6 December 2013

The Great American Losing Streak


Shlomo Avineri, Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, served as Director-General of Israel’s foreign ministry under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. 


The interim agreement reached in Geneva between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) and Iran is probably the best deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear program that could be reached, given current circumstances. The United States and its Western allies were unwilling to risk a military option, and not concluding a deal would have allowed Iran to proceed unimpeded toward acquiring nuclear weapons.

In an ideal world, Iran should have been forced to scrap its nuclear program altogether and hand over all of its enriched uranium to an outside power; but, realistically, that was unattainable. So the outcome of the Geneva talks is that Iran has secured some international legitimation as a nuclear-threshold power, which deeply worries its regional neighbors, from Saudi Arabia and Israel to Turkey, Egypt, and the small and vulnerable Gulf states.

Western statesmen are right to congratulate themselves on averting an immediate major crisis. But they are wrong to believe that they have resolved the Iranian nuclear threat. Indeed, it is naïve to imagine that a final agreement with Iran will be achieved in the coming six months: Iran’s seasoned diplomats will make sure that that does not happen.

So, while the interim agreement may not be a replay of the Munich Agreement in 1938, as many critics contend, it may have set the stage for an even more combustible future. US President Barack Obama may not be in office when the fire ignites, but if things do go terribly wrong, he may be remembered as another statesman who, like Neville Chamberlain, was blind to the consequences of his peaceful intentions.

The main reason for pessimism stems from the interim agreement’s wider geopolitical context, which has been ignored in favor of the regional dimension. In fact, the agreement, which alleviates much of the economic pressure on the Iranian regime, is a result of Russia’s success in delaying international sanctions against Iran and its stubborn refusal to tighten them further.

For the Kremlin, Iran’s nuclear program is only one chapter in a campaign to reassert Russia’s role as a great power. Indeed, the interim agreement should be viewed as another in a string of recent Russian diplomatic victories over the US.

The current US administration lacks the type of grand strategy that animates Russian President Vladimir Putin. Instead, it considers every issue separately, unsure about how to balance its role as a global power with its commitment to liberal values, and led by a president who apparently believes that soaring rhetoric is a substitute for strategic thinking. There should be no illusion: The interim agreement with Iran is a resounding triumph for Putin, not for Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

A majestic milestone

Dec 06, 2013 
It is the first time in the 2,600-year history of the dynasty that a Japanese emperor has toured India. The significance is great as it occurs against the backdrop of the rise and mounting bellicosity of China.

The six- day visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko has elicited a warm but hardly effusive welcome in India. Media and the public are distracted by crucial state elections and two cases of high-profile sexual harassment and one of possibly illegal, but certainly intrusive, surveillance by the Gujarat government. Although the royal couple were in India some half a century ago, before ascending the throne, it marks the first time in the 2,600-year history of the dynasty that an emperor has toured India. The significance is great as it occurs against the backdrop of the rise and mounting bellicosity of China. Government spokesmen were, of course, quick to emphasise that the two events are unrelated.

The concern over China’s rise has fed into US policy since the advent of the 21st century, even before consistent confrontational posturing by China. The India-US civil nuclear deal has been correctly traced to a US desire to bolster Indian capabilities to balance Chinese dominance of global trade, its burgeoning military strength and possible future challenge to US hegemony. The writer represented India at the first and only meeting of Australia, India, Japan and the US, dubbed the Quadrilateral Initiative in May 2007 in Manila. This occurred when Japan was, as it is now, under the leadership of Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, Australia had a government of Liberal Democrats, also so again; except, the US was led by President George W. Bush, although India had the same Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Perhaps the meeting was anachronistic as China was still largely subscribing to the Deng Xiaoping injunction of peaceful rise.

The Chinese adopted greater aggression and unilateralism from about 2008, following the US banking and then the eurozone crises. This behaviour has sharpened since the Chinese transfer of power to the fifth generation of leadership early this year. President Xi Jinping, with the IIIrd Plenum endorsing the proposal for two new commissions to oversee national security and economy, has consolidated power rapidly. Thus aggressive Chinese behaviour can no longer be attributed to errant hawks in the military.



1971: A global history of the creation of Bangladesh By Srinath Raghavan, Permanent Black, Rs 795 

Salman Rushdie, in his novel, Shame, famously described Pakistan, before the birth of Bangladesh, as “that fantastic bird of a place, two Wings without a body, sundered by the land-mass of its greatest foe, joined by nothing but God.’’ This description has implicit in it the notion that there was something untenable in the existence of Pakistan as it was originally born in August 1947. It was not only geographical distance but culture, language and economics that separated West and East Pakistan. The differences between the two wings were too fundamental for Pakistan to remain united. The split in that sense was inevitable. It was waiting to happen. What is important for the historian to understand is the timing and the process of the separation and India’s role in what transpired. 

Srinath Raghavan, arguably the foremost historian of India after 1947, would disagree with the above analysis. He writes, “Against the grain of received wisdom, this book contends that there was nothing inevitable about the emergence of an independent Bangladesh in 1971. Far from being a predestined event, the creation of Bangladesh was the product of conjuncture and contingency, choice and chance.’’ For him, it is not necessary to go back to the creation of Pakistan to understand what happened in 1971. According to Raghavan, “To understand why united Pakistan ceased to remain a viable political entity, we need to focus on a much shorter period starting in the late 1960s. It was then that the politics of Pakistan took a turn that made regional autonomy a non-negotiable demand of the Bengali political leadership. The military regime’s unwillingness to countenance this set the stage for a rupture in March 1971.’’ 

Raghavan not only foreshortens the context but argues that the military regime’s obduracy did not necessarily mean the breakup of Pakistan. The eventual outcome was the product “of narrow squeaks and unanticipated twists.’’ While on one side, Raghavan makes the context more immediate, on the other, he makes it broader. One of the arguments of this book is that “the breakdown and breakup of Pakistan can only be understood by situating these events in a wider global context and by examining the interplay between the domestic, regional and international dimensions, for much of the contingency… flowed from the global context of the time.’’ 

One major axes of the global context was the Cold War, which had undergone a radical transformation by the mid 1960s. For one thing, its theatre had shifted from Europe to the Third World. The nature of alliances had also altered. The economic success of some of the countries of Western Europe and Japan had made them less dependent on the United States of America. China and the Soviet Union had drifted apart and there were voices of dissent in countries like Czechoslovakia against Soviet domination. This emerging international situation had an obvious bearing on what happened in 1971. 

The crisis in the Pakistani political order originated with the fall of Ayub Khan in early 1969. In the next year Mujibur Rahaman’s Awami League won a massive victory in the elections. The military brass of Yahya Khan refused to countenance the legitimate demands of the Awami League to form a government, and perpetrated a regime of oppression on the Bengalis. This began the flow of refugees from East Pakistan to India and this provided India with grounds to intervene in what was happening in Bangladesh. 

Bangladesh’s tenuous links with democracy

Dec 06, 2013
Despite economic progress and considerable success in the improvement of a range of social indicators, democratic consolidation in Bangladesh has remained quite elusive

This week, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) announced that it would not participate in the forthcoming national elections, thereby creating a potential political deadlock. This decision to boycott the polls has come in the wake of a series of violent clashes between the BNP and the Awami League (AL) supporters, strikes and violent demonstrations. Against this backdrop, it is difficult, at this stage, to tell if this announcement was mere political grandstanding or not. Unfortunately, regardless of whether or not this amounts to political theatre and little else, it exemplifies a fundamental problem with the country’s democracy.

Parliamentary democracy was restored to Bangladesh in 1991 under Begum Khaleda Zia of the BNP. However, since then, despite economic progress and considerable success in the improvement of a range of social indicators (some of which now rival those of India), democratic consolidation has remained quite elusive. Instead, for all practical purposes, it has remained an electoral democracy lacking many of the other attributes that lead to the bolstering of democratic institutions. What explains the country’s failure to strengthen its political institutions and procedures? The answers are complex and are historically rooted.

At the outset, it needs to be recalled that until 1971, Bangladesh, the erstwhile East Pakistan, had no experience of democracy whatsoever. When the first free and fair election was ever held in Pakistan the civilian authorities in Islamabad colluded with the military, to ensure that the results of the elections were for all practical purposes annulled. This outcome, as is well known, became the catalyst for the near inevitable separation of East Pakistan and the sanguinary genesis of Bangladesh.

No justice in the end

December 6, 2013 
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/no-justice-in-the-end/article5426486.ece?homepage=true&css=print Nitin Sethi 
AP KEELED OVER: In this battle where the rich world does not want to be the leader in fighting climate change any more, the least developed countries in particular face the most difficult time ahead. 
The Warsaw negotiations have delivered empty new shells in the name of finance and technology to the developing world and repackaged existing financial commitments towards the poor countries in a green-coloured envelope 
The Warsaw negotiations delivered little on climate change issues but the fortnight served as a warning about the perilous task that lies before countries to produce a global compact by 2015 which matches expectations.

The developed countries reached Warsaw empty-handed. There were three expectations from them. Primarily, developing countries wanted to see them give a timeline for the delivery of the already committed annual $100-billion kitty starting 2020. Instead, the developed countries came looking to improve the investment climate in developing countries for their green technologies. Then, there was an expectation that they would allow the setting up of a separate channel of fund flows for vulnerable countries that suffer loss and damage from inevitable climate change. Again, the move was stonewalled. It took the moral authority of some countries to get a face-saver on this count. A third asking of the rich nations was to build trust that they would up their existing pledges to reduce emissions between now and 2020. Instead, they asked that emission reduction actions — undertaken outside the U.N. climate convention which do not follow the principles of the convention to be taken account of.

The shirking on the part of the developed world ensured that the Durban coalition stitched by the European Union along with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) began to come undone.

The Small Island States, with all the moral voice at their command, had failed in two years to convince their senior partners — on whom they are also economically dependant — to deliver. Their inability to hold the developed countries accountable was again on show in Warsaw when they keeled over quickly in the endgame on their demand for a midterm target for finance. In fact the Philippines, a vocal member of the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), advocating the adherence to the principle of equity, took over the mantle of the “moral voice” in the climate talks. For several years the AOSIS, claiming urgency, had demanded action even at the cost of ignoring existing, unmet obligations of the rich world. The takeover was visible in the way the vociferous civil society altered its position too. AOSIS, on the other hand, had to partially come back to the G77 fold to find solidarity for their Loss and Damage agenda, and in return support the Brazilian proposal asking for acknowledging historical emissions.Battle over 2015 agreement

Very early in the talks it became evident that the real battle in Warsaw would ensue over the move to set up the basic framework for the agreement which is to be signed in 2015 at Paris and to become operational from 2020.

Will the CCS bite the bullet?

December 4, 2013 by Team SAISA
Nitin A Gokhale

More than a year after the Naresh Chandra Task Force on National Security submitted its report to the Prime Minister, one is hearing of a forward movement towards implementation of some of its recommendations. Although the report has not been made public–contrary to the earlier promise–the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), comprising the 3 Service Chiefs, has worked out a blueprint for a new higher defence management structure for the armed forces and sent it to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) last month.

Even the Technical Coordination Group (TCG), headed by the National Security Adviser and comprising top secretaries to the Government of India (GoI) has reportedly cleared the proposal for presentation to the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS), the country’s highest decision making body on matters of defence and security. It is anybody’s guess however if–not when–the CoSC proposals would be put up for the consideration of CCS! For, ultimately, this new structure would be a major step in breaking the status quo in the country’s higher defence management and the ‘deep establishment’ in New Delhi is loathe to change. The question is: can the CCS overcome resistance from the well-entrenched bureaucracy and bite the bullet?

Even as we await that decision, this is what has the CoSC proposed. According to sources in the know, the plan mainly is to:
Appoint a 4-star permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff for a fixed tenure of two years
Create three more tri-service commands–Special Operations, Cyber and Aerospace.
Revert the Andaman Nicobar Command to the Navy

Creation of the three commands may take some time but is doable in short term. According to available details, the proposed cyber command will be headed by officers from the three services by rotation but special operations command will be led by the army but assisted by the air force and the navy while the aerospace command would be headed by an air force officer to be assisted by officers from the other two services. The ANC is proposed to be the Navy’s 4th Command. The status of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC)–custodian of India’s nuclear arsenal–will however remain unaltered.

The biggest sticking point apparently is appointment of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff since it would involve shifting one of the three current service chiefs to that post at the very least. However, given that the political leadership is preoccupied andweakened, it is unlikely that the proposal will get to the CCS in the current government’s tenure. Which is a pity since many of the other recommendations of the Naresh Chandra Task Force–when implemented–would bring in the much needed vigour in management of India’s defence forces. From what we know, it had also asked for integration of Service HQ and Ministry of Defence by allowing more cross-postings, had suggested shifting focus of India’s national security strategy from Pakistan to China, recommended better Intelligence Coordination between all agencies and creation of dedicated financial Institution for access to energy, rare earths and raw materials from across the world.

India Needs to Be Proactive in Afghanistan


As the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) prepares to withdraw by the end of 2014, there is growing uncertainty about the situation in Afghanistan post-2014. There is an international consensus that with the promised economic and other aid, Afghanistan should have a democratically elected and stable government that would help its rebuilding and all round development peacefully. Considering the strategic importance of and India’s historical links with Afghanistan, India needs to be proactive to ensure its continued engagement with Afghanistan. 

Current Situation 

Elections have been scheduled for April 2014. Out of 27 presidential candidates (mostly warlords, tribal leaders, former ministers, politicians and officials), 16 stand disqualified by the Independent Election Commission (IEC). Although President Karzai is not contesting, his brother, Qayum Karzai is among the front-runners. Taliban have vowed to boycott any elections till the US forces leave. The US had tried to negotiate with Taliban, but has apparently failed. President Karzai has been keen to talk to Taliban. Even after Pakistan released Mullah Biradar, the Deputy leader of Taliban on Karzai’s request, no progress has been reported. 

The ISAF has been handing over operational responsibilities to the Afghanistan Security Forces (ASF) gradually. It has also been training ASF personnel in order to ensure they can tackle any militant activities post-2014. After prolonged negotiations, the US and Afghanistan have managed to reach a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) which entails presence of limited US troops (mainly trainers and few US drones) in Afghanistan post-2014. However, the BSA is yet to be approved by the ‘Loya Jirga’ (the traditional Afghan council of elders) which is scheduled to meet on 19 November. 

Taliban suicide attacks on the ISAF troops continue. Taliban has also been infiltrating the ASF by encouraging some of its members and sympathisers to get recruited as ASF soldiers. This has resulted in continued incidents of ‘Insider killings’- killings of ISAF personnel by ASF personnel. Assassination of government officials by Taliban also continues, the latest being Arsallah Jamal, Governor of Logar Province. 

Pakistan continues its duplicity. Although it officially states that it would prefer a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan, its quest for having a pliant government rule post-2014 Afghanistan continues. Besides its close ties with the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan has been strengthening its ties with other militant groups like the Northern Alliance. 

Likely Post-2014 Scenario 

At present, there is uncertainty about the post-2014 situation as it depends on a host of factors. Some of these are: 
Approval to the BSA by the ‘Loya Jirga’. A number of contentious issues delayed the finalisation of the BSA. Although the agreement has been reached, the exact details of the agreement have not been declared officially. Problem will arise if the ‘Loya Jirga’ does not approve the BSA or approves it with some amendment. It could lead to further negotiations leading to further uncertainty. It is expected to be finally ratified before elections. 
Capability of ASF. It is debatable whether the ASF as a whole will have the capability to ensure security of the country. With the support of limited US troops as envisaged in the BSA, it would be possible to ensure security. 
Conduct of 2014 elections. Although preparations for holding free and fair elections are underway, boycott call by the Taliban and some other militant/ terrorist groups may pose difficulties. However, with a well-trained ASF and support of the ISAF personnel and international observers it is expected that free and fair elections will be conducted in April 2004 so that Karzai hands over to the newly elected President before the end of 2014. 
Progress on the reconciliation and reintegration process. The Afghanistan National Independent Peace and Reconciliation Commission set up in 2005 to end inter-group rivalry, resolve unsettled national issues and facilitate healing of wounds caused by past injustices is still continuing its work. It is expected to complete its task before the elections. 
The role of Pakistan. The main problem will be the role played by Pakistan. It would try to have a pliant government in Kabul. If the election results are not to its liking, it would do everything possible to ensure a government of its choice in Kabul even if it means installing the Taliban rule or a Taliban-led or any pliant militant group-led coalition government. It would also try to ensure minimum role for India in Afghanistan. 

India’s Role 

Post 9/11, India’s presence in Afghanistan has been restricted to non-military aid in socio-economic, health, education and infrastructure fields for rebuilding and reconstruction. However, after a number of Pakistan-aided terror strikes against the Indian embassy/consulates and Indian assets like public and private project sites and kidnapping/killing of Indian workers, India has substantially reduced its manpower and funding. No new projects have been started and the progress on ongoing projects has been rather slow for the last three years. For example, the iron-ore mining foray by the SAIL-led consortium at Hajigak has been put on hold due to financial crunch. 

There is convergence of views among Russia, Iran and India about the requirement of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan post-2014 and they have agreed to work together. The progress on development of Chabahar port in Iran for using it as an alternative trade route by India has been slow. Although during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to China, both the countries agreed to coordinate their positions and cooperate with each other in international issues like Afghanistan, there has been little progress. China is deeply engaged in the energy sector and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. In addition, being Pakistan’s all weather friend, it will be unrealistic to expect China to help broaden India’s role in Afghanistan. 

If India wishes to meet President Karzai’s request to broaden the scope and pace of the training of ASF personnel, it would be ideal to send Indian security trainers to Afghanistan rather than training them in India. All in all, India needs to be proactive in ensuring that its engagement with Afghanistan is re-energised and deepened. India needs to actively pursue its projects in Afghanistan, if it wants to remain engaged beyond 2014. 

Maj Gen N S Sapre (Retd) is a defence analyst based in Deolali (Nashik) 

Views expressed are personal

The Coexistence of Multiple Realities: My Passage to Many Indias

December 2, 2013 by Team SAISA

This piece was written by the Ambassador when he was last the Russian Ambassador to India in 2004. He again is the current Russian Ambassador to India. Contributed by Maj Gen Vinod Saighal



Technically, I will remain Ambassador for at least a couple of months before my successor arrives and hands over his credentials to the President of India. Soon I will just overfly the invisible Indian border and return home for a new posting. It is essential to remain official and mindful of words and emotions expounded and articulated by a representative of a country so friendly to this great land. As an old standing friend though, I may take some liberty and sound a bit frivolous. But I promise not to say a single word of politics! I first came here exactly on the fateful night of August 9, 1971 when the historic Soviet-Indian Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation was signed. It was a good omen which illumined the rest of my life. Nobody from the Embassy received a 22-year old probationer at the Palam airport – they were all busy with the visit of Andrei Gromyko, the then Soviet Foreign Minister. But even before I stepped on the Indian soil, since 1967 I had already established my intellectual presence here - absorbing Hindi and Urdu, consuming books by hundreds, talking to professors - our gurus, but first and foremost, India was ever-present in my dreams and imagination.

Indeed, even at that nascent age as a scholar of India, it dawned on me that it would be wrong to presume that there was one India. There exist several ethereal and material Indias, blending into each other and simultaneously coexisting in time and space, more often peacefully than not, but at times conflicting. I kept coming to India, each time for a higher post in the Embassy, interacting with more and more Indian friends and familiarising myself with ever new facets. Every year during those decades I was attentively putting my ear to the barahmasa song performed by India’s nature. There followed Indian winters, insufficiently refreshing by Russian standards, but still uncomfortable especially for those who do not have a safe shelter. Indian springs, joyful at the start until they transform into a scorching blast furnace of the summer heat. Every time I witnessed the monsoon I felt reborn in a new avatar, thus getting a somatic self-explanation for the theory of reincarnation. Implanting the various shades of the seasons into my soul, experiencing them during North-South and West-East travels, I have to admit - geographically and climatically the vast India is as surprising as her polylingual and polyethnic multiplicity. I was struck by India’s weightless architecture haunted by ghosts and phantoms, rid of history’s yoke. No other country has such palaces with timeless architecture. India’s culture, unlike currencies, is not convertible.

I could not help processing through my soul everything I was associated with - from the Himalayan saga of the Roerichs to the Nehru-Gandhi family’s tragedies and triumphs of Aeschylean or Shakespearean magnitude. My India spoke to me in various languages which, luckily, I could understand - be it the polished English of Indian diplomacy or the “Hinglish” of informal chats, the ”Hirdu” of Hollywood movies or the chaste and refined Hindi of Doordarshan. At times, it could be an intellectual discourse or a soporific pravachana, a shriek of pain or boastful self-praise. I listened to all those voices and often wondered whether they belonged to a single whole or to a polyphonic chorus. Not only the voices. Hi-tech luxuries carried on a bullock cart, agricultural revolution and the ancient plough, jhuggis side by side with glittering skyscrapers, haute couture shows watched by shabby dhoti-clad manufacturers of things fashionable, ahimsa ideals and bloody clashes – could all this coexist in a single flacon? Or even within an individual who could imbibe the 21st century ideas and razor-edge technologies, at the same time ready to fight for the identification of an ancient site? Should I call it contrasts or contradictions? Are these features self-excluding? Are there many Indias? It took me time to realise that my India is remindful of a human body with its seats of power and intellect and various indriyas. Sometimes the body is guided by reason and sometimes by mere emotions. It might feel rigid in the morning, become more elastic by daytime, get over excited by evening, and frustrated by night. It fights its own ups and downs, tides and ebbs, high spirits and the blues. It looks different if observed from various angles, and is familiar and mysterious, gorgeous and shabby, pure and impure, and, eventually, it could be either cherished or ruined. I have visited many other countries, but I reserve this metaphor for India exclusively. Or may be this is one more thing that I have mastered in India — to speak by sidhantas and drishtantas: is it a better way to make oneself clear, or to conceal one’s thoughts? In any case, it is certainly an acquisition to be packed into my diplomatic luggage and carried back.

India Should Rebalance Regional Focus

November 30, 2013 by Team SAISA

P. Stobdan

While India’s economic and security interests in Asia-Pacific region intensifies, a rebalancing is now required in its outreach in the nearby Eurasian continent. Historically, India had the deepest political, cultural and commercial contacts with the Eurasia and they were not without advantage to each other. India is already late in making a meaningful presence. Of course, lack of easy connectivity impeded India’s efforts in the region. But, India’s image and its political contacts with countries in Eurasia are still stand on sound footing.

Broadly, India’s endeavour in Eurasia has been to prevent any hostile power from dominating the region. The “Connect Central Asia” launched in 2012 constitutes a few smart strategies designed to enhance India’s visibility and to seek economic and energy interests with the view to allow the region to re-emerge itself as a commercial and cultural crossroads with greater links to India. The policy is a key component to Afghanistan’s stability as well, as to India’s own security. However, the entire region is now rapidly changing in the face of increased capital flows, expansion of regional trade and massive Chinese investments. For India, obviously, Russia’s benign presence in the region would have been an ideal choice. But in the face of Russia’s relatively low interest for holding on to the region and India’s own limitation to reach out in Central Asia in a major way, the choice therefore was either let the extremists fill the vacuum or allow the Chinese to consolidate their control over Eurasia. Obviously, the choice for India is getting starker; China appears a lesser evil here. However, similar to the ASEAN states, the countries of Eurasia too view India as a future powerhouse of global growth and wish it play a balancer role vis-à-vis China. In the absence of it some of them would, if already not, meekly yield to China’s rise.

Interestingly, like the Chinese businessmen, who had cast their gaze towards Eurasia a decade ago, the Indian entrepreneurs too are finding business opportunities they seek in looking towards the Caspian and Central Asia. Many young Indians engineers and technicians have found jobs, business and markets including in some of the high profile energy projects in Kazakhstan’s oil fields. The energy management sector is likely to attract many more Indian professionals to the region. Some have already invested to get share of the natural resources in those regions. India particularly enjoys a niche market reputation, for example in IT industry, health and education sectors; even these remain unexplored. The problem so far has been that the government policy has not followed suit. And that needs to be changed in a major way.

West Asian Theatre

West Asia will continue to remain the main geopolitical lynchpin. Trend of China and India gradually stepping in to fulfil the vacuum in the region is glaringly visible. Here, economics or oil factor alone is not motivating their West Asia policy. Their common policy approach is guided more by the necessity to forestall seemingly a regional balkanization plan pursued by some powers to dissolve the existing major Arab states along warring ethnic, tribal, sectarian and other fault lines. The Muslim Brotherhood, supported by Saudi Arabia and others, is forcefully trying to bring down the current regimes to be replaced by Caliphates which will centre on Riyadh.

There is no end game in Afghanistan

December 1, 2013 by Team SAISA


Vinod Saighal

West Asia or The Middle East

The subject has become centre stage primarily because the USA has made clear its intention to pull out from Iran. The countries that would view it as a positive development would be Pakistan and China along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE that were major backers of the Taliban prior to 2001. However, the latter countries might no longer be as sure as to how they should view the development. Naturally, the countries supplying forces for deployment as part of ISAF would be relieved as well. It is not yet clear whether the US would exit fully as it did in Iraq or whether a residual force would remain; nobody in the country, however, is going to claim success for Mission Afghanistan. The Americans are pulling out of their own volition due to the unpopularity of prolonged deployment, high casualty rate as well as their economic difficulties. They have not been defeated as such.

They have decided to cut their losses. Speculation is rife within Afghanistan and in the countries in the region most concerned as to what the post-pullout situation will be after the departure of foreign forces that were deployed primarily for stabilizing Afghanistan and preventing it from again falling into the hands of the Taliban. Before entering into a more detailed consideration on the future of Afghanistan it is necessary to have a look at the unfolding scenario within the country as also the likely fallout on the countries most affected. How these countries deal with the fallout also needs to be assessed.

The USA having been the prime mover in Afghanistan for over a decade since 9/11 it would be best to start with that country. There would be policy makers in Washington who would be unhappy at the turn of events that have obliged them to pull back and leave Afghanistan to its own fate in the sense that for them the fight is over without achieving their objectives. Henceforth while they might continue to assist the Afghan Government, they do not foresee committing large forces again. Allowing the Taliban power sharing and control over parts of Afghanistan was evidently their last choice. For the same reason allowing Pakistan to assume a major role, even by proxy cannot be a welcome turn of events. On the face of it, for public consumption within the US the Americans are quitting. However, there is bound to be serious thought for contingency planning for worst case scenarios. Enough assets and back up would have been planned to ensure that a Vietnam type collapse of their ally does not take place. Of course the situation on the ground in Afghanistan in 2014 would be very different from the situation that obtained in South Vietnam when the collapse occurred. Similarly, enough planning would have taken place in the Pentagon to make sure that the residual force maintained, if maintained, does not lead to a repeat of Dien Bien Phu. Nor for that matter would the Pakistan military and the Taliban wish to risk retaliation by the US that would be fiercer than what took place after 9/11.

The second nightmarish scenario is the rising stockpile of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and the internal conditions that can never cease to be a matter of the greatest concern for the US and much of the world. On April 22, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned in her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that Pakistan was in danger of falling into terrorist hands: “I think that we cannot underscore enough the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear-armed state.” And again, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Fox television on April 26, said that Pakistan had assured the United States about the safety of its nuclear weapons, but the current volatile situation of the country raises questions about all of Islamabad assurances. “One of our concerns, which we’ve raised with the Pakistani government and military,” she said, “is that if the worst, the unthinkable were to happen, and this advancing Taliban encouraged and supported by al-Qaeda and other extremists were to essentially topple the government for failure to beat them back, then they would have the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan.” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer now with the Brookings Institution in Washington, and an advisor to President Obama on Afghanistan policy, in a May 30 Brookings paper pointed to the dangers this presents. He said that “the fighting has cast a spotlight on the shaky security of Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal – the fastest growing arsenal in the world. …………Today the arsenal is under the control of its military leaders; it is well protected, concealed, and dispersed. But if the country fell into the wrong hands – those of the militant Islamic jihadists and al-Qaeda – so would the arsenal. The U.S. and the rest of the world would face the worst security threat since the end of the Cold War. Containing this nuclear threat would be difficult, if not impossible.”

India and China: Exploring Partnership in Afghanistan

December 2, 2013 by Team SAISA
P. Stobdan

As the US prepares to pull its troops out of Afghanistan by July 2014, a growing realization in the West is that the situation in the region may ultimately hinge on the kind of role India and China may play in Afghanistan. India’s role in Afghanistan is being fully acknowledged, but China is also now viewed as potentially a stabilizing force in Afghanistan. It is recognized widely that at the end of the day, it is going to be Asian powers which will have the experience and the capacity to implement even the New Silk Road Strategy envisaged by the US. Even the Taliban perhaps painfully understand this reality. If India and China make a calibrated move for working together in Afghanistan, the outcome could be more harmonizing than conflicting.

India’s good friend Russia is unlikely to get redrawn in Afghanistan. Moscow realizes that Central Asia has separated Russia with Afghanistan. But, Russia is engaging Pakistan, hoping it will dissuade the Taliban, if they come to power, from interfering into the areas of Russia’s influence. Of course, Russia will get some role depending what the Taliban will want it play. Presumably, Moscow will consult New Delhi. But, Moscow is also keen to discuss Afghanistan only under the China-led SCO framework.

So far, an onlooker on the Afghan scene, China and its likely role in Afghanistan is increasingly gaining importance. A former Japanese Ambassador to Central Asia, Akio Kawato recently wrote in a column “Afghanistan is not alien for China…..it was a vital part of the Silk Road and was a conduit to India from where China imported Buddhism.” Kawato wrote, the Taliban, more ‘civilized’ now than in 2001, may incur China’s strong involvement in the Afghan affairs.

Make no mistake; Beijing will never get drawn militarily in Afghanistan. It would still like the Americans to ensure security of Afghanistan and want countries like Turkey and India to build its infrastructures. All China has to do is to be ready with a smart strategy to turn Afghanistan into an economic engine and connect the resource rich country to its own industrial towns. And this is what the ‘civilized’ Taliban would also bargain for.

The Chinese investors have on their laptops figures of Afghanistan’s untapped deposits; copper, iron ore, gold, oil, gas, massive vein of rare earth elements including critical lithium (estimated $1 trillion dollars worth) which are imminently suited for their needs. Billions of dollars have already been spent in mining and China’s visitors to Kabul are invariably seeking mining privileges. Several road, railway, pipeline projects are underway to link Western China to Afghanistan through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

True, Afghans have shown aversion to investments. Surely, they have no particular likings for the Chinese, for they represent a blotchy or alien culture – danger to Islam. But same was said about the Chinese in Central Asia as well. The fear was that non-Muslim outsiders extracting underground riches would invoke powerful resource nationalism. But, if the Chinese benefited from the Soviet fall and Russia’s decline, to be sure, they hope to gain in Afghanistan too.

Both China and India have high stakes in the Afghan stability, for they need a peaceful environment to achieve high growth in the next two to three decades. The chaos could bring negative consequence and for China the stabilizing efforts in Xinjiang have not been easy. So the logic of establishing links with Afghanistan makes sense. China has successfully experimented this with Pakistan for decades. In the changed context, China and Afghanistan need each other. Even the Taliban know that if China shed no blood, it committed no sins in Afghanistan. The Taliban too wasn’t much of a headache for China. The Uighur extremist elements were supposedly linked only to Al Qaida.

In Pakistan, New Army Chief Steps into Increasingly Fractured Power Struggle

Myra MacDonald
December 5, 2013

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a short series on the legacy of the recently retired Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

When Lieutenant-General Raheel Sharif was appointed as Pakistan’s new Chief of Army Staff late last month, the label widely used to describe him was “moderate”, a word that cropped up with the kind of frequency in the media that comes only from background spin. The message being given out by the Pakistan Army was that here was a general who would continue the work of his predecessor in allowing civilians to rule while building the professionalism of the military in its war against domestic Islamist insurgents. The man he succeeds, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, became head of the Pakistan Army in November 2007 as the military was just being forced out of power. By the end of his tenure, a civilian government had completed its term and handed over to another elected government for the first time in Pakistan’s history. That Pakistan reached this milestone was in part due to Kayani’s determination to keep the army out of overt interference in politics. With Raheel’s description as a moderate, the line being put out, therefore, to the domestic population and to the army’s US backers – themselves relatively recent converts to the need for democracy in Pakistan – was “carry on, it’s business as usual”.

However, notwithstanding the obvious flaw that all new army chiefs in Pakistan tend to be seen as moderate at the outset – General Pervez Musharraf who seized power in a military coup in 1999 was famous for claiming the mantle of “enlightened moderation” – the assumption of continued progress in the transition from military to civilian rule is tenuous at best. It ignores the unique elements that led to Pakistan’s first democratic transfer of power. And it overlooks the fact that the much-needed but erratic transition to democracy, taking place under an increasing threat from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has in the short-term made Pakistan more fragile than ever.

For a start, the survival of the last elected government was not due to General Kayani alone. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) themselves played a big role in wresting power after learning from bitter experience that their in-fighting made it easier for the military to intervene. In 2006 they signed a Charter of Democracy in London promising to work together for civilian rule. It was partly thanks to then opposition leader (now prime minister) Nawaz Sharif largely eschewing destabilising attacks that the PPP-led government survived a full term. This consensus has broken down in what has become a scrappy fight between Sharif and political newcomer Imran Khan, whose Tehrik-e-Insaf Pakistan (PTI) now runs the provincial government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The PTI’s decision to block NATO supply routes to and from Afghanistan in protest against US drone strikes is a direct challenge to the authority of the federal government which, at least nominally, has responsibility for setting foreign policy.

Secondly, the appearance of a democratic transition glosses over a much more opaque but increasingly fractured struggle for power within Pakistan. President and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari worked hard to build the institutions of democracy, devolving authority to the provinces and to the prime minister, while military officers were forced out of government departments. No one expects a coup in the near future. With less involvement in the civilian administration and fewer sympathisers in top posts, the army can no longer rely on a militarised state to swing behind it. Power has become more diffuse – spread between the military, the politicians, the media, the judiciary and the religious groups, making it harder for any one institution to take control.

Gen. Raheel Sharif: Chief Has Changed, Army Remains the Same


December 3, 2013 
A very good measure of the Pakistan Army’s enduring influence in national security and foreign policy matters and potential for interference in domestic politics is perhaps the anticipation and interest within Pakistan on the appointment of the new chief. What this suggests is that while the army chief is new, the army he belongs to represents the same old army which looms like a dark shadow over the political landscape. Chances, therefore, are that the change of face in the GHQ in Rawalpindi is not going to materially change the army, much less dilute its control over issues like security, defence and foreign policy. 

While it is entirely possible that the army desists from imposing itself on the civilian government in an overt or direct manner, it will in all likelihood continue to pull the strings and manipulate things from behind the scenes by intervening in a more nuanced and oblique manner on a range of issues from terrorism and extremism to relations with Afghanistan, US and of course India. This is not so much because the army has lost the ability to intervene directly – according to a former Prime Minister, all it takes is one jeep and two trucks for the army to overthrow a civilian government – as it is because the army wouldn’t want to directly take responsibility for handling the growing mess inside the country. 

A lot has being made of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif taking his time to select the next army chief and signalling civilian supremacy by picking the number three in the seniority list. The fact, however, is that superseding is the norm in the selection of the army’s top rank. Out of 15 army chiefs, only two were selected on basis of seniority; all others broke the line of succession. The norm, therefore, is to either supercede and/or ‘kick upstairs’ i.e. appoint the senior-most general to the largely ceremonial position of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. This time there has been both. The senior-most Haroon Aslam was superceded and the next in line Rashad Mehmood was ‘kicked upstairs’, paving the way for Raheel Sharif to be the next Chief. Nawaz Sharif has done this in the past as well when he appointed Waheed Kakar and Pervez Musharraf, both of whom later forced him out of office in his first two terms as Prime Minister. In other words, the appointee can become the nemesis. That is the immutable law of Pakistani politics. Whether Raheel Sharif will remain subservient to civilian authority because ‘Pakistan has changed’ and ‘democracy is here to stay’ remains to be seen. 

The Pakistanis are suddenly attributing qualities and skills to Raheel Sharif that no one, not even the General himself, knew he possessed. For instance, it is being lauded that as the Inspector General Training and Evaluation (his last post before the appointment) he was responsible for not only bringing in new doctrines and training modules to reorient and refocus the Pakistan Army to the internal threat of terrorism and insurgency, but also for forging a new military doctrine to counter India’s so-called ‘Cold Start’ doctrine. 

For one, as IGT&E Gen Sharif was effectively sidelined and his involvement in the new doctrines was incidental. By no stretch of imagination a Clausewitz or a Rommel or Sun Tzu! For another, the talk of the internal threat as the biggest challenge did not start with either Gen Kayani or after Gen Raheel Sharif’s appointment as IGT&E. Back in 2003, Gen Pervez Musharraf had first spoken about the internal threat of terrorism and extremism becoming existential challenge. From around 2005-06 the Pakistan Army recognised that it wasn’t trained or equipped to handle the internal threat. Since then, there has been a steady introduction of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism training modules in the military academies. To credit Gen Raheel Sharif with introducing new concepts in COIN/CT is nothing more than apple-polishing. As far as countering India’s ‘Cold Start’ doctrine is concerned, the fact is that the Pakistan army first carried out the Azm-e-Nau series of exercise manoeuvres in 2009-10 when Gen Raheel Sharif was given charge of the Bahawalpur Corps. Since then the Pakistan army has consistently fine-tuned its operational plans against India and Gen Sharif was at best involved in these plans tangentially.

Pakistani CIA Agent Talks About Helping Agency Find Targets for Drone Attacks

December 4, 2013

'Drone Attacks Are the Right Thing to Do'
Hasnain Kazim
Der Spiegel , December 4, 2013

A Pakistani who works as an operative for the CIA spoke to SPIEGEL about his motives for helping the Americans, the civilian casualties of drone attacks and his fear of the Taliban.

Intelligence operative Mohammed Hassan (*) cancelled prearranged meetings several times. He called us from a different phone each time, never offering a reason, merely saying: “I unfortunately can’t make it.” But then he suddenly turned up in a small, inconspicuous hotel in Karachi. A short man with a salt-and-pepper beard, Hassan arrived wearing a white turban and a white shalwar kameez, a knee-length shirt and cotton pants. Hassan works for the CIA.

He provides data and information for the Americans’ drone missions in the Pakistani tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan. He lives there and is of Pashtun ethnicity. He says that he has decided to talk because if he didn’t, he would drive himself crazy, and because the whole world is critical of the drone attacks — and in his perception, this makes the world critical of his actions, too. “However, I feel that this weapon is the right tool in the fight against extremists,” he says.

He is opposed to talks with the Taliban, which the Pakistani government supports. “What can you talk about with these kinds of people? About their share of power?” According to Hassan, the Taliban want an Islamic state according to their convictions, one with no roads, no schools, no music, no art and no enjoyment of life. “Nothing but pray, pray, pray. It has nothing to do with modern Islam.” He fears that chaos will ensue if the Americans end their drone missions in Pakistan, because it will descend into a dog-eat-dog struggle for power.

But he is also plagued by the fear of being discovered and murdered by the Taliban. He’s asked us not to print his real name or his real profession, or even identify the part of the tribal regions where he lives. He says that he can only speak openly under these conditions. He has brought along photos of meetings with Taliban commanders, as well as documents that he says serve as proof of his access to important information.

SPIEGEL: You don’t exactly look like a US spy.

Hassan: What did you expect? We Pashtuns look like Pashtuns. Just because I have a beard and dress the way we tribal people happen to dress doesn’t mean that we’re Taliban. There are also reasonable people among us.

SPIEGEL: You pass on information to the American intelligence agency, the CIA, which it uses to kill your countrymen with drones. You call that reasonable?

Hassan: We are at war, and I am part of this war. When does a war make sense? To be honest, I think the US drone missions are the right thing to do. Believe me, no weapon is more effective in fighting extremists. Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Taliban for many years, was killed on Nov. 1. Many other more or less high-ranking extremists were killed before that. From a military standpoint, it’s a success for the United States. And I contribute to that success.

SPIEGEL: The Pakistani government and the army complain that the US attacks are a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

Hassan: What sovereignty? The nation of Pakistan has had no control over the tribal regions for decades. The military has a few barracks there. They are well-guarded fortresses, and the soldiers hardly dare to step outside. Pakistani law doesn’t apply in the tribal regions, neither the constitution nor any other law. Tribal rules are all that counts. The Taliban claim that they are very effective. But I think they’re more primitive than anything else. However, I understand that Pakistani politicians and generals have to make a public show of being opposed to the drone attacks.

Hack Tibet

Welcome to Dharamsala, ground zero in China's cyberwar.

DHARAMSALA, India — Lobsang Gyatso Sither sits at the front of a Tibetan school auditorium, the bright rectangle of his PowerPoint presentation dimly illuminating the first few rows of students before him. "Never open attachments unless you are expecting them," Sither says. The students nod. A portrait of the Dalai Lama hangs above the stage, framed by flickering electronic candles; a stray dog ambles behind the crowd. "Never give anyone else your passwords," Sither says, clicking to a new slide, which explains the dangers of using an unfamiliar thumb drive. "The Chinese government or others could take control of your computer."

Welcome to Dharamsala, population 20,000 and one of the most hacked places in the world. This small city in India's lush Himalayan foothills is home to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader; the Central Tibetan Administration, or CTA (formerly called the Tibetan government in exile); and a host of Tibetan media outlets and nongovernmental organizations, some of which the Chinese government classifies as terrorist groups. The Dalai Lama fled here in 1959 after communist troops violently suppressed an uprising in Lhasa, now the capital of western China's Tibetan Autonomous Region. India embraced the Dalai Lama as a token of religious diversity, and tens of thousands of refugees followed suit. About 130,000 Tibetans live in exile, according to a 2009 census; Dharamsala is the closest thing they have to a political capital.

The city has an ancient feel. Homes cling to precipitous mountain roads that weave through dense cedar forests; macaque monkeys prance among the rooftops. Yet it is changing, moving cautiously into the future. Computers have become ubiquitous. Roadside cafes offer double espressos and wireless Internet (common passwords include "FreeTibet" and "Independence"). Young Tibetans are snapping up iPhones, which, unlike competing devices, offer the option of a Tibetan-language keyboard. 

Communication between the city's Tibetan community and Tibet itself is easier than it has ever been. Yet the risk of dialing home has never been greater. "If we don't use secure lines of communication, Tibetans in Tibet could be prosecuted" for sending sensitive information abroad, says Sither, a field coordinator for the Tibet Action Institute, a New York-based nonprofit that sponsors education initiatives and trains activists on secure communications systems. 

The Chinese government is everywhere and nowhere in Dharamsala, planting malware and intercepting messages in ways that are nearly undetectable and difficult to trace. The CTA's Chinese-language website was hacked in August. Everyone within the Tibetan community is a target, from the Dalai Lama's advisors to any smartphone-wielding refugee.

A Skewed Look at Arab Hearts and Minds


Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2014 

David Pollock reviews Shibley Telhami's book "The World through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East." 

Telhami offers in The World through Arab Eyes a valuable if unavoidably imperfect attempt at illuminating the hearts and minds of the Arab world as revealed through public opinion polling. His book contains useful broad generalizations, revealing new data and intriguing ambiguities. But it also suffers from occasional problems: methodological flaws, unsupported or questionable single-sourced assertions, and strained interpretations that go beyond the available evidence. Arab public opinion polling as well as the analysis and policy debate surrounding it needs to be taken with a proverbial shaker of salt, a seasoning the author does not always apply. 

On the positive side, the book provides interesting and well-organized survey data on certain broad major topics. Moreover, the author acknowledges the evidence that Arab public opinion has turned inward, toward domestic issues such as political freedoms and social justice. He also makes due allowances for the significant differences among and within diverse Arab publics. 

In addition, the book offers numerous specific nuggets of information. It is interesting and important, for instance, to see that on average the Arab citizens of Israel are four times more likely to empathize with Jewish Holocaust victims than are Arabs in the six other countries polled: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Or that those Arabs' popular dislike of the United States derives mostly from a rejection of its policies rather than its values -- and, more surprisingly, that this dislike actually has very little effect on Arab consumer preferences or behavior. Another important data point: On a weighted average, two-thirds of those in the six Arab countries polled would accept a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; only one-quarter say the Arabs should keep fighting Israel forever. 

Equally surprising nuggets, but also plausible and useful, come from individual countries. In Saudi Arabia, the "most admired" foreign leader in 2011 was Saddam Hussein. In 2012 Egypt, two-thirds of those polled wanted Shari'a as the country's legal basis, but most (83 percent) preferred applying "the spirit of shari'ah but with adaptation to modern times"; just 17 percent opted to apply it literally, "including the penal code (hudud)." 

One problem, however, is that other recent polls show dramatically different results for very similar questions. The latest Pew poll from Egypt, to cite but one case, shows that 88 percent of Muslims there favored the death penalty for apostasy (see Neha Sahgal and Brian J. Grim, "Egypt's Restrictions on Religion Coincide with Lack of Religious Tolerance," July 2, 2013). This kind of discrepancy points to the problems in most contemporary Arab survey research -- whether by Pew or Telhami. 

The book suffers from scattered methodological omissions as well. The first is simply the failure to spell out several important procedural approaches. Were all these surveys true probability samples, or were some based on quota or even merely "convenience" samples? If the former, what precisely were the methods adopted in each case -- multi-stage, stratified, geographic probability? Random walk? Household interview selection? Statistical/demographic weighting? If these were not all standard probability samples, how truly scientific or reliable are the resulting numbers? Regardless of sampling method, how much host government supervision, permission, or intimidation took place, which might have distorted the findings? 

Some potentially revealing numbers are also missing from the narrative. For example, one poll cited produced the unlikely result, not replicated in others conducted by this reviewer, that Hugo Chavez was once the "most admired" foreign leader among Arabs. But did he get a rating of 60 percent, 20 percent, or some other percentage? It makes a big difference -- and in this and other instances, there is no telling from the text. 

A different deficiency is in the choice of the countries surveyed and in the decision to stick with purely urban samples, which thereby excludes half or more of a country's total population. Thus, the book's samples hardly encompass all the Arab eyes of its title, and they completely omit crucial current developments in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia. Even in Egypt and other countries that are included, many of the most salient internal political issues are absent. As a result, the book has little to tell us about the great contest between the Islamist and the civil-military segments of society now underway in Egypt or about the prospects for stability or instability in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, or Jordan.

*** The Future of OPEC

December 4, 2013 |

Pump jacks in the Kurdish town of Derik, on the border with Turkey and Iraq, Nov. 25. (ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The prospect of revitalized oil production in Iraq and Iran may add to tensions between those two countries and Saudi Arabia over export quotas. On Dec. 4, representatives of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will meet in Vienna to discuss a number of topics. OPEC is facing two challenges. First, OPEC's historically biggest consumer -- the United States -- is rapidly increasing its own domestic production. At the same time, OPEC must deal with plans to expand oil production envisioned both by Iraq and Iran, which could lead to lower prices than the cartel desires. Ultimately, however, emerging markets in Asia will set global demand, and their energy thirst will determine the scale of the problem OPEC faces.

OPEC was organized in the early 1960s by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Venezuela with the primary goal of unifying the five countries' oil export policies -- and hopefully dictating a high price for their oil. The five countries certainly possessed that power when the cartel was initially formed, and while the cartel still produces about 40 percent of the world's oil, OPEC's dominance has declined over the years. Today, only Saudi Arabia and to a certain extent the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait retain the ability to voluntarily adjust production levels. OPEC's other members -- Indonesia, Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, Gabon and Angola -- must maintain production to finance their national budgets. Effectively, this means that OPEC wields nowhere near the power it once did. Even a producer of Saudi Arabia's size is barely able to change the price of oil through boosting or cutting production.

A new wave of oil production outside the cartel has already hit. Production in the United States has increased to an estimated 8 million barrels per day -- the highest level since the 1980s. Elsewhere, production is set to take off in Canada and potentially Brazil. At the same time, increased production outside OPEC is dwarfed by the ambitious expansion plans put forward by OPEC members Iraq and Iran. While production outside the cartel is manageable, together with Iraq and Iran's plans it could represent a significant threat to oil prices in the latter half of the decade.
Iraq and Iran's Ambitions

Iraq's energy sector has been revitalized after the past five years and is now producing nearly 3.5 million barrels per day. Its oil ministry has set several ambitious goals, including production hitting 9 million to 10 million barrels per day by 2020. Iran, too, sees prospects for boosted production on the horizon. Complementing the negotiations with the United States on a possible long-term rapprochement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has started a significant reform campaign hoping to bring oil production back to the pre-sanction level of 4.2 million barrels per day within six months and increase it to the pre-revolution level of 6 million barrels per day within 18 months. To be clear, both goals are not attainable within their respective time frames, but significant increases are possible.

The amount of production that comes online in Iraq will largely depend on two factors. First, the political system and violence will shape the pace of investment and regulatory procedures, such as issuing contracts and permits. Second and more important, there are logistical limitations to bringing online that level of production in such a short period of time. Some of these limitations can be overcome with proper coordination between international oil companies, oil services providers, the Shia surrounding the Basra region and the various political interest groups in Baghdad. Adroit cooperation between all of these parties is unlikely, meaning Iraq will fall short of Baghdad's lofty goals, but Iraq can reach about 5 million to 6 million barrels per day by 2020, and closer to 6 million to 6.5 million barrels per day within a decade.

Dangerous Power Struggle Looming With China Over Uninhabited Islands in East China Sea

December 2, 2013

In the East China Sea, a Far Bigger Test of Power Looms

David E. Sanger

New York Times, December 1, 2013

WASHINGTON — In an era when the Obama administration has been focused on new forms of conflict — as countries use cyberweapons and drones to extend their power — the dangerous contest suddenly erupting over a pile of rocks in the East China Sea seems almost a throwback to the Cold War.

Suddenly, naval assets and air patrols are the currency of a shadow conflict between Washington and Beijing that the Obama administration increasingly fears could escalate and that American officials have said could derail their complex plan to manage China’s rise without overtly trying to contain it. As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.

The result is that, as the Chinese grow more determined to assert their territorial claims over a string of islands once important mainly to fishermen, America’s allies are also pouring military assets into the region — potentially escalating the once obscure dispute into a broader test of power in the Pacific.

Now a maritime outpost that had modest strategic significance is taking on enormous symbolic import. South Korea, which has broader concerns about China’s regional power, is building a new naval base for 20 warships, including submarines, arguing that it has to protect vital shipping lanes in the East China Sea for its exports — including many electronics headed to China.

The Japanese, after largely depending on American bases on Okinawa to back up their own limited patrols in the area, plan to build a new army base by 2016 on a small, inhabited island near the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

The Japanese are also planning to deploy more F-15s and radar planes to Okinawa and a new helicopter carrier, and, for the first time, have considered buying unarmed American drones to patrol the area, part of a three-year-long shift in military strategy to focus on their southern islands and on China. That is part of a fundamental change in the national mind-set toward a Japan that is more willing and able to defend itself than anytime since World War II, in part because of doubts about America’s own commitment to the region.

  Graphic   In the East China Sea, a Far Bigger Test of Power Looms
Published: December 1, 2013
WASHINGTON — In an era when the Obama administration has been focused on new forms of conflict — as countries use cyberweapons and drones to extend their power — the dangerous contest suddenly erupting over a pile of rocks in the East China Sea seems almost a throwback to the Cold War.

A group of islands in the East China Sea that both Japan and China claim to control. American officials are worried that a collision or other event in the area could rapidly escalate tensions.


Overlapping Airspace Claims in the East China Sea

China’s ‘Air Defense Identification Zone’

Suddenly, naval assets and air patrols are the currency of a shadow conflict between Washington and Beijing that the Obama administration increasingly fears could escalate and that American officials have said could derail their complex plan to manage China’s rise without overtly trying to contain it. As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.

The result is that, as the Chinese grow more determined to assert their territorial claims over a string of islands once important mainly to fishermen, America’s allies are also pouring military assets into the region — potentially escalating the once obscure dispute into a broader test of power in the Pacific.

Now a maritime outpost that had modest strategic significance is taking on enormous symbolic import. South Korea, which has broader concerns about China’s regional power, is building a new naval base for 20 warships, including submarines, arguing that it has to protect vital shipping lanes in the East China Sea for its exports — including many electronics headed to China.

The Japanese, after largely depending on American bases on Okinawa to back up their own limited patrols in the area, plan to build a new army base by 2016 on a small, inhabited island near the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

The Japanese are also planning to deploy more F-15s and radar planes to Okinawa and a new helicopter carrier, and, for the first time, have considered buying unarmed American drones to patrol the area, part of a three-year-long shift in military strategy to focus on their southern islands and on China. That is part of a fundamental change in the national mind-set toward a Japan that is more willing and able to defend itself than anytime since World War II, in part because of doubts about America’s own commitment to the region.