2 September 2019

The Road to 'Naya Kashmir'

Raj Chengappa 

The Modi government radically resets the political status quo in Kashmir. Can it pull it off?

The sprawling Dal Lake, surrounded by emerald green mountains, is both the heart and the soul of Kashmir. Every August, the lake is full of life, with tourists thronging its banks, taking selfies; dozens of shikaras, weighed down with sightseers, gliding on its waters; and vendors selling roasted bhutta (corn on the cob) and mutton tikkas doing brisk business. Not this August though.

It's a bright Saturday morning, and 19 days since the Modi government's momentous decision on August 5 to overturn Article 370 of the Constitution, ending the special status that Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed for 70 years. The lake and its surroundings are deserted. Empty shikaras float tethered together near the pier with no boatmen in sight. A couple of anglers sit at the edge of the lake, casting their lines in the hope of catching some fish. A Kashmiri couple on a shikara does the same, the woman paddling and the man lowering a net into the water. Stray joggers pound the paved pathway girding the lake as gun-toting guards keep watch on the lakefront from behind sandbag bunkers.

The calm is deceptive. With a total shutdown of telecommunications (except for government officials handling the situation) and restrictions on movement for ordinary citizens, it is difficult to gauge the mood of the Valley's 6.9 million citizens from anecdotal accounts. Behind shuttered shopfronts, owners conduct businesses furtively. Like the bakery doing brisk business through the side door where customers are lined up to buy freshly baked bread and cakes. Residents in private cars stop by stray vegetable sellers, who have set up temporary shops, to stock up on groceries.

The India Dividend

By Robert D. Blackwill And Ashley J. Tellis 

For two decades, Washington has had high hopes for India on the global stage. Gigantic, populous, and resource rich, India is, by all appearances, a superpower in waiting. And as the world’s largest democracy, it promises—according to those hopes—to be a crucial U.S. partner at a time of rising competition from authoritarian challengers.

Almost 20 years ago, acting on such expectations, Washington began resolving the disagreements that had held U.S.-Indian relations back through the Cold War and into the 1990s. During George W. Bush’s presidency, U.S. officials gave up their long-standing insistence that India relinquish its nuclear weapons, allowing Washington and New Delhi to sign a landmark nuclear accord and opening the way to heavy U.S. investments—diplomatic, economic, and military—to facilitate India’s rise. Successive U.S. administrations provided liberal access to military technologies and promoted India’s role in international institutions, culminating in President Barack Obama’s endorsement of Indian aspirations to permanent membership in the UN Security Council. Albeit imperiled by the Trump administration’s disregard for allies and partners, this basic U.S. approach continues to this day.

India’s ‘multipolar Asia’ and China

Jagannath Panda, IDSA

India envisions a ‘multipolar Asia’: shared regional leadership where major and minor powers have equal standing in decision-making. This model is based on the rationale that China’s rise in Asia is unbalancing the regional power structure and eroding India’s strategic choices. While a growing association with China in bilateral and multilateral mechanisms has made New Delhi more open to Beijing’s engagement, China’s strategic urge to dominate has also created a need for caution.

India’s vision for a multipolar Asia rests on three critical elements. First, India aims to make global governance more equitable, pluralistic and representative. Beijing has long enjoyed the structural advantage of being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Achieving power parity with China in global decision-making bodies, primarily at the UNSC, has always been one of India’s underlying foreign policy objectives. New Delhi’s G4 association with Japan in Asia, along with Germany and Brazil at a global level, reflects a multipolar approach.

The politics, military tactics & geography behind how Pakistan won Gilgit-Baltistan from India


The region of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan, as we know it today, comprised of Gilgit Agency and Gilgit Wazarat back in 1947. The original ‘Himalayan Blunder’ (Himalayan Blunder is one term) was with regard to the Gilgit Agency and the Gilgit Wazarat, a fact that many might not remember today.

A lot has been written about the ‘Himalayan Blunder’ committed by India in 1962. But even more has been written about the blunders committed in the prosecution of the India-Pakistan war over Kashmir in 1947-48 — notable is the reference to the United Nations by Jawaharlal Nehru at the time when India was gaining momentum in the war. Poonch had been secured. Enemy forces had been chased away from the outskirts of Leh, and Kargil had been won back. India only needed a last push to capture Skardu back and take Muzaffarabad and Mirpur.

History would also tell you that Jammu and Kashmir was also the only princely state that was not under the charge of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. In December 1947, J&K was removed from the State Department under Patel and moved under the PM. Gopalaswamy Aiyangar, a minister without portfolio, was made in-charge. This led to Patel resigning from the Cabinet. Mahātmā Gandhi had to intervene and effect reconciliation.

Afghanistan Is Not Iraq

by Lawrence J. Korb 
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As the Trump administration appears to be close to finalizing a peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, many members of the foreign-policy establishment are urging the administration not to repeat the mistakes the Obama administration made in Iraq by withdrawing all American forces in December 2011. President Barack Obama did so despite some warnings that the withdrawal of American troops could lead to a resurgence of violence. 

A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by retired Gen. David Petraeus and foreign-policy commentator Vance Serchuk, as well as a recent editorial from the Washington Post, blame Obama for unnecessarily leaving Iraq. Trump loyalist Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) echoes those claims and argues that Trump should learn from Obama’s mistakes.

Afghanistan: Has the war cost America $500bn?

The US military has spent billions of dollars since 2001 fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

But the end may finally be in sight for America's military presence in the country if the current talks taking place in Doha between the United States and the Taliban reach a successful conclusion.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said the war has "cost the United States government and society $500bn".

How accurate is this figure and how might it have been reached?

US troop levels in Afghanistan

2002 - 2018

Trump Says Taliban Talks Going Well, But No Deal Yet Amid Reports Of Lawmakers' Unease

U.S. President Donald Trump says negotiations are going well with the Taliban but that the sides have not yet reached a deal over a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Trump made the brief remarks to reporters at the White House on August 30 as he was leaving for the Camp David, Maryland, presidential retreat.

A day earlier, Trump had said that, while U.S. troop levels in war-ravaged Afghanistan were being cut, the United States would continue to maintain a military presence in the country even after a peace deal with the Taliban is reached.

Speaking in an interview on Fox News Radio on August 29, Trump said troop levels would fall to around 8,600 "and then we make a determination from there.”

"We're going to keep a presence there. We're reducing that presence very substantially and we're going to always have a presence. We're going to have high intelligence," he added.

Khalilzad Edges Closer to Pact With Taliban

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Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghan reconciliation, is on the verge of an agreement with the Taliban that would pave the way for the withdrawal of some 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees that the war-wracked nation would not be used as a haven for international terrorism, according to diplomatic sources.

Khalilzad will now mount a final push to persuade Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, to accept the agreement ahead of the country’s Sept. 28 presidential election. If a deal is clinched, the United States will hold a signing ceremony with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, before an audience of representatives from key world powers, including from the region, Europe, and possibly China and Russia.

After reaching a tentative deal with the Taliban during the ninth round of talks in Doha, Khalilzad is expected to travel to Kabul for two to three days to seek Ghani’s approval, according to a diplomatic source with contacts in the Afghan government and the Taliban. Khalilzad would then return to Doha to sign the pact with the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the source said.

South Asia: Unrestricted Conventional Warfare

Mangesh Sawant


The February Indian air strikes in Pakistan has completely changed the dynamics of Pakistan’s strategy of supporting and sponsoring terrorism against India as unconventional warfare and being protected by the threat of first use nuclear attack doctrine. It has also transformed India’s defensive and cautious strategy of strategic restraint. Nuclear deterrence is no longer an impediment in South Asia. Rather nuclear deterrence is dependent on various factors like geography, conventional weapon systems and preemptive strikes against the adversary. Capabilities alone are not enough as intentions are crucial in launching a nuclear attack. Pakistan is constrained in various ways and it cannot launch a conventional war. It was unable defend its territory against the Indian attack. Neither was it able to launch a nuclear attack under its first strike nuclear attack doctrine. Pakistan is aware of India’s 4th and 5th generation conventional strike capabilities and its superiority in second strike nuclear capacity.

Pakistan knows that the cost imposed by India in a second nuclear strike outweighs the benefits gained through a first nuclear strike. Pakistan’s age-old strategy of waging unrestricted hybrid warfare under the nuclear umbrella without any retaliation from India is over. Now India has started unrestricted warfare with conventional capabilities. India has proved that strategic stability is not guaranteed by nuclear deterrence. Conventional superiority overwhelms nuclear deterrence in South Asia. It’s the age of unrestricted warfare for technologically advanced militaries in conventional warfare environment with nuclear armed adversaries. This is the new normal.

Is the long peace in Asia unraveling?

Ryan Hass

A year ago, I wrote an editorial for these pages previewing key regional trends to watch – a potential thawing of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, China’s increasing diplomatic activism, and the steady deterioration of U.S.-China relations. A year later, this list has multiplied.

Danger lights are flashing in virtually every corner of Asia. As my Brookings Institution colleague Richard Bush recently warned, the long peace in Asia increasingly appears at risk.

In Northeast Asia, Japan and the Republic of Korea are locked in a mutually destructive contest of wills over unresolved historical grievances. Chinese and Russian forces recently conducted their first-ever joint air patrols through the Sea of Japan, triggering Japan and South Korea each to scramble military jets to intercept the mission. North Korea is expanding its nuclear and missile capabilities, all while Kim Jong Un creates the illusion – at least in the mind of President Trump – that he is interested in bargaining away his arsenal for economic incentives.

A U.S.-China trade clash quickly is evolving into a comprehensive confrontation, whereby every dimension of the relationship is becoming defined by enmity. China’s ongoing purchases of Iranian oil in contravention of American sanctions, and America’s stated intent to deploy intermediate-range missiles to the region following its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty – and China’s pledge of a military response – are crowding into an already long list of strains.

US Tariff Wars Penalize Chinese Development And African Futures – Analysis

By Dan Steinbock

In the coming months, some of the worst collateral damage of US tariff wars will occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The adverse impact is likely to be aggravated by US protectionism, which shuns economic integration in Africa.

After US tariff wars undermined the global recovery momentum in 2018, the World Bank projected in June that the world economy would only expand by 2.6 percent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has affirmed the trade wars could wipe $455 billion off global GDP in 2020.

The adverse impact on sub-Saharan Africa is reflected by downgraded projections. In April, the World Bank cut the 2019 growth forecast for the region to 2.8 percent from 3.3 percent.

Until the commodity price slump of 2015, Africa enjoyed a decade of rapid growth. The recovery of those growth levels could take long, due to the decline in industrial production and particularly as the US-Sino trade war is taking its toll.

Indeed, the collateral damage in Africa is about to begin.

Trade wars’ impact on Africa

South Korea and Japan Have More in Common Than They Think (Like the China Challenge)

by Jung H. Pak Ethan Jewell

With South Korea’s decision to scrap the 2016 military intelligence sharing agreement with Japan, the two sides have dramatically aggravated their fraught relationship. Bilateral ties had never been great, but in the past several weeks, a trade spat has snowballed into a confrontation that apparently has yet to reach rock bottom. Earlier this month, Tokyo removed South Korea from its list of favored trading partners, which includes the United States, Germany, France, and two dozen other countries, placing export curbs on industrial and high-tech products. This sparked a reciprocal move from Seoul, sending ripples of fear about the potentially destabilizing and detrimental effect of these moves.

The rhetoric from the leadership in the two capitals has exacerbated the degraded relationship, whipping up nationalist fervor among the populace, leaving little space for compromise. Of the 1965 treaty that established diplomatic relations, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe stated that South Korea has unilaterally “violated the treaty that served as the basis for us to normalize ties,” and South Korean president Moon Jae-indeclared, “We will never again lose to Japan,” invoking Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910–1945. Of the General Security of Military Information Agreement that Seoul recently decided to exit, the Blue House said that the pact did not comport with Seoul’s national interest, while protesters outside the Japanese Embassy cheered when the news was announced.

A Reckoning over Hong Kong Is Coming and It Will Take China's Economy with It

by Carlos Roa 
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The situation in Hong Kong is disconcerting for China’s government: what started as a protest in opposition to a controversial extradition bill has morphed into nothing less than an outright revolt against the city’s indirect rule by mainland authorities. The “one country two systems” compact seems dead to demonstrators on the street who are showing up in the hundreds of thousands. These protesters are rattling Beijing by signaling a commitment to continue their activities until their demands are met—one of which is the implementation of universal suffrage. One can hardly imagine a greater nightmare scenario for the Communist Party apparatchiks in the mainland.

Yet such a possibility does exist. While much has been made of the political dimension and the implications of the protests, the economic dimension has gone under-reported. This is rather curious, since nothing else could be more pressing for China.

China Pressures Foreign Companies to Fall In Line on Protests

By Tim Bartz
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Fine wood, black display cases and shiny metal edges: The discount German grocery chain Aldi Süd wanted to make its first two new locations in China count. Inside the chic new stores, which opened in June, shoppers can find something called "Berliner Bao," a supposedly tasty combination of sausage, sauerkraut and steamed Chinese dumplings, but also wine from Bordeaux and milk from Australia.

Aldi hopes to cash in on the prosperity of China's growing middle class. German products are in high demand in China. Germany is among the 10 largest exporters of food and beverages to the country. Until this summer, Aldi had only sold its wares to Chinese consumers via an online shop. Now, it has finally expanded to brick-and-mortar locations.

In China, only companies who behave are permitted to do business. Aldi's managers know this. That's why they don't talk about freedom or democracy when asked about the situation in Hong Kong. Instead, they simply go on about the safety of their employees. "The current political protests," Aldi said in a statement, "is something we take very seriously in relation to the safety of our employees."

‘China’s Vision of Victory’

The world nervously awaits a potential clampdown by Chinese security forces following weeks of clashes between police and demonstrators in Hong Kong. Global markets are reeling from the latest news of a Chinese currency devaluation in the trade war launched by U.S. President Donald Trump. Some analysts warn of an impending cold war between Washington and Beijing.

Amid the confusing flurry of media headlines, Jonathan D.T. Ward’s China’s vision of victory presents a sobering, incisive and clearly argued distillation of Chinese grand strategy and its implications for the international order. Ward offers nothing short of a lightning bolt to the American (and by extension Western, allied) policy community with a wake-up call on Chinese intentions to redraw the map with Beijing at the centre of the global order.

Ward argues that current U.S. policy towards China, which he refers to as ‘engage but hedge’, has definitively failed to curb Beijing’s appetite for destruction and, worse, abetted China’s militaristic rise, leading us to ‘the end of an American-led order’. We are at the brink, but Ward insists there’s still time to correct course to prevent the demise of the existing order and its replacement by an authoritarian Sino-centric one.

Google is moving Pixel production from China to an old Nokia factory in Vietnam

Google is working to move the production of its Pixel smartphones from China to Vietnam as the company seeks to avoid higher Chinese manufacturing costs as well as the looming concern of Trump-issued tariffs on Chinese goods that would raise prices on its phones, according to a report from Nikkei.

This isn’t Google’s first move out of China. The company was reportedly working to move Nest and server hardware production for devices bound for the US to Taiwan and Malaysia earlier this year, also to avoid rising tariffs due to the US / China trade war.

While the Nikkei report doesn’t specify which partner Google is working with to produce Pixel phones in Vietnam, Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan points out that it’s likely FIH Mobile, a Foxconn subsidiary that previously bought Nokia’s Vietnam factory from Microsoft. That lines up with the Nikkei report, which claims that Google is planning to convert an old Nokia plant for producing its own phones.

Pentagon Seeks to Counter China’s Drone Edge

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With geopolitical tensions rising between China and the United States, the U.S. Defense Department is making a push to boost domestic production of crucial technology in hopes of cultivating an American alternative that can be used securely on the battlefield. Its most immediate worry: the global small-drone market.

Faced with growing security concerns about Chinese tech companies sharing sensitive data with Beijing, the Pentagon recently banned the use of drones built by China’s DJI and may soon ban all Chinese-built drones and Chinese-manufactured components from military use. But due to the country’s domination of the market and the dwindling U.S. supply of the smallest class of unmanned aerial systems (UASs)—handheld drones increasingly used for reconnaissance missions—U.S. troops now have limited options.

Saudi Arabia and Israel Are Growing Closer. Why?


The simple answer is Iran. But there is a more complex answer as well.

While the connection of Jews to Israel is frequently in the news, the changing nature of Jewish and Israeli links to Arab countries is a story that has shown up less frequently. Yet that change is significant and noteworthy. 

A new synagogue recently open in Dubai, the first in decades. Jared Kushner, an observant Jew and a top adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, is close friends with the acting ruler of Saudi Arabia. The foreign minister of Bahrain, a Gulf Arab country, gave an interview to Israeli media, highlighting the important role that Israel has in the contemporary Middle East. This is a shift in official Arab postures towards Jews and Israel.

Since Israeli independence in 1948, the country’s presence in the region and dominion over Palestinian Arabs have fostered four major wars with Arab neighboring countries. Israel has only slowly achieved formal peace and diplomatic relations with Egypt, in 1979, and Jordan in 1994. 

Protest: The King Is Dead, Long Live The King – OpEd

By James M. Dorsey

Protest is back on the front burner.

Protesters occupy streets in cities ranging from Hong Kong and Moscow to Khartoum and Algiers. They would likely do so in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, were it not forunprecedented pre-emptive security measures.

When protest is not on the streets, it is embedded in culture wars wracking countries like the United States, Germany and India that stem from the struggle between liberals and mainstream conservatives on one side of the divide and civilisationalists, populists, extreme nationalists and far-right wingers on the other.

A clamour for transparent, accountable rule that delivers public goods and services is at the core of the protests even if some are framed as battles for environmental and economic issues and against corruption rather than democracy or in terms of nationalism, civilisationalism, racism and opposition to migration.

The sparks of the protests differ from country to country. So does the political environment. And the stakes at various stages of the game vary.

Israel Is Escalating Its Shadow War With Iran. Here's What to Know

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The protracted shadow war between Israel and Iran has spilled beyond the borders of Syria following a series of attacks in Iraq and Lebanon blamed on Israel, and threats of Hezbollah retaliation that reporters in Israel and Lebanon say has prompted the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to station dummy soldiers in jeeps along its northern border.

Israel’s state of high alert over potential cross border attacks comes days after U.S. officials leaked confirmation Israel was behind a July bombing at a weapons factory in Iraq—which they said Iran was using to transport weapons to Syria. Lebanon blamed Israel for a drone strike on Sunday in the suburbs of Beirut. Following Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s meeting with United Nations Security Council envoys to protest what he called a “clear Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty” on Monday, the U.N. called on both sides to exercise “maximum restraint.”

James Schoff: Japan and Korea 'Have Given up on Each Other'

By Ankit Panda

In August, Japan and South Korea both upped the ante in their intensifying trade dispute. Japan made good on its threat to remove South Korea from a “white list” of trusted export destinations, meaning extra hoops to jump through for the export of sensitive technologies to its neighbor. South Korea responded in kind, removing Japan from its own “white list.”

Tokyo has repeatedly claimed that the new trade restrictions are the result of concerns over South Korean export controls, which Japan insists could let sensitive materials cross into North Korea or China. But many believe the restrictions are the result of a far more toxic brew of nationalism and historical issues, which is being reciprocated in South Korea.

To help sort through the root causes of today’s dispute, The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda spoke to James L. Schoff, a senior fellow in the Carnegie Asia Program. In the following conversation, Schoff explains 2019’s trade tensions in light of longstanding fractures in the Japan-South Korea relationship, and what that legacy means for 21st century geopolitics.

Economic Pitfalls and Political Uncertainty in Argentina

Earlier this month, Argentine President Mauricio Macri lost presidential primary elections to opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez, leaving Macri’s chances of winning reelection in doubt. The result came amid high inflation and a struggling economy, which Macri had tried to address using a series of austerity measures.

Brazil, The Amazon, And Global Warming – OpEd

By Dean Baker

Brazil has gotten a huge amount of bad press with the fires in the Amazon with the emphasis on the harm its development policies are doing to efforts to limit global warming. While the policies of Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, are disastrous, there is an important part of the story that is being left out of most discussions.

The reason that we are worried about global warming is because rich countries, most importantly the United States, have been spewing huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for well over a century, while destroying the native forests on their lands. They also have paid to have forests in other countries destroyed in order to meet their resource needs.

This is the context in which the destruction of the Amazon is a worldwide problem of enormous proportions. (The Amazon is treasure which should be preserved even if global warming was not a crisis, but that is a different matter.)

More Than 400 Global Shapers Meet In Geneva To Spark Global Change

The 2019 Global Shapers Annual Summit will take place in Geneva, Switzerland from August 30, 2019 to September 1, 2019. More than 400 Global Shapers – young people under the age of 30, working together to create positive change – will meet to discuss the theme of “Leading for Impact” and to exchange ideas on driving dialogue and action to address local, regional and global challenges.

The Shapers, representing about 150 countries, will share their experiences, their impact and the lessons learned in managing grassroots projects in their local Global Shaper Hubs and through regional and global collaborations. They will also participate in skills-building and leadership-development workshops.

“Young people are at the forefront of change around the world, from fighting to combat climate change to demanding economic and social justice,” said Wadia Ait Hamza, Head of the Global Shapers Community, World Economic Forum. “The Global Shapers Annual Summit brings the community together to exchange ideas and create powerful partnerships that are transforming local communities and inspiring global action to address the most pressing challenges of our time.”


American officials say that a US cyberattack against Iran that was launched earlier this summer has had a lingering impact on the Iranian military’s ability to target oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, according to a new report in the New York Times.

Iranians are reportedly still recovering targeted systems, networks, and data after the cyberattack which was launched in June at a peak in tensions between Iran and American allies.

The players: The attack was launched by US Cyber Command. It targeted and reportedly wiped out a key database used by Iran’s paramilitary forces known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. The Revolutionary Guards is responsible for mine attacks that hit two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, US officials allege. Iran denies responsibility.

The targeted database was reportedly used by the Revolutionary Guards to plan attacks in the Persian Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz is a strategically key choke point dividing the Gulf from the Sea of Oman. Almost half the world’s oil trade passes through the strait.

What Congress Is (And Isn’t) Doing on 5G

By Margaret Taylor 

There is near-universal agreement on Capitol Hill about the importance of American leadership in the field of 5G technology as well as the importance of protecting the networks of the United States and its allies’ networks from prying eyes and cyberattacks. There is also consensus that the United States is playing catch-up compared to competitors like China and that more needs to be done. Both the House and the Senate have held hearings addressing 5G this year, and members have used national security-related hearings to raise questions and gather information about 5G. At least 23 legislative items that specifically mention or address 5G—10 in the Senate and 13 in the House—have been introduced in the 116th Congress. Most are bipartisan and many are also bicameral, meaning the same text is supported by both Democrats and Republicans and has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.

Exporting digital authoritarianism

Digital authoritarianism — the use of digital information technology by authoritarian regimes to surveil, repress, and manipulate domestic and foreign populations — is reshaping the power balance between democracies and autocracies. At the forefront of this phenomenon, China and Russia have developed and exported distinct technology-driven playbooks for authoritarian rule. Beijing’s experience using digital tools for domestic censorship and surveillance has made it the supplier of choice for illiberal regimes looking to deploy their own surveillance systems, while Moscow’s lower-cost digital disinformation tools have proven effective in repressing potential opposition at home and undermining democracies abroad.

This policy brief examines the development and export of both the Chinese and Russian models. China pioneered digital age censorship with its “Great Firewall” of a state-controlled Internet and unprecedented high-tech repression deployed in Xinjiang in recent years, and has exported surveillance and monitoring systems to at least 18 countries. Russia relies less on filtering information and more on a repressive legal regime and intimidation of key companies and civil society, a lower-cost ad hoc model more easily transferable to most countries. The Russian government has made recent legal and technical moves which further tighten control, including legislation passed this year to establish a “sovereign Russian internet.”

The authors recommend that the United States and other democracies should tighten export controls on technologies that advance digital authoritarianism, sanction regimes engaging in digital authoritarianism and firms that supply them, develop a competitive democratic model of digital governance with a code of conduct, and increase public awareness around information manipulation, including funding educational programs to build digital critical thinking skills among youth.

Emerging technology can replace workers — or train them for new work

Jack Karsten

In 2012, venture capitalist and entrepreneur Marc Andreesen predicted that jobs will be divided between “people who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do.” Already, smartphones and other internet-connected devices assign work in a wide variety of environments, from Amazon warehouses to city streets. Workers that take assignments from computers may see their jobs completely automated as artificial intelligence and robots become more capable over time. However, these same devices also have the potential to train workers in new skills and ride out successive waves of automation.

Skills training typically comes through higher education or from companies themselves. However, rising college tuition costs and shrinking investments in training reduce the opportunity for employees to acquire the skills needed for new kinds of work. Now, newly-emerging technologies may help to fill this void in skills training. Augmented realityand virtual reality can bring computers to manual jobs far removed from an office, giving companies and workers more options for how and where retraining takes place. Rather than requiring employees to go to a classroom or an online portal, AR and VR headsets can teach workers new skills on-site.

US waged cyberattack on database used by Iran to target tankers: NYTimes

Washington (AFP) - The United States staged a secret cyberattack in June against a database used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to plot attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, The New York Times reported.

The newspaper, quoting senior US officials, said the June 20 attack had degraded the ability of Iran's paramilitary force to target shipping in the Gulf.

It said Iran was still trying to recover information and restart military communications networks and other systems knocked offline.

The Times said the cyberstrike was the latest in an ongoing cyberconflict between the United States and Iran.

It said the cyberattack went ahead after President Donald Trump had called off a retaliatory military airstrike against Iran for shooting down a US drone.

8 Ways to Stay Ahead of Influence Operations

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Influence operations are elusive to define. The Rand Corp.’s definition is as good as any: “the collection of tactical information about an adversary as well as the dissemination of propaganda in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent.” Basically, we know it when we see it, from bots controlled by the Russian Internet Research Agency to Saudi attempts to plant fake stories and manipulate political debate. These operations have been run by Iran against the United States, Russia against Ukraine, China against Taiwan, and probably lots more besides.

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there have been an endless series of ideas about how countries can defend themselves. It’s time to pull those together into a comprehensive approach to defending the public sphere and the institutions of democracy.

Influence operations don’t come out of nowhere. They exploit a series of predictable weaknesses—and fixing those holes should be the first step in fighting them. In cybersecurity, this is known as a “kill chain.” That can work in fighting influence operations, too—laying out the steps of an attack and building the taxonomy of countermeasures.