30 October 2019

Al-Qaeda-Linked Group HUJI-B Attempts to Regroup in Bangladesh

By: Animesh Roul

Bangladesh’s Islamist landscape unexpectedly expanded with a reported resurgence of al-Qaeda-linked Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami-Bangladesh (HUJI-B—Movement of Islamic Holy War-Bangladesh) terrorist group, which has been lying dormant for over a decade. On October 2, Dhaka police arrested three senior HuJI-B operatives from the Khilgaon area of the capital city who were reportedly engaged in reviving HuJI-B’s operations in Bangladesh. The arrested were identified as Mohammad Atikullah, who is in charge of HuJI-B’s international relations, Nazim Uddin, secretary of HuJI-B’s Dhaka operation and Mohammad Borhanuddin, who is in charge of the HuJI-B’s Feni unit in Chittagong. The investigating agencies have initiated a countrywide search and sweep operation for an additional 30 or more HuJI-B members and sympathizers that came in contact with Mohammed Atikullah, who seems to be the leading financier. According to police, at least five of them are presently hiding in the capital Dhaka and the rest are in the Chittagong area.

Initial interrogation reports revealed that all three arrested operatives have combat experience from the Afghan-Soviet war, fighting alongside Taliban and al-Qaeda jihadist elements. Among these three arrestees, Mohammad Atikullah had multiple meetings with jihadist leaders in Afghanistan during the late 1990s. Atikullah, who is originally from Feni, Chittagong, reportedly returned to Bangladesh in 1998 after meeting Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and began working in different Quami madrasas to spread HuJI-B’s grassroot network in Bangladesh. He was involved in establishing an Islamist charity named al-Ansar-Welfare Foundation before he fled to Dubai in 2006. He remained in Dubai for several years and returned to Bangladesh in March 2019. Upon his return Atikullah and two of his associates started meeting former HuJI-B’s underground cadres and the family members of imprisoned HuJI-B operatives, attempting to reorganize and revive HuJI-B’s operations in Bangladesh (Daily Star, October 3; Daily Star, October 5).

Japan’s 2019 Defence White Paper And The Contest For Southeast Asia – Analysis

By Dr Sandip Kumar Mishra*

In Japan’s annual Defence White Paper released on 26 September, China’s growing military might has been given priority over North Korea’s belligerence as the country’s main security threat. This is the first time Japan has so explicitly identified China as a security threat greater than North Korea. This article looks at how this document clarifies Japan’s determination to not only contest China in the Western Pacific and the East China Sea (ECS), but also increase its footprint in Southeast Asia.

Japan’s threat assessment derives from a range of factors. One is China’s deployment of “air and sea assets in the Western Pacific and through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan with greater frequency.” China has also been noted to be revisionist in the South China Sea (SCS). Further, the document shows Japan’s acknowledgement of the deep strides it still has left to make with regard to defence and foreign policy in the region as compared to China.

China Adjusts to the New World Order

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Recognizing that global engagement is in its interests, China's leaders have been working to counter the backlash against globalization and have reconfirmed their commitment to continued reform and opening up. But China does not need the world nearly as desperately as US President Donald Trump and his advisers seem to believe.

HONG KONG – On October 1, the People’s Republic of China celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding with impressive military and civilian parades meant to showcase the extraordinary progress the country has made under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. Formidable challenges lie ahead. But China’s record so far, and the resources it has at its disposal, indicate that it may well be up to the task.

Even as Donald Trump’s presidency fast approaches the abyss, leading members of the Republican Party have stayed largely silent. As the Soviet dissident poet Alexander Galich wrote in the 1960s, “Keep silent, you will be on top.”3Add to Bookmarks

The First U.S.-China Trade Deal

By: Yoni Wilkenfeld
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The trade imbalance between the United States and China continues to soar. Calls for a trade deal from the corporate world are getting louder, while the public grows worried about foreign competition. Chinese officials complain about Western meddling, and ordinary American businesses are caught in the middle. The year is 1841, and John Tyler has just taken office as the tenth U.S. president, promising to pursue an agenda of “national greatness” at home and abroad.

President Donald Trump has blamed his recent predecessors for the current tensions with China, but many of the dynamics in today’s trade war have been at play for centuries. In fact, while Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit is often remembered as the moment that opened ties with China, America’s relationship with the country goes back to its founding—and it has always been one centered on trade.

No Art to the US-China Trade Deal


NEW HAVEN – Dealmakers always know when to cut their losses. And so it is with the self-proclaimed greatest dealmaker of them all: US President Donald Trump. Having promised a Grand Deal with China, the 13th round of bilateral trade negotiations ended on October 11 with barely a whimper, yielding a watered-down partial agreement: the “phase one” accord.

The real problem with the phase one accord announced on October 11 is the basic structure of the deal into which it presumably fits. From trade to currency, the approach is the same – prescribing bilateral remedies for multilateral problems.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Trump administration’s three-pronged negotiating strategy has long featured a major reduction in the bilateral trade deficit, a conflict-resolution framework to address problems ranging from alleged intellectual-property theft and forced technology transfer to services reforms and so-called non-tariff barriers, along with a tough enforcement mechanism. According to one of the lead US negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Grand Deal was about 90% done in May, before it all unraveled in a contentious blame game and a further escalation of tit-for-tat tariffs.

Xi’s in Charge: What the Fourth Plenum Tells Us about Xi Jinping’s Hold on Power

On October 24, the Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee announced that the long-awaited Fourth Plenum of the Nineteenth Party Congress would commence on October 28 and conclude four days later. Taking place nearly 600 days after previous plenary session—the longest gap since the start of the post-Mao era—the meeting comes amidst mounting internal and external challenges for the Party’s leadership including unrest in Hong Kong, the upcoming election in Taiwan, growing hostility with the United States, and an economy growing at the slowest pace in three decades. These difficulties have prompted speculation that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is facing a growing backlash amongst the Party elite, but the focus of the upcoming plenum on a key element of “Xi Jinping Thought” indicates that he remains firmly in power.

Q1: Who attends the plenum, and where is it held?

A1: As discussed in a previous post, a plenum (“plenary session”) is the mandated annual convening of the CCP’s Central Committee where the Politburo proposes policies for review or approval. Outside of the quinquennial Party congresses, a plenum is the most important meeting on Beijing’s political calendar, and for the general secretary of the CCP—Xi Jinping—they are critical moments for consolidating the “party line” on important political and economic policy debates.

Hong Kong’s Future: Police State or Mob State?

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This week, protesters tossing petrol bombs set fire to retail outlets in Hong Kong’s Kowloon area while onlookers heckled police with epithets accusing them of being allied with criminal gangs. Black smoke billowed above shops seen to have mainland connections, such as those of the Chinese handphone manufacturer Xiaomi and the popular snack store chain Best Mart 360, which is alleged to have links to gangs from China’s Fujian province. The vandalism has disturbed many residents. It has prompted more and more voices to counsel a return to peaceful means of dissent.

But therein lies the problem. For both Hong Kong’s authorities and its protesters, there may be no going back. Violence has risen ominously. An 18-year-old is accused of stabbing a police officer with a box cutter. A roadside improvised explosive device detonated as police drove past; no one was injured. Several possibly South Asian men beat the pro-democracy politician Jimmy Sham over the head with hammers; in two months, at least nine pro-democracy activists have been similarly assaulted. (It was the second such attack on Sham.) Many blame age-old gangs called “triads.” After bloody July 21 clashes in Yuen Long, video footage of police chatting with men believed to be triad members triggered outrage.

Hong Kong’s Unrest Poses a Threat to China’s Legitimacy

by Dennis P. Halpin

In December 2004, the Heritage Foundation’s Hong Kong office hosted a speech by Henry Hyde, Chairman of the then-named House International Relations Committee (now the Foreign Affairs Committee.) Hyde, a veteran of World War II who fought in the battle for the Philippines, had an abiding personal interest in post-war political developments in Asia, including the challenges posed by a rising China. In his remarks, he saw political developments in Hong Kong as a key test as to whether Beijing would emerge as a responsible stakeholder or, alternatively, an authoritarian threat in the 21st Century.

Speaking of Hong Kong, he said: “Many years ago, those laboring in mines deep underground, faced the deadly problem of the buildup of fatal but undetectable gases. To warn them of approaching danger, they would bring with them a small and fragile bird, imprisoned in a cage, which became known as the miners’ canary…Hong Kong is the miners’ canary. Its vulnerability makes it an unmistakable indicator of the course of China’s historic transition and the impact it will soon have on us all. We must watch carefully.”

Russia to Help China Develop an Early Warning System

By Dmitry Stefanovich

In October 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly announced at the annual Valdai Club gathering in Sochi that Russia is “now helping… Chinese partners create a missile attack warning system.” What can be the end goal and means to achieve it?

What Do We Know?

Importantly, the possibility of cooperation between Russia and China on a missile attack warning system was mentioned earlier this year by Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired general and a prominent Russian expert in military affairs, at a conference on Russian-Chinese relations hosted by Russian International Affairs Council. The Chinese side had asked for such cooperation for some time, and now, under the ever-growing “strategic partnership,” Russia has finally responded to such requests positively. 

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, stated, that all works will be completed “in due time.”

Why Iraq is “Burning”

By Anthony H. Cordesman

The present U.S. focus on Syria, Turkey, and the Kurds makes it all too easy to ignore the growing instability of Iraq, the fact that ISIS is already increasing its operations in that country, and that it is Iran, Russia, and Syria that seem to have growing influence. U.S. military-to-military relations remain relatively good at a professional military level, but continue to slow and get worse at a political level. At the same time, the U.S. does not seem to have any clear policy to deal with Iraq’s deteriorating political, governance, and economic situation, and to support any serious form of national building.

An updated version of a Burke Chair study highlights Iraq’s civil problems along with those in the other countries where the U.S. has current security engagements – Afghanistan Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen: The Long-Term Civil Challenges and Host Country Threats from ‘Failed State’ Wars (https://www.csis.org/analysis/afghanistan-iraq-syria-libya-and-yemen).

In brief, however, Iraq shows all too many signs of returning to the kind of internal instability that led to low level civil war in 2011 and the rise of ISIS, and that undercut any efforts to bring stability and defeat extremism in all of America’s military efforts in the region.
Wretched Governance and Massive Corruption

Implications of the Jeddah Agreement on the War in Yemen

By: Brian M. Perkins

The Jeddah Agreement, which is the latest ceasefire deal regarding the war in Yemen, is not one that will see the Houthi rebels lay down their arms. Instead, the Saudi Arabia and UAE-sponsored agreement seeks to end the long-simmering fight that escalated sharply in August between the Southern Transitional Council and pro-Hadi forces, which comprise the bulk of the anti-Houthi coalition. While the signing of this deal will not see an end to the war, it is an essential step to begin addressing the political fragmentation that would undoubtedly see any future political settlement with the Houthis break down if left to fester.

The STC’s forceful takeover of Aden in August—and the subsequent clashes that took place across Southern Yemen as the STC worked to gain control of areas outside its power base in Aden—risked plunging the country into an even more intractable conflict. At the same time, it served to solidify the STC as a formidable political and military force in Yemen that cannot viably be sidelined in any future political settlements without risking another plunge into war, much like the scenario that saw the onset of the current war following the National Dialogue Conference. Similarly, the STC-Hadi conflict illuminated the fissures between Saudi Arabia and the UAE as Saudi forces launched a counterattack and the Emiratis conducted strikes in support of the STC. In this sense, the agreement is nearly as much about cooling tensions between the STC and Hadi as it is about getting Riyadh and Abu Dhabi back on the same page.

How Iran Can Hold the World Oil Market Hostage

by Amy M. Jaffe
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The debilitating attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry last month, which the United States has attributed to Iran, were a reminder of the fragility of the oil market, and how certain world actors such as Iran may attempt to use this to their geopolitical advantage. Iran and its proxies could hold major oil facilities in the Middle East hostage, threatening to destroy them if their demands are not met.

What is Iran’s threat to oil infrastructure in the Middle East?

In recent years, Iran has built up an arsenal of thousands of missiles, including cruise and ballistic missiles, capable of doing severe damage to oil facilities across the Persian Gulf. It also has troops and proxy fighters with missile, rocket, and drone capabilities scattered across the region: in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
How vulnerable are oil installations?

Some U.S. missile defense systems, such as the Patriot system, can theoretically defend a specific base or facility, while others, like the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system, can protect a broad area. However, Iran can attack regional oil installations from multiple fronts using a variety of weapons, including drones and cyberattacks. Thus, it is extremely difficult to protect all facilities of all regional producers simultaneously, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where the oil industry has a large geographic footprint.

What the U.S. Can Learn From Iranian Warfare


In July 2006 in south Beirut, Qassem Soleimani was facing death. In a rare interview published earlier this month, the shadowy commander of Iran’s Qods Force, the elite paramilitary arm of the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, revealed for the first time that he was in Lebanon during the 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah to direct Iran’s support to its decades-long Shia proxy-turned-ally in Lebanon. Soleimani recounted a harrowing (aren’t they all) escape from swarming Israeli drones, targeting him and Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. As the Israeli campaign intensified, Soleimani shuttled between Lebanon and Iran to relay battlefield updates to Tehran and rally support to the group. Asked if anyone in Tehran questioned Iran’s commitment to Hezbollah at the risk of a direct war with Israel, particularly if the commander of the vaunted Qods Force was killed, Soleimani said “No one hesitated,” starting with the supreme leader.

Contrast that (at least partly nonfictional) scene in Beirut to today’s in northeast Syria. There, the United States, at the direction of President Donald Trump, has abandoned its local partner, the Syrian Democratic Force, in its time of need. Like Hezbollah did for Iran against Israel, the SDF waged the bulk of America’s ground war against its enemy, the Islamic State. At America’s assurance, they gave up border fortifications that were protecting them against the Turks. And then they lost U.S. protection altogether. Now they face a Turkish onslaught that has killed hundreds so far and displaced tens of thousands more, and given a new opportunity for regional supremacy to U.S. foes, Russia, Iran, the Syrian regime, and the Islamic State.

Baghdadi Is Dead. Does that Mean ISIS Dies with Him?

by Daniel R. DePetris 
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Now that Baghdadi is no longer ruining lives, the inevitable question is: what’s next? The Islamic State was in a bad way even before Washington took away its caliph, and it’s hard not to assume that Baghdadi’s removal will deal an even bigger blow to a group already hunkering down to save itself.

Before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed “after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and screaming and crying all the way” as President Donald Trump put it so eloquently, the Islamic State leader was the world’s most wanted man. With a $25 million price tag on his head, Baghdadi had was in the scope of multiple nations. The United States, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, the U.K., France, and Turkey all had a reason to kill him. The crimes he was ultimately responsible for spread across continents, from the Paris assault four years ago this November to the enslaving of Yazidis in Iraq.

That man is no longer walking this earth, having been surprised by a team of U.S. Delta Force operators descending from helicopters and breaching his Idlib compound at the dead of night. Trump, beaming with pride that he was the one who authorized the operation, boasted about the mission hours later. "The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, and total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him,” Trump announced at the White House Sunday morning. He then went on to briefly thank everybody else who assisted with the mission; U.S. operators were reportedly acting in part on intelligence acquired from the Iraqis, who arrested some of the terrorist leader’s intimate family and associates months earlier.

Is 3-D Printing the Future of Terrorism?

by Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware

On Oct. 9, a gunman tried to massacre worshipers on Yom Kippur at a synagogue in Halle, Germany, and crossed a new threshold: It was the first time a terrorist perpetrated a deadly attack with homemade weapons using 3-D-printed components—including a 3-D-printed gun.

Instead of the slaughter the gunman had hoped for, he killed two people—in part because he couldn’t get past a locked synagogue door, in part because what he called his “improvised guns” jammed or failed to fire. But the Halle attack shouldn’t be dismissed as a macabre flop. The killer was interested not just in murder but in inspiration. In an online manifesto that German authorities have confirmed he wrote, the gunman styled himself a pioneer on a trial run: He wanted to use emerging technologies to encourage subsequent terrorists to follow in his footsteps and perfect his tactics. His goal was what security experts call “proof of concept.”

“ The Halle attack shouldn’t be dismissed as a macabre flop. ”

National Security in a “Liquid” World

Carmit Padan, Vera Michlin-Shapir
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Since the 1980s, we have witnessed rapid changes in a world characterized by a neo-liberal economy, increased human migration, and information technologies developing at an unprecedented pace. These transformations are putting stress on modern state structures and have allowed non-state players to enter the heart of global consciousness. These new entities pose new security challenges, including ethnic conflicts, civil wars, the use of robotics-based autonomous weapons, and terrorist attacks both in the physical sphere and cyberspace. The articles in this memorandum, authored by former and present Neubauer research associates at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), assert that the political, economic, and social changes, as well as the challenges to security now faced by the West (including Israel), converge to create a different agenda for analyzing security and strategy issues, forcing us to redefine the very concept of “national security.”This memorandum consists of articles written by young researchers—PhD candidates and others—who were part of the Neubauer Research Fellowship Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and participated in the Neubauer Research Project which was carried out at INSS during 2017 .The research fellows who took part in this project studied together various aspects of national security linked to Israel’s domestic, regional, and international strategic environment. The objective of the project was to examine concepts and patterns in present day’s national security and contemporary research in the field, as a basis for an up-to-date analysis of specific issues relevant to Israel’s national security.

Implications of the new order in Syria

Daniel L. Byman

The situation in northeast Syria is still in flux, but it appears that the militarily strong powers have at least temporarily worked out a modus vivendi with regard to the size and location of the Turkish-controlled buffer zone: an arrangement blessed by the Trump administration. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), for their part, have cast their lot in with the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian backers, ending or at least diminishing the autonomy they enjoyed for several years. U.S. forces will largely or entirely be redeployed, although the U.S. presence in neighboring Iraq will continue.

The new situation upends the region and has potentially profound consequences for the United States and its allies. However, and without dwelling on this point, President Trump’s actions suggest a different conception and prioritization of traditional U.S. interests in the Middle East. The U.S. departure helps Iran and the Islamic State, hurts Israel and Saudi Arabia, and otherwise goes against historic U.S. concerns. The president, however, appears to prioritize removing U.S. troops from active war zones over these long-standing interests.

How Do Warren and Sanders’ Progressive Foreign Policy Visions Stack Up?

Stewart M. Patrick 

The eventual victor in the chaotic and crowded contest for the Democratic presidential nomination remains to be seen. But one thing seems clear: The political energy in this election cycle is on the left. Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts and would-be trust buster, has displaced faltering former Vice President Joe Biden as putative frontrunner. If any evidence of her rise were required, her competitors for the nomination provided it when they trained fire on her in the most recent presidential debate.

But meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s independent socialist senator, is still a fundraising juggernaut, hauling in more than $25 million in the third quarter of the year, largely in the form of small donations from loyal grassroots supporters. Bouncing back from his recent heart attack, Sanders scored a coveted endorsement from freshman congresswoman and left-wing populist darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. ...

Putin’s Intricate Syrian Balancing Act

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

For several years, the United States has fought the Islamic State in Syria without large troop deployments or any significant casualties by maintaining a close alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—the local, secular, anti-Islamist army of the Kurdish-dominated Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, also known as Rojava. At the same time, Washington continued to maintain a close though uneasy alliance with fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member Turkey, which considered the Rojava an enemy and the SDF a terrorist organization allegedly affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK—recognized as a terrorist organization in Turkey the European Union and the US—has for decades been running a violent campaign to achieve autonomy and possible future independence for Turkey’s over 20-million-strong Kurdish population, predominant in southeastern Turkish provinces bordering Iraqi Kurdistan and Rojava. On October 6, US President Donald Trump, during a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, decisively ended Washington’s double alliance arrangement with the Kurds and the Turks by effectively green-lighting a Turkish invasion of Rojava and removing US Special Forces from northeastern Syria (see EDM, October 17).

Erdoğan announced an intent to cleanse the SDF from the entire Turkish/Syrian border zone—480 kilometers wide and some 32 kilometers (20 miles) deep. In this zone, Ankara is planning to resettle most of the over three million refugees who fled to Turkey to escape the Syrian civil war since 2011. Turkey has announced it will build schools, hospitals and housing in this “secure zone,” protected by Turkish-armed and -supported Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters (some of them hardened Islamists), out of reach of President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Damascus. Millions of mostly Arab refugees who never previously lived in northeastern Syria could drastically change the local ethnic balance, creating a border settlement belt that permanently eliminates any future possibility of creating a Kurdish national state in the Middle East including Syrian, Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian Kurdish-majority lands.

Putin Sees Africa as a Battleground Against the West

By: Paul Goble

President Vladimir Putin views Africa not as an end in itself, even when he and Russia obviously benefit directly (Rosbalt, January 19; see EDM, October 15), but rather as a battlefield in his renewed cold war against the West. This Soviet-style approach contains within it not only clues as to how Moscow will act there, but also—and perhaps more importantly—the seeds of Russia’s ultimate failure of this approach. No one likes to be viewed as a pawn for someone else’s use. At the very least, some African states will demand that they be paid off for such exploitation, and their demands are likely to exceed Moscow’s ability to pay them—especially when it no longer can use such inexpensive ways as debt forgiveness. In the short term, however, Moscow may have stolen a march on the West by the combination of its actions and Putin’s words.

In an interview with TASS, a week before the October 23–24 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Putin again played the anti-colonial card, suggesting that the West sought to frighten and blackmail African countries and keep all other players, including Russia, out of the game while continuing to reap “super profits.” In effect, Putin once again accused the Western powers of what Moscow itself has been doing or plans to do. Yet, the Kremlin leader’s rhetoric also importantly reduced Africa to a battlefield for outside competitors rather than a place deserving to be treated as an end in itself (RBC, October 21; see EDM, July 25).

Latin America Emerges as a Russian Theater of Operations

By: Stephen Blank

It has only recently become clear to analysts in the United States that Russia is playing a big role in Latin America to destabilize Washington’s alliance system and threaten US interests. Despite the costs involved in sustaining Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, Russia’s three main “proxies” in Latin America, President Vladimir Putin—like his Soviet predecessors—seems willing to bear those expenditures. The benefits to Moscow come in other forms. For instance, while Moscow has stepped away from pressing Caracas to pay its debts, Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft has been granted ever greater access to Venezuela’s oil and natural gas sector. In exchange for a debt write-off Venezuelan state-run oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) reportedly could be handed over entirely to Rosneft (TASS, October 16). In addition, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has characterized Venezuela—as well as Cuba and Latin America more generally—as poster children of sorts for his regular fulminations against Washington’s supposed efforts to destabilize the global order (Mid.ru, October 3). Moreover, there is ample evidence of Moscow at least exploring the idea, if not yet openly intending, to establish a naval and/or air base in Venezuela, on the island of La Orchila. In late 2018, Venezuela announced that Russia is obtaining a long-term base on the island of La Orchila that had been offered to Moscow a decade earlier by Hugo Chavez. The island is some 160 miles from Caracas and is home to a Venezuelan airfield and navy base (TASS, December 12, 2018; Sldinfo.com, December 26, 2018).

Syria’s Civil War: The Descent Into Horror

By Zachary Laub
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In the eight years since protesters in Syria first demonstrated against the four-decade rule of the Assad family, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed and some twelve million people—more than half the country’s prewar population—have been displaced. The country has descended into an ever more complex civil war: jihadis promoting a Sunni theocracy have eclipsed opposition forces fighting for a democratic and pluralistic Syria, and regional powers have backed various local forces to advance their geopolitical interests on Syrian battlefields. The United States had been at the forefront of a coalition conducting air strikes on the self-proclaimed Islamic State, then abruptly removed forces in October 2019 ahead of the second invasion of northern Syria by Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally. The Turks seek to push Kurdish forces, the United States’ main local partner in the fight against the Islamic State, from border areas. Russia too has carried out air strikes in Syria, coming to the Assad regime’s defense, while Iranian forces and their Hezbollah allies have done the same on the ground.

New U.N. Report on Online Hate Speech

By Evelyn Douek 

David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression, recommended in June 2018 that social media companies adopt international human rights law as the authoritative standard for their content moderation. Before Kaye’s report, the idea was fairly out of the mainstream. But the ground has shifted. Since the release of the report, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to Kaye agreeing that Twitter’s rules need to be rooted in human rights law, and Facebook has officially stated that its decisions—and those of its soon-to-be-established oversight board—will be informed by international human rights law as well.

Now Kaye has a new report, released Oct. 9—a timely evaluation of one of the biggest challenges in the regulation of online speech. Despite some tech companies expressing openness to Kaye’s approach, in general these companies continue to manage “hate speech” on their platforms, as Kaye notes, “almost entirely without reference to the human rights implications of their products.” And it remains unclear how these standards, developed for nation-states, can be put into practice in the very different context of private companies operating at mind-boggling scale and across a wide variety of contexts. These questions are the central concern of Kaye’s latest report, which evaluates the human rights law that applies to regulation of online “hate speech.”

Why “Hate Speech”?

The ASEAN-U.S. Maritime Exercises Are More Important Than Ever

by Lucio Blanco Pitlo III

The inaugural ASEAN-U.S. maritime exercises (AUMX), coming off from last year’s naval exercises with China (ACMX), display a regional desire for inclusivity and balanced security ties with the two great powers. The succession is no coincidence and is indicative of intensifying major power contest playing out in defense diplomacy. Recent incidents in the South China Sea add a unique flavor to this year’s joint exercises.

The United States has been the region’s long-standing provider of security goods and the AUMX builds on that tradition. Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) since 1995 and an expanded Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) since 2012 constituted two long-running platforms by which the U.S. engages regional navies and coast guards. As China shows readiness and capability to enter the security fray, such U.S. reaffirmation cannot be more timely. AUMX may also signify ASEAN’s response over Chinese proposals to constrain or upend security engagement with non-regional powers. 

A Buying Opportunity In Precious Metals – OpEd

By Claudio Grass

After a remarkable run over the past few months, gold and silver now appear to have entered a period of consolidation. Many speculators and short-term focused investors have sold their positions fearing a correction, while mainstream market commentators fuel these fears, with analyses that proclaim “the end of the road” for gold and silver.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. All the very serious concerns and the fundamental reasons that caused the metals to rise so aggressively in recent months are not only still intact, but they have grown, and spread, and find even more solid footing every time new data comes out of the Eurozone and the US.

Recession fears among investors hit an all-time high in mid-September, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey, as 25% of those asked expect a recession to strike in the next 12 months. Even more worrying where the results of the survey released by Wilmington Trust at the end of last month: “About 61% of investors surveyed with a household income of $225,000 or more say that they would give up growth opportunity for downside protection. And among those who have an annual household income of $500,000 or more, 76% say they would make this trade-off.”

Partnerships are at the Core of Modern DeterrenceGiedrimas Jeglinskas

How does a state achieve effective deterrence? Lithuania provides an example.

Deterrence has always been a crucial element in ensuring one’s security. In classic international relations literature, punishment and denial are described as drivers of effective deterrence. Yet, the intent of this article is not to delve into theories but to offer a practical view on deterrence as a reflection of the author’s time as deputy defence minister of Lithuania and as an incentive to reimagine the concept.

In simple words, effective deterrence allows people to feel safe to conduct their social, economic and cultural activities undisturbed and allows institutions to work towards reaching their goals. The fast-changing economic and geopolitical scene, augmented by technological innovation, contributes to a whirlwind state of mind where it becomes difficult to separate noise from a signal. In such a world, a focus on building effective deterrence can serve as a true north, a clear objective to be achieved on the way to a more secure and prosperous world.

The fundamental question is how to achieve effective deterrence. There are obvious solutions that at least partly address this conundrum. The first is focusing on raw military strength. That is where massive defence modernisation programmes and infrastructure improvements, currently undertaken by literally all countries, fit in. The return to great power competition and numerous potential hot spots worldwide coupled with decades-long underinvestment in capabilities motivate governments to invest in defence.

What’s going on with Cyber Command’s Unified Platform

By: Mark Pomerleau
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The next big milestone for Cyber Command’s Unified Platform program will be a fully built software factory, an environment for consolidating applications and developing new tools.

Once up and running, the software factory will help integrate and deploy disparate analytical capabilities for the cyber mission force.

Unified Platform will consolidate and standardize the variety of big data tools used by Cyber Command and its subordinate organizations, including the Defense Information Systems Agency. This will allow forces to share information more easily and build common tools to be used across the service cyber components leading to greater interoperability.

The Unified Platform program has been steadily progressing. Northrop Grumman was awarded a $54 million system coordinator contract for the program in October 2018, the program office established a “software factory” and five companies were awarded a subordinate contract under the program called Cyber Enterprise Services, which will enhance multiple cyber platforms with a services in command and control, planning, generation, execution, assessment, reporting and visualization.

NEWS FROM EWC: SOCOM Wants ‘Cyber-Secure’ Hyper-Enabled Operators

By Connie Lee
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Special Operations Command is working to ensure that its hyper-enabled operator concept will be “cyber secure,” a top science and technology official said Oct. 23. 

In 2018, the command announced an initiative to enhance its warfighters with technologies that would provide them capabilities such as improved situational awareness.

Now, in an era when adversaries are building up their electronic warfare abilities, the command is examining how it can safely field these technologies with a cyber-secure network, said Lisa Sanders, the director of science and technology for Special Operations Forces, acquisition, technology and logistics.

SOCOM is considering questions such as: “Is it something [that requires] an algorithm on top of the communications node in order to make that cyber secure? … Is there a way to throw an encryption key on top of it so that I don’t lose it?” Sanders said.

Many of these technologies fall within the commercial domain, she said during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Annapolis, Maryland. 

A Despot’s Death in Tunisia

by Gordon Gray
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January 14, 2011, will always represent a momentous inflection point for Tunisia. On that day, millions marched in the streets, demanding the resignation of President Zinedine Ben Ali, who had ruled in an increasingly authoritarian manner. It turned out to be his last day in his homeland; Ben Ali saw the handwriting on the wall and hastily fled with his family to sanctuary in Saudi Arabia, where he died on September 19.

I was serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia at the time and had a front-row seat to this history. Contrary to published reports, I never told Ben Ali that he needed to relinquish power or that the United States would not give him asylum. And while I do not want to speak ill of the recently departed, I must admit that my interactions with Ben Ali left me greatly unimpressed. 

SWJ Book Excerpt – “War Amongst the People: Critical Assessments” - Conclusion: War, the People, and Politics

by Kirstin Howgate

“In a volume such as this discomfort is good, it generates debate and leads to change.”

                                                                                                   -- General Sir Rupert Smith


This volume treats ‘war amongst the people’ less as a fixed and established phenomenon and more like a conceptual prism through which contemporary intra-state conflicts can be read and questioned. As such, it considers it not as a monolithic ‘new type’ of war, but as a framework that can shed light on complex networks and dynamics and their context dependency. Taken together, the different contributions to this volume therefore provide not only new empirical insights on war amongst the people but, through this prism, encourage novel ways of seeing and assessing it. It is the aim of this conclusion to capture some of the implications that arise from the contributions across the four analytical lenses identified in the introduction – the conceptual, the practical, the legal and the domestic – and show how the contributions create shared themes across the four dimensions, thereby recomposing the prism. A key tenet that the prism illuminates is how politics and war overlap in war amongst the people, which will be considered in more depth in the final part of this conclusion.