2 December 2018

Chabahar: Why US shielded India’s interests


Two days before the crucial talks took place in Moscow to find ways to end the unending civil war in Afghanistan, the US government announced a waiver to its sanctions on Indian investments in Iran’s oceanic port, Chabahar.

The informed view was that the unusual waiver that US administration gave to the Iranian port was due to the aggressive lobbying by India to save its investments and persevere with its newly crafted policy to connect with Afghanistan and Central Asia. According to this view, the government and businesses in Kabul too lobbied for Indian access, as they view in Chabahar an opportunity to liberate themselves from the control that Pakistan and its Karachi port exercises on their movement and their businesses. But this is not all. Apparently, the US, has its own reasons to grant this waiver.

26/11 anniversary: Why security remains a Mumbai state of mind

Smruti Koppikar

Mumbai: The magnificent and sprawling Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CST), a UNESCO world heritage site, was constructed with a blend of Victorian Gothic Revival and traditional Indian architecture in 1888. Its design did not account for the 21st century phenomenon of terrorism. After the concourse witnessed the bloodiest massacre on the night of 26 November ten years ago—60 of the 166 casualties happened here—tens of door frame metal detectors were installed at multiple entrances to the station and its platforms.

As commuters stream in and out of the station, the detectors beep. The tinny sound is now part of the sensorial experience of negotiating one of the busiest railheads in the world serving both suburban and through trains. Central Railway, whose headquarters is also the building, handles nearly 4.5 million commuters every day only on its three suburban routes of Mumbai. The detectors beep and people rush past, unstopped and unhindered, unchecked.

Trump's envoy 'tests all channels' with Afghan Taliban in bid to launch peace talks

By Dan De Luce, Mushtaq Yusufzai, Courtney Kube and Josh Lederman

Aware Trump has expressed impatience with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad has moved quickly to get the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, seated right, and U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, meet in Kabul on Nov. 10, 2018.Presidential Palace / Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's envoy to Afghanistan is reaching out to many top Taliban figures as he tries to launch peace negotiations to end the war before Trump can simply pull the plugand order U.S. troops home, say foreign diplomats.

U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has moved at a rapid pace and ventured beyond the official Taliban office in Qatar to meet other members of the insurgency, two foreign diplomats and three former U.S. officials told NBC News.

From Pivot to Stumble in Asia


Among the Trump administration's many foreign-policy blunders, its mismanagement of Sino-American relations will be remembered as the most consequential. At a time when Chinese trade practices and territorial ambitions must be addressed at the international level, the US is botching the job.

DENVER – US President Donald Trump blew off two multilateral summits in Asia this month. Given his soggy and sulking performance that week in Paris, during the international commemoration of the centenary of the end of World War I, it was probably for the best that Vice President Mike Pence attended instead. Pence was able to spread the gospel of American unilateralism at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore, and again at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea.

Trump and Xi to Share Meal, Trade Threats

Mark Gongloff

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are due to dinethis weekend at the G-20 summit in Argentina, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said today. For all the many photo ops the G-20 will generate, this meal will be the summit’s only truly meaningful moment, writes Mohamed El-Erian. Trump and Xi have a chance to finally end the trade hostilities that have upset economies, corporate profits and financial markets all year. But to do so, both men will have to give something up, Mohamed writes. Xi, for example, will have to stop worrying about how a deal might hurt him domestically, while Trump will have one less controversy to rile up his base.

Trump’s base has been pretty durably behind him so far, but Xi has been fortifying his own core support in the form of roughly 400 million working-class Chinese, notes Shuli Ren. Xi has showered workers with handouts and favorable policies, and he’s gotten a lot of love in return. This could cut both ways: It could make Xi feel safer compromising with Trump, but it could also make him feel he can withstand the economic fallout from a full-on trade war.

Xi and Trump Should Swallow Their Pride and Join the TPP


It was the centenary of the end of World War I earlier this month, and the images of entrenched forces locked in a futile conflict were strangely resonant. As U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepare to meet at the G-20 in Buenos Aires this weekend, both leaders have already dug themselves into deep trenches. They need to climb out before the U.S.-China trade war becomes a protracted conflict, triggers a global economic crisis, and forces trading partners and international businesses to choose sides.

The only way forward is to seek peaceful coexistence through piecemeal compromise. The perfect vehicle for such talks is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the multilateral free trade deal negotiated under former U.S. President Barack Obama, abandoned by Trump, and resurrected by other Asian-Pacific trade partners such as Japan. The G-20 meeting between Trump and Xi should produce an announcement that the United States and China will be launching bilateral negotiations to join the TPP together.

Will Taiwan Be the First Domino to Fall to China?

By Yi-Zheng Lian

Democratic countries that worry about the Chinese government’s attempts to influence their politics should study its success in this weekend’s elections in Taiwan.

The many races — for some 11,000 positions in villages, towns and counties across the island — were something like midterms and widely seen as a prelude to the next presidential election, scheduled for early 2020. By my count, candidates friendly to Beijing will now occupy 16 of the 24 top posts that were contested, up from the current six.

China has denied any meddling. But in the last several years, it has intensified its efforts to destabilize the Taiwanese government led by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (D.P.P.). It has curbed tourism from the mainland, conducted military maneuversaround Taiwan and even threatened to invade.

G-20: It’s ‘Now or Never’ in the ‘Fight of the Century’ Between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping

by Gordon G. Chang

Larry Kudlow announced on Tuesday that President Trump believes there is a “good possibility” he will reach a trade deal when he meets with Chinese ruler Xi Jinping at the conclusion of the G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires.

The director of the National Economic Council also revealed that the administration is talking with China in a comprehensive fashion. “We’re having now a lot of communication with the Chinese government at all levels,” Kudlow said. “We were at a total standstill. Nothing was going on.”

The “trade war” is the “ fight of the century ,” and many think a deal to end it is “now or never.”

Lessons from Post-Conflict States: Peacebuilding Must Factor in Environment and Climate Change

By Karolina Eklöw and Florian Krampe

The challenge of peacebuilding missions is not only to stop violence and prevent a rekindling of conflict, but also to help societies and governments reset their internal relations on a peaceful path towards sustaining peace. In the short run, it might be tempting to dismiss environmental issues when considering the insurmountable task of building peace after armed conflict. Yet, it is increasingly clear that the interaction between social, political, and ecological processes decisively shapes the post-conflict landscape.

Often, peace operations’ and post-conflict states’ capacity to navigate the impacts of war and simultaneously manage natural resources is limited. But, an increasing body of research and policy experiences shows that in the long run it can be rewarding. Actually, natural resource management appears to be an important factor post-conflict states must consider if they wish to build a foundation for a socially, economically, and politically resilient peace. Yet, too often this potential remains overlooked in most peacebuilding processes.

The Yemen War: A Proxy Sectarian War?

By Maartja Abbenhuis

The diffusion of protests against authoritarian regimes across the Arab world in 2011 reinvigorated Yemen’s marginalized social movements and united different geographical and political factions in Yemen, such as the northern Houthi movement and the southern secessionist movement Hiraak.1 The Saudi Kingdom, along with other Gulf monarchies, swiftly designed a transitional plan for the country to ensure that President Ali Abdullah Saleh wass replaced with a friendly government led by President Abd Rabo Hadi. Disillusioned by the transition, the Houthis took military control of the capital Sana’a in September 2014, and Yemen descended into a civil war. On 26 March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes on Yemen with the aim to restore the Saudi-backed Hadi government and destroy the Houthi movement. What was initially planned as a limited operation degenerated into a war of attrition without a conclusion insight. Scholars and policy analysts moved quickly to examine the Yemen war as a by-product of Saudi-Iranian rivalry and another manifestation of a region-wide war between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. Yet, the crisis in Yemen is more complex; it is neither an international proxy war nor a sectarian confrontation.

Our Man in Riyadh

By Andrew Bacevich

What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing -- and arguably quite a lot.

Abizaid’s proposed appointment is both a non-event and an opportunity not to be wasted. It means next to nothing in this sense: while once upon a time, American diplomats abroad wielded real clout -- Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams offer prominent examples -- that time is long past. Should he receive Senate confirmation, Ambassador Abizaid will not actually shape U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia. At most, he will convey policy, while keeping officials back in Washington apprised regarding conditions in the Kingdom. “Conditions” in this context will mean the opinions, attitudes, whims, and mood of one particular individual: Mohammed bin Salman. MBS, as he is known, is the Saudi crown prince and the Kingdom’s de facto absolute ruler. By no means incidentally, he is also that country’s assassin-in-chief as well as the perpetrator of atrocities in a vicious war that he launched in neighboring Yemen in 2015.

The African Threat


Although international engagement with Africa has evolved over time, it has never succeeded in putting the region on a path toward long-term and sustainable growth and development. Today, continued failure could expose the world to a new age of pandemics, terror, and mass migration.

NEW YORK – If the world never had to hear about Africa again, would anyone care? Setting aside Africa’s cultural contributions, I suspect that for many people the honest answer is “no.”

Ten years ago, in my book Dead Aid, I highlighted how a narrative backed by international aid policy cemented Africa’s status as the world’s problem child, rather than one destined for greatness.

Why Human Chess Survives


At one time, it seemed that computers would sound the death knell for chess, not to mention all human mind games. Yet for followers of the game, the just-concluded world championship in London, won by the 27-year-old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, was as exciting as any great soccer match.

CAMBRIDGE – With so much angst about artificial intelligence and the future of work, the recent world chess championship in London offers some hope. It is not that mankind has turned the tables on the march of progress. Rather, what is remarkable is what a creative and ultimately human match it was between reigning champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway (the 27-year-old “Mozart of Chess”) and 26-year-old challenger Fabiano Caruana of the United States (a major talent in his own right).

In Sea of Azov, Russia Again Tests Its Strength

Mathieu Boulègue

On 25 November, the Russian coast guard denied access to two Ukrainian armoured artillery boats and a tugboat on their pre-planned transit through the Kerch Strait to Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Russian forces reportedly assaulted the Ukrainian surface vessels, leaving the crew of 23 captive and 6 Ukrainian servicemen wounded. In the wake of the attack, Russia temporarily closed navigation to non-Russian traffic through the Strait, before reopening it on Monday.

This represents an escalation for Russia in the Sea of Azov, from air and sea provocations to direct military action against Ukrainian assets. It is the latest step in the Kremlin’s long-term efforts to destabilize Ukraine.
Contested sea



Two years ago, in the wake of the 2016 election, we wrote that if the newly elected president executed his misguided ideas on climate and energy policy, not only would it be disastrous for climate, it would actually undermine Trump’s ability to achieve his own primary goals. Regrettably, our predictions are coming to pass.

Trump’s policies have left us careening down the CO2 highway—a road that leads to a climate hotter than humans have ever experienced, and one filled with unnatural disasters. We’ve been afforded a stark preview of that future in recent years. But we have choices. There’s an exit ramp just ahead that can help us avoid the worst outcomes.

The world’s nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to take this exit, aimed at keeping global temperature rise from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F), and each country determined the emissions cuts it pledged to put us on that path. The Trump administration has erected a roadblock on that exit ramp, announcing its intent to withdraw from the agreement. It has ignored all the signposts and warnings. (And it has been dishonest about the terms of that agreement, falsely contending that other countries imposed our emissions reductions on us, and were not doing their part.)



As tensions mount between Russia and Ukraine, many observers are starting to wonder what a war between the two countries would look like. 

On Monday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared that his country’s intelligence services have evidence that Russia is preparing a ground offensive. The address was made just one day after Russian troops attacked three Ukrainian navy vessels attempting to enter the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea.

Throughout all this, President Donald Trump has remained silent. He eventually addressed the issue at the end of the day on Monday when questioned by a reporter, saying that that the U.S. does "not like what's happening."

But that tepid response made some question how the international community would react should an overt Russian military attack on Ukraine occur. Experts agree that the entire international community would have to band together to put pressure on Russia to withdraw.

Elections Staged in Ukraine’s East Under Russian Control

By: Vladimir Socor

Kremlin-orchestrated, internationally unrecognized “elections” were held on November 11 in the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” (DPR, LPR), Russian-controlled territories in Ukraine’s east. The final returns, made public on November 14, serve to confirm and prolong the authority of the “head of the republic” (“glava respubliki,” would-be president) and the “people’s council” (would-be legislature) in each of the two territories.

The DPR’s “interim acting head,” Denis Pushilin, is credited with 61 percent of the votes cast (the remainder being shared by four also-rans). Pushilin’s political organization, Donetsk Republic, is attributed 72 percent of the votes cast in the “parliamentary” election, versus 26 percent to the Free Donbas group. The former has a nomenklatura flavor, the latter a populist flavor; and both are billed as movements, rather than parties.

Will Imperialist-Minded Putin Return the Kuriles to Japan?

By: Vadim Shtepa

Speaking on the sidelines of this year’s East Asia Summit (November 14–15), in Singapore, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe agreed to step up negotiations on a bilateral peace treaty based on the 1956 Soviet-Japanese Declaration. At their previous meeting, just two months earlier, they also touched on this topic (RIA Novosti, November 14). The readout of the Putin-Abe talks in Singapore prompted many observers to speculate that Russia may be ready to return the disputed Kurile Islands (or at least two of them) back to Japan.

Even the vague notion that Russia is considering returning these islands fundamentally contradicts Putin’s deliberately constructed imperialist image as a “unifier of the Russian lands” (see EDM, March 19, 2014; March 25, 2014). Throughout the nearly two decades of his rule, there has been only one historical exception to that stance—in 2004, Putin handed over to “friendly” China one and a half islands (with a total area of 337 square kilometers) on the Amur River. But even then, this relinquishing of Russian territory was officially explained away as a need to clarify control over the riverine channel (Lenta.ru, October 21, 2004).

Russian Caspian Flotilla’s Capacity to Project Force Threatens Littoral States and Ukraine

By: Paul Goble

Moscow has been expanding the size and capabilities of its Caspian Flotilla. Most directly, this has implications for the Caspian littoral states and their development of oil and natural gas from the Caspian seabed. But it also impacts Ukraine and its coastline because the Russian authorities can and have transferred naval vessels from the Caspian to the Sea of Azov via the inland canals linking the two bodies of water. Russia began moving ships from the Caspian to the Azov Sea last spring; and over last several months, it has been deploying to the Caspian additional marines capable of attacking targets on land (see EDM, May 31; Vestnik Kavkaza, November 23).

Certainly, this naval expansion will have the greatest bearing on the Caspian littoral states of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan (and for the restive republics of Russia’s North Caucasus as well). And this is particularly the case given Moscow’s current effort to rebase its Caspian Flotilla from Astrakhan, from where going to sea is sometimes more difficult, to Kaspiysk, Dagestan, where access to open waters is unimpeded and where the ships are closer to potential trouble spots (see EDM, July 17).

Despite US Sanctions on Iran, Green Light for the Southern Gas Corridor

By: Ilgar Gurbanov

The United States’ Federal Register published the “Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations” on November 5, re-imposing US sanctions on Iran (Federalregister.gov, November 5). This expected action by Washington had raised concerns in Baku about the potential implications of renewed Iran sanctions on Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz-II (SDII) natural gas field and the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), since the Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company, holds a 10 percent stake in each. These two segments are both key elements of the US and European–supported Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), which will deliver Caspian-basin gas to Southeastern Europe and help reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian Gazprom.

In Serious Escalation, Russia Openly Attacks Ukrainian Vessels in Azov Sea

By: Maryna Vorotnyuk

On November 25, Russian Coast Guard ship Donrammed a Ukrainian tugboat, damaging the latter vessel’s main engine. The attack occurred while two Ukrainian small-sized armored artillery boats, the Berdyansk and Nikopol, and the tugboat Yany Kapu were being transferred from the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa to Mariupol, in the Azov Sea, according to the Ukrainian Navy (Kyiv Post, November 25). Subsequently, Russia blocked the passage through the Kerch Strait beneath the newly built Kerch Bridge, and the Russian Coast Guard fired on a group of Ukrainian Navy ships as they were leaving the Strait, wounding at least six sailors (UNIAN, Facebook.com/navy.mil.gov.ua, November 25). Reportedly, Russia forcibly seized several of the Ukrainian vessels in the Strait, leading to tense protests in Kyiv (Kyiv Post, November 26). The following day, an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council adopted the introduction of martial law, which still requires consent from the parliament (Kyiv Post, November 26). The November 25 incidents represent the first time, since the start of Russia’s “hybrid” war against Ukraine in 2014, that the Russian military has carried out an unmistakably open attack against Ukrainian forces.

Change in the Air – Disruptive Developments in Armed UAV Technology

By David Hambling for United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR)

In this report, David Hambling highlights the military potential of small armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Technological advances like the swarming technology and improved artificial intelligence are increasing the capabilities of small UAVs, making them more powerful and versatile. These new UAVs are more likely to be used in contested air space, rather than simply as counter-insurgency tools. In addition, they could be readily acquired and weaponized by malicious non-state actors. Given these trends, Hambling calls for States to develop forward-looking regulations to guide and control the further development of UAVs.

Key Takeaways

While unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will not directly replace manned combat aircraft, they will steadily augment them, taking over many functions in high-intensity conflict as well as counter-insurgency operations.

Small armed UAVs are already widespread and are being fielded in an increasing number of theatres by both small State and non-State actors.

Unmasking AI-assisted cyber attacks

By Patrick Marshall

Insider attacks. Outsider attacks. Cybersecurity pros try to protect their networks from both types of incident using white-box and black-box testing. The former assumes the culprit has full or nearly full knowledge of the network. The latter assumes the culprit has no authorized access to the network or understanding about its security.

But what about attacks from those who have some critical knowledge about a network's security?

Shouhuai Xu, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at San Antonio worries that cybersecurity pros are missing the “gray box” attacks in which the hacker has limited knowledge about the target’s security and applies adversarial machine learning to evade network security and gain higher-level access to the network.

The 'biggest loser' in the trade war is the US, says Hong Kong property tycoon

Kelly Olsen

A Hong Kong property tycoon with close ties to the United States says Washington will ultimately regret waging a trade war against China.

The current U.S. policy is short-sighted and destined to fail, said Ronnie Chan, chairman of Hang Lung Properties, with commercial and residential development in Hong Kong, Shanghai and other mainland cities.

It will only push China to develop in a way that is ultimately against American interests, Chan said at the MIPIM Asia Summit, a real-estate industry conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

"In fact, If you were to ask me 'who is the biggest loser in the U.S.-China trade war,' I'll tell you it's actually the United States of America," said Chan, a noted philanthropist whose family foundation pledged $350 million to Harvard University in 2014.

10 tech predictions for 2019

By David Weldon

Gartner’s top 10 tech predictions for 2019 and beyond
Digital innovation will soon outpace the ability of many organizations to keep up, and have dramatic impacts on artificial intelligence and related skills, cultural advancement and processes becoming products.

What’s in store in 2019?

What Really Matters in ‘Defending Forward’?

By Lyu Jinghua 

Lawfare recently published two responses—one by Bobby Chesney, the other by Robert Williams and Ben Buchanan—to my Lawfare essay providing a Chinese perspective on the concept of “Defending Forward” adopted in the latest Department of Defense Cyber Strategy. Chesney, Williams and Buchanan all agreed with my assessment of the possible risks of escalation posed by the more proactive nature of the strategy, but argued that the Defense Department was justified in choosing such an approach to cyber security.

It is important to explore why the U.S. made such a choice. But it might be more important to explore whether that choice is wise—and what needs to be done after making the choice.

Mattis’s Infantry Task Force: Righting ‘A Generational Wrong


US Army soldiers participate in an international infantry competition in Lithuania

Retired Maj. Gen. Bob Scales is the former commandant of the Army War College, a Vietnam veteran (and recipient of the Silver Star for valor) turned military historian and futurist. He’s also one of the fathers of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force to reform the infantry. In this op-ed, Scales goes into the task force’s achievements, its rationale, and the decades of unnecessary bloodshed it seeks to end. — the editors

Eight months ago, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis created the Close Combat Lethality Task Force to right a generational wrong. A retired Marine Corps infantryman himself, Mattis understood that America’s close combat forces, consisting of less than four percent of those in uniform, had suffered more than ninety percent of American combat deaths since the end of World War II. His intent: to make our infantry formations dominant on tomorrow’s battlefields.

British Army soldiers during World War I


The rules that emerged from a recent meeting of British Army leaders struck me as somewhat different from what I hear coming from the Americans. Here they are: 

The conformity that got you to the top makes you unqualified to deal with the change

To harness non-conformists and diverse thinking, you need to be a leader that understands 

the team’s information networks

Diverse and inclusive teams are better at solving problem in a changing environment
You cannot execute on intellect alone. You need experience. And it is a leader’s job to develop that experience

The forces needed to protect the Belt and Road

David Brewster

Last week’s attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi by Baluchi separatists underlines China’s growing vulnerabilities in connection with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). These are likely to get worse and may ultimately lead to China assuming a new and quite different security role in the region.

On 23 November, a group of Baluchi separatists attacked a Chinese consulate, resulting in an hour long-shoot out with Pakistani police and security guards that left seven people dead. This is the 12th attack this year on Chinese interests in Pakistan by the Baluchi Liberation Army, which claims that it is fighting the “exploitation of Baluchistan’s mineral wealth and occupation of Baluch territory” by China.

Major General equals Brigadier: How does that work?

by Bharat Karnad

Reorganizing, restructuring and generally getting the fighting forces fit for future wars is a good thing and the exercise undertaken by the army chief General Bipin Rawat to do just this needs to be commended. Some four sets of studies are underway, with some of them in a more advanced state wending their way up the army and MOD bureaucracy.

A startling proposal (commented on in an earlier post) in one such study — if the balloons being floated for some time now in the press and electronic media to gauge public reaction are any guide — relates to doing away with the posts of Second Lieutenant and Lieutenant Colonel, and eliminating altogether the process to select officers for the Major General rank from among the pool of eligible Brigadier-rank officers. Any person making it past Colonel-rank, in other words, automatically becomes General! A lot wrong here.