18 November 2013

Something for Barack and Bibi to Talk About

November 16, 2013

PRESIDENT OBAMA and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel spoke on the phone for 90 minutes the other day. Wow — 90 minutes! I wonder if Obama has ever spoken to John Boehner for 90 minutes?

But this is just the start of some even longer conversations. Secretary of State John Kerry is teeing up not one, but two negotiations that involve the most neuralgic issues facing Israel today: the Iran threat and Palestinian statehood. Israel soon could face two of the hardest strategic choices it’s ever had to make at the same time: trade West Bank settlements for peace with the Palestinians and trade sanctions on Iran for curbs on its nuclear program. I’d say Obama and Netanyahu better get one of those unlimited minutes plans — or maybe just install a hotline.

Given this situation, I can think of no better time for a good book about Israel — the real Israel, not the fantasy, do-no-wrong Israel peddled by its most besotted supporters or the do-no-right colonial monster portrayed by its most savage critics. Ari Shavit, the popular Haaretz columnist, has come out with just such a book this week, entitled “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.”

Shavit is one of a handful of experts whom I’ve relied upon to understand Israel ever since I reported there in the 1980s. What do all my Israeli analytical sources have in common? They all share a way of thinking about Israel — which is expressed with deep insight, compassion and originality in Shavit’s must-read book — that to understand Israel today requires keeping several truths in tension in your head at the same time.

First, that Israel, at its best, is one of the most amazing political experiments in modern history, so much better than its critics will ever acknowledge. Second, Israel at its worst, is devouring Palestinian farms and homes in the West Bank in ways that are ugly, brutal, selfish and deceitful, so much worse than its supporters will ever admit. Third, Israel lives in a dangerous region — surrounded by people who hate it not only for what it does but for what it is, a successful Jewish state — but its actions matter, too. It can ameliorate or exacerbate Arab antipathy.

Shavit winds the history of Israel through these truths, starting with his own family. His great-grandfather, a lawyer, was a founding father; his grandfather helped to build Israel’s education system; his father, a chemist, worked among the scientists who built Israel’s nuclear program. He then weaves in the next waves of immigrants, the broken survivors of World War II who joined up with the idealistic Zionists to rebuild the Jewish commonwealth in its ancient homeland. Israel’s founders were a remarkable lot. They were modest — Golda Meir died in a two-bedroom apartment — pragmatic, but utterly focused builders, who laid the foundations for a country that absorbed Jewish immigrants from 100 nations, built world-class universities and hospitals, its own Silicon Valley and 12 winners of the Nobel Prize.

“Zionism’s goal,” writes Shavit, “was to transfer a people from one continent to another, to conquer a country and assemble a nation and build a state and revive a language and give hope to a hopeless people. And against all odds, Zionism succeeded. If a Vesuvius-like volcano were to erupt tonight and end our Pompeii, this is what it would petrify: a living people. People that have come from death and were surrounded by death but who nevertheless put up a spectacular spectacle of life.”

But this miracle also produced a nightmare. There was another people there when the Jews returned, who had their own aspirations: the Palestinian Arabs. In a brutally honest chapter entitled “Lydda, 1948,” Shavit reconstructs the story of how the population of this Palestinian Arab town, in the center of what was to become Israel, was expelled on July 13th in the 1948 war.

“By noon, a mass evacuation is under way,” writes Shavit. “By evening, tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs leave Lydda in a long column, marching south past the Ben Shemen youth village and disappearing into the East. Zionism obliterates the city of Lydda. Lydda is our black box. In it lies the dark secret of Zionism. ... If Zionism was to be, Lydda could not be.”

Shavit wrestles with this contradiction, arguing that it is vital for every Israeli and Zionist to acknowledge Lydda, to empathize with the Palestinians’ fate. “But Lydda does not make Zionism criminal,” he insisted in an interview. History has produced many flights of refugees — the Jewish refugees of Europe were one such wave. Israel absorbed those refugees. European countries absorbed theirs. For too long, the Arab world kept the Palestinians frozen in victimhood. “It is my moral duty as an Israeli to recognize Lydda and help the Palestinians to overcome it,” said Shavit, by helping them establish a Palestinian state that is ready to live in peace with Israel. But, ultimately, “it is the Palestinians’ responsibility to overcome the painful past, lean forward and not become addicted to victimhood.”

Shavit’s chapter on the Oslo peace accords, which he first supported but later denounced, challenges the Israeli left. The great mistake of the Israeli left was that it was right about the evils of Israel’s occupation, he said, “but it was wrong that ending the occupation would end the conflict with the Palestinians, because the Palestinians have not overcome the trauma of 1948 and many still oppose a Jewish democracy in this region, no matter what the borders.” But Shavit argues that Israel can’t afford to just wait for every Palestinian to embrace a Jewish state. It must find a way to separate from the West Bank, as it did in Gaza, otherwise the spreading Jewish settlements there will be the virus that kills the original Israel.

The Economics of Defence: Investment vs Deterrence

IssueVol. 28.3 Jul-Sep 2013| Date : 16 Nov , 2013

Alongside the troubles concurrent and brewing, there are hopeful signs of matured realisation and some improvements in the situation. History proves that such improvements in inter-state tolerance are best nurtured under an incentive of deterrence. For the near future however, it is certain that India will continue to be tormented by proxy war and terror acts emanating from Pakistan, while being needled by China’s over territorial claims and land-sea encirclement. There is no doubt that when these inimical forces orchestrate to stalk conjointly, it cannot portend well for the Indian nationhood. As a corollary, it would be an abject failure of her state policies, diplomatic as well as military, if India is unable to deter these inimical powers to desist from their compulsive mission of undermining her.

“One sided pursuit of peace and disarmament is a powerful incentive to the adversary to intensify its own pursuit of war” —Luttwak

India’s future will be decided by the manner in which she deals with any form of siege…

The Algorithm of Defence Investment

The leaders of newly independent India had undertaken a noble mission – to once again make India a ‘Soney ki Chidiya’ (Golden Bird) as it was referred to in earlier times while bestowing upon her enslaved and emaciated people the joy of freedom and prosperity. There was a roadmap to that destination which, contrary to the current fashion of levelling simplistic insinuations against the ‘Nehruvian’ policies, did take off steadily, instilling pride among all Indians of that era. That was a path of progress, catalysed by an environment of peace and non-alignment and guided by the noble principles of ‘Panchsheel’ in devising healthy neighbourly relations.

As it appeared to the Indian intelligentsia of the 1950s, Tagore’s prophecy, “India would once again assume her exalted seat in the comity of nations ….” was coming to fruition. Indeed, in such a sublime scheme of regional solidarity, India’s military institution was seen merely as a burden upon the exchequer. But alas, the script went awry. Predatory neighbours just could not resist that temptation which had in the past enticed many marauding hordes to divest India of her prosperity.

As it had happened in the 10th century, the post-independence aggressions were instigated by the Indian State’s naive propensity of remaining defenceless and proclaiming that as a virtue! Territorial ambitions and an urge to put a chirping India ‘in her place’ thus provoked the Chinese aggression in 1962 and that by Pakistan in 1965, first in Kutch and then in Jammu & Kashmir. That chastised India to invest in her military empowerment. Thus, for the next two decades, any further anti-India adventurism remained deterred. But in the 1990s, when the world order brought the nation to a brink of economic disaster, defence preparedness had to be the first to be jettisoned. Admittedly, that had to be the worst among all the difficult options that confronted India at that time.

That set the predators on the prowl again. Our Western neighbour, devoted to the sole agenda of destroying Indian nationhood even if it meant going naked, now adopted new strategies – proxy wars in Punjab and Kashmir, subversion of Indian youth, aggression in Kargil and when nothing worked, terrorist attacks upon our defenceless civil society. The Northern neighbour, having gobbled up all lands and seas which she thought had always been under her formal, notional or imaginary suzerainty, now engaged fulltime in boosting Pakistan’s capacity to create nuisance. This was an “all-weather friendship” between an autarchic nation and its unscrupulous lackey with the sole purpose of biting chunks of flesh off India while she remained militarily vulnerable.

Naval capability necessary to secure security and economic interests

Sunday, November 17, 2013 

The delivery of the INS Vikramaditya will provide India its second aircraft carrier. Along with the indigenous carrier scheduled to be launched by 2016, India’s Navy will be able to claim a genuine blue water capability. Three carriers will effectively fulfill the Indian Navy’s dream of being able to field at least one air platform on the high seas at any given time. It is important to keep in mind that the INS Vikramaditya is just one part of a broader Indian maritime security need. This maritime requirement is necessary to secure the country’s security and economic interests in the Indian Ocean and, arguably, in waters beyond.

There will be some who will argue that India is wasting its time worrying about securing the Straits of Malacca or watching the Gulf of Aden when it has pressing problems at home. Unfortunately, such things cannot be separated so neatly.

The Mumbai 26/11 attacks is a reminder of the danger of seaborne terror. The Somali pirate problem helped drive shipping costs in the western Indian Ocean endangering shipments of fuel, fertiliser and other goods to India. Almost all of India’s natural gas, oil and now even coal imports come across the waters. Almost all of India’s exports leave from its shores. India’s ability to solve its problems at home is inextricably linked to its ability to secure the air, sea and land on its periphery.

There is an additional concern. Though the United States has received little praise for doing so, the truth is that for the past half-century its huge navy has helped protect the global sea lanes, clear the waters of pirates and otherwise ensure the free flow of ships and trade.

The US is today surrendering this role and has signalled that other countries need to take on the burden of being global lifeguards. This is evident in the Indian Ocean where US warships are becoming less and less frequent. India needs to prepare to fill this vacuum in the ocean that bears its name or face the likelihood of other, potentially less friendly, powers doing so in the coming decades.

© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, 18 November 2013 
Indulata Das

Even as the science on climate change has become more certain, action has become more uncertain. At the ongoing Cop19 summit in Warsaw, world leaders are back to bargaining how little they can contribute to save our home

I am at Warsaw as a Adopt a Negotiator Fellow and wearing the pristine ‘Negotiator Tracker’ T-shirt. I have a fancy role to ‘track’ my country’s negotiators to the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties, commonly known as Cop19, and their role in the UN climate negotiations this year.

Those of you who are wondering what a Cop is, let me tell you in the most sensible way I can: Cop is the annual circus where leaders from all over the world meet to bargain how little they would like to contribute to save this planet; how the big brothers can get away scot-free polluting the environment and provoking the wrath of the nature.

It is one of the most civilised battlefields that there is. Here people try to rip each other over contentious issues like carbon taxes and carbon emission. The jargon that is thrown around here, if collected together, would be enough material to make another Concise Oxford Dictionary.

After the failure to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol at Cop15 in Copenhagen in 2009, the 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Cop 18 in Doha last year extended the Kyoto Protocol while a new treaty is being negotiated. Cop 19 is supposed to be the beginning of those negotiations. A complete draft is due to be released at Cop20 in Peru next year, and the final version is expected to be signed at Cop21 in Paris in December 2015.

The UNFCCC plans to have the Paris Protocol (or Paris Agreement as India calls it, since it is not keen on using the word ‘protocol’ — I will provide more insights on this nuances in an upcoming post) ratified and in effect by 2020.

After the Climate Change conference at Doha in December last year, here we are are back again. CoP18 had a nail-biting end that became a no-ball game. For the past 20 years, the world has been haggling about who will cut greenhouse gas emissions and how much.

In the same 20 years, the science of climate change has become more certain. The world is beginning to witness what the future will look like — more extreme events like the tropical storm Haiyan that claimed over 10,000 lives in the Philippines itself and the super cyclone Phailin in India are expected to cripple life and livelihoods across the world.

Why Pakistan Won't Sell Saudi the Bomb

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
November 18, 2013

Much of the soul-searching since the Iraq War has focused on the intelligence failures that produced the faulty WMD assessment. Less attention has been paid to the more puzzling question of why so many people readily accepted the argument that Saddam would arm Al Qaeda with nuclear weapons, despite the obvious absurdity of the claim.

It is this latter question that also seems most relevant amidst new concerns about a Saudi nuclear weapon. Earlier this month, in the run-up to the Iran-P5+1 talks, the BBC’s Mark Urban [3]wrote a lengthy piece [3] claiming that Pakistan has built nuclear weapons “on behalf of Saudi Arabia [that] are now sitting ready for delivery.”

The article attracted considerable attention and alarm, although it’s not clear why. Concerns about a secret Saudi-Pakistani nuclear pact date back to the 1970s and 1980s, and have become especially prevalent over the past decade.

Nonetheless, despite decades of suspicions, the existence of a Saudi-Pakistan nuclear pact is based almost entirely on speculation. Moreover, like the alleged Saddam-AQ nuclear nexus, the notion that Pakistan would supply Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons defies common sense.

As noted above, concerns about a Saud-Pakistan nuclear pact emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as Saudi aid to Pakistan increased rapidly. Many in Western foreign-policy circles feared that some of the Kingdom’s aid was being used to fund Pakistan’s nuclear program, with Riyadh expecting some of the final products in return.

However, the increase in Saudi aid during the 1980s was due to other factors, [4]such as [4] Pakistan basing some fifteen thousand troops in the Kingdom, and the Saudi government financing of over half of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. If Saudi money directly funded Pakistan’s nuclear program, it was almost certainly because, as a Saudi advisor once explained, “We gave money and [the Pakistanis] dealt with it as they saw fit.”

Similar [5]Western speculation centers on [5] Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz’s trip to Pakistan in 1999. During the trip, Pakistani prime minister Sharif gave Sultan a tour of the Khan Research Laboratories, which produce highly enriched uranium, and an adjacent ballistic missile factory. He was believed to be the first foreign dignitary to view the highly secretive, military-run KRL, although he denied being given access to the secret parts of the complex.

Pakistan apprised of LoC concerns

There has been no progress on the issue of border violations
T.V. Rajeswar

A COLD HANDSHAKE: Salman Khurshid expressed Delhi’s disappointment with Pakistan at his meeting with Nawaz Sharif's Adviser Sartaj Aziz on November 12.

PAKISTAN Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Foreign Affairs Adviser, Sartaj Aziz, arrived in Delhi on November 10 to participate in the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting of Foreign Ministers. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met the Pakistani envoy on November 12 and expressed Delhi’s disappointment with the manner in which Pakistan had conducting itself on various crucial issues. For starters, Khurshid made it very clear to Sartaj Aziz that peace and tranquility on the Line of Control was one of the most important confidence-building measures which had been regrettably ignored by the Pakistan Government and its armed forces.

Starting in mid-January 2013 the border incidents had been described as the worst bout of fighting in the region in nearly 10 years. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that a total of 136 ceasefire violations had been reported in 2013 alone, the highest in the past eight years.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had two brief meetings with his Pakistani counterpart on October 5 and 11 in New York when these border violations were specifically mentioned by Dr. Manmohan Singh and requested Nawaz Sharif to rein in the Pakistani forces and ensure peace on the Line of Control. Regrettably, there has been no progress in the matter.

The attitude of Nawaz Sharf towards the border violations has come in for serious doubt. While returning from his visit to Russia and China, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told media persons on his special aircraft that he was disappointed with the Pakistan Prime Minister since it was specifically agreed at the New York meetings that peace and tranquility should be maintained on the border.

Sartaj Aziz briefly met Dr. Manmohan Singh on November 13 as a matter of courtesy. Manmohan Singh did not say anything else to Sartaj Aziz since Salman Khurshid had already made it clear that for meaningful talks with India, Pakistan should demonstrate its good faith and behaviour on the Line of Control.

Sartaj Aziz had another agenda since he met as many as four delegations of Kashmiri secessionist leaders at the Pakistan High Commission on November 10. The two factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani took part in the discussions held at the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi.

Pervez Musharraf to be tried for high treason: Pakistan Interior Minister

PTI Posted online: Sun Nov 17 2013

Islamabad : Pakistan government on Sunday announced that it will move the court to try former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for high treason, punishable by death or life imprisonment, for imposing emergency rule in 2007.

"Following the judgement of the Supreme Court and a report submitted by an inquiry committee, it has been decided to start proceedings against General Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 (for high treason) of the Constitution," Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press conference here.

He said the proceedings will begin from tomorrow and a three-member bench of the Supreme Court would hear the case.

Nisar said the government will approach the Supreme Court to set up a Commission and a public prosecutor would be appointed tomorrow itself.

The Minister said Musharraf had committed crimes against the people of Pakistan and against the constitution. He asserted that nobody, not even the Prime Minister can offer him pardon.

Musharraf, 70, is currently on bail in all cases registered against him since his return to Pakistan in a bid to contest general election in May.

Analysts say he could be arrested in the high treason case.

Nisar said Musharraf had refused to appear before the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team probing the case. He made it clear that the government has no personal vendetta against Musharraf.

The FIA had a number of evidences against Musharraf in connection with the high treason case, Nisar said.

Official sources had earlier told PTI that Pakistan's probe against Musharraf in the high treason case was in the last stages, signalling that the former dictator's woes have not ended despite getting bail in four major cases.

Though the government ordered the inquiry in the treason case in June, Nisar said on October 12 he had asked the FIA to fast-track the probe against Musharraf and to take the matter to a logical conclusion in six weeks.

After being held for over six months at his sprawling farmhouse in Islamabad, Musharraf was released from house arrest last week when he got bail in a case related to the killing of cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi during a military operation against the radical Lal Masjid in 2007.

Musharraf has also been granted bail in three other cases over the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti in a 2006 military operation and the imposition of emergency in 2007.

Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup and ruled till 2008 when he was threatened with impeachment.

"Option C" and Other Gimmicks

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)

November 18, 2013

In the [4]launch issue [4] of Politico Magazine, Rosa Brooks [5]discusses [5] the tense relationship between the White House and its military commanders. Her piece covers somewhat familiar ground, but one section in particular captures an important dynamic regarding how foreign and defense policy is made. It covers the 2009 Afghan strategy review, which she calls perhaps the “single momentwhen Obama’s relationship with the military began to sour.” After General Stanley McChrystal’s request for forty thousand additional troops to pursue an expanded counterinsurgency approach leaked to the press, the White House was angered and began to feel boxed in. Obama eventually gave the military most of what it wanted on troop levels, ordering a surge of thirty thousand troops—but he also decreed that “after 18 months those troops would begin to withdraw.”

The way in which this incident played out created mutual mistrust, Brooks says. One White House official told her, “The White House was convinced that the military had a vested interest in escalating the conflict. They felt manipulated.” Pentagon officials, meanwhile, began to think that the White House assumed all of their requests for troops or resources were politically motivated. The result was a self-reinforcing cycle:

Over time, of course, a White House tendency to split the difference is bound to create perverse incentives for military planners, making mutual mistrust self-reinforcing. “If you believe the mission truly requires 50,000 troops and $50 billion, but you know that the White House is going to automatically cut every number in half, you’ll come in asking for 100,000 troops and $100 billion,” says the aforementioned former White House official. “The military eventually starts playing the very game the White House has always suspected them of playing.”

Playing games with the way that one presents options in foreign and defense policy is nothing new. Another is what’s sometimes called the “Option C” gimmick, in which one presents one’s own recommendation as the “sane” middle option between two extreme ones. In their book The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked, Leslie Gelb and Richard Betts described how this process worked during the Vietnam War:

Inside hawks and doves alike could be placated by the dynamics of “Option B” (or “C”—whichever was the option between opposite extremes). This is the technique of giving leeway to the bureaucracy to find its own common denominators. It meant policy papers loaded with false options—two patently unacceptable extremes of humiliating defeat and total war, and Option B.

The problem with an “Option C” approach is a familiar one: it leads to making significant choices without necessarily being aware that one is making them. In Vietnam, the middle option was usually a gradual increase in troops or commitment, couched between the alternatives of total withdrawal or dramatic escalation. Each time, it was framed as the only “reasonable” choice. But over time, the commitment of American lives and resources that the U.S. government made to Vietnam was absolutely enormous, whether or not the mission had a chance of succeeding or was worth the ultimate cost.

In Afghanistan, too, “Option C”-style presentation of options was prevalent. Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel used that model after conducting his initial review in early 2009. Likewise, McChrystal did the same in his request for forty thousand additional troops later that year, couching it between the alternatives of “10,000–11,000 to mostly train the Afghan forces” and “85,000 for a more robust counterinsurgency.”

China May Lead Nuclear Inspections in Iran

November 16, 2013
By Zachary Keck

Newsweek says Beijing has agreed to have Chinese nationals lead IAEA inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites.

China is considering taking the lead on implementing more robust inspections of Iran’s nuclear program, a new report says.

An article in this week’s issue of Newsweek magazine reports on a track two meeting about Iran’s nuclear program that took place in France at the same time as the official P5+1-Iran negotiations were going on in Geneva last weekend.

According to the report, the participants at the meeting were retired military leaders from Israel, Iran and China, as well as elder statesmen from the U.S., Australia and France. The meeting—which was hosted by Jean-Christophe Iseux von Pfetten, the first foreigner to serve in the upper house of China’s parliament and an advisor to Chinese leaders—was aimed at opening up an important back channel between the parties to hammer out solutions to some of the thornier issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program. 

One such thorny issue is Iran allowing more intrusive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of its nuclear and suspected nuclear sites. An unnamed former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander is quoted in the report as saying that Iran is hesitant to allow more intrusive inspections because of the Iraqi precedent.

“We saw the work of [weapons] inspectors in Iraq – they searched everywhere, including the President's Palace,” the IRGC commander said. “They found nothing but started bombing Iraq anyway. We cannot accept this.”

One possible solution to this conundrum is having the IAEA inspectors be from neutral countries rather than the U.S. and Europe. The IRGC commander says in the article that Iran would view American or allied inspectors gaining access to its nuclear sites as a “an unacceptable violation of Iran's sovereignty.” However, he also indicates that Iran would be more amenable to third party nationals acting as the inspectors.

The article says that China has agreed in principle to assign Chinese nationals as the lead inspectors in such a deal. The Chinese proposal was not an off-the-cuff remark. The article says that when Israeli and Palestinian leaders were in China at the same time earlier this year, “Chinese representatives” at a think tank that hosted talks between them said that China would be willing to play an active role in inspections on Iran’s nuclear program. However, Beijing reportedly insisted that the inspections continue to take place under the banner of the IAEA.

China is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It has historically had a rocky relationship with the IAEA over its support to suspected nuclear proliferatorslike Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. However, in more recent years China has been lauded for doing more to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, although there continues to be concern over Beijing’s perceived lax enforcement of nuclear exports being sold by private companies in China.

In April of this year, at a preparatory meeting for the 2015 NPT review conference, Cheng Jingye, China’s permanent representative to the IAEA in Vienna made a passionate call for strengthening the IAEA and NPT regime.

“We should further consolidate and enhance the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, strengthen the universality, authority and effectiveness of the Treaty” Cheng said, according to an English transcript of the speech.

“"We should strengthen the safeguards function of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and promote the effective implementation and universal adherence of the comprehensive safeguards agreements and its additional protocols,” he added.

In the same speech, Cheng touched on Iran specifically, saying: “We hope that the P5+1 and Iran could, based on the mutual understanding achieved from the dialogue, follow the principle of step-by-step and reciprocity, and move to the same direction and cooperate sincerely, make more efforts for resolving the Iranian Nuclear issue through diplomatic means.”

China is a member of the P5+1 along with the U.S., UK, France, Russia and Germany. It has previously calledupon Iran to work with the IAEA to address international concerns that its nuclear program is secretly aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons. China taking the lead on nucelar inspections in Iran would be consistent with Beijing's more active diplomacy in the Middle East.

China's Ballistic-Missile Submarines: How Dangerous?

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)

November 18, 2013
On October 27, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency [3]released a slideshow [3] showing what the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) touted as the country’s first nuclear ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN). Though the “unveiling” of China’s Type 092 Xia-class SSBN comes as no surprise, Beijing’s open display of the submarine, coupled with technical improvements to the Chinese JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), raises the question of whether China is approaching a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent.

Although the Xia-class SSBN received much fanfare in both [4]Chinese [4] and [5]Western [5] sources alike, the PLAN envisions the Type 094 Jin-class submarine as playing the primary role in China’s sea-based nuclear-deterrence strategy. Even Xinhua [6]has admitted [6] that the Xia-class SSBN does not comprise a viable nuclear second-strike force. According to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, China maintains three operational Jin-class SSBNs and is currently constructing two more, all five of which will be outfitted with twelve JL-2 SLBMs. According to U.S. defense officials, the Jin-class SSBN is expected to begin sea patrols as early as 2014.

For China to acquire a credible survivable sea-based nuclear deterrent, the country must overcome two technical challenges that the country has been unable to surmount since first launching an SLBM from a submarine in 1988. China must build a submarine stealthy enough to avoid U.S. antisubmarine warfare (ASW) assets and design a JL-2 SLBM capable of penetrating US ballistic missile defense (BMD) with high probability.

Both the Xia-class and Jin-class SSBNs are not quiet enough to avoid detection by U.S. ASW assets. The Jin-class SSBN design if fundamentally flawed in that the large missile compartment at the rear of the vessel and the flood openings below the missile hatches create a detectable sonar signature. A 2009 U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence report comparing the low-frequency noise level for China’s SSBN force to that of Russian 1970s-era SSBNs found that out of the twelve submarines profiled, the Xia-class SSBN was the most detectable and the Jin-class SSBN the fourth-most detectable. China’s JL-2 SLBM has [7]repeatedly failed [7] launch tests and it is still unclear whether the PLAN successfully tested the SLBM on August 16, as it [8]claimed [8].

What Typhoon Haiyan Taught Us about China

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
November 18, 2013

If the Asia Pacific region ever needed a reminder of the difference between a U.S.-led order and one shaped by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the respective reactions of the two to Typhoon Haiyan is a stark one. One nation sends its navy and Marines and pledges $20 million in assistance. The other sends $100,000 in government assistance until it folds to the hectoring of the international community and increases its contribution to a still-miserly $1.6 million.

American friends and allies in the region should seriously consider the implication of this comparison. It is not an aberration.

The U.S. has made mistakes over the years. Alliances with undemocratic regimes—whether Marcos in the Philippines or Suharto in Indonesia—were often necessary in winning the Cold War. In some cases, as in Taiwan or South Korea, our embrace was a critical factor in their eventual democratization. But certainly, there were occasions when we embraced autocrats longer and more fully than necessary.

It all seems so clear now. At the time, it was not. And operating in real time, we got the details wrong on occasion. The U.S., however, has always sought to exercise a basic decency in the conduct of its foreign policy. Its electorate demands it. And in the absence of a dominant, overarching strategic context like the Cold War, the judgment calls have only gotten easier.

Take an example before Haiyan hit the Philippines. In 2008, after a cyclone hit Burma, the U.S. contributed assistance and reached out fifteen times to request permission to use its navy to maximize relief for victims. The Burmese regime refused the requests out of a combination of paranoia and its own very deeply sewn indecency. The point is that there were few countries in the world in 2008 with which the U.S. had worse relations than Burma. Yet, the U.S. went beyond the call to make the effort.

Contrast this with the PRC’s treatment of the Philippines in the midst of its 2013 disaster. Relations between the PRC and the Philippines have not been great over the last three to four years, but not nearly as bad as U.S.-Burma relations in 2008. There are no sanctions involved; the two trade with each other, maintain full diplomatic relations, interact at high levels, attend diplomatic forums together, etc. But by the regional standards of good neighborliness—particularly the PRC’s which equates rejection of its territorial claims with unfriendliness—it has been rocky. The Philippines continues to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea without apology and to persuade its friends and neighbors of its rights. Over Chinese objections, it has appealed to an international treaty—the UN Law of the Sea (to which China is also party)—to support it. By these offenses, in the eyes of the PRC leadership, it has apparently forfeited access to Chinese assistance for its disaster stricken people.

China’s ‘Mystery Warriors’

November 17, 2013
By David Logan

Each year, the PLA gets millions of new recruits. For a few weeks anyway.

There’s a joke among students here at Northeastern University in China’s northeast city of Shenyang.

Every fall, it begins, America’s intelligence agencies are baffled by the sudden and drastic increase in the ranks of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). For a few brief weeks, the PLA’s numbers are swelled with new recruits – 6 million last year – curiously all on college campuses.

But within a month, the new recruits have vanished, nowhere to be seen. The Americans are left scratching their heads, wondering what happened to these mystery warriors and when they might reappear.

The “mystery warriors” are really just college freshmen. Every year, first-year university students all across China participate in their mandatory regimen of military training before the start of classes. The training, held either on campus or at the nearest military base, lasts a few weeks prior to the start of classes.

Students may be equipped with firearms and dispatched to a shooting range for target practice. Or they may be given gas masks and medical equipment to run an emergency response drill.

There are compulsory lecture series – closed to international students and foreign teachers – in which students are introduced to national defense strategy and the latest in Party doctrine.

The foundation of the training is its most conspicuous element: hundreds if not thousands of young students, separated into squads, clad in camouflage fatigues, and marched in formation across campus. In the early morning, they learn to stand at attention and to salute. The evening is dominated by the singing of patriotic songs and old barracks tunes from the PLA. Throughout, trainees are subjected to regular dorm inspections and pre-dawn workouts.

On many campuses, the training ends with a grand ceremony at which newly minted trainees can showcase their marching skills for school officials and military personnel. Trainees goosestep around a stadium or presenting ground.

Why is a country with a reported military 2.3 million people strong and the second highest military expenditures in the world teaching its college freshmen how to goosestep?

Some form of military training has existed in some Chinese schools since after reunification under Communist rule, although today’s incarnation was established about three decades ago. In 1985, a year that saw sweeping reforms within China’s military, a pilot university military training program was established in a few dozen schools. Since then the program has been expanded to thousands of campuses so that today nearly every one of China’s roughly 6 million college freshmen participate. Middle school and high school students also take part in a similar program during their first days at school.

The program has been used to satisfy the perceived needs of the Party. In the year following the 1989 demonstrations at Tiananmen Square, for instance, freshmen students at Beijing University, then considered a hotbed for democratic activism, were forced to undergo a full year of military training before even starting their official college curriculum.

At the time, a Ministry of Education official explained the decision saying, "We want to guide students so that they become close to the workers and peasants. During the unrest and counterrevolutionary turmoil, we painfully saw how students had gone farther and farther along the road of bourgeois liberalism.”

Sri Lanka: Engaging the Diaspora

November 16, 2013
By Salma Yusuf

A robust policy on diaspora engagement remains critical to domestic stability and international relations in postwar Sri Lanka.

The 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) opened in Sri Lanka on November 15. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided to boycott, citing governance shortcomings in the host country. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a late decision to stay away also. Given that India is Sri Lanka’s immediate neighbor and an emerging global power, Singh’s decision to stay home was significant. British Prime Minister David Cameron has come under intense fire for his decision to attend CHOGM 2013, but has said that he will use his presence to place the international spotlight on Sri Lanka.

All of which is bad news for Sri Lanka, a country that is seeking to stabilize and consolidate the dividends of ending a three-decade armed struggle. It is clear that elements of the Sri Lankan diaspora who support the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been actively campaigning, sometimes through LTTE organizations such as the Global Tamil Forum, the Transnational Government for Tamil Ealam and the British Tamil Forum, encouraging calls for a boycott of CHOGM 2013 and adding to the general international furor of recent weeks.

Their efforts have embarrassed Sri Lanka before. For instance, in December 2010, the Oxford Union canceled an address by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, fearing massive protests on the university premises. The then President of the Oxford Union, James Kingston, explained: “I was advised there was a serious public order risk, and a serious risk of major disruption to the activities of the local community. At 5000 protestors, it would have been the largest demonstration seen in the history of Oxford, and the risks would have increased accordingly.”

The ability of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora to potentially generate the largest demonstration in the history of the Oxford Union is noteworthy, as is its ability to alter the presidential itinerary. The most worrying aspect, however, is the intensity of the passion it reveals in certain segments of the Tamil diaspora abroad.

That intensity was revealed again in June 2012, once more derailing the presidential itinerary in the U.K., this time when an invitation to deliver the keynote address at the Commonwealth Economic Forum organized by the Commonwealth Business Council was cancelled on the morning of the event. The Forum was one of the events marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in London. As many as 2000 protestors had gathered at the Mansion House where the event was to be held, with some reportedly traveling from France and Germany.

Most recently, sections of the diaspora have been actively lobbying in the wake of the passage of two resolutions on Sri Lanka by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2012 and 2013. That same disgruntlement and disillusionment have been clear in the run-up to CHOGM, with the calls for boycotts. All this must be taken seriously. The anguish and grievances of the diaspora community must be addressed quickly and seriously, not only because of its impact on foreign relations, but also because of its implications for domestic stability. 

Clearly the most credible way to engage the diaspora would be to address the rights of minorities locally, both systematically and genuinely. Minority rights need to be coupled of course with assurances for the possibility of a peaceful return home for those living abroad. That said, a robust policy on diaspora engagement is also key to both national stability and external relations.

The final report of the Sri Lankan government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has highlighted the perceptions that exist about conflict areas, what happened in the conflict areas, what is being done in conflict areas, and what people in the conflict areas think. These perceptions in turn influence the views of relatives and friends overseas, the diaspora, and the international community at large.

Hence, perception management must be accorded top priority in any effort to engage the diaspora and reap the benefits of true reconciliation. Effecting a strong and credible visibility strategy of national progress, plans and challenges is critical to perception management. Additionally, documentation and visibility will serve the larger purpose of measuring progress and identifying gaps to be filled, providing direction for the nation-building and reconciliation agenda.

‘Israel, Saudi cooperating on military option against Iran’

Published: November 18, 2013
Atul Aneja

Israel and Saudi Arabia are working on a secret plan on a possible attack on Iran in case talks in Geneva fail to wind down Tehran’s atomic programme, British newspaper The Sunday Times reported.

If true, the forging security relationship between Tel Aviv and Riyadh — for decades at loggerheads over the Palestinian issue — would emerge as the first visible strategic fallout triggered by prospects of an easing of tensions between the United States and Iran.

Iran and P5+1 (UNSC permanent members + Germany) narrowly missed signing a nuclear deal in Geneva earlier this month. Iran has blamed France for scuttling the agreement, with media reports emerging from Tehran attributing the move to the influence of the Israeli lobby and close ties between Paris and the Gulf Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Iran and P5+1 are to meet again on November 20 in Geneva.

The Times quoted a diplomatic source as saying Saudi Arabia has given its consent to Israel for using its airspace also offering to assist the Israeli assault through the use of drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes. “Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” the Times quoted the source as saying.

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande arrived in Tel Aviv on Sunday to a rousing welcome. He said France would oppose the lifting of sanctions unless convinced that Tehran was not developing nuclear weapons. He added that not only would a nuclear Iran threaten Israel, it would also endanger West Asia as well as the world at large.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the most vocal critic of the proposed deal — flies to Moscow on Wednesday, to persuade the Russians against backing the agreement. John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States, is arriving yet again in Israel on November 22 to soothe frayed nerves in Tel Aviv .

Printable version | Nov 18, 2013 8:59:32 AM

© The Hindu

Imagining an imperial Iran

Robert Fulford: Imagining an imperial Iran

JASON REED/AFP/Getty ImagesIranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva November 10, 2013.

If the leaders of Iran produce a nuclear weapon, will they use it to bomb Tel Aviv? Or do they have something else in mind?

Avoiding an attack on Israel has been one of the goals of the talks between the Iranians and six other countries, led by the United States. Many believe these meetings can only lead to failure, since the Iranians may well get the sanctions against them lifted and go ahead with their nuclear weapon anyway. The Obama administration, on the other hand, believes it has a chance to stop the weapons program, if only the U.S. Senate doesn’t strengthen the existing sanctions further and thereby anger the Iranians.

The possibility that Israel might pre-emptively bomb Iran’s nuclear installations is of course the most pressing reason for the talks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would much rather see the issue settled by the diplomats, but has no reason to think it will be. Washington believes his comments needlessly increase tension, and a New York Times editorial on Tuesday said that the so-far inconclusive negotiations have given Netanyahu a chance to “generate more hysterical opposition.” As if it were a sign of hysteria to worry about nuclear weapons in the hands of a declared enemy whose leaders deplore the very existence of Israel.

An ambitious and barbaric theocracy with the ultimate weapon would terrify anyone, but Iran’s intentions should be seen in context. A bomb dropped on Israel would invite a response of equal or greater ferocity. The Iranian leaders won’t make such a suicidal move unless they are even crazier than their speeches make them sound. Their ambitions, if we judge them by their actions, go beyond Israel.

Iran has imperialistic dreams. Apparently, it hopes to become the most powerful and influential country in the Middle East. In the 1980s, Iran created Hezbollah, at considerable expense, and ever since has used it as the terrorist wing of the Revolutionary Guard. Today Iran controls Lebanon, through Hezbollah operatives who exercise veto power over every act of the Lebanese government. They even have their own radio and TV stations. Iran’s tentacles also reach into the Assad regime in Syria; sometimes Bashar al-Assad is called an Iranian puppet.

An Iranian bomb, when added to a powerful conventional army and Hezbollah, would lift Iran above every other country in the Middle East (except, of course, Israel). Iranian regional hegemony would not be pleasant to experience for most of the Arab states in the area. This explains why Saudi Arabia is so disturbed by America’s willingness to talk to Iran.

Maldives Throws a Surprise in Presidential Elections

Paper No. 5604 Dated 17-Nov-2013
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.

Though not totally unexpected, Maldives threw a surprise in electing Abdullah Yameen in the run off to the presidential elections held on November 16, 2013.

The elections saw an unprecedented polling of close to 90.3 percent with the PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen securing 110,371 votes ( 51.61 percent) as against Mohamad Nasheed of MDP gathering 48.39 percent with 103,500 votes.

In one sense, the result would certainly put an end to the unseemly controversy and uncertainty. The reason is that the potential loser no longer needs the litigation route and with the veto given to him to choose the date of elections, he was able to strike a deal with the second loser in the elections- Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhoree party.

Added to that was that the loser in the run off, Md. Nasheed of the MDP had the grace to concede defeat at the earliest and offer cooperation in a responsible manner in the interest of the country.

What went wrong with the MDP which emerged as a clear winner before the elections or put it differently, what factors helped Yameen to secure over fifty percent in the runoff when he had polled just half of that in the first annulled elections and later, a little more in the re election for the first round? This needs to be carefully analysed and understood.

First and foremost, Yameen by nature not a very charismatic leader was helped in full measure by the former President and step brother Gayoom. It is said that in Maldives Gayoomism still continues though not Gayoom in person! It is also surprising that those who have suffered under the autocratic rule of Gayoom for three decades appeared to have transferred their loyalty and sympathies to Gayoom’s step brother Yameen without ever thinking of the past history or the capability of the candidate.

Second, was the last minute support given by Gasim Ibrahim, no doubt on the intervention of Gayoom at the right time. Yameen and Gayoom were not best of friends either and that in one of the private conversations, Gasim is said to have remarked that he would rather jump into the sea than support Yameen.

Soon after the first round of elections, Gasim in an audio message tld his followers that he will not assist any candidate in their efforts to become president and he officially confirmed the Party’s council decision that the party will not support any party in the second round.

But soon after Gayoom and surprisingly the present incumbent president Waheed met him, Gasim convinced himself and declared "I urge everyone who voted for me to pray and vote for Yameen for the "sake of Islam and our culture." What is to be noted is that he used the Islamic card!

There has certainly been a deal Yameen has had with Gasim and which one could only guess at this stage. Perhaps Gasim got an assurance that his business interests will be not only be protected but perhaps allowed to expand.

Third, was the tacit support the Supreme Court bench, particularly four of them of whom one was the famous judge involved in the Colombo incident. The Supreme Court went beyond its brief to micro manage the elections and worse still gave a a virtual veto to the candidates to choose the date of election. This helped Yameen with ample time to strike a deal with Gasim who in the first instance vowed not to have anything to do with the former!