14 March 2019

U.S. presses India to stop buying oil from Venezuela’s Maduro: envoy

By Lesley Wroughton, Luc Cohen, Marianna Parraga, Reuters

The United States is pressing India to stop buying oil from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela said, as the Trump administration this week threatened more U.S. sanctions to cut off Maduro’s financial lifelines.United States diplomat Elliott Abrams speaks during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council called to vote on a U.S. draft resolution calling for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., February 28, 2019. 

“We say you should not be helping this regime. You should be on the side of the Venezuelan people,” Elliott Abrams told Reuters in an interview.

The Trump administration has given the same message to other governments, Abrams said, and has made a similar argument to foreign banks and companies doing business with Maduro.

Call Me, Maybe? America’s Taliban Hotline and India’s Afghanistan Redux


Amongst the many initiatives to end the Afghan conflict, the one led by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is critical for it has given the Taliban a direct hotline of sorts to America. In fact, the US is doing precisely what it had refused to do in 2002 when the Taliban had assured a “discussion to turn over Osama bin Laden” if America stopped bombing Afghanistan. Seventeen years later, the situation has only deteriorated and the Taliban, which is reportedly openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan, only “promises to deny al-Qaeda and the Islamic State a foothold on Afghan soil” against the pull-out of the American troops. The urgency with which America wants its “boys back home” does not resonate much with the current developments and with the stakeholders in the US (recall Jim Mattis’ public resignation) and abroad.

First, these negotiations are to negotiate. Khalizad has taken almost four months to clarify that his peace agreement is not the same as a withdrawal agreement. This flies in the face of the red-line set by the Taliban and is a way of telling that these negotiations are not an end-all. In fact, in his State of the Union speech, President Trump, who had been clamoring for withdrawal all this while, talked about “reducing the troop presence and focusing on counter-terrorism” in Afghanistan—a force for counter-terrorism essentially means a longer American presence. The acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, in his visit to Kabul claimed that he has no orders from Trump to reduce troop presence in Afghanistan.

Everyone Wants a Piece of Afghanistan


President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan has given new life to the quest for a political settlement after 41 years of war, including over 17 directly involving the U.S. military. According to both U.S. government and Taliban sources, negotiations between the two sides have led to agreement on the outline of a framework for a deal in which the United States would withdraw troops and the Taliban would guarantee that any future government in which they participate would cooperate with international efforts against terrorism. The Taliban will have to disavow al Qaeda explicitly for the first time.

The U.S. government is negotiating directly with the Taliban because Washington has finally accepted that there is no better military option.

The U.S. government is negotiating directly with the Taliban because Washington has finally accepted that there is no better military option.

Former Taliban Leader Mullah Omar, “Lived Within Walking Distance Of American Military Bases In Afghanistan For Years, In Embarrassing Failure Of U.S. Intelligence; Though Gen. (Ret.) Petraeus Has His Doubts

Leigh McManus posted a March 11, 2019 article on the website of the DailyMail.com noting that one of the U.S. Government’s most wanted Taliban fugitives, Mullah Omar “lived within walking distance of U.S. [military] bases in Afghanistan for years, according to a new book, which suggests embarrassing failures of U.S. Intelligence.”

“U.S. and Afghan leaders believed the one-eyed fugitive leader fled to, and eventually died in Pakistan; but, a new biography says [claims] Omar was living just three miles from a major, U.S. Forward Operating Base (FOB), in Zabul Province, where he died in 2013,” Mr. McManus wrote.

“Searching For An Enemy,” by Dutch journalist Bettie Dam, writes that “the Taliban chief lived as a virtual hermit, refusing visits from his family, and filing notebooks with jottings in an imaginary language.” Mr. McManus notes that “Dam spent more than five years researching the book, and interviewed Jabbar Omari, Omar’s bodyguard who hid and protected him after the Taliban regime was overthrown.

What’s Causing China’s Economic Slowdown And How Beijing Will Respond

By Christopher Balding

Last year, China experienced its slowest economic growth in nearly three decades. The trouble seemed to start in the fall. Wage growth has cooled. Surveys show that companies in the manufacturing sector have begun shedding jobs. And imports are down, hurting other major exporting economies.

There’s more than one reason for the slowdown. A rapidly aging population, a falling birth rate, a tightening Federal Reserve, and a slowing global economy have combined to put the brakes on China’s economy. Yet Beijing cannot risk a recession. The Chinese government will not allow growth to slow significantly, even if that means storing up problems for the future.


China’s problems stem primarily from decisions made years—in some case, decades—ago. In the past, China benefitted from a growing workforce, which boosted GDP both by adding workers and because younger workers tend to be more productive than older ones. But around 2012, the working-age population began to shrink, the inevitable result of the one child policy, which was enacted in 1979. The decline in growth rates owes in part to this demographic winnowing.

US ‘Gets Its Ass Handed To It’ In Wargames: Here’s A $24 Billion Fix


“In our games, when we fight Russia and China,” RAND analyst David Ochmanek said this afternoon, “blue gets its ass handed to it.” In other words, in RAND’s wargames, which are often sponsored by the Pentagon, the US forces — colored blue on wargame maps — suffer heavy losses in one scenario after another and still can’t stop Russia or China — red — from achieving their objectives, like overrunning US allies.

No, it’s not a Red Dawn nightmare scenario where the Commies conquer Colorado. But losing the Baltics or Taiwan would shatter American alliances, shock the global economy, and topple the world order the US has led since World War II.

What’s Causing China’s Economic Slowdown And How Beijing Will Respond

By Christopher Balding

Last year, China experienced its slowest economic growth in nearly three decades. The trouble seemed to start in the fall. Wage growth has cooled. Surveys show that companies in the manufacturing sector have begun shedding jobs. And imports are down, hurting other major exporting economies.

There’s more than one reason for the slowdown. A rapidly aging population, a falling birth rate, a tightening Federal Reserve, and a slowing global economy have combined to put the brakes on China’s economy. Yet Beijing cannot risk a recession. The Chinese government will not allow growth to slow significantly, even if that means storing up problems for the future.


China in Postwar Syria

By Nicholas Lyall

This is the final article in a serious of four that has explored the nature of China’s growing presence in the Middle East and what China’s increasing leadership means for the region’s economic, humanitarian, and security situation. Part 1 can be found here; part 2 here; and part 3 here.

China’s commercial ties with Syria have come to the world’s attention in the past few months as a result of the still unfolding Huawei controversy. However, as part 3 of this article series alluded to, China’s economic focus on Syria has been rapidly gaining steam over the preceding several years. China’s increasingly dominant industrial foothold in the country combined with Beijing’s delicate approach to the Assad regime throughout the war means China is set to be the leading foreign presence in the postwar arena, ushering in a potentially unprecedented dynamic in the immediate region.

Syria’s Growing Centrality to Chinese Foreign Investment

China Isn’t Hearing Asia’s Fears About Its Military Buildup

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

China recently announced a defense budget of 1.19 trillion yen ($177.61 billion). This represents a slower growth rate in the budget, falling to 7.5 percent as against an 8.1 percent increase in 2018. Nevertheless, there are likely to be predictable expressions of concerns at the size of even the publicly announced budget, considering that it is more than three times as large as India’s, which has the second largest defense budget in Asia.

China’s military power has expanded dramatically in the last several years. A recent report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) noted that “since 2014, China has launched more submarines, warships, principal amphibious vessels and auxiliaries than the total number of ships currently serving in the navies of Germany, India, Spain, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.”

Building an Effective and Practical National Approach to Terrorism Prevention

by Brian A. Jackson

Researchers found major gaps in national terrorism prevention efforts: Shortfalls came not only from limited programmatic focus and resource investment, but also from critics seeking to constrain or halt such efforts. There have been some successes, including community education efforts, formation of public-private partnerships, and development of local capacity to intervene with individuals at risk of radicalizing to violence. However, interviewees viewed those achievements as fragile because of concerns about whether the programs would be sustained. Researchers found that the most effective path for the federal government is to support state, local, nongovernmental, and private organizations' terrorism prevention efforts through funding and other mechanisms. Most interviewees also emphasized that terrorism prevention must include the threat of ideological violence from all sources, not only in words, but also in programming and investments.

Think the Commonwealth can save Brexit Britain? That’s utter delusio

Kevin Rudd

I’m struck, as the British parliament moves towards the endgame on Brexit, with the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have been advanced by the Brexiteers in the public debate as magical alternatives to Britain’s current trade and investment relationship with the European Union. This is the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments that have emerged from the Land of Hope and Glory set now masquerading as the authentic standard-bearers of British patriotism. It’s utter bollocks.

If Britain proceeds with giving effect to what future historians will legitimately describe as the longest suicide note in history by leaving the union, the cold, hard reality is that the mathematics simply don’t stack up in terms of credible economic alternatives to Europe. Much as any Australian, Canadian and New Zealand governments of whichever persuasion would do whatever they could to frame new free-trade agreements with the UK, the bottom line is that 65 million of us do not come within a bull’s roar of Britain’s adjacent market of 450 million Europeans

America’s Polarization Is a Foreign Policy Problem, Too


Partisan politics, one sometimes still hears, are supposed to “stop at the water’s edge.” Domestic political quarrels might be intense and occasionally personal, but Americans are supposed to temper their disagreements and link arms when dealing with the outside world.

This notion was always a bit of an exaggeration—if not an outright myth—even in the heyday of the fabled “Cold War consensus.” The supposed need to suppress partisan differences didn’t prevent nasty accusations about “who lost China?” in the 1940s and early 1950s, along with angry debates over the war in Korea, the broader phenomenon of McCarthyism, the supposed “missile gap” of the late 1950s, or the deep divisions that emerged during the Vietnam War. Nor do I recall a lot of bipartisan restraint in the late 1970s—when Republicans attacked former President Jimmy Carter over everything from Iran to the Panama Canal—or the 1980s, when Democrats accused former President Ronald Reagan’s administration of a cavalier approach toward nuclear war and giving illegal support to right-wing death squads in Central America. Moreover, too much consensus can be as harmful as deep disagreement. If the foreign-policy elite becomes wedded to a bunch of bad ideas and to a flawed grand strategy, the result is likely to be a protracted series of failures. You know: like the past 25 years.

A lesson in Russian disinformation from the pages of a 1982 TV Guide

By Donie O'Sullivan

New York (CNN Business)Long before there were online trolls, and before Mark Zuckerberg was even born, Russian disinformation was enough of a worry in the US that it made the cover of TV Guide. "Why American TV Is So Vulnerable to Foreign Disinformation," the front page headline of the magazine's June 1982 issue said. Read today, the piece is a reminder that while the medium through which we are exposed to disinformation may have changed, many of the tactics and ends used by Russian trolls online are similar, whether during the 2016 election or now. "They plant a story — totally fictitious — in a leftist paper in, say, Bombay," the 1982 article's author, John Weisman, wrote in it. "Then it gets picked up by a Communist journal in Rio. Then in Rome. Then Tass, the Soviet news agency, lifts it from the Rome paper and runs it as a 'sources say' news item. And soon the non-Communist press starts to pick up on it, using terms such as, 'it is alleged that..." And thus an absolute lie gets into general circulation."

Alliances Shift as the Syrian War Winds Down

By George Friedman

The countries that aligned to help protect Assad may be reconsidering their allegiances.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel and Russia had agreed to cooperate on withdrawing foreign forces from Syria. If confirmed, it would mean that Russia has agreed to force the Iranians out of Syria, a significant development for both Israel and the Syrian war itself. It’s even more critical given that another round of talks between Turkey, Iran and Russia to find a settlement to the war is looming.

Russia has yet to confirm or deny Netanyahu’s comments, but it seems unlikely the Israelis would put Russia on the spot this way if they weren’t true. Israel wants Iran out of Syria, but it also wants accommodation with Russia. And the two countries have already shown some degree of cooperation in their Syrian operations. Israel has likely provided Russia with advance notice of its airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria, and so far, Russia has not blocked or, as far as we can tell, notified the Iranians about the strikes. In addition, Turkey, one of three countries negotiating an end to the conflict, appears relatively calm on the subject. Around the time Netanyahu made the announcement, Turkey’s pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper published an article dispassionately analyzing Russia’s relationship with both Israel and Iran in Syria. It seems clear Russia has indeed agreed to push foreign forces out of the country.

The Nuclear Triad Remains a National Necessity


The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island returns to its homeport at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., March 7, 2019. (Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Bryan Tomforde)The military community relies on it, our history reminds us of the need for it, and logic demands it.

Late last year, Representative Adam Smith (D., Wash.), then the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee and now its chairman, said, “The rationale for the triad I don’t think exists anymore. The rationale for the numbers of nuclear weapons doesn’t exist anymore.” This month, he doubled down on his insistence that America should shrink its nuclear arsenal, saying he does not think intercontinental ballistic missiles “are necessary for our deterrence.” Chairman Smith is wrong. Such dangerous disregard for the effectiveness of the nuclear triad directly contradicts the consensus of our military and intelligence communities and the lessons we’ve learned throughout history.

Churchill’s diagnosis of Stalin’s Russia remains true for Putin’s, Bezsmertnyi says

Seventy-three years ago, Winston Churchill gave a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, which is now remembered primarily for his application of the term “iron curtain” to Stalin’s policies of isolating the peoples of the USSR and Eastern Europe from the rest of the world.

But Roman Bezsmertnyi, the former Ukrainian representative to the Tripartite contact group in Minsk, says that two other insights the British leader offered may be even more important because both remain very much true for the Russia of Vladimir Putintoday.

On the one hand, Churchill said, “there is nothing [Soviet leaders] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness.” And on the other, he continued by arguing that Russia does not want war. “What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.”

Germany’s Cold War Enemies May Become Partners


POTSDAM, Germany—On a rainy weekday evening in February, Ingo Senftleben, the head of Germany’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, sat down with about 20 party members and local activists to discuss politics and strategy ahead of state elections this fall. With an increasingly fractured party system here, his CDU has a chance at coming in first and leading the government for the first time in the state’s post-Berlin Wall history.

During a two-hour back-and-forth, supporters asked him about a range of issues, including education policy, security and migration, and stopping the brain drain from Brandenburg to other German states. But one of the more contentious moments came when a woman criticized Senftleben for his refusal to rule out cooperation with two parties on the fringes of German politics—Die Linke (“The Left”) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“The state elections that are around the corner, whether in Saxony or Thuringia or Brandenburg, will be difficult when it comes to forming a government,” Senftleben said. He had “no desire” to team up with the Left or the AfD, he said, but added: “We should be a little bit realistic here.”

The Evolution of the Strongman


Even as news programs sound alarms about democracy in crisis, the truth is that authoritarian regimes govern a smaller percentage of the world’s countries today than at any time in the post-World War II era. The percentage of authoritarian regimes in power peaked in the late 1970s at the height of the Cold War, reaching about 75 percent. By 2000, just under 50 percent of countries were governed by authoritarian regimes. As of 2017, a scant 38 percent were.

So why all of the doomsday talk about rising authoritarianism? Well, although it has become somewhat rare for democracies to fully collapse into autocracy—indeed only two arguably did so in 2016 (Turkey and Nicaragua) and none in 2017—many democracies today are moving in the authoritarian direction. This is troubling because, historically speaking, when democracies deteriorate they usually don’t bounce back quickly.

Rules of the cyber road for America and Russia

Joseph S. Nye

The United States responded weakly after Russian cyber operations disrupted the 2016 presidential election. US President Barack Obama had warned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, of repercussions, but an effective reply became entangled in the domestic politics of Donald Trump’s election. That could be about to change.

Recently, American officials anonymously acknowledged that US offensive cyber operations prevented a Kremlin troll farm from disrupting the 2018 congressional elections. Such offensive cyber operations are rarely discussed, but they suggest ways to deter disruption of the US presidential election in 2020. Attacking a troll farm will not be enough.

Deterrence by threat of retaliation remains a crucial but underused tactic for preventing cyberattacks. There has been no attack on US electrical systems, despite the reported presence of Chinese and Russians on the grid. Pentagon doctrine is to respond to damage with any weapon officials choose, and deterrence seems to be working at that level.

Defending Democracy and Human Rights in the Western Hemisphere

By Luis Almagro

One glimpse at the covers of the main news and political magazines in recent years is often enough to discern a common theme. These publications often display fatalist titles such as “Democracy in Demise,” “Democracy in Crisis,” “Democracy in Peril,” or maybe the alternative favorite, “Authoritarianism on the Rise.” First the 2008 financial crisis, then the results of certain elections worldwide led many to question the future of liberal democracy. In Latin America, an additional series of events such as the “Operacão Lava Jato” (Operation Car Wash) corruption scandal that put many high-level elected and public officials in jail, paved the way for fed-up citizens to rebel against their governments in the streets and in the polls, ousting traditional parties and political elites from power. Despite the bad news, and the serious backsliding in some specific cases and notorious exceptions (e.g. Cuba and Venezuela), I argue that democracy is not dying. For better or worse, it is moving forward. Recent events do not necessarily mean that democracy is on the brink of extinction; rather, they show that there are challenges inherent to democratic life. If anything, the heated public debates confirm that democracy is a living process, which requires constant maintenance and strengthening

What the Speed of Life Means for Security and Society

The envelope arrived with no explanation but a New York City postmark. Kathryn Bouskill tore it open and shook out a small, silvery coin. It was stamped with a “20,” she saw as she turned it over in her hand—not 20 cents, or 20 dollars, but 20 minutes.

Bouskill studies health and human behavior as an anthropologist at RAND. She and another researcher, Seifu Chonde, teamed up to examine our scramble for new technology, our headlong rush to make everything go a little faster. We are hurtling toward a time of transformation, they concluded, without asking what all this speed means for our society, our security, and our sanity.

She knew the value of that coin right away.

Do We Have "Hurry Sickness"?

Is It Time to Abandon the Term Information Operations?

By Christopher Paul

The current groundswell of interest in and attention on information within the U.S. Department of Defense is unprecedented. Information has been elevated to the status of a joint function, joining the six traditional functions of command and control, intelligence, fires, movement and maneuver, protection, and sustainment. The Marine Corps has created a Deputy Commandant for Information, and established information groups within the Marine Expeditionary Forces. The 2016 Department of Defense Strategy for Operations in the Information Environment led to the Joint Concept for Operating in the Information Environment and a formal, capabilities-based assessment. We have seen repeated acknowledgment of the importance of information in military operations by Department of Defense senior leaders. In the words of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, information must be baked into joint force thinking “from the ground up.”
Members of the Texas Air National Guard’s 273rd Information Operations Squadron support Exercise Cyber Shield 17. (Wayde Minami/Air National Guard Photo)

Inside DARPA’s Ambitious ‘AINext’ Program


The defense research agency seeks artificial intelligence tools capable of human-like communication and logical reasoning that far surpass today’s tech.

As federal agencies ramp up efforts to advance artificial intelligence under the White House’s national AI strategy, the Pentagon’s research shop is already working to push the tech to new limits.

Last year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency kicked off the AI Next campaign, a $2 billion effort to build artificial intelligence tools capable of human-like communication and logical reasoning that far surpass the abilities of today’s most advanced tech. Included in the agency’s portfolio are efforts to automate the scientific process, create computers with common sense, study the tech implications of insect brainsand link military systems to the human body.

Through the AI Exploration program, the agency is also supplying rapid bursts of funding for a myriad of high-risk, high-reward efforts to develop new AI applications.

The Robots Are Coming for Our Jobs (Thank God)

At SXSW, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was asked by an audience member about the economic challenge of a significant perc

US ambassador in Berlin urges Germany to cut ties with Huawei or risk losing access to intelligence: WSJ

Kate Fazzini

Berlin should bar Huawei or other Chinese vendors from constructing Germany's 5G network or risk losing access to U.S. intelligence, according to a letter from U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell to the country's economics minister, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The two countries have been carefully rebuilding their intelligence sharing relationship since 2013 and 2014, when the U.S. and Germany were at odds over two spying scandals stemming from the revelations by Edward Snowden of NSA snooping. Last month, German officials said they "weren't ready" to ban Huawei equipment and were unsure of the legality of such a request, according to a statement from the German Interior Ministry.

"A direct exclusion of a particular 5G manufacturer is currently not legally possible and not planned," said a ministry spokesman, according to a CNBC translation. "The focus is on adapting the necessary security requirements so that the security of these networks will be guaranteed even if there are potentially untrustworthy manufacturers on the market."

Democracy at Risk: Why Social Media Endangers a Free Society

by Joergen Oerstroem Moeller

The future of democracy is at stake, in part due to the various social networks that have been created over the past three decades. Society must now seek out holistic and thoughtful approaches toward protecting free speech.

Social networks. People are the guardians.

Can the Internet deliver social cohesion and can values governing free access in a primarily “one nation, one culture and one religious” environment be transposed to an international world with many cultures, ethnicities and religions? This question explains the existential battle going on about control over social networks connoting that power rests with those who control and command social networks. There are three main issues. 

The first one is: who sets the technical standards, such as who owns the networks and who controls access to the networks. The answer is: the big internet companies run the show, such as the American “Big Five” (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon) and the Chinese “Big Three” (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent), with citizens and the political system out of the picture. These companies expand their activities outside core business. Lately Google, Facebook and Amazon have started to buy into submarine cables. Facebook and Amazon build their own cables to support their cloud services.

Triton is the world’s most murderous malware, and it’s spreading

by Martin Giles

As an experienced cyber first responder, Julian Gutmanis had been called plenty of times before to help companies deal with the fallout from cyberattacks. But when the Australian security consultant was summoned to a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2017, what he found made his blood run cold.

The hackers had deployed malicious software, or malware, that let them take over the plant’s safety instrumented systems. These physical controllers and their associated software are the last line of defense against life-threatening disasters. They are supposed to kick in if they detect dangerous conditions, returning processes to safe levels or shutting them down altogether by triggering things like shutoff valves and pressure-release mechanisms.

The malware made it possible to take over these systems remotely. Had the intruders disabled or tampered with them, and then used other software to make equipment at the plant malfunction, the consequences could have been catastrophic. Fortunately, a flaw in the code gave the hackers away before they could do any harm. It triggered a response from a safety system in June 2017, which brought the plant to a halt. Then in August, several more systems were tripped, causing another shutdown.

Aircraft Carrier Chaos: How the U.S. Navy Lost One of Its Most Deadly Warships

by James Holmes

This is a story worth telling and retelling. It supplies insight into material matters, along with examples of grit and fortitude. It also supplies a case study in how not to lead. Let’s detoxify the sea service.

Seldom does your humble scribe come away incensed from reading history. The saga of the World War II aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) constitutes an exception. We normally think of Franklin’s history as a parable about the importance of shipboard firefighting and damage control. It’s about materiel and methods, in other words. And these things are important without a doubt. Fighting ships are metal boxes packed with explosives and flammables. Suppressing fire represents a crucial function, which is why the first thing a new sailor does after reporting aboard is qualify in rudimentary damage control.

(This first appeared several years ago.)

Is the United States about to lose control of its secretive Diego Garcia military base?

By Jenni Marsh

(CNN)The secretive Diego Garcia military base may be 1,000 miles from the nearest continent, but it has all the trappings of a modern American town. The troops here can dine on burgers at Jake's Place, enjoy a nine-hole golf course, go bowling or sink a cold beer at one of several bars. The local command has nicknamed the base the "Footprint of Freedom." But while cars here drive on the right side of the road, this is not American soil: It is, in fact, a remote remnant of the British Empire. That is because in 1965, in the middle of the Cold War, the United States signed a controversial, secret agreement with the British government to lease one of the 60 or so Inian Ocean atolls that make up the Chagos Islands to construct a military base. That deal was secret because the UK was in the process of decolonizing Mauritius, of which the Chagos archipelago was a dependency. The Chagos Islands never got its independence day. Instead, it was cleaved from Mauritius and renamed the British Indian Ocean Territory, a move that the United Nations' highest court in 2019 ruled was illegal under international law.

50+ Retired Generals and Diplomats Urge the United States to Reenter Iran Deal

The United States should rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. The 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), put limitations on Iran’s nuclear program that provided assurances that it would not be used to develop weapons, improved American intelligence about potential future development and significantly improved the security of the United States and our allies. Subsequent to the United States’ withdrawal from the deal, Iran’s continued compliance is not ensured and the benefits from the agreement risk being lost. Reentering the Iran nuclear deal advances the United States’ national interests by ensuring these benefits persist and enables us to work more closely with our European allies in ensuring that Iran never obtains nuclear weapons.