27 April 2015

Out of the debris

April 27, 2015 

So violently were the buildings shaking in Kathmandu when the earthquake hit just before noon on Saturday that Aunohita Mojumdar, editor of Himal Southasian, who was trying to run down from her first floor apartment, could not reach the stairs. Losing balance, she kept hitting the walls. The 50-metre high Dharahara Tower, a tourist attraction in central Kathmandu, was reduced to a heap of rubble. Two hundred visitors, mostly families, had bought tickets to go up that morning. Less than 10 per cent survived.

This natural calamity might cost as many lives as Nepal’s manmade disaster, the 10-year civil war. As it has overcome armed conflict through a still to be completed but remarkable peace process, so will it overcome this present adversity, Nepal’s friends hope.

Besides the devastating loss of lives, the earthquake has destroyed much of the cultural heritage of Nepal, bringing down important religious and historic monuments in old Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The heritage of Nepal is indestructible, however, because its culture is a living one. The confluence of two linguistic streams, the Indo-European and the Tibeto-Burman, as well as of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, has inspired folklore, myth and legend, ritual and belief, myriad forms of music and dance. These live on.

More modestly, with Kabul

April 27, 2015

The presence of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in New Delhi this week offers an opportunity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to recalibrate India’s Afghan policy towards greater realism and more modest goals. The need for rethinking was evident ever since US President Barack Obama announced, way back in 2009, that America would leave Afghanistan at the earliest possible opportunity.

If inertia prevented change in the Indian approach for too long, Ghani’s election as president last year and his new policies, especially the outreach to Pakistan and China, have made an Indian adjustment to the new circumstances an urgent imperative. Delhi’s fortuitous run in Afghanistan after the ouster of the Taliban at the end of 2001 tended to mask the political and geographic limits on India’s role there. India must now learn to bring its Afghan objectives back in line with the constraints.

A number of factors that facilitated an expansive Indian role in Afghanistan no longer exist. Consider, for example, the US presence in Afghanistan. Although there was a tendency in Delhi to believe that India had an independent role of its own in Afghanistan, its gains over the last decade there were deeply tied to the relative stability that emerged under the American military occupation.

Should Pak bask in the glory of China’s aid?

Aaasim Sajjad Akhtar
Apr 27 2015 

Our ruling class is living in denial if it believes that billions of dollars of Chinese investment can gloss over a long history of state repression of under-represented ethnic nations. Obviously, China’s development plans are a part of a larger strategic blueprint

BEYOND the spectacle, what is the long-term significance of the Chinese president's much-hyped two-day visit to Islamabad? Grandstanding aside, what stood out most was the virtual unanimity of mainstream political parties that China and Pakistan are — in Prime Minister Sharif's words —”truly iron brothers”. 

Consensus across political divides is very rare in this country; even more so when the military establishment chimes in. 

So should we all follow suit and bask in the glory of the Asian superpower's unmatched economic and political commitments to Pakistan's development? As with everything else that matters in this country, there has till now been little meaningful debate outside the highest echelons of power about China's ever-expanding role both in Pakistan and the wider region. I will note down here only some pointers that might stimulate such a debate.

Court China with care, tally up the costs & benefits

Khurram Husain
Apr 27 2015 

LET’S clear up some misconceptions that have been doing the rounds since President Xi Jinping dangled a $46-billion carrot before us. The money being offered is project financing, not aid and not concessionary loans. To get a good idea of what that means, take a look at one project that was approved and documents for which were signed during this visit: The Karot hydropower project.

Karot is a run-of-the-river hydropower project with a total generation capacity of 720MW. It is located on the river Jhelum, just south of Rawalpindi. The project was initiated in 2006, when a consortium of Associated Technologies (Pvt) Ltd and China Three Gorges International Corporation, the main sponsor of the project, applied for a Letter of Interest (LoI) from the Private Power Infrastructure Board (PPIB). The LoI was granted in early 2007. By 2009 a technical and financial feasibility study of the project had been completed by the project sponsors and approved by PPIB. Two years later, in 2011, the consortium applied for a generation tariff from Nepra, in which they detailed the technical and financial parameters.

Jihad’s African frontier

Apr 27, 2015

The proliferation of jihad in Africa is the result of the breakdown of state order in Somalia and Libya, the ability to mobilise local grievances into hardcore militia and the absence of state authority in large parts of the African continent

April 14 marked the first anniversary of the abduction of over 200 girls from a small school in a remote corner of Nigeria by a shadowy jihadi organisation, Boko Haram. In the last two years, jihadis have attacked several high-profile targets in the Horn of Africa and across North Africa and the Sahel. Jihad is now a pervasive presence in Africa.

The origins of the “Africanisation” of jihad go back to Algeria where, from the early 1990s, Al Qaeda veterans from Afghanistan fought in the ongoing civil war. From this low-key presence, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emerged in 2007, and has Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia as its operational space. A breakaway group, Al Mourabitoun, headed by the veteran of Afghanistan and the Algerian civil war, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, is active in the Sahel, covering southern Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Mali.

‘Climate change is the most important story of our lives’

PARVATHI MENON
April 27, 2015 

“I was thinking about what I would regret not having done as editor and I wished we had done more on this story to wake people up.” Picture shows Alan Rusbridger (right) and the team at the offices of The Guardian in London.

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, on the massive response to the newspaper’s fossil fuel disinvestment campaign and the urgent need to take action on climate change.

The idea for ‘Keep it in the Ground’ — the campaign on disinvestment in fossil fuel-based energy companies launched by The Guardian early this year — was seeded by Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger, who will soon step down from his 20-year leadership of the highly respected media group. In order to save the planet from catastrophic climate change, global temperatures have to stay within a 2°C threshold. This can be achieved if the 200 top fossil fuel companies wind up operations or shift to alternate renewable fuels. 

I would argue that a mix of benign and non-so-benign intents better explains the emerging situation

HAPPYMON JACOB

New Delhi is steadily losing its northwestern plot and is increasingly looking like a mere spectator to the grand geopolitical churning in the region, clueless and directionless. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would be visiting India soon and Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to visit China next month, but these high-level visits are unlikely to improve New Delhi’s diminishing influence in the region. Ghani visit is primarily to mollify New Delhi’s feelings of hurt and Modi’s China visit would hardly have any regional implications, even as it might be significant in the Sino-Indian bilateral context. In short, bilateralism seems to have trumped India’s geostrategic future in the region. 

Ghani’s upcoming visit to Delhi 

Ashraf Ghani is no Hamid Karzai, and he has made it abundantly clear by making his first overseas trip to Pakistan Army’s Head Quarters in Rawalpindi whose intelligence agency – the ISI - was consistently blamed by the previous Afghan leadership, under Karzai, as the major spoiler of peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan change of stance vis-à-vis Pakistan is clearly a pragmatic decision, and Kabul does not have too many choices. After Ghani visited Rawalpindi late last year, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah visited New Delhi in March this year, a visit that was nothing more than to console New Delhi. 

As Pakistan refuses to join Yemen campaign, disconcerted Saudis lose their proxy nuclear option


The Pakistani Parliament, even while stating its commitment to protect the territory of Saudi Arabia, recently adopted a resolution not to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. Many Pakistanis are worn out by the Taliban insurgency at home and oppose intervention abroad, especially to fight an enemy whose name they are hearing for the first time and risk worsening relations with its backer, Iran.

The foreign affairs minister of the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, blasted the decision as “contradictory and dangerous and unexpected”, accusing Pakistan of advancing Iran’s interests rather than those of its own Persian Gulf allies. Pakistan was choosing neutrality in an “existential confrontation”, he said, and it would pay the price.

China-Pak relations get a new upgrade 51 agreements worth a total of over US$46 billion have been signed for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which has been talked about for decades.


uring his two-day (20-21 April 2015) visit to Pakistan, Chinese President Xi Jinping substantively upgraded the China-Pakistan strategic relationship. On his first visit to Pakistan and the first by a Chinese President in nine years, Xi Jinping flourished the warmth of this relationship in a signed op-ed published in Pakistan newspapers the day of his arrival, where he said he feels "...I am going to visit the home of my own brother". 51 agreements totaling over US$46 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which has been talked about for over a decade, were signed.

Centred on the development of Gwadar Port and airport, the CPEC includes road, rail and oil and gas pipelines extending 3,000 miles linking China with Gwadar via Islamabad and Karachi. Pakistan had earlier given China "sovereign guarantees" over Gwadar Port. Plans also promote Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political agenda by agreeing to build two coal-fired power plants by the next general election in 2018 at a cost of US$15.5 billion, adding 10,400 megawatts of electricity.

There are military implications too, as evident in Xi Jinping's address to the joint session of Parliament when he thanked Pakistan for ensuring the security and safety of China's western borders. The proposed communications arteries will bring Chinese and Pakistani armies geographically closer and ensure the presence of Chinese personnel in areas close to India's borders. An estimated 3,000 Chinese military personnel are already working on various projects. 

Prominent Pakistani Social Activist Shot Dead in Karachi

By Zareen Muzaffar
April 25, 2015

A revolutionary voice was silenced tonight in the bustling Pakistani city of Karachi.

Sabeen Mahmud, a Pakistani social activist, best known as the founder and director of T2F (The Second Floor), was shot by unidentified assailants on April 24. She died on her way to the hospital. Doctors said they retrieved five bullets from her body. Her mother who was accompanying her in the same car sustained bullet wounds and is currently being treated at a hospital; she is said to be in critical condition.

According to Dawn, T2F had on Friday organized a talk on Balochistan, titled “Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2: In Conversation with Mama Qadeer, Farzana Baloch & Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur.” Mahmud had left T2F after attending the session, when she was targeted.

Chinese President’s Visit to “Iron Friend” Pakistan (Apr 20-22)

By Bhaskar Roy
24-Apr-2015

On the eve of his twice postponed state visit to Pakistan, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote “this will be my first visit to Pakistan, but I feel I am going to visit the home of my brother” (Xinhua, Apr 24).

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong told the Xinhua that they had invented a new “unique” name for Pakistan, “Iron Pak” a vivid description for the special, friendly and unshakeable ties between the two countries, henceforth to be known as “Iron brotherhood”.

“Iron brotherhood” coined by the Chinese, is a very interesting phraseology. On the face of it, it may denote a relationship of equals and warm the heart of the Pakistanis. But there is another meaning to it. It is between a very powerful large nation and a weak country that has decided to lie prostrate at the feet of the powerful country. While no third power will be allowed to interfere in this relationship, Pakistan may be wearing China’s iron shackles.

Another new in bilateral relation description between the two countries was elevating it to “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” to last from generation to generation. All-Weather Friendship” between the two countries is an oft repeated description, as is the “higher than the mountains, and deeper than the oceans” description. Both China and Pakistan have eulogized their bilateral relationship in such flowery language as no other two countries have. The Chinese know that such words wash very well with the people of Pakistan.

Pakistan Helped Weinstein Family Arrange Ransom three years before he was killed in a botched U.S. drone strike.

APRIL 24, 2015 

The family of missing U.S. aid worker Warren Weinstein worked with the government of Pakistan to relay ransom money to the group holding the missing aid worker and maintained ongoing communications with Islamabad in the years between his capture in Lahore and his death in an errant American drone strike in January, according to people familiar with the interactions.

Islamabad’s role in the Weinstein case, which hasn’t previously been reported, raises new questions about Pakistan’s ties to the militants who have long used their country to plan attacks abroad. In this case, Pakistani officials knew enough about Weinstein’s captors to help ensure the money found its way into the militants’ hands but was unwilling or incapable of rescuing him themselves.

The Weinsteins had long thought they had a way of bringing home their loved one, who was kidnapped in the Pakistani city of Lahore in 2011. Instead, President Barack Obama called them Wednesday to disclose that Weinstein had been killed in a botched mission that also took the life of Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto.

CHINA – PAKISTAN ECONOMIC CORRIDOR: CHANGING DYNAMICS OF SOUTHERN ASIA – ANALYSIS

BRIGADIER ARUN SAHGAL, PHD (RETD)

The strategic landscape in Southern Asia is witnessing three major strategic shifts; most important from Indian point of view is the unveiling of China – Pakistan economic corridor linking landlocked Xinjiang region of China to the warm waters of Arabian Sea and further to Middle East, Europe and East Coast of Africa. In many sense it is game changer with long term strategic consequences for the region in general and India in particular.

Second is the prospect of Iran’s integration with international community as a normal nation a process that has already begun. This has made number of regional actors most predominant being China and Russia and to limited extent even Pakistan initiate serious commercial and security dialogue, given the possibility of opening number of geo political and economic opportunities.

Nepal Quake: Governance Matters


“A major part of Nepal’s vulnerability to earthquake disaster lies in poor infrastructure governance.”

Several years ago, I went on an “Earthquake Walk” in downtown Kathmandu, a walk designed to raise awareness about the city’s vulnerability to a major earthquake. As we ducked into a traditional courtyard, winding our way through a low narrow corridor before emerging into an open square surrounded by high traditional homes, we saw a big stick propping one edge of a building up against another. I’ve thought a lot about that stick today—its inadequacy, its fragility—as news of Nepal’s quake poured in.

Nepal has been waiting for the quake of April 25, 2015 for some years, conscious that it was “overdue” for another. The U.S. Geological Survey has called Nepal “one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth.” It sits at the intersection of two tectonic plates, the India and Eurasia, colliding together quickly in geological terms—forty to fifty millimeters each year. That pressure eventually gets released as earthquakes.

Ancient Collision Made Nepal Earthquake Inevitable

APRIL 25, 2015

More than 25 million years ago, India, once a separate island on a quickly sliding piece of the Earth’s crust, crashed into Asia. The two land masses are still colliding, pushed together at a speed of 1.5 to 2 inches a year. The forces have pushed up the highest mountains in the world, in the Himalayas, and have set off devastating earthquakes.

Experts had warned of the danger to the people of Katmandu for decades. The death toll in Nepal on Saturday was practically inevitable given the tectonics, the local geology that made the shaking worse and the lax construction of buildings that could not withstand the shaking.

GeoHazards International, a nonprofit organization in Menlo Park, Calif., that tries to help poorer, more vulnerable regions like Nepal prepare for disasters, had noted that major earthquakes struck that region about every 75 years.

Nepal Hit By Powerful 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake, Death Toll Approaches 900

By Stephen Groves
April 25, 2015

Just before noon on Saturday, Kathmandu, Nepal was rocked by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake. The reported death toll stands at around 900 people, but that is sure to rise.

The Nepali government said there was “massive damage” at the epicenter, which was about 50 miles west of the capital city. The quake could be felt across the entire South Asian region, as far away as the Indian capital of New Delhi.

As the shock waves rolled across the city, buildings collapsed, walls fell over, and roads were destroyed. The city fell into chaos as people rushed into streets and fields. Hospitals were flooded with injured patients, and police scrambled to organize rescue efforts for people caught underneath rubble.

The historic sections of Kathmandu were the hardest hit as older buildings, landmarks, and many temples were destroyed. A nearly 200 hundred year-old landmark known as Dharahara, or Bhimsen Tower, collapsed into a heap of rubble. The tower was 63 about meters tall and built in 1832.

200 Years Ago, Britain Recruited South Asia's Fiercest Warriors

April 25, 2015

The famed Gorkha Rifles, the renowned Nepalese warriors who formed an important part of imperial British and then modern Indian forces, were first formed two hundred years ago on April 24, 1815.

The origin of the Gurkha warriors in the British army dates back to the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814-1816. At this time, the British East India Company (EIC) was expanding its territories in the subcontinent and had recently acquired what is today’s Uttar Pradesh, bringing it to the borders of the Gorkha or Nepali state. Nepal originated from the medieval Gorkha state in west-central Nepal. Prior to the 18th century, what is today’s Nepal was a patchwork of independent hill states, many of which were tributary to their larger neighbors in India or Tibet. In the wake of disintegration of the Mughal Empire, Prithvi Narayan Shah, king of Gorkha,conquered most of the Himalayan region of South Asia and began to expand outwards into the plains of northern India. The conquest of Kathmandu in the Newar or Nepal valley in 1768 gave the kingdom a new capital and eventually the Gorkha kingdom was named Nepal after the valley where its capital was located. Prior to this, the term Nepal only referred to a series of kingdoms in the Kathmandu valley.

Over Half of World Piracy Attacks Now in ASEAN

April 25, 2015

Southeast Asia accounts for over half of the world’s piracy and armed robbery incidents in 2015, according to a report released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

The IMB’s figures indicate that Southeast Asia accounted for 55 percent of the world’s 54 piracy and armed robbery incidents since the start of 2015. That means that on average a small coastal tanker is hijacked by pirates in Southeast Asia every two weeks. The 30 incidents that have happened in Southeast Asia over the past three months dwarf the figures from other regions, with Africa having 11 incidents and East Asia seeing just eight.

Armenian GenocideThe Islamic StateObama Administration

BY JUSTINE DRENNANAPRIL 

Laundering the Global Garment Industry’s Dirty Business

From time to time, activists concerned about abuses in the global garment industry stage protests in front of gleaming department stores in New York, Paris, and London. They’ve even entered clothing outlets across Europe and pretended to faint from overwork in a show of solidarity with exhausted workers in Asia. Those workers themselves protest loudly and often for better conditions, blocking roads with burning tires near sprawling, dingy factories on the outskirts of Dhaka or Phnom Penh, and sometimes fall to bullets fired by riot police dispatched to return them to work.

Between those two extremes of anger aimed at the global garment supply chain, most attempts at accountability fall away. Linking the dusty Asian factories to the big, bright shops of Europe and North America is a convoluted network of contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors with little-known names, based in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or South Korea — and in small, unmarked buildings in the poorer countries that produce the clothes. These middlemen keep far away from both desperate factory workers and outraged activists — and they’re low-profile enough to escape the international scrutiny given to a Walmart or a Gap.

The Japan Dilemma: Asia's Next Geopolitical Nightmare?


"Washington may end up with a more assertive ally that antagonizes China, South Korea, and perhaps other neighboring states but continues to depend on the United States to achieve its enhanced ambitions."

As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives in Washington for a summit meeting with President Obama and to give an address to a joint session of Congress, the U.S.-Japanese alliance is at a critical turning point. Because U.S. officials are increasingly concerned about China’s growing economic and military power in East Asia, they look to Japan to play a more vigorous security role. That is a major change in attitude. A little more than two decades ago, General Henry Stackpole, commander of U.S. Marines in Okinawa, opined that the United States was the “cork in the bottle” preventing a resurgence of Japanese militarism and the fears that such a development would engender throughout East Asia. Stackpole may have been undiplomatic, but his views accurately reflected the wariness of U.S. policymakers about Japan playing the role of a normal great power in the security arena.
APR 24, 2015 

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released a new strategy on April 23, 2015, to rewire the Pentagon for cyber operations. The 33-page document includes five key strategic goals, ranging from workforce and human capital development to full integration of cyber capabilities into military operations and deterrence.

Q1: What makes the 2015 DOD Cyber Strategy different from the 2011 cyber strategy?

A1: The 2015 DOD Cyber Strategy is a more comprehensive and detailed articulation of the 2011 strategy, of DOD’s role in defending the United States against cyber attacks, and of how DOD will integrate cyber capabilities into military operations.

The new strategy serves as guidance for the development and deployment of DOD’s Cyber Mission Force structure, which will include 6,200 cyber operators divided into three missions: (1) defense of the department’s own computer networks; (2) protection of the U.S. homeland and U.S. vital interests against significant cyber attacks; and (3) provision of full-spectrum cyber capabilities for military operations.

China's 3 Most Powerful Dynasties


Chinese civilization is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations. Indeed, unlike Western, Islamic, and Indian civilizations, China has managed to remain politically unified for much of its history.

Contrary to the common perception of China being historically isolated and weak, many Chinese dynasties were very powerful and have had a profound impact on global history. Yes, it is true that during the Ming Dynasty, China ships conducted multiple voyages of exploration (1405-1433) before abruptly stopping. But this hardly dented the enormous economic and political influence China wielded for most of its history in East, Southeast, and Central Asia. Although the people of these regions pursued their own interests as best as they could, China was always the major power to be dealt with.

Nonetheless, not all Chinese dynasties were created, and these three stood above the rest.

China's South China Sea Disaster


Until the past five years, the Philippines and Vietnam had minimal strategic ties other than working together, through ASEAN initiatives, on a range of nontraditional security issues. The two countries had very different styles of leadership—the Philippines is a vibrant democracy with one of the freest media markets in the world, while Vietnam remains run by a highly opaque Party—and Hanoi remained wary of diverging from its strategy of hedging close ties with China with increasingly close relations with the United States. By contrast, the Philippines, despite a very mixed historical relationship with the United States, was (and is) a U.S. treaty ally and one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Vietnam and the Philippines did not hold joint military exercises, rarely had high-level bilateral interactions between senior political and military leaders, and also had only modest two-way trade.

China, Philippines Spar Over South China Sea Run-Ins

April 25, 2015

China and the Philippines verbally clashed over the South China Sea this week, with Manila accusing China of harassing both fishermen and a military patrol in the disputed maritime region.

On Tuesday, the Philippines said that the Chinese Coast Guard used water cannons on a group of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, damaging some of the fishermen’s boats. Hong Lei, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said the Chinese vessels were performing “guard duty in waters off the Huangyan Island [the Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal] to maintain the normal order of these waters in accordance with the law.” Hong added that Manila should “show earnest respect for China’s territorial sovereignty, step up its regulation and education of the fishermen and stop all actions infringing upon China’s territorial sovereignty, and rights and interests.”

South China Sea: China's Unprecedented Spratlys Building Program

By Victor Robert Lee
April 25, 2015

High-resolution satellite images from April 17, 2015 reveal that in the space of ten weeks China has built an island on top of Subi Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands group. The dimensions and shape of the land fill, which is still underway, are compatible with a potential airstrip 3,300 meters long, similar to theprospective length of the runway currently being paved on Fiery Cross, the site of another installation being built by China on a former reef in the Spratlys.

Military analysts have observed that a runway 3,300 meters long could support virtually all types of combat and supply aircraft in China’s navy and air force.

As recently as February 6, 2015, only two small sites of dredging and land fill activity were detectable at Subi Reef, part of a maritime region that is claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan, as well as China. As of April 17, 2015, the land fill of Subi measured 2.27 square kilometers in area, on a par with the rapidly manufactured island at Fiery Cross Reef, recently assessed as 2.65 square kilometers in area.

Why Buy the Hardware When China Is Getting the IP for Free?

APRIL 24, 2015

In Beijing in late March, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty announced that the company’s new strategy in China will be to share its technology to help build the country’s IT industry.

“If you’re a country, as China is, of 1.3 billion people, you would want an IT industry as well,” she told the crowd at the China Development Forum, a government-sponsored event. “I think some firms find that perhaps frightening. We, though, at IBM … find that to be a great opportunity.”

Rometty needs a great opportunity. As the CEO of IBM since 2012, she has spent her more than 30-year career at the company watching it slowly shed the hardware, heft, and influence that earned it the “Big Blue” moniker. Still, IBM is no pipsqueak: With a roughly $160 billion market capitalization andjust under 380,000 employees, the firm remains a massive force in information technology. 

Military Spending and Arms Sales in the Gulf

APR 28, 2015 

There are many ways to measure the Gulf military balance, but one key indicator is to look at the relative size of Gulf military expenditures and the size and nature of Gulf arms imports and transfers of military technology. The Burke Chair has prepared a detailed comparison of key estimates of both military spending and arms transfers, drawing upon official sources as well as the work of key research centers like the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

This report is entitled Military Spending and Arms Sales in the Gulf: How the Arab Gulf States Now Dominate the Changes in the Military Balance, and is available on the CSIS web site here. It provides a wide range of tables and charts describing the patterns in military spending and arms transfers both in comparative dollar terms and by major weapons system and transfer of military technology.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

By Ghaith al-Omari 
APR 24, 2015 

In Chapter 9 of Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015, Ghaith al-Omari analyzes the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace process.

For the last seven decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a central defining feature of the

Middle Eastern geostrategic landscape. In recent years, resolving this conflict through a negotiated two-state solution has become a matter of global and regional consensus and the subject of numerous initiatives. Changing realities between and within Palestine and Israel and the transformations facing the region at large have raised questions as to the feasibility of reaching such a permanent solution.

THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: CONTAINMENT OR APPEASEMENT? – ANALYSIS

By Tan E Guang Eugene

The Lausanne agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme was hailed by all P5+1 parties as a positive step toward preventing Iran from developing its nuclear arsenal. While critics are doubtful, it could reduce the likelihood of a possible nuclear arms race in the region. What are the implications for the Asia-Pacific region?

A framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that would restrict the number of centrifuges it can possess, as well as limit its development of uranium enrichment was concluded in Lausanne on 3 April 2015. Iranian compliance with the agreement would result in the removal of crippling sanctions that have severely affected its economy. This deal can be said to represent a marked change in the international community’s approach to dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

US-South Korea: A Pragmatic Alliance?

April 25, 2015

A recent public opinion report by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies reinforces the view that South Korean society is becoming increasingly pragmatic.

The report, “Measuring a Giant: South Korean Perceptions of the United States,” looks at multiple indicators of how South Koreans view the U.S.: the favorability of ROK-U.S. relations, the U.S. national image, the U.S. in historical perspective, and the United States’ current political and economic influence vis-à-vis China, among many others.

The data indicates that South Koreans maintain a favorable view of the United States, despite deepening economic ties with a “rising” China. For those interested in South Korean nationalism “in a era of strength and prosperity,” the data also indicates a rising pragmatism in South Korea.

Your Guidebook to a Greek Financial Default

April 26, 2015

The Hellenic Republic has too much debt. So much, in fact, it is unlikely to be able to repay it all—even given more bailouts and more time. There are few viable choices, many views, and the typical convoluted European politics. The chances of something dramatic happening are rising.

It is worthwhile to review how we got here: The 2008 financial crisis exposed the Greek debt problem, yields spiked, and in an effort to maintain stability in the European Union (EU), the troika—the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, and the European Central Bank (ECB) — bailed the Greek government out. This kept Greece in the EU, and the EU itself stable for a time. But the troika required adjustments to the Greek economy in return for its money, and this “austerity” thrust the Greek economy into a depression-like economic cycle.

U.S. Boots Hit the Ground in Lviv

April 24, 2015

Around 300 U.S. troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv last week to begin training Ukrainian National Guard forces. Part of what is being called Operation Fearless Guardian-2015, the U.S. forces were dispatched under the auspices of the Global Contingency Security Fund, created to provide security sector assistance to partner countries to help them address challenges important to U.S. security interests. The U.S. troops will remain in Ukraine for six months, providing combat and other skills training for Ukraine's newly created National Guard, which has been directly involved in much of the fighting in southeastern Ukraine's Donbas region.

While Russian officials and commentators have condemned the deployment as provocative, the direct impact will likely remain limited, even deflecting pressure for more direct U.S. involvement, such as providing lethal military assistance to Kyiv. In the longer term though, it is likely the United States will find itself playing a larger role in Ukraine, whether it wants to or not, a development that holds out the most hope for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

OIL PRICE WAR MAY BENEFIT BOTH US SHALE AND SAUDI ARABIA – ANALYSIS

By Michael McDonald

Even as financial commentators on CNBC are starting to come around to the idea of a bottom in oil prices, the key question for US oil producers remains one of timing. How long will the oil price slump last? Is this a relatively short term event like 2008, or a longer term slump like the one in the mid 1980’s? After the oil price crash in 1985, it took almost twenty years for prices to revert to previous levels. If oil does not return to $100 a barrel until 2035, there will be a lot less shale companies around. Some market commentators have cited hedging as a potential source of safety for oil producers, but the truth is that given most firm’s individual levels of hedging and the price of oil today, the hedges are more of a Band-Aid over a gunshot wound than anything else.

Secretary Of Defense Lays Out New Cyberwar Strategy, Wants Silicon Valley To Help

Apr 24, 2015

In unveiling the Defense Department's new cyberwar strategy on Thursday during a speech at Stanford University, Defense Secretary Ash Carter sent a stern message to cyber adversaries: America's "preference for deterrence and our defensive posture doesn't diminish our willingness to use cyber options if necessary," reported Stanford News.

The 42-page strategy, for the first time publicly, lays out circumstances which would justify the deployment of cyberweapons against an attacker.

The strategy states: "As a matter of principle, the United States will seek to exhaust all network defense and law enforcement options to mitigate any potential cyberrisk to the U.S. homeland or U.S. interests before conducting a cyberspace operation.

Iranian cyberwar is a US right wing myth

24 APRIL 2015 

Claims that Iran has been conducting a cyberwar against the United States have been greatly exaggerated by US conservatives.

Last week the New York Times took time out of its busy schedule advertising Apple products to run a yarn about a report of how Iran had conducted hundreds of thousands of cyberattacks against American industrial targets.

The article was based on a report penned by Norse, a prominent cybersecurity firm but they were working with the American Enterprise Institute, which is politely called a conservative think tank, or less politely a bunch of right wing nut jobs who think that the US can rule the world by bombing the Islam out of it.

According to the Daily Dot the Iran report was inaccurate, politically motivated, and a transparent marketing ploy to take advantage of headline-making international relations between the US and Iran.

Russian hackers accessed President Obama's unclassified emails: Report


April 25, 2015

Russian hackers had access to President Obama’s emails after infiltrating the White House and the State Department’s unclassified computer systems last year, according to reports. 

The attack was far worse than officials initially admitted and hackers were able to view emails the president had sent and received, senior officials briefed on the investigation told The New York Times. 

Michael Daniel, special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator at the White House, speaks at Bloomberg Government's "Cybersecurity: Costs and Solutions" conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. 

The hackers obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House and reached emails that the president had sent and received, the Times reported Saturday. 

Secretary Carter Wires in to Silicon Valley


Q1: What are the fundamental changes in the high-tech world that have led Defense Secretary Ash Carter to work to “rewire” the Pentagon’s approach to innovation?

A1: Cutting-edge technological advances are being increasingly driven by commercial companies and by private investment. This is a world-wide phenomenon that means that high tech is both more commercial and more global than in the past. The share of global research and development (R&D) that is directed explicitly to the needs of the Department of Defense (DOD) is now 4 percent, a low point in the post–World War II era. Although sequestration has significantly hurt defense R&D, the trend predates sequestration, and it is largely caused by the private sector increasing its R&D spending in response to the demand for new technology in the global marketplace. This means that the preponderance of technology development, much of it with direct national security applications, is happening among firms that are not traditional suppliers to DOD and many of which are located overseas. Secretary Carter is seeking to tackle the challenge DOD faces in gaining awareness of and access to the technologies being developed by these firms.

Geography and World Power at 100

By Francis P. Sempa
April 25, 2015

One hundred years ago, British writer and teacher James Fairgrieve (1870-1953) wrote Geography and World Power, an important but mostly forgotten work on global geopolitics. Written during the First World War, Fairgrieve’s book sought to “show how the history of the world has been controlled by” geographical conditions.

Fairgrieve was an intellectual disciple of the great British geopolitical thinker Sir Halford Mackinder, and borrowed some of Mackinder’s concepts in formulating his own geopolitical worldview. Fairgrieve factored into his geopolitical analyses topography, location, climate, relative population density, the distribution of energy, the ease or difficulty of movement, and political and social organization.

GULF OF SECRETS: THE EVOLUTION OF GULF STATE INTELLIGENCE SERVICES – ANALYSIS

By Austin Long

Both Libya and Yemen are being torn apart by conflicts that, despite having domestic roots, have essentially become proxy wars. While proxy wars are hardly a new phenomenon in the Middle East, the identity of the protagonists in these two wars underscores a major change in the region. The Gulf States (principally Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia) have moved from supporting players, principally providing financial backing for proxy wars led by others, to protagonists taking the lead in covert and sometimes overt action.

In Yemen, it is Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and other allies that have taken the lead in supporting the beleaguered government. On the other side is Iran, which is supporting the Shiite minority Houthis who are in turn allied with elements of the former president of Yemen.

Turkmenistan's War on Satellite Dishes


In a press release Friday, Human Rights Watchcondemned what it called Turkmenistan’s “war on satellite dishes.” Recently, the Turkmen government revived its longtime battle for complete information control:

At the end of March, 2015, local housing authorities in the capital, Ashgabat, and its suburbs started ordering residents of multistory apartment buildings to take down their satellite dishes, citing simply an “order from above” that allegedly stated the dishes ruined the view of the city. Authorities told residents they could instead get cable television packages through the government or state satellite antennae.

Turkmenistan maintains a neutrality policy and opts out of participation in most regional endeavors, HRW calls it “one of the most closed and repressive countries in the world.”