forms of ultra-conservatism – primarily Wahhabism, Salafism in its various stripes, and Deobandism in South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora – is about soft power and countering Iran in what is for the Al Sauds an existential battle, rather than religious proselytization. One other important aspect is that South Asia has been an important contributor to ultra-conservative thinking for more than a century. Another significant element is the fact that while the Saudi campaign focuses predominantly on the Muslim world, it also at times involved ties to other, non-Muslim ultra-conservative faith groups and right-wing political groups.

Can Saudi Arabia Escape the Trap of Endless War in Yemen?

August 25, 2016

It took only two days after the collapse of Yemen peace talks in early August for the Saudi-led coalition to resume its intense bombing of the rebel-held capital, Sanaa. With it resumed the dismal chronicle of destruction, civilian casualties and humanitarian crisis afflicting the Arab world’s poorest country, and no end is in sight.

To what end? What do the Saudis and their coalition partners hope to gain from this latest escalation of an increasingly pointless conflict? They find themselves locked into a war with no realistic military objective and no achievable definition of victory—a war that is costing them billions of dollars that they don’t have in this time of low oil prices, and which by UN estimates is inflicting an average of 113 civilian casualties per day.

If the Saudis are having second thoughts or reevaluating its strategy, there is no sign of it. At an international security conference in Brussels last month, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir delivered a two-thousand-word summary of Saudi foreign and security policy in which he mentioned Yemen only as one of several countries where the kingdom faces “tensions.”

When the Saudis began the bombing campaign more than a year ago, their stated objective was the restoration to power in Sanaa of what they called the “legitimate government” of ousted president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had been driven out by the rebel forces, Zaydi Shia known as known as Houthis. The Saudis have also said they seek implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for an end to the fighting and the return of Hadi to authority in the capital, where he would preside over a conference to form a consensus on Yemen’s political future.

Iran's Ahmadinejad Is Betting on a Comeback

August 25, 2016

Does anyone remember Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Until recently, the Islamic radical and former military officer who served as Iran’s sixth president could be considered something of a political footnote.

During his two terms in office (2005–09 and 2009–13), Ahmadinejad’s anti-Western bombast and political brinkmanship helped transform Iran into an international pariah, while his ruinous economic policies exacerbated the country’s mounting fiscal woes. By the end of his tenure, Ahmadinejad was deeply unpopular at home, roundly blamed for a major decline in both domestic prosperity and global standing. He had also fallen out with his one-time protector, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, leaving him all but politically neutered.

Now, however, the firebrand former president appears to be making a comeback. In recent weeks, Ahmadinejad has reemerged on the national scene, touring the Iranian countryside and giving public lectures criticizing the administration of his successor, Hassan Rouhani. He even briefly captured the international spotlight in recent days by penning an open letter to President Obama, calling on him to release some $2 billion in seized assets as a gesture of goodwill.

The results have been notable. A July 2016 survey of Iranian popular opinioncarried out by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland found that Ahmadinejad now represents the single largest threat to Rouhani’s reelection, and trails the once-popular incumbent by only eight points. Suddenly, the ex-president seems once again to be a real political contender.

Biden's Baltic Bombast

August 25, 2016

In his just-completed trip to the Baltic republics, Vice President Joe Bidenreassured his hosts that the U.S. commitment to their security through NATO was rock solid. And any worries they might have because of comments that Donald Trump had made during the ongoing presidential campaign Biden dismissed as completely unwarranted. “I want to make it absolutely clear to all the people in Baltic states, we have pledged our sacred honor, the United States of America . . . to the NATO treaty and Article Five.”

He then speculated that because Trump had never held elective office, perhaps he did not understand the mutual defense obligation contained in that article. In any case, “the fact that you hear something” contrary to that treaty obligation “from a presidential candidate in the other party, it’s . . . nothing that should be taken seriously.” There was, Biden told his hosts, “continued overwhelming bipartisan commitment in the United States of America in both political parties to maintain our commitment to NATO.”

It is hard to tell which is the more offensive feature of Biden’s comments—the overall tone of smug arrogance or the implicit blasé attitude about the risks his own country incurs to protect the tiny Baltic republics. Both aspects indicate a man who is out of touch with key trends in America’s foreign-policy debate. But then Joe Biden is the official who actually argued that long-time Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak was not a dictator. Being grounded in foreign-policy reality does not appear to be his strong suit.

The Senate's Dereliction of Duty on NATO Expansion

August 25, 2016
Jim Webb, writing in these pages several years ago, castigated the U.S. Congress for its unwillingness to take up its Constitutionally-mandated responsibilities to conduct vigorous oversight of American foreign policy. Future historians are likely to add to his bill of particulars the Senate providing a rubber stamp to the several rounds of enlargement of the North Atlantic alliance, without weighing the costs and obligations of willy-nilly extending U.S. security guarantees.

When the Washington Treaty creating the NATO alliance was presented to the Senate in 1949 for ratification, there was a vigorous debate over its utility. As C. L. Sulzberger chronicled in his contemporaneous reporting for the New York Times, Senate approval of the pact was neither foreordained nor automatic. In the end, many Senators reluctantly cast votes in favor in order to send a clear signal to Josef Stalin that the United States would actively resist Soviet aggression, but the arguments marshalled by Senator Robert Taft nonetheless fell on sympathetic ears in the chamber (and convinced twelve others to join him in voting against the treaty).

Taft had argued that the U.S. should have extended unilateral security guarantees only, rather than sign a treaty of alliance, because “We could judge whether perhaps one of the countries had given cause for the attack. Only Congress could declare a war in pursuance of the doctrine.” Taft enunciated concerns that the new alliance might shift from defensive purposes to a more active encirclement of the Soviet Union, and so provoke the war it sought to prevent. He also raised a more prosaic concern: that of free-riding on the part of allies who might grow dependent on U.S. largesse rather than take more steps to secure their own defense.

Russia Is Surrounding Ukraine, But Where's the West?

By Aaron Korwea

In recent weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been doing what he is best at: war mongering. It began with the Kremlin’s accusation that Ukrainian leaders had “chosen terror over peace,” despite the fact Russia has not been able to produce any credible evidence of the alleged “sabotage plot” in Crimea. Additionally, neither the OSCE’s monitors, witnesses on the ground, nor any independent media have confirmed Russia’s claims of an armed confrontation or bombardment by Ukrainian forces.

Andriy Yanitsky, the Ukrainian watchdog that monitors Russian propaganda, has reported that the photograph of a tent that Russian authorities claimed had been used by the saboteurs was in fact a stock photograph lifted from the Internet. 

Once again, a Russian disinformation campaign appears to be unfolding. As the Crimean journalist Andriy Yanitsky argues, the very idea of sabotage in Crimea is ridiculous. Why would the alleged saboteurs sneak into Crimea, as Moscow claims, when anyone can easily get into the peninsula through either the Kherson checkpoint or Russia itself? 

But the real question is, why is Russia doing this now? Ukrainian intelligence reported that Moscow is actually attempting to cover up a shootout that occurred between the Russian military and the FSB, the security service. This is not entirely implausible, but the ultimate reasons are far more disturbing.

Turkey and Iran’s Problems with Russia as an Ally

By George Friedman
Aug. 25, 2016

In geopolitics, sometimes distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Turkey sent troops into Syria yesterday. This caused Russia to declare its unhappiness with Turkey. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Turkey yesterday. The atmosphere may not have been loving, but it was cordial, with none of the venom that had been visible since the coup attempt. The Russians have agreed that to halt operations from Iran’s Hamedan air base, but might return at some point. There is some sort of political battle raging in Iran over giving the Russians permission to use Hamedan in the first place. All of these apparently distinct threads tie together into a single, geopolitical story.

Let’s begin with Iran. Iran has kept its independence for centuries, fending off two threats. One was Turkey, in its Ottoman guise. The other was Russia, both the empire and the Soviet phase. As an example, during World War II, Iran remained formally independent, but was occupied in the north by the Soviets and in the south by the British. After the war, the Soviets showed themselves reluctant to leave. It was American pressure on both the Soviets and the British that restored Iranian independence. It wasn’t American goodness. The Americans opposed Soviet expansion and were undermining the British Empire. Iranian and American interests coincided.

Turmoil In The Middle East: Regional Dimensions Beyond Religion – OpEd

AUGUST 25, 2016

Given the current Middle Eastern scenario, one may reasonably hold the argument that the on-going turmoil in the Middle East owes its burden equally to the Machiavellian Anglo-American policies in the region and the harrowing failure of the Muslim governments/leaderships in the Middle East to rationally respond to those challenges.

But are there any dimensions beyond religion?
Nationalism and Turmoil

The region of West Asia (known as the Middle East) and North Africa has been home for tension and conflict since the end of the 19th century. The tensions were accentuated by the division of North Africa between European powers during the period of colonial expansion and the Sykes-Picot Agreement between the British and the French in 1916 during the First World War.

Showing no regard to the demographic distribution of ethnicities, religions, languages and other cultural dimensions, borders of nation-states were drawn and mandatory colonial imperialism was established until the mid of the 20th century.

While the western role in the region was fluctuating between supportive and subversive of dictatorships, stability and security remained constant measures when meddling in the region.

Putin Doubles Down In Syria – Analysis

(FPRI) — A year ago, President Obama opined that Russian intervention in Syria would turn into a quagmire. One year later, however, Russia is expanding and consolidating its positions and goals in Syria. Bashar Assad’s rule looks more secure than ever, buttressed by Russian weapons (including chemical weapons), intelligence, diplomatic support, and money. Moreover far from reducing its military footprint, Russia is expanding it. The Duma is about to ratify agreements essentially giving Russia permanent air bases like Hmeymim air base and Tartus. Thus Moscow, for the first time in over forty years, now has permanent bases in the Middle East, both in Syria and in Cyprus. Moreover, it is an open secret that Moscow would like to obtain a base at Alexandria like the one it had in the 1970s. In August 2016 Moscow revealed that it is now operating out of the Hamadan air base in Iran. However, within days the Iranian government pulled the plug on Russia, criticizing its inconsiderate and ungentlemanly attitude. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan also noted that Moscow acts like and wants to show that it is a great power.[1] Obviously this episode cries out for explanation but it should not be taken as indicating that Moscow has now descended into a quagmire or, in the Russian phrase, stepped on a rake.

The next frontier for digital technologies in oil and gas

By Harsh Choudhry, Azam Mohammad, Khoon Tee Tan, and Richard Ward
August 2016 

The next frontier for digital technologies in oil and gas

Harnessing new technologies could boost efficiency—a mandate that’s especially important for oil and gas players globally. 

Over the past several years, the global oil and gas industry has had to navigate very choppy waters; after a prolonged run of high and growing rig counts, mega-capital-expenditure projects, and plentiful capital to support investment, oil prices slid precipitously in 2014 and 2015. Within a matter of months, oil companies that had invested heavily based on rosy forecasts were slowing or even halting operations

A recent price rebound has increased optimism slightly, and efforts are under way to contain costs by reducing head count, postponing projects, and cutting spending. Still, in the face of uncertain long-term forecasts, it is time to explore more drastic strategies to boost efficiency. 

In response to recent technological advancements, oil executives should consider digital technologies with the potential to transform operations and create additional profits from existing capacity. Our research finds that the effective use of digital technologies in the oil and gas sector could reduce capital expenditures by up to 20 percent; it could cut operating costs in upstream by 3 to 5 percent and by about half that in downstream. 

Oil and gas companies were pioneers of the first digital age in the 1980s and 1990s. Long before phrases such as big data, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things became popular, oil executives were making use of 3-D seismic, linear program modeling of refineries, and advanced process control for operations. The use of such technologies unleashed new hydrocarbon resources and delivered operational efficiencies across the value chain. 

Infographic Of The Day: 15 Muscle Building Tips

There are many ways to build muscle. Some of these are eating five to six small meals a day, strengthening your core, not sticking with a workout routine, doing some water sports, and consuming the right nutrients after workouts.

In addition, we should also remember that it’s not just about lifting weights—a common misconception. The truth is, we can build muscle by paddling, navigating monkey bars, flipping tires.

Want more? Here are other muscle building tips from TestX Core:

1. Eat sufficient protein and carbohydrates. If you really want to build muscles effectively, you must complement your training with a protein-rich diet. You can’t expect muscle growth if there’s no protein in your diet. Protein is made up for amino acids. These amino acids play a vital role in building muscles. They are our muscle’s building blocks of our muscles. Without them, it sounds impossible to build muscle.

2. Sleep at least seven hours a night. You are not effective if you lack sleep. That’s a fact. Unfortunately, some compromise their sleep in order to balance work, family, and muscle training. If that’s the case, then they’re wasting their time. Sleep is the only time when our hormones and testosterone are being released. It’s the perfect time to develop and repair our muscles. Please, have an adequate sleep.


AUGUST 25, 2016

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the fifth installment in our new series, “Course Correction,” which features adapted articles from the Cato Institute’s recently released book, Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role. The articles in this series challenge the existing bipartisan foreign policy consensus and offer a different path.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has managed to gain unprecedented attention for stating in his usual flamboyant fashion something that many respected foreign policy analysts have maintained for years: that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an obsolete security arrangement created in a vastly different era to meet an entirely different security situation. Yet NATO partisans typically act as though the date on the calendar reads 1950 instead of 2016. They see Russia as nearly identical to the Soviet Union at the zenith of its military power and global ideological influence and regard democratic Europe as a helpless protectorate. Today, however, Russia is little more than a regional actor with limited ability to project power. And far from helpless, Europe’s democratic nations have robust economies. As long as they continue to rely on America’s military and its security guarantees, they will not divert financial resources from their preferred domestic welfare priorities to national defense.

A striking feature of analysts who echo former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s contention that the United States is the “indispensable nation” is the bland assumption that America must take primary (and often exclusive) responsibility for the defense of other regions. One popular proposal is to reverse the post–Cold War drawdown of U.S. forces stationed in Europe. Advocates also typically want to pre-position large quantities of sophisticated weaponry in the Baltic republics and along other points on Russia’s western frontier so that the American military can ride to the rescue if Moscow engages in threatening behavior.

The Federal Reserve Isn't Running Out of Bullets

August 25, 2016

The idea seems laughable now, but when the twenty-first century began, the Congressional Budget Office was projecting that the United States would pay off its debt owed to the public by the middle of the present decade. Per the CBO’s January 1999 Economic and Budget Outlook: “The long-term projections indicate that debt held by the public, driven by continued budget surpluses, will fall below zero by 2012.” Today, debt held by the public is more than $14 trillion, so we didn’t quite make it. But while the idea of less (or no) debt seems unambiguously positive from a fiscal perspective, it raises serious, fundamental questions from the viewpoint of monetary policy.

The Federal Reserve’s go-to monetary policy instrument is the buying and selling of government debt to increase or decrease the risk-free rate. And at the start of the new millennium, the Fed was facing a future without it. Concerned about the potential fallout, it commissioned a study to look at possible alternatives. It is unfortunate in some ways that the United States did not sustain the path of its debt paydown, but the alternatives that the Fed came up with back then may provide some insight into how quantitative easing policy may evolve in the future, when central banks’ ability to purchase government debt has been effectively exhausted.

Back then, the Fed’s explorations led to greater use of repurchase agreements—a tool the Fed uses extensively to control reserves as it works to get away from the zero lower bound. Also, the now-infamous agency market (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and similar entities) was beginning to emerge as an ever larger and more important market in mid-1999. For economists searching for the asset class to replace U.S. Treasuries, these agencies and government-sponsored entities were the logical choice.