23 December 2012

The “Cyber Weapons Gap”: What do we really know about China’s cyber warfare capabilities?

Franz-Stefan Gady, Senior Fellow at the EastWest Institute 
December 21, 2012 

Franz Stefan-Gady 

The journalist, Joseph Alsop, was not mincing words in his syndicated column on August 1, 1958: “The Eisenhower Administration is guilty of gross untruth concerning the national defense of the U.S.” The reason behind this vitriol was the now infamous (and fictional) missile gap—a presumed strategic advantage for the Soviet Union over the United States in bombers and nuclear missiles—that Alsop believed was factual. When Ike read the paper he supposedly threw it across the room. The president knew the gap was fictional due to top secret, U-2 spy flights over the Soviet Union, but he could not inform the public about the non-existing missile gap due to the top-secret nature of the flights. Alsop had received incomplete intelligence from the Air Force and a couple of US senators. For years the fear of a missile gap poisoned the discourse about Soviet capabilities and led to an increase in military spending under the Kennedy administration. 

Today, we are in danger of falling into a “cyber weapons gap”—exaggerating the capabilities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army—when it comes to waging cyber war. Halting just short of an Alsop indictment, the press and various national security experts have sensationalized the technology developments of the PLA and the exploits of Chinese hackers. Fear of a cyber “Pearl Harbor” against critical US information infrastructure is exaggerated. While some of the danger of cyber espionage from China is real, doomsday scenarios distort the true nature of the threat. 

One reason is that there has been little clarity in public debates about the true impact of cyber war: How much damage would it really inflict? The simple truth is that much of the debate surrounding the PLA’s cyber war capabilities is mere speculation based on evidence of its undoubted success in cyber espionage. Yet the capabilities needed for cyber spying compared with those needed for cyber operations with strategic military impact are very different. High school hackers can chance upon a breach, but a fully mobilized and prepared cyber force, supported by advanced intelligence methods and human intelligence activity, is needed for cyber operations in a theater of war. 

The bad news from Flamanville

Vaiju Naravane 
Published: December 22, 2012

AP View of the construction site of the third-generation nuclear plant in Flamanville, northwestern France. 

The cost overruns on France’s signature nuclear reactor pose a dilemma for India, which plans to buy six massive units for Jaitapur 

French electricity giant EDF, the engineer, constructor and operator of the Areva-designed EPR nuclear reactor (F3) being built in Flamanville, northern France, has announced a steep hike in the cost of the reactor, from an initial €3.3 billion in 2005 to a dizzying €8.5 billion this year. A revised estimate issued two years ago had put the cost at €6.5 billion. 

Work on the reactor is already behind schedule by four years and optimistic estimates say it could go on stream in 2016 at the earliest with costs expected to rise even further by then. These announcements pose a dilemma for India, which plans to buy six of the massive 1650 MW reactors to be built in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. Normally, the first of a series turns out to be the most expensive since it is the first project to be translated from paper to concrete reality and costs tend to decrease as the equipment becomes tried, tested and streamlined. 

Behind schedule 

In the case of EPR, however, that logic appears to have been turned on its head. Flamanville (F3) is not the first but the second of the series to be built, the first being Olkioutou in Finland, which is also running several years behind schedule and is expected to start operating in 2014. Not a single EPR of the four being built is currently operational, although Areva keeps assuring the Indian government that the two under construction in China, Taishan I and II, are “running at cost and on schedule”. 

Not that surprising, considering there are 9000 Chinese workers doing 10-hour shifts, seven days a week. But the Chinese appear to be on track also because they fought hard and obtained a total transfer of technology. Not so India, which refused this option. Therefore, the engineer/contractor mix under the overarching umbrella of the NPCIL remains fuzzy. What is worrying in the EPR story is not just the roll-on effect the huge jump in cost will have on the Indian purchase but the massive challenges posed by the complexity of design, construction and maintenance. 

Filling the strategic space in South-East Asia

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Harsh V. Pant 
Published: December 22, 2012

To fulfil Asean’s need for a regional balancing power, India must prove itself as a credible security and economic partner 

This week India and the ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) marked their 20 years of partnership with a commemorative summit in New Delhi. The significance that Asean members are increasingly according India can be gauged from the presence of the Prime Ministers of Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, the Presidents of Myanmar and Indonesia and the Vice-President of Philippines in India for the India-Asean summit. The highlight of the summit was clearly the conclusion of talks on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on services and investment which is expected to increase bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2022 and lead to talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which also includes Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh underlined, together India and the Asean states “constitute a community of 1.8 billion people, representing one-fourth of humanity, with a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion” and therefore “it is only natural that India should attach the highest priority to its relationship with Asean.”

India was admitted as sectoral dialogue partner of the Asean in 1992 and went on to become a full-fledged dialogue partner in 1996. There has been a significant increase in India-Asean trade from $42 billion in 2008 to $80 billion last year. This trade relationship will get a further boost with the two signing the FTA on services and investment. The FTA on goods was signed in 2009 despite some significant opposition in India and since its implementation last year India has been keen on expanding trade in services in order to leverage its own strengths. The relationship is now officially ‘strategic’ with the two sides deciding to elevate their ties from a mere dialogue partnership.

Despite its historical and cultural links with South-East Asia, India in its post-Independence foreign policy largely tended to ignore the region. The structural constraints of the Cold War proved too formidable despite India’s geographic proximity to the region. It was the end of the Cold War that really brought this region back to the forefront of India’s foreign policy horizons. And the then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, whose contributions are often ignored in Indian foreign policy discourse, was visionary enough to recognise the importance of engaging with the world’s most economically dynamic region. Since then, India’s ‘Look East’ policy, which originated primarily focused on trade and economics, has now attained a distinct security dimension. As India’s economic linkages with various countries in the region have become more extensive, demands have grown for a gradual strengthening of security ties at a time of China’s rapid ascendance in the global hierarchy.

Dead soldiers guard international border!

Issue Courtesy: Uday India | Date : 21 Dec , 2012 

A BSF Soldier is saluting Epitaph to pay homage to his three senior colleges (Photo: Shib Shankar Chatterjee) 

Inmates of the Border Security Force (BSF) of Khalpara International Border Out Post (IBOP) have been facing a number of unwanted incidents for a long time. This came to light after an incident that took place at the aforesaid BSF camp that lies on the India-Bangladesh International Border under Haldibari Police Station at Jalpaiguri District in West Bengal. The jawans of the Khalpara IBOP have been noticing that a number of snakes are moving within the camp area. This has caused anxiety among the jawans and they have got frightened. The snakes vanish when jawans try to drive the snakes out, but reappear again after sometime. 

As a result of this, they have to pass many a sleepless night. 

“One night, one of the guards, when he was on duty, felt that someone had been slapping him. The other guards also agreed to his story of an invisible man, who was slapping some other guards. This happened when they show negligence towards their duty (basically at night),” claimed a constable of 95 BN of BSF, Prakash Singh 

“On June 8, 2009, Pravin Kumar, one of our Santris (that is a guard) of the camp noticed a number of snakes loitering in the camp areas. Others inmates and I also saw them. At once, we took steps and drove the snakes out. But, we can’t stop the snakes from coming into the camp. The snakes come again and again and have caused a sense of fear among all of us. We have tried our best to clear up the snakes but in vain. Such incidents have occurred repeatedly”, revealed Sub Inspector Sunderlal Singh, the Platoon Commander of 95 Number Battalion, who was in-charge of the aforesaid IBOP on October 20, 2009. 

Apart from this incident, the jawans have also witnessed some strange incidents, which have created a great fear among the jawans of the Khalpara IBOP. “One night, one of the guards, when he was on duty, felt that someone had been slapping him. The other guards also agreed to his story of an invisible man, who was slapping some other guards. This happened when they show negligence towards their duty (basically at night),” claimed a constable of 95 BN of BSF, Prakash Singh, who was posted at Dangapara IBOP initially, Sunderlal Singh did not believe in all those stories. He didn’t pay heed to the prevalent custom. So, he neither lighted up any candles nor burnt any incense sticks at the martyrs’ altar. As a result, these unwanted incidents started to occur there. At last to mitigate the problem, Sunderlal started to do all that was in practice. He began to light up the candles and burn incense sticks at the martyrs’ tomb. Not only that, he also ordered all camp inmates strictly that nobody should show any negligence to their works during the duty period in that particular Khalpara IBOP. This helped solve the problem at the camp. But, the people of this area neither believe nor disbelieve. According to some of them, these are imaginary stories, while others say that there may be truth in the stories of Sunderlal or Pravin Kumar. But, the jawans still believe in all the incidents that take place, whenever there is any lapse during the duty hours in the camp. 

In fact, during the Liberation War, 1971, three jawans had become shahid in this particular Khalpara IBOP. In the evening of August 11, 1971, those who were killed by a bombshell of the army of erstwhile East Pakistan were from the 73 Battalion of BSF. They were Head Constable (Number—66733027)—Anil Kumar Sircar, Head Constable (Number—66733112)—Mohini Mohan Roy and Constable (Number—66733522)—Man Bahadur Rai. 

Waging a Different Kind of War

Issue Courtesy: The Telegraph | Date : 17 Dec , 2012 

In 2009, the president of India, the supreme commander of its armed forces, created history by flying in an IAF Sukhoi combat aircraft. A gesture which, apart from being daring, communicated to the men and women in the armed forces her concern and empathy for the difficult tasks that they routinely perform in order to stay prepared to respond to the call of the nation. At the time, this writer had commented that this would “be perceived by every soldier, sailor, airman and veteran as a great symbol of hope for the future of the institution of the armed forces of India. A future that in recent times has looked progressively fragile.” 

…military culture enjoins sharing the pride of individual heroics and sacrifices with the wider fraternity. The collective moral ethic of the armed forces has been tarnished as a result of these incidents. 

As time has gone by, what was then perceived to be a fragile future for the armed forces seems to be turning into reality. One would like to believe that it was this concern that prompted the supreme commander to don combat gear again and join the military exercise, Sudarshan Shakti, in Rajasthan on India’s western border. She was reported to have witnessed the exercise from an IAF Mi 17 helicopter, before taking a ride on a T-90 tank. All this in simulated operations close to the sensitive border. Much like fitting into the cramped cockpit of a fighter aircraft, manning the cabin of a tank also requires courage and grit. That the supreme commander has again reached out to communicate directly to the soldiers she commands must continue to be a source of inspiration for the forces. 

Sandwiched between these two presidential forays into the field, much has taken place both within and outside the armed forces that must cause students of national security some concern. Are the civil and service leaderships on the same wavelength, or are we closer to the abyss? 

U.S. and Israel Heading for a Clash?

December 22, 2012

Here's the question no one is asking as 2012 ends, especially given the effusive public support the Obama administration offered Israel in its recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza: Will 2013 be a year of confrontation between Washington and Jerusalem? It's on no one's agenda for the New Year. But it could happen anyway. 

It's true that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process appears dead in the water. No matter how much Barack Obama might have wanted that prize, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rebuffed him at every turn. The president appears to have taken it on the chin, offering more than the usual support for Israel and in return getting kloom (as they say in Hebrew). Nothing at all. 

However, the operative word here is "appears." In foreign affairs what you see -- a show carefully scripted for political purposes -- often bears little relation to what you actually get. 

While the Obama administration has acceded to the imagery of knee-jerk support for whatever Israel does, no matter how outrageous, behind the scenes its policies are beginning to look far less predictable. In fact, unlikely as it may seem, a showdown could be brewing between the two countries. If so, the outcome will depend on a complicated interplay between private diplomacy and public theater.

The latest well-masked U.S. intervention came in the brief November war between Israel and Gaza. It began when Israel assassinated a top Hamas leader deeply involved in secret truce talks between the supposedly non-communicating foes. 

Destructive as it was, the war proved brief indeed for one reason: the American president quickly stepped in. Publicly, he couldn't have sided more wholeheartedly with Israel. (It felt as if Mitt Romney had won, not lost, the election.) In private, though, as he pressured Egyptian President Morsi to force Hamas to a truce, he reportedly pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just as hard. 

The truce agreement even had an Obama-required twist. It forced Israel to continue negotiating seriously with Hamas about easing the blockade that, combined with repeated destructive Israeli strikes against the Palestinian infrastructure, has plunged Gaza so deep into poverty and misery. Talks on the blockade are reportedly proceeding, though wrapped in the deepest secrecy. It's hard to imagine Israel upholding the truce and entering into a real dialogue to ease the blockade without significant pressure from Washington. 

Washington is also deeply involved in the tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) in the West Bank. When P.A. president Mahmoud Abbas asked the U.N. General Assembly to accord Palestine observer status, Israel publicly denounced any such U.N. resolution. The Obama administration wanted to offer a far softer resolution of its own with Israeli approval. The Israelis gave in and sent a top official to Washington to negotiate the language. 

Conducting Security Force Assistance in a Rural District: Understanding the Operational Environment

Journal Article | Dec 20 2012


The following article is a summation and description of some of the pertinent lessons I learned as a Security Force Assistance Team Leader in Khakrez District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan from May to December 2012. In Khakrez, I worked with the District Chief of Police (DCoP) and his Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) and Afghan Local Police (ALP). The ISAF contingent in Khakrez was a unique organization. In addition to my SFAT, we had a Stability Transition Team (STT) who served as the Battlespace Owner (BSO), an artillery battery that managed the Combat Outpost (COP) and partnered with the Afghan National Army (ANA) Company, a District Assessment Team (DAT), a Civil Affairs Team (CAT), an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, and an infantry platoon for security. We also worked with a few teams of Special Operations Forces in the district. As such, my Advisor Team (AT) did not operate exclusively with the AUP. It was necessary for us to understand the details and problems of governance and infrastructure, and we had to have a keen understanding of the issues faced in the Special Operations areas, as well. With the full understanding that each district is different, some remarkably so, readers should approach this writing not as a “how to” guide but as a reference that simply outlines some of the challenges faced by one SFA team in one district. Every advisor experience will no doubt be unique and challenging, but I found the issues I faced both daunting and interesting, especially when viewed against the preparation the team received at the Joint Rotational Training Center (JRTC) in Fort Polk, LA. I am not of the opinion, necessarily, that the teams we deployed were not adequately prepared. The scope and depth of the problems I faced, however, were far more complex than I anticipated and I expect the same is true of teams I deployed with and teams preparing to deploy. For this reason I believe that sharing some of my particular experiences is important, and I hope that readers can take some of the circumstances under which I found myself to gain a better situational awareness of the problems they are preparing to face as a Security Force Assistance advisor. 


As the current Security Force Assistance (SFA) mission in Afghanistan matures and Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) are developed and refined, it becomes apparent that deploying SFA ATs must understand the standard doctrinal model for SFA operations according to FM 3-07.1, Security Force Assistance. It also becomes obvious that the Advisor Teams (AT) must be acutely aware of the peculiarities of their target district and/or province. The standard Army training model for SFA ATs is the Advisor Academy and a Field Training Exercise (FTX) at either the National Training Center (NTC) in Fort Irwin, CA or the Joint Rotational Training Center (JRTC) in Fort Polk, LA. Currently, the Army prepares Soldiers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Officers of various different branches for their SFA mission through the process of both classroom instruction and field training. This instruction is designed to replicate conditions in Afghanistan from the district level to the highest echelons of partnered command in order to replicate deployed environmental conditions as closely as possible. In spite of the Combat Training Centers’ (CTC) efforts to provide situational exercises based on both general and specific OE practices, the frequently changing dynamics of SFA missions prevent them from truly replicating the nuances of personalities, terrain considerations, and the population of the team’s assigned areas of operation. As with any training methodology, the difference between didactic, classroom learning can stand in stark contrast to actual field work; true situational understanding is acquired mostly through hands-on experience. Generally the team is acquainted with those items particular to the district during the transition phase (relief in place, right seat-left seat rides, transition of authority) after arriving to their assigned areas, but there is no reason it cannot be successfully initiated prior to this phase. Outgoing advisors can easily make templated reference sheets to give an overall district perspective of critical aspects of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and district to better prepare their replacements. While a general “primer” in Security Force Assistance and Advising is a good start, success will only truly be realized once the team has a comprehensive understanding of the personalities, problems and obstacles inherent in the district. 

'Banquet ban' for China military

22 December 2012 

The BBC's Charles Scalon: "There's an understanding in China - power and money go very closely together" 

Elaborate state-funded banquets have been banned for China's top military officials, state media has reported. 

The move comes after a diktat from central government earlier this month that aimed to curb extravagance and tackle corruption. 

Xinhua news agency says receptions for high-ranking officers will no longer feature luxury banquets or alcohol. 

The diktat, passed on 4 December, has also now sparked similar rules for civilian officials in Beijing. 

The Communist Party's Central Committee, which includes civilian and military personnel, dictated eight ways that officials needed to change their working practices. 

In line with the diktat, the military has now ruled out welcome banners, red carpets, floral arrangements, and souvenirs. 

Officials will also no longer be allowed to stay in luxury hotels during inspection tours and vehicles will not be allowed to make excessive use of sirens. 

"Military Commission officials are also required to discipline their spouses, children and subordinates and make sure they do not take bribes," the Xinhua report said. 

In a separate report, Xinhua said the Beijing Municipality had become the first local authority to introduce the rules for its civilian staff. 

Beijing officials on business will now have simple buffets, rather than banquets. 

China's new leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly warned of unrest if corruption and perceived privilege within the Communist Party are not tackled. 

The country's political leadership has been rocked by a scandal involving Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party leader once seen as a candidate for top office. 

His wife has been jailed for murdering a British businessman and he awaits trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Inside China's Secret Arsenal

The Chinese government is rapidly building a bigger, more sophisticated military. Here’s what they have, what they want, and what it means for the U.S. 

By Peter W. Singer Posted 12.20.2012

Dark Sword Drone Nick Kaloterakis 

In a single generation, China has transformed itself from a largely agrarian country into a global manufacturing and trading powerhouse. China’s economy is 20 times bigger than it was two decades ago and is on track to surpass the United States’ as the world’s largest. But perhaps most startling has been the growth of China’s ambitious and increasingly powerful military. 

Click to see the planes leading China's military innovation

Just 10 years ago, the budget for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was roughly $20 billion. Today, that number is more like $100 billion. (Some analysts think it’s closer to $160 billion.) The PLA’s budget is only a sixth of what the U.S. devotes to defense annually, but defense dollars go much further in China, and in the years ahead, Chinese military spending will grow at the same rate as its economy. Meanwhile, Chinese president Hu Jintao has called for the PLA to carry out “new historic missions” in the 21st century—to move beyond the traditional goal of defending the nation’s sovereignty and develop the global military reach of a true world superpower. In some cases, China’s increasing international presence could lead to greater cooperation with the U.S., as it did in 2008 when China joined antipiracy patrols off Somalia. But if American and Chinese forces end up in the same place with different goals, the result could be a standoff between two of the best-equipped militaries in the world. 

American officials aren’t just concerned about the amount of money the Chinese military is spending. They’re worried about the technology that money is buying. U.S. military hardware remains a generation ahead of any rival’s, but the Chinese have begun to close the gap. Consider China’s progress in building advanced warplanes. Until recently, American officials thought their F-22 and F-35 aircraft were the world’s only fifth-generation fighters (the name given to a class of stealthy fighter jets developed in the past decade, which are equipped with radar-evading features, high-performance engines and avionics, and networked computer systems). Then, on a 2011 trip to China, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates learned otherwise. While Gates met with Hu Jintao, his hosts “coincidentally” revealed the existence of an advanced new fighter, the J-20, by staging the inaugural public flight over the city of Chengdu. 

The World in Photos This Week

DECEMBER 21, 2012 
Newtown mourns, the Indian army shows off its wares, and a lone pig explores a Spanish village. 

Twenty-six people, including 20 children, were shot dead after a gunman opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec.14. In this photo, Donna Soto (right), mother of Victoria Soto, the first-grade teacher who was shot and killed while protecting her students, hugs her daughter Karly at a candlelight vigil in honor of Victoria at Stratford High School on Dec. 15 in Stratford, Conn. Read FP's coverage for more on America's exceptional gun culture, the implications of the tragedy for the Obama administration, and the role survivalism may have played in the shooting. 

A Palestinian resident of the northern West Bank village of Madama argues with an Israeli soldier on Dec. 17 after security forces arrived to intervene in clashes between Palestinian farmers and Israeli settlers. 

The Challenges Before Shinzo Abe


December 20, 2012 

In the recent general election held in Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) won 294 seats in a landslide victory while the ruling DPJ managed to win only 57 seats. As the President of LDP, Shinzo Abe is expected to become the next Prime Minister on December 26. The LDP and New Komeito, the two former coalition partners in the pre-2009 LDP-led governments, are expected to form another coalition government this time as well. Although the LDP and Komeito do not have a majority in the Upper House of the Diet - the House of Councilors – the two, with a combined 325 seats, do have a majority of seats in the Lower House - the House of Representatives. Their majority in the Lower House could be extremely handy as they can pass bills by voting them through a second time if they are voted down in the Upper House. 

The new administration seems to have inherited a host of challenges (both in the domestic and international fronts) from the preceding DPJ-led government. On the domestic front, the new government has to primarily deal with deflation and hyper-appreciation of the yen. In order to boost the economy, the Abe administration plans to quickly compile a supplementary budget for fiscal 2013 worth several trillion yen and submit it to an ordinary diet session set to convene in late January 2013. As pledged during its election campaign, the LDP might also introduce bold monetary easing measures, including setting an annual inflation target and forming a policy accord with the Bank of Japan. 

Constitution revision is likely to emerge as a subject of debate during Abe’s tenure. The LDP is reportedly considering to discuss with its coalition partner New Komeito the easing of requirements for amending the constitution as stipulated in Article 96. However, persuading the New Komeito on this issue might not be easy as it is quite cautious about the LDP’s possible future intention to revise Article 9 (the no war clause). 

Nuclear energy will continue to dominate the domestic debates within Japan. The LDP has so far refrained from offering a clear-cut stance on the issue possibly due to strong popular sentiments about it. The LDP leadership has been very critical of the zero-nuclear policy proposed by the previous DPJ government. Since the Fukushima nuclear accident (March 2011), the operation of most nuclear reactors in Japan has remained suspended, which, according to the advocates of nuclear energy, has led to the acceleration of the industrial hollowing out process as well as the emergence of an unemployment problem. Therefore, under the LDP leadership, nuclear reactors in Japan might once again be activated (though only after their safety has been scientifically proved) to deal with the energy deficit. However, the LDP’s stance on nuclear energy continues to face criticism from various quarters. Right now, the party’s energy policy seems to lack a sense of urgency, as it talks about mapping out the country’s energy source structure over the next 10 years. 

Full Steam Ahead: The Burma Boom

December 22, 2012 

By Simon Roughneen 

With Burma opening to the outside world, the opportunities for investors and its people are vast. The challenges may be equally daunting. 

RANGOON – Khin Yu Waddy Myint is manager at Pyrex Trading and Distribution, a Burmese pharmaceutical company that employs 250 people across the country. Part of her job is to source and import medicines from India and Australia, a task she concedes she doesn't know enough about. 

“It is the first time for me to learn many of these things about how to tender,” she says, taking a break from some business training at the SME Center inside a Ministry of Commerce building in Rangoon, a short walk from where opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest during Burma's military government. 

Now that military rule is a thing of the past, formally at least, and more donor-funded NGO work is being done in a country where Western aid was, until very recently, on ice for the most part as a part of sanctions imposed on the military junta. 

And while eyes might roll at the notion of another NGO doing yet more training in a poor country, the group behind the course says that its work is all about boosting local business and creating jobs. 

Yuki Kuronuma is Business Development Manager at Building Markets, an NGO that aims to bridge the business-aid divide. She says that “part of what we try to do is link local business and entrepreneurs with international suppliers and business opportunities. In Myanmar the need for this is quite clear, given that the country has been closed to the much of the outside world for so long.” 

Burma's economic prospects are on the rise, now, with the World Bank saying on December 19 that “the Myanmar economy continued to accelerate in fiscal year 2011-12, with GDP growth at 5.5 percent, and expected to reach 6.3 percent in fiscal year 2012-13.” 

Syria’s Next Problem

By Adnan A. Zulfiqar 
December 22, 2012 

Sectarian conflict might dominate coverage of Syria today, but internal Sunni dynamics will define its tomorrow. Tensions between Alawis and Sunnis won’t be settled over night, but the demographics in Syria do not suggest a prolonged conflict similar to Iraq or Lebanon. 

Unlike those countries, Syria is overwhelmingly Sunni (~75%) and Bashar al-Assad’s fate rests on their support. Over the last two years, the strategic alliance between Assad and the Sunni elite has eroded significantly. Assad’s former Syrian-Sunni allies are now some of his opponent’s most important financial contributors. Russia seemingly hedging its bets on Syria’s future, and the United States attempting to raise its profile on the issue bothindicate that post-Assad preparations are being made. 

After almost two years since the rebellion began, over 44,000 have been killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. According to press accounts and my personal observations during a recent trip to the Syrian/Turkey border as part of Truman Project's Democracy and Human Rights Initiative, the rebels control much of Syria’s north, including most of the border with Turkey, significant portions of Aleppo, and are steadily making a push for Damascus, the final prize. Even Assad’s deputies have cynically taken to the airwaves to advocate for a political resolution, an unlikely proposition at this stage. 

An impending power vacuum is inevitable so focus must shift to the competitors aiming to fill that space. The common consensus is that the opposition’s political and military factions are poised to battle for authority. In reality, this competition highlights a more fundamental confrontation: traditionalist Sunnism versus its more puritanical Salafi strain. The Syrian coalition understands this with their perspicacious selection of Mu’az al-Khatib to lead the opposition: the former head imam at Umayyad Masjid, the country’s most important religious site and the fourth holiest site in Islam. Al-Khatib, a Sunni traditionalist, can counter the growing appeal of Salafism. Rebel militias are dominated by an ideological spectrum of Salafi fighters, but are united by both the cause and their interpretive approach to Islam’s foundational texts. Despite Salafism never having mass appeal in Syrian society, there is potential for that to change. 

Report: Al Qaeda emir's hand in Egypt and Syria

By Thomas Joscelyn
December 20, 2012

Die Welt, a German daily, has published an interesting report on al Qaeda's plans for Syria and Egypt. The original can be found here and Worldcrunch has produced a translation of the article, "Has Syria become Al-Qaeda's New Base for Terror Strikes on Europe?" 

Die Welt's reporting jibes with what we've reported at The Long War Journal concerning the ties between al Qaeda-linked jihadists in Egypt and the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. 

Here are the key excerpts [emphasis added]: 
  • Al-Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri is focusing his efforts on Syria and Egypt, trying to build new structures in these two key countries since many of the established al-Qaeda offshoots no longer listen to the network's leadership after the death of Osama Bin Laden, according to information from Western intelligence sources. 
  • Al-Zawahiri's contact in Syria is Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the Jabat al-Nusrah leader. In Egypt, Jamal al-Kashef and Sheik Adel Shehato look after al-Qaeda interests. Al-Qaeda's aim is to fight the "heretical regimes" in both countries; to al-Zawahiri the new regime of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi also counts as one of these. In one of his recent speeches, al-Zawahiri called for attacks on the Egyptian military to help bring down Morsi's government. 

According to intelligence sources, several al-Qaeda leaders who were originally from Egypt have returned there after years of fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Other leaders and active members have been released from prison by the Morsi government. The al-Qaeda cell in Egypt is thought to have been involved in the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

Just Missiles are not Enough

It was a red letter day for the DRDO when the Agni V ICBM was successfully test fired on 19 Apr 2012. Indeed, it was a landmark event for the country as far as its military security is concerned. The nation rightly was rapturous at this achievement and the Defence Ministry and the DRDO had reason to be proud. A statement made by some Chinese analysts, stating that the actual range of the missile was 8000 km and not just 5000 km as announced by the DRDO, added coyness to the happiness all around. “How modest of us?” many wondered. However, statements made by some ‘experts’ that the missile would act as a deterrent to aggression is perhaps misplaced.

Great strides made in missile technology and development has been one of the rare success stories of defence research, development and production in India. One has to feel proud of this achievement of the DRDO. But how should the students of defence strategy view this capability in the overall context of India’s defence preparedness and her ability to impose credible military deterrence over those adversaries who might attempt to secure their political objectives through military means? The answer lies in examining as to what paradigm shift has this missile made in India’s favour.

Will the Agni V - and its earlier versions - subdue China’s outlandish territorial claims, or giving up the Shaksgam Valley which she received from her ‘all weather friend’, or stop her from making in-roads into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, or from propping up Pakistan to keep India down? Will a fear of this missile deter her should she decide to seal her claims by military aggression? The answer is in the negative. In fact, nothing short of a balanced and modernised conventional military force would achieve that aim. To that end, it is essential that the drive to modernise the Indian armed forces within affordable budgetary provisions, must not be allowed to flounder. Political direction to this effect must be given and progress monitored to ensure bureaucratic red tape is removed and the modernisation process is expedited.

Will the missile at the least strengthen India’s ability to resist a military offensive, say by threatening to, or by actually destroying value targets, civilian or military, deep inside the Chinese mainland, while our armed forces are locked in intense, but perhaps unequal, combat? Will five, ten or twenty attacks with such missiles break the Chinese people’s will to fight? The answer is again in the negative; while most analysts are aware of this, only the soldiers, sea-warriors and air-warriors acknowledge it. A regime that condones mass killing and destruction of entire societies to build ‘great’ dams or to ‘revolutionise culture’ just to keep the ‘great helmsman’ and his ‘party’ in absolute power, is unlikely to be too concerned about the possible damage that Indian missiles can inflict. In any event, Chinese capability in this field far exceeds India’s. Though Indian missile capability can act as a deterrent against Chinese missiles, it is no substitute for conventional capability required to defend our land borders. While China is unlikely as of now to use force to press her claims along the McMahon Line and in parts of Ladakh, the deterrent required by India has to be based on conventional capability. This would require capability in the cyber domain, network centric warfare capability, air dominance over the Tibetan Plateau, improved artillery support, enhanced infantry capability and an improved logistic infrastructure. All of these are planned for as per the Army’s modernisation plan. It must now be ensured that slippages in the process do not occur. It would be a mistake to simply rely on missiles for our defence. 

Media and Counter Terrorism Responses: Analysing the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks


Well orchestrated and high profile symbolic terror strikes- 9/11 attacks in theUnited States, 7/7 terrorist strikes in the United Kingdom and 26/11 multiple terror attacks in Mumbai- have attracted enormous media attention with significant implications for counter terrorism response. Terror attacks are also about their explicit dramatic content. Their coverage by the news media evoke a range of responses, with some analysts accusing the media of becoming a ‘participant’ even a ‘combatant’, in such theatres.

Both terrorists and the media are seen to share a symbiotic and/or a mutually reinforcing relationship and are often perceived to be feeding off each other. Terrorists, being ‘media- savvy’, have over time learnt to use the media as a tool in both the ‘propaganda of the deed’ and ‘propaganda of fear.’ The media on the other hand, providing gory details of the terrorist strikes mostly bordering on ‘sensationalism’ generates advertising revenues and Television Rating Points (TRP). This paper is a brief assessment of the nature of media reporting during the Mumbai terror attacks, a review of the consequent implications for the counter terror responses, and policy recommendations to deal with future scenarios.

The Mumbai episode involved hostage taking as well as attacks on high profile symbolic targets with the objective of getting maximum domestic and international media attention. The television coverage of the 67-hour terrorist attack by over 30 channels turned the entire episode into a reality TV, with some analysts even dubbing it as ‘TV terror’. The coverage included disturbing imagery of gory scenes, with aggressive and sensational reporting catering to the upper class and international audience. The criticism was not entirely unwarranted as equal media attention was lacking in reporting the carnage at Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station, where the bulk of the fatalities occurred. The coverage of the hotels captured the attention of a larger urban and international audience and in the process had the scope of gaining more mileage and TRPs.