29 March 2019

Modi’s Middle East Deals Snub Iran


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is finally doing something about his country’s sluggish approach to the Middle East. Over the past five years, he has pushed an aggressive strategy of partnering with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel in a bid to attract investments and forge deeper security partnerships. In doing so, he has largely ignored Iran and broken with India’s Cold War-era legacy in the region.

Since his election in 2014, Modi has made foreign policy a priority, prompting some observers to claim that a “Modi doctrine” is now in effect. The Middle East is no exception. Despite the complexity of governing a country the size of India and navigating its dizzying domestic politics, Modi has visited eight Middle Eastern countries and territories since 2014, more than his four predecessors combined.

As so often is the case in the Middle East, the big driver is oil. India is likely to overtake China as the top driver of growth in oil demand by 2024. During his maiden trip to New Delhi in February, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that he saw over $100 billion worth of investment opportunities in India over the next two years, although details of these investments have yet to be revealed. India has also shored up its energy investments in the region. India’s state-owned oil company ONGC Videsh has acquired a 10 percent stake in an offshore oil concession in Abu Dhabi for $600 million.

How Pakistan’s Constitution Facilitates Blasphemy Lynching and Forced Conversions

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Over the past week, a student in Bahawalpur killed his teacher over blasphemy and two Hindu minor girls from Ghotki were kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam before being married off. Blasphemy linked vigilante violence and forced conversion of Hindu girls not only prevail in Pakistan, but the perpetrators of these two atrocities usually enjoy complete immunity. That’s because these acts of persecution and violence are rooted in an idea that the state has failed to curtail, but instead propagated: Islamist supremacy.

According to a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report, over 1,000 non-Muslim girls are forcibly converted to Islam every year. Meanwhile, over 4,000 blasphemy cases have been registered since 1986, with at least 75 people being extrajudicially killed over accusations of insulting Islam since 1986 – the year Sections 295-B and 295-C were added to the Pakistan Penal Code, which sanctioned the death penalty for blasphemy.

Both blasphemy lynching and forced conversion are rooted in the Islamist clauses etched in the Pakistani Constitution. These range from the preamble naming the country an “Islamic” republic and granting sovereignty to Islamic scriptures to upholding violent penalties for breaching Islamic injunctions.

Love Allah, Love China


On a Friday evening, the call to prayer sounds throughout Mamichang, in southwest China, calling worshippers to the old mosque next to the village square. It sounds five times every day, each time drawing these devout Muslims through the square and past a Chinese flag and meter-high characters in traditional script: 愛國愛教. “Love your country, love your religion.”

After prayer, a handful of those men wind their way back through Mamichang’s narrow alleyways, a labyrinth of mud-brick walls that finally opens up into a large courtyard lined with cars and motorcycles. There, under an empty sky and an unfurled Chinese flag, they roll out three royal blue carpets, each one 20 feet long. The 12 men and one little girl slip off their shoes and face westward toward Mecca. Adjacent to the courtyard is their “house mosque,” a nondescript residential building with doors chained shut and sealed by official tape that reads “Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau.”

Helmand’s Flower That Threatens Us All

By Matthew S. Reid and Cybele C. Greenberg

A peace deal in Afghanistan may be on the horizon. The latest round of high-level negotiations between the United States and the Taliban ended last week in Doha without a formal agreement, but with cautious optimism on both sides. If the U.S. envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, gets the deal he reportedly seeks, all parties in Afghanistan will observe a general cease-fire, the United States will withdraw its forces, the Taliban and the Afghan government will open a dialogue, and the Taliban will pledge to harbor no foreign terrorist organizations on Afghan soil.

These developments are, in theory, encouraging: the United States’ longest war may finally be coming to an end. But in practice, the peace negotiations are unlikely to achieve Washington’s main national security objective in Afghanistan—preventing the formation of a terrorist safe haven—if they do not include a plan to directly address the country’s opium problem.

The Afghan drug economy is thriving. Although the United States has spent almost $9 billionto stem narcotics production over the course of the war, the most recent UN survey reports that opium cultivation in Afghanistan is at its second-highest level since 1994. Largely based in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, along the irrigated shores of the Helmand River, this multibillion-dollar trade has turned the country into the “opium capital of the world.” The industry makes up half of Afghanistan’s GDP and provides roughly 85 percent of the world’s opium.

China’s Future Looks Brighter Away From Beijing

By Scott Moore

In Beijing earlier this month, thousands of Chinese officials gathered for the annual sessions of China’s two legislative bodies, known as the “two sessions.” So too did hundreds of foreign journalists and observers seeking signs of where the world’s second-largest economy is headed. For both Chinese and foreign observers, this year’s sessions have been grimmer than most: Crackdowns on dissent have been even harsher than usual, and the official economic growth target was set at the lowest level in decades.

But as it turned out, the biggest stories in China weren’t unfolding in Beijing. Increasingly, China’s capital is the wrong place to look to understand its future. To do that, you have to look much further south, to the dynamic coastal cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen that are building China’s future. And it’s a brighter one than it might look from under Beijing’s typically smoggy skies.

China’s Bid for the Heart and Soul of Italy

By Duncan Bartlett

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte received warm praise in Chinese state media when he hosted President Xi Jinping in Rome and formally endorsed China’s contentious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Italy is the first G-7 nation to officially join the BRI, which aims to revive ancient trade routes between East and West. China has promised to reward its supporter with new business opportunities and generous investment in its infrastructure.

For the Chinese media – which always enthusiastically endorses Xi’s actions and policies – it is a classic “win-win” situation. Italy is presented in heroic terms, setting a shining example for other EU countries to follow.

Within Italy, there is much excitement about the reward of Chinese gold. People talk about how they could grow rich selling luxury goods from Milan or hosting more high-spending Chinese tourists in Venice and Rome. The ports of Tauro and Genoa also expect investment and the Italians hope China can lift their country out of recession, bringing good fortune in the Year of the Pig.

China’s Scare Tactics Prompt U.S. Fears of a Clash Over Taiwan


JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii—U.S. military forces in the Pacific are alarmed by what they see as an increasingly capable China using military intimidation and economic coercion to bully its smaller neighbors.

So far, these tactics fall short of actual armed conflict. But U.S. defense officials here and in Washington, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, say if the United States does not stay on alert in the region, Beijing could use force to advance its interests—and Taiwan in particular is a major potential flash point.

Among the signs of Beijing’s increasing aggression, a Chinese warship came within 45 yards of the bow of a Navy destroyer in the South China Sea late last year, a close encounter the service characterized as “unsafe and unprofessional.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has increased the frequency of movement through the strategically important Taiwan Strait, including most recently on March 24, after China repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island for drills.

China’s military modernisation: Recent trends


Since the assumption of Xi Jinping to the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2013, the People’s Liberation Army has undergone numerous changes, both in its modernisation and organisation, that are meant to ensure that the PLA forces will be battle-ready. The modernisation aims for the PLA to acquire the latest technology and logistics that can lead the military to quick and decisive victories in any theatre of battle. This brief examines these institutional changes in China’s military, which have also resulted in the PLA firmly coming under the control of the CPC, ensuring the loyalty of the PLA is always kept under check.

This brief is an updated version of ORF Issue Brief No. 201 written by Kartik Bommakanti and published in October 2017. It is part of ORF’s series, ‘Eye on China’. Find other research in the series here:

Attribution: Kartik Bommakanti and Ameya Kelkar, “China’s Military Modernisation: Recent Trends”, ORF Issue Brief No. 286, March 2019, Observer Research Foundation.

The Problem With Xi’s China Model

By Elizabeth C. Economy

As China’s National People’s Congress and its advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, gather this March in Beijing for their annual two-week sessions to discuss the country’s challenges and path forward, President Xi Jinping may well be tempted to take a victory lap. Within his first five years in office, he has pioneered his own style of Chinese politics, at last upending the model Deng Xiaoping established 30 years ago. As I wrote in Foreign Affairs last year (“China’s New Revolution,” May/June 2018), Xi has moved away from Deng’s consensus-based decision-making and consolidated institutional power in his own hands. He has driven the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) more deeply into Chinese political, social, and economic life, while constraining the influence of foreign ideas and economic competition. And he has abandoned Deng’s low-profile foreign policy in favor of one that is ambitious and expansive.

And yet the mood in Beijing is far from victorious. As Xi begins his second five-year term as CCP general secretary and (soon) president, there are signs that the new model’s very successes are becoming liabilities. Too much party control is contributing to a stagnant economy and societal discontent, while too much ambition has cooled the initial ardor with which many in the international community greeted Xi’s vision of a new global order “with Chinese characteristics.”

China’s Massive Belt and Road Initiative

by Andrew Chatzky and James McBride

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, infrastructure development and investment initiatives that would stretch from East Asia to Europe. The project, eventually termed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but sometimes known as the New Silk Road, is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived. It harkens back to the original Silk Road, which connected Europe to Asia centuries ago, enriching traders from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Some analysts see the project as an unsettling extension of China’s rising power, and as the costs of many of the proposed projects have skyrocketed, opposition has grown in some participant countries. Meanwhile, the United States shares the concern of some in Asia that the BRI could be a Trojan horse for China-led regional development, military expansion, and Beijing-controlled institutions. Under President Donald J. Trump, Washington has raised alarm over Beijing’s actions even as it has abandoned some U.S. efforts to isolate China and deepen its own ties with economic partners in the region.
What was the original Silk Road?

The Key to Countering Iran

By Stratfor Worldview

Political and economic pressure from the United States will unite Iran's fractious political system behind the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which lies at the heart of Tehran's regional strategy. Washington's recent addition of the IRGC to the Treasury Department's list of terrorist groups probably won't have a substantial impact on the organization's ability to fund itself and allied militant groups across the Middle East. In response to the U.S. decision, Iran will boost its military and political support for the IRGC by expanding its budget for asymmetric operations, including the activities of the elite Quds Force and ballistic missile development.
Big Picture Update

As the U.S. campaign against Iran and its regional allies continues, measures to further sanction the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could follow. But Iran's deep connections to many Middle Eastern governments create additional consequences for the United States if it follows through with that idea and sanctions an entity connected to the IRGC. Perhaps nowhere else is this truer than in Iraq.

The Netherlands’ Luck Is Running Out


Last week, police arrested a 37-year-old man born in Turkey, Gokmen Tanis, in the shooting on a busy tram in Utrecht, which killed three and injured five. Dutch authorities have said it may have been terrorism, and if it was, it would be the worst Islamist terror attack the Netherlands has ever suffered.

This may seem surprising, since Holland has been at the center of the debate around Islam and European security. One reason is that highly visible, controversial politicians such as Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders, who have vociferously condemned the religion, have placed it there. Another is that the Netherlands was the site of one of the most notorious Islamist-led attacks in the post-9/11 world. In November 2004, Mohammed Bouyeri, a Moroccan-Dutch man, killed the director Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam for making a film critical of Islam. Bouyeri vowed the same for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a collaborator of Van Gogh’s and, at the time, a Dutch politician.

Yet the Netherlands has seen no catastrophic terror attack like those that rocked London, Madrid, or Paris. Dutch officials point to tight cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence agencies as part of the reason, but they also admit that they do not possess a secret formula. It partly comes down to luck—luck that cannot last forever.

Washington's Worst Kept Secret: The Islamic State Isn't Defeated

by Daniel R. DePetris 

Many of the extremist group's fighters will now become insurgents but that is not something America can solve.

It took a lot more time, patience, and ordnance than expected, but after a two-month offensive in the dusty, Syrian border village of Baghouz, the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces finally made the announcement the world was waiting for: the Islamic State’s caliphate is history. For the millions of Iraqis and Syrians who were subjected to the group’s brutality and dogmatic extremism, the SDF’s final clearing operation in the Islamic State’s remaining speck of land in the Mediterranean must have come as a cathartic moment.

Governments the world over are gushing with celebration. President Donald Trump, who days earlier unveiled a map for reporters showing how little land the Islamic State occupied, will likely claim all the credit for himself. British prime minister Theresa May issued a statement calling the capture of Baghouz “a historic milestone.” German foreign minister Heiko Maas and French president Emmanuel Macron issued their own congratulations to forces on the ground. And the Kurdish fighters who did most of the fighting and the dying capped off their success in celebratory fashion, complete with a parade and a marching band, musical instruments in tow.

Australia Shares Secrets of Its Offensive Cyberwar Against ISIS to Entice New Hacker Troops

Matt Novak

Australia has revealed for the first time that the country conducted a remote cyberattack against ISIS commanders in the Middle East to disrupt communications, all coordinated with Coalition fighters on the ground.

Offensive cyber operations are typically the kind of thing that governments around the world keep pretty quiet. But Mike Burgess, Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), delivered a speech today that boasted of Australia’s fight against ISIS from almost 7,000 miles away. The ASD is roughly equivalent to the National Security Agency (NSA) in the U.S.

“Just as the Coalition forces were preparing to attack the terrorists’ position, our offensive cyber operators were at their keyboards in Australia–firing highly targeted bits and bytes into cyberspace,” Burgess said at the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney according to audio released by the group.

Where is the Islamic State Group Still Active Around the World?

By Mina al-Lami 

After months of fighting, the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) has finally lost Baghuz, a village in eastern Syria that came to represent the final chapter in its self-styled caliphate.

While this is a major blow, the loss of the small enclave near the Iraqi border does not spell the end of IS as a militant group capable of mounting deadly attacks worldwide.

IS and its affiliates continue to be active in various countries, claiming attacks on a daily basis through the group's online propaganda outlets.

Data collected by BBC Monitoring shows that despite having lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq at the end of 2017, IS said it was behind 3,670 attacks worldwide last year - an average of 11 attacks per day - and 502 attacks in the first two months of 2019, while Baghuz was under siege…

Brexit is part of a wider European struggle


Brexit is part of a wider European struggle All of the EU’s big six countries are facing deep internal divisions GIDEON RACHMAN Add to myFT Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Share Save Save to myFT Topic Tracker Gideon Rachman MARCH 25, 2019 Print this page485 The largest pro-EU demonstration in history took place last Saturday. Ironically, this display of Europhilia happened in a country that is about to leave the EU, as up to 1m people took to the streets of London to protest against Brexit. Leaving the EU has had the paradoxical result of creating something entirely new — a passionate pro-European movement in Britain. Ransacking my memory for the last time I can remember so many demonstrators carrying the EU flag, the best I could come up with was Kiev in 2013-14, when Ukrainians protested in the streets against their government’s decision not to sign an association agreement with the EU. 

That is a less than happy parallel, given that many of the Kiev demonstrators were shot in the streets, setting off a train of events that culminated in a war. Britain’s Brexit agonies are unlikely to lead to anything quite so drastic. But the country is now split down the middle over the European question, with the divide between Leavers and Remainers representing a new form of identity politics that goes well beyond attitudes to the EU. In all probability, the Remainer surge has come too late to prevent Brexit. But the Brexiters’ victory — if it is finally achieved — will come at the price of a bitterly divided country and a lousy deal that most people (including most Leavers) will detest. The Brexiter fantasy of a happily united Britain celebrating its “independence day” from the EU was deluded, like so much else in their prospectus. But the UK is not the only politically riven country in Europe. On the same day that Remainers were protesting in London, the anti-establishment gilets jaunes were once again demonstrating in Paris and other French cities. 

The previous weekend had seen mass demonstrations by Catalan separatists on the streets of Madrid. Brexit: Theresa May does not yet have third meaningful vote support All this European street politics suggest that Britain’s current upheavals are part of a wider pattern. All of the EU’s big six (in terms of population) — Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Poland — are facing deep internal divisions that would have been hard to imagine even five years ago. And while the issues are distinctive in each country, events in one country often spill across borders by changing the political mood elsewhere. Britain’s vote to leave the EU in 2016 was influenced by the German refugee crisis of 2015. The most radical wing of the Leave campaign in Britain has taken to wearing the yellow vests of the anti-Macron protesters in France. The move to stage an independence referendum in Catalonia took inspiration from the referendum staged in Scotland in 2014. 

The interconnected nature of European politics should underline to EU leaders that their own politics are likely to be deeply affected by how things turn out in Britain. That matters because Europe is hardly stable at the moment. Nationalist-populist governments are already in power in Italy, Hungary and Poland and form part of the coalition government in Austria. The far-right has also performed strongly in elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands, and is making gains in Spain. Join the Europe Talks project The Financial Times is collaborating with 16 news organisations for an experiment called Europe Talks, where we connect thousands of Europeans for face-to-face conversations across borders. Would you like to be involved? Click here to find out more. Looking at this parade of political dysfunction makes Brexit look like the British version of a wider crisis, rather than some freakish aberration. Indeed, the UK has avoided some of the worst symptoms of the European disease. The rival factions of Leavers and Remainers are camped outside parliament with their flags and there is plenty of rage flying around — but, so far, little street violence. That is a stark contrast with France, where the gilets jaunes once again ran rampage in Paris on March 16. 

Scotland’s “separatists”, unlike their Catalan equivalents, are not on trial — they are active and important participants in the Brexit debate. But, unfortunately for the British, that is where the crumbs of comfort run out. The sad truth is that the country’s version of the wider European crisis is uniquely self-destructive. That is because Brexit is simultaneously a rupture in the country’s legal order, a resignation from the country’s most important international alliance and, in all probability, a severe shock to the economy. Recommended European Parliament elections The European parliament elections: an interactive guide That is an extraordinary triple blow to the stability of the UK. And while new extremist parties are not on the rise, that is partly because the far left has taken over the leadership of the Labour party, while the nationalist right have formed their own bloc within the governing Conservatives. The fact that Britain’s political crisis is particularly acute poses a dilemma for the remaining centrist European leaders. 

They have to ask themselves whether it is worth cutting Britain loose in the hope of discrediting nationalist and illiberal forces across the EU. Set against that, they must take into account the risk that a no-deal Brexit would deepen Europe’s economic and political crisis, and therefore ultimately strengthen left and rightwing populist forces across the continent. Saturday’s demonstration in London has added a new factor to the equation. Should the EU seek to encourage the burgeoning pro-Europe movement within Britain and, if so, how? Or would such an intervention backfire? There are no easy answers for EU leaders. Yet they must now realise that their decisions will affect not only Britain, but the stability of the whole European continent.

Dynasties still run the world

Farida Jalalzai, Meg Rincker

Our new study, published in the journal Historical Social Research in December 2018, shows that, on average, one in 10 world leaders comes from households with political ties.

We examined the backgrounds of 1,029 political executives – that is, presidents and prime ministers – in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America from 2000 to 2017. We found that 119, or 12 percent, of all world leaders belonged to a political family.

Our study defined “political family” as having either a blood or marital tie to someone already involved in politics, whether as a judge, party official, bureaucrat, lawmaker, president or activist.

Notable examples include former U.S. President George W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Family connections matter worldwide

Family political connections mattered in all the regions we studied, in monarchies and democracies, and in rich countries and poor ones.

Why Creating a Space Force Changes Nothing

By Benjamin Bahney and Jonathan Pearl

Last year, when the Trump administration unveiled plans to create a Space Force—originally conceived as an independent branch of the military to oversee operations in the great beyond—public responses to the idea tended to fall into one of two extremes. Champions celebrated the move as essential for promoting U.S. dominance in space and protecting national security; critics warned that it would unnecessarily militarize a domain where peaceful cooperation should prevail and that it could spark a space arms race. China’s landing of a rover on the far side of the moon last January—a first-of-its-kind feat—further stoked this debate.

But in reality, the image of space as a zone free from military competition is as fanciful as the notion that it can be subject to outright American dominance. Space is already militarized, and it has been since the start of the space age six decades ago. Competitors such as China and Russia are already capable of threatening the United States’ military presence there—namely, the satellites that provide the information backbone of U.S. military power. President Donald Trump’s February directive to establish the Space Force as a sixth branch of the military under the U.S. Air Force—a modification from his original proposal to create a fully separate service—changes nothing in this regard.

How Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Collapsed

By Brendan O’Leary

British Prime Minister Theresa May had hoped that the third time would do the trick. After failing twice to get her withdrawal agreement with the EU through Parliament, she was gearing up for a fresh attempt last week, until she was blocked by the Speaker of the House of Commons and by the European Council. The Speaker declared that the British government could not put substantively the same motion before Parliament twice in the same legislative session. The Council had refused to modify the withdrawal agreement, which made the Speaker’s decision unavoidable, and it later imposedunexpectedly firm terms on May’s request for an extension. She had requested a short extension to conclude by June 30, knowing that her government could not now meet its schedued exit date of March 29.

May’s premiership is now hanging by a thread. Her three-pronged strategy of blackmail, bribery, and betrayal has collapsed. The blackmail had involved running down the clock to force MPs to choose between her deal and no deal (for which the United Kingdom is not prepared). The European Council, however, has changed that game. Under the extension agreed by the Council, the Commons must ratify the existing withdrawal agreement (provided the Speaker allows the government to put it to the House again) no later than April 12. If it does not, then the United Kingdom must choose between leaving without a withdrawal agreement, revoking the request to withdraw from the EU, and accepting a much longer extension of the negotiations. The latter possibility comes with a sting: the United Kingdom would have to participate in the elections to the European Parliament scheduled for May. Such elections would inevitably approximate a fresh referendum on remaining in or leaving the EU. 

The Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Economic Governance

As a result of the Global Financial Crisis, management of the global economy was broadened from a core of developed Western countries to a broader Group of 20, or G-20, comprised of the world’s 20 largest economies. The G-20’s emergence began when the onset of the financial crisis prompted the elevation of what had previously been a modest and little-reported meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors to a much more prominent meeting of the heads of state of the world’s most important economies. Given the inclusion of the BRICS and other key developing economies, as well as a sample of middle and regional powers, in the G-20’s membership, the group’s battlefield promotion was a powerful symbol of a changing international economic order. This upgraded version of the G-20 then proceeded to get off to a strong start with its first three summits in Washington, London and Pittsburgh, adopting measures that avoided the worst-case scenarios of protectionist trade wars that can easily follow a global downturn. Optimists began to imagine a new era of global economic governance. 

World leaders at the G-20 Summit, Hangzhou, China, Sept. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan). 

Russia Plants Its Flag in the Digital Realm

As Russia continues to develop and foster what it terms "internet sovereignty," it could eventually adopt similar infrastructure and integrate with the networks of other like-minded countries, such as China. While the development of sovereign internet structures would restructure the global internet to some degree, it would not necessarily affect its functionality at the core level. However, the additional independence and protection that accompany sovereign internet structures could ignite more state competition in the digital world, hampering global efforts to establish global norms on cyberspace.

Since its inception, the free-for-all nature of the global internet has defied the most robust forms of state control, but perhaps not for much longer. By April 1, the Russian government is expected to conduct a countrywide test of its ability to disconnect its internet infrastructure from the rest of the world's, following the Duma's passage of a draft law last month mandating changes to the country's internet infrastructure, Runet. While a test that actually disconnects the Russian web from the rest of the global internet may or may not eventually take place, one thing is certain: Russia is making significant changes to create infrastructure and a legal framework for what it terms a "sovereign internet." In essence, Russia hopes to develop a domestic intranet that can operate independently from the rest of the world, thereby giving it the opportunity to both protect online traffic — and go on the offensive against foreign internet traffic, if necessary.

The Big Picture

The Future of War: What the Syrian War Portends for Tomorrow’s Conflicts

In the Syrian civil war, combatants are not always divided along clear lines, making it more difficult than ever for conventional forces like the U.S. military to combat pockets of insurgency. 

Week by week, month by month, the horrific war in Syria grinds on, killing Syrian civil war combatants from many countries and, most tragic of all, Syrian civilians—the unintended or, in many cases, intended victims of the warring parties. It’s easy to look at the Syrian war as uniquely horrible, the catastrophic result of geography, Bashar al-Assad’s craven brutality, the spread of jihadism and its malignant ideology, and foreign intervention. But in reality, Syria represents a frightening window into the future of war. If, in fact, Syria is the model, future wars are likely to have several defining characteristics.

The first and perhaps most defining characteristic of the Syrian war is its intricate and deadly complexity. Rather than two nations or alliances pitted against each other, multiple interconnected fights occupy the same space and time. Second, the Syrian war suggests that future conflicts will involve a situation-specific configuration of forces, rather than enduring alliances, as one insurgency blends into the next. Third, the conflict shows that despite the massive and well-publicized human costs of contemporary wars, the international community has lost its stomach for humanitarian intervention. Fourth, Syria demonstrates something that has been evident for decades: The United Nations is unsuited to play a major role in complex, modern wars, particularly when permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, each with a veto over its actions, are involved.

'Cost Plus 50' Explained

by Stacie L. Pettyjohn

The Trump administration has long argued that America's allies are free-riding off the security provided by the United States, and demanded that they pay more for their defense. In January, President Trump put wealthy countries that host U.S. military forces “under notice” that they need to “pay the cost of this protection.”

In February, the United States reached a one-year cost-sharing deal with Seoul. South Korea agreed to pay $920 million to help cover the cost of keeping 28,500 U.S. troops in the country—$70 million more than the 2018 tab.

The latest rumor is that the Trump administration will demand that all countries where U.S. forces are based agree to a “Cost Plus 50” formula. This would require host nations to subsidize the entire cost of the U.S. military presence—and pay an additional 50 percent of that amount.

My research suggests this would be a risky move, and one that could potentially damage long-standing relationships with allies and partners. This type of transactional foreign policy increases the risk that countries will rethink their agreements to host U.S. forces. This could reduce the U.S. military's ability to operate globally, if the United States is later unable to obtain permission to use foreign bases in times of crisis.
Why Does the U.S. Have These Bases?

Five Years After Crimea, What Have We Learned About Sanctioning Russia?

Neil Bhatiya 

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott, who will be back next week. 

In March 2014, then-President Barack Obama signed the first tranche of executive orders imposing sanctions against the Russian Federation for its illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea. Five years later, the confrontation between the United States and Russia has come to dominate the national security conversation, driving unprecedented tensions in the trans-Atlantic relationship. It is also likely to feature prominently in foreign policy debates during the 2020 presidential election campaign. ...

Trump’s Search for Absolute Sovereignty Could Destroy the WTO

Stewart M. Patrick

The World Trade Organization is in crisis. Member states doubt its capacity to spur economic liberalization, counter China’s market-distorting policies or resolve deepening trade disputes. But the biggest threat it faces comes from its erstwhile champion, the United States. President Donald Trump is determined to weaken, even destroy, the organization. The White House speaks the language of reform, yet its ultimate objective is not to fix it but to nix it. The administration’s antipathy is rooted in the conviction that the WTO violates American sovereignty. 

The president has made his instincts clear. “If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” he warned last August. His national security adviser, John Bolton, is no fan, either. Writing in The Wall Street Journal in March 2017, a year before joining the administration, he recommended that Trump simply ignore any adverse judgments by the WTO’s dispute resolution mechanism. The United States may soon face that prospect, having clearly violated WTO rules by slapping trading partners with steel and aluminum tariffs on specious “national security” grounds. ...

The Monroe Doctrine in 21st Century Great Power Competition

John Harrison, Matthew Kawas and Chase Sargeant


“I think it [Monroe Doctrine] is as relevant today, as it was the day it was written,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated on February 1, 2018 in response to a reporter’s question.[1] This was a significant statement on the heels of his first trip to Latin America, and an attempt to provide a connection of long-term values between the United States and Latin America. His comment, however, roused new questions and old concerns over the Monroe Doctrine as the potential guide for the Trump administration’s policy in Latin America.

After a 20-year hiatus since the fall of the Soviet Union, the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) identify a new great power competition as the priority security threat to the United States. Although focused on Europe with Russia, and Asia with China, this great power competition is just as applicable in Latin America where China is aggressively using the economic instrument of power. According to the World Economic Forum, since 2010, “China [has] loaned $65 billion to Venezuela in exchange for oil, $21 billion to Brazil and approximately $15 billion to both Argentina and Ecuador.”[2] Moreover, China increased its investment in 2017 to more than one billion dollars.[3] Gone are the days of European great power colonization of Latin America; however, this heavy debt laden investment could become a more subtle form of colonization if nations cannot pay back the loans. As both Russia and China continue to invest in Latin America, it plausibly is only a matter of time before either will deem a country’s internal decisions contrary to their own national interests and use undue control to ensure their interests are protected.

Pentagon hopes to have new cybersecurity standards for contractors in 2020

By: Aaron Mehta and Mike Gruss 

The Honorable Ellen M. Lord, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, meets with U.S. Army Special Operations Command personnel during the 2018 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. The Pentagon’s top acquisition official said the department is working with government agencies to develop cybersecurity standards that industry partners would need to follow before they can win a contract.

Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition and logistics, said in a March 25 event that the department is working with officials from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and hopes to have new metrics on minimum cybersecurity practices later this year. NIST helps provide IT standards for federal government agencies.

Ideally, she said, the Defense Department would begin to use those standards within the next 18 months to help determine whether to award a business a contract.

5 Percent Of Bitcoin Trading Is Fake; According To New Study By Bitwise

Charles Bovaird, a writer for Crypto & Blockchain, posted an article with the title above to the March 22, 2019 online edition of Forbes.com. He begins by noting that “While many use CoinMarketCap as a go-to resource for crypto-currency market data, roughly 95 percent of bitcoin trading volume reported by this [that] website — is fake,” according to a new report from Bitwise Asset Management.

CoinMarketCap reports “approximately $6 billion per day, in daily active bitcoin trading volume; but, the actual figure is $273M, or roughly 4.5 percent of the reported amount,” according to Bitwise.

Mr. Bovaird provided an Editors Note: “Investing in crypto-coins, or tokens is highly speculative, and the market is largely unregulated. Anyone considering it should be prepared to lose their entire investment.”

“When conducting its analysis, Bitwise culled data from 81 exchanges, which it selected, based on reported bitcoin trading volume,” Mr. Bovaird wrote. “Exchanges that reported less than $1M worth of volume per day – were excluded.”

Industry Implications

Why AV Safety and Cybersecurity Need to Be Pursued in Tandem

by Marjory S. Blumenthal

Safety and cybersecurity are generally pursued by separate teams within AV companies—leaving them in silos that exacerbate the significant challenges of each, and ignore the fact that they both fundamentally protect drivers and passengers from harm.

Why it matters: As cars become increasingly complex, modifying one aspect of the technology could create an unexpected vulnerability in another feature, making it crucial to develop safety and cybersecurity as integrated systems.

Safety: We know that traditional vehicles are safe because they conform to industry standards, regulations and engineering best practices. This can cover airbag systems at one end of the spectrum, and ADAS emergency braking features at the other.
AV standards have yet to be created, so AVs can't demonstrate compliance the way traditional vehicles do. A standardized framework, which could involve simulations or real life driving tests, is needed to measure how safe AVs are.

How to End Endless War


In 1992, Pentagon officials took stock of America’s fortunes. “Today, there is no global challenger to a peaceful democratic order,” observed the group, led by Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. The Soviet Union had fallen. America stood alone as a global power. At such a moment, the country might have declared victory and brought its troops home. Instead, it resolved to seek greater supremacy than ever. In the future that Wolfowitz and his colleagues envisioned, the United States would maintain a “predominant military position” atop the world. No one would dare rival it.

In the Middle East, America’s pursuit of primacy led it to contain both Iraq and Iran, and to treat the advance of either as a grave threat. Under this dictate, successive presidents imposed sanctions that starved Iraqis and squeezed Iranians. They launched wars to change regimes. They partnered with authoritarians throughout the region. If all this was the price of keeping America on top, so be it.