4 November 2019

Strengthening Delhi’s Strategic Partnerships in the Indian Ocean

By Darshana M. Baruah


The Indian Ocean region (IOR) is a critical juncture of the wider Indo-Pacific. It is one of the most crucial trade corridors that links the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and Southeast and Northeast Asia. As outlined by the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Indian Ocean is "[h]ome to nearly 2.7 billion people … carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic, and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments."1 After the Cold War, the Indian Ocean remained relatively peaceful, with minimal geopolitical competition. India and the United States have been the primary actors in the theater and largely accepted each other’s presence and operations. After the Cold War, Washington welcomed a greater Indian role, with then–U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates encouraging India to be a "net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond."2 However, as China continues to expand its presence and deepen its engagements across the Indo-Pacific, there is a new geopolitical competition emerging in the Indian Ocean. While India perceives a growing Chinese presence as competition to its strategic and security role in the IOR, Beijing is determined to stake its claim and emerge as a key player in the IOR. This ambition feeds into China’s larger objective of becoming a global maritime power.

India has a vital interest in the Indian Ocean, and as one of the IOR’s most prominent resident naval powers, its role in the IOR has been critical to maintaining peace and security. As China continues to expand its engagements and presence across the IOR, Delhi is beginning to review its maritime engagements and policies.3 Much of Delhi’s advantage is rooted in geography and operational experience, whereas it suffers from serious capacity constraints. Should China manage to find the means and ways to sustain itself in the region and gain experience operating there, it will be able to quickly overcome India’s advantages. Given that neither India nor China is looking to engage in a military conflict to establish dominance, strategic signaling, positioning, power projection, and enhanced operational capabilities will be key to enabling India to maintain a favorable position in the IOR in the next decade or so.

Great Expectations: Asking Too Much of the US-India Strategic Partnership

After India re-elected Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in May 2019 in a landslide victory, President Trump congratulated him, tweeting that “great things are in store for the US-India partnership with the return of PM Modi at the helm.” In June, Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver echoed this sentiment, anticipating “a lot of convergence on the strategic landscape” between the United States and India. Nevertheless, on the eve of Secretary of State Pompeo’s June visit to New Delhi, analysts of the region warned that an emerging crisis could force a highly disruptive reckoning for the relationship. Recently, two of the original architects of US-India strategic alignment—former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, and former senior advisor to the US embassy in New Delhi, Ashley Tellis—have warned of “creeping disappointment and doubt” from both countries. Publicly, the US-India relationship has achieved rare status, touted as one of the greatest bipartisan successes and crowning achievements across the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations. Yet privately, some US policymakers have raised “serious concerns” about India’s defense decisions. Our own private conversations with US government officials and policy experts reveal frustration and concern over the supposed pattern of US concessions and Indian shortcomings— criticized as “all talk and no show.”

Pakistan May Be Stumbling Toward a Two-Front War

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Months after India instituted a lockdown on the disputed region of Kashmir, clashes have erupted on Pakistan’s borders with Kashmir and with Afghanistan.

Pakistani troops exchanged small-arms and mortar fire with Afghan forces along their shared border on Sunday, raising regional tensions in a month that has already seen India and Pakistan fire artillery across the line of control in Kashmir. Regional experts worry that the subcontinental nuclear powers are edging closer to war.

Decades-old tensions over the disputed Kashmir region flared in February after a car bomb killed 40 Indian paramilitary troops in the region. India responded by sending warplanes into Pakistan to strike what it called a terrorist training camp. The following day, Pakistan shot down an Indian fighter jet, and the day after that, the two countries exchanged artillery fire across their border. 

Where Does the Afghan Peace Process Stand After Talks Collapsed?

By Umair Jamal
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Three days ago, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for Afghan peace talks, visited Kabul for the first time since the U.S. president ended talks with the Taliban. The visit comes in the wake of Khalilzad’s meeting with Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani representatives in Moscow, where all parties called for the resumption of talks between the United States and the Taliban.

While the growing enthusiasm for the resumption of peace talks is laudable, what remains unanswered is this: has the collapse of the peace talks complicated the negotiations further? Will it change the bargaining position of the parties directly or indirectly involved?

Seemingly, the Taliban have further enhanced their leverage since the cancellation of the talks. They are not the ones traveling to regional capitals to ask for the resumption of talks. Rather, they are responding to requests from Washington and other friends from the region. The Afghan Taliban are still inflexible when it comes to recognizing the Afghan government as a legitimate party to the conflict. The group’s main focus remains on developing ties with the regional states to advance their diplomatic clout. Already, Pakistan and China have hosted Taliban representatives in an effort to bring them back to the negotiating table. Moreover, several statements released from regional capitals have insisted that the United States directly engage with the Taliban to resume the stalled peace talks.

Report: China Wants the World's Best Military By 2049

by David Axe 
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Chinese leaders have laid out a plan for deploying the world’s best-armed forces no later than 2049. If the United States is to prevent China from becoming the world’s leading military power, it needs a plan of its own.

That’s the sobering warning in a new report for the Center for a New American Security by former deputy defense secretary Robert Work and co-author Greg Grant.

Chinese leaders’ resolve hardened in 1991 as they watched the U.S.-led coalition pummel Iraqi forces with seemingly ceaseless barrages of precision-guided munitions.

“A key lesson China took from the 1991 Desert Storm campaign was to strike hard and fast during war’s earliest stages, as initiative once lost would be all but impossible to regain against an opponent capable of 24-hour, all-weather guided-munitions bombardment,” Work and Grant wrote.

US Forces Untrained, Unready For Russian, Chinese Jamming


AOC 2019: US troops have forgotten basic lessons of electronic warfare, and they’re not being forced to relearn them because even major training exercises are unrealistically easy, military and civilian experts warned this morning. Even when electronic warfare specialists are allowed to disrupt a unit’s radios and radar, often to paralyzing effect, they’re typically told to knock it off so training can continue as normal.

“We’ve got to stop wishing it away,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Poole, a Marine working at US Strategic Command. “We’ve got to stop willfully ignoring the fact that the bad guys have jammers too.”

A soldier gets help with VMAX portable jamming system

Macron Goes to China: For Europe or for France?

So much for a common EU policy and strategy toward China.

Off goes French President Emmanuel Macron to Beijing on November 4, just two months after Angela Merkel made her twelfth visit to the country since becoming German chancellor back in 2005.

There had been hopes about a future joint visit by the French and German leaders. That would have sent a strong signal to Beijing about the common stance of the EU’s biggest economies toward China. Such hopes have come to naught.

Instead, the two successive visits are a far cry from the quasi-unanimity that presided over the announcement of a new EU China strategy in March 2019 (which referred to China as a “systemic rival”), following an unprecedented meeting hosted by Macron in Paris, where he invited Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to join his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Berlin and Paris appeared to be on the same page on China, but, since then, they have ploughed their own separate paths. When it comes to China, national interests still prevail.

Security Firm Says Chinese Hackers Intercepted Text Messages

By Tami Abdollah

Chinese hackers with a history of state-sponsored espionage have intercepted the text messages of thousands of foreigners in a targeted campaign that planted eavesdropping software on a telecommunications provider’s servers, a cybersecurity firm said.

FireEye said in a report issued on Thursday that the hackers belong to the group designated Advanced Persistent Threat 41, or APT41, which it says has been involved in spying and cybercrime for most of the past decade. It said some of the targets were “high-value” and all were chosen by their phone numbers and unique cellphone identifiers known as IMSI numbers.

The cybersecurity firm would not identify or otherwise characterize the victims or the impacted telecoms provider or give its location. It said only that the telecom is in a country that’s typically a strategic competitor to China.

The spyware was programmed to capture messages containing references to political leaders, military and intelligence organizations and political movements at odds with the Chinese government, FireEye said.

The US-China Clash Is Here to Stay

By Shannon Tiezzi
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In case reports of a potential “Phase 1” trade deal had anyone thinking U.S.-China frictions were nearing an end, a fiery speech from the U.S. secretary of state made it clear that confrontation is the new normal. Speaking at the Hudson Institute’s award gala in New York, Secretary Mike Pompeo lambasted China on multiple fronts, from the economic to the ideological. In Pompeo’s telling, the Trump administration’s harsher policies are a necessary – and long-term – course correction that addresses the “reality” of China today. Following the previous model of U.S. China policy “is no longer realistic,” he said.

“It’s critical that as Americans, we engage China as it is, not as we wish it were,” Pompeo declared.

The view that U.S. China policy is due for a more muscular upgrade is not unique to the White House. In a recent op-ed, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged that “We must responsibly counter China now or risk being subjected to their malign influence across the globe.” Such sentiments are increasingly common in Washington, from think tanks to Congress to the White House and its Cabinet.

General: Trump Pullout Did Not Affect Baghdadi Raid Timing


President Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw from Syria earlier this month had no impact on the timing or execution of the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the top general for American forces in the Middle East insisted. 

“Absolutely not,” U.S. Central Command Gen. Ken McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday. “We chose the time based on a variety of factors: weather, certainty, lunar data. While it might have been convenient to use bases [in Syria], the U.S. military has the capability to go almost anywhere and support ourselves even at great distances.”

“We struck because the time was about right to do it then given the totality of the intelligence and the other factors that would affect the raid force going in and coming out.” 

Intelligence and military officials speaking to news outlets on background have claimed that Trump’s controversial Syrian withdrawal, which followed a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, complicated the risky nighttime raid in northern Syria. 

Clarity Amidst Chaos: The Implications of Trump’s Syria Policy

By Dr. Alex Joffe

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The American withdrawal from Syria has produced chaotic results – but as with many aspects of President Trump’s presidency, it offers an opportunity to view realities with a new clarity. The nature of Turkey under Erdoğan, European weakness, and the unwillingness of America to support indecisive military missions have been revealed. These realities demand new approaches to European defense and to Middle Eastern engagement and disengagement.

One of the many startling attributes of the Trump presidency is the tendency his statements and policy decisions have to produce inadvertent moments of clarity. By cutting through practical and rhetorical niceties, Trump forces the US and the world to confront inconsistent and malfunctioning policies, often creating new ones in the process. The invariable outrage forces situations to be looked at directly, as does the reactive antipathy from Trump’s many adversaries. Syria is no exception.

Turkey and the Kurds: What Goes Around Comes Around

By Dr. James M. Dorsey

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Turkey, like much of the Middle East, is discovering that what goes around comes around. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to have miscalculated the fallout of what may prove to be a foolhardy intervention in Syria and neglected alternative options that could have strengthened Turkey’s position without sparking the ire of much of the international community. His strategic error is rooted in a policy of decades of denial of Kurdish identity and suppression of Kurdish cultural and political rights that was more likely to fuel conflict than encourage societal cohesion.

Turkey’s policy of suppressing Kurdish identity and denying the Kurds their cultural and political rights midwifed the birth in the 1970s of militant groups like the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which only recently dropped its demand for Kurdish independence. The group, which has waged a low-intensity insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives, has been declared a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU.

Turkey’s Invasion of Syrian Kurdistan as Seen from Tehran

By Dr. Doron Itzchakov

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Though it prompted angry reactions from senior officials in Tehran, the Turkish attack on Syrian Kurdistan offers both pros and cons for the Islamic Republic – and the potential positives likely outweigh the negatives.

Turkey’s military offensive against the Kurds in northeastern Syria prompted recriminations from the Islamic Republic, but the Iranian regime understands that it could ultimately redound to its benefit.

Ever since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in March 2011, Iran and Turkey have been on opposing sides, with Tehran (and Moscow) playing a critical role in the survival of the Assad regime and Ankara urging its ouster and supporting the anti-regime rebellion.

Unsurprisingly, President Trump’s announcement that US troops would be evacuated from northern Syria was welcomed in Tehran, which had considered the presence of US troops on Syrian soil a flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty. However, Erdoğan’s decision to invade Kurdish territory in Syria led his Iranian counterpart, Rouhani, to condemn it on the grounds that it would increase regional instability.

Getting to a New Iran Deal: A Guide for Trump, Washington, Tehran, Europe and the Middle East

Dr Sanam Vakil
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This paper assesses the impact of US President Donald Trump’s campaign of ‘maximum pressure’ against Iran, and the potential for future negotiations. It draws on 75 off-the-record interviews with policymakers and analysts in 10 countries (the US, Iran, France, Germany, the UK, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel).

Respondents generally did not foresee a ‘grand bargain’ on Iran as a viable outcome of the US strategy. Their scepticism reflected in part the Trump administration’s execution and implementation of a zero-sum, sanctions-focused strategy, and its limited understanding of Iran’s decision-making priorities and national interests. Interviewees suggested the current stand-off would not result in Washington’s sought-after results.


The Global Security Pulse (GSP) tracks emerging security trends and risks worldwide, allowing you to stay ahead in new security developments. This month we present novel developments and must-reads on terrorism in the age of modern technology. 
We assess the impact of modern technology as understood in its broadest sense on both terrorism and counterterrorism by looking at the trends in the use of technology in terrorist attacks (e.g., the use of drones), the use of modern communication technology (e.g., for the dissemination of propaganda, or for recruitment purposes), and the use of financial technology for (countering) terrorist financing.

On the one hand, we see that drones are becoming ever more powerful and smarter, which makes them increasingly attractive for legitimate use, but also for hostile acts. Future commercial-off-the-shelf drones will be able to carry heavier payloads, fly and loiter longer, venture farther afield from their controllers and be able to do so via more-secure communications links. On the other hand, we expect that new technologies will significantly enhance states’ ability to counter terrorism. And as it advances further, it is expected to play an even more central role in our counterterrorism efforts. However, the use of new technologies like facial recognition, is putting pressure on human rights, either intentionally or unintentionally. Particularly the application of AI solutions can simultaneously threaten the freedom of expression, drive inequality and discrimination, and provide repressive regimes with powerful tools to control their populations.

Is This the Arab Spring 2.0?

Nearly a decade after the Arab Spring fizzled, a new wave of protest has swept over the Middle East and North Africa. What is different this time, and will the protesters be more likely to get what they want?

Many believe the Arab Spring that began with the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor in 2010 ended in failure. Since 2013, with the exception of Tunisia, autocrats have kept or regained control across the Arab world. The resurgent antidemocratic regimes then tarnished the protesters by claiming that it was a Western conspiracy that led people to the streets in Tripoli, Manama, Tahrir Square in Cairo, and all across the region. But the continued absence of political and economic opportunity in the Middle East did not abate. Now, national protests happening in Algeria, Lebanon, and Sudan herald a new season of civil unrest and calls for democracy in the Middle East.

How the Iran Hawks Botched Trump’s Syria Withdrawal

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On April 3, 2018, Brett McGurk, then-special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition, told an audience in Washington that the United States planned to stay in Syria for the foreseeable future. “We are in Syria to fight ISIS,” McGurk said during an event at the United States Institute for Peace, “and our mission isn’t over.”

But as McGurk was speaking, his boss was striking a very different note the same day at a White House press conference. “I want to get out [of Syria]. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation,” President Donald Trump said.

The stunning split screen is one that many insiders point to as emblematic of the jumbled, often downright incoherent nature of the United States’ Syria policy. But it also reflects the failure of senior U.S. officials to take Trump at his word, as they actively sought to stay in Syria as a buffer against the Islamic State and Iranian influence—with disastrous consequences for the Syrian Kurds.

Boris Johnson Gambles Brexit on a General Election

By Amy Davidson Sorkin

The United Kingdom is having another general election, its third in five years, on December 12th. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted it, even if some in his Conservative Party didn’t. So did the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalist Party. The main opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, agreed to it at the last minute. All the parties say that they are ready and eager to fight for the public’s votes, or at least that they see the necessity of doing so. The debate on whether to call an election, which took place on Monday and Tuesday, included references on all sides to “impasse,” “deadlock,” and “paralysis,” over the issue of how to leave the European Union, in keeping with the 2016 Brexit referendum, or whether to leave at all. The latest deadline for getting out was supposed to have been Halloween; it was extended till January 31st. Johnson boasted that, with his push for a new vote, “the ice floes have begun to crack.” But there is no one in British politics for whom the new elections don’t represent some kind of failure—with the possible exception of those, such as the Scottish Nationalists, who see in the breakdown of the British parliamentary system an opportunity to break away. Whatever happens to the ice floes, though, an election might not even crack Brexit.

Ten facts about the economics of climate change and climate policy

Substantial Biophysical Damages Will Occur in the Absence of Strong Climate Policy Action

The world’s climate has already changed measurably in response to accumulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These changes as well as projected future disruptions have prompted intense research into the nature of the problem and potential policy solutions. This document aims to summarize much of what is known about both, adopting an economic lens focused on how ambitious climate objectives can be achieved at the lowest possible cost.

Considerable uncertainties surround both the extent of future climate change and the extent of the biophysical impacts of such change. Notwithstanding the uncertainties, climate scientists have reached a strong consensus that in the absence of measures to reduce GHG emissions significantly, the changes in climate will be substantial, with long-lasting effects on many of Earth’s physical and biological systems. The central or median estimates of these impacts are significant. Moreover, there are significant risks associated with low probability but potentially catastrophic outcomes. Although a focus on median outcomes alone warrants efforts to reduce emissions of GHGs, economists argue that the uncertainties and associated risks justify more aggressive policy action than otherwise would be warranted (Weitzman 2009; 2012).

Small Satellites in the Emerging Space Environment

By Steven Kosiak

Executive Summary

In coming years, constellations composed of large numbers of small, less complex, and less costly satellites are likely to become progressively more cost-effective relative to constellations made up of small numbers of large, more complex, and more expensive satellites. Movement in this direction, which is already clearly visible in commercial space, is the result of a variety of factors, including continued improvements in the miniaturization of computers, sensors, and other technologies and, even more importantly, reductions in space launch costs.

While it would be hazardous to assume that launch costs for satellites will be cut dramatically in the near future, it seems likely that at least some significant further reductions will be achieved, given the success of efforts to reduce those costs in recent years and the number and maturity of ongoing efforts focused on this goal. Because launch costs presently account for a far higher share of overall lifecycle costs for small, less expensive satellites than for large, costly satellites, these reductions are likely to improve the overall cost-effectiveness of the former more than the latter.

To Tackle Climate Change, the (Industrial) Heat Is On


Climate change has become big news recently — and rightly so. Scientists have delivered important reports about its urgent dangers, political leaders have made pledges to fight it, and youth climate activists have marched in the streets and marked our consciences. This is all for the good. New ideas about electric vehicles, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and adaptation will enrich the conversation about climate action. 

But one critical topic has received short shrift: industrial heat.

It’s not surprising. Most people have no experience with heavy industry — such as manufacturing cement, steel, fuels, chemicals and glass — so they don’t know about its effects on the climate. But these processes generate 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with industrial heat alone releasing 10%. Despite the essential role it plays in the modern world, heavy industry has been conspicuously absent from the climate conversation.

If you care about climate, care about this.


The Global Security Pulse (GSP) tracks emerging security trends and risks worldwide, allowing you to stay ahead in new security developments. This month we present novel developments and must-reads on hybrid conflict. 

Our research suggests that the international security environment is increasingly characterized by hybrid strategies that fall under military, political, economic, information, and cyber domains. Hybrid threats are characterized by their complexity, ambiguity, multidimensional nature, and gradual impact, making them difficult for states to effectively respond to and posing a significant challenge to the international order. Whilst hybrid tactics in and of themselves are not entirely new, the availability of diverse and sophisticated (technological) tools is enhancing the impact, reach, and congruence of these strategies. This aspect, paired with states’ unprecedented aversion to engage in conventional war due to nuclear, economic and political deterrence, and recent shifts in global power means that hybrid conflict constitutes an increasingly desirable strategy to achieve political goals.

The changing nature of activism amongst Sikhs in the UK today

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Second generation Sikh activism has rarely been explored by British academics and journalists, which makes this paper unique in scope.

Lecturer Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal and journalist Sunny Hundal cover four themes:

whether British Sikhs are becoming more religious
claims of grooming of girls

links between some Sikh groups and the far-right

whether accusations of Sikh extremism have any substance

The Middle East Without America (Version 2)?

by Frank Li

In January 2016, I published an article under the same title (The Middle East without America? - Version 1). This is an update, triggered by this recent news story: Trump Orders Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Northern Syria.

1. Predicting the predictable in January 2016

Below is an excerpt from Version 1 (The Middle East without America?):

America will forever be involved in the Mideast for one simple reason: Israel! Other than that, America, or American influence to be more precise, would soon be done and gone! Why? We have blundered so much over the past two decades that there is not a single true ally left for us (other than Israel), but a bunch of hatred against us! Who then will replace America as the major influence over there? Iran as the dominant regional force, with Russia and China as the major foreign forces!

Ukrainian Officer Details Russian Electronic Warfare Tactics Including Radio "Virus"


AUkranian military officer has offered new insights into the scale and scope of Russian electronic and cyber warfare capabilities, including details on GPS jamming and spoofing tactics, and how they have evolved since a conflict erupted between the two countries more than five years ago. He also said that Russia's capacity to launch some types of attacks may be waning to a degree thanks to American and other international sanctions that have made it difficult for the Kremlin to source key components for these systems.

Ukrainian Colonel Ivan Pavlenko offered this information during a presentation at the 56th Annual Association of Old Crows International Symposium and Convention in Washington, D.C., as well as on the sidelines of that event, on Oct. 29, 2019. Pavlenko is presently the Deputy Chief of Combat Support Units of the Joint Forces Headquarters of the Joint Staff Armed Forces of Ukraine, but between 2009 and 2017 he had served as the Chief of the Electronic Protection Section in the Electronic Warfare Department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

How the British Army’s operations went agile

Much has been written over the years about parallels between the military and large corporations. But what insights are most relevant for senior executives today in an age of agile organizations? With his long experience in the Army and then in business, Justin Maciejewski is unusually well placed to reflect on the lessons for business, as a former commander of the British Army’s 800-strong 2nd Battalion, The Rifles, during its vital peacekeeping mission in Basra, Iraq, from 2007 to 2008.

Maciejewski’s career in the army spanned more than a quarter of a century, taking in the years after the Falklands War, in 1982, to recent operations alongside coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and the Middle East. It was a time that coincided with the development of a new type of leadership based on empowerment, designed to make the British Army more tactically agile and able to overcome larger adversaries through maneuvers, rapid planning, and decision making that disrupt and break down the enemy’s cohesion. This has transformed the British Army’s approach, which for generations had been based on centrally controlled, set piece battles focused on overwhelming firepower and attrition. Awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his role in Iraq, Maciejewski joined McKinsey in 2013 and was appointed director general of the National Army Museum in London in 2018.

Russia, the Indispensable Nation in the Middle East

By Eugene B. Rumer 
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Russia is on a roll in the Middle East. Russian airpower saved the Assad regime from certain defeat. Turkey and Israel must now accept the presence of Russian troops on their borders. Saudi Arabia has given Russian President Vladimir Putin the red-carpet treatment. And U.S. President Donald Trump thanked Putin for facilitating the operation to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (or ISIS). Throughout the Middle East, from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, Russia is ubiquitous, with its high-level visitors, its weapons, its mercenaries, and its deals to build nuclear power plants. Russia has gotten involved in this region as the United States pulls back from it—a trend that even the success of the Baghdadi raid can do little to conceal.

The reemergence of Russia as a major power broker in the Middle East is striking not only in contrast with the United States’ erratic posture in the region but because for a quarter century after the Cold War, Russia had been absent from the region. But Russia’s absence, and not its return, is the anomaly.

Japan, South Korea, and the Politics of the Present

By Jennifer Lind

In this July 20, 2019, photo, protesters tear a Japanese rising sun flag during a rally denouncing the Japanese government’s decision on their exports to South Korea in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea.Credit: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

When South Koreans chime geonbae! and clink glasses, these days they aren’t toasting with Asahi Super Dry. In addition to shunning Japanese beer – imports of which have dropped to almost zero – South Korean consumers are boycotting many other Japanese products, among them automobiles, cosmetics, and even 7-Eleven (an American brand commonly thought to be Japanese in South Korea). In addition, Tokyo and Seoul have removed each other from their lists of preferred trading partners. Japanese foreign direct investment into South Korea dropped by a third this year. A recent poll showed that in both countries, three-quarters of respondents say they do not trust the other. The rift has also extended to security relations; South Korea has withdrawn from an intelligence-sharing agreement that took the United States, their shared ally, years to broker.

What’s responsible for this downward spiral in relations?

Shortening Compulsory IDF Service for Men

Shmuel Even, Sason Hadad
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The discharge of men inducted into the IDF from July 2015 began in March 2018, after 32 months of compulsory service (compared with 36 months until then). A law stipulating a further shortening of compulsory service for men is supposed to apply to those drafted from July 2020, such that they will serve 30 months. However, according to media reports, the past year has heard dissenting voices within the military against adopting this shortened service, in view of the increasing security challenges. In contrast, some in the Ministry of Finance want to shorten the compulsory service period even further to just 24 months, for economic reasons. This article presents the main issues regarding shortening compulsory service for men enlisting from July 2020. Either way, in the foreseeable future, compulsory service soldiers will remain the main source of manpower in the IDF, and will overwhelmingly determine the quality of the military.The IDF includes career soldiers and soldiers in compulsory service; the latter comprise the decisive majority of soldiers in uniform. Soldiers in compulsory service are the source for soldiers in the regular army and in the reserves, and therefore have a decisive role in shaping the image and quality of the military. The number of soldiers in compulsory service depends on four parameters:

The size of potential recruitment cohorts: A cohort of 18-year-olds comprises about 95,000 men and women, almost all from the Jewish sector, and increases in accordance with natural growth. Potential compulsory recruitment also includes men from the Druze and Circassian communities. In general, the Arab sector is not required to serve and is therefore not part of potential recruitment, even though this exception is not anchored in law.

Civic Freedoms Are Under Attack. What Can Be Done?


Civic space is a crucial part of any democratic society. It is the political, legal, and social environment that allows people to come together to share experiences and ideas, put forward their views publicly, and to influence politics and society. It hinges on three fundamental freedoms: people’s ability to form associations, protest peacefully, and express views and opinions.

To protect civic space, governments need to enshrine those rights in law and to make sure that citizens and organizations can exercise them—without fear of persecution, violence, or harassment.