6 September 2016

*** America’s Great Fishing Expedition in Kashmir

AUG 26 2016 

India is assured of an ally in the United States on the Kashmir issue; the US — under the tenets of Westphalian sovereignty — has chosen to back India unequivocally. Yet it was not always so. There was a time soon after India’s Independence that the US government, through the State Department, was actively consorting with National Conference leader and Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah to look for ways by which to secure a geo-strategic toehold in the area. This report is revelatory of those events, where Americans, including Ambassador to India, Loy Henderson, and his wife Elise, were in dialogue with Abdullah. It is a result of the author’s research for his book-in-progress, Nehru and Kashmir — a book based on classified documents, confidential aide memoirs, and personal correspondence bequeathed to the author by his grandfather, who was Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for close to 20 years.
When the US fished in Kashmir’s troubled waters

Sometime in the middle of August, media reports quoted Pakistan officials as saying that the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) “has expressed concern at the violations of human rights in the state.” The OIC — widely discredited for its failure to curb human rights violations by Islamists around the world — has chosen to ring its familiar apocalyptic tone on Kashmir in what may only be referred to as a complete rejection of rationalism. Instead of looking inwards and examining the extremist Islamisation taking place in the Arab world, the OIC has decided instead to dwell on the Kashmir situation and reaffirm its support for the right to self-determination of the people there.

Balochistan issues and International Law

By Rakesh Kr Sinha
05 Sep , 2016

Oppenheim defines ‘intervention’ as “dictatorial interference by a State in the affairs of another State for the purpose of maintaining or altering the actual condition of things”. The United Nation’s Charter under Article- 2(4) establishes the ‘principle of non interference’. This ‘principle’ draws its strength from the basic tenet of equality and sovereignty of the member States within the UN framework. Quincy Wright had said that “intervention may be diplomatic as well as military. A diplomatic communication of pre-emptory or threatening tone, implying possible use of military or other coercive measures may constitute intervention”.

…the way forward to actual relief and mitigation of the sufferings of people, lies only in an effective ‘intervention’ in Balochistan under the auspices of UN. Balochistan is too serious a problem to be managed through political rhetoric alone.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to the instances of violation of human rights in Balochistan or thanking them for using kind words for him qualifies to be an act of ‘diplomatic intervention’ only as per the above definition.

At this time, the human right violations and genocide in Balochistan have reached such a scale of an enormity as could (should) shake up the collective conscience of the international community. Prime Minister Modi’s reference to Balochistan in his Independence Day speech triggered an avalanche of angry reactions from Pakistani and Chinese establishment and media but, nevertheless, it also brought up this issue on international agenda and to that extent this diplomatic adventurism appears to be on target. However, the way forward to actual relief and mitigation of the sufferings of people, lies only in an effective ‘intervention’ in Balochistan under the auspices of UN. Balochistan is too serious a problem to be managed through political rhetoric alone.

Naga ‘Framework Agreement’ and Its Aftermath

By Pradeep Singh Chhonkar
05 Sep , 2016

The signing of the historic “Framework Agreement” between the Government of India (GoI) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland Issac-Muivah (NSCN-IM) on 3 August 2015 had brought glimmers of hope amongst the Naga populace. The contents of the framework agreement are, however, not in the public domain, leading to differing perceptions amongst the various stakeholders.

The NSCN-IM has been able to galvanise broad consensus amongst the Naga political and social entities with respect to its ongoing negotiations with the GoI. Prominent Naga social bodies including the Naga Hoho, Naga Student Federation, Naga Mothers Association, Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights and United Naga Council – most of whom were already amenable to the NSCN-IM’s idea of a settlement for the Nagas – have given their consent to the process. There are continuous efforts by the outfit to re-establish its clout and dominance in the claimed areas of Nagalim, including the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Attempts by the outfit to reshape the existing construct of tribal loyalties in Eastern Nagaland has gathered pace after the defection of self-styled ‘General’, Khole Konyak, of the erstwhile NSCN-Khole-Khitovi (NSCN-KK) to the NSCN-IM, which was followed by a large scale defection of Konyak leaders as well as cadres.

The Nagas of Manipur, in general, are known to be supporting the ongoing peace process despite the prevailing anxiety over the contents of the framework agreement and its possible impact on their status. There is an ongoing awareness campaign on the social media in Manipur wherein the Over Ground Workers (OGWs) of the NSCN-IM have been highlighting the apathy and discriminatory policies of the Manipur government against the tribals. The outfit’s attempts to create divisions among the Aimol tribe, which is mainly based in Chandel district of Manipur, and its continuous engagement with the Lamkang tribe is aimed at the merger of such smaller tribes into the Naga fold. In Assam, especially along the border areas with Manipur and Nagaland, there are attempts by NSCN-IM cadres to intimidate the non-Naga population in Naga-dominated areas which conform to the territorial claims of greater Nagalim.

Hop, Step and Jump to Victory

By Lt Gen HS Panag, PVSM, AVSM (Retd.)
05 Sep , 2016

The Indian Army has a long tradition of excellence in sports. 

Most modern sports were introduced into India by the British Indian Army and sports competitions have been an integral part of the Indian Army. Until the 1970s, in the sporting arena, the Indian Army dominated other competitors. Given the importance attached to these competitions, units started maintaining ‘gladiators’ – men who were spared the rigours of military training to focus only on sports. This inspired jealousy from ordinary soldiers and organisational criticism due to loss of training time. There was an outcry to ban sports competitions and focus only on sports per se for wellness.

There was merit in this argument, but only to a point. As a rule, units that did well on the sports field also did well in the war. However, the Indian Army, in its wisdom, decided to do away with the sports competitions up to the divisional level and introduced a system of trials in which only selected, talented sportsmen participated. Competitions were restricted to Army Command level.

As highlighted in an earlier column, my unit, 4 Sikh, maintained teams for almost all sports and nearly 10 per cent of manpower was committed to work only for glory from sports. Yours truly was a fairly good sportsmen excelling in athletics, football, basketball and swimming and made the unit team on merit; not by default, I might add. (It was mandatory for one officer to be a playing member of each team.)

This aspect has an interesting background. Until the 1950s, the standard of officers in sports was exceptionally high. The Indian Military Academy hockey team in 1940s always had two or three Olympians and a score of national level sportsmen in other games. In the 1950s, the National Defence Academy football team played the final of the Durand Cup and the hockey team regularly won the Agha Khan Gold Cup. As a result, in some games, officers dominated the unit teams. To encourage the soldiers, a rule was made that not more than five officers will participate as part of a team. Ironically, the officer standards in sports started falling and by 1970, it had to be made mandatory for minimum one officer to be a playing member.

India & China Territorial Dispute: The Growing Challenge

By Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal
04 Sep , 2016

China’s negotiating strategy on the territorial dispute is to stall resolution of the dispute till it is in a much stronger position in terms of comprehensive national strength so that it can then dictate terms. The rapidly blossoming strategic partnership between China and Pakistan is also a major cause for concern. During any future conflict with either China or Pakistan – even though the probability is low, India will have to contend with a two-front situation as each is likely to collude militarily with the other – a situation for which the Indian armed forces are as yet unprepared. Hence, it is in India’s interest to strive for the early resolution of the territorial dispute with China so that India has only one major military adversary to contend with.

China’s Rise: Fuelling Regional Instability

China’s unbridled military growth, its assertiveness in dealing with territorial disputes on land and at sea and its quest to acquire naval bases in the Northern Indian Ocean, are rapidly emerging as the primary causes of growing regional instability. China senses the emergence of a security vacuum in the Indo-Pacific and is rushing to fill it. China has discarded Deng Xiaoping’s 24-character strategy to, “Hide our capacity and bide our time.” It has dropped the phrase ‘peaceful rise’ while referring to its economic growth and increasing military power.

China and India, both Asian giants and emerging world powers, have begun to exercise immense influence in international political and economic affairs. As China’s GDP is much larger than that of India, it enjoys a correspondingly greater international clout at present. Relations between India and China have been fairly stable at the strategic level. Political and economic relations between India and China are much better now than these have ever been since the 1962 War between the two countries. Economic relations are much better now than these have been in the past. Mutual economic dependence is growing rapidly every year, with bilateral trade increasing at a brisk pace. Even though it is skewed in China’s favour, bilateral trade has crossed $50 billion and is expected to touch $60 billion soon. The two countries have been cooperating in international fora such as WTO talks and climate change negotiations. There has even been some cooperation in energy security.

Chinese and Indian oil and gas companies have often been in competition with each other to invest in overseas fields…

Modi’s Visit to Vietnam and China: The Strategic Underpinnings

By Danvir Singh
04 Sep , 2016

The Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi started a four-day tour on Sep 02, 2016, visiting Vietnam and later China. At Hanoi, Prime Minister Modi met President Tran Dai Quang and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and hold wide-ranging talks with the top leadership.

Today India is far more assertive than what it was a few years ago. India is being felt and heard across the South Asian region as reckonable regional power. Thus the visit of Indian Prime Minister to Vietnam assumes very high importance.

Vietnam being India’s most important strategic partner in the East, this visit will be keenly followed by China, given that Hanoi is also a party in the SCS dispute. Vietnam lays claim on maritime and energy resources of the SCC thus having serious dispute with China. Vietnam’s visit of Mr Modi is aimed at further strengthening bilateral ties, including defence, oil exploration, security and trade.

On September 3, the Prime Minister will leave for Hangzhou, China, from Vietnam in the evening to attend the G20 summit on September 4 and 5. And on the side lines will meet the Chinese President Xi Jinping discussing bilateral issues confronting the two Asian giants.

Why is this tour geopolitically so important? Has India finally broken out of the shackles of the Nehruvian curse, of being an inward looking, defensive and an apologetic nation?

To have a clearer picture of today we need to flip the pages into our near past. A past of not so long ago but of a few years down the lane. A quick scan would reveal that lots has changed over the past five to six years.

Russia Isn't Pivoting to Asia

September 4, 2016

Vladimir Putin at the World Diamond Conference with Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons/Kremlin.ruNews that Russia is strengthening its air and missile defenses in the Baltic, Crimea and Far East—and Russia’s wish to preserve its global status—suggest that its dismissal of its so-called “pivot” to Asia should be taken seriously by the United States and its NATO allies. And some widespread assumptions about that pivot having taken place after the imposition of western sanctions on Russia for invading and dismembering Ukraine in 2014 do not stand up to scrutiny.

As a unique country in terms of geopolitical location (according to the Kremlin) and as a Eurasian power, Russia cannot turn to only one side.

But the Asia-Pacific is a high Russian priority, and Moscow sees good prospects for cooperation with countries in this region. At the same time, Russia hopes to get back to business as usual with the EU.

Russia’s keenness to remain a major world influence is reflected in its attempts to strengthen its ties with many countries in the Asia-Pacific. But Russia has shrugged off talk about its strategic turn to the East—and not without reason. Russia’s deployment of missiles in the Baltic, Crimea and Russian Far East, and its current interests in West Asia, Europe, the Asia-Pacific and the Arctic, show that it is testing the ground—or trying to gain military ground—on four sides, as it were.

Militarily, Russia’s presence in the Asia-Pacific predates Ukraine in 2014. Russia’s Pacific Fleet, one of its most powerful naval forces, and its possession of the Kurils, which is contested by Japan, testify to its long-held position as a Pacific power.

But the only Russian base in the Asia-Pacific is in Vietnam.

Afghanistan: The Imperatives Of Military Capacity Building By India – Analysis

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Afghanistan in mid-2016 presents a bleak security picture with the country once again being subjected to series of suicide bombings in Kabul and Taliban again becoming active against the State as part of Pakistan Army’s ISI- directed proxy war against Afghanistan.

Indi a has legitimate security interests in the stability and security of Afghanistan arising not only from contemporary geopolitical factors but also from the long civilsational and political ties that have existed as part of their shared history and values of honour and respect for each other. In fact India-Afghan ties predate the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Pakistan Army flustered that it has not been able to install a Pakistan-friendly Government in Kabul in the last three years has resorted to use its traditional and much-favoured use of proxy war, terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Afghanistan, more targeted at Kabul, to draw global attention.

Pakistan Army has also been flustered that with changed United States perceptions over Pakistan’s strategic utility on the Afghanistan problem, its window of opportunities for eliciting United States permissiveness on its Afghanistan military adventurism has shrunk considerably. Additionally, the United States decision to extend its residual military presence in Afghanistan coupled with US intensified warnings to Pakistan on terrorism sponsorship and providing safe havens for terrorists, besides reining-in Haqqanis terror attacks in Kabul tend to multiply Pakistan Army concerns.

Afghanistan: The Imperatives of Military Capacity Building by India

By Dr Subhash Kapila
04 Sep , 2016

Afghanistan in mid-2016 presents a bleak security picture with the country once again being subjected to series of suicide bombings in Kabul and Taliban again becoming active against the State as part of Pakistan Army’s ISI- directed proxy war against Afghanistan.

Indi a has legitimate security interests in the stability and security of Afghanistan arising not only from contemporary geopolitical factors but also from the long civilsational and political ties that have existed as part of their shared history and values of honour and respect for each other. In fact India-Afghan ties predate the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Pakistan Army flustered that it has not been able to install a Pakistan-friendly Government in Kabul in the last three years has resorted to use its traditional and much-favoured use of proxy war, terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Afghanistan, more targeted at Kabul, to draw global attention.

Pakistan Army has also been flustered that with changed United States perceptions over Pakistan’s strategic utility on the Afghanistan problem, its window of opportunities for eliciting United States permissiveness on its Afghanistan military adventurism has shrunk considerably. Additionally, the United States decision to extend its residual military presence in Afghanistan coupled with US intensified warnings to Pakistan on terrorism sponsorship and providing safe havens for terrorists, besides reining-in Haqqanis terror attacks in Kabul tend to multiply Pakistan Army concerns.

Home Front The changing face of Balochistan’s separatist insurgency

1 July 2014 

IN THE EARLY HOURS of 25 December 2012, the paramilitary Frontier Corps of Pakistan’s Balochistan province launched an operation in the small, remote village of Mai. The operation went unnoticed by all save a handful of local newspapers. According to residents of Mai, which lies deep inside Balochistan, six helicopters and up to two hundred cars carrying soldiers arrived on that winter morning. The soldiers went door-to-door pointing guns, and were surprised when people answered their accusations of being foreign spies with recitations of the kalima. “They thought we were Hindu agents,” said Muhammad Amin, a wrinkled farmer who witnessed the soldiers’ arrival.

Three helicopters circled above the village, and shelled some mud homes. A few abandoned huts with mortar holes still dot the landscape. “It was as if the earth was on fire, and the sky was raining bullets,” Amin said. Three other choppers landed in front of a mosque, where the village’s women and children had hidden themselves. “Soldiers pulled us outside to stand in the cold for several hours,” Mahnaz, a peasant woman, said. Other villages nearby underwent similar attacks. By the time the operation ended, the Frontier Corps had set up 12 checkpoints controlling every entry and exit around Mai.

At first glance, Mai does not look like a sufficiently grave threat to warrant any kind of troop deployment. It is a 12-hour drive from the nearest city—Karachi—and its sandy-brown mud huts are home to a couple of hundred peasants who spend their days grazing sheep and goats. After the operation, critics in Baloch newspapers raged against the Pakistani media for failing to cover it. Abdul Malik, once a member of the senate and now the chief minister of Balochistan, claimed the operation had taken innocent lives, and that heavy bombardment had destroyed several villages. It was a “genocide” that had to be stopped, Malik fumed, and a “brutality” that needed to end. For those who did not know Mai, the attack was a clear example of the rampant violence exercised by Pakistani security forces within their own country.

The Legacy of Obama’s “Pivot” to Asia

SEPTEMBER 3, 2016 

President Barack Obama heads to China and Laos this weekend for his final visit to Asia. The administration will portray this as a victory lap, asserting that Obama is America’s first “Pacific president” (in fact, Richard Nixon made a similar claim in 1969, while William H. Taft, Herbert Hoover, John F. Kennedy, and George H.W. Bush also spent formative years in the region). The administration will also claim credit for a wave of initiatives that actually started in the George W. Bush administration (the G-20, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the strategic partnership with India, the Pacific Command force posture changes, etc.). The fact is that there is not all that much new in the “pivot.” On the other hand, Obama’s most vociferous critics will be wrong to argue that the pivot is completely devoid of content. Since 2009, American strategic partnerships have generally expanded in the region, as they did from 2001 to 2008. Any historically informed assessment of Obama’s legacy in Asia should therefore begin by acknowledging that there is more continuity and bipartisan consensus around Asia policy than not.

A more detailed breakdown of Obama’s Asia legacy highlights one significant achievement, one sub-par performance, one lost opportunity, and one dangerous incomplete.

Where the War on Terror Lives Forever

Uzbekistan’s dictator is dead, but his brutal efforts to crush Islamist extremism leave a long and ugly legacy. And…

Would America Really Go to War Over the South China Sea?

September 2, 2016

What would America do if China starts to build an island base on Scarborough Shoal, declares an ADIZ over the Spratlys, or in some other way plainly takes steps to strengthen still further its grip on the South China Sea in defiance of international law and American demands? President Obama ought to think about this very carefully as he visits China for the last time as President, because it has become the question that will define the future of the US-China relationship.

The question is hardly hypothetical. Indeed, it is already being asked, albeit in an apparently rather casual manner, at the highest military levels, as the New York Times reported a few months ago. “Would you go to war over Scarborough Shoals?” General Dunford asked Admiral Harris, in a conversation overheard by a reporter. If Admiral Harris responded, it could not be heard.”

The question arises because over the past few months Washington has appeared to be warning, by word and deed, that it would be willing to use armed force to stop Beijing tightening its grip on the South China Sea. That is the presumed meaning of extended deployments by two Carrier Battle Groups, high-profile visits and statements by the Secretary of Defense, frequent remarks by senior U.S. military officers, and reportedly a phone conversation between President Obama and President Xi.

Issuing this kind of warning is a very grave step. What could be more serious for an American President today than deciding whether, and under what circumstances, America should go to war with China. And yet these warnings have been issued without the question apparently being seriously discussed among U.S. policymakers and analysts – certainly not in public, nor, so far as one can judge from the seemingly offhand tone of General Dunford’s query, in private either.

So are these warnings serious, or just a bluff? 

Escalations In The East China Sea: Is Conciliation Possible? – Analysis

By Tan Ming Hui and Lee YingHui* 

Responding to both domestic and external pressures, China sends a strong signal by raising tensions in the East China Sea. Japan is likely to continue engagement of Southeast Asia to balance the perceived Chinese provocation. Can China and Japan explore conciliatory options to avoid a worsening security situation in the region?

During the first half of August between six and 13 Chinese coast guard ships have been deployed in waters close to the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, ostensibly to escort hundreds of fishing boats swarming the area. According to the Japanese coast guard, some of the Chinese coast guard ships appeared to be armed.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry lodged multiple protests at these sailings and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has met twice with the Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua to express displeasure at China’s unilateral move, warning that bilateral ties are “deteriorating markedly”. Cheng responded by repeating China’s usual claims to the contested waters and calling for diplomatic means to resolve the dispute. Significantly the Chinese naval fleets also held an exercise to practise for “sudden cruel and short conflicts”.
Sources of Chinese Assertions

Beijing’s mass deployments in the East China Sea is consistent with its hardening stance to assert its maritime sovereignty over the East and South China Seas after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled on 12 July 2016 in favour of the Philippines and dismissed Chinese claims to historical rights in the South China Sea. After issuing strong statements to reject the ruling, China has recently reinterpreted its laws to allow the arrest and jailing of seafarers who enter territorial waters it considers its own.

China’s Militarisation Of South China Sea: Creating A Strategic Strait? – Analysis

By Richard A. Bitzinger*

China continues to up the ante in the South China Sea (SCS), by moving more military and paramilitary forces into the area. The apparent objective is to turn the SCS into a Chinese-controlled waterway and strategic chokepoint.

South China Sea. Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Wikipedia Commons.It has become increasingly evident that China intends to make the South China Sea (SCS) a Chinese lake, subject to its “indisputable sovereignty”. However, the issue of Chinese hegemony in the SCS is less and less about economics – oil and gas reserves, or fishing rights – and increasingly about the militarisation of this body of water. The South China Sea is becoming a key defensive zone for China.

This can be seen in a number of recent activities. The first of these is the ratcheting up of activities by China’s “militarised fisherman,” the so-called “little blue men” who go out in the SCS and clash with ships from other nations, both commercial and naval. These are not simply private fishermen engaged in “patriotic activities”. On the contrary, according to researchers at the US Naval War College (NWC), these vessels are in fact a maritime militia subsidised by Beijing and effectively a part-time military organisation.
Militarised Islands and 3Ds Strategy

These boats are sent out to collect intelligence, show the flag, and promote sovereignty claims. Moreover, they are not above creating minor clashes with other ships, as they provide Chinese naval and paramilitary forces, particularly the Chinese Coast Guard, with a pretext (protecting Chinese “civilians”) to intervene and thereby bolster China’s military presence in the SCS. While this maritime militia has been around for decades, researchers at the NWC point out that it has become a much more active and aggressive force, and one that has a growing strategic purpose, what has been dubbed the “3Ds” of China’s SCS strategy: declare (Chinese claims), deny (other countries’ claims), and defend (those claims).

Overview of People's Liberation Army Air Force "Elite Pilots"

Research Questions 
What can Chinese primary sources tell us about how the PLAAF selects and trains what it regards as itselite fighter pilots? 
What makes elite fighter pilots different than other pilots in the PLAAF? 
How does the PLAAF use domestic competitions (such as the Golden Helmet and Golden Dart) and international competition (such as the Aviadarts in Russia) to showcase the PLAAF's desire to project a more open and confident image at home and abroad? 

This report uses Chinese primary sources to provide an overview of how the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) selects and trains what it calls its elite fighter pilots. The PLAAF identifies three groups of pilots as elite pilots. The first comprises 33 pilots who have won the annual Golden Helmet competition at the Dingxin Test and Training Base in Gansu province since 2011; the Golden Helmet is "the supreme contest among Chinese fighter pilots." The second group comprises pilots who belong to the PLAAF's Bayi Aerobatics Team, created in 1962. The third comprises six Su-30 attack pilots, including one Golden Helmet winner, who competed in Russia's Aviadarts 2014 competition for the first time. While each of the three groups competes using existing flight procedures, the lessons learned are reviewed extensively for ways to change existing tactics and combat methods. For example, one of the most important lessons learned has been the PLAAF's desire to move toward less scripted training, which Chinese sources typically refer to as "unrestricted air combat" or "free air combat" training. Official Chinese media reports on the PLAAF's Golden Helmet competition, its participation in the Russian Aviadarts competition, and the Bayi Aerobatics Team's participation in air shows in Russia in 2013 and Malaysia in 2015 appear to reflect a desire on the part of the PLAAF to project a more open and confident image at home and abroad. In 2014, the PLAAF implemented a Golden Dart competition to identify elite ground attack and bomber crews.

Key Findings

Saudi Arabia Wants to Roll Back Iran

September 4, 2016

On July 9, Prince Turki bin Faisal, former Saudi intelligence head, unprecedentedly attended a rally for the notorious Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK) and called for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His remarks were immediately followed on July 30 by a meeting between the head of the MEK, Maryam Rajavi, and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in Paris. Earlier before, in late March, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), which has not taken up arms against Iran for roughly twenty years, suddenly waged a vicious insurgency against Tehran, leading to bloody skirmishes between the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian Kurdish peshmerga in northwestern Iran. These sequential events herald a new era in confrontation between Tehran and Riyadh.

The growing escalation between Tehran and Riyadh has been sometimes mentioned in the context of a new geopolitical “Great Game.” Both countries have been engaged in a decades-long strategic contest for regional supremacy in an area stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and Arabian seas. The two powers are backing different sides in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and finally Yemen.

In the pre-9/11 era, Saudi Arabia used to regionally contain Iran and its foreign policy of “exporting the revolution” by siding with the Baath regime of Baghdad and later with Kabul’s Taliban. Despite grave ideological differences, Riyadh’s leaders backed Saddam Hussein in the bloody eight-year war with Iran. Rooted in King Faisal’s financial support for the extension of Wahhabism in Pakistan and then backing the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–89), the Saudis had also a key role in establishing the fundamentalist Taliban in Kabul. By the late 1990s, Saudi Arabia’s achievements in containing Iran reached their peak.

Iran's Financial Long Game to Beat the Nuclear Deal

September 3, 2016

Recent diplomatic efforts on the part of Tehran reveal it to be pursuing a two-pronged strategy towards attracting investment and reintegrating with the global economy: (1) seeking foreign capital to rebuild the country’s domestic infrastructure, while (2) using Iranian capital to finance the construction of oil refineries throughout the world. With Iran’s infrastructure investment needs estimated at $1 trillion over the next ten years, Tehran will be heavily reliant on project finance arrangements in order to rebuild its infrastructure. Under these arrangements, investors put up large sums of money in exchange for a return based on long-term cash flows—often for up to thirty years.

Iran’s heavy reliance on project financing arrangements will have consequences that far outlive the initial terms of the Iranian nuclear agreement, while creating a potentially unique set of incentives for the various parties in the event Iran defaults on its commitments or resorts to old patterns at the expiration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As such, Tehran’s strategic thinking is clearly calculated well beyond the terms of the JCPOA. In its strategy to reintegrate with the world economy, Iran is playing the long game.

Sanctions Snapback and Incentives

How U.S. Policy Almost Ended Up Fighting Itself in Syria

September 2, 2016

“Let me be clear, I have no idea what I’m doing,” read a meme posted online mocking Barack Obama on August 31. It was shared among supporters of the People’s Protection Units, the Kurdish group that has been fighting ISIS for two years in northeastern Syria. They were angry and accused the United States of “betraying” Kurdish forces and supporting a Turkish intervention that has now clashed with the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces between Jarabulus and Manbij.

In the puzzle that is Syria, with its plethora of different groups fight againstBashar al-Assad, with Iranian and Hezbollah proxies allied with Assad, and the areas dominated by ISIS and Kurdish forces, the Turkish intervention around the city of Jarabulus has added a new element to a complex web of competing groups. For American policymakers it presents a particular problem because the United States is a close ally of Turkey and has worked with some Sunni Syrian rebel groups over the last four years. At the same time the United States has also cultivated a close, and very successful, relationship with the YPG in its war against ISIS. So how did America get to the point where its policy was described as “U.S.-backed Turkish offensive in Syria targets U.S.-backed Kurds”?

The origins of the conflict lie in the fact that the United States has two policies in Syria. Initially the U.S. policy was designed to support the opposition to the Assad regime. In Geneva in February 2014 John Kerry said theAssad regime was obstructing the peace process. “The opposition demonstrated a courageous and mature seriousness of purpose…they put forward a viable and well-reasoned roadmap for the creation of a transitional government body.” Viewing Assad as having lost the legitimacy to govern, the United States sought to work with “viable Sunni opposition groups,” as Hillary Clinton described them in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in November 2015.

Border with Syria cleared of all terror groups, including Islamic State: Turkish PM Binali Yildirim

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Sunday affirmed that its border with Syria was cleared of all terror outfits, including the Islamic State group. "Thank God, today, from Azaz to Jarablus, our 91-km borderline with Syria has been entirely secured...All the terrorist organisations were pushed back – they are gone," he said in a televised speech, BBC reported.

He added that Turkey would never allow an artificial state to be formed in the north of Syria, referring to the so-called Islamic State. Besides this militant outfit, Turkey considers Kurdish groups terrorist organisations, as well.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, "rebels and Islamist factions, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes" recaptured a number of villages along the border between Turkey and Syria after Islamic State group militants withdrew from them. This brings an end to the terrorist group's presence in the region and also cuts of its supply lines for arms and new fighters.

Yildirim's announcement came hours after Syrian regime forces seizedareas in southwest Aleppo, including two military academies. Government troops, backed by allies, launched an offensive and recaptured the Weaponry College and the Air Force Technical College in the Ramousah locality.

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How Much Do We Know (Or Not Know) About Canadian Intelligence

Victori H.S. Scott
September 4, 2016

How much do we really know about the Canadian intelligence community?

Last year American whistle-blower Edward Snowden proclaimed that Canadian intelligence agencies have the “weakest oversight” in the Western world and compared the Canadian government’s Bill C-51 to George W. Bush’s post-9-11 U.S. Patriot Act.

Canada became a surveillance state under the Stephen Harper Conservatives. In 2014, for example, it came to light that the Government Operations Centre was monitoring residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, including Indigenous Peoples, residents of the Island’s west coast who opposed fracking, and fishermen who were protesting shrimp quotas. This ongoing problem is further complicated by multiple transnational intelligence sharing agreements, in place since World War II, that remain largely unknown to the general public.

Indeed, the rise of the surveillance state is a global phenomenon that cannot be separated from the rise of the internet. But in Canada, because of the lack of any credible oversight, it has played out in a very specific way. This has everything to do with what the Canadian public knows—and more importantly, does not know—about Canadian intelligence agencies.

Canada’s new and highly invasive so-called anti-terror legislation came into force last year with the support of then-Opposition Leader Justin Trudeau and the Liberal caucus. The Trudeau Liberals knew that in order to win the election they would need to undo—or at least promise to undo—much of the damage done by their predecessors. They would have to address the alienation felt by Canadians from having a government that used national security as an excuse to trade away its citizens’ freedom and civil liberties.

Lack Of Clear Plan For Brexit Has Negative Impact On British Economy And Social Moods – Analysis


The UK’s decision to exit the European Union taken with only a small majority in a referendum on 23 June continues to cause divisions within the United Kingdom.

According to the observers, numerous demonstrations and protests organized by the supporters of European integration throughout the country highlight the split of the nation based on age, social and geographic grounds.

In particular, the Scottish National Party – the third largest party at Westminster – expressed the intention to block a UK Government plan for Brexit.

“Theresa May can serve Article 50 without going to the House of Commons but she needs to get the Brexit plan for what happens next through the House of Commons and there isn’t a majority for Brexit in the House of Commons, which she knows full well. So our votes, our 56 votes in the House of Commons are going to be quite critical to her getting something through,” SNP deputy leader candidate Tommy Sheppard said.

Commenting on the social moods in the United Kingdom, European politics expert Simon Usherwood, University of Surrey, said that the British are particularly concerned about the unknown future.

“As much as people still care, there is unhappiness about the lack of progress and the lack of a clear plan. However, protests are unlikely to help change this,” he said.

According to him, the situation may become more clear in 2017.

NSA’s Secret Stash of “Digital Holes”

John Naughton
September 4, 2016

Opinion: The NSA’s stash of digital holes is a threat to everyone online

Here’s a phrase to conjure with: “zero-day vulnerability”. If you’re a non-techie, it will sound either like a meaningless piece of jargon or it’ll have a vaguely sinister ring to it. “Year Zero” was the name chosen by the Khmer Rouge for 1975, the year they seized power in Cambodia and embarked on their genocidal rule. Behind the term lay the idea that “all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture must replace it, starting from scratch”.

If you run a computer network, though, especially one that hosts sensitive or confidential data, then zero-day vulnerability evokes nightmares and worse. It means that your system has a security hole that nobody, including you, knew about and that someone is now in a position to exploit. And you have no real defence against it.

In its determination to screw the bad guys, the NSA left all of us vulnerable

All software has bugs and all networked systems have security holes in them. If you wanted to build a model of our online world out of cheese, you’d need emmental to make it realistic. These holes (vulnerabilities) are constantly being discovered and patched, but the process by which this happens is, inevitably, reactive. Someone discovers a vulnerability, reports it either to the software company that wrote the code or to US-CERT, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team. A fix for the vulnerability is then devised and a “patch” is issued by computer security companies such as Kaspersky and/or by software and computer companies. At the receiving end, it is hoped that computer users and network administrators will then install the patch. Some do, but many don’t, alas.

It’s a lousy system, but it’s the only one we’ve got. It has two obvious flaws. The first is that the response always lags behind the threat by days, weeks or months, during which the malicious software that exploits the vulnerability is doing its ghastly work. The second is that it is completely dependent on people reporting the vulnerabilities that they have discovered.

Hackerpocalypse: A Cybercrime Revelation


2016 Cybercrime Report

Steve Morgan, Editor-In-Chief

This special report on cybercrime is sponsored by Herjavec Group, a leading global information security advisory firm and Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) with offices across Canada, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Download a PDF version of the report or view the Cybercrime Infographic.


Cybersecurity Ventures predicts cybercrime will cost the world in excess of $6 trillion annually by 2021. 

Cybersecurity Ventures predicts global annual cybercrime costs will grow from $3 trillion in 2015 to $6 trillion annually by 2021, which includes damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, embezzlement, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, forensic investigation, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, and reputational harm. 
Global spending on cybersecurity products and services for defending against cybercrime is projected to exceed$1 trillion cumulatively over the next five years, from 2017 to 2021, according to the Cybersecurity Market Report, which is published quarterly by Cybersecurity Ventures. 

The U.S. has declared a national emergency to deal with the cyber threat, while others claim the world is engaged in a global cyberwar. 

Cyber threats have evolved from targeting and harming computers, networks, and smartphones — to people, cars, railways, planes, power grids and anything with a heartbeat or an electronic pulse. 

The world’s cyber attack surface will grow an order of magnitude larger between now and 2021. 

imp papers

Are artificial intelligence, genetic modification, and human enhancement taboo? Our adversaries may not think so. Should we let imagination lead the way into the future or be stymied by our fears?

Social and behavioral sciences are increasingly converging with basic physical science leaving us to ponder important questions about the nature and limits of the human being in relation to the machine.

BMI is a technology with enormous potential that deserves more attention, resourcing, and development. While it is not generally accessible today, technologists, ethicists, and the public should consider its implications now.

Increasing knowledge of genetics and cellular function, coupled with increases in computing power, is allowing development of novel, highly targeted treatments for all manners of disease and injury. However, every new treatment also represents a potential new lethal weapon.

Governments and nation states are now officially training for cyberwarfare: An inside look By Steve Ranger

erylia is under attack. Again.

The island nation, located somewhere in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, relies on its state-of-the-art drone industry for a large part of its income. But recently its drone research labs have come under cyber attack from unknown assailants, forcing Berylia to deploy rapid-reaction teams of security experts to its labs, under orders to find out what's happening, and to stop the attacks as quickly as possible.

Over two hectic days, the teams will have to battle against mounting attacks on their systems, hijacking of their drones, and questions from a sometimes hostile press.

And it's not the first time Berylia has come under attack: strangely these cyber onslaughts happen every year at around the same time. And these incursions won't be the last time the country comes under attack either, because the fictional drone-building country is the setting for the NATO annual cyber defence wargame, Locked Shields.

The exercise is run from Estonia by NATO's cyberwarfare think tank, the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE). The annual event, which has been running since 2010, aims to train the security experts who protect national IT systems on a daily basis. While the exact scenario changes every year, the setting—the embattled Berylia—remains the same, and arch-rival Crimsonia often makes an appearance too.

Berylia might be a fictional state, but Estonia itself has first hand experience of these sort of digital attacks: back in 2007 its banks and government systems suffered weeks of disruption from hackers after Estonian authorities proposed moving a Soviet war memorial. Russia denied any involvement in the attacks, but the incident accelerated plans for the formation of the NATO's cyber think tank, located in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

Devastating attacks to public infrastructure 'a matter of when' in the US

September 1, 2016 

Cybercriminals are focusing on public infrastructure to disrupt services and cause mayhem as new targets are emerging and expanding throughout the world. 

The water supply is at risk of a cyberattack to public infrastructure. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cyberattacks have already impacted public infrastructure in other countries and it's only a matter of time until a similar attack results in a major catastrophe disrupting crucial services in the United States, according to IoT security experts.

"I think that it's definitely not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," said Zulfikar Ramzan, CTO ofRSA and former chief scientist of Sourcefire. Ramzan is also the co-author of Crimeware: Understanding New Attacks and Defenses.

Public infrastructure refers to whatever is critical to keep society functioning, from utilities and water to hospitals, transportation and public safety. This infrastructure can be part of either the public or private sector, such as with financial services, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. If any part of this structure is attacked, it could lead to an unprecedented crisis.

Overall, industrial control systems (ICS) incidents, as these type of attacks are known, are on the rise. The number of incidents reported to U.S. authorities increased 17 percent in 2015, with 295 incidents, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ICS Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT).