5 August 2015

Dhanush 155mm Artillery Gun: A “Make in India” Marvel

By Danvir Singh
04 Aug , 2015

Dhanush as an artillery system has proved to be one of the best amongst its class. A 45 Calibre towed gun system capable of targeting at long ranges incorporating autonomous laying features and having one of the most sophisticated suites of electronic and computing systems in the world.

…the success of 155mm/ 42 Cal Dhanush under trial is of paramount importance for the futuristic ATAGS programme.

A leading Indian daily “The Times of India” quoted the defence minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar when he addressed the parliamentary consultative committee on defence on April 21, that the 155mm/45-calibre Dhanush howitzers had “successfully met all technical parameters” during the winter and summer trials at Sikkim and Pokhran. He also stated that Dhanush incorporates “many improved features” over the Army’s existing artillery guns.

This revelation has created a buzz amongst the arms manufacturers and rightly so since Dhanush as an artillery system has proved to be one of the best amongst its class. A 45 Calibre towed gun system capable of targeting at long ranges incorporating autonomous laying features and having one of the most sophisticated suites of electronic and computing systems in the world.

India doesn’t create wealth

The official disdain towards wealth creation, as most people know, has paradoxically resulted in creating a top-heavy structure of wealth

In the past one week, there was a lull after the breathless excitement of Greece and China in the previous two weeks. So, I turned my attention to wealth creation in the world or the world of the wealthy. Estimates are put out by many different organisations and they all vary widely.

The one that does a painstaking job of it is Credit Suisse. For the past six years, it has published an annual Global Wealth Databook. The edition for 2015 is out. Credit Suisse had outsourced the work to two professors who trolled through the data and came up with a bewildering array of statistics about the wealthy in many different countries. They rely on official data, survey evidence and econometric estimation to arrive at their estimates, and the ground they cover is vast.

India is one of the countries in their sample. I am going to take up the data pertaining to India for the years 2011 and 2014.

Narendra Modi Govt Signs Historic Peace Accord With Nagaland's NSCN (IM)


The Narendra Modi government today signed a historic peace accord with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)'s Isak-Muivah faction, after six decades of conflict.

"The Nagaland political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of our people. It has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other," Modi said.

He blamed former British rulers for spreading misinformation among Nagas and Indians to ensure they kept fighting. "This is a legacy of colonial rule. It is a tragedy of independent India that we lived with that legacy," Modi said. He added that "this deal is the way forward, and would serve as a pathway to resolve other insurgencies in India."

"I thank god for this momentous occasion," said Thuingaleng Muivah, who co-founded the organization with Isak Chishi Swu and S.S. Khaplang in 1980. The group had the sole aim of establishing an independent 'Nagalim' state that would unify all areas inhabited by Nagas in northeast India and Burma.

How National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya reinvented himself into a key policy player

By Rahul Tripathi
3 Aug, 2015

The media barely knows Shaurya Doval. But those who know how things work in Delhi’s establishment say Junior Doval practices Track 1.5 diplomacy.

He's an alumnus of London School of Business and Chicago University, has worked as investment banker for GE Capital and Morgan Stanley and heads the India unit of an investment fund, Zeus Caps, backed by a super wealthy Saudi Sheikh - but that's not what makes Shaurya Doval (40) special. Neither it is that Shaurya's father happens to be India'sNational Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.

There are plenty of foreign-educated, foreign-trained, well-to-do progenies of senior, powerful babus. But Shaurya is something others in that privileged group are not - he's an increasingly influential player in shaping Modi Sarkar's policy thinking.

Junior Doval's rise since Modi Sarkar came to power has been a quiet affair. The media barely knows him. But those who know how things work in Delhi's establishment say Junior Doval practices Track 1.5 diplomacy.

Understanding the Naga issue.

To understand the Naga problem better we must first recognize certain historical facts. The first of these is that the Naga Hills was the very last British annexation in the sub-continent. That annexation began with the establishment in March 1878 of the chief administrative center for the region at Kohima, then a large Angami village. This was completed in 1949 when the new government of India extended its authority to the Tuensang region. Before this the Naga tribes were independent of the powers centered either in Assam, Burma or India. This is thus, very unlike Jammu and Kashmir, which historically was always an intrinsic part of India’s politico-cultural milieu.

The Naga tribes are generally considered to be of Tibeto-Burman stock, ethnically very distinct and separate from the peoples of the Indo-Gangetic plains and peninsular India. According to Hokishe Sema, a former Chief Minister of Nagaland and later Governor of Himachal Pradesh, it becomes difficult to categorize the Naga tribes. Sema has written in his book “Emergence of Nagaland” that while it is possible to categorize the Garos as a Tibetan race, the Khasis as Mongoloids with connections with Thais and Cambodians, and the Mizos with the Chins of Burma, the Naga tribes “defy a common nomenclature.” He further writes: “This is because there are no composite “Naga” people, and among them are many distinct tribes having more than thirty dialects, with almost every tribe constituting a separate language group. Moreover, their cultural and social setup varies vastly from tribe to tribe. Even their physique and appearance differ from group to group and place to place. The nomenclature, “Naga” is given to these tribes by outsiders.”

Taliban Leadership Struggle Sows Confusion Amongst Movement’s Fighters Inside Afghanistan

Margherita Stancati and Habib Khan Totakhil
August 4, 2015

Taliban Leadership Rift Seeps Down to Fighters

KABUL—A power struggle has emerged within Afghanistan’s Taliban following the death of their supreme commander, causing confusion among foot soldiers and sowing fears that some might defect to Islamic State.

Just a few people within the Taliban knew of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death until it was revealed with certainty last week, first by the Afghan government, which said it occurred in April 2013, and a day later by the Taliban. For years, the movement’s leadership continued to issue orders and statements in the name of their deceased founder.

Now the costs of that coverup are starting to become clear.

“Most ordinary Taliban feel like they’ve been deceived by their leaders,” said a Taliban commander in the eastern Afghan province of Khost. “We were kept in dark, and now we don’t know who to follow.”

The commander added that “disagreements between senior leaders are further discouraging fighters,” many of whom say they are tired of war after 14 years.

Will Mullah Omar's Death Change the Taliban?

August 03, 2015

Anand Gopal, a veteran journalist who embedded with the Taliban, speaks with The Diplomat about Mullah Omar’s death.

When the journalist Anand Gopal wrote the book No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes in 2014 , it was hailed as a landmark narrative of Afghanistan. The book tells the story of how the United States, which defeated the Taliban, also paved the way for its eventual revival. Gopal learned the local language and went deep inside Taliban-controlled territory to embed with the insurgents. The resulting book lays bare Washington’s longest war and the mistakes the West made after its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which revived the Taliban soon after the war started.

The Diplomat’s Sanjay Kumar spoke to Gopal and tried to understand the meaning of Mullah Mohammed Omar’s death.

The Diplomat: How do you look at Mullah Omar’s death?

The Afghan Government Should Take Advantage of Mullah Omar’s Death ASAP

August 04, 2015
It is now confirmed that the erstwhile leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is no longer in this world. Moreover, he has been dead and buried (somewhere in Afghanistan) for over two years,unknown to most of the Taliban. The death of Mullah Omar changes the calculus in Afghanistan as it impacts ongoing negotiations between the Taliban and the government. It has been suggested that groups as disparate as the Afghan government, the Chinese government, and the West may all miss Mullah Omar because he was the glue that held the Taliban together and made negotiating with them meaningful.

Nitin Pai: The necessary art of ignoring Pakistan

July 29, 2015

Pakistan does not matter much to India's growth. A bigger, stronger and more open Indian economy will transform our ties with that country

Although the evidence is not conclusive at this time, themodus operandi and initial findings from GPS sets retrieved from the terrorists who attacked Dina Nagar in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Monday suggest they came from Pakistan.

The exact location apart, that the terrorist attack took place at all is hardly a surprise. The Pakistani army has been raising the level of violence along the Line of Control(LoC) and international border for the last several months, in parallel with its gaining a handle in Afghanistan. It is likely, though, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to revive the dialogue process with the Nawaz Sharif government was the immediate trigger for the Pakistan's military establishment to stage some high-profile terror theatre.

Pakistan's generals have challenged Modi: will he bite the bullet and continue with the dialogue process he initiated atUfa last month, or retaliate forcefully as his personality and earlier speeches indicate? If he chooses to continue engagement despite the provocation, he risks both losing credibility at home and the next provocation from across the border. If he decides to respond with force, he will be distracted from the unprecedented opportunity he has to transform the Indian economy. This is not a pleasant dilemma for Mr Modi. It is also an expected consequence of his unexpected overture to Sharif.

How the SCO Could Solve Indo-Pak Conflict


India and Pakistan are all set to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) asfull members next year after the regional grouping voted to include them in its latest summit in Ufa, Russia. Many believe that this is the SCO's attempt to secure China's New Silk Road project. But if all goes well, the SCO could do a lot more than just that -it may even help resolve the India-Pakistan conflict.

If there are two countries along the New Silk Road who can blow up the entire project, they are India and Pakistan. The two South Asian rivals sparred over Beijing's decision to build a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) recently from Kashgar in China to Gwadar in Pakistan. New Delhi opposed the project, claiming that it ran through the heart of the disputed Pakistan-controlled region of Kashmir. Beijing has refrained from making any inflammatory comments on the issue, but it is wary of the potent effect that the Indo-Pak conflict can have on its Silk Road dreams.

"[T]he SCO has tools to stitch together relations between the two neighbours -- starting with boosting economic cooperation between them."


August 4, 2015 

We are just a short while away from the launch of our new website, and we are holding a sweepstakes to celebrate. You can win your own home bar kit or collections of books on strategy, Asia, and the Middle East. All you have to do is sign up!

Here’s the nightmare for any U.S. war plan that requires conventional strikes on mainland China: The president will balk. Even in the midst of a full-scale war, he or she would reject mainland strikes for fear of precipitating a nuclear exchange. American fears of a nuclear war would then provide China with what one analyst has called a “heckuva sanctuary” from which to attack U.S. forces. That’s why examining military history to understand the likelihood of this scenario is worthwhile. More on that shortly.

A U.S. war plan entailing strikes on mainland China, a plan originally dubbed “Air-Sea Battle” by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has gained traction among top military thinkers in the U.S. Air Force and Navy. Many analysts previously believed that the U.S. military could have soundly defeated Chinese aggression without resorting to mainland strikes. Now, however, some strategists worry that the Chinese military will put up a tougher fight, and the U.S. military will have to target the missile launchers, radars, and command centers on which Chinese attacks depend.

The Philippines-China Arbitration: What Next?

The five-member tribunal hearing Manila’s case against Beijing’s South China Sea claims at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague held a hearing on preliminary jurisdiction and admissibility of claims from July 7 to 13. As expected, China did not participate or attend the hearings, which were closed to the public but observed by delegations from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The tribunal’s decision to consider jurisdictional questions separate from the merits will likely delay a final ruling, though fears that it will push a decision back a year or more are likely overblown.

The court gave the Philippine legal team until July 23 to submit detailed written responses to the issues raised during the hearing on preliminary jurisdiction. Many of these are the same concerns that Beijing raised in itsposition paper published last December, which the court said it would consider as a submission in the case regardless of China’s insistence otherwise. The judges also gave China until August 17 to file any comments it might have on arguments made during the jurisdiction hearing.

Fishing For Ways To De-Escalate South China Sea Tensions

While the increasing militarization of the South China Sea strains Asia-Pacific’s stability and security for the long term, the region’s humble fishing fleets pose more immediate, frequent, and less managed risks. If properly organized, however, those same fleets could offer one way to develop a culture of compromise and cooperation.

After running a controversial program of land reclamation in the South China Sea, China has recently started to build facilities on its artificial island outposts. Unsurprisingly, neighboring countries remain anxious about Beijing’s ultimate intentions, fearful especially of military threats.

But the more urgent concern – to China as much as to its Southeast Asian neighbors – is the likely emergence of even bolder maritime law enforcement and fishing fleets. The latter are ever-more aggressively chasing the South China Sea’s rich stocks of fish, which constitute ten per cent of the global catch.

Will Iran Order 150 New Fighter Jets From China?

China allegedly has agreed to sell 150 J-10 multirole fighter jets to Iran, the Israeli military intelligence websiteDEBKAfile reported last week.

“Beijing has agreed to sell Tehran 150 of these sophisticated jets,” the website states, based on information obtained from unnamed intelligence and military sources.

No public officials from either country have denied or confirmed the weapon deal so far. It is also unclear whether the purchase would include the Chengdu J-10A or the modern J-10B version of the plane.

However, according to other media reports earlier last month, Beijing is considering selling the J-10B fighter to potential customers in in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Pakistan reportedly already signed a deal for thepurchase of 36 J-10A jets in 2009.

America's Government Is Torn on How to Handle China

In May, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Defense was considering sending Navy surveillance aircraft and vessels within 12 nautical miles of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea, violating what Beijing claims as its territorial waters and airspace. Since then, though the U.S. has made a point of publicizing its patrols in the region – including by inviting a CNN camera crew on board a surveillance operation in May, and having a Pacific Fleet commander on board another flight in July – so far, the U.S. Navy has not publicly admitted to conducting operations within 12 nm of any Chinese-controlled features.

According to a new report from Politico, the delay stems from a disagreement between the White House and the Pentagon over the wisdom of such operations. The crux of the debate is the Pentagon’s view that China’s artificial features, as man-made constructions, are not entitled to a 12 nm territorial zone. By maintaining that distance from those features, military analysts worry that the U.S. is effectively lending credence to China’s attempts to alter the status quo. As U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter put it at the Shangri-La Dialogue, “After all, turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit.”

Abe’s 70th Anniversary Statement: What Should We Expect?

This article is part of The Diplomat’s series exploring historical issues in Northeast Asia in the run-up to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. See the rest of the series here.

This month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to issue a statement to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. For the last several months, media both inside and outside Japan have been intensely speculating as to what he will and will not say in the statement. Foreign governments—including the United States, South Korea, and China—are also paying close attention to the content of the statement.

The focus of this heavy attention lies on to what degree Abe will use the same wording as the 1995 Murayama Statement. The Murayama Statement talks of “deep remorse and heartfelt apology” for Japan’s “aggression” during World War II. In 2005, when then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi issued his statement to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, he also included these phrases (although his statement was not word-for-word identical to the Murayama Statement). Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who crafted the Murayama Statement in 1995, has spoken out, calling on Abe not to say anything to stir concerns in Japan’s Asian neighbors.

Review: Picturing Technology in China: From Earliest Times to the Nineteenth Century

By Juan José Morales
August 03, 2015

A new book breaks with the conventional wisdom on technology in pre-industrial China.

Chinese contributions to science and technology are numerous, yet in premodern China there was neither the concept of “technology” nor a word for it. Images portraying technology fell into a wider category, tu, of representations meant for practical use. There was not a word for “art” either, although art—painting in particular—played a crucial role in Chinese culture. It is worth keeping in mind, however, that English has no record of the word “technology” before the mid-19th century either, a reminder of how inadequate it can be to judge the past with the standards of the present.

In spite of myriad Chinese achievements, the prevalent narrative has been one of stagnation, of China falling behind the West. Picturing Technology in China, which traces the history of illustrations of technology in pre-industrial China, is a welcome addition to a series of specialist studies that break away with the prevailing view and seeks to understand Chinese technology on its own terms. Peter J Golas, of the University of Denver and the author of the volume on mining in Joseph Needham’s monumental Science and Civilisation in China, states his standpoint from the outset:

Who Is the Biggest Threat - ISIS or Al Qaeda? Or Doesn’t It Really Matter…

Eric Schmitt
August 4, 2015

ISIS or Al Qaeda? American Officials Split Over Biggest Threat

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s top intelligence, counterterrorism and law enforcement officials are divided over which terrorist group poses the biggest threat to the American homeland, the Islamic State or Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The split reflects a rising concern that the Islamic State poses a more immediate danger because of its unprecedented social media campaign, using sophisticated online messaging to inspire followers to launch attacks across the United States.

Many intelligence and counterterrorism officials warn, however, that Qaeda operatives in Yemen and Syria are capitalizing on the turmoil in those countries to plot much larger “mass-casualty” attacks, including bringing down airliners carrying hundreds of passengers.

This is not an academic argument. It will influence how the government allocates billions of dollars in counterterrorism funds, and how it assigns thousands of federal agents, intelligence analysts and troops to combat a multipronged threat that senior officials say is changing rapidly.

Preempt, Push, and Protect: India’s Strategy after the Iran Deal

By Sumitha Narayanan Kutty
July 29, 2015

With the nuclear deal done, New Delhi must anticipate certain risks to its regional approach and adapt accordingly. 

New Delhi is certainly gearing up to seize the opportunities that the Iranian nuclear deal brings. What is equally critical at this stage is to preempt challenges to its regional strategy in a post-deal environment.

A new policy brief released by The Takshashila Institution provides some guidance on exactly that. The document titled “Mapping India’s response to Iran’s changing global status and regional influence” explores Iran’s possible futures and charts India’s approach in the four resulting scenarios. This exercise factors in changes in Iran’s international status and variations in its influence in the Middle East. The scenario most likely to emerge is one where Iran complies with the nuclear deal even as its influence flourishes in the Middle East.

One key takeaway here is that Iran will continue to evolve on both fronts – be it the extent of global integration or fluctuations in its regional influence. In response, New Delhi should be ready to push and protect its agenda.

It’s All About the Base

JULY 29, 2015

Add caption
Turkey’s deal to allow the United States to fly missions out of Incirlik should be the beginning of greater engagement and support from NATO.

Over the past few days, the porous Turkish border with Syria has exploded with gunfire, artillery shelling, and airstrikes launched against the Islamic State by the Turkish armed forces. This follows a heinous bombing in the Turkish city of Suruc last week, which killed more than 30 young people and wounded hundreds of others. The confluence of terrorist strikes inside the country — launched by both the Islamic State and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — and the rise of the Islamic State have caused Turkey to request an emergency meeting of NATO nations to examine the security situation on the alliance’s border.

As NATO nations hold only the fifth so-called Article 4 consultation in the alliance’s 66-year history, there is much to consider. These meetings take their name from the fourth article of NATO’s founding treaty, which says that any nation having security concerns can convene all 28 nations of the alliance. The idea is to collectively review the situation facing the requesting member and then develop a strategy and a plan for the assembled states to follow — ideally in a way that would alleviate the pressure on the requesting country. There are no guarantees for action, but generally speaking there is an expectation of some level of alliance participation. The initial output from the meeting was a strong signal of support for Turkey from the entire alliance; now the real work of planning and execution begins.

Counter-Terrorism: Whose Side Is God Really On

August 1, 2015: In many parts of the world Islamic terrorism has become fashionable, especially among young Moslem men. It's a coping mechanism for failure. More than half a century after the Arab world once more became free (first from centuries of Turkish rule in 1918, then a few decades of European supervision), the truth has sunk in. While the rest of the world prospered during the last half century, the Arabs are still uneducated, unproductive, poor and ruled by tyrants and kings. What are young Moslems to make of this?

Blaming the Jews has accomplished nothing, except to provide more opportunities to fail. Supporting al Qaeda (with money and volunteers) produced the September 11, 2001 attacks. That had young men dancing in the streets all over the Arab world (much to the chagrin of their elders, and embarrassment of their governments). But the response has led to an even longer list of failures. Not only was al Qaeda, and similarorganizations, revealed to be mindless murderers of innocent Moslems (in Iraq, Afghanistan, and several other Islamic nations), but these Holy Warriors proved embarrassingly incompetent when fighting theCrusaders from the West. American troops suffered far fewer casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan than in earlier wars. The casualty rate was actually a third of what it was in Vietnam. While pro-terrorist web sites loved to feature videos of roadside bombs going off and American troops getting shot at, more embarrassing were U.S. videos of Islamic terrorists being caught in the act, and bombed or shot up. Worst of all were those videos, taken by American UAVs or helicopter gunships that showed terrorists trying to plant roadside bombs, which then blew them up because of improper handling (or construction.)

Pro-Moscow Ukrainian Rebel Groups Killing Each Other In Increasingly Bloody Turf War

Andrew E. Kramer
August 4, 2015

Cossacks Face Reprisals as Rebel Groups Clash in Eastern Ukraine

NOVOCHERKASSK, Russia — The convoy of cars crawled along a potholed road deep in the flatlands of separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine on what was supposed to be a routine trip for a rebel leader. Instead, it ended in disaster.

First, a bomb exploded on the roadside. Then, machine-gunners opened fire on the immobilized convoy. When the ambush was over, five bodyguards, a press secretary and Aleksei B. Mozgovoi, the rebel leader, lay dead.

Rebels have been fighting in Ukraine for more than a year now, but the bloody assault this May was different: a massacre carried out by separatist rebels against another rebel group and former ally, the famed Cossacks, in a clash over the groups’ competing territorial claims.

The bitter feuding between the groups raises the prospect of greater factional fighting among the rebel forces, deepening an already grave humanitarian situation and possibly complicating matters for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom the West accuses of arming and supporting the separatists.

As the Russian government aims to promote a more conservative tone, Cossacks are playing a growing role, but threatening a gentle ethnic balance.

Russian Military Merging Their Air Force and Space Command Into New Aerospace Forces

Matthew Bodner
August 4, 2015

Russian Military Merges Air Force and Space Command

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the creation Monday of a new branch of Russia’s armed forces: the Aerospace Forces, which brings the air force and the recently created Aerospace Defense Forces under one unified command.

“Air forces, anti-air and anti-missile defenses, and space forces will now be under a unified command structure,” Shoigu was quoted as saying Monday by news agency TASS.

By merging the responsibilities for space and air operations under one roof — known as the Aerospace Forces — the move represents an evolution in Russian military thinking.

During the Cold War, Soviet air and space forces were separated into different branches with little overlap in command authority. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force has historically been in charge of all things above ground.

Shoigu, introducing the new military branch, described the merger of Russia’s lofty services as “the best option for streamlining our nation’s system of air and space defense,” and said the move was prompted “by a shift in the combat ‘center of gravity’ toward the aerospace theater.”

Maxim Shepovalenko, a former Russian military officer and analyst at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defense think tank, said this new focus reflects lessons learned in the wake of NATO’s intervention in Yugoslavia in the late 1990s.

Why an Iran Deal for North Korea Won’t Happen

In July, world powers and Iran finally struck a deal over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. This set off speculation that perhaps the Iran deal might be a template for a deal with North Korea. Although the Iran agreement remains contentious in the United States, much of the world finds it a broadly acceptable compromise. Maximalist demands on Iran were never going to work unless the U.S. was prepared for major military action and a potential regional meltdown. Some of kind of diplomacy was ultimately necessary.

North Korea is similar. At this point, almost any kind of deal seems preferably to the status quo: a spiraling nuclear and missile program with no oversight. As I have argued elsewhere, it is increasingly hard to see how North Korean nuclearization ends well. In March, when it became clear just how many nuclear weapons North Korea might build in the next decade, I argued in this space that South Korea may end up feeling compelled to bomb Northern missile sites before Pyongyang has the ability to obliterate the South in one strike. Hence, an Iran deal with North Korea would be great – if we could get one, and if we could believe them. But that is highly unlikely.

Iran and North Korea

Finally! U.S. Marine Corps Declares F-35B Operational

On July 31, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Marine Corps, General Joseph Dunford, announced that the Marine Corps’ version of the supersonic fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter achieved initial operational capability (IOC), Defense News reports.

“I am pleased to announce that VMFA-121 [Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121] has achieved initial operational capability in the F-35B, as defined by requirements outlined in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committees,” said General Dunford in a statement. ”VMFA-121 has ten aircraft in the Block 2B configuration with the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearances, to include the training, sustainment capabilities, and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or a ship.”

The ten F-35B — one of three designs of the multi-role fighter — of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), based in Yuma, Arizona, were cleared for worldwide deployment after a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection. This was preceded by seven weeks of sea trials, according to Dunford. The unit “is capable of conducting close air support, offensive and defensive counter air, air interdiction, assault support escort and armed reconnaissance as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or in support of the Joint Force,” Dunford said in the statement. VMFA-121 is scheduled to deploy to Iwakuni, Japan in 2017.

NSA Spying on Japan: The Fallout

Last Friday, the WikiLeaks website unveiled evidence that the U.S. National Security Agency is conducting espionage operations in Japan. On July 31, WikiLeaks published “Target Tokyo,” a list of 35 Top Secret NSA targets in Japan and five NSA reports on interceptsrelating to U.S.-Japan relations, trade negotiations, and sensitive climate strategy.

According to WikiLeaks’ press release, NSA spying on the Japanese government and businesses began at least as far back as 2006. The targets were wide-ranging:

The telephone interception target list includes the switchboard for the Japanese Cabinet Office; the executive secretary to the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; a line described as “Government VIP Line”; numerous officials within the Japanese Central Bank, including Governor Haruhiko Kuroda; the home phone number of at least one Central Bank official; numerous numbers within the Japanese Finance Ministry; the Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa; the Natural Gas Division of Mitsubishi; and the Petroleum Division of Mitsui.

Who’s Nexit?

JULY 30, 2015

As many as five other eurozone countries are flirting with trouble. Could one of them be the first to leave the common currency?

Which will be the next eurozone domino to fall? With Greece enjoying a temporary lull in its apparently permanent crisis, we can take a moment to look around its neighborhood at other candidates for trouble. There are several — and the euro’s future looks far from bright.

Greece ran into trouble mainly because it should never have been in the eurozone in the first place. Its governments couldn’t balance their budgets, and its economic cycle was far out of sync with those of the eurozone’s leading lights. When Germany grew, Greece shrank, and vice versa. Using the same monetary policy in both countries made no sense at all.

The more proximate cause of the Greek crisis was its inability to service its debts on time. In the midst of a deep depression, taxes and other government revenue started to slip away, eventually falling 15 percent between 2007 and 2014. Without control of the currency, the government couldn’t print money to stimulate the economy and devalue its debts. It had to choose between repaying its lenders and doing everything else: paying pensions, providing public services, protecting its citizens, etc.

Chaos in the Arab world suits Russia’s domestic propaganda

Nikolay Kozhanov Academy Robert Bosch Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme
July 2015

Moscow is using the unrest in the Middle East to reinforce its media messages about the threat from the West at home

Kerry's meeting with Putin in Sochi which the Russians claimed as their diplomatic victory

New Approach to Dealing with Climate Change?

Written by Sig Silber
August 3rd, 2015 

With the big play from the White House tonight about an aggressive new program to combat climate change, it seems that the climate science community is taking a broader view of how to react to reduce global warming. Two new book length reports earlier this year reviewed existing data in a way that has not been done previously. These have not been widely noted and should be. The two reports: 

Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration 

I was surprised when I saw this recent announcement from the The National Academies of Sciences - Engineering - Medicine:

US to Challenge China for World’s Fastest Supercomputer

Since June 2013, China has boasted the world’s fastest supercomputer: the Tianhe-2, built by China’s National University of Defense Technology and housed at the National Super Computer Center in Guangzhou. According to the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers, Tianhe-2 boasts a speed of 33.86 pentaflops (one pentaflop is one quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), nearly double the United States’ second-place computer, Titan (housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee). The United States still holds the title for most systems on the list, accounting for 233 of the 500 (China only had 37 supercomputers on the July 2015 list).

However, U.S. President Barack Obama is determined to win the number one ranking back for the United States. On July 29, he issued an Executive Order creating the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), with the goal of researching and building the first supercomputer to reach 1,000 pentaflops (or one exaflop) – nearly 30 times faster than Tianhe-2. The U.S. already has a 100-petaflop computer in development, slated to be ready in 2017; Obama wants computers capable of speeds 10 times that.

Pentagon seeks cyberweapons strong enough to deter attacks

The Pentagon's Cyber Command and the National Security Administration, with headquarters at Ft. Meade in Maryland, are looking for ways to deter foreign cyberattacks against U.S. government and business targets.

The nation that brought the world the mushroom cloud is now hard at work on a new project: coming up with cyberweapons so strong that their very existence would deter foreign governments from attacking U.S. databases and crucial computer systems.

The idea is to try to adapt a military concept that helped keep the world safe from nuclear bombings during the Cold War to the digital battlefield of the 21st century.

For four decades, the U.S. and the Soviet Union built up massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons but never used them. Part of the reason was the belief on both sides that any attack would be met with an equally devastating counterstrike. Military planners called the idea mutually assured destruction.

Today, plans for “cyberdeterrence” aim to develop something analogous for the digital era.
National security officials have recently stepped up their public warnings about the need to build such a deterrent.

Discussion Document: The India—Pakistan conflict escalation framework

JULY 26, 2015

The India—Pakistan conflict escalation frameworkPranay Kotasthane, Pavan Srinath, Nitin Pai and Varun Ramachandra, The Takshashila Institution

Executive SummaryThe India—Pakistan conflict has variously been described as an ‘enduring rivalry’ or a ‘protracted conflict’ — characterised by its long duration, recurrence of armed exchanges, and the involvement of state and non-state actors. 

After 27 Years, Reporter Who Exposed ECHELON Finds Vindication in Snowden Archive

Dan Froomkin
Aug. 3 2015

Ever since legendary British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell told the world in a 1988 magazine article about ECHELON — a massive, automated surveillance dragnet that indiscriminately intercepted phone and Internet data from communications satellites — Western intelligence officials have refused to acknowledge that it existed.

Despite sporadic continuing press reports, people who complained about the program — which, as Campbell disclosed, automatically searched text-based communications using a dictionary of keywords to flag suspicious content — were routinely dismissed as conspiracy theorists.

The only real conspiracy, it turns out, was a conspiracy of silence among the governments that benefited from the program.

As Campbell writes today, in a first-person article in The Intercept, the archive of top-secret documents provided to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden contains a stunning 2005 document that not only confirms ECHELON’s existence as “a system targeting communications satellites”– it shows how the program was kept an official secret for so long.

Information Warfare: Saudi Support Of Terrorism Exposed

August 2, 2015: A previously unknown hacker group, the YCA (Yemen Cyber Army) took credit for the hacks that obtained the trove of Saudi Arabian government emails the group recently released. The main thing the emails revealed was that Saudi Arabia and other oil-richArab countries use their money as a tool to influence political and diplomatic decisions in the Middle East and worldwide. These revelation were not surprising, but some of the details were.

It appears that Iran and Russia is behind this hack because the Iran backed Shia rebels in Yemen do not have the technical resources to crack the formidable network defenses the Saudis are known to have built. In fact, not all departments of the Saudi government appear to have been hacked. This is indicative of the high-end defenses the Saudis have bought, which isolates different bureaucracies networks so hacking one does not get you into all the others.

The YCA is still in the midst of releasing the million or more emails they obtained, so more details of the hack will become evident as more emails appear. The ones released so far confirm a lot of suspicions and hurt the Saudis by naming the people they have bribed and detailing the size (some over $200 million) of the bribes and other favors. This will make it more difficult to use bribes as those known to have already benefitted suffered embarrassment and loss of political influence and power because details became public. The Saudi bribes were often to weaken Israel and play down the popularity for Islamic terrorism among many Arabs. The bribes also sought to suppress discussion of Arab government support of Islamic terrorist groups. Because of the terrorism angle some people, in Western countries, could be prosecuted for being secretly in service to the Saudis.