3 October 2019

Over 6 lakh rogue drones in India: Agencies

India has an estimated over six lakh rogue or unregulated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and security agencies are analysing modern anti-drone weapons like ‘sky fence’ and ‘drone gun’ to counter terror or similar sabotage bids by these aerial platforms, official sources said on Sunday.

An official blueprint prepared by central agencies says unregulated drones, UAVs and remotely-piloted aircraft system are a “potential threat” to vital installations, sensitive locations and specific events and a “compatible solution” is required to counter these.

A data estimation study conducted by these agencies state that over 6 lakh unregulated drones, of various sizes and capacities, are present in the country and anyone of these can be used for launching a nefarious act by disruptive elements. Recent incidents like the lethal drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s largest petroleum company and arms dropping by UAVs in Punjab from across the India-Pakistan border has alerted Indian security and intelligence agencies. The agencies are now looking at specific anti-drone techniques like ‘sky fence and ‘Skywall 100’ to intercept and immobilise suspicious and lethal remote-controlled aerial platforms. A report titled ‘Drones: A new frontier for Police’ , published in the Indian Police Journal by Additional DG of the Rajasthan Police, Pankaj Kumar Singh, has talked about these new techniques.

Pakistan’s offensive on Kashmir will persist. India must be ready | Analysis

By Ashok Malik

For the moment, India has prevailed in the Kashmir argument with Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s week-long visit to the United States (US) capped a period of fervid diplomacy. This stretched from Howdy Modi in Houston to a series of bilateral/plurilateral meetings in global capitals as well as at the United Nations (UN) in New York to staving off a challenge at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

For Modi himself, for foreign minister S Jaishankar, and for officials in the ministry of external affairs, there is a sense of quiet satisfaction. India has been able to persuade the world community that changes in the legal and political architecture of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh are well-intentioned and deserve a chance, despite short-term pain.

However, what has concluded is only the first round. The Kashmir issue is an article of faith for Pakistan, a critical organising principle of its foreign policy and self-identity. One must not underestimate the adversary’s resolve. Pakistan’s determination, even desperation, will keep Kashmir simmering as a diplomatic challenge for India for the foreseeable future.

Pakistan is hoping for two things.

Afghanistan’s 2019 Election (11): A first look at how E-Day went

Thomas Ruttig and Jelena Bjelica

The Independent Election Commission has given its first rough estimation of turnout in Afghanistan’s 2019 Presidential Elections. It was low, with fewer than two million voters out of 9.66 million registered, about a quarter, coming out to vote. The Taleban only managed to conduct one large-scale attack, in Kandahar city, but committed 400 other, mainly smaller-scale acts of violence against the poll in 29 provinces. However, turnout appears to have been dampened not just by Taleban threats, but also voter disinterest. The day also saw a number of technical shortcomings, from biometric devices not working to IEC personnel not finding voters’ names on the voter lists to election material sent to the wrong provinces. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig and Jelena Bjelica (with input from Kate Clark) have put together descriptions and data on how E-Day went, sent in by AAN’s five provincial observers, Obaid Ali, Rohullah Sorush, Ali Yawar Adili, Reza Kazemi and Fazal Muzhary, with Ali Mohammad Sabawoon and other team members in Kabul who also spoke to sources in other provinces (information only attributed when not from AAN sources).


Afghanistan Peace Negotiations May Be Dead, But The War’s Still Very Much Alive

by Meghann Meyers

Nearly 18 years after U.S. forces first dropped into Afghanistan, yet another administration is struggling to get out of the quagmire.

And the struggle is not going well.

As much as he wanted to pull troops out, President Donald Trump, like his predecessors, has not found the way forward.

When Trump took office, there were about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Now there are about 14,000. Troop deaths have risen to the most in years, the Taliban holds more territory than ever and a new foe, ISIS-K, has emerged to add to the deadly misery.

Trump has signaled his eagerness to withdraw in recent months, lamenting that troops are acting more as police officers and public works employees than war fighters…

China showcases fearsome new missiles to counter U.S. at military parade

Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s military on Tuesday showed off new equipment at a parade in central Beijing to mark 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, including hypersonic-glide missiles that experts say could be difficult for the United States to counter.

In a speech at the start of the nearly three-hour, highly choreographed spectacle, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that his country would stay on the path of “peaceful development,” but that the military would resolutely safeguard the country’s sovereignty and security.

China says the parade, the country’s most important political event of the year, which featured more than 15,000 troops marching through part of Tiananmen Square as jet fighters trailing colored smoke soared overhead, is not meant to intimidate any specific country.

But defense experts see it as a message to the world that China’s military prowess is growing rapidly, even as it faces mounting challenges, including months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong and a slowing economy.

The People’s Republic of China at 70: Of Opium and 5G

By George Friedman 

China celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China today. It has been a great and terrible time for China, as history has been for most countries. But China is a nation on a scale that dwarfs other countries – and, therefore, both its greatness and tragedy dwarf those of other countries.

The story begins a century before the PRC’s founding. In the mid-19th century, British merchants approached China, as they approached most of the rest of the world. When they arrived in the 1840s, China was the largest economy in the world. Industrialization had only just begun, so the machinery did not yet define the size of an economy. Rather, it was defined by land and labor, and in these areas, China towered over most of the world. Meanwhile, Britain’s industrial revolution was accelerating, and it was searching for raw materials to fuel its industry and markets in which to sell its products. It was inevitable that British industrialism and mercantilism and Chinese pre-industrialism and mercantilism would meet, and meet violently.

Will U.S.-China Competition Derail the U.N.’s Commitment to Fight Climate Change?

Richard Gowan 
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Two big questions about the future of multilateralism surfaced during last week’s United Nations General Assembly. How will the battle against climate change reshape international cooperation in the decades ahead? And will mounting competition between China and the United States render any cooperation impossible?

The climate issue dominated the run-up to this General Assembly. Responding to dire warnings about global warming, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted that it must be front and center in New York. He oversaw a masterful bout of diplomatic choreography, as the U.N. welcomed young, superstar activist Greta Thunberg to address a special Climate Action Summit, pushing leaders to make concrete pledges to reduce carbon emissions. ...

Could China’s strict cyber controls gain international acceptance?

Simone McCarthy
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When an open-ended working group met at the United Nations in New York in mid-September to discuss the future of cyberspace it did so with little fanfare.

Just seven member states had submitted working papers to that meeting outlining their vision for what countries should and should not be allowed to do to each other and their own people in the online world.

One of the countries to put forward its position was China, which used the forum to make what observers said was its most important UN submission on the topic yet – a detailed vision of its style of cyber governance in which states have sovereign right to maintain strict controls on internet and technology infrastructure for “social stability”. Under such a system, states have the right to censor, collect data, and restrict online access within their borders.

The submission comes as the United Nations has created two groups tasked with spending the next one to two years exploring what frameworks could best maintain peace and security online, a framework that Beijing hopes to help shape.

Global China: Domains of strategic competition and domestic drivers

Tarun Chhabra, Rush Doshi, Ryan Hass, and Emilie Kimball

China has emerged as a truly global actor, and Beijing is increasingly wielding influence across a wide range of key strategic and geographic domains. As China’s global profile expands, its international behavior implicates U.S. interests well beyond the confines of the U.S.-China relationship in ways that are only now being understood.

This installment of the Brookings Foreign Policy series “Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World” helps illuminate China’s expanding global influence in domains of strategic competition, as well as domestic trends in law and leadership politics that may inform the trajectory of Chinese conduct.

While there is ongoing debate about the contours of Beijing’s grand strategy and the degree to which President Xi Jinping’s leadership is a departure from his predecessors, our contributors show that Beijing’s bid to expand its global influence is driving strategic competition not only in military affairs, but in other policy domains too. China is capitalizing on its economic strength by building influence through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while also leveraging its overall national strength to pressure countries to desist from challenging its interests, particularly as they relate to contested territorial claims or China’s human rights record. China has also stepped up gray-zone and political influence activities, from island-building and lawfare in the South China Sea to disinformation campaigns around protests in Hong Kong and elections in Taiwan. Its growing activism increasingly poses a challenge to international human rights norms, including through Beijing’s counterterrorism tactics at home and abroad.

Xi Jinping’s “Proregress”: Domestic moves toward a global China

Cheng Li

Xi Jinping’s leadership has been marked by ambiguity and unpredictability. Since becoming general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, he has pursued fragile balances: portraying himself as inheritor of the legacies of both Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping; consolidating power based on both his communist “red nobility” and his understanding of “ordinary people”; promoting market reform in some ways while asserting greater state control in others; and offering contradictory clues as to whether China seeks to be a revisionist power or to preserve the status quo in the post-Cold War international order. It is hardly surprising that public judgments of Xi Jinping within China and overseas are so strikingly different.

In ruling the world’s most populous country, full of divergent views and conflicting interests, Xi has likely realized the imperative of maximizing public support by aligning with diverse constituencies and socioeconomic trends. This paper focuses on Xi Jinping’s two most recent parallel domestic policy moves: shifting his identity from a princeling to a populist by launching an ambitious program for poverty elimination on the one hand, and enlarging the country’s largest metropolis clusters for economic growth on the other.

Is China prepared for global terrorism?

Daniel L. Byman and Israa Saber

China has long faced low-level violence from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which seeks an independent Xinjiang. To counter the ETIM and other separatist Uighurs, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has passed laws regulating, and in some cases restricting, expressions of Islamic and Turkic identity. Such levels of control have been used elsewhere in China where the CCP has felt threatened by separatist movements. Since the 2014 “Strike Hard” campaign, China’s crackdown in Xinjiang has escalated to include internment camps, forced labor, and daily indoctrination programs. The CCP has also made great use of technological advancements to surveil Xinjiang residents. Besides surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition, the government also collects information such as biometric data, data usage, and location. This sweeping approach is used to combat what China considers to be a serious terrorism threat.

As China continues to develop the ways in which it counters terrorism at home, it has also begun to export its version of counterterrorism methods abroad. In addition to selling surveillance technology to foreign governments, China has also become a more active player in the international counterterrorism space. It has increased its involvement with bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism institutions and has used its soft power to suppress criticism of its tactics. This heightened involvement in counterterrorism activity abroad combined with China’s increasing economic influence, resulting from the Belt and Road Initiative, have made Chinese nationals and projects larger targets of terrorism abroad.

Global China: Domains of strategic competition

What are the implications of Chinese activity across various strategic domains — security, infrastructure, economic statecraft, and more — for the United States?

Global China: Domains of strategic competition and domestic drivers

This installment of the Brookings Foreign Policy series “Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World” helps illuminate China’s expanding global influence in domains of strategic competition, as well as domestic trends in law and leadership politics that may inform China’s trajectory.

Global China

From a potential “responsible stakeholder” to a “strategic competitor,” the U.S. government’s assessment of China has changed dramatically in recent years. China has emerged as a truly global actor, impacting every region and every major issue area. To better address the implications for American policy and the multilateral order, Brookings scholars are undertaking a two-year project—“Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World”—intended to furnish policymakers and the public with a new empirical baseline for understanding China’s regional and global ambitions.

Convened by Brookings Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Bruce Jones, the initiative will draw not only on Brookings’s deep bench of China and East Asia experts, but also the tremendous breadth of the institution’s security, strategy, regional studies, technological, and economic development experts. By tapping a range of resident and non-resident Brookings scholars, the project will assess the trajectory of China’s influence in Asia and other regions, as well as its growing influence on key issue domains and institutions.

Areas of focus will include the trajectory of China’s domestic institutions and foreign policy; strategic competition and great power rivalry; the emergence of critical technologies; East Asian security; China’s influence in key regions from Europe to Southeast Asia; and China’s impact on global governance and norms.

China, the gray zone, and contingency planning at the Department of Defense and beyond

Michael E. O’Hanlon

By strong and deep bipartisan agreement, America’s national security community is now focused on the risks of war against Russia or China as the top priorities for defense policy and resource allocation. Thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell, this is a remarkable and sobering development, provoked by China’s rise and Russia’s revanchism.

But over what issues, and in what ways, could war pitting the United States and allies against Russia or China really happen? To date, this question has been largely unaddressed. If we are to optimize defense investments, bolster deterrence, and also figure out how to deescalate any conflict that might happen despite our best efforts to prevent it, then we need good answers. The prospects of a head-on and large-scale Chinese assault on Japan, or a Russian seizure of an entire Baltic state, need to be considered — even if they do not seem particularly likely given the inevitability of a major U.S. or NATO response to any such blatant assault on a treaty ally.

More likely, it would seem, is a small-scale Russian or Chinese attack against a sliver of allied territory, designed less to seize land than to flex national muscles and challenge the U.S.-led global order. Such an attack would be an attempt by Beijing or Moscow to weaken a major bilateral alliance or NATO. What should the United States and its allies do if China or Russia undertakes an aggressive action that is at once both minor in its physical scale and yet strategic in potential consequences? The cases in point could include a Chinese seizure of a Senkaku island, a violent Chinese attack against an uninhabited island rightfully owned by the Philippines, or a limited Russian land-grab in the Baltic states, which Moscow might justify by claiming Russian speakers there were somehow under threat. Other scenarios are easy to imagine as well.

Understanding China’s Belt and Road infrastructure projects in Africa

David Dollar

In 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed that China would create a “Silk Road Economic Belt” across Central Asia and Europe and a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” running through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, on to the Middle East and Europe — programs meant to revive ancient trade routes and reinforce existing ones. Beijing quickly wove these two visions together and dubbed them the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

While seemingly aimed at regional economic corridors, the BRI is in fact global and motivated by economic and strategic interests. A successful BRI would allow China to more efficiently utilize excess savings and construction capacity, expand trade, consolidate economic and diplomatic relations with participating countries, and diversify China’s import of energy and other resources through economic corridors that circumvent routes that are controlled by the U.S. and its allies.

Is a U.S.-China Trade Deal Possible?

by Riley Walters
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The results so far have been an increase in the cost of traded goods between the United States and China—an increase that has created an immeasurable amount of uncertainty in the global economy. And despite efforts by the Trump and Xi administrations to continue negotiations, the threat of higher tariffs continues to linger.

American officials insist there has been significant progress since a U.S.-China deal fell apart in May. But there remain several key hurdles in the way of getting to a final agreement.

U.S. negotiators need to realize that Beijing would prefer for its reforms stay outside of the context of the negotiations. Chinese negotiators, for their part, should be aware that while the United States can remove its tariffs, it is hesitant to give up its leverage to compel compliance when China’s reforms could take months, if not longer, to confirm.

Saudi Arabia Under Siege: Is the Kingdom Quietly Crumbling?

by Matthew Petti 
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Over the weekend, Houthi rebels took down a Saudi-mechanized column along the border with Yemen, capturing hundreds of soldiers. Then, the mysterious murder of a royal bodyguard set off alarm bells inside the kingdom.

With his problems closing in, the crown prince may try one last gambit: a pivot from Washington to Tehran. But it’s risky, and he doesn’t have much room to maneuver.

“Various Saudis I've spoken to raise the possibility that what is happening could be at the hands of elements inside the Saudi government that want to embarrass MbS because they see him as putting Saudi Arabia in a corner,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute. “If you were a Saudi, and you were concerned about the future of your country, I don’t think it’s difficult to draw the conclusion that MbS is your first obstacle.”

No, We Shouldn’t Let Saudi Arabia ‘Fight Its Own Wars’

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As the president considers how the United States should respond to a series of aggressive acts by Iran and its proxies in the Middle East, one fact should be clear: There are no good options.

Inaction is unacceptable. A passive posture would invite more aggression, and the pattern of escalating Iranian provocations suggests the Islamic Republic could miscalibrate its attacks in a way that would require a broad and conclusive response from the West. But even a measured military response to Iranian attacks entails risk. While neither the Western world nor Iran and its roguish allies want to see a full-scale military confrontation, the mechanisms for de-escalating such a conflict once the shooting starts are untested and unreliable. Iran would retaliate, potentially against American military and diplomatic targets, compelling the United States to respond in kind. That’s how cycles of violence spiral out of control. The choice before President Trump is an unenviable one, but this is the job he wanted.

Although the menu of options before the president consists entirely of unpalatable selections, there is one that is worse than the others. Via NBC News:

Houthi rebels show video of alleged attack on Saudi and Yemeni forces

By Sarah El Sirgany

Abu Dhabi (CNN)Yemen's Houthi rebels have released video claiming responsibility for a 72-hour attack on Saudi Arabian and Yemeni forces that purportedly left hundreds dead.
Brigadier Gen. Yahya Saree, a spokesman for the Houthi forces, said the operation in the Saudi province of Najran was months in the making and involved luring the enemy into what he called the "biggest trap."

The attack, if verified, would represent one of the largest in Yemen's bloody, years-long civil war, which has pitted a coalition led by Saudi Arabia in support of the internationally recognized Yemeni government against the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Saree, who made the claims during a televised address Sunday, said rebels had "liberated" a 350 square kilometer (135 square mile) area while also capturing scores of enemy vehicles and thousands of soldiers who surrendered.

"The prisoners include large numbers of commanders, officers and soldiers of the Saudi army," Saree added.

Turkey is now a haven for terrorists and an enabler of terrorism

Jonathan Schanzer

On Monday, four children of an American and his Israeli wife killed by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in 2015 filed suit against Turkey’s Kuveyt Turk Bank in a New York court. They charge that the bank helps Hamas finance its terrorist attacks, allegations the firm is almost certain to deny.

The lawsuit against this Shariah-compliant bank, which counts the Turkish government as a shareholder, comes two weeks after the US Treasury sanctioned 11 Turkey-linked entities and individuals for supporting Hamas and other jihadist outfits. The evidence keeps mounting: Turkey has become a haven for regional baddies.

Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has become a permissive jurisdiction for rogue regimes and their illicit bankers. Between 2012 and 2015, Tehran relied on Turkish banks and a dual Iranian-Turkish gold trader to circumvent US sanctions at the height of Washington’s efforts to thwart the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. It was the biggest sanctions-evasions scheme in recent history.

America’s Gray-Zone Offensive Against Iran Could Turn Into War

by James Holmes
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The latest milestone on the route to war: a combined drone and missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil facility and Khurais oilfield. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed credit for the September 14-15 attack, while Saudi officials contended that it came from the north—not from Yemen, in other words. Either way, Riyadh fingered Tehran for the assault, observing that the perpetrators carried it out using Iranian weapons.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo termed the attack an act of war. President Donald Trump struck a more noncommittal note, postponing action while declaring that Riyadh must take part in any counterstroke. This will not be a one-on-one fracas pitting the United States against the Islamic Republic. Which seems fitting. Why help an ally unwilling to help itself?

Why isn’t the media covering Turkish President Erdogan’s ties to ISIS

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pitched his tent at New York’s glitzy Peninsula Hotel this week, where he will be dining (but not wining) American Muslim leaders on the sidelines of UN meetings.

During his 2017 New York visit, Erdogan met with then-freshman U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). This past July, state-run media chiefs called on Turks around the world to donate to her re-election campaign, which is illegal if they are not U.S. citizens or green-card holders.

But what should disturb Americans most about Erdogan is not his efforts to influence Congress, his abysmal record as a jailer of journalists, his genocidal war against the Kurds, or even the $100 million mosque he has constructed in Lanham, Maryland.

It’s Erdogan’s commitment to global jihad, and specifically, to ISIS terrorists. Since 2012, the Turkish intelligence service, MIT, under Erdogan’s direction, has been providing resources and material assistance to ISIS, while Turkish Customs officials turned a blind eye to ISIS recruits flowing across Turkey’s borders into Syria and Iraq.

Can a New Drone from Iran Pose a Real Threat to Israel?

by David Axe
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With its simple shape and apparent fiberglass fuselage, the new UAV probably is unsophisticated. But even an unsophisticated drone can pose a danger to enemy forces if its user employs it the right way and in sufficient numbers.

Brig. Gen. Alireza Sabahifard, the head of Iran’s air-defense force, revealed the Kian at a ceremony in Tehran on Sept. 1, 2019. Sabahifard told state media the UAV can fly more than 600 miles and climb to an altitude of 15,000 feet.

The Kian will carry out precision strikes against “distant targets … far from Iran’s borders,” Sabahifard added.

The Jerusalem Post characterized Sabahifard’s comments as an “apparent threat to Israel or other countries.”

Thrilla in Manila: Muhammad Ali defeats Joe Frazier in a boxing match in Manila, Philippines.

Spain adopted women's suffrage.

Houthis claim Pak, Iraq mercenaries among hundreds of troops captured during Saudi attack

Yemen's Houthi rebels on Sunday claimed to have captured hundreds of Saudi (/search?query=Saudi)s, including mercenaries (/search?query=mercenaries) from Pakistan (/search? query=Pakistan), Iraq, and Sudan, during attack (/search?query=attack)s over the past three days in the southern Saudi (/search?query=Saudi) region of Najran. "The enemy has suffered heavy losses during the operation," a statement released by the group's spokesperson Abdul Salam read, and noted that "among the captives are hundreds of Saudi (/search? query=Saudi)s, including officers and mercenaries (/search?query=mercenaries) from Sudan, Pakistan (/search?query=Pakistan), and Iraq, among others."

"The Nasr Min Allah (a victory from Allah) operation is one of the best and greatest fruits of the steadfastness of Yemini people in confronting the aggression," the statement added. The development comes hours after the group broadcast a video (/search?query=video) footage they said was of a deadly attack (/search?query=attack) in the Saudi (/search?query=Saudi) region of Najran that killed hundreds of soldiers, with thousands of others surrendering before the armed group, including three brigades of troops led by former-Pakistan (/search?query=Pakistan) Army chief Raheel Sharif. A spokesman of the Houthis (/search?query=Houthis), Yahya Saree, described the attack (/search? query=attack)s as an ambush on the Saudi (/search?query=Saudi) forces that then developed into an "all-out" cross-border offensive that trapped the troops inside Saudi (/search?query=Saudi) Arabia, Al Jazeera reported. 

Iran could be destroyed in devastating ‘shock and awe’ blitz under leaked US 'war plan'


The war plan, codenamed Theatre Iran Near Term (TIRANNT), is believed to be the blueprint for a strike paving the way to crush the country’s power base within 24 hours. A war on Iran has been on the Pentagon’s drawing board for more than ten years. The leaked plans have reemerged amid rising fears of an imminent conflict after Tehran’s missile and drone strike on Saudi Arabian oil plants.

Dr Dan Plesch and Martin Butcher examined the blueprint on how the US attack would unfold.

Their study concluded: “The US has made military preparations to destroy Iran’s weapons of mass destruction, nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure within days if not hours.

“Any attack is likely to be on a massive multi-front scale but avoiding a ground invasion.”

Iran's leaders think they can continue their provocation without paying a price

This week the world will see how Tehran responds to the messages received at the UN General Assembly summit in New York. It was made clear that the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf nations do not want war but a diplomatic process that would induce Iran to change its behaviour in return for a progressive adjustment in sanctions.

So far, sources say the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps see this message as an opportunity to further unshackle their hands by contemplating more attacks against vital installations in Saudi Arabia. In their view, countries seeking to avoid war will not respond while in Washington, the US president has made it clear that his policy is to respond to Iranian escalation solely by stepping up sanctions, unless the IRGC crosses a red line and targets US soldiers. For now, the IRGC will veer clear of this line, given the cost and that its main goal is a show of strength to the Gulf countries and not weakness where Washington is concerned.

Trump’s Approach to Iran Smartly Strikes a Difficult Balance

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs
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Has President Trump’s response to Iranian aggression really been weak?

Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) recently tweeted that the Iranians may have viewed President Trump’s last-minute decision to call off a military retaliatory strike after the Iranians downed an unmanned American military drone — and to instead respond with a quiet but significant cyber-attack — as a sign of weakness. The president shot back at Senator Graham, tweeting that the decision had shown strength. And I’m persuaded that he’s right, not because his administration is following the strategy favored by Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and other non-interventionists for avoiding costly wars, which often amounts to passivity and a shirking of leadership, but because his restraint is allowing the State Department-led strategy to work.

How Trump Can Escape His Iran Jam

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Aaron David Miller served as a State Department Middle East analyst, adviser and negotiator in Republican and Democratic Administrations and is the author of The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President.

Steven Simon is professor of international relations at Colby College. He served as the National Security Council senior director for counterterrorism and for the Middle East and North Africa, respectively, in the Clinton and Obama administrations. He is the co-author of Our Separate Ways: The Struggle for the Future of the US-Israel Alliance.

Richard Sokolsky, a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Office from 2005-2015.

U.S. Military Forces in FY 2020: The Struggle to Align Forces with Strategy

Annually, CSIS Senior Adviser Mark Cancian publishes a series of papers on U.S. military forces--their composition, new initiatives, long term trends, and challenges. The overall theme of this year's report is the struggle to align forces and strategy because of budget tradeoffs that even defense buildups must make, unrelenting operational demands that stress forces and prevent reductions, and legacy programs whose smooth operations and strong constituencies inhibit rapid change. Subsequent papers will take a deeper look at the strategic and budget context, the military services, special operations forces, DOD civilians and contractors, and non-DOD national security organizations in the FY 2020 budget.
Strategic and Budget Context

The Trump administration’s 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) drives its FY 2020 budget proposal, which aims to fix readiness and increase modernization to prepare for long-term competition with China and Russia. Force structure expands very little. Thus, the Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, has chosen capability over capacity, but unrelenting operational demands are pushing the services towards a high-low mix in order to cover both.

Britain is 'at war every day' due to constant cyber attacks, Chief of the Defence Staff says

Dominic Nicholls

The Chief of the Defence Staff has said that Britain is “at war every day” due to constant cyber attacks from Russia and elsewhere.

Distinctions between peace and war “don’t exist any longer” in the modern world, General Sir Nick Carter has warned.

Speaking at the Cliveden Literary Festival alongside former US General and CIA Director David Petraeus, the head of the armed forces stressed that it is no longer possible to draw a clear line between competition and conflict. 

“The changing character of warfare has exposed the distinctions that don’t exist any longer between peace and war,” General Carter said. 

“I feel I am now at war, but it’s not a war in the way we would have defined it in the past. And that is because great power competition and the battle of ideas with non-state actors is threatening us on a daily basis”.

On Syria, Washington cannot simply throw up its hands

Mara Karlin

Over the last year or so, I was honored to serve as one of 12 appointees to the bipartisan, congressionally-mandated Syria Study Group. We were tasked with examining and making recommendations for U.S. strategy toward the Syria conflict — now in its eighth year. We established a heavy rhythm of dialogues with numerous government officials, civil society members, and academic and think tank representatives from around the world who think about this issue. With the publication of our final report, here are four of my key takeaways from spending most of the last year examining this issue:

1While the conflict in Syria is dynamic, some elements are nevertheless clear: Bashar Assad continues to gain control over large swathes of territory, courtesy of Russia, Iran, and various clients; Assad has failed to establish security or stability (let alone normalcy) in recaptured areas; competition between and among Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime will deepen as the dust settles; and divisions remain rampant among anti-Assad elements. The Syria conflict can and almost surely will get uglier — particularly in and around Idlib. Yet, it’s impossible to realistically imagine a situation involving dramatic, positive change over the next five years.