4 November 2016

Brexit as an opportunity

November 4, 2016

ReutersCHANGING LANDSCAPE: “While the likes of Tata Steel and Jaguar Land Rover remain stalwarts and big employers in the U.K., other Indian businesses have been growing rapidly.” Workers leaving the Tata Steel plant in Motherwell, Scotland

The sheer breadth of Indian business in the U.K. leaves Prime Minister Theresa May with a challenging task on her India visit: to address anxieties about the direction of Brexit negotiations

For over a year now, ever since it began eyeing international expansion, Bengaluru-based education start-up BRAINSTARS India has been considering the U.K. The company, which develops maths, science and English products for six- to 14-year-olds, had thought Britain attractive for a number of reasons: a well-established and predictable school education system, and a strong university tradition of research and development.

The June 23 referendum result — in which Britain voted to leave the European Union — has done little to dent the enthusiasm of co-founder and CEO Ravi Shankar, who is headed to London on a reconnaissance trip next week. Even setting aside the weakening of the pound, which has made Britain a decidedly cheaper place to invest for Indian companies, it has thrown up opportunities, with the company attracting interest from other regions of the U.K. such as Wales, and the European continent, he says. “If you take a small business like us that does very niche work, we are now looking at a more competitive situation.” His belief that school policy is unlikely to change fundamentally in the wake of Brexit, as it might in other areas, also gives him a level of predictability perhaps not so widely experienced.

India Inc.’s expanding footprint

*** Are India and China Drifting Apart?

By Bhaskar Roy
03 Nov , 2016

Indian and Chinese National Security Advisors (NSAs) Ajit Doval and State Councillor Yang Jiechi are scheduled to meet in Hyderabad, India in the first week of November to review bilateral relations and regional developments. Hugging and selfie diplomacy is over. It is back to the brass tracks. Core interests are to the fore.

Doval and his delegation would certainly carry in their portfolios Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Hua Chunying’s press statement on the Pakistani terrorist leader, Masood Azhar in the aftermath of the Goa BRICS Summit (Oct 15-16). Asked about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive to isolate Pakistan diplomatically over Pakistan’s sponsorship of cross-border terrorism, Ms. Hua said the following: “We oppose the linking of terrorism to any specific country, ethnicity or religion. This is China’s consistent position”. She went on to say, “Everyone knows that India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. Pakistan has made huge efforts and great sacrifices in fighting terrorism. I think the international community should respect that”.

Hua Chunying’s punchline is most significant and a message to India – that China and Pakistan consider each other “all-weather friends” and have close diplomatic, economic and security ties.

Basically, Beijing told New Delhi to stop banging at the Great Wall on the issue. If at all, India should try and convince Pakistan to declare Masood Azhar a terrorist and, if Pakistan agrees, China would have no problem in designating Azhar a terrorist at the UN Security Council Committee 1267. The importance of Pakistan to China is such that it is willing to block the rest of the members of 1267 Committee to protect their all-weather friend. Another thing to note here is that China does not evoke the “all-weather” friend construction frequently in official statements. That they used it now should be viewed with the importance it deserves.

** Infographic Of The Day: The Slow Death Of Traditional Media

Desperation time as old guard clings to falling market share

Bill Gates once famously said that we systematically overestimate the change that will occur in two years, while underestimating the change that will come in the next ten.

The ongoing conversation about the death of legacy media definitely fits that mold.

Over the last five to ten years, people have been talking about how the newspaper, magazine, or radio station would become all but obsolete. And while certainly things have changed in all of these industries, it’s clear that there has not been a full paradigm shift yet.

Here is the evidence that we have finally reached that inflection point. [click here to enlarge infographic]

Understanding The Impact Of The Rafale Fighter Jet And S-400 Missile System Deals On The IAF

By Rammohan Kalluri
03 Nov , 2016

On 23 September, the Rafale fighter jet deal was signed by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Over half a month later, on 15 October, India and Russia signed an inter-governmental agreement for the supply of the S-400 missile system. The two deals are significant for the Indian Air Force (IAF), which is struggling with insufficient squadron numbers. While the IAF has a sanctioned strength of 45 fighter squadrons, it is currently operating at a low 35 squadrons and facing an alarming shortage in the near future when many MiG-21 and MiG-27 squadrons will be retired.

The long-winded acquisition of Rafale aircraft

When Dassault Aviation was declared the L1 winner of the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract for acquisition of 126 fighter planes on 31 January 2012, the decade-long quest of the IAF for a multi-role combat aircraft finally seemed to be hitting the right stride. However, progress on negotiations over the next two years were beset with several problems. The overall cost of acquisition inflated substantially from $12 billion to a purported $25 billion as the details of maintenance, transfer of technology (ToT) and spares support were negotiated as per Indian specifications. There were other impediments, as Dassault Aviation and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) could not reach an agreement on the terms of guarantee for HAL-produced airframes. Even as the negotiations proceeded at a slow pace with ever-increasing complications, the sword of corruption charges hung over the whole deal. The charges were spearheaded by Subramanian Swamy on the basis of a “Carla Bruni-Sonia Gandhi bribery axis”.

The basis of all the confusion with respect to negotiations, as well as the scope for corruption charges, stems from the mishandling by then-Defence Minister A K Antony. At least three senior officials in the Finance Ministry have made a file noting that the formula used for L1 bid estimation by Dassault Aviation was different from that used by the other shortlisted vendor EADS, resulting in an unfair advantage to the eventual winner, Dassault Aviation. The right course of action would have been to evaluate bids by both competitors on exactly the same terms. However, either due to the IAF’s preference for the Rafale or due to extraneous factors, Antony sanctioned further cost negotiations with a non-compliant L1 bid.

200 Combat Jets: Will F-16 / Gripen and FGFA go Hand-in-Hand?

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
03 Nov , 2016

India’s offer to buy 200 foreign combat jets if they are ‘Made-in-India’ has hit headlines. This announcement after concluding the deal for importing 36 x Rafale fighter jets in flyaway condition ex France has caused much excitement for the single-engine, medium fighters to be built here. This deal could be anything from US$13 billion to US$15 billion. And, the actual requirement may go up since making up the IAF’s shortfall through Make-in-India would take considerable number of years that could see more existing holdings of IAF phased out.

Lockheed Martin and Saab have been actively marketing the F-16 Block 70 and the Gripen E respectively, both of which are single-engine.

Presently the IAF is down to 32 operational squadrons against the 45 required. Though IAF has ordered 140 of the indigenous single-engine fighter Tejas, only two have been have been delivered to-date to IAF and there are multiple issues that still need to be overcome.

As per media reports, America’s Lockheed Martin has responded in the affirmative to an IAF letter to global aerospace vendors, soliciting interest in building a single-engine, medium fighter aircraft in India, with full transfer of technology (ToT). Sweden’s Saab has also said it is ready to not only produce its frontline Gripen fighter in India, but help build a local aviation industry base. Lockheed Martin and Saab have been actively marketing the F-16 Block 70 and the Gripen E respectively, both of which are single-engine. Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F and Eurofighter of the European consortium appear to be out of the race since these are twin-engine fighters, not single engine.

Kashmir in Crisis—Again

In the latest cross border clash between Pakistan and India, an elderly woman and Indian soldier were killed and two others were injured, according to an Indian news agency. Press Trust of India also reported that, since September 29th, 60 such cross-border incursions by Pakistani militants have occurred across the Line of Control (LoC), the demarcation that separates the administrative control for India and Pakistan over the contested region of Kashmir. While India refers to these Incursions as “ceasefire violations,” it admitted to its own self-described “surgical strike” into Pakistani territory in the wake of an attack on an Indian army base near the city of Uri in September of this year. With both sides increasingly comfortable launching punitive responses, the risk of escalation is growing in a region over which the two countries have already fought three wars.

India and Pakistan have vied for control over the region ever since they split in 1947. If another war occurs, it will be between two nuclear armed states. To make matters worse, it would seem that neither side is very interested in negotiating. Pakistan plays down its involvement in the activities of Islamist militants in Jammu & Kashmir, while India is committed to a hardline approach. Seth Oldmixon, the founder of Liberty South Asia, told The Cipher Brief that “The isolation of Pakistan during the SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] Summit, the review of the Indus Water Treaty, and the tone of recent statements by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi… all indicate a preference for a punitive strategy toward Pakistan.”

A slowing China is still a tough act to follow, but India has the edge in the long term

The inexorable growth of China’s gross domestic product has been the dominant event of the past three decades. China, having surpassed Japan a few years ago, is now taking aim at the United States, whose nominal GDP stands at $18.5 trillion compared to the former’s $11.4 trillion.

It took China a little less than a decade to make a similar leap to overtake Japan. The Chinese GDP is expected to surpass that of the US well before 2020, when it is projected to be about $24.6 trillion against the Unites States’ $23.6 trillion.

To replicate China’s achievement might be a tall order for a country like India, which matches it in size and potential but not in political structure and national will.

There seems a misplaced notion prevalent in India that China’s slowdown means an opportunity for India. Even the chief economic adviser to the government, Arvind Subramanian, though somewhat circumspect, has said, “Cheap oil will help our macro-economic indicators. The Chinese slowdown and massive excess capacity in sectors like steel will put pressure. But cost of building infrastructure has come down due to a fall in commodity prices. This will boost infrastructure development. India will remain an attractive destination.”

However, there is little evidence to show that the government is investing more in infrastructure. The capital expenditure to Budget ratio and the capital expenditure to GDP ratio are both still pointed south. To expect foreign capital to build India’s infrastructure is to be naïve. Foreign funds invariably come with a short-term perspective. And as recent experience shows, investment in India’s infrastructure is neither easy, nor does it offer attractive returns.

View from Dawn: Three questions from Pakistan that India needs to answer

India has what Pakistan doesn't: long-standing democracy, government supremacy and secularism. Why, then, do they have such similar problems?

I understand it is not the right time to ask questions in India but since I am at a safe distance from Indian TV anchors, I can afford to unleash my inquisitive self.

So, here are my three questions to India:
Question 1:

Democracy suffered paralysis in Pakistan at a young age. Starting with General Ayub’s in 1958, we have had three decade-long military rules.

In between these, political parties tried to resuscitate democracy but hardly ever succeeded in wrenching power from what is now known as the establishment.

We achieved the coveted status of the first-ever democratic transition just three years ago and the elected government is still trying to figure out what powers it really has.

India never experienced military rule.

If you count both the national and the state governments, hundreds of transitions have taken place through elections in the past 70 years. It has a super-efficient Election Commission and election results have rarely been disputed.

The two countries’ democratic trajectory moved in diametrically opposite directions.

Did the surgical strikes actually end up harming India's interests?

On September 29, the Narendra Modi government announced that the Indian Army had attacked what it described as terror launchpads along the Line of Control, in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. These so-called surgical strikes were widely seen as a response to the September 18 attack on an Indian Army facility in Uri, Kashmir, in which militants had killed 19 soldiers.

The announcement was a political success for the Bharatiya Janata Party. However, its impact on India’s security might not be as beneficial. Since the strikes, there has been a significant intensification of hostilities on the Line of Control and the international border. On Monday, an Indian soldier was killed in Pakistani firing from across the Line of Control. On Friday, militants crossed over from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and gruesomely beheaded an Indian soldier. Between September 29 and October 31, Pakistani firing has killed eight Indian military personnel. In effect, this means that the 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control is almost dead, a development that could end up greatly harming India’s security interests in Kashmir.
Done that

While this is the first time the Union government has announced such an attack publicly, it is clear that the Indian Army has crossed the LoC to strike Pakistani targets on at least nine previous occasions. The current Union defence minister, however, sought to play down this history using semantics: Parrikar claimed the earlier attacks were "covert” strikes, not surgical strikes. While the minister did not explain the difference, it seems the government’s use of the term “surgical strike” was itself non-standard. A surgical strike refers to an aerial attack with precision-guided weapons or the airdropping of special forces deep inside enemy territory. The September 29 action, on the other hand, was a ground assault.

Security Trends South Asia India Defence Extended BrahMos Versus Nirbhaya – A Comparison

Oct 29, 2016 

Extended BrahMos Versus Nirbhaya – A Comparison

India and Russia have approved an extension to the range of the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, doubling it to 600 kilometers, according to an official with the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) quoted by the Defense News. The range of the joint venture missile can be increased as per the Indian official because of India's entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The agreement to extend the range was reportedly taken on Oct.26 at the 16th Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation, co-chaired by Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Sergei Shoigu.

India's entry into the MTCR will help to the extent that Russia and India can acknowledge that the range is above 300 kms. It is always believed that BrahMos range was specified at 290 kms primarily to avoid the complications of transfer for Moscow which is a signatory of the MTCR. At the same time there is a grey area for becoming a signatory to MTCR does not imply that there are no restrictions in missile technology trade particularly when range and lethality are involved.

Defense News quoted a DRDO scientist stating, "only very minor changes in software and hardware are required" to increase the range. As BrahMos conforms to the characteristics of Russian P-800 Oniks/Yakhont anti-ship missile no major modification is required to achieve 600-kilometers range. However modifications to the missile would be required to impart greater stability over longer range and accuracy.

Operationally increase in range will overcome restrictions of deployment closer to the international border/Line of Control for the ground based version of the missile. This will extend the area of influence as well as provide greater flexibility in employment. On the other hand for the naval and the yet to be deployed air launched version this will provide the advantaged of extension of range in engagement as well as standoff distance.

Pakistan-Based Terror Outfits Training Rohingya Militants To Wreak Havoc In Bangladesh

01 Nov, 2016

Pakistan-based terror outfits are actively supporting and providing training to Rohingya militants to wreak havoc in Bangladesh and its neighbouring countries.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamatul Mujahideen and Pakistani Taliban have reportedly given full assistance to the Rohingya militants to operate in Teknaf in Cox's Bazaar and remote areas of Bandarban, said a report in a leading Bangladeshi daily. Top Myanmar daily Kaler Kantha also confirmed that Rohingya militants received training in Pakistan in 2012.

According to reports, their aim was covert killings in Bangladesh, India and Myanmar, with most of the Rohingya militants reportedly being recruited from refugee camps in Cox's Bazaar area.

Myanmar President Htin Kyaw, who blamed the little-known Aqa Mul Mujahidin (AMM) for the terrorist attack in the country's north-west province of Rakhain, said AMM had good relation with Pakistan and some countries in West Asia, with some Pakistani militant outfits providing financial support and military training inside Myanmar territory.

As recently as 9 October, militants carried out attacks on three police check posts in Maungdaw town, alongside Myanmar-Bangladesh border and killed nine policemen. Military sources said that 26 militants were killed in the counter attack by Myanmar Army.

Three Powers Will Shape Future State of World

Summary: Going forward, Xi, Putin and the next US President will be largely responsible for the state of the world. China's and Russia's leaders will not only work closely with each other, but also learn from each other, in economics as well as in politics.

Intensifying competition among the world's major powers raises the issue of political leadership to a new level. The obvious lack of strong leadership in the European Union has not only led it to crises, but has also disqualified the EU from being a global strategic actor.

The three major powers of today's world, the United States, China and Russia, have very different political systems and very different leadership styles. The US rests on divided government, with intricate checks and balances; China formally has collective leadership; and Russia lives under personalist rule that enjoys the consent of most people. Things, however, are changing.

The Communist Party of China has just named Xi Jinping its "core" leader.

In societies going through transformational processes, like China's and Russia's, strong and responsible leadership is required more than in established ones, which are largely self-governing. In the US, it is Congress, state and municipal authorities that take care of the domestic agenda, while the president's powers are most important in the field of foreign and security policy. With the global environment getting more competitive, it is relations among the leaders of the US, China and Russia that will have a decisive impact on global politics through the rest of this decade, and beyond.

How Do America and China’s Huge New Warships Stack Up?

On Oct. 15, 2016 in Baltimore on the U.S. East Coast, the U.S. Navy commissioned the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt into service following a protracted and costly development.

Six hundred feet long and displacing 14,500 tons, Zumwalt — the first of three stealthy land-attack destroyers — is America’s largest surface combatant in generations.

But she’s not alone in her weight class. While the Americans were celebratingZumwalt’s entry into service, on the other side of the world at a shipyard in Shanghai, the Chinese navy was hard at work on its own 14,000-ton-displacement surface warship.

The Type 055 just began major construction and probably won’t enter service before 2018. But when she does, she could be the biggest and most powerful surface warship in Asia.

It’s unclear exactly what the Type 055 will do, but indications are that she’ll function as the main air-defense escort for China’s new domestically-built aircraft carrier, currently under construction at Dalian in northern China.

Consider the Type 055’s superstructure facets, apparently meant to support radar emitters similar to the SPY-1 emitters that are part of the U.S. Navy’s Aegis air-defense system. U.S. Navy flattops never go anywhere without at least one Aegis-equipped cruiser and several Aegis destroyers as escorts.Zumwalt, notably, is the first new major American surface combatant class in 30 years not to have Aegis.

The Type 055 likely won’t be a direct competitor of Zumwalt. Rather than integrating Zumwalt and her two sisters into carrier battle groups, the U.S. Navy will probably deploy the giant destroyers on solo cruises near land in order to take advantage of the vessels’ radar-evading hull-form and their twin, 155-millimeter guns, which can fire projectiles a distance of at least 80 miles in order to support amphibious landings and special operations.

China's New Stealth Fighter, World's Largest Seaplane To Debut at Air Show

Oct 31, 2016 

One of the largest air shows in the world is currently being held in Zhuhai, China. Currently in its eleventh year, the air show has become the go-to spot for seeing the latest in Chinese military hardware. An impressive number of new airplanes are making their debuts there this year, including the J-20 stealth fighter, Y-20 strategic airlifter, and AG-600 seaplane.

The 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition—known to most people simply as the Zhuhai Air Show—starts November 1st and runs until November 6th, taking place at the China International Aviation Exhibition Center in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province. Seven hundred exhibitors from 42 countries and regions around the world will exhibit at the show, but all eyes will be on the latest Chinese aircraft and weapons.

A number of pictures have trickled out of the show a day early, giving us the rundown on what will be on display. The show venue is divided into an Aviation and Aerospace Hall and a Weapons Exhibition Hall.

China's J-20 fighter. Via People's Daily.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force, also known as the Chinese Air Force, hasconfirmed that the country's new J-20 jet fighter will make its public debut at Zhuhai. The fifth generation fighter has been spotted in a new camouflage pattern and has reportedly entered low-rate initial production. But there's still one thing everyone would like to know, and that's what, exactly, the large, twin-engine fighter is for. Speculation is that the fighter could be a long-range air superiority fighter, light bomber, or some combination of both.

China Debuts Its New, Nearly Battle-Ready Stealth Jet


China’s first stealth fighter made its official, public debut at the annual Zhuhai air show in southeast China Tuesday, bringing the plane one step closer to frontline service with the Chinese air force—and a step closer to presenting America’s own stealth warplanes their first high-tech opponent.

But there’s no reason for the Pentagon to panic. The U.S. military is still way, way ahead when it comes to radar-evading warplanes.

Two twin-engine, twin-tail J-20s flew a brief, minute-long display in the smoggy gray sky over Guangdong province, showing off their superb low-speed maneuverability in front of a crowd of thousands of Chinese citizens plus hundreds of foreign reporters and aerospace professionals.

With their gray camouflage paint jobs, the J-20s at Zhuhai were clearly combat-ready, production examples of the single-seat, supersonic fighter—as opposed to the 10 prototype test jets that have hogged the media spotlight since the very first J-20 made its unofficial debut in grainy photos leaked by the Chinese government in late December 2010.

The J-20s’ appearance in Guangdong was no surprise—an air show schedulelisting the jets’ aerobatic routine leaked in early October. All the same, the jets’ performance underscored just how close the J-20 is to being war-ready. Very close.

Shortly after the J-20 flew for the first time in January 2011, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted the Chinese fighter wouldn’t be operational before 2020. A year later in 2012, David Helvey, then the deputy secretary of defense for East Asia and Asia Pacific Security Affairs, told reporters the J-20 could be war-ready by 2018.

A collision of Chinese manufacturing, globalization, and consumer ignorance could ruin the internet for everyone

On Oct. 23, one of the largest coordinated cyber attacks in history took down several major internet sites in the United States and Europe.

In the aftermath of the attack, one company in particular has been implicated: Hangzhou Xiongmai Technologies. According to security researchers, the Chinese company built hardware and software for internet-connected security cameras that was insecure. Then hackers deployed a malicious strain of malware known as Mirai into the devices, and used them to direct huge amounts of internet traffic to Dyn, a Domain Name System (DNS) provider that often serves as a virtual “first stop” for computers connecting to sites on the internet.

Popular websites including Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, and PayPal were knocked out by the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, which unleashes so much traffic to a targeted website or service provider that it can no longer function.

Xiongmai’s negligence is without question, analysts say, but it is just part a larger problem in the global hardware industry. In fact, the same system that brought exploding hoverboards into consumers’ homes last Christmas is responsible for unleashing hundreds of thousands of vulnerable cameras into American households—and probably millions of other equally vulnerable internet-connected devices.

As manufacturing supply chains have grown more fragmented globally, and electronics products have become commodities, security and safety standards haven’t caught up. While this particular attack knocked out popular websites, consumers’ personal information, from credit card details to the footage shot in their homes, is equally at risk. As hospitals, airplanes, and cars add internet-connected devices, it’s not just privacy that’s in danger—people’s lives will be too.

Stolen Data On US Nukes And Drones: The Secret Behind China’s ‘Successful’ Military-Industrial Complex

29 Oct, 2016

China’s sprawling military-industrial complex, which has often been credited with designing and producing modern aircraft and missiles, has managed to do so with sensitive technology stolen from the United States, a soon-to-be-released congressional report says.

According to RT, Chinese intelligence agencies repeatedly targeted US national security agencies, email accounts of US officials and other sources of military technology. They also hacked data related to secret US war plans, gained information about nuclear weapons, and snooped into electrical power grids and financial networks. They were also successful in hacking secret data about the MQ-9 Reaper drone, which has been a staple of US airstrikes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past nine years.

Chinese cyber espionage is carried out by what the report said was a “large, professionalised cyber espionage community”, put in place by the Chinese government and managed by the intelligence agencies.

A draft of the annual report was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The final version of the report, prepared by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, will be released on 16 November.

The report for 2016, as cited by the Washington Free Beacon, says:

Memo to the Next President: Avoid the ‘Vision Thing’ in the Mideast

October 31, 2016

The U.S. Constitution talks about creating a more perfect Union, not a more perfect world. When, as a country, are we going to remember that? For decades now America has been trapped in a Middle East it cannot transform nor leave, and where bold ambitions and transformational visions more often than not go to die That calls for a cruel and unforgiving assessment of U.S. interests and the smart application of American power and leadership, mixed with a healthy dose of prudence and caution, to protect them. And it mandates avoidance of discretionary enterprises that aren’t connected directly with vital U.S. interests.

We are neither declinists nor isolationists. But based on more than a half century of combined experience working on Middle Eastern issues in the Department of State,

here is our list of ten things the next administration should not do or say if it is to have any chance of navigating its way out of the landmines, traps, hopeless causes, and impossible missions that dot the region.

First, the administration has to purge the vocabulary it uses to describe America’s role and responsibilities in the region. With apologies to Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, for whom both of us worked, it is not helpful to talk of the United States as the indispensable power able to jump tall buildings in a single bound. De Gaulle had it right: The cemeteries of France are filled with indispensable people. America does not have the capacity or the interest to set itself up as the go to power for every hopeless Middle East cause, particularly when those causes cut to the core of issues such as sectarian or national identity and internal governance (see Syria). We can look for opportunities in conjunction with others to help promote security and stability; but we cannot afford to play the lead role in transforming the political and economic institutions of the region—what foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum called foreign policy as social work. We can barely keep our own house in order on some critically important issues to have the time and luxury to be running round the world repairing, let alone constructing, the houses of others.

US troops backing Iraqi attack in Mosul

NEAR MOSUL, Iraq — U.S. special operators were at the front line on the edge of Mosul earlier on Tuesday with elite Iraqi troops who were preparing to enter the Islamic State’s last stronghold in the country.

The Americans wore black uniforms and drove black armored vehicles, blending in with their Iraqi counterparts from the U.S.-trained Golden Division just outside the village of Gogjali on the eastern edge of Mosul. Several had skull and crossed swords patches and one had a sign on his helmet that read: “Hippie Killer.” They were not allowed to talk to the media and asked not to be photographed.

Later Tuesday, Iraq's special forces entered the outskirts of Mosul, taking the state television building and advancing despite fierce resistance by Islamic State group fighters who control the city, an Iraqi general told The Associated Press.

Members of the Iraqi army's elite Golden Division near Mosul, Iraq, on Tuesday Nov. 1, 2016.

Troops entered Gogjali, a neighborhood inside Mosul's city limits, and later the borders of the more built-up Karama district, according to Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi of the Iraqi special forces. As the sun went down, a sandstorm blew in, reducing visibility to only 100 meters (yards) and bringing the day's combat to an end, the AP reported.

The Insane D.I.Y. Weapons of the ISIS War


The coalition assault on Mosul has steadily chipped away at ISIS’s last and biggest major stronghold in Iraq. A reported 100,000 Iraqi, Kurdish, and coalition troops—including American commandos, air-controllers, and artillerymen—have attacked from south and east, respectively, aiming to dislodge an estimated 10,000 ISIS fighters in the northern city of 1.5 million people.

The stakes couldn’t be higher—and both sides know it. ISIS and the U.S.-led coalition have both deployed their latest, best and—in a few cases—most desperate weaponry. From city-block-smashing rocket-tanks to DIY killer robots, these are the defining weapons of the battle for Mosul.

Soviet-Era Rocket-Tanks

In 1988, the Soviet army introduced a fearsome new weapon—the TOS-1 rocket-tank. Built on the chassis of a T-72 main battle tank, the TOS-1 boasts a 24-pack of roughly 9-inch-diameter rockets in place of the tank’s turret. Each of those rockets lugs 220 pounds of explosives and can hit targets from up to 3 miles away. Ripple-firing all 24 rockets could blanket an area the size of two city blocks in munitions.

And not just any munitions. The TOS-1’s rockets are thermobaric weapons. Where traditional warheads count on instantaneous explosive force for their destructive power, thermobaric weapons are slower and more insidious in nature—and potentially much more destructive, pound for pound. The TOS-1’s rockets spread a cloud of flammable gas then ignite the cloud, burning up all the oxygen for hundreds of feet in all directions and producing a devastating blast effect.

The Soviets developed the TOS-1 as a way of flattening dense urban defenses in order to clear paths for attacking tanks. Needless to say, the TOS-1’s rockets pose at least as much danger to civilians as they do to dug-in combatants.

Iran’s Man in Beirut


On the morning of 13 October, 1990, the Syrian Air Force launched fighter jet strikes on the Lebanese presidential palace in Baabda, southeast of Beirut. Their target was a General Michel Aoun, an army commander appointed two years previously by an outgoing president to lead a temporary cabinet until elections could be held, who instead went rogue, moving himself into Baabda Palace and effectively declaring himself ruler of the republic—and happy to fight anyone who said otherwise.

His reign, such as it was, saw thousands killed in quixotic military campaigns against rival warlords and the Syrian army then occupying Lebanon. By October 1990, the Syrians were determined to finish him off, and the United States – of whom he had also managed to make an enemy—was willing to let them, not least as a nod of gratitude for Damascus’ assistance in the liberation of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. “I am ready to die on the battlefield of honor rather than surrender—be sure I shall die fighting,” Aoun told a crowd of supporters on the 12th, when it was clear a final Syrian push was imminent. By noon the following day, Aoun had surrendered without firing a shot and fled to the French embassy, leaving scores of his men massacred in the ground and air onslaught, and the presidential palace in ruins. Lebanon’s fifteen-year civil war was over.

Today, the same Michel Aoun—now 81 years old—was elected to return as president to the same Baabda Palace, ending Lebanon’s thirty-month leadership vacuum after spending over a quarter of a century between exile in France and Lebanon, tirelessly plotting his eventual comeback with near-Shakespearean ambition. “I can add colours to the chameleon,” boasts the rapacious Richard III in Henry VI; “Change shapes with Proteus for advantages/ And set the murd’rous Machiavel to school.” Aoun’s long life has seen him morph from a Fort Hill-trained commander in a US-backed army (once even photographed in Israeli company) to an anti-American proxy of the Iraqi Baath regime to a Bush-supporting neoconservative fellow traveler (speaking at the Hudson Institute in favor of the Iraq War on a 2003 tour of Washington, during which he also testified to Congress in support of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act) to, most recently, a stalwart comrade of the Iranian-Syrian “Axis of Resistance.” His election today came after he and his Hezbollah ally boycotted all electoral sessions for more than two years, bluntly refusing to attend unless and until his victory was guaranteed in advance. Earlier in the month, the last of his major remaining opponents—Saad al-Hariri of the Saudi Arabia-backed Future Movement—caved in, endorsing Aoun in what he called a “sacrifice […] for the nation, the state, and stability.”

Iraqi Forces Enter IS-Held Mosul, Facing Stiff Resistance

November 2, 2016

Iraqi special forces seized control of state television facilities inside Mosul on Tuesday, as a loose-knit combat coalition allied with Baghdad pressed an offensive to drive Islamic State extremists from the city.

Kurdish and Western journalists embedded with the force said it was meeting stiff resistance inside the city, encountering concrete blast walls and roadside bombs planted by IS fighters to slow the Iraqi advance.

The Iraqi military also said an armored division was approaching southeastern districts, as part of a push to free outlying villages and encircle the city.

Separate coalition units pressing toward Mosul from the north were also reported in control of several key villages.

The long-awaited offensive comes two weeks after the coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish forces — backed by Shiite militia, Sunni Arab tribesmen and U.S.-led airstrikes — began the largest military operation in the country since 2003 to clear the city of IS fighters.

In Washington on Tuesday, the U.S. anti-terror special envoy Brett McGurk voiced optimism about the offensive, telling Radio SAWA it is now simply "a matter of time before Iraqi security forces enter and liberate this great city." However, he also called for patience, cautioning that retaking the city will take time and will unfold in stages.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, United Nations spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said IS fighters are continuing their push to forcibly move thousands of civilians closer to Mosul to provide extremists inside the city with human shields.


NOVEMBER 1, 2016

Mosul was not the first city to fall to the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but it was itscapture that shocked the world into action. Over two years later, the much-anticipated Iraqi offensive to liberate Mosul from ISIL is in its early stages. Since the halt of the ISIL offensive outside Baghdad and Irbil and the engagement of U.S and coalition airpower, this battle and its result were preordained. Urban fights bring complications, and the coalition of forces advancing on Mosul should seek to minimize casualties and human suffering. But the moral and strategic imperative is to liberate the citizens of Mosul from the brutalities of ISIL rule, including vicious repression, regular executions and — for the minorities — organized rape.

The complex and varied groups of loosely allied military forces descending on Mosul have been the subject of a great deal of analysis, debate, and skepticism. While (almost) all these forces — willing to shoulder personal risk to liberate a captured city — should be applauded, this is not to say that there are not a host of serious concerns, both in the liberation and the aftermath. Mosul is a deeply complicated piece of terrain, both internally and in relation to external powers. There are serious equities that must be balanced or checked, even as Mosul’s citizens are liberated.

The forces encircling Mosul are primarily those of the Iraqi government — the Army, Federal Police, and Special Forces. Then there are the Kurdish Peshmerga, Sunni Arab forces trained by Turkey, and predominantly Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). There is also a small detachment of Turkish troops in the area that is not yet involved in the fighting.

How Putin Derailed The West – OpEd

NOVEMBER 2, 2016

“Nation state as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state.” — Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Between Two Ages: The Technetronic Era”, 1971

“I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria….not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians.” — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Third Presidential Debate

Why is Hillary Clinton so eager to intensify US involvement in Syria when US interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have all gone so terribly wrong?

The answer to this question is simple. It’s because Clinton doesn’t think that these interventions went wrong. And neither do any of the other members of the US foreign policy establishment. (aka–The Borg). In fact, in their eyes these wars have been a rousing success. Sure, a few have been critical of the public relations backlash from the nonexistent WMD in Iraq, (or the logistical errors, like disbanding the Iraqi Army) but–for the most part– the foreign policy establishment is satisfied with its efforts to destabilize the region and remove leaders that refuse to follow Washington’s diktats.

Hillary, Trump And Sartre: How Existentialism Disrobes Major US Presidential Candidates – Analysis

By Dr. Arshad M. Khan* 
NOVEMBER 2, 2016
Hillary Clinton’s emails are back in the news as the FBI is obliged to investigate again, subsequent to a sordid case involving a former Congressman married to her close aide; Trump is facing lawsuits for sexual assault although he denies wrongdoing.

Thus the US political system has now disgorged two candidates the citizenry cannot be less enthusiastic about. Driven by ambition more than a love of the people or a sincere desire to serve, one can be forgiven for wondering if they are just as trapped by their motivations as the public in its two-party myopia. No authentic leader among the two …

These thoughts lead to the rage of my youth, existentialism, and to Jean-Paul Sartre, who died 36 years ago last April. More than 50,000 mourners lined the streets and packed Montparnasse cemetery at his funeral, many quite young — improbable they would exhibit a similar interest in the successor philosophies, notably the current preoccupation with deconstruction, a focus on whether the written or spoken word is successful (or not) in clarity of meaning.

Difficult as existentialism may be to pin down, there are a few necessary elements: the individual, free will as crucial to human existence, the subsequent responsibility for action that accompanies it, leading to an unavoidable anxiety as a consequence. The authentic life then is one chosen freely rather than imposed by society. No wonder it appealed to the young.