4 February 2015

Modi’s Beijing visit could be the ‘opportunity of the century’

Atul Aneja
February 4, 2015 

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has wrapped up a three-day visit to China on Tuesday, amid expectations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in May is likely to spur economic ties, and improve the management of differences in the security domain.

Sections of the Chinese media are interpreting Ms. Swaraj’s audience with President Xi Jinping as an exceptional gesture from the Chinese side, signalling the importance Beijing now attaches to ties with India. Global Times, the daily affiliated to the Communist Party of China, quoted an academic from the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences as saying that, “In a rare meeting with a visiting foreign minister, the Chinese President has demonstrated the importance he attaches to Sino-Indian relations.”

With investible funds in the West shrinking, the success of Mr. Modi’s “Make in India” campaign relies heavily on large-scale investments from China to revive the job-creating manufacturing sector. By Tuesday, the Chinese side had strongly signalled that it would follow up on its commitments to investment in India. Chinese official media quoted President Xi as saying after he had met Ms. Swaraj that, “Both sides should grab the opportunity of the century and work together on their development strategies. China and India should continue their cooperation in various fields, including industrial parks and the railway project, to benefit the 2.5 billion people of the two countries and the global economy.”

Observers say that Russia and China’s endorsement of India’s membership of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was a significant takeaway from Ms. Swaraj’s visit. If accomplished, APEC membership could open the gates for New Delhi’s constructive engagement in the Indo-Pacific theatre, expanding its strategic bandwidth significantly.

A fuel’s errand

Santosh Mehrotra
February 4, 2015

The finance minister plans to scrap the supply of subsidised kerosene through the public distribution system (PDS) and high time, too. To begin with, why has the kerosene subsidy needed reform for decades and yet reform never materialised?

Kerosene obtained through the PDS, being cheaper, is used to adulterate diesel and petrol. Kerosene leakages in the PDS are estimated to be 40 per cent of total allocations. The diversion is lucrative for distributors, who bribe government officials to get licences to distribute the fuel. Kerosene and petrol station dealerships are much in demand as they fetch huge returns through fuel diversion. The government has quotas for awarding such dealerships. In 2004, when corruption was discovered in the awarding of service-station concessions, the Supreme Court cancelled all contracts and ordered the government to distribute them more transparently.

Ending the subsidy would put an end to the adulteration that causes a loss to the government treasury. Second, kerosene blended with petrol and diesel causes engine damage, affecting vehicle life. A third benefit of ending the subsidy would be that air pollution from the inefficient combustion of adulterated fuel would be reduced. Fourth, the substitution of kerosene with solar lamps could help reduce the oil import bill. Fifth, fuel diversion has meant that, sometimes, India’s poor have to go without lights or are unable to cook, because they cannot access their quota of kerosene even though the fuel is abundant at higher prices on the parallel market.

Thumbs up for a pluralistic ethos

Kuldip Nayar
Feb 4 2015 12:31AM

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi must be regretting that he invited President Barack Obama for the Republic Day. The latter made no secret of demolishing the Bharatiya Janata Party's ghar wapsi slogan and the other programmes related to Hindutva ideology. He reminded India of its commitment to religious freedom, consecrated in the Constitution.

A more charitable explanation can be that Modi wanted his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to know what the democratic world thought about its new zeal for a Hindu Rashtra. Whatever the case, the BJP has got such a rebuke that it will be difficult for the party to show its face in the democratic world.

President Obama reminded the Indian nation that it can succeed so long as it is not splintered along religious lines and allowed people to freely “profess, practise and propagate” religion. Whether the BJP has liked his frank statement or not, the nation as a whole is happy that a tall leader like Obama has reminded the country of its pluralistic ethos. Some BJP leaders are upset because they have been hinting at building the Ram temple at the site where the demolished Babri Masjid stood.

The visit of President Obama has had a fallout regarding India's status in the international affairs. Probably realising this, one Pakistani television channel telephoned me to sum up the outcome of Obama's visit. I said in reply: "A tilt towards America to the chagrin of China". Let me explain. Even during the cold war, when New Delhi was leading the non-alignment movement, its deference to Moscow was apparent. Since India provided a stable and reliable channel to the Soviet Union, Washington would take New Delhi's tilt in its stride.

Leaving people out of development

Meena Menon
February 4, 2015 

In the urgency to grant industry its due with promises of ‘Make in India,’ the marginalised cannot continue to be victims of grave policy neglect and continuing alienation

For some years now, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)has been perceived as a roadblock to development or a facilitator for the industry depending on which side you are on. Former Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s recent letter to Sonia Gandhi also alludes to the conflict in the Ministry.

The Ministry had humble beginnings: it began as a department in 1980 and was set up as a Ministry in 1985 after India’s participation in the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. It was in many ways Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s leadership and participation in Stockholm which prompted the Ministry’s inception. Now, India has a plethora of laws which relate to the environment and its regulation.

Over time, even as many notifications have come into force after Supreme Court orders, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) was set up in 2010 — infinitely more effective than the earlier National Environment Appellate Authority. However, enforcement is far from satisfactory.

Terrorism threatens Japan

February 4, 2015 

The purported beheading by Islamic State (IS) of two Japanese journalists, and its warning that Japan would be one of its military targets in future, pose a challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government. Its impact would perhaps mark a critical shift in Japanese foreign policy and public opinion. Japan has largely been insulated from international terrorism in the past decade and radical Islam has little or almost nil hold in the country. Japan’s pacifism is embodied in its Constitution of 1946, through which it has renounced war and outlawed belligerent responses to international disputes. Japan does not maintain an army with war potential, except for the de factoJapan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) that is intended to maintain peace and order. With a pacifist foreign policy that strongly distances itself from militaristic ventures, why is Japan now a target of Islamic terrorism?

The fact is that Japan’s foreign policy has been undergoing several changes in the past few years. Prime Minister Abe, a conservative-nationalist, has been gradually rewriting the pacifist Constitution, especially since his 2012 re-election. The defence budget was considerably enhanced, the ban on arms exports was lifted and the capabilities of the JSDF were expanded. A reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution now allows Japan to use force to defend its allies under attack. Also, Japan’s relations with the Middle East are becoming more central — and controversial. Being a resource-poor country, it is one of the largest importers of crude oil from the region. Political stability in the Middle East is in Japan’s own interests. Mr. Abe, during his recent visits to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, pledged $200 million in non-military aid for countries fighting IS. He also promised humanitarian and infrastructure assistance for those fighting terrorism, as well as for refugees displaced from Syria and Iraq following IS activity. Mr. Abe’s attempts to gain prominence on the international stage by playing a bigger role in the West’s counter-terrorism policy has clearly drawn bitter reactions from IS, as reflected in the outrageous beheadings. With the widespread shock at these recent events, the Japanese public will be faced with important questions on how to judge Prime Minister Abe’s proactive and gradually militarised foreign policy. Regardless, Mr. Abe has unequivocally stated that the country “will not give in to terrorism” and will “work alongside the international community to make them pay for their sins.” It is evident that Japan’s emerging foreign policy is in for some testing times.


By Giriraj Bhattacharjee
FEBRUARY 2, 2015

Tripura, the location of one of India’s most virulent insurgencies, has now evolved into one of the most peaceful states in India’s troubled Northeastern region. The state registered no terrorism-related fatalities through 2013, but the record was tarnished by four such fatalities in 2014, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). In the process, the trend of continuous decline in such fatalities recorded since 2004 (with the exception of 2012) was reversed. In 2012, Tripura had recorded two fatalities (both militants) as against one (civilian) in 2011.

Significantly, at its peak in 2004, militancy in Tripura had claimed as many as 514 lives, including 453 civilians, 45 militants and 16 Security Force (SF) personnel.

According to SATP data, the four fatalities in 2014, in three incidents of killing, included two civilians and two SF personnel. A civilian driver, Himari Rangtor, and a Border Security Force (BSF) trooper, Adil Abbas, were killed when suspected cadres of the Biswamohan faction of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT-BM) ambushed a BSF vehicle at Pusparam Para in North Tripura District on November 17, 2014. Suspected NLFT–BM militants also killed a BSF trooper, Biswas Kumar, in an ambush at Malda Para in Dhalai District on October 23, 2014. Earlier, on June 12, 2014, the body of a surrendered NLFT militant, identified as Samindra Debbarma, was recovered from Vidyabill area in Khowai District. Prior to these two killings, the last civilian fatality had taken place on January 31, 2011, when NLFT militants killed the in-charge of Shewapara border fencing site of National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), identified as C.N. Muni, and injured his driver, at a remote tribal hamlet in North Tripura District near the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Though no militant was killed through 2014, the State witnessed the killing of SF personnel after a long hiatus. The last SF fatality before the two 2014 killings was recorded on August 6, 2010, when two BSF troopers were killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast carried out by NLFT-BM militants in Ratia under the Chawmanu Police Station of Dhalai District. Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Border Security Force (BSF, Tripura Frontier), B.N. Sharma, stated on November 28, 2014, “After two ambushes on BSF troops, the operational strategy has been changed. We have decided to send jawans in strong numbers to foil their attempt.”

Taliban Justice Gains Favor as Official Afghan Courts Fail

JAN. 31, 2015 

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Matiullah Khan and Muhammad Aywaz were each dug in, their property dispute in southern Afghanistan at an impasse.

Despite paying more than $1,000 apiece in lawyers’ fees, they found no resolution in the government’s judicial system. The tribal courts, informal networks of elders that most rural Afghans rely on, had also come up short.

So the two men did what a growing number of Afghans do these days when there is no other recourse: They turned to the Taliban. Within a few days, their problem was resolved — no bribes or fees necessary.

“He would have kept my house for himself if it wasn’t for the Taliban,” said Mr. Khan, a resident of Kandahar City who accused Mr. Aywaz of commandeering his home. “They were quick and fair.”

Frustrated by Western-inspired legal codes and a government court system widely seen as corrupt, many Afghans think that the militants’ quick and tradition-rooted rulings are their best hope for justice. In the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Chaman, havens for exiled Taliban figures, local residents describe long lines of Afghans waiting to see judges.

“You won’t find the same number of people in the Afghan courts as you do in the Taliban courts,” said Hajji Khudai Noor, a Kandahar resident who recently settled a land dispute through the Taliban in Quetta. “There are hundreds of people waiting for justice there.”

Specter of ISIS on South Asia

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
03 Feb , 2015

The terror attack on Charlie Hebdo office in Paris made global headlines, as did its aftermath with three million copies of the magazine’s subsequent issue with more cartoons sold like hot cakes, last few online going for 700 pounds sterling, French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sailing off to support air strikes against the ISIS and over 1000 websites reportedly hacked in France.

…the current Pakistani dispensation has shown that they will continue to terrorize India despite the Peshawar massacre – no matter what happens to Pakistan.

As this war blows on, so does the Great Game using every possible resource less conventional conflict. If the dramatic collapse of oil prices has surprised the world, there is growing belief it is Saudi Arabia-OPEC contrived to attack the Iranian economy – leader of the Shia world, while it also provides the double whammy to the Russian economy coupled with additional sanctions much to the glee of America even though the side effects of this strategy will likely be adverse to the US oil industry domestically and in terms of their foreign investments, and similarly to the EU. The enlarging Sunni-Shia conflict would inexorably get sucked into the Great Game, proxies, economics, energy and media already being optimized in the latter.

The fact that the West has optimized the use of media for global perception management is well known. Even as US General Mark Kimmit and officials and scholars from EU spoke at the International Conference on Terrorism at Baghdad on 12-13 March 2014, there was little mention of ISIL, more Al Qaeda, but it was apparent later that the ISIS was already being trained by former British military veterans inside Turkey and by US instructors in Jordan. Lately, Western media has been highlighting a heightening war between the ISIS and Al Qaeda but according to one report there has been reconciliation between the Al Qaeda and ISIS in the Middle East.


By Animesh Roul

The so-called Islamic State’s narrative of ‘Islam under siege’ is striking a chord with South Asia’s disaffected Muslims. That’s bad news, says Animesh Roul, especially since a coordinated response against this hostile narrative isn’t going to appear anytime soon.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) has effectively replaced Al Qaeda and its affiliates at the vanguard of the global jihadist movement. Under the leadership of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, the movement remains determined to build upon its powerbase in Iraq and Syria and unite the entire Muslim world under its version of the Islamic Caliphate. In his Ramadan address in October 2014, Baghdadi laid out plans for the expansion of IS networks into what it calls Khorasan – parts of the Indian subcontinent and its near-neighborhood. Public outreach and social media campaigns have become essential features of the movement’s efforts to reach out and recruit disaffected Muslims from across South Asia. Early signs suggest that this strategy is already having the desired effect.

Natural Bedfellows

IS’ growing influence over Pakistan’s jihadists has also been aided by the country’s increasingly fragile political environment and infighting between militant groups affiliated with Al Qaeda, the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), and its leader Mullah Fazllulah. In October 2014, at least five Taliban commanders were responsible for the formation of the TTP-Jamat ul Ahrar (TTP-JA), a group which immediately declared its support for the Islamic State. On January 11 th, the group released a video in which a Pakistani soldier is beheaded. The TTP-JA also used the video to reiterate its support for the IS, and declared Hafiz Saeed Khan, a jihadist from Orakzai district, as the new head of the movement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

ISIS Now Firmly Established in Libya

Matt Bradley and Benoît Faucon
February 2, 2015

Islamic State’s affiliate in Libya has capitalized on the battlefield failures and disillusionment among better-established, more moderate Islamist groups in the country, following the same formula that brought the radical movement success in Syria and Iraq, Western counterterrorism officials said.

A group calling itself Islamic State’s Tripoli Province claimed responsibility for an attack on Tuesday on a hotel that killed nine people, including an American. It was the first time the group came to prominence in Libya, raising concerns that the reach of the extremists is spreading beyond Syria and Iraq.

But the attacks also underlined the threat Islamic State poses to more entrenched Islamist groups such as Libya Dawn, a more moderate Islamist militia that is ideologically close to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and now fights secular insurgents in eastern Libya.

Oil-rich Libya has gradually slipped into chaos since rebels toppled strongman Moammar Gadhafi three years ago, with two rival governments now claiming to run the country and myriad competing local militias effectively in control on the ground.

In an example of the anarchy creeping into the country, the head of planning at the National Oil Co., Samir Kamal, was kidnapped two weeks ago before being released Sunday. The identity and motives of his kidnappers remain unknown.

The threat to Libya represented by Islamic State is on an altogether different scale. The North African nation’s experience with local militants pledging allegiance to Islamic State follows a pattern in which the group gains a foothold by seizing on the vulnerabilities of countries embroiled in chaos and war or with weak central governments.

Indonesia Wages War on Alcohol

By Prashanth Parameswaran
February 03, 2015

Indonesian minimarts will no longer be able to sell alcoholic beverages following a new government regulation that takes full effect in April.

The regulation, signed by Indonesia’s trade minister, Rachmat Gobel, on January 16, bans the small retail chains from selling Class A liquor, which contains less than five percent alcohol. This includes beverages such as beer, low-alcohol wine, and shandy. Previously, such restrictions were applied mostly to alcoholic beverages with over five percent of alcohol.

According to The Jakarta Post, the regulation was made in consideration of the “protection of morals and culture in society.” The new Indonesian government under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has taken a tough line against social ills like drugs and alcohol, as evidenced from its stance on the recent execution of drug traffickers (as The Diplomat reported previously).

Elaborating on this point to local media last week, Rachmat said that the government had received growing complaints from the public about the availability of alcohol in their communities, especially from minimarket outlets. These minimarkets, he said, raised moral concerns because they had spread around densely populated residential areas – including near schools and around places of worship – and were lax about selling alcohol to underage customers.

In War on Terror, China Takes Aim at Tibet

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 03, 2015

The government of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region will offer rewards of up to 300,000 RMB ($48,000) for tips on potential violent terror attacks, Chinesemedia reported over the weekend. Offering rewards for tips is a strategy that has been incorporated across China as part of a broader “people’s war” against terrorism.

Xinhua, citing a document from Tibet’s regional public security department, said that “the reward will cover tip-offs on overseas terrorist organizations and their members’ activities inside China, the spreading of religious extremism, terror related propaganda, those producing, selling and owning weapons, activities that help terrorists cross national borders and terror activities via the internet.”

In general, China’s anti-terrorism activities have centered on Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, home to the Uyghur minority group. After a series of deadly terrorist attacks allegedly perpetrated by Uyghurs with ties to foreign terror networks, Beijing launched a year-long crackdown on terrorism centered in Xinjiang. In addition to preventing terror attacks, the crackdown also sought to prevent the spread of religious extremism. Chinese authorities believe jihadist materials from abroad, particularly those posted onto the internet, are inflaming ethnic and religious tensions within Xinjiang.

Of Course China Is Building More Aircraft Carriers

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 03, 2015

A local government inadvertently confirmed that China is building a second aircraft carrier on Sunday, sparking a wave of media analysis of China’s maritime ambitions. According to Reuters, the government of Changzhou, a city in Jiangsu province, posted on its microblog that a Changzhou-based power cable manufacturer had been awarded a deal to supply products for China’s new carrier. The reports were also carried by a local newspaper before being scrubbed.

China currently operates one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, the pride of China’s navy (which last year was even the subject of musical paeans). Yet the Liaoning was not domestically produced – the carrier is a refitted version of Ukraine’s Varyag, as South China Morning Post described in great detail in a recent series. The goal all along has been for China to use the Liaoning as a training platform, a stepping stone to the production and use of Chinese-made aircraft carriers.

Thus, while the Chinese government tightly restricts any discussion of new carriers, it’s a foregone conclusion that they are being built. Last January, the Party chief of Liaoning province let slip that China had already begun building its second carrier in Dalian. The official added that China ultimately planned to build four aircraft carriers, with the first new carrier expected to be ready by 2020. As with the recent reports from Changzhou, this story (originally run by Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao newspaper, was quickly removed.

The Next Great War: America vs. China?

Julian Snelder
February 2, 2015

The Sino-American relationship may be in decent shape. It's other countries we should be worried about.

Last year, the centenary of World War I's outbreak, was a bonanza for history fans. The prior benchmark The Guns of August, published 50 years ago, was comfortably eclipsed by several authors with access to new archives.

Still, World War I continues to vex, even as we unearth deeper clues to its causes. One of 2014's more thoughtful books – actually a collection of essays from some seriously heavyweight contributors – The Next Great War?, directly tackles the question at the back of everyone's mind today: what parallels between now and then?

The causes of World War I were so numerous and profound that “they are undetermining individually and overdetermining collectively.”

In other words, no single factor caused the war, but together all were irresistible: entangling alliances of approximate parity, a “security dilemma” of mutual fear, “the cult of the offensive,” “militaries gone rogue,” nationalistic domestic coalitions, the belief in “pre-emptive mobilization” (first strike advantage), a failure to understand the defense-dominance of new technologies, the “indivisibility problem” (eg. control of Turkish Straits), domestic paralysis and lack of legitimacy, “bounded rationality” (imperfect information), complacency, fatalism, credibility, mediocre statesmanship and outright lunacy.

Why China Doesn't See India As a Threat

By Dingding Chen
February 02, 2015

The recently concluded trip by U.S. President Barack Obama to India was hailed by many as a turning point in U.S.-India relations. A short list of achievements includes agreements in defense, nuclear cooperation, climate change, and security. In particular, there is considerable hype that India has agreed to join the U.S. to contain China’s rise. There are also reports that (hereand here) that China is now worried about the warming relationship between the U.S. and India. Is this really so?

A warm U.S.-India relationship will not worry China. In fact, the outcome might disappoint those in India and the U.S. who want to actively balance the rise of China. There are three primary reasons for this.

The first reason is that India has always maintained an independent foreign policy since its independence, thus making it very difficult for it to join any major power as an ally. As the book Wronged by Empire convincingly argues, India has a strong sense of victimization that still is relevant today to its foreign policy. In practice, this means that India will always remain suspicious of any major power’s potential threat to India’s independence and security. No matter how successful president Obama’s trip to India was this time, it is very unlikely that India would completely trust the U.S. intentions in helping India to balance China. Modi perfectly understands that India and the U.S. need each other at the moment and there is no harm in welcoming American assistance in balancing a possible China threat.

How a 120-Year-Old War Is Driving China's Military Modernization

By David M. Liebenberg
February 02, 2015

China is currently undergoing a new round of widespread and comprehensive military reforms that aim to fundamentally improve the PLA. These efforts, as detailed in the 18th Party Congress’s Third Plenum Decision from November 2013, call for such changes as increased jointness, more realistic training, and better military discipline. As China’s leaders search for guidance on how to enact these difficult reforms, they have looked deep into China’s past — all the way back to the First Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895.

The war revolved around control over the Korean Peninsula and included two large naval engagements in which the Imperial Japanese Navy crushed the larger Chinese Beiyang Fleet. China’s defeat was swift and the aftermath was devastating, ceding important territory to Japan and hastening the end of the Qing government’s rule. Especially relevant to the PLA, China’s loss revealed the failures in the Qing’s ambitious military strengthening program, which had begun 30 years earlier, partly to counter foreign encroachment.

The summer of 2014 marked the 120th anniversary of the war. China commemorated this occasion with a flood of essays, speeches, and events analyzing the meaning of the war for modern China. During this time, Qiushi,the official journal of the CCP’s Central Committee, published a detailed analysis of the lessons learned from the war. It was written by General Fan Changlong, one of two vice chairmen of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, which exercises control over the entire military. He is second in command only to President Xi Jinping. The importance of both the author and the publication make the article worth examining in detail.

Fan begins his essay by acknowledging that China’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War “humiliated the nation” and “disgraced” the military. He asserts that it is important to study this painful period of history in order to educate military personnel and provide “historical lessons” that can be applicable to modern times.

China Trying to Keep Secret the Fact That It Is Building Second Aircraft Carrier

Simon Denyer
February 2, 2015

BEIJING – News that China is building a second aircraft carrier has been leaked by an over-enthusiastic local government, but reports were subsequently deleted from Web sites and social media here, a development that will do little to calm nerves among neighboring countries about Beijing’s growing maritime power.

The government in Changzhou, in eastern Jiangshu province, boasted on social media on Sunday that a local firm had won a contract to supply electrical cabling for the carrier. It later deleted the post, but not before it had been widely circulated. A report in a local newspaper was also withdrawn.

Although China has made no secret of its desire to expand its navy and add to its sole aircraft carrier, the news is a reminder of Beijing’s growing military might and the assertive way it has gone about staking its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas in recent years.

In December, a U.S. congressional commission predicted that the Chinese navy would have more military vessels than its American counterpart, warning that “the balance of power and presence” in Asia was shifting in China’s direction.

Although China’s military capabilities lag far behind those of the United States, defense spending here is growing by double digits annually. Last week, the country’s defense ministry spokesman, Col. Yang Yujun, said that military training this year would focus on improving its capability to win “local wars.”

Japan Launches Spy Satellite

By Ankit Panda
February 02, 2015

On Sunday, Japan successfully launched a spy satellite, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), its aerospace agency. The launch was originally scheduled for Thursday last week but was delayed due to a weather hazard. The satellite was launched on Sunday morning and will be the fifth Japanese intelligence and surveillance satellite in orbit. Japan currently orbits two optical satellites and two radar satellites. The satellite launched on Sunday will supplement the already operational radar satellites, according to a Defense News report citing a Japanese government official.

The launch, Japan’s first of 2015, took place at Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center using a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA carrier rocket. The spy satellite will be operated by Japan’s Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center. According to a report at NASA Spaceflight, the spy satellite will be operated as part of Japan’s Information Gathering Satellites (IGS) program, which consists of optical and radar imaging spacecraft. The Japanese government has not revealed details regarding the exact surveillance capabilities of the satellites involved in the country’s IGS program.

The primary security application of the satellite will be to trace the development of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. The Japanese government launched the IGS program in the late 1990s after North Korea attempted a satellite launch itself. In August 1998, North Korea’s Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 satellite flew over Japan shortly after its launch and forced the Japanese government to increase its intelligence and surveillance capabilities regarding North Korea’s ballistic missile program. Today, South Korea and the United States also maintain close tabs on North Korea’s activities. Under a recent agreement, the United States, Japan, and South Korea will share intelligence about North Korea’s military activities.

Both Sides Need to Concede to Get an Iranian Nuclear Deal

Paul R. Pillar
February 2, 2015

Early in Diplomacy 101, one learns how international negotiation consists of give-and-take between two or more states, with each side yielding on some points in order to reap the benefit of the other side doing its own yielding. Also early in the course, one learns how this sort of mutual bargaining, by leading to mutually beneficial agreements, is an important tool for any state in advancing its own national interests. It is for similar reasons that in domestic affairs, the right to be sued is a fundamental individual right along with the right to sue; it represents the ability to advance one's interests by making concessions and enforceable commitments to others.

As basic as all this is, Americans seem to have a hard time understanding it. A one-way exceptionalist asymmetry infects much discussion in this country about international diplomacy and negotiation. The process is viewed not as mutual give-and-take but instead as the other side giving and the U.S. side taking. Hence issues under negotiation get discussed in terms of the United States imposing “redlines” and of how pressure can be exerted to get the other side to capitulate to U.S. demands. This perspective in turn gets exploited by anyone who does not want an agreement at all on whatever issue is at hand.

These patterns have been present in abundance in American discussion of the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Almost the entire discussion is about Iran making more concessions—what it would take to elicit such concessions, whether Iran can ever be expected to make such concessions, etc. Almost nothing is said about the need for the United States and its negotiating partners to make additional concessions, too. Instead there is, even among those who genuinely support reaching an agreement, an assumption that the United States has put a “reasonable” deal on the table and it is up to Iran to accept it.

Map: How the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria has surged since October

The number of foreign fighters traveling to Iraq and Syria, mostly to fight alongside the Islamic State, has grown to 20,000 — up more than 5,000 from previous estimates made in October, according to the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR). 

These new figures are alarming, inasmuch as they indicate that the conflict has attracted more foreign militants than the conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The last time this many militants traveled to fight in a foreign conflict was in 1945. 

Another key takeaway from the new data is that, at 4,000, a fifth of the foreign fighters come from Western nations. While estimates from countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, fluctuated a little, there were huge increases in fighters coming from European nations. 

Mr. Putin Resumes His War in Ukraine

FEB. 2, 2015

The fighting in eastern Ukraine has flared up again, putting an end to any myth about the cease-fire that was supposed to be in force since September.

Though the Russian economy is staggering under the twinned onslaught of low oil prices and sanctions — or, conceivably, as a result of that onslaught — President Vladimir Putin has sharply cranked up his direct support for the rebels in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, while continuing to baldly deny it and to blame all the violence on the United States.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is broke, and without the military means to move against the Russian-backed rebels. Most of the victims are civilians who struggle with hunger and dislocation in the rubble of the combat zones and die in the constant exchanges of shells and rockets.

The eruption of fighting in recent weeks, which was not supposed to happen until spring, has given new force to pleas to the Obama administration to give Ukraine the means to resist Mr. Putin — in money and in arms.

Certainly the United States and Europe should increase their aid to Ukraine and explore ways to expand existing sanctions against Russia. NATO’s commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, is said to support providing weapons and equipment to Kiev. And Secretary of State John Kerry is said to be open to discussing the idea. But lethal assistance could open a dangerous new chapter in the struggle — a chapter Mr. Putin would quite possibly welcome, as it would “confirm” his propaganda claims of Western aggression.

Bretton Woods: The Real Threat to Ukraine's Sovereignty?

James Carden
February 2, 2015

When politicos and pundits wander off onto some half-baked historical analogy, it more often than not will have to do with comparing this or that current event to (if bad) Munich or (if very bad) 9/11. If the event is praiseworthy, it is likely be compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall or VE Day. When a politician as peripatetic as Mrs. Clinton does it, as when she compared Vladimir Putin to Adolph Hitler last March, one could reasonably enough chalk it up to fatigue. It is quite another thing, however, when a newspaper columnist does it and, what’s more, knows he’s doing it and tells us he’s doing it.

Such was the case on Tuesday, when the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman checked in from Davos to inform readers that even though he considered Mrs. Clinton’s Putin-Hitler gaffe “over the top,” now he doesn’t: “I don't think so anymore. I’d endorse Mrs. Clinton’s comparison purely for the shock value.”


The situation in Ukraine is so dire that it merits embracing a falsehood in order to make people aware of “the awful things Putin is doing to Ukraine.” After all, Ukraine (unlike, presumably, Russia) “shares our values.” Perhaps. Friedman himself holds a curious set of values, or, to put it more precisely, beliefs. These consist of the neoliberal economic orthodoxy that Mr. Friedman has been advocating for the better part of two decades in books such as The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999) and The World is Flat(2005). Throughout, Friedman has championed the idea that free-trade and the attendant effects of “globalization” will bring peace and prosperity to mankind.


By John R. Haines

Do we ever get what we really want? Do we ever achieve what our powers have ostensibly equipped us for? No: everything works by contraries. — Nikolai Gogol, “Diary of a Madman and Other Stories”

What does it think it’s doing running west

When all the other country brooks flow east

What, indeed, Russia must wonder, must Ukraine think it’s doing, running west, not east?

A fortnight ago, someone fired a Grad rocket — the name means “hail” — in the direction of a government checkpoint northeast of Volnovakha in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region. The rocket missed the checkpoint, but struck a civilian passenger bus that was traveling north from Zlatoustovka to Donetsk, killing twelve and wounding thirteen. And there, all agreement as to the facts ends.

The Ukrainian government claims pro-Russian separatists in Dokuchayevsk, a town northeast of the checkpoint, fired the rocket. Armed irregulars of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) quickly claimed credit for destroying “an Ukry checkpoint” later disputing that a rocket hit the bus. They blamed automatic weapons fire; then later that day, a false flag attack by Banderovtsi from “rogue” elements of the Ukraine Interior Ministry’s Sich Battalion.[1] Two days later, the Donetsk News Agency claimed the bus detonated an anti-personnel mine planted at the checkpoint by Ukrainian troops. Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) quickly determined that a Grad rocket struck close to the passenger bus, though the OSCE’s Russian representative highlighted the team’s assessment that the rocket was fired, contrary to Ukrainian claims, from a north or northeastern direction.[2] On 22 January, a streetcar in the center of Donetsk was hit by mortar fire, killing 13 persons. DPR defense minister Vladimir Kononov announced, “A covert group operating in the area was arrested,” elaborated by a DPR security ministry spokesperson as, “The self-defense forces arrested a covert group of Ukrainian security forces not far from the scene.”

Where Are the Weapons Being Used by Pro-Moscow Ukrainian Rebels Coming From?

John Ismay
February 2, 2015

It is the central question of the continuing civil war in Ukraine: to what degree is Russia supplying the weapons that are helping antigovernment forces sustain their secessionist movement? That question became even more relevant this week with the news that NATO’s military commander now supports providing defensive weapons to the Ukraine government.

A recent report on the weapons and military vehicles used in the Ukraine conflict provides evidence for both sides of the argument.

Released late last year by the research company Armament Research Services, or ARES, the report cites several examples of cross-border matériel support to separatists and rebels fighting the government in Kiev. Certain items the researchers came across gave their team pause, as these weapons had been introduced into service only after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union or had never been documented outside the countries that developed them.

Nic R. Jenzen-Jones, the director of ARES, was able to positively identify 20 weapons systems in Ukraine that had never previously been exported from their country of origin. Nineteen of those came from Russia, and one was from Poland. He calls these “flag items” because they can be clearly tied to outside nations.

From Russia, ARES identified exotic killing tools like the VSS suppressed marksman rifle, heavy armor like the T-72B3 main battle tank, and newer thermobaric rocket launchers like the MRO-A that have not been seen outside the Federation’s borders.

The lone Polish flag item was the PPZR Grom man-portable air defense missile system, which ARES spotted in a YouTube video released by the Ukrainian military. The missile was manufactured in 2007, according to markings painted on its exterior.

But the report also draws conclusions that counter the widely accepted narrative that the insurgents depend on Russian matériel.

Latest on the Battle of Debaltseve in the Eastern Ukraine

Andrew E. Kramer
February 2, 2015

DEBALTSEVE, Ukraine — Ukrainian soldiers rattled along the snowy streets here in armored personnel carriers with the hatches battened down, their helmeted heads safely below plates of steel.

A few drunks staggered along the sidewalks, oblivious to the booms of artillery echoing through town.

Stray dogs scurried about, and in another sign that nobody ventures above ground for anything but pressing business, the carcass of one dog lay uncollected, frozen in the middle of a street.

For more than a week, this unremarkable small town in eastern Ukraine has been almost surrounded by attacking rebels. And because enveloping maneuvers are common in this nine-month war, there is even a phrase for it: “falling into a kettle.”

Debaltseve in the kettle is a glum place. “It’s just a horror living here,” said one woman in a crowd of mothers clutching children and packed bags made of plastic at a bus stop, waiting for a ride out.

After seizing a strategic airport outside Donetsk a week ago, the Russian-backed rebels have turned their sights on this town, valuable for its railroad switching yards, which they will need to revive the economy in areas under their control.

As fighting rages on in places like Debaltseve, the prospects for peace in Ukraine look dim.

A new round of cease-fire talks among Ukraine, Russia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and separatists broke down Saturday evening, dashing hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough.

U.S. Now Considering Giving the Embattled Ukrainian Military Defensive Weaponry

Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt
February 2, 2015

WASHINGTON — With Russian-backed separatists pressing their attacks inUkraine, NATO’s military commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, now supports providing defensive weapons and equipment to Kiev’s beleaguered forces, and an array of administration and military officials appear to be edging toward that position, American officials said Sunday.

President Obama has made no decisions on providing such lethal assistance. But after a series of striking reversals that Ukraine’s forces have suffered in recent weeks, the Obama administration is taking a fresh look at the question of military aid.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who plans to visit Kiev on Thursday, is open to new discussions about providing lethal assistance, as is Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, officials said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is leaving his post soon, backs sending defensive weapons to the Ukrainian forces.

In recent months, Susan E. Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, has resisted proposals to provide lethal assistance, several officials said. But one official who is familiar with her views insisted that Ms. Rice was now prepared to reconsider the issue.

Fearing that the provision of defensive weapons might tempt President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to raise the stakes, the White House has limited American aid to “non-lethal” items, including body armor, night-vision goggles, first aid kits and engineering equipment.

But the failure of economic sanctions to dissuade Russia from sending heavy weapons and military personnel to eastern Ukraine is pushing the issue of defensive weapons back into discussion.

Latest on the Battle of Debaltseve in the Eastern Ukraine

Andrew E. Kramer
February 1, 2015

DEBALTSEVE, Ukraine — Ukrainian soldiers rattled along the snowy streets here in armored personnel carriers with the hatches battened down, their helmeted heads safely below plates of steel.

A few drunks staggered along the sidewalks, oblivious to the booms of artillery echoing through town.

Stray dogs scurried about, and in another sign that nobody ventures above ground for anything but pressing business, the carcass of one dog lay uncollected, frozen in the middle of a street.

For more than a week, this unremarkable small town in eastern Ukraine has been almost surrounded by attacking rebels. And because enveloping maneuvers are common in this nine-month war, there is even a phrase for it: “falling into a kettle.”

Debaltseve in the kettle is a glum place. “It’s just a horror living here,” said one woman in a crowd of mothers clutching children and packed bags made of plastic at a bus stop, waiting for a ride out.

After seizing a strategic airport outside Donetsk a week ago, the Russian-backed rebels have turned their sights on this town, valuable for its railroad switching yards, which they will need to revive the economy in areas under their control.

As fighting rages on in places like Debaltseve, the prospects for peace in Ukraine look dim.

Obama Wants More Money for Military Spy Satellites, Lasers, Space Fence

FEBRUARY 2, 2015

President Barack Obama’s Defense Department budget request released Monday shows that the route to technological breakthroughs is often winding.

Last year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new “offset strategy” to develop breakthrough solutions to secure American technological dominance into the next century. This year, the budget request increases money for research and development by about $500 million, bringing it to $13.5 billion.

It will be a great year for futuristic technologies that sound like they come from a comic book. But the budget also shows that every new invention has consequences and can raise new problems even as it solves others.

Obama requested a slight increase in spending for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which would bring their budget to $3 billion to work on next generation technology related to everything from synthetic biology to space planes. Money for electronic and laser weapon systems jumped to $67 million from a bit over $55 million last year.

For the first time, the budget allocates some $41.8 million for unmanned aerial vehicle “integration and interoperability.” That’s part of strategic plan rolled out in 2013.

The document lays out a wish list of capabilities for the drones of tomorrow. They include the ability to process vast amounts so sensed data rather than just transmit it, stay over a target for days and communicate with a wider variety of other systems. The missions also expand from just ISR and close ground support to air combat (presumably drone on drone) and even “non-lethal crowd control.”

Will Greece Unravel the European Experiment?

Doug Bandow
February 3, 2015

In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty was supposed to create a new Weltmacht, a strong European Union with a president and foreign minister. Finally, the Europeans had the answer for Henry Kissinger, who sarcastically asked for Europe’s phone number. But it’s obvious that whoever answers the phone today doesn’t represent Greece.

The Greek elections, in which the radical left-wing Syriza won a near majority, shattered the Brussels consensus. The new coalition government insists that austerity must end and foreign debts must be renegotiated. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that he wants Greece to stay in the Eurozone as well as the EU. But a breakdown of the European bailout program might make a Greek exit from the Euro (“Grexit”) the only feasible option. And the popular revolt against outsiders dictating economic policy creates a huge new roadblock to attempts to expand Brussels’ power over EU members.

Europe remains the world’s most important economic unit. Home to most of the significant colonial powers, the continent enjoys globe-spanning historical and cultural ties. Only after the mid-twentieth century was Europe displaced from military preeminence. In 1992, German chancellor Helmut Kohl predicted the “creation of what the founding fathers of modern Europe dreamed of after the war, the United States of Europe.”

However, the EU failed to live up to the grand hopes of the Eurocrats, the academic, bureaucratic, business, media and political elites who dominate continental politics and policy. Europe remains a geographic conglomeration, not a political unit.