23 May 2019

India Waits Warily for a U.S. Trade Salvo

The prospects of a U.S.-India trade war — which would be marked by U.S. tariffs on a wide range of Indian imports — will hinge on the outcome of a possible U.S. investigation into India's trade practices. India, which recognizes it's a lower priority in U.S. trade negotiations, will be more likely to negotiate a trade package once a new government is formed after its national elections conclude later this month.  If India chooses to continue buying Iranian oil, it will buy a reduced amount under a rupee-based payment mechanism to avoid U.S. sanctions.

There's nothing like a common rival to bring two countries together — at least on defense. India and the United States, both eyeing China's rise with concern, are moving closer militarily. Their common strategic interest in countering China, however, does not equal an alignment on other issues: The United States is pushing India to further open its markets to American commerce, halt purchases of Iranian oil and ease recent e-commerce regulations that could impede foreign investment. The demands, in fact, have even fueled speculation that India could emerge as a new front in U.S. President Donald Trump's trade war.

The Big Picture

The Nuts and Bolts of Leaving Afghanistan

Rick Martin

The American people are waiting for the date when their Commander-in-Chief announces to the nation that the thousands of U.S. troops now in Afghanistan are in the process of downsizing their operations, packing up, and redeploying stateside. And the American people would be perfectly reasonable in demanding it. Since major coalition operations began in October 2001, the U.S. and our coalition allies have withstood extensive combat and powered through the blood, sweat, and tears. 3,568 American and coalition troops have given the ultimate sacrifice. At a price tag of $745 billion and counting according to the Defense Department, the United States has poured far more investment into Afghanistan than officials in Washington could have imagined when the first munitions were dropped. 

Ultimately, the most ideal way to facilitate an orderly and deliberate U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan is to end the war entirely. The Trump administration’s decision last year to talk to the Taliban and engage the insurgency's leadership in negotiations was a giant step in the right direction. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and his team have devoted months of their lives traveling throughout the region and participating in six rounds of intensive discussions with their Taliban counterparts in Doha for precisely this purpose. 

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State Reinvigorating East Turkistan Jihad

By: Animesh Roul

China is increasingly facing transnational jihadist threats as a result of the long-standing plight of its ethnic Uighur Muslim citizens, who are mostly concentrated in the country’s northwestern region of Xinjiang (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region). Amid mounting Western criticism of China’s handling of its minorities in Xinijiang, especially over the last couple years, there has been a puzzling lack of outcry from the larger Muslim world. However, ongoing state-sponsored religious restrictions and persecution in China continue to give enough fodder for jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) to raise their virtual jihadist campaigns against China and its interests abroad.

Over the past several decades, China has suffered a number of violent incidents (e.g. riotings, arson, knife attacks, and bombings) perpetrated by suspected Uighur militant separatists. The majority of incidents have targeted the ethnic Han Chinese in Xinjiang and critical infrastructure such as railways. Among the most notable and recent attacks were the October 2013 suicide attack in Tiananmen Square, Beijing; violence in the city of Urumqi (capital of Xinjiang) in May 2014; and attacks in Pishan in Xinjiang in February 2017 (SCMP (Hong Kong), November 1, 2013; China Daily(Beijing), May 22, 2014; SCMP (Hong Kong), February 15, 2017). China blames the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and its offshoot, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), for anti-Chinese violence in Xinjiang and beyond.

Pakistan: Seven Implications Of IMF Program – Analysis

By Sushant Sareen

Ever since it has come into existence, Pakistan has been living off other people’s money. Over the last seven decades, Pakistan’s elite have become so used to other peoples’ paying their bills that there is now almost a sense on entitlement that every time they are on the brink of bankruptcy and about to default, the world will come to their rescue and bail them out. After all, Pakistan’s Unique Sales Proposition (USP) – a nuclear weapons state in which Islamism and jihadism is not just an article of faith but also a foreign policy instrument – has made it ‘a country too dangerous to fail’. Dreading the prospect of a failed Pakistan, the West and in particular the US, has always thrown a lifeline whenever Pakistan started to sink. But instead of crisis providing an impetus for reform and improve the living standards of its 210 million people, the bailouts given to Pakistan have only emboldened, encouraged, even incentivised, it to treat debt as disposable income, and when payback time comes, seek more handouts.

No Longer a Trade Tiff: China Screams ‘People’s War’

By Gordon Chang

“People’s war.” That’s the Communist Party’s new term for the trade disputewith the United States. The Global Times, the party’s nationalist tabloid, used that phrase on the May 13, but China’s leaders obviously approved of the rhetorical escalation. Both People’s Daily, the self-described “mouthpiece” of China’s ruling organization, and the official Xinhua News Agency carried the piece to wider audiences.

There seems to be a mismatch in perceptions. President Donald Trump, in comments to reporters on Tuesday, characterized the trade disagreement this way: “We’re having a little squabble with China.”

Trump was calming jittery markets. The party, on the other hand, was inflaming passions. The stoking of emotions—“people’s war” suggests America is an enemy of all Chinese—suggests a trade agreement between the planet’s two largest economies is not in the cards anytime soon.

Taiwan on (the) Edge

Over the past 30 years there have been many moments when Taiwan-watchers worked themselves into a tizzy worrying about the potential for conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Whether it was Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui describing the relationship between Taipei and Beijing as a “special state-to-state relationship” in 1999, President George W. Bush rebuking Lee’s successor during a meeting with a PRC leader in 2003, or the PRC’s National People’s Congress passing the Anti-Secession Law in 2005, all three sides of the Washington-Beijing-Taipei triangle have done their part to keep things … interesting. Until now, though, I have been confident that worst-case thinking was unjustified, and the chances of open conflict were low.

Until now, but no longer.

At this moment, as Taiwan’s political parties battle over their presidential nominations, I am more worried about the future of the Taiwan Strait than I have ever been. Ominous trends are building on all three sides of the triangle, and conflict could be the result. It is by no means inevitable, or even the most likely future. But for the first time in decades, I can see a plausible path to disaster in the Taiwan Strait.

Huawei in the Trump Administration’s Crosshairs as US-China Economic Warfare Escalates

By Ankit Panda

The Trump administration has served up a side-helping of serious economic decoupling alongside this month’s main course: the escalating trade war. On Wednesday, the administration announced that it would blacklist China’s Huawei Technologies Co. by blocking American firms from serving as suppliers for Huawei products. A long-rumored executive order signed by U.S. President Donald J. Trump was followed by a U.S. Commerce Department listing of Huawei and 70 affiliates to an “Entity List,” barring the company from sourcing U.S. components for its products and services.

Given the assumptions that had underlaid globalization and U.S.-China interdependence in the technology sector, the move will hit Huawei, China’s largest technology company and a source of national pride, where it’ll hurt.

China Cracks Down on Foreign Firms Over Cyber Security, FT Says

By Angus Whitley

Foreign companies in China are being subjected to cyber-security probes as the government tightens controls over areas such as cloud computing, the Financial Times reported, citing documents seen by the newspaper.

The government plans to strengthen its cyber rules in December to bolster “national information security,” the newspaper reported, citing the documents. The rules might be announced as soon as this week, the Financial Times said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The tightening of China’s so-called multilevel protection scheme is set to broaden government oversight of areas including the mobile internet, the internet of things, big data and industrial security, according to the documents, the newspaper said.

At least two foreign companies dealing with consumer data in China are already under investigation for possible cyber-security violations, the newspaper said, citing risk-management firm Control Risks. The names of the companies weren’t disclosed.

How to escalate a trade war, Chinese Communist Party style

By Gwynn Guilford & Heather Timmons

The trade war is back on. This week, China vowed to raise tariffs on $60 billion of US goods, retaliating against tariffs the US government imposed on May 10. The White House is now threatening to levy 25% duties on all remaining Chinese goods the US imports.

With both sides girding for battle, it’s worth taking stock of their respective weaponry. The US buys huge quantities of stuff from China, importing a record $540 billion worth of goods and services in 2018, despite the imposition of tariffs that year. That limits US president Donald Trump to the fairly straightforward response of simply hiking tariff levels on Chinese goods higher and higher, but risking a backlash at home from consumers and businesses.

China’s options are a bit more complicated. China imports a relatively small volume of branded goods from the US, but is still a huge market for US agricultural products and other commodities. Beijing does, however, have other, less conventional weapons at its disposal that Trump does not. Let’s review some.
Fire up the China propaganda machine

This Book Proves How Far China's Military Has Come (And How Far It Must Go)

In the days before the Internet, it was difficult to find detailed, timely information on foreign armed forces. Secretive, backward China was a particularly difficult country to assess.

The Chinese War Machine changed that. The 1979 book was, for a long time, the best look at the Chinese armed forces an ordinary person could hope to get. The authors and contributors — including a youthful Bill Sweetman—hailed from highly-regarded institutions including Sandhurst, the Warship Society, the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, the Rand Corporation and Jane’s.

Cuba gains independence from the United States. Tomás Estrada Palma becomes the country's first President.

The U.S.-Iran Confrontation: How Did We Get Here?

Since 1979, the United States and Iran have been locked in varying degrees of confrontation. Since the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, Washington has taken an increasingly tough sanctions line. Now, Tehran and Washington's diplomatic confrontation is escalating, which increases the risk of a military conflict. Because a general regional war would have a devastating impact on global energy markets and the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf, Washington and Tehran are attempting to outmaneuver each other without resorting to open conflict. The United States is signaling to Iran that it must come to the negotiating table again for a new deal or face economic collapse, or worse. Meanwhile, Iran is trying to show the United States that the costs of imposing its power on Iran outweigh the benefits — and that Iranian forces are willing to retaliate against U.S. pressure, be it economic or military.

Assembled in this compendium are a number of essential Stratfor analyses that set the scene for the current phase of escalation between the United States and Iran.

A Path to War With Iran

By Philip H. Gordon

When President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal last May, many critics argued that he risked setting off a chain of events that could lead to war. The nuclear deal wasn’t perfect, supporters of the deal acknowledged, but if the United States precipitously walked away and the deal collapsed, Iran might resume its nuclear enrichment program, and to stop it, the United States would end up with no option but to use force. This in turn could ignite a wider conflagration. But administration officials and other opponents of the deal dismissed such concerns—even as they insisted that in the agreement’s absence, the best way to block Iran’s nuclear program was with the “credible military option.”

Now the inevitable escalation cycle seems well under way. As part of its “maximum pressure” campaign, in the past month alone the United States has designated the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a terrorist group; ended the waivers that allowed a small number of countries to purchase Iranian oil despite U.S. sanctions; announced additional sanctions designed to cripple the country’s economy; and even deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region to send “a clear and unmistakable message” to the Iranian regime not to challenge the United States. 

The Iran Question – OpEd

By Dr. Arshad M. Khan*

Will there be war with Iran? Will there not be war with Iran? The questions are being asked repeatedly in the media even though a single carrier task force is steaming up there. The expression is old for the latest carriers are nuclear powered. Imagine the mess if it was blown up.

There are two kinds of weapons in the world … offensive and defensive. The latter are cheaper, a fighter plane compared to a bomber. If a country does not (or cannot afford to) have offensive intent, it makes sense to focus on defense. It is what Iran has done. Moreover, its missile centered defense has a modern deadly twist — the missiles are precision-guided. 

As an Iranian general remarked when questioned about the carrier task force: some years ago it would’ve been a threat he opined; now it’s a target. Iran also has a large standing army of 350,000 plus a 120,000 strong Revolutionary Guard and Soviet style air defenses. In 2016 Russia started installation of the S-300 system. It has all kinds of variants, the most advanced, the S-300 PMU-3 has a range similar to the S-400 if equipped with 40N6E missiles, which are used also in the S-400. Their range is 400 km, so the Iranian batteries are virtually S-400s. The wily Putin has kept trump satisfied with the S-300 moniker without short-changing his and China’s strategic ally. The latter continuing to buy Iranian oil.

Nuclear War Is Still Very Possible and Very Scary

Tyler Cowen

One of the most striking facts of today’s world is that young people do not seem to worry very much about nuclear war. Climate change is by far the larger concern, while nuclear war is seen as a threat of the past. As Chapin Boyer, who is in his late 20s, wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists a few years ago: “I cannot remember a time when the threat of nuclear weapons seemed real. … My generation grew up believing that the problem of nuclear weapons had been solved.”

In contrast, I am inclined to think that the risk of nuclear war remains the world’s No. 1 problem, even if that risk does not seem so pressing on any particular day.

The Russian government-funded TV network’s hyperbolic campaign against US 5G

By Matt Field

“All of our digital tech sends this data back and forth using these invisible microwave radiation signals, aka radiofrequency radiation,” Michele Greenstein, an RT America correspondent, told her viewers. “That’s today’s tech. We have every cell tower, every router, constantly pulsing with radiation, whether or not you’re using it.”

Greenstein was in the studio for another of RT America’s signature hits on 5G technology, the next generation of cellular data transmission being rolled out in the United States and elsewhere. “I’m saying there should at least be a public debate about the health effects.”

Greenstein’s network, it turns out, is one of the main voices calling for that debate, according to a recent report in The New York Times. And for a network funded by the Russian government, it’s also a call that’s strikingly at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own views. The Times notes that Putin is a strong promoter of 5G, which is short for fifth generation. In a recent speech, Putin outlined his plans for a 5G network. “We need to look forward. The challenge for the upcoming years is to organize universal access to high-speed Internet, to start operation of the fifth-generation communication systems.”

Europe’s Only Decision


STOCKHOLM – As the European Parliament election approaches, Europe is abuzz with speculation over who will lead the main European Union institutions for the next five years. Among the positions up for grabs are those currently held by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker; European Council President Donald Tusk; Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

This month’s European Parliament election is widely viewed as a turning point that will decide the European Union’s fate. But even if Europe is spared large gains by disruptive populist forces, it won’t be out of the woods.0Add to Bookmarks

Personnel issues are hardly trivial. In politics, personality matters, and it has often played a pivotal role in determining the EU’s trajectory. Still, the leadership name game should not be the main focus. Far more important is the debate over the EU’s 2019-2024 strategic agenda.

Twitter Diplomacy: Preventing Twitter Wars from Escalating into Real Wars

by: Chu Wang

Just two weeks ago, a tweet cost the global stock markets roughly $1.36 trillion (or Australia’s annual GDP). With 280 characters on Twitter, the U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to raise tariffs on select Chinese imports, instilling lower market confidence, triggering significant volatility, and exacerbating existing political uncertainties. Using Twitter as a form of diplomacy, President Trump signalled U.S.-China’s deteriorating trade relations to the entire world.

Twitter diplomacy is when world leaders and government agencies issue foreign policy-related statements and reactions over Twitter. No longer merely a place for celebrity feuds and snarky commentary, Twitter has become the preferred social media platform for public officials and governments to communicate their foreign policy positions. To explore what is really at stake in Twitter diplomacy, it is important to explore why Twitter diplomacy matters, why world leaders use it, what it means for diplomatic relations, and how governments can manage the associated risks.

Why Does Twitter Diplomacy Matter?

Bound to Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Liberal International Order

John J. Mearsheimer 

The liberal international order that was established after the Cold War and led by the United States was destined to collapse because of its fundamental flaws. Liberal excesses provoked a powerful nationalist backlash, rendering the liberal order a failed enterprise with no future. In the emerging multipolar world, there will be a realist order to manage the world economy, and Chinese-led and U.S.-led bounded orders that will help the two great powers to prosecute their security competition.

Peace and War: The View from Russia

By Melanie Anstey

From poisoning former spies in London to tampering in US elections. Leading the military support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria and playing a part in the pro-leave campaign in Britain's Brexit referendum. From nurturing friendly relations with Iran and Turkey to a military attack on Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea... Russian President Vladimir Putin finds himself at the centre of the world's political map.

Not since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has the Kremlin seemingly wielded so much influence in international affairs. This very much fits in with Putin's ideological makeup. As a former Soviet spy based in Germany he was very invested in Russia expanding its sphere of influence... and was certainly not adverse to the use of skulduggery to achieve these goals.

What is Russia hoping to achieve and who are the people devising the strategy that has put Russian President Vladimir Putin as a lead actor on the world stage? 

How other countries are responding to Trump's Huawei threat

Donald Trump’s executive order effectively bars US companies from using telecoms equipment supplied by ‘foreign adversaries’. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that effectively bars US companies from using telecoms equipment supplied by “foreign adversaries” deemed to pose “unacceptable risks” to national security.

The “national emergency” ban is aimed at controversial Chinese telecom Huawei, which the US claims could use equipment supplied to forthcoming 5G voice and data networks to spy on western governments.

New research: How effective is basic account hygiene at preventing hijackin

by Kurt Thomas and Angelika Moscicki

Every day, we protect users from hundreds of thousands of account hijacking attempts. Most attacks stem from automated bots with access to third-party password breaches, but we also see phishing and targeted attacks. Earlier this year, we suggested how just five simple steps like adding a recovery phone number can help keep you safe, but we wanted to prove it in practice.

We teamed up with researchers from New York University and the University of California, San Diego to find out just how effective basic account hygiene is at preventing hijacking. The year-long study, on wide-scale attacks and targeted attacks, was presented on Wednesday at a gathering of experts, policy makers, and users called The Web Conference.

Our research shows that simply adding a recovery phone number to your Google Account can block up to 100% of automated bots, 99% of bulk phishing attacks, and 66% of targeted attacks that occurred during our investigation.

Google’s automatic, proactive hijacking protection

When you can’t jam a UAV signal, drone-on-drone violence will do just fine

By: Kelsey D. Atherton 

Jamming a signal is only effective if the signal is important. As militaries develop more autonomous machines, finding an answer in the kinetic, instead of the electromagnetic, spectrum will become the order of the day. That’s true for expensive flying machines and ground vehicles, and it’s also true for cheaper, commercial platforms, like autonomous quadcopters.

Enter the drone interceptors.

The drone mitigation market includes everything from eagles to net guns, but a lot of recent focus has been on jammers that put interference between the drone and either its pilot or the GPS signals upon which the drone relies. An alternative approach, demonstrated in a video by AerialX, is to simply launch another drone on a collision course with the target and trust that the impact will clear the target robot out of the sky.

Cybersecurity: Changing the Model

Author Franklin Kramer, Robert Butler

Franklin Kramer and Robert Butler contend that the US’ model of cybersecurity is outdated. Indeed, they contend that Washington’s cybersecurity deficiencies are only going to create greater risks for the country as its adversaries continue to grow more sophisticated and as a new period of great power competition emerges. In response, Kramer and Butler propose a new cybersecurity model, which would involve enhanced involvement from the federal government, improved public-private coordination, increased cooperation with international allies and more.

Deterring “Competition Short of War”

Robert C. Jones

Author’s Note: I wrote the following piece in the spring of 2016 to help provoke thinking on how the concept of deterrence should evolve in order to stay in step with the rapidly evolving strategic environment. I wrote this in my capacity as the strategic advisor to the Director of Plans, Policy and Strategy at United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). My boss was preparing to serve as a panel member at the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) annual Deterrence Symposium held in the July of that year. The paper was distributed to each of the 650 symposium attendees. Over the course of the event, several experts on traditional approaches to deterrence engaged me to discuss the paper. Most of those conversations consisted of explaining to me how my thoughts did not comport with deterrence theory and doctrine. Getting the deterrence experts to think about their area of expertise in a new context was the primary goal of the paper, so I considered these all positive engagements.

I titled it Deterring “Competition Short of War,” as that was the buzz phrase of 2016. In 2019 the buzz has evolved to “competition short of armed conflict.” If I were to re-title the paper today, I would call it Deterring Competition Below the Threshold of Traditional Deterrence. After all, that is the primary challenge facing the US military today. Traditional deterrence works very well to deter war; but competition is peace. Traditional deterrence is largely impotent in addressing unwanted, sometimes aggressive, often illegal, acts of competition by revisionist actors to seek to expand their own claims to sovereign privilege at the expense of another.

Energy And The Military: Leading By Example – Analysis

By Constantine Samaras, Morgan D. Bazilian and William J. Nuttall*

As the world demands more energy, nations face the often-competing pressures to increase energy access and affordability, protect the environment, and assure energy security. The military, long focused on energy issues related to mission delivery, has often been at the forefront of technological innovation and deployment. The quiet innovations in the defense sector could help solve energy challenges nations confront today.

In energy policy circles, the conventional concept of energy security relates to economic prosperity and social harmony. In a globalized energy market, energy policies are designed to reduce the economic impacts of supply and price shocks through efficiency, diversified supplies, and fuel choice. In military energy decision-making, however, “security” focuses on achieving strategic objectives, and enables nearly everything the military does. In the defense domain, energy has the potential to be both an enabler of hard power but also a weapon of war via denial and willful coercion.