30 October 2016

Is India Losing Russia?

October 27, 2016

With the international system in a state of flux, we are witnessing significant political changes between nations. U.S.-China relations have come under great strain, as evidenced by their adversarial stand with regard to the South China Sea. Russia is ceding space to China with regard to East Asia. There seems to be a return to Cold War–like dynamics between Russia and the United States. It is being reported that Russia has placed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania. The missiles are capable of hitting targets as far away as Berlin. Their differing positions with regard to the crisis in Syria and ISIS underline the tension between the two.

To the surprise of many observers, India-Russia relations, which have stood the test of time, also appear to have been affected by this trend, with Russia apparently upping its security ties with Pakistan, India’s traditional rival. For many in India, Russia’s decision to go ahead with its Druzhba (Friendship) 2016 military exercises with Pakistan immediately after the Uri terrorist incident, and its reticence in fully backing India on terrorism emanating from Pakistan at the recently concluded eighth BRICS Summit in Goa, are seen as worrying developments. From the perspective of a stakeholder in this bilateral relationship, the questions that come to one’s mind are: How worried should one be about these developments in India-Russia relations? Also, what should be done to ensure that there is no fundamental realignment in the relations between the two nations?

If one disregards the almost seventy-year history of relations between the two nations, it would appear that theobservation of Rajan Menon, a close follower of India-Russia relations, is being proven wrong: “The two countries have established substantial trust and understanding, a convergent worldview, and a stake in preserving a relationship that few countries can claim to have.” A perusal of the bilateral relation will show that is all not particularly well. On the security front, the Russians have been stepping up joint military exercises with Pakistan since 2014. The two naval exercises, Arabian Monsoon 2014 and Arabian Monsoon 2015, were followed up by Druzhba 2016, which was a two-week long military exercise conducted in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province involving seventy Russian service personnel.

BRICS Summit In Goa Brought Terrorism To Fore, But Blunted By China – Analysis

By Bhaskar Roy* 
OCTOBER 27, 2016
At the 8th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit held (October 15 to 16) in Goa, India revealed that the world was far from reaching a consensus on international terrorism, including cross-border terrorism. But there were take away which could grow in the future within the BRICS and outside it, concerning the world’s biggest threat.

BRICS was founded on the premise of economic and financial development among the member states and to challenge the stranglehold of Brettan Woods financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank on developing and less developed countries (LDCs). At the Goa summit, the BRICS agenda moved a little forward by leaders agreeing to establish the BRICS Agricultural Research platform, Railway Research Network, Sports Council and fast tracking the BRICS Rating Agency based on market-oriented principles among other things. The IMF, especially, requires urgent reform to properly accommodate the poorest of its members.

The BRICS New Developments Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) has been operationalised. It was also decided to hold an outreach summit of BRICS and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical Cooperation) countries which comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

How far has BRICS advanced in its foundational agenda? There are questions about that. An economic/financial organisation like this would have smooth movement if there was a strategic coherence between all its five members including some economic balance. But Brazil and South Africa are in difficult economic states. China, Russia and India are the three who have economic stability but they also have to address difficult challenges. China has huge forex reserves but just sitting on all that money is no help. It is trying to invest abroad but cautiously as it, as always, ties in political gains. India has a comfortable foreign exchange cushion, but is dwarfed by China. Russia has suffered with the drop in oil and gas prices and growing or looming western sanctions making it dependent on China (even near subservient to China) as the Goa summit revealed regarding India’s push on cross-border terrorism and Pakistan based and backed terrorist groups.

Taliban Overrun Afghan Military Base in Uruzgan Province

Bill Roggio
October 27, 2016

Taliban overruns military base in Uruzgan

The Taliban took control of a military base in the embattled southern province of Uruzgan, where the group has recently laid siege to the capital of Tarin Kot.

The jihadist group claimed it took control of the “strategic military base in Khushdeer” and two others in Chora district after Afghan troops were surrounded and then subsequently “fled towards the district center.”

In a statement released on its website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban showed a picture of the base with the Taliban’s flag flying over it.

On Twitter, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid then released a video of an interview of fighters from the base (video is below). Like the recent ambush in Helmand’s capital, the Taliban fighters clearly are not concerned about either an Afghan Army counterattack or airstrikes. The interview takes place in broad daylight, hours after the base was overrun (the Taliban claimed the Afghan troops fled during the nighttime).

Uruzgan has been hotly contested for more than a year. Of the province’s six districts, one, Char Chino, is under Taliban control, and the remaining five are heavily contested. The Taliban seized Char Chino in June 2016 after Afghan forces conducted a tactical retreat.

The Taliban considers Uruzgan to be a strategic province, and has previously said that it controls all areas of the province except for the district centers.

Messed-Up Trial Of The Century: Lawdragon’s Exhaustive Report On 9/11 Pre-Trial Hearings At Guantánamo – OpEd

OCTOBER 27, 2016

The military commissions at Guantánamo, as I have been reporting for ten years, are a shamefully deficient excuse for justice, a system dreamt up in the heat of America’s post-9/11 sorrow, when hysteria and vengeance trumped common sense and a respect for the law, and it was decided, by senior Bush administration officials and their lawyers, that prisoners seized in the “war on terror” and subjected to torture should be tried in a system that allowed the use of information derived through the use of torture, and swiftly found guilty and executed.

Military prosecutors, however, soon turned against the system and pointedly resigned, and in 2006 the Supreme Court ruled the whole system illegal. Nevertheless, the Bush administration, with the enthusiastic support of Congress, revived the commissions in the fall of 2006, followed by further resignations (see here and here), and a third version of the commissions ill-advisedly emerged under President Obama in his first year in office (seehere and here). The commissions have been tweaked to be less unjust, but they are still a Frankenstein’s Monster facsimile of a working trial system, full of so many holes that it is difficult for them to function at all, and at their heart is the specter of torture, which the government endlessly tries to hide, while the prisoners’ defence teams, of course, try constantly to expose it, as no fair trial can take place without it being discussed.

In recent years, my coverage of the commissions has been less thorough than it was between 2007 and the summer of 2014, largely because it seemed to me that the commissions were so broken and were going round and round in circles so pointlessly that it was no longer even worth trying to follow what was — or, more often, what wasn’t — happening. In one way, this was a fair reflection of the futility of the commissions’ efforts to secure anything resembling justice, but the more fundamental reality was that, however broken the proceedings may have been, pre-trial hearings were still taking place, however little they were being reported, which, one day, would constitute a damning indictment of America’s post-9/11 flight from justice and the law, and its embrace of torture and indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial. As a result, the commissions really ought not to be allowed to drop off the radar.

Last month, Lawdragon Magazine, in the US, published a major report on the military commissions, based on a year of its reporter, John Ryan, attending pre-trial hearings for the five menaccused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa al-Hawsawi and Ammar al-Baluchi, who were all held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for several years before their arrival at Guantánamo in September 2006.

What Does China Actually Want in the South China Sea?

October 27, 2016

The complex disputes over islands, rocks and reefs in the South China Sea involve six countries: China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. They have a long history, with their origins in the interruption of traditional practices by European and Japanese colonialism, and compounded by the post-WWII conflicts in Southeast Asia. These disputes are among the most vexing issues in the region.

Despite this backstory the tensions associated with contestation have waxed and waned. The current spike in geopolitical temperature dates back to 2009, and in particular to China’s issuing of the decidedly ambiguous “dashed line” map. This map can now be found in passports, on inflight magazines and in every school book in the country. Since then, China has begun to take steps to defend what it portrays as its rights in the sea. Disputed features have been built upon and now boast 3 km runways and deep water ports. Sansha island in the Paracels, population 1200, has city status. And while Beijing is not the only country occupying or building on disputed features, its activities are the most widespread and destabilizing.

Yet in spite of its many activities, it is not clear precisely what it is that China wants. We can see plainly its methods of advancing its interests on a daily basis, but just what its larger strategic objective may be is uncertain. This is perhaps most obvious in the case of the dashed line map - it was presented accompanying a note in which China asserted its “indisputable” sovereignty over the islands and the adjacent waters of the Sea. But it lacked specificity about what the dashes meant, where, precisely on the map the lines are located or indeed what meaning they held.

Chinese Could Become Second Largest Nationality In Russia – OpEd

OCTOBER 28, 2016

If current trends continue, with ever fewer immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus coming to Russia and with birthrates among Russia’s larger non-Russian nationalities remaining low, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya says, the Chinese will be the second largest nationality in Russia by mid-century.

The senior scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Economic Predictions said that Russia has no choice but to rely on immigrant workers and that it has no other source except for China on which it is likely to be able to rely in the next several decades (newizv.ru/society/2016-10-26/248390-cherez-35-let-kitajcy-mogut-stat-vtorym-po-chislennosti-narodom-v-rossii.html andtass.ru/obschestvo/3735857).

Zayanchkovskaya added that Russia will not be able to do without massive immigration even if it raises the pension age. Doing that, she said, “will not level out the demographic waves or the problems of having a sufficient number of working age people. It will solve the problems of the pension fund, but the demographic situation will remain just as complex.”

There are three reasons why her remarks are likely to be especially disturbing to many Russians:

First, Russians have long been accustomed to believe that the second largest nationality in the Russian Federation are the Tatars, a group which Russians generally view as integrated or at least Russian speaking, qualities not found among immigrants from Central Asia, the Caucasus or China.

Second, Zayanchkovsky’s words also suggest that one or more of the Central Asian or Caucasian country migration flows into Russia is larger than the six million Tatars, a conclusion that if true means immigration into the Russian Federation is far larger than any Moscow official has ever acknowledged.

Captured battlefield cellphones, computers are helping the U.S. target and kill Islamic State’s leaders

W.J. Hennigan
October 27, 2016

Captured battlefield cellphones, computers are helping the U.S. target and kill Islamic State’s leaders

U .S. military officers watched grainy video feeds at a small operations center in Baghdad on Tuesday as Predator drones tracked and killed three reputed Islamic State leaders — one after another — in the offensive on Mosul.

The targeted air strikes were due in large part to intelligence extracted from cellphones, computer hard drives, memory cards and hand-written ledgers recovered from battlefields and towns taken from Islamic State fighters. 

Recently captured intelligence also has proved useful in providing clues to detecting potential terrorist plots, tracking foreign fighters and identifying Islamic State supporters around the globe, U.S. officials said.

The largest data trove was recovered when U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces recaptured Manbij, an Islamic State stronghold in northern Syria, in mid-August. Intelligence agencies recovered more than 120,000 documents, nearly 1,200 devices and more than 20 terabytes of digital information, officials said.

Islamic State militants came early in the morning, riding atop trucks that lumbered into this northern Iraqi oil town.

Masked and bristling with weapons, they were inghimasis, fighters instructed to “immerse” themselves in the enemy’s ranks, shoot till the last bullet and then detonate an explosives…

Islamic State militants came early in the morning, riding atop trucks that lumbered into this northern Iraqi oil town.

Report from Mosul: How the Epic Battle for the ISIS Stronghold Will End

October 27, 2016

Akram Suleiman introduced himself as the head of the Kurdistan journalists’ syndicate in Mosul. But he’s not in Mosul today. Along with hundreds of thousands of others from what was once Iraq’s second largest city, he lives in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. They fled the advance of Islamic State in the summer of 2014. Even before 2014 he says it was dangerous to go back and forth to Mosul if you were Kurdish or a member of a minority group. People used to pretend to be Sunni Arabs so as not be targeted by extremists after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Along with a news crew from Kurdistan TV, Suleiman was preparing to go with Kurdish peshmerga into the thick of the fighting on October 20. On day four of the massive offensive to liberate Mosul from Islamic State, the Kurds were hoping to liberate several villages east of the city. Airstrikes and artillery were pounding ISIS positions; gunfire was sporadic in the distance. In pickup trucks, SUVs, Humvees, bulldozers and an assortment of other equipment, Kurdish fighters poured into the battle via a frontline called Nawaran. Today those Kurdish peshmerga have advanced several kilometers toward the city and liberated the villages that were their objective. But it’s a difficult and time-consuming task to reduce ISIS. The extremists have dug tunnels beneath these villages on Nineveh plains. They have planted improvised-explosive devices everywhere. And they are proficient with mortars and snipers. Col. John Dorrian of the U.S.-led coalition says that as the offensive enters the dense urban area the coalition will have to adjust its air campaign to suit the difficult circumstances.

ISIS is no longer the force it was in June of 2014 when it rolled into Iraq’s Sunni cities. It’s been reduced to less than 10,000 fighters, many of whom, when they are captured or killed, look emaciated, blackened from soot, their long hair and beards caked in dust. This is the death knell of the extremist “caliphate” that they proclaimed, but how ISIS dies in Iraq will determine much.

How To Begin Well-Established Relation Between EU And Iran – OpEd

By Behzad Khoshandam*
OCTOBER 26, 2016

Following the implementation of Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and Brexit, the European Union (EU) and Iran have taken certain steps toward realization of strategic and structured relations. On Thursday, October 6, 2016, the European Parliament voted for a roadmap on EU’s relations with Iran through a report submitted by Richard Howitt, which has come to be known as EU’s strategy or roadmap toward Iran following the JCPOA.

Iranian officials have considered the contents of this document with their own hopes and fears. It seems that realization of any possible strategic and structured relations between Iran and the EU depends on many variables and most of all on the two sides’ commitment to showing committed political will without any precondition. In addition to committed political will, it seems that there are five variables, which are required for the realization of strategic and structured relations between these two actors. Those variables include international structure, balance and norms; meeting the two sides’ needs and demands on a global scale; establishment of international security and order; attention to the role played by these two actors in forming coalitions and alliances in the world; and also commitment to an identity-based and issue-based agenda.

When it comes to meeting the two sides’ needs and demands in the world, the EU needs Iran in many areas in order to form a multilateral order while Iran, on the other hand, needs the EU’s economic, technological and strategic potentialities in order to expand relations with the world countries beyond its own region.

Report From ‘The Jungle’ Refugee Camp In Calais, France – OpEd

OCTOBER 26, 2016

“I was in jail with a Libyan man, his friends came and broke into the jail and let us go, too. There was fighting everywhere. You pray to be in jail with Libyans, because they do not recognize the current government, they will do what they want.” (spoken by a refugee in “the Jungle”)

Forty-two percent of the people who came to the Jungle are from warring parts of Sudan and South Sudan; thirty-two percent are from Afghanistan. Others are from Syria, Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, and more; they have crossed between 6 and 13 countries to arrive in Calais, with their final goal to reach the U.K. In Calais, it seems they are facing the hardest border to cross.

There are many who have died or been seriously injured in their attempts to cross the border to the U.K. One couple was trying to cross by train. Her boyfriend made it on; she leapt, wrapped her arms around him, but did not get her bottom half onto the train. She was cut in half. He was deeply traumatized by her tragic death. In another case, a brother and sister tried to cross to the U.K. by truck. They were both hit on the road; he died and she is in the hospital. Most people from the Jungle Camp who are in the hospital were wounded in accidents while trying to get into the U.K. Broken bones and deep cuts on arms, legs, and fingers are the most commonly suffered injuries. Volunteer teams have been visiting refugees; we have had as many as sixteen to visit each time, and during a normal week we visit twice a week. We take food and toiletries and, for those we have come to know, we try and bring a small gift. Last week we spent time in the Jungle relaying information to each community. First, the Calais government won the right to shut down any place of business in the Jungle: restaurants, barber shops, vegetable stalls, and cigarette shops. Second, anyone continuing to work in the businesses can and will be arrested. With the help of others from over twenty organizations, including L’Auberge des Immigrants, Secour Catholique, Refugee Youth Center and The Migrants’ Law Project, we shared pamphlets containing information about the legal rights each person has in case they do get arrested and or harassed. The legal rights information was translated and printed into Arabic, English, Amharic, Farsi and Pashtu.

Mosul And Aleppo: A Tale Of Two Cities – OpEd

By Gwynne Dyer* 
OCTOBER 26, 2016

Two great sieges are getting underway in the Middle East, one in Mosul in Iraq and the other in Aleppo in Syria.

They have a great deal in common, including the fact that the attackers both depend heavily on foreign air power, but they are treated by most international media as though they were completely different events. How similar they are will become clearer with the passage of time.

Seventy years without a really major war have allowed us to develop a major dislike for killing civilians from the air.

Nobody on either side would have been the least bit reluctant to blast Aleppo or Mosul into oblivion in 1945 if it served their strategic purposes, but moral tastes have changed.

Every civilian death from bombing in Iraq and Syria — but not the thousands of other civilian casualties each month — is therefore publicly catalogued and condemned.

The Russians are taking enormous criticism over their bombing of the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo (although the indiscriminate “barrel bombs” are the work of the Syrian air force, not the Russians).

The US air force has been much more careful about its bombing around Mosul so far, but it too will end up having to choose between bombing the city heavily and seeing the Iraqi government’s attack fail.

One Click At A Time: The Change Agents Of The Middle East – OpEd

By Nadia Oweidat*
OCTOBER 27, 2016

(FPRI) — The Arabic-speaking world, extending from Morocco in the east to Oman in the west, is changing rapidly. The Arab Spring was but the first chapter of this change. Despite ongoing violence in Syria, Libya, and elsewhere, in much of the Arab world the most powerful force for change is nonviolent activism. Millions of people are pursuing creative, peaceful ways to effect political change, even as both extremists and dictators, continue to assert their power using their proven means: violence.

Take the example of Aramram, a Jordanian WebTV platform. Its videos provide unprecedented civic education for young Jordanians, in easy-to-follow language. It also provides videos on economic issues. In one of their programs called, “209 King Hussein Street,” named after the address of the Parliament building, they discuss every bill proposed or passed by the members of the parliament, acting as a Jordanian C-SPAN. While this doesn’t raise an eyebrow in America, for a country where most votes are cast to support one’s tribe or religious affiliation, this kind of civic education aims at fundamentally changing voting patterns and creating, for the first time, a state-based citizen, rather than a tribal citizen, with expectations of an accountable government. Aramram’s productions meet a hunger for such knowledge as their videos have been viewed millions of people and shared by hundreds of thousands. For a small country like Jordan, that is a significant percentage of the country.

Or take the example of Sami al-Hourani, a brilliant Jordanian medical doctor who decided to leave a fellowship at Stanford University to dedicate his time to a platform he created to help his fellow young men and women find opportunities around the world for training and fellowships. His website, Fursa,Arabic for opportunity, receives more than ten thousand visitors a day. His Facebook page is even more popular. He is not stopping there. Among other initiatives he created is Fadfid, which means vent in Arabic. He distributed blank pieces of white paper to young men and women in Jordan and asked them to list their grievances. He then translated these into charts and data, an effortless task for someone who started coding in seventh grade. His goal is to find creative solutions for these grievances, as he did with Fursa.

Iran’s Dream Of Becoming Aviation Transit Regional Hub – Analysis

OCTOBER 27, 2016

In February, immediately after the implementation of the nuclear deal, dubbed as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran placed orders to purchase dozens of long-distance European jets in a bid to renew its commercial air fleet. The country announced plans to invest $27 billion in an airline fleet capable of taking on the region’s super carriers.

The orders, which included Airbus A380, the world’s largest jetliner, positioned Tehran as a potential long-term transit center between East and West to rival regional hubs such as Dubai, air officials and analysts said, according to Reuters. Observers said it sent a political warning to Iran’s neighbors not to ignore the Islamic Republic’s emergence from isolation.

Iranian officials openly called for the revival of the country’s historical position as a center for communications in the region, an emphasis that is in retrospect reminiscent of Iran’s position in taking back its pre-sanctions share from oil markets.

Iran’s path to the purchases appeared to be one with lots of ifs and buts. However, the US Treasury Department recently loosened the grip on Iran, even though several months late, allowing Tehran to finalize agreed purchases even from Boeing.

A number of international airlines are also rushing to resume flights to Iran in the hope to tap into increasing opportunities in the country after the recent lifting of sanctions.

Last week, KLM resumed flights from Amsterdam to Tehran after a three-year halt. The resumption, part of a planned Air France-KLM comeback, includes four return flights per week. Paris-Tehran flights have also been resumed much earlier than the previously scheduled date in January.

Obama’s Middle East: Fettering And Collusion – OpEd

By Eyad Abu Shakra*
OCTOBER 28, 2016

For President Barack Obama to enjoy around 55% support among Americans according to the latest polls, a few weeks before the election of the new president, is a very interesting phenomenon. It is interesting especially as America’s international credibility wanes and prestige tumbles to the extent that a Yemeni militia subservient to Iran managed to target one of its navy’s ships three times within the space of a few days.

The ends of US presidential terms, more so the penultimate and last terms, usually point to voters getting tired of the boss in the White House. Even ‘ultra-charismatic’ presidents like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton failed to achieve the popularity of Obama near the end of their sojourns in the Oval Office. Indeed, the 55% figure is much higher than the figures achieved by either the Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. So what is the “secret” behind Obama’s continuing popularity within America, while losing his glitter abroad, even reaching unprecedented lows in regions like the Middle East?

Most likely, there are two very important reasons. The first is that Obama has succeeded in securing a social and economic ‘safety net’ inside America, mainly in the fields of healthcare, employment, economic upturn and improvement in living conditions after the pains suffered by ordinary Americans during the financial crisis of 2008-2009. In democracies, it is a well-known fact that a voter passes judgement on his/her elected leaders based on how they directly affect his/her direct interests, regardless of anything else.

Replacing Political Slanders With Arabic And Hebrew Wisdom – OpEd

OCTOBER 28, 2016

On October 26, 2016 UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee adopted a controversial resolution that ignores Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount; Draft Resolution 40COM 7A.13, entitled “Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls,” by a ‘majority’ of 10 countries voting in favor, eight abstaining and two opposing the text. Just ten “yes” votes out of the 20 members were needed for the resolution to pass.

While the UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem totally ignores any Jewish or Christian connection to the Temple Mount, what should worry us most is its affirmation of a paranoid conspiracy theory holding that Jews are plotting to harm Islamic holy sites. The UNESCO resolution “condemns the escalating Israeli aggressions” against “Muslims’ access to their holy site Al-Aqsa,” “deplores the continuous storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif by Israeli right-wing extremists,” and “deeply decries the continuous Israeli aggressions” committed by “the so-called ‘Israeli antiquities’ officials.”

There’s a long history to Palestinian claims that Jews, Zionists or Israelis are threatening Al-Aqsa. Such claims are part rallying cry, and part conspiracy theory. The power of this lie, both in inciting violence as well as mobilizing Arab and Muslim public opinion, was first understood in the 1920s by the Mufti of Jerusalem (and future Nazi collaborator) Haj Amin al-Husseini.

He saw Al-Aqsa as a way of turning a local conflict into a regional, religious, and even global conflict. Claims that Jews were seeking to harm Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem in 1928 sparked a wave of Arab violence against Jews, culminating in the Hebron massacre of 67 Jews a few months later.

The War On UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque Is Palestinian And East Jerusalem Is Illegally Occupied – OpEd

OCTOBER 28, 2016

Did Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, actually read the full text of the UNESCO resolution on Palestine and Israel, before he raved with anger?

“I think this is a mistaken, inconceivable resolution,” he said.

“It is not possible to continue with these resolutions at the UN and UNESCO that aim to attack Israel. It is shocking and I have ordered that we stop taking this position (his country’s abstention) even if it means diverging from the position taken by the rest of Europe,” he added.

Renzi, who became Prime Minister in 2014 at the relatively young age of 39 knows exactly how the game is played. In order to win favor with Washington, he must first please Tel Aviv.

His country has abstained from the October 12 vote on a resolution that condemns Israel’s violations of the cultural and legal status of Occupied East Jerusalem. This decision has ignited the ire of Israeli Ambassador to Rome, Ofer Zaks, who riled up the Jewish community in Italy to protest the abstention. Renzi, in turn, was converted into a champion of the ‘Temple Mount’, the name Israel uses to describe the Palestinian Muslim holy site.

Renzi cravenly went on damage control mode without truly understanding the nature of the resolution, which merely condemned Israel’s obvious violations of international law, and only calls for Israel to respect the status of Palestinian culture in the occupied city.

Ukrainian Hackers Break Into Computer of Top Putin Aide

Anna Arutunyan
October 27, 2016

Top Putin aide hacked: Proxy cyberwar suspected

MOSCOW — A gigabyte of leaked emails this week to a top aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin reveal direct political and financial ties with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Putin has consistently denied any connection to the separatists, whether with military or financial support. Fighting has raged in eastern Ukraine for two years, since rebels in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions proclaimed their independence from Ukraine and sought to join Russia. More than 9,600 people have been killed.

A Ukrainian group calling itself CyberHunta hacked into the account of an assistant to presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and uploaded more than 2,000 emails this week. Surkov, although under sanctions for his role in the separatist conflict, traveled this month to Berlin alongside Putin for a summit on Ukraine.

The hacked emails include a June 2014 list of casualties from the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine, sent by then-chairman, Denis Pushilin. Another email from Pushilin that same month listed expenses to set up DNR’s Ministry of Information.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the emails as fake in comments to Russian news agencies, saying that Surkov does not use email. But Ukraine’s National Security Service said Wednesday that the emails were real.

The leaks followed reports from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was responsible for a series of hacks on American officials. Some analysts suggested the Surkov leaks could be a retaliation.

A New Poll Shows America's Reluctance for New Foreign Adventures

October 27, 2016

Republicans and Democrats disagree on pretty much everything, but there is one broad policy area where the GOP and Democratic establishments are actually more in tune with one another than commonly thought when it comes to foreign policy. The men and women who have dominated the foreign-policy conversation for the last three administrations—statesmen and stateswomen like Madeleine Albright, Samantha Power, the late Richard Holbrooke, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz—have proven to be strong proponents of the theory of American exceptionalism.

The narrative is as basic as it is alluring: as the strongest and most powerful country in the world and as the beacon of hope and democracy for those struggling for freedom and justice, only the United States has the ability to provide the resources, political will and strength to solve problems. If the United States doesn’t them, nobody else will. Dictators need to be kept in check, if not overthrown; the Responsibility to Protect doctrine is an inalienable component of being an American; averting atrocities and crimes against humanity need to be prevented; the stability of the world is contingent on the spread of democratic values and free-market principles; and the United States is the sole guarantor of international peace and security.

A new and comprehensive poll conducted by the Charles Koch Institute and the Center for the National Interest, however, suggests that these elite convictions are not necessarily shared by much of the American public. On issue after issue—from infrastructure to jobs, from tax rates to terrorism—the public wants to focus on practical measures that directly impact their lives. Military intervention abroad is not considered to be one of them. Accordingly, the poll reveals just how wide the gap has become between the foreign-policy establishment in Washington (what Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes famously called “the Blob”) and average Americans. 

Taiwan Should Be a Partner in Addressing Climate Change

October 27, 2016

The Paris Climate Agreement, negotiated within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions starting in the year 2020, was adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. The agreement will take effect on November 4, after more than eighty of the 197 parties to the treaty to date have submitted their instruments of ratification to the United Nations, accounting in total for more than 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as a necessary threshold. This is a promising move forward in international efforts to mitigate the grave impact of climate change.

The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC is scheduled to convene from November 7 to 18 in Marrakech, Morocco. It is the crucial next step for governments to operationalize the Paris Agreement.

Taiwan, as the fifth-largest economy in Asia and the 22nd largest in the world, should have a place at the table in Marrakech. Taiwan cannot be left as a mere spectator to a problem which encompasses the entire international community. Its voice must be heard in the councils where viable solutions are vetted and adopted.

Global warming and the El Nino phenomenon have contributed to record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events around the globe. Dangerous weather conditions were recently seen in the United States as well, with historic flooding in Louisiana, tropical storms hitting Hawaii, and Hurricane Matthew causing deaths and destruction in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

The Clumsy Case for U.S. Intervention in Syria

October 27, 2016

Those who advocate a deeper U.S. intervention in Syria against Bashar al-Assad’s regime have a difficult case to make. The risk that such an intervention would lead to a serious showdown with Russia is real. Russian air, land and naval forces are all present in Syria, meaning there is a real chance American strikes would inadvertently kill Russian personnel or destroy their equipment. Even if this doesn’t happen, Russia surely won’t be happy with an attack on its ally, and may take steps to respond, in Syria or elsewhere. A direct confrontation with a nuclear-armed great power would be the most serious crisis in U.S. national security since the end of the Cold War. Intervention advocates owe it to the public to take these concerns into account, and show that in spite of them, war is still the best choice. Specifically, they need to prevail on three points:

• First, they must explain how they intend to control the risks of confrontation with Russia over Syria in the wake of a U.S. attack, particularly if Russia takes steps to escalate.

• Second, they must identify vital U.S. interests at stake in Syria that justify taking such risks, especially given the chance that Russia will act against U.S. interests elsewhere.

• Third, they must show that intervention will be effective in defending those interests.

An argument that fails on any of these three points needs to go back to the drawing board, as an intervention that is ineffective, that risks uncontrolled escalation, or that is not tied to vital American interests is simply not worth the danger.

Missing Issues From US 2016 Presidential Debates – OpEd

OCTOBER 27, 2016

Americans will vote November 8 to decide who will be the country’s next president to lead the nation to a peaceful path without wars and bloodbaths. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have presented a crude irony to the poll that American people have been provided with a choice between not only the two most unpopular candidates, but also the two most reactionary candidates in modern history.

The usual battle for the White House by two-party system is nearing the end point. World is damn sure that irrespective of who win the battle would continue the Bushdom agenda of permanent war on Islam by using many Muslim rulers like Syrian leader Assad.

With capitalism facing serious crakes globally, (notwithstanding the strenuous efforts by World bank and IMF to promote capitalism), imperialism could face obstructions and so US president would strive hard to promote both capitalism and imperialism to phase out the “enemies” and stabilize the “world order” to benefit these anti-humanity features on a permanent basis.
Ritualistic performance?

“They came, performed and disappeared”- this description fits well for the US presidential candidates -Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump – who joined the three “joint” debates on the worthiness of their candidature.

Neither the Republican nor the Democratic person has any real vision about USA but in public mudslinging they have outsmarted the third world leaders. When the elected presidents are not duty bound to fulfill all their promises, pledges and programs, now the empty debates make the life easy for the next President too as he or she can be assured of space in NATO permanent war project on Islam for securing energy resources and for reducing Islamic populations. Pentagon led NATO terror wars can be a perfect tool for the president to justify all their illegal actions at home.

Syria, Where Foreign Involvements Are Barring Meaningful Solution – OpEd

OCTOBER 27, 2016

Syrians have been passing five consecutive years under fierce conflict and there is yet no sign of peace.
However, the failed meetings and the “talk-shop” conferences among local and regional parties led by the global powers have been continuing in usual intervals. Questions arose as to how long will it take to reach “peace”? How much more blood will be spilled? How many refugees had to risk their lives into Europe? How many more meetings and conferences in lavish vicinities are required to agree to life by disagreeing deaths?

Meetings, conferences and ceasefire-agreements have been taking place since the beginning of Syrian war, without any success. Last December (2015), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) endorsed a road map for a peace process in Syria, adopting unanimously the resolution 2254 (2015). The resolution called for an immediate ceasefire, endorsing a non-sectarian government in Syria within “6 months”, and set a schedule and process for the drafting of a new Constitution. The resolution also endorsed for UN-monitored elections within “18 months” pursuant to the new Constitution, reiterating the call for the Syrian people to decide the future of Syria.

However, although 10 months have already gone-by since the UN resolution, the formation of the said non-sectarian government in Syria still seems far away. Furthermore, it appears from the current conflict-rattled Syrian scenario that the expected new Constitution and the UN-monitored elections that were projected in the abovementioned UN resolution are just too ambitious to be taken seriously, atleast not in near future.

The Syrian civilian mass have been suffering a prolonged brutal war. The prolonging of the war was possible because of certain factors: (i) almost all sides have foreign support in order to prolong the war, (ii) the sides are well matched and (iii) each faction has sufficient willpower and resources to continue the war for a longer period.

Thailand: ‘Sufficiency Economics’ King Bhumibol’s Best Legacy – Analysis

By Lim Kooi Fong* 
OCTOBER 27, 2016

One of the most enduring images of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej is that he is almost always seen with a camera around his neck or in his hand during his time visiting regions within Thailand, checking on projects, which he personally supported and followed up.For over 70 years of his reign,

Thailand’s much loved monarch kept a promise – the promise that he would reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.

In 1997 when Thailand suffered its worst economic crisis in living memory, he came up with his now trademark ‘Sufficiency Economics’ theory, based on Buddhist principles to help alleviate the suffering of his people – especially the mental condition. The theory was based on the experience of over 40 years in helping his people to adopt a sustainable development model.

As of 1998, there were 2,159 royal development projects initiated by the King and implemented throughout the country. Most of the projects are aimed at improving the living conditions of his subjects, particularly those in the remote rural areas.

Sometimes he would use his own funds in the early stages to help a project get off the ground. In 1988, he established the Chaipattana Foundation to fund and help in accelerating rural development projects that are beneficial to the people and the country as a whole.

The off-shoot of his passion for the deprived sections of the Thai people is his ‘New Theory’ in land management and the development of water sources for agricultural purposes. The ‘New Theory’ was a simple formula: 30-30-30-10.

Russia Energy Profile: Largest Producer Of Crude Oil – Analysis

OCTOBER 27, 2016

Russia is a major producer and exporter of oil and natural gas. Russia’s economic growth is driven by energy exports, given its high oil and natural gas production. Oil and natural gas revenues accounted for 43% of Russia’s federal budget revenues in 2015.1

Russia was the world’s largest producer of crude oil including lease condensate and the third-largest producer of petroleum and other liquids (after Saudi Arabia and the United States) in 2015, with average liquids production of 11.0 million barrels per day (b/d). Russia was the second-largest producer of dry natural gas in 2015 (second to the United States), producing 22.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), according to Russian Energy Ministry data.2

Russia and Europe are interdependent in terms of energy. Europe is dependent on Russia as a source of supply for both oil and natural gas, with almost 30% of European Union crude imports and more than 30% of natural gas imports coming from Russia in 2015. Russia is dependent on Europe as a market for its oil and natural gas and the revenues those exports generate. In 2015, almost 60% of Russia’s crude exports and more than 75% of Russia’s natural gas exports went to Europe.3

Russia is the third-largest generator of nuclear power in the world and has the fifth-largest installed nuclear capacity. With seven nuclear reactors currently under construction, Russia is second to China, in terms of number of reactors under construction as of August 2016.4