11 November 2014

'UN's permanent members do not want any change'


November 10, 2014 
UN Ebola mission chief Anthony Banbury (on screen) speaks to members of the United Nations Security Council during a meeting on the Ebola crisis at the UN headquarters in New York. Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
'If we get 129 states of the United Nations to vote in favour of reform, India has hope'
'There is no controversy over India and peace-keeping missions -- we are just trying to protect the rule of law and the traditional principles of peace-keeping'
'The permanent members do not want any change, they do not want to share their responsibilities with other countries'
The Security Council as it is today is unable to bring peace and security in the world and so there is reason for countries like India to become members of the Council, Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji tells Sheela Bhatt/Rediff.com.
Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerjiimage, left,Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations has served in London, Moscow and Washington, DC, among many other places. In Moscow he negotiated the defence systems with Russians and while serving as ambassador in Kazakhstan he negotiated the acquisition of India's first Caspian Sea oilfield. He opened and headed India's embassies as charge d'affaires in the newly independent Central Asian states of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in 1992.
Ambassador Mukerji is now busy developing consensus among the UN's member nations to declare June 21 as International Yoga day.  
In Dubai as consul general he introduced the first-ever public-private partnership welfare scheme for the one million Indian workers in the UAE. From counter-terrorism to cyber security, SAARC issues to WTO, he has tackled it all as a diplomat. He has published five books, Stamped in Memory: a Postal History of Dubai 1909-1999; India through the eyes of Russian Artists; India House, London; Mahatma Gandhi in London; and Valour and Sacrifice: the First Indian Soldiers in Europe 1914-1916.
If Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes in for seniority in the selection of the next foreign secretary then Mukerji is all set to to succeed Sujatha Singh in August 2015.
Mukerji spoke to Sheela Bhatt/Rediff.com in his expansive office in New York
These are changing times in India and global politics. What is your take on the ongoing talks of UN reforms and expansion on the UN Security Council? What is India’s stand?
We are now at the closing stage of the 10-year period when the mandate for reforms at the earlier Security Council was given to the experts by all presidents and prime ministers.
It is our intention to report back to our leaders on the way forward when they meet in 2015 for the UN’s 70th anniversary summit. On the negotiating table will be a paper on which countries can give and take positions which will be then be sent to the heads of the governments -- PMs and presidents -- for their approval.
At the moment there are 12 to 14 countries that do not want any change and they are well-known. They are united on a consensus that they do not want any reform in the permanent membership of the council.
But the vast majority of countries that have participated in these negotiations have supported expansion in the numbers of both permanent and non-permanent members. We are soon going to restart the final round of negotiations and our intention is to produce a report for the heads of states who come in September next year to give us the green light on how to implement this.
Out of the five permanent members of the UNSC, the United Kingdom and France have publicly supported the expansion of the number of permanent members. They have welcomed India, Japan, Brazil and Germany as the new permanent members. So two out of five permanent members have publicly supported India.
Around 12-14 countries called the United for Consensus Group, which include Italy, Pakistan, South Korea, Mexico, Columbia and others, do not want any permanent members.
There has been a lot of debate in the last few years that India made a mistake by clubbing the G4 nations. What is your stand on that?
The G4 platform was developed in 2005. There was a specific setting and context of 2005 because it was the time when a lot of reform took place in the UN system. You had the creation of the Human Rights council in Geneva, which has 47 countries. You had the creation of peace building fund of the UN, you had the creation of UN women, which was created in 2010, but the proposal was given in 2005, you had the introduction of responsibility to protect civilians. This issue came up in the 2005 summit.
There was a churning at that time. The G4 came in to focus on the need to expand the members of the Security Council and these were the four countries (India, Japan, Brazil and Germany) that said they were ready to take up the responsibility of the permanent membership of the Security Council.
The world has changed as you said and the need to reform the Security Council in 2015 is greater than it was in 2005 because crisis in the world has grown.
The Security Council as it is today is not able to bring peace and security in the world. So there is reason for countries like India to become members of the Security Council to help bring peace and security. That’s the way we see it.
If you see the focus given by the PM (Narendra Modi) in his speech at the UN, on non-violence, dialogue… that is India’s USP. India is known for its dialogue for sustainable peace and this is what we hope to get to the Security Council when we become a permanent member.
China will have a problem with Japan becoming a permanent member. Then there is the issue of the US which has policy of pick and choose. In that sense when India is clubbed with people with whom others have issues, India’s own case is weakened.
The answer for me is quite logical. There is no understanding that all the four countries will enter like a group into the Security Council. The charter of the UN requires each candidate to fight an election and get 129 votes of the 192 states -- a 2/3 majority in order to be elected. And even if you look at the last time the Security Council was expanded, only for the permanent members in 1963, the same process was followed. So there is no question of the four or five countries coming together as a group without any elections. And each election is fought by a country individually
What is the crux of the problem?
The permanent members who are sitting there do not want any change, they do not want to share their responsibilities with other countries.
But from America to China, all are ready for an expanded role for India.
Exactly! That is an important point because all the permanent members know that without the process of expansion, no expansion can take place. The process requires the amendment of the charter of UN. Unless there is agreement to amend the UN charter, there will be no outcome.
What is the deadline?
Until two years ago there was no deadline, but India took the initiative in April 2013, and proposed the 70th anniversary of the UN as the deadline. I think it is reflective of the way in which we can convince others that the vast majority of the General Assembly today is looking at 2015 as the deadline.
The manner in which international affairs are changing and diplomacy is now majorly about economic power, the disproportionate representation of the permanent membership is very obvious. In view of that, is there any other way to put pressure on these five stubborn members by the rest of the world?
The only precedent we have seen is in 1963 when the permanent members did not agree to the reform. But because the 2/3rd majority in the general assembly voted in favour of reform, the permanent members had to accept it. This is the only precedent by which we can go by in 2015. If we get 129 states of the UN to vote in favour of the reform we have hope.
What are the possibilities?
The possibilities are there. We are looking at our brothers and sisters in Africa which are 54 countries, Asia Pacific has 54 countries, so between the two they are more than 110. East and central European countries are not represented in the Security Council, Latin America has no representation. So the area is very large.
Let me come to the subject India is interested in. PM Modi in his speech brought in a very fresh subject, of yoga. So tell me the background for it and how you are going to take the issue forward.
Yoga was put up by the PM in his speech as a part of the holistic approach that India has consistently projected in international affairs. Life cannot be compartmentalised and segregated, it has to be approached holistically. This proposal to give focus to yoga and for the UN assembly to declare an international day for yoga is part of this holistic approach. Since the PM put it in his speech, we are talking about sustaining the environment but without looking at the individual, you cannot look at the nature outside without the individual. Nature is part of individual and individual is part of nature. And that is the perspective from which we are approaching this issue.
The subject will come up in the General Assembly as it has started its work and the way forward for us is to propose a resolution to be adopted by the General Assembly declaring June 21 as international day of yoga. June 21 in the northern hemisphere is the longest day. That is one of the reasons to celebrate it.
What’s the diplomatic reference to the context of yoga?
It is part of the approach in which you look at the issue of health and environment in a holistic manner. Unless you are able to provide a sustainable basis for the individual to live his/her life, you cannot expect the environment to be dealt with in a sustainable manner. I think if you look at the paragraph in the PM’s speech, it is very clear.
Fijian UN peacekeepers released by Al-Qaeda-linked group Nusra Front in Syria arrive in Israeli-held territory on the Golan heights. Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters
There is controversy about the Indian peace-keeping mission.  
There is no controversy over India and peace-keeping missions. India is the largest contributor to UN peace-keeping. Every year 10,000 soldiers from India participate in peace-keeping missions. By now 170,000 soldiers have served in UN peace-keeping missions from the time it was started in 1948.
Indian peace-keepers come for UN operations on a clear mandate, they are there to maintain peace. There has to be a ceasefire between two countries or there has to be an agreement between two countries that there is a requirement to maintain peace and peacemakers come from outside to maintain it.
The issue that is coming up now in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the introduction of the new idea of making the UN peace-keepers fight for peace. We have said the Indian soldiers have not been sent to the UN to fight, they have been sent to keep the peace. That’s the vital difference in the mandate. Linked with the issue of peacekeepers is the change in the world around us in which UN peacekeepers are being targeted by armed gang or terrorist groups.
This has been faced by India in South Sudan, where we lost seven of our soldiers in one year to armed groups. And we have called for the Security Council to take strict action against these armed groups. The Security Council has been slow to react but after what happened in Golan heights in Syria, where 46 soldiers from Fiji were taken hostage, the Council has come up with a firm call for taking action against the armed groups.
In the case of Syria the armed groups are recognised as terrorist organisations by the Security Council and are known as the Al-Nusrah front. The point we are making is that peace-keepers have to be protected by the rule of law and the states of UN have to fulfil their commitments to use the rule of law against terrorists, because that is a part of international law. There is no controversy -- we are just trying to protect the rule of law and the traditional principles of peace-keeping.
Issue like the ISIS, Somalia pirates, Ebola and Ukraine expose the UN's limitations.  
I understand what you are saying and the response I will give is that it appears to be so because the people who decide what the UN does do not represent the world as it is today. The only body of the UN whose decisions are binding on all the countries of the world is the Security Council. It is article 24 of the charter and act 47 of Indian Parliament, for example, that makes it mandatory for India to follow all the decisions of the Security Council. Unless we are in the Security Council how can we influence its decisions? It has a direct impact on us as well. 
What are the practical and realistic chances of India getting permanent membership and by when?
If it was up to India alone, I would say September 2015 (smiles), but we have to negotiate with 192 other countries. The outcome and process would depend on the movement of each of these 192 States. Our job is to galvanise an opinion, to push it toward an outcome. In that we are helped by our relationships, the group of four you mentioned or the group of 42 developing countries called the L-69 group. The L-69 group has countries of all continents. So I think together we can reach an outcome by September 2015.
How interested is Narendra Modi in it and how far is he going to take it?
He has given his speech in the UN General Assembly and has made two references to the reform of the Security Council. The last paragraph of his speech clearly says, let us reform the Security Council by September 2015.

The long march of the Middle Kingdom

China's grand plan for New Silk Roads raises some uneasy questions, but it is a brave new strategy for trade and diplomacy, writes Ashis Chakrabarti

For centuries, it was a four-day camel ride through the dreaded Gobi desert. Last month, it took me less than half an hour to travel in a bus from the oasis town of Dunhuang to the Mogao Caves exhibition centre, from where another bus ferried me to the entrance to the caves. In less than three hours, the guides hurried the visitors through a few of the world's most famous Buddhist grottoes, telling the same old stories from their hoary past. The few of the 492 caves that are open to the public include Cave 17 or the Library Cave, from where Aurel Stein, Paul Pelliot and other "foreign devils", as the Chinese called them, "stole" thousands of centuries-old manuscripts in the early decades of the last century. Diamond Sutra, the world's oldest printed book, published in 868 A.D., was among Stein's booty from the Mogao Caves.

There are plenty of camels still to be seen around Dunhuang, carrying tourists on desert safaris. At dusk, when the last of the tourists have left the sand dunes around the Crescent Moon Lake on the edge of the town, it is common to see motorbike-riding camel drivers pulling the animals home.

For centuries, monks and merchants, soldiers and state officials stopped at this oasis town before venturing out into the Gobi or the Taklamakan deserts on their journey to the west, making it a bridgehead for the Silk Road of history. They trudged to the Mogao Caves to offer prayers to the Buddha for a safe journey and for the success of their trade and other missions. Now, the town's only lifeline is the stream of tourists, Chinese and foreign, who come to see what remains of the treasures at the grottoes. The rest is well and truly consigned to history.

But a brave new history may well be scripted on Asia's oldest camel caravan routes if China's ambitious plans about the New Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road are a success. As it was with Chinese emperors in the past, a new idea floated by the reigning Chinese communist party boss must become the centre of gravity in Chinese statecraft. So it has been with Xi Jinping's New Silk Roads plan ever since he made it public. Two themes thus dominate official and public discourses in China these days - Xi's Silk Road diplomacy and his high-profile campaign against corruption.

The old Silk Road reached out from China to the Mediterranean. The new one is planned to do more - it will traverse the three continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. After months of speculation about the new overland road and the maritime route, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, came up with the first concrete details. Last May, it published a map of the land-based New Silk Road and also of the maritime route.

According to the map, the New Silk Road will begin in Xian in central China's Shaanxi province. Famous in today's tourism circles as the site of the terracotta warriors, it was where the old Silk Road too started and from where Xuanzang, the celebrated 7th-century Chinese monk, set out on his 17-year tour of India in search of Buddhist learning and scriptures, many of which he translated into Chinese. In his day, however, the city was known as Chang'an and was the capital of China under the Tang dynasty.

The new route then runs west through Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, in which Dunhuang falls, to Urumqi, the capital of the restive Xinjiang province, where Uighur secessionists pose a major security threat to Beijing, and on to Khorgas near China's border with Kazakhstan. The road then runs southwest from Central Asia to northern Iran before turning west through Iraq, Syria and Turkey. In Istanbul, the New Silk Road crosses the Bosporus Strait and goes northwest through Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Germany. After reaching Duisburg in Germany, it turns north to Rotterdam and then south to Venice.

Summitry and substance

Written by C Raja Mohan  
November 11, 2014 


The PM must trust his own instincts rather than conform to the prevailing canon in the political class and the bureaucratic establishment on the issues to be discussed at the EAS and G-20.

The East Asian Summit (EAS) in Myanmar and the global economic gathering in Australia this week give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a valuable opportunity to end Delhi’s defensive multilateralism and affirm the emergence of a self-assured India that can actively shape the international order in Asia and the world.

This week’s back-to-back summitry complements Modi’s intensive bilateral engagement with the leaders of great powers and regional partners over the last six months. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had travelled extensively in Asia, and his instincts about China, Japan, Southeast Asia and Australia have served him well in expanding the scope of bilateral relations in the region.

Modi has less exposure to multilateralism. But the PM must trust his own instincts rather than conform to the prevailing canon in the political class and the bureaucratic establishment on the issues to be discussed at the EAS and G-20.

It was the deeply entrenched negativism in Delhi that tripped up Modi on the WTO’s trade facilitation agreement a few months ago and reinforced India’s image as the skunk at the global trade party. Modi has been quick to see the damage and has ordered an intensive negotiation to find a solution to the impasse. A quick closure on trade facilitation and food security would significantly improve Modi’s credibility as an international interlocutor.

Modi has inherited a deeply defensive approach to multilateralism in Delhi. Independent India began as a champion of liberal internationalism, multilateralism and Asian regionalism. By the early 1970s, Delhi’s inward economic orientation and third world radicalism made India increasingly marginal to global economic negotiations. Within Asia, India’s strategic alignment with Soviet Russia put it at odds with its eastern neighbours, including China, and Delhi voluntarily cut itself off from regional institution-building.

China and India are two major forces in process of formation of a multi-polar world: Chinese ambassador to India

November 11, 2014 

President Xi Jinping concluded his historic and very successful state visit to India [in September].

Edited excerpts from a speech by the Chinese ambassador to India, Le Yucheng, at a roundtable discussion on Apec in New Delhi on November 4.

Apec is the largest, highest-ranking and most influential economic cooperation mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region. It is of great strategic significance in the world with 21 members, 40 per cent of the world’s population, 57 per cent of the total world economy and 46 per cent of the total global trade. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the theme of 2014 Apec is “Shaping the future through Asia-Pacific partnership”.

Never before had the cooperation in Asia-Pacific been so full of hope and opportunities. Yet, never before have we had to deal with so many risks and challenges.

This year’s Apec meeting will focus on three priorities. One, advancing regional economic integration. Important items under this priority include promoting Asia-Pacific free trade area, supporting the multilateral trading system, advancing cooperation on global value chains and supply chains and strengthening capacity-building in trade and investment.

Two, promoting innovative development, economic reform and growth. The objective is to promote pragmatic cooperation around “the five pillars” of economic reform, new economy, innovative growth, inclusive support and urbanisation in order to leap over “the middle-income trap”, to bring green development and innovative growth, to build a blue economy and an internet economy, and to achieve urbanisation. Three, strengthening comprehensive connectivity and infrastructure development. Connectivity has three pillars: first, physical or hard connectivity, which includes transport, telecommunications, ICT and energy infrastructure; second, institutional or soft connectivity, which includes customs, supply chain, financial and regulatory coherence, structural reform, etc; third, people-to-people connectivity, which includes business mobility, labour and professional mobility, tourism facilitation, and transnational education. This year we have the mandate to develop the blueprint, which will address the achievements and challenges of connectivity in this region, as well as the key initiatives for enhanced Apec connectivity and strategies for implementation.

Asia-Pacific is the region where our home is. As a member of the Asia-Pacific big family, China sees the prosperity of the entire region as the foundation of its own wellbeing. I’d like to share with all of you our ideas about the common development in four key words all starting with the letter C, “the four Cs”.

Indian defence industrialization: Provide private sector with right incentives & state support

Deba R Mohanty
9 Nov, 2014

India's arms import dependency is over 70% while its state-owned defence base has largely failed to meet the growing demands of the armed forces.

The Indian defence sector has been witness to epochal events in recent times. Consider this: defence purchases worth Rs 1,20,000 crore have been approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in less than five months.

Of this, Rs 70,000 crore has been earmarked for two indigenous projects — military transport aircraft (to replace the Indian Air Force's ageing fleet of Avro cargo planes) worth Rs 20,000 crore and six submarines (as part of the Indian Navy's ambitious submarine project P75-I) worth Rs 50,000 crore. Both the projects will be executed by Indian private companies, possibly in collaboration with foreign firms.

A few defence projects under the 'Make' category like tactical communication systems (TCS), battlefield management system (BMS) and futuristic infantry combat vehicles (FICV) are already under early stages of development, which would involve Indian private companies. In addition, a recently cancelled tender for 197 helicopters that might be relaunched in the near future could also be awarded to Indian private companies.

Globally, Mostly Private

Although the decision to allow the Indian private sector in defence production, with an eye on creating and nurturing a self-reliant defence science technology and industrial base (DSTI), was taken way back in 2002, precious little has been achieved so far. Viewed against this grim backdrop, the latest decision to award major projects to Indian private companies has the potential to usher in a new beginning in Indian defence industrialization.

Four fundamental questions must be raised to view the decision in the right context. First, should an aspiring power like India necessarily possess a self-reliant DSTI base?

Five reasons Indians should know about a long-dead Englishman who lived with adivasis

Nov 3, 2014 

The British-born Oxford scholar Verrier Elwin was a rebel against the Raj.

Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India was first published in the spring of 1999. Fifteen years on, I remain very fond of it, and have thus issued it in this expanded edition. In the main text, I have corrected a few errors of fact and interpretation. I have prefaced the new edition with this introduction, while also revising and updating the epilogue.

Beyond my own emotional investment in the book, there may be at least five reasons why younger Indians might wish to read about this British-born Indian, this Oxford scholar who lived with adivasis, this Rebel against the Raj:

The first is that Elwin thought deeply about inter-faith relations. The history of modern India has been marked by rivalry and discord between Hindus and Muslims. Outside India, the hostility between Christians and Muslims has spectacularly escalated in recent years. On the other hand, like Mahatma Gandhi, by whom he was greatly influenced in this respect (albeit not in some others), Elwin demonstrated that one could practice one’s faith seriously without disparaging the faith of others. He was an ordained priest of the Christian Church, who refused to convert the tribals he worked with. He wrote brilliantly on the parallels between Christian and Hindu traditions of mysticism. Later, he developed a keen interest in Buddhism;

Second, Elwin was both a serious scholar as well as a superb prose stylist. Whereas physicists and mathematicians (and perhaps philosophers and economists too) have to resort to technical language to express their research findings, historians and anthropologists do not need to do so. Yet practitioners of these humanistic disciplines also often cloak their arguments in a battery of neologisms. Their language is so dense and obscure that one forgets that these scholars are supposed to be writing about real, living, people;

Bad writing is unfortunately ubiquitous in the academy—sometimes out of a mistaken solemnity, sometimes because of plain incompetence. In this dreary, jargon-ridden climate, younger anthropologists, historians and literary scholars would do well to read Elwin, who communicated his research findings in prose that sparkled;

Nuclear Weapons Materials Gone Missing: What Does History Teach?

Added November 06, 2014 
Type: Book 
208 Pages 
Download Format: PDF
Cost: Free 

In 2009, President Obama spotlighted nuclear terrorism as one of the top threats to international security, launching an international effort to identify, secure, and dispose of global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials—namely highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium. Since that time, three nuclear security summits have been held, along with scores of studies and workshops (official and unofficial), drawing sustained high-level attention to the threat posed by these materials. However, little attention has been given to incidences where sensitive nuclear materials actually went missing. This volume seeks to correct this deficiency, examining incidences of material unaccounted for (MUF) arising from the U.S. and South African nuclear weapons programs, plutonium gone missing from Japanese and British civilian production facilities, and a theft of highly enriched uranium from a U.S. military contractor in the 1960s that was used to help fuel Israel’s nuclear weapons program. This volume also questions the likelihood that the International Atomic Energy Agency would be able to detect diversions of fissile materials, whether large or small, and the likelihood that a state could or would do anything about the diversion if it was detected. What emerges from this book is an assessment of how likely we are to be able to account for past MUF quantities or to be able to prevent future ones.

U.S. Policy and Strategy Toward Afghanistan after 2014

Added October 28, 2014 
Type: Monograph 
62 Pages 
Download Format: PDF
Cost: Free 

What should the United States do about Afghanistan? After nearly 13 years and substantial U.S. national commitment in a country on the other side of the world, much has changed in Afghanistan, the United States, Afghanistan’s region, and the globe. To prepare policy and strategy recommendations on Afghanistan for U.S. leaders, this monograph answers six key questions: 1. Did the United States have or develop critical national interests in Afghanistan and its immediate neighborhood on or because of the events of September 11, 2001? 2. Was overall U.S. strategy to pursue those interests successful and appropriate? 3. What outside conditions shaping U.S. involvement in Afghanistan exist now? 4. Do new vital and/or important national interests not met by our earlier strategies exist in this region? 5. What strategy(s) should the United States adopt or emphasize to achieve critical national interests in/around Afghanistan? 6. What risks and challenges are associated with new policies and/or strategies?

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The Lost Children France Takes Stock of Growing Jihadist Problem

By Julia Amalia Heyer

More than 1,000 young people from France have joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, more than from any other European country. The recruits are no longer just coming from the margins of society.

Sometimes Séverine Mehault climbs the stairs to the second floor for no reason at all. She walks along the hallway, past her son's room and into her daughter's bedroom. Then the 40-year-old lies down on the bed, next to a white stuffed bunny, and closes her eyes for a moment, trying to understand why only one of her two daughters, 15-year-old Kenza, is still there -- and why Sahra has abandoned her.

Not much of Sahra is left in the room: her stuffed rabbit, a Koran in translation, a prayer book and a guide to the correct methods of bathing for Islamic women. The guide is a worn, pink brochure with small illustrations. Chapter 3 is titled: Instructions for Cleaning Your Ears.

There's a dish containing red nail polish, mascara and lip gloss, but Sahra hasn't worn makeup in almost two years. After turning 15 at the time, she converted to Islam.

She left France on March 11, 2014 to joint the jihadists in Syria. The family doesn't know where she is exactly, or which terrorist group she has joined.

Her father drove her to the train station in Narbonne on that March day, as he did every day, when she would take the train to school in the nearby city of Carcassonne in southwestern France. A surveillance camera image shows Sahra, 17, standing on the platform in Narbonne, at 7:44 a.m. She is wearing white jeans, white sneakers and a black headscarf, and she is carrying two shoulder bags. The last image of Sahra on French soil, also taken with a surveillance camera, shows her at the airport in Marseille. She took an afternoon flight to Istanbul, and the next day she continued to Antakya on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Séverine Mehault has spread out photocopies of the surveillance camera images on the dining room table, next to the last photo she took of Sahra. It depicts her daughter dressed entirely in black, in a jilbab, a floor-length robe with baggy sleeves, and a hijab, or headscarf. She is smiling, with a soft, roundish face.

A Faraway Country

"Before she left, I didn't even know what was happening in Syria. It was a faraway country for me," says Mehault, running her fingers across the photo. Her fingernails gnawed to the quick. These days, she anxiously follows the news, trying to discern where exactly the group known as the Islamic State is fighting and where the West is bombing the terrorists. The TV set in the living room is constantly switched on. Sometimes she even leaves the radio on at night.

On that Tuesday in March, Sahra didn't come home in the evening. The family called the police. When officers came to the house the next day, they brought along the surveillance photos and retraced the route Sahra had taken. They asked a few questions, and when they left they took along the family's computer and tablet device.

Séverine Mehault received a call on her mobile phone two days later, with an unknown number appearing on the screen. She was so excited that she passed the phone to her eldest son, Jonathan. It was Sahra. She was calling to tell her parents not to worry, and that she was doing well. "I married Farid, a fighter," she told them. "He's 25 and comes from Tunisia."

"Where are you?" Jonathan asked.

"In Syria," his sister replied.

Where has good old Britain gone?

After the Lampedusa tragedy in October last year, in which more than 500 immigrants drowned, the Italian Navy launched a sophisticated programme of maritime rescue. The Mare Nostrum operation has facilitated the rescue of more than 100,000 people, five times more than were saved in 2013. The size of the figure is explained by the increasing number of conflicts in our neighbourhood (together with our inertia in these conflicts) from Libya to Iraq via Syria, but also in the Horn of Africa (Eritrea and Somalia), the Central African Republic, and Sudan. 

As the Italian programme draws to a close, the European Union is preparing to replace it with its own operation called Triton. But last week we learned, courtesy of the British government, that the Mediterranean maritime rescue mission is a stimulus for irregular immigration, and so the Government of Her Majesty refuses to finance it. The impeccable logic of this argument must be recognised: the more dangerous the route to Europe, the more immigrants that drown, the fewer people that will dare to make the journey. Following the same logic, Spain should electrify the fences at Ceuta and Melilla, its cities on the north coast of Africa. True, the first immigrants that attempted to jump over them would be seriously injured, but there is no doubt that in the long term, the number of attempts to jump the fence would be reduced. 

As the Italian programme draws to a close, the European Union is preparing to replace it with its own operation called Triton. 

Irregular immigration should be fought in the origin countries, not only at sea, but the UK government, like all others, has been slashing development cooperation budgets. Worse, it has blocked the development of EU battle groupsfor places such as the Central African Republic, where they could stabilise the situation and prevent the displacement of people. 

Something strange is afoot in the United Kingdom when a prime minister educated at the elite Eton College starts competing to be more populist than Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, who advocates the exit of the UK from the EU and rages openly against the hordes of Romanian and Bulgarian criminals that – due to the EU’s free movement of people – are supposedly terrorising the streets of Britain. 

At APEC: Americans, Japanese are most skeptical that trade leads to more jobs

NOVEMBER 7, 2014

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet in Beijing this weekend at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to promote free trade and economic integration. But, back home, they may have some explaining to do.

Among the 21 Pacific Rim leaders attending, they represent the publics that are most skeptical of the benefits of both trade and foreign investment, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 13 of the APEC nations.

Publics in these nations believe that trade is good for their countries (a median of 81%). And a median of 53% believe it creates jobs. But Japanese (69%) and Americans (68%) are among the least convinced that trade is good for their nation. And they are far less convinced – Americans 20%, Japanese 15% – that international commerce generates jobs.

Similarly, a median of 41% in the APEC nations surveyed say it’s a good thing for foreign companies to buy domestic companies in their country. Yet just 17% of Japanese and 28% of Americans share such views. With Chinese investment in the U.S. growing rapidly, this may not bode well.

This skepticism in both Japan and the U.S. raises questions about political support in both societies for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal now under negotiation involving Japan, the U.S. and several of the nations assembled in China.

The most enthusiastic APEC public surveyed is the Vietnamese: 95% say trade is good for Vietnam, in part because 78% say it creates jobs and 72% voice the view it raises wages.

The Chinese hosts are generally supportive of trade. After a decade of exports growing by an average of 15% and wages increasing by 10% annually – what is not to like? But the Chinese are also quite wary of foreign investment: only 39% of the public there say foreign-led mergers and acquisitions are a good thing and just 51% believe foreign companies building factories in China is beneficial.

New Publication from INSS' China Center Explores Chinese Basing Requirements

October 17, 2014

China Strategic Perspectives 7, October 2014. (Photo by NDU Press)

NDU's Institute for National Strategic Studies Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs (CSCMA) has released China Strategic Perspectives 7, the most recent in its series of occasional papers. The October 2014 issue, "Not an Idea We Have to Shun": Chinese Overseas Basing Requirements in the 21st Century, addresses China’s expanding international economic interests, which are likely to generate increasing demands for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to operate out of area to protect Chinese citizens, investments, and sea lines of communication. The frequency, intensity, type, and location of such operations will determine the associated logistics support requirements, with distance from China, size and duration, and combat intensity being especially important drivers.

Authors Christopher D. Yung and Ross Rustici, with Scott Devary and Jenny Lin, ask how the PLAN will employ overseas bases and facilities to support these expanding operational requirements and offer an assessment based on Chinese writings, comments by Chinese military officers and analysts, observations of PLAN operational patterns, analysis of the overseas military logistics models other countries have employed, and interviews with military logisticians. 

The mission of the Center is to serve as a national focal point and resource center for multidisciplinary research and analytic exchanges on the national goals and strategic posture of the People’s Republic of China and the ability of that nation to develop, field, and deploy an effective military instrument in support of its national strategic objectives. The Center keeps officials in the Department of Defense, other government agencies, and the Congress apprised of the results of these efforts. The Center also engages the faculty and students of the National Defense University and other components of the Department of Defense Professional Military Education (PME) system in aspects of its work and thereby assists their respective programs of teaching, training, and research. The Center also has an active outreach program designed to promote exchanges among American and international analysts of Chinese military affairs.

Counter-Terrorism: How The West Became Collateral Damage

November 7, 2014: People in the West are greatly alarmed and concerned about Islamic terrorism. This fear is largely misplaced and a product of modern media, not the reality of what is going on in the Islamic world. The fact is that well over 90 percent of Islamic terrorism victims are Moslems. In 2013 that was more like 99 percent. Although there has been a huge increase in Islamic terrorist activity since September 11, 2001, it has mainly been directed at other Moslems. For the last century there has been growing incidence of Islamic terrorism and this is largely the result of the many ancient and unresolved religious disputes in Islam, plus modern technology. The tech allowed Moslems to travel more freely and allowed Moslem nations to do more business with the spectacularly successful economies in the West. Finally, there is oil wealth, which makes it possible for large numbers of Moslems to migrate from their poorly run countries to the more prosperous and pleasant West. The last of these to arrive was the oil wealth and that made it easy for Moslem rebels to blame the West for “supporting” (by paying for the oil rather than just taking it) the local Moslem tyrants. These threats led to some attacks in the most notably the ones on September 11, 2001. But overall, the Islamic terrorism was largely directed at other Moslems. There is much talk about attacking the West but the vast majority of the attacks are still, as they have been for over a thousand years, against fellow Moslems. 

Looking at the Islamic terrorism situation as an historical event you see that the current outbreak began in the 19th century, as Western influences began to be felt throughout the Islamic world. There followed the collapse of Turkish control in the Middle East, the rise of radical socialism (fascism and communism) which were both attractive to many Moslem radicals. Finally there were the efforts by the newly (in the 1970s) wealthy Saudi kingdom to spread its own form of conservative Islam as far as possible. 

At the core of this war is an Arabs family feud over which forms of Islamic radicalism are acceptable and which are to be condemned as Islamic terrorism, heresy or whatever. The main dispute is between those who consider “moderates” like the Moslem Brotherhood an acceptable Islamic conservative group and others (like Saudi Arabia) that identifies the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. This is the continuation of a centuries old struggle over what the most acceptable form of Islamic conservatism is. 

At the center of this dispute is Saudi Arabia and its effort to defend its form of Islamic government. Saudi Arabia has long supported Islamic conservative groups. Yet in 2013 the Saudis came out against the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt and against al Qaeda two decades earlier. At the same time the Saudis have no problem supporting Islamic radicals in Syria, including some who belong to al Qaeda. 

Tackling Islamic State: a message from Lebanon

Gareth Smyth for Tehran Bureau
7 November 2014 

In an interview, author Michael Young argues that ending violence in Syria and Iraq requires regional and international powers – including Iran – to face up to the realities of sectarian politics 

Black-clad militants descend in front of a giant Hezbollah banner. Photograph: Haytham Musawi /EPA

The recent paperback launch of a book on Lebanon published four years ago might seem a strange move given the dramatic changes in the Middle East since 2010. But Michael Young’s The Ghost of Martyrs Square has stood up remarkably well not just as a sharp analysis and gripping narrative of the crucial period of 2005-2010 in Lebanon but as a strikingly topical example of a Middle Eastern country facing sectarian conflict.

Lebanon has often fallen victim to proxy battles between regional powers, especially Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, although the three also underwrote the 1989 Taef agreement that ended the 15-year civil war. The links between the country’s religious sects and these regional powers – or, in the case of Christians, the United States and France – have encouraged many Lebanese to question the country’s sect-based political system, which has developed, as Young points out, over several centuries.

The third intifada is here

Author Shlomi EldarPosted November 6, 2014

Israeli border police officers walk in front of the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, Nov. 5, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

A third intifada. People have been talking about it for more than a year already, threatening that its eruption is just around the corner and that it’s likely to be more violent and hellish than its two predecessors.

Periodic situation evaluations of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) highest command echelons warned that the harsh economic situation, lack of a diplomatic horizon and overall feeling of frustration and that there is no way out are likely to be the catalysts. Shin Bet assessments disseminated in 2013 even showed worrisome data regarding growing unrest in the West Bank, and painted the picture of the lone terrorist going out on his own to carry out an attack without the backing of organizational infrastructure. These assessments even led to closer security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the goal of detecting and thwarting the first signs of terrorist organization if and when they appear on the ground.

But apparently the Israeli security system didn't imagine that the third intifada it had anticipated, warned against and prepared for would erupt specifically in Jerusalem, and with such intensity.

The vehicular terror attack carried out on Nov. 5, and the one committed two weeks previously on Oct. 22 claimed the lives of three Israelis and wounded many others. When we add the attempted murder of right-wing activist Yehuda Glick on Oct. 30, one of the prominent members of the Temple Mount Faithful group, there is no room left for doubt: An additional ''Al-Aqsa intifada” (as the second intifada was named) is taking place now, and Jerusalem is both the battlefield as well as the cause of the unrest. Or, to be more precise: the Temple Mount is the catalyst for the eruption of the current intifada in Jerusalem. We can deduct this from the words of relatives of two terrorists who carried out the recent vehicular terror attacks in the city.

Family members and neighbors of Abed a-Rahman a-Shaludi from Silwan, who rammed his vehicle into the train station, killing the infant Chaya Zisel Braun and Karen Yemima Muskara, told reporters who arrived in the neighborhood on Oct. 23 that nothing would pacify the crowd as long as Jews ascended to the Temple Mount.

Obama’s Quagmire America’s campaign against ISIS has already lost its way.

Kurdish refugees from Kobani watch as thick smoke covers their city during fighting between ISIS and Kurdish peshmerga forces on Oct. 26, 2014.

America’s war against ISIS is quickly turning into a quagmire.

A few signs of progress have sprung up in recent days. U.S. airstrikes have slowed down the Islamist group’s onslaught against the Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria. A much-cheered caravan of Kurdish peshmerga fighters is making its way from Iraq to join the battle.

But even if the Kurds push ISIS out of Kobani, what does that signify in the larger struggle? What happens next? And what is the Obama administration’s desired endgame and its path for getting there? These questions have no clear answers, and that speaks volume.

When President Obama delivered histelevised address on Sept. 10, announcing that he would now pursue ISIS throughout Iraq (not just where they threatened U.S. diplomats) and even into Syria, he clarified that the focus would remain on Iraq. To the extent he launched airstrikes in Syria, they would be clustered along the border, to keep the jihadists from moving back and forth between the two countries or seeking safe haven. And at first, the bombs dropped on Syria did fall along the ISIS cross-border paths.

But by early October, Obama was dropping more bombs on Syria than on Iraq. What happened? Kobani. ISIS launched an assault against this town on the Turkish border. Intelligence indicated the town would soon fall. Local Kurds were running out of ammunition. Turkish President Recep Erdogan lined up tanks, but refused to roll them forward; he also blocked Turkish Kurds from crossing the border to help their Syrian brethren. So, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, Obama sent in the drones and the fighter planes.

Defeating ISIS: A Strategy for a Resilient Adversary and an Intractable Conflict

November 2014 

A new study on how Washington can overcome various military and political obstacles -- some of them self-imposed -- to improve the chances of success against ISIS.

President Obama's decision to launch a campaign aimed at "degrading and eventually destroying" the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) marks a major turning point in U.S. policy toward the Middle East. But the administration's approach faces major challenges, including the resiliency of ISIS, the complexity of the operational environment, and the coalition's limited ability to exploit the group's military, geographical, political, and financial vulnerabilities. Moreover, the president's reluctance to adequately resource the effort, commit additional reconnaissance and strike assets, or deploy small numbers of troops to the fight will further limit U.S. options and reduce the prospects for near-term success.

In this Washington Institute study, military expert Michael Eisenstadt describes how the administration can overcome these obstacles, work through the contradictions inherent in its current approach, adequately resource the military campaign, and make substantial progress in addressing a key threat to American interests.

Lt. Col. Michael Eisenstadt, USAR (Ret.) directs the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute. His military service included active-duty stints in Iraq with the United States Forces-Iraq headquarters and in a civilian capacity with the Multinational Force-Iraq/U.S. Embassy Baghdad Joint Campaign Plan Assessment Team. He has also served as an advisor to the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group, the Multinational Corps-Iraq Information Operations Task Force, and the State Department's Future of Iraq defense policy working group.

The Iraq Troop-Basing Question and the New Middle East

November 2014 

An examination of allegations that the Obama administration’s failure to secure a long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq after 2011 was the "original sin" that led to the ascendance of ISIS.

The meteoric rise of ISIS has justifiably spurred an examination of what U.S. policies might have led to a less dire outcome in territories now controlled by the group. One common focus is the Obama administration's decision to forgo a troop presence in Iraq after 2011. Yet while troops would have given Washington more leverage, the question of whether they could have prevented the rise of ISIS is hardly clear-cut.

In this new Policy Note, James F. Jeffrey, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012, draws on his intimate experience with the troop-basing issue to explain what really happened three years ago. By discussing complex factors such as judicial immunity for American forces, political shifts in Baghdad, and rhetorical shifts within the Obama administration, he outlines lessons that Washington can draw from the Islamic State's ascendance.

Ambassador James F. Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz distinguished visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, where he focuses on U.S. strategies to counter Iran's efforts to expand its influence in the broader Middle East.

The Billion-Dollar Game Designer Who Became a Future-War Theorist

Former ‘Call of Duty’ creative director Dave Anthony wants to change the way America thinks about conflict

Video games are huge business. For years now, digital games have earned more than the music and film industries combined. And of all of the billion-dollar properties in the industry, Call of Duty is one of the biggest.

For eight years, Dave Anthony steered the franchise. He wrote and directed five of the series’ 11 titles, helping to transform a World War II shooter into a cultural touchstone and annual entertainment event for millions of people.

After producing some of the most successful video games of all time, Anthony left the industry. A year later, the Atlantic Council—a Washington, D.C. think tank—hired Anthony to help predict the future of warfare.

Now the man who imagined video-game wars helps an influential think tanks talk about real war. At least, the ways real war might evolve.

His reception has been … chilly. Frankly, a lot of people find Anthony’s ideas pretty repulsive.

In any event, Anthony still has a hard time processing how he got from there to here. “It still boggles my mind,” Anthony tells War Is Boring. “I grew up in a really poor sort-of suburban Liverpool.”

Liverpool is the industrial city in England that’s most famous for being the birthplace of the Beatles. Anthony didn’t care for it. “ I don’t know if you know much about Liverpool,” he says, “but it’s not the greatest place to live. Not great weather. There’s lots of poverty.”

Money was always a concern for Anthony growing up. He finished college broke. “I got into the games industry out of necessity,” he says. “All I could really do was play games, so I got a job as a games tester.”

That was 20 years ago. The companies were smaller then, not the thousand-person affairs they are today. Anthony endeared himself to the heads of the studio he worked for.

“I got to know them and I offered to write on a game for free,” he says. “They accepted.”

He loved the work and did such a good job that his bosses paid him for the writing work he offered to do gratuit. “I worked on a bunch of different stuff,” he adds. “I worked on a Star Trek game. I worked on an X-Men game, but Call of Duty was when things really started to get interesting.”

The battle of Stalingrad in the very first Call of Duty. Activision capture