20 October 2016

*** Does SAARC have a Future?

By NS Venkatraman
19 Oct , 2016

The recent cancellation of the 19th summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that was scheduled to take place in Islamabad on November 15-16 has led to serious doubts as to whether SAARC can fulfill its objectives and remain as a useful forum that would be beneficial to the eight nations that are members of the SAARC. 

India cited Pakistan’s involvement in the September 18 terrorist attack at an Army camp in Uri town of Kashmir, in which 19 soldiers died, as the reason for its decision to boycott the summit. When a few other member countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan supported India’s stand and decided not to attend the 19th summit at Islamabad, there was no option for Nepal, the Chairman of SAARC to cancel the summit.

Obviously, this has created considerable dissatisfaction in Pakistan, creating serious fissures amongst SAARC nations.

SAARC, with member states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka , comprises 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and around 9% of the global economy. With such strength, SAARC has the potential to emerge as a strong centre of power in the world, with prospects of emerging as a decisive economic and trade entity.

** At the Mosul Front: Traps, Smoke Screens and Suicide Bombers

OCT. 17, 2016

Pesh merga fighters outside Badana village near Mosul. CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Bryan Denton and Michael R. Gordon are with Kurdish forces near Sheikh Amir, Iraq, on the eastern approach to Mosul.

The Kurdish pesh merga forces started their advance by moonlight, in the early hours of Monday. East of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, columns of tanks and trucks lumbered their way toward the objective: clearing villages of militants before any broader advance on the city could happen.

As day broke, the vehicles piled off the roads to avoid any improvised bombs and began moving across the dusty Nineveh plain toward the villages. The tank fire began, booming across the distance. Soon the crawl became a run.

Thick funnels of black smoke began rising from the towns — a past tactic used by the Islamic State militants, setting oil barrels aflame to try to screen them from American airstrikes. The strikes came anyway, sending shock waves through the haze.

How Russian MiGs and Sukhois laid the foundation of PLAAF?

By Bharat Lather
19 Oct , 2016

As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) emerged from the 2nd Sino-Japanese war (1937-45) and revolution in 1949, China soon went to war against the United States in November 1950, the opening Chinese offensive, launched from deep within North Korea, and took U.S. forces by complete operational surprise. The U.S.-led United Nations offensive into North Korea was thrown back, with the U.S. Army handed its worst defeat since the American Civil War. Still, it became apparent that the Chinese economy lacked the capacity to compete with the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. in the production of advanced military technology. Transfers from the Soviet Union helped remedy the gap in the 1950s, as did transfers from the United States and Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Still, the stifled technology and scientific research left the Chinese even farther behind.

According to US Defense Department report, PLAAF continues to fly over 400 J-7s, an effective aircraft, but not competitive in any sense with the U.S. fleet; but by developing an integrated multi-layered air defense network, even J-7s (Mig-21) would pose a grave threat to U.S. fighter jets.

J-7/ MiG-21

In 1961, as tensions between the USSR and the PRC reached a fever pitch following Khrushchev’s policy of De-Stalinization; the Soviets transferred blueprints and materials associated with its new MiG-21 interceptor to China. The offering represented an effort to bridge part of the gap, and suggests to China that cooperation between the Communist giants remained possible. However, the offering didn’t work.

Things began to deteriorate between the two Communist giants with Nikita Khrushchev’s policy of De-Stalinization which resulted in withdrawing nuclear assistance to China by 1959. Relations got further deteriorated when the former Soviet Union (Presently Russia) decided to sell its MiG-21 jets to India; a country which China saw its major Asian rival. Sino-Soviet tensions continued to increase, nearly to the point of war in 1969 along the Ussuri River line which was claimed by both of them.

* Implications of a Complete Sealing of the India-Pakistan Border

By Gautam Sen
19 Oct , 2016

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has recently declared that the entire India-Pakistan border is to be completely sealed by December 2018. The announcement may be viewed in the context of India-Pakistan relations reaching a particular low and uncertain threshold post the Uri incident and cross-Line of Control (LoC) operations by India on 28-29 September 2016. The above-referred decision of the Union Government is reported to have been taken after a review of gaps in border management by a high-level Committee on Security and Border Protection (CSBP) of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) (popularly known as the Madhukar Gupta Committee) set up in March 2016 to overcome the lacunae observed consequent on the Gurdaspur and Pathankot infiltration occurrences. The outcome of the review is likely to have influenced the decision on setting 2018 as the target for a total sealing of the border. As of now, Pakistan Government sources have indicated that they have no comments on this development given the absence of details. Some Chinese think-tank commentators have, however, observed that such a venture would be irrational, indicative of Cold War mentality and likely to complicate relations among China, India and Pakistan, without elucidating as to how this decision would impinge on Chinese interests.

Government sources have indicated that a border security grid with a provision for real-time monitoring of the entire length of the border and capability for intervention as necessary is to be put in place. This will obviously involve networked coordination among the states’ home departments and their police authorities, their Central counterparts, MHA and the agencies responsible for technical and electronic surveillance. Furthermore, the works authorities at the central and state levels will have to be involved in the logistics of the forces assigned to protect the border, border fencing, sensors being installed, and providing access road network to the border outposts. It is, however, not clear whether a physical infrastructure in the form of a wall or obstacles on the pattern of the Israeli West Bank defences (in Israeli-occupied Palestine territory) is to be eventually erected.

India-Russia: A Bear-Hug On Rock-Solid Foundations – Analysis

OCTOBER 17, 2016

If there is anything more that the impressive list of MoUs and agreements signed between India and Russia at their annual summit meeting could do, it is to put to rest that rather overdone debate in the strategic circles on the Russia-Pakistan bonding and the Russia-Pakistan-China axis. The 17th India-Russia annual summit was held on October 15 at Goa on the sidelines of the BRICS meet.

India and Russia concluded a number of defence deals, including purchase of S-400 missile systems, frigates and joint production of helicopters besides deciding to deepen cooperation in a range of crucial sectors like trade and investment, hydrocarbons, nuclear power, cyber-security, space and smart cities. There was even a pledge to fight the menace of terrorism together.

The width and depth of the agreements arrived at Goa dispel any wisps of doubts on the long term outlook of India-Russia strategic partnership. The fact that these were signed when the Chinese President Xi Jinping was in town should also lay to rest the suggestion that movement in Russia-Pakistan relations was being driven by China and part of a likely Russia-Pakistan-China cooperation axis.

SAARC Falling Prey To Bilateral Disputes – Analysis

By Sugeeswara Senadhira* 
OCTOBER 18, 2016

The Indian way of sabotaging the fragile regional cooperation in order to express hostility towards a neighbour due to a bilateral issue is causing concern to the friends of South Asian regional cooperation.

India, not for the first time, ensured that the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Islamabad would become a non-event. In the early 1990s India took similar actions to sabotage Dhaka and Colombo SAARC Summits.

On those two occasions what New Delhi did was to get a dependable South Asian friend – Bhutan – to announce its inability to attend the Summit, thus leading to the cancellation of the event as the SAARC Charter is specific on consensus of all seven, now eight, Member States.

When the King of Bhutan announced, in the eleventh hour, his inability to attend Colombo SAARC Summit in 1992, President Ranasinghe Premadasa was furious. He telephoned the leaders of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives and asked them not to cancel their scheduled visit to Colombo and held a mini-South Asian Summit to show open displeasure to New Delhi.

This time India did not use a proxy, but while announcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s withdrawal from Islamabad Summit, it organized Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh also to withdraw forcing the current SAARC Chair, Nepal to cancel the Islamabad event.

Is Pakistan Preparing Operational Plan For Indian Targets? – OpEd

OCTOBER 18, 2016

After the Indian surgical or attack on “terrorist” hideouts, now Pakistan is seriously consider retaliatory clinical shots on Indian “targets”. Indian intelligence officials, who do not stop terror attacks on Indian targets, revealed this vital information after secretly knowing the terror plans of Pakistani military.

Surgical and clinical attacks, obviously, target Kashmir. And keep fighting each other to terrorize Kashmir Muslims.

Kashmir has been a flashpoint for years now. India and Pakistan jointly occupy alien Jammu Kashmir and have fought a few bloody war causing problems for the Kashmiris, besieged between the nuclear powers of South Asia. In order to protect the occupational rights in Jammu Kashmir, both India and Pakistan have acquired nukes. .

Cross border fires are as usual are also bilateral businesses between two nuclear neighbors who still refuse to surrender Jammu Kashmir which they jointly invaded and occupied so long, to Kashmiris even after killing Kashmiri Muslims in thousands as planned joint operations.

India and Pakistan are eager to retain those Kashmiris on their side supporting their illegal occupiers.

Sources in Pakistan’s military establishment have revealed to India for retaliatory purposes, the country has selected Indian targets. Pakistani Defense establishment has said Pakistan is fully capable of giving befitting reply in case India strikes first and an operational plan is also reportedly been prepared.

Our Kind of Warlord: Afghanistan’s Deal With Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

October 14, 2016

Hizb-e Islami Afghanistan (HIA), one of Afghanistan’s oldest jihadist factions and largest Islamic parties, concluded a comprehensive peace deal with the Afghan government on September 29. Speaker after speaker in the Afghan capital’s grand Arg presidential palace declared the deal “historic,” a milestone for restoring peace to Afghanistan after nearly four decades of war (Tolo News, September 29).

The deal is expected to result in the removal of the notorious Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of HIA, who has been a fixture on the Afghan battlefield since the early 1980s, from U.S. and UN terrorist lists.

Kabul hopes it will also serve as a template for concluding a peace agreement with the Taliban, who now account for most anti-government combatants in the country. While they have issued no official reaction, the Taliban have made it quite clear how they feel about Hekmatyar’s deal.

Amnesty Deal

The deal pardons Hekmatyar for past crimes and guarantees Kabul will ensure his de-listing from U.S. and UN terror lists, where he has been featured as one of the most prominent Afghans since 2003. The agreement also offers tens of thousands of HIA members government and international aid to facilitate their return to Afghanistan and their eventual reintegration.

In return, HIA has agreed to renounce violence, embrace the Afghan constitution and complete its transition from an armed faction into a mainstream political party. “I pray that our country be independent and sovereign, and our innocent and war-weary nation end the fighting and ongoing insecurity, and that unity prevails,” Hekmatyar said, while addressing the signing ceremony through a video link (Taand, September 29).

Countering Militancy and Terrorism in Pakistan: The Civil-Military Nexus

By: Shuja Nawaz 
October 12, 2016 

Based on interviews with civil and military officials and politicians, this report details the poor governance and imbalance of power in Pakistan and offers key recommendations for the military, civilian institutions, parliament, and civil society to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP). The need for an assessment of the National Internal Security Policy and subsequent NAP became evident as the heightened military action under Operation Zarb-e-Azb entered its second year. Much remains unclear due to the lack of transparency in operations of both civil and military institutions and the absence of active parliamentary oversight. 


Pakistan resides in an unsettled and hostile neighborhood and faces an existential challenge from domestic forces of sectarian and ethnic militancy and terrorism. 

Many of Pakistan’s domestic problems are related to poor governance and the imbalance of power and operational ability between civil institutions and the military. 

Shortsighted policies of successive civil and military governments and a dynastic political system have hobbled efforts to develop a strong, stable polity and economy. 

Afghanistan’s Uncertain Future: Fragmented realities and geopolitical fault lines


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Afghanistan has failed to coalesce into a modern nation-state, but can better be characterized as a patchwork of contending ethnic factions and ever-shifting alliances contributing to a fragmented political and social reality.

Political rifts within the government are rife. There has been a lot of speculation on whether the Ghani-Abdullah administration will survive or whether it will buckle under pressure from severe internal tensions.

The security situation in Afghanistan remains extremely fluid and the insurgency shows no signs of abating. The Afghan Taliban control most of the anti-government battlespace, and fears of Daesh (Isis) establishing a formidable presence in Afghanistan are unfounded.

Afghanistan finds itself in the midst of a modern version of the historical Great Game, that is, by virtue of its geography becoming yet again a pawn in the struggles over political ideology, economic interests and commercial influence.

After nearly two decades of conflict, the top Taliban political leadership have come to an understanding that neither side can win on the battlefield and that there needs to be a political settlement to end the violence. The weak administration would need guarantees that a ceasefire would hold and a subsequent inclusive peace deal would be struck in the event of the complete withdrawal of foreign military support. 

Consistent And Enduring Plan Is What India Needs To Keep Pakistan Under Check – OpEd

By Tanushree Chakravorty* 
OCTOBER 17, 2016

A recent report in an Indian daily makes public India’s surgical strike in the Pakistan’s territory in 2011 under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The strike also known as ‘operation ginger’ was India’s reaction to a beheading action by Pakistan’s soldier. The report suggests that the recent strike post Uri militant attack is not the first surgical strike that has been conducted by India military.

The disclosure has induced an interesting debate, mainly comparison between previous and the current strike, and Indian government’s plan to make it public.

The report however, clearly states that the previous military operations were ad-hoc reaction rather a tactical move to counter Pakistan’s proxy forces. Any comparison between two must be seen within the logic of strategy and its implementation. It will also help to comprehend the deficit in previous approaches.

A coherent strategy is not a bundle of imagination; it is a cumulative expression of a holistic perspective, well articulated objective, and above all a long term assessment of challenges based on capacity and capability of the nation.

Strategy, as Ajai Sahni mentions, has a clear definition of objectives; a quantified assessment and acquisition of resources required to secure the objectives; and a planned deployment of these resources. The new means of conflict resolution will be judged within the parameters of a strategy.
The government seems to be aware that a military strike is just a part of an umbrella of initiatives it has to take before it can force Pakistan to cut off link with jihadi groups.

Chinese Perceptions of the “Third Offset Strategy”

October 4, 2016

Then- Secretary of Defense Hagel and PLA Gen. Chang Wanquan. Hagel proposed a "third offset" and "defense innovation initiative" which has been closely tracked by PLA scholars

China is deeply committed to a series of military reforms involving reorganization, more realistic training, and advanced weapons—all interconnected by information technology and with the various services and branches working jointly. It set itself two milestones—2020 and 2049. The first of these is to complete military mechanization and full informatization. However, this goal is predicated on achieving a level of technology to deal with the threat posed by high-tech, precision warfare demonstrated by the United States during the first Gulf War in 1991. However, since 2014, U.S. Defense policy-makers, beginning with then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have committed to pushing the United States military advantages to the next level to respond to emerging conventional-military power parity, the “Third Offset” (OSD, November 15, 2014). Chinese academics and military practitioners are closely watching the “Third Offset” and considering how to recalibrate China’s own modernization plans in response.

The “Third Offset” (trans. “第三个对消战略” or “第三次抵消战略”) appears regularly in Chinese publications, including coverage by the People’s Daily, and security-focused media such as People’s Liberation Army Daily. [1] One article written by Professors at the Air Force Engineering College and Command Academy, Wang Peng (王鹏) Shao Dan (邵丹) took stock after Secretary Hagels’ 2014 speech, noting that the strategy represented an expansion of certain preexisting elements of current strategy toward China (China Defense Daily, November 15, 2014). Wang and Shao also noted that such a strategy would require extensive support within the U.S. Government due to its budgetary requirements, and given the ease with which technology is proliferated, maintaining an edge would also pose difficulties.

China and India’s Border Infrastructure Race

September 13, 2016

China-India Border Region. Full-Size Map available at the bottom of the page.

In July, China reportedly crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between India and China, at Barahoti in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand on at least two separate occasions. In addition to Chinese aircraft carrying out reconnaissance sorties in the area, 20–25 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly crossed into the demilitarized zone at Barahoti (China Brief, November 16, 2015). It has prompted Nepal to turn to China to meet a part of its fuel requirements. Such trade would expand further if the plan to extend the Xigaze-Gyirong rail to the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, materializes (Global Times, May 24). China has even proposed extension of Xigaze-Gyirong-Kathmandu rail line up to Nepal’s border with the Indian state of Bihar. Beijing can be expected to pursue this project, as it is trade with the large Indian market that would make trans-Himalayan trade economically profitable for China (Business Standard, May 24).

The impact of train-loads of Chinese goods flooding its markets concerns India, especially in light of its own weak logistic network. As a Sikkim government official pointed out in 2008, “when Chinese goods by the train-load arrive at Nathu La India would be able to send back mere truck-loads.” [6] Indian analysts admit that China’s road and rail links near the LAC “have important significance for regional trade.” But given the unresolved border dispute and tensions between the two neighbours, “India should be conscious of the security implications,” points out security analyst Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan. [7]

Advantage China

China’s Great Stagnation

October 17, 2016

China’s economy is stalling. The most likely economic scenario over the course of the next decade is not high growth or an economic collapse, but stagnation. If this occurs, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will have difficulty sustaining its ambitious national development and strategic plans. In particular, Beijing will not be able to avoid a more serious “guns v. butter” tradeoff.

This has sharp implications for American policy. Most importantly, while the US certainly has its own structural problems, it is far wealthier and more powerful than China, and that gap may actually grow or at least hold, rather than shrink. The dominant Sino-US relations paradigm of a declining power managing a rising power is inaccurate. A truer depiction of the Sino-American relationship is that China is a capable great power seeking to compete with US primacy in Asia, much as Russia has become a US rival in Europe and the Middle East, while Iran challenges American interests in the Persian Gulf. To attribute to China the capability to “overtake” the US or compete with it globally—or to describe the power dynamics as a “power transition” from Washington to Beijing—is at best premature.

Because the bilateral relationship contains cooperative elements, it would be better for American interests for China to return to market-based reforms, both to spur global economic growth and to stabilize Sino-American relations. However, this is unlikely in the medium term. And given the combustible mix in China of less stability at home and foreign policy adventurism abroad, Washington needs to more strongly resist destabilizing Chinese actions. It should reorient US strategy based on the long-term leverage created by likely Chinese stagnation and the enduring power gap.

China’s Economic Future:


OCTOBER 17, 2016

Adversaries are exploiting gaps in the American peace-war paradigm.

Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a series in which thinkers from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) will explore the U.S. military’s phasing construct and the line between war and peace. Be sure to read the first installment, “American Strategy and the Six Phases of Grief.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford has expressed frustration with the U.S. military’s phasing construct, saying he doesn’t find it “particularly useful” for addressing today’s challenges, such as “gray zone” conflicts. This disconnect between the phasing construct and present-day challenges is merely the latest symptom of a deeper problem in how the U.S. defense establishment thinks about war. For the past quarter century, U.S. defense thinkers have used terms such as “asymmetric warfare,” “hybrid warfare,” “irregular warfare,” “unconventional warfare,” “unrestricted warfare,” “ambiguous warfare,” “gray zones,” and “military operations other than war” to describe adversary approaches and military operations that don’t fit within the narrow box of traditional or conventional “war.”

At a certain point, it is worth asking whether the traditional U.S. concept of war is too narrow or even if it is “conventional.” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that war does not fit into “neat, tidy boxes.” There are many ways to use violence or the threat of violence to achieve political aims. Perhaps it’s time to drop the qualifiers and expand the default concept for what constitutes war. The U.S. military acts like a team playing a game for which it wrote the rules. Unfortunately, the other teams never agreed to play by them. Instead of annotating each deviation the other team makes of our “rules,” maybe it’s time to burn the rulebook.


OCTOBER 18, 2016

Recent on-the-ground reports from Northern Iraq, as well as statements from senior U.S. and Iraqi commanders, clearly telegraph the next phase of the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State: the battle to retake Mosul. As Iraqi forces, backed closely by U.S. advisors, prepare for the imminent clearance of the strategic city, they should heed the lessons learned from previous efforts to wrest control of Mosul from the Islamic State. When facing a major clearance operation, the group has often managed to go “underground” rather than fight a conventional military force head on. This age-old insurgent technique enabled the Islamic State’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), to surviveyears of robust, sustained U.S. and Iraqi counter-terrorism operations in Mosul from 2004 to 2009 and re-emerge when U.S. forces left the city in 2010.

As clearance operations get underway in Mosul, the Islamic State will likely replicate this approach, deactivating and dispersing its military units and reinforcing its intelligence, security, administrative, and financial groups. The coalition of Iraqi and U.S. forces must anticipate this adjustment, and prepare to execute a deliberate campaign targeting Islamic State “enabler” elements, which may operate just under the radar of coalition and Iraqi forces, but in plain sight of the all-important civilian population. If the coalition does not do this, the group could survive yet again – maintaining its stranglehold on Mosul through extortion, intimidation, and assassination only to resurface there once coalition forces shift their focus elsewhere.

The Coming Liberation?


OCTOBER 18, 2016

We recently became part of a growing insurgency. And like all good insurgents, we’re looking to spread the word to like-minded defense reformers.

Over Columbus Day weekend, your “Strategic Outpost” columnists traveled to Chicago to attend and speak at the annual conference of DEF, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. DEF is an eclectic movement of over a thousand rising young leaders with a unique mission: to help solve national security problems from the bottom up. A non-profit that was sparked three years ago by some creative work on disruptive thinking, DEF puts business innovators and social entrepreneurs in the same room with junior military leaders, veterans, and national security civilians, all of whom see themselves as change agents. According to Jim Perkins, an Army captain and DEF’s volunteer executive director, “The goal of DEF is culture change – we are an insurgency against the status quo.”

DEF represents a 21st-century view of the defense world, one common among millennials, but certainly not limited to them: that current Department of Defense processes and problem-solving means are painfully slow and entirely ineffective for a world moving at fiber-optic speed. The group’s members hold an unwavering belief that better solutions to American security problems can come from marrying creative outside thinking with networked “intrapreneurs” seeking change within the defense bureaucracy and community. They are convinced that change can be driven by (mostly) young innovators who may never reach general, admiral, or assistant secretary of defense. DEFers hold periodic major events around the United States and the world to connect members, as well as small monthly local get-togethers (called agoras) that meet in homes or bars. But, as a true grassroots organization, its most important work happens from the bottom up: members who stay connected through social media and self-organize to work on specific ideas and projects, often in response to Defense Department requests for help.

So, what did we learn? Here are our four key takeaways from the conference (which you can watch through its archived live stream).

8 Misguided Arguments on Refugees and Terrorism

October 17, 2016
Source Link

Our dumbed-down debate distracts us from reforms that could attract consensus.

Refugee resettlement in the United States is as politicized as it has been in generations. That is a shame, because our current dumbed-down debate distracts us from reforms that could attract consensus support, decreasing security risks while ensuring the program’s viability.

To detractors, the current system endangers American lives and undermines democracy; the program’s architects are well-meaning, but naïve and dismissive of security concerns. For proponents, resettling refugees is a moral obligation and an unalloyed national good; critics are frightened, if not xenophobic and selfish.

Following the September 18 terrorist attacks in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota—and news reports that perpetrators Ahmad Khan Rahami and Dahir Adan were immigrants—the internet seethed with both denunciations and formulaic defenses of refugee resettlement in the United States.

In response to the administration’s September 15 announcement that it plans to resettle 110,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017, including a “significantly higher number” of Syrian refugees (than the approximately 13,000 resettled in FY 2016), some members of Congress may again oppose full funding of resettlement-related Department of State and Department of Homeland Security operations.

At least thirty-one governors have now come out in opposition to resettlementof Syrian refugees, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who announced September 30 that Texas (which has the second largest program in the country) would end its cooperation with the federal program.

People on both sides are guilty of misstatements and exaggerations. Since we seem to be headed toward another round of rhetorical artillery from both sides, here are eight common positions taken by defenders or detractors of refugee resettlement, and why they are misguided:

How U.S.-Saudi Relations Got So Twisted

October 17, 2016

There is something rotten in U.S.-Saudi relations. It was probably unreasonable to think that a hereditary monarchy founded on a very conservative interpretation of Islam would regularly make common cause with a constitutional republic committed to secularism and individual liberty. But an always-awkward relationship has grown testy over the past fifteen years, and taken an even more ugly turn over the last two or three.

The latest tensions can be traced to sharp differences between the Saudis and the Obama administration over dealings in the Middle East, from how to handle the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to different responses to the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. And then there is the Obama administration’s attempt to mend fences with Iran—Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival.

There is a lingering sense that the House of Saud’s decades-long funding of an extreme interpretation of Islam throughout the world has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremism, and even violence. And yet, the roots of actual terrorists’ rage and resentment, to say nothing of their theology, rarely trace directly to Saudi-funded imams or mosques, as the New York Times’ Scott Shane has reported. Meanwhile, the Saudis have battled both Al Qaeda and ISIS. The awkward fact that ISIS had adopted some of its ideas and practices from the Saudis elicited regret from a former imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca.

Saudi Arabia Tightens Noose On Cybercrime

By Rashid Hassan 
OCTOBER 18, 2016

Saudi Arabia is making concerted efforts to tighten the noose on cybercrime with work on novel solutions pertaining to information security.

The Kingdom will host the Global Internet Forum and Exhibition early next year, with the main objective of highlighting the government’s efforts in combating cybercrime, ensuring cybersecurity and facilitating e-governance and its mechanisms concerning Vision 2030.

The forum will be held in mid-March in Jeddah with the participation of experts, authorities and companies specialized in the field of Internet and communications from across the world, said Khalid Naqro, supervisor of the exhibition.

The Cabinet meeting here on Monday approved a number of procedural arrangements relating to security and safety projects, including provisions that government agencies have to verify, when implementing their projects, their compliance with regulations and instructions on security and safety.

The Cabinet was briefed on the Kingdom’s participation in the second committee of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, during its discussion on “Exploitation of Science and Technology for Development,” and the Kingdom’s confirmation that it will continue its march in the ongoing support for the implementation of the results of the world summit on the information society.

Border Conflicts Among Central Asian States Intensify, Casting Doubt On Cooperation Against External Threats – OpEd

OCTOBER 18, 2016

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are all involved in festering border disputes with each other, conflicts that so far have been relatively minor in and of themselves, but that threaten to explode and to call into question their ability to cooperate not only generally but against threats from Afghanistan.

Their differences over where the borders should be and how disputes should be resolved thus represent a potentially serious threat to the security of the region and to that of the Russian Federation as well, Aleksandr Shustov, a specialist on the region, argues in today’s issue of “NG-DipKuriyer” (ng.ru/courier/2016-10-17/11_triangle.html).

The most significant border problems in the region, he writes, “are concentrated in the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan triangle,” the three countries who share the Fergana valley. The topography of that region, the ethnically intermixed nature of the population, and the lack of agreements on the border all make this a potential flashpoint.

The situation is made even worse, Shustov says, by the demographic explosion among the titular nationalities, their rural location, and “intensifying competition for land and water,” all factors that have led the three governments both to dig in their heels and to test the resolve of others by the use of border guards to advance their claims.
At present, there are disputed segments on the borders among all three of these countries. The most problematic border is the one between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The two sides have agreed on the delimitation of only 530 of the 978 kilometers of its length. And 76 percent of the 1378 kilometer-long border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan has been agreed to.

Foreign Fighters in Their Own Words: Using YouTube as a Source 11 Oct 2016

Kim Mans and Ruben Tuitel

Gaining more insight into the foreign fighting phenomenon can be difficult. Foreign fighters are often in hard-to-reach areas and war-torn countries which makes it dangerous for researchers to travel to these places. Social media platforms provide researchers with additional possibilities to gain knowledge of these fighters without any direct risks that normally exist when travelling to war zones. While Facebook and Twitter have proved to be useful in foreign fighter research, YouTube provides a different insight into the lives of foreign fighters. By analysing what is said in videos, answers to basic questions like: ‘who are these foreign fighters?’, ‘why do these foreign fighters travel to Syria?’ and ‘where will they go next when the fight is over?’, can add to thick descriptions in foreign fighter research. While the use of YouTube has its advantages, such as easy access to the thoughts and motives of foreign fighters, it also has its limitations. The reliability of their statements in the videos cannot be guaranteed and a small sample size can undermine the reliability.

Read the Report.

How to cite: K. Mans and R. Tuitel. “Foreign Fighters in Their Own Words: Using YouTube as a Source”, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (2016).


OCTOBER 17, 2016

The calls for Washington to do more are getting louder, but no feasible plan is in sight.

What is there to say about Syria? That it is a tragedy? That only the horrors of the Holocaust, Pol Pot’s reign of terror, and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution diminish its human toll? That the so-called international community strenuously condemns the murder of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of half of Syria’s population? These are, as so many have pointed out, merely words to salve the collective conscience of officials who have chosen to do the absolute minimum while a major Middle Eastern country burns. This tragedy was coming. It was obvious once Syrian President Bashar al-Assad militarized the uprising that began in the southern town of Deraa in March 2011. Policymakers in Washington and other capitals assured themselves — against all evidence — that it was only a matter of time before Assad fell. But anyone who knew anything about Syria understood that the Syrian leader would not succumb the way Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali or Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak did. No, Assad’s ignominy is different, borne of the unfathomable amount of blood he has spilled. There was a time when this violence could have been minimized and American interests served through an intervention, but policymakers acquiesced to the arguments of those who said it was only a matter of time or, when Assad did not fall quickly, that it was too hard. Until it actually was. Now, the desperate images emerging from Aleppo have made it impossible to look away. It remains a matter of debate precisely what the Syrian air force and its Russian partners seek in Aleppo, thought it seems that they are seeking to wrest control of the eastern half of the city by flattening it from the air.

Iran Nuclear Deal Reflects Dangerous US Weakness – Analysis

By Todd Royal 
OCTOBER 18, 2016

The MENA region is in shambles, as Iranian proxy-wars, and other conflicts dominate Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, and Egypt, along with the possibility of a Palestinian civil war around the corner. Recently, the US Navy has defended itself from missile strikes byHouthi rebels, backed by Iran off Yemen’s coast. The P5+1 Iran nuclear deal, or treaty, was a gross dereliction of duty by all countries involved in the negotiations. The Republican-controlled US Congress, for doing absolutely nothing to exercise its constitutional control over implementation, also holds blame along with the Germans and French.

We still live in a world where the U.S. is the sole superpower, though reluctantly under President Obama, and someone has to lead. Unfortunately, and with dire consequences, President Obama chose to believe the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and negotiate a partial stop to their nuclear weapons program.

This agreement/treaty, which was supposed to be the dawn of a new era for Iran – the cradle of civilization – instead, has only emboldened Russia to now threaten the U.S. and world with nuclear war. It has also emboldened the Chinese to become more insistent on their crackdown of domestic freedom of speech, to cast aside international law in the South China Sea, and to raise tensions with the Japanese.

Syria: A Conflict Of Egos – OpEd

OCTOBER 18, 2016

The United States has the power to decree the death of nations, wrote Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe.

Kinzer’s article was entitled: “The media are misleading the public on Syria.” In his piece, the scholar at a Brown University Institute contested that his country’s media misinformation on Syria is leading to the kind of ignorance, which is enabling the American government to pursue any policy, however imprudent, in the war-torn Arab country. The US government can “decree the death of nations” with “popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with the official story,” he wrote.

Kinzer, in principle makes a strong point. His article, however, was particularly popular among those who see the Syrian government entirely innocent of any culpability in the ongoing war, and that Iran and Russia are at no fault whatsoever; better yet, their intervention in Syria is entirely morally-guided and altruistic. That said, Kinzer’s assertion regarding the US government’s dangerous meddling in Syria’s affairs, renewed Cold War with Russia and ill-defined military mission in that country, is all true.

Neither is the US, nor its allies, following rules of war nor adhering to a particularly noble set of principles aimed at ending that most devastating war, which has killed well over 300,000 people, rendered millions displaced and destroyed the country’s wealth and infrastructure. So what is the truth on Syria?

The Brexit Madness – OpEd

By Linda S. Heard* 
OCTOBER 18, 2016

Strange how Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May voted for Britain to remain in the EU yet has morphed into one of Brexit’s most determined advocates refusing to contemplate a second referendum because the people have spoken, she says.

Even stranger is the revelation that the UK’s eccentric Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote a column in support of staying-in just days before he joined the Leavers, which was never published. He no doubt flip-flopped with an eye on Number Ten; she may have been a closet Brexiteer all along.

Whatever their motivations, together with former Prime Minister David Cameron — who only called a referendum to garner support within his party for his reelection never imagining Britons would vote out — they have damaged their country’s economic health in the short term and perhaps for the foreseeable future.

I have quite a few British friends who aren’t as gung-ho about bidding the European Union (EU) adieu as they once were, primarily because they are feeling the pinch where it hurts — in their pockets. I know many more who voted against and they are hopping mad.

Sterling has lost 18 percent against the dollar and is close to par with the euro even before Article 50 has been triggered, which May says will occur before the end of March. Supermarket prices are rising with shoppers expected to pay 10 percent more for food items. The price of cars is being hiked and petrol is set to rise as much as 5p a liter.

Stratfor: the EU faces painful budget battles after Brexit

13 October 2016.

Summary: Europe’s elites warned that Britain would suffer for daring to leave the EU. Suffer severely and soon. Four months have passed since the June 23 vote and Britain has felt no ill effects. Britain might have the last laugh, since the EU has to redo its budget following the loss of its second largest contributor. The EU is already under stress. Cutting the budget and raising taxes will make it worse. Perhaps sparking more exits.

A Bitter Budget Battle Looms in the EU

Because of the Brexit, the European Union will lose a net contributor to its budget, forcing the remaining members to rethink the bloc’s spending limits and priorities. 

EU members will have three options for dealing with the loss of the United Kingdom’s income: increase national contributions, trim the budget or look for new revenue sources. Each choice carries political risks. 

Budget-related issues will create new sources of friction in the European Union as national interests shape the negotiations. 


When Britain leaves the European Union, it will take with it the sizable financial contributions it makes to the bloc’s budget. That will leave remaining member states with some difficult choices to make about how big future budgets should be, what they should pay for and how much members should pony up for them. In all likelihood, key policies — from agricultural subsidies to development funds — will have to be redesigned. And as members decide how to proceed, new sources of conflict will arise that will do little to help reverse the bloc’s political fragmentation.