19 December 2015

India Is Building Its Own Los Alamos-Type Nuclear Weapons Facility to Build Thermonuclear Weapons

Adrian Levy
Foreign Policy, December 16, 2015
CHALLAKERE, India — When laborers began excavating pastureland in India’s southern Karnataka state early in 2012, members of the nomadic Lambani tribe were startled. For centuries, the scarlet-robed herbalists and herders had freely crisscrossed the undulating meadows there, known as kavals, and this uprooting of their landscape came without warning or explanation. By autumn, Puttaranga Setty, a wiry groundnut farmer from the village of Kallalli, encountered a barbed-wire fence blocking off a well-used trail. His neighbor, a herder, discovered that the road from this city to a nearby village had been diverted elsewhere. They rang Doddaullarti Karianna, a weaver who sits on one of the village councils that funnel India’s sprawling democracy of 1.25 billion down to the grassroots.

Karianna asked officials with India’s state and central governments why the land inhabited by farming and tribal communities was being walled off, but they refused to answer. So Karianna sought legal help from the Environment Support Group, a combative ecological advocacy organization that specializes in fighting illegal encroachment on greenbelt land. But the group also made little progress. Officials warned its lawyers that the prime minister’s office was running the project. “There is no point fighting this, we were told,” Leo Saldanha, a founding member of the advocacy organization, recalled. “You cannot win.”

Only after construction on the site began that year did it finally become clear to the tribesmen and others that two secretive agencies were behind a project that experts say will be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities when it’s completed, probably sometime in 2017. Among the project’s aims: to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for India’s nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of new submarines.
But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal.

Fast, Radioactive, and Out of Control

India is not adequately safeguarding its booming nuclear installations and material, U.S. officials and experts say.
By Adrian Levy, R. Jeffrey Smith
December 17, 2015
KALPAKKAM, India — On October 8, 2014, Head Constable Vijay Singh awoke before dawn and scurried across the ochre gravel outside the constabulary barracks at the Madras Atomic Power Station “looking like the monsoon was about to break,” as a ground sweeper later recalled. Singh was one of 620 paramilitaries in the country’s Central Industrial Security Force(CISF) assigned to protect the facility’s nuclear-related buildings and materials, but he did not have his usual tasks in mind that morning.

By 4:40 a.m., the 44-year-old officer reached the armory, where he signed out a 9mm sub-machine gun and 60 rounds of ammunition in two magazines. Singh loaded one clip into his weapon, pocketed the other, and entered the portico of a cream-and-red, three-story residential complex. He climbed up one flight to the room where a senior colleague, Mohan Singh, was dozing and abruptly opened fire at him in a controlled burst, to conserve rounds, just as he had been trained.

Then he jogged downstairs, where he shot dead two more men and seriously injured another two. With ten rounds left in his magazine, and an unused 30-round clip in his pocket, he prowled unimpeded across the gravel, with no alert called. A bystander shouted out to him, and suddenly Singh halted and dropped to his knees, an eyewitness recalled later. He was finally surrounded and led away, glassy-eyed, “as docile as anything, a neat guy, his hair still perfectly parted,” the witness said.
The episode was a fresh example of what officials here and outside India depict as serious shortcomings in the country’s nuclear guard force, tasked with defending one of the world’s largest stockpiles of fissile material and nuclear explosives.

An estimated 90 to 110 Indian nuclear bombs are stored in six or so government-run sites patrolled by the CISF, according tothe Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent think tank, and Indian officials. Within the next two decades, as many as 57 reactors could also be operating under the force’s protection, as well as four existent plants where spent nuclear fuel is dissolved in chemicals to separate out plutonium to make new fuel or be used in nuclear bombs.

All the world’s in a moral panic

December 18, 2015
As the argumentative Indian makes way for the outraged Indian, public discourse threatens to spiral into uncharted territory. It is time we switched off from breaking news and instant analysis.
The outpouring of outrage that has characterised public discourse over the past few years shows no signs of abating.

A few years ago, many were outraged, first against corruption, and then against those who were not supporting the movement that had sprung up in protest. Over the last few weeks, we saw outrage being directed at actor Anupam Kher and his fellows for directing outrage against those expressing outrage against outrageous acts of violence against people who had said things that were considered outrageous. Then, in Bengaluru, a community-organised, traditionally non-partisan literary festival became the locus of a controversy where many were outraged that some writers had threatened to pull out of the event. This was due to their outrage over the remarks of one of the organisers who had criticised those who had returned their awards in outrage against the government that they saw as silent in the face of violent outrage against intellectuals whose views the killers considered outrageous.
Earlier, we used to react to events. Then we began reacting to the media’s portrayal of events. Now, with social media, we react to reactions to events, and reactions to reactions to reactions to events, and so on.

First we had news. Then it became a news cycle, then an outrage cycle, and now we have nested, recursive outrage cycles. There are cycles within cycles. Public discourse is fast spiralling into unknown territory. It is now mostly a grotesque drama of screaming anchors, shouting talking heads, hyperventilating reporters, partisan commentators, opportunistic cheerleaders and online hordes of the self-righteous, all venting outrage against their respective devils of the day. To not stone the devil is to invite association with him.

Pakistan Military Deals a Blow to Jihadists but Not to Ideology

By ROD NORDLAND, December 16, 2015

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — All cellphone coverage was blocked by the government for three hours one recent afternoon in the Pakistani capital, and it did not take people long to discover why: Maulana Abdul Aziz, the radical preacher of the Red Mosque, was sermonizing again.
Barred from giving sermons in the mosque, the scene of an army siege on extremists that killed as many as 75 people in 2007, Mr. Aziz had announced that he would relay his latest Friday sermon by cellphone, calling aides at the mosque who would rebroadcast it over the mosque’s loudspeakers.

But instead of arresting the jihadist preacher, as many moderate Pakistanis would like, the authorities simply turned off the city’s cell networks last Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the traditional time for Friday Prayer, according to senior Pakistani officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the news media.
Mr. Aziz’s relative untouchability is a measure of how enduring the power of militant Islamist ideology has remained in Pakistan. Even as the Pakistani military has driven some jihadist groups out of business or into hiding over the past year, other technically banned jihadist or sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat are still thriving, with little apparent effort by the government or military to curb them.

The ascendance of such groups and of radical mosques and madrasas was well underway during the years that Tashfeen Malik, half of the husband-wife pair of attackers in California, returned to Pakistan for her university education in Punjab Province.

Afghanistan: After Kunduz

Fearing the Taliban is preparing for another assault, locals wonder if they can trust in the government.
By Patricia Gossman, December 16, 2015
A man I’ll call Hamid, a teacher who fled his home in the Afghan city of Kunduz for the relative security of Kabul, asked me a simple question: “Should I go back?”

This is not an easy question to answer. On September 28, Kunduz, a strategically important city in northern Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban. It was the first major city taken by the Taliban since the U.S. ejected them from power in late 2001. Afghan government forces did not regain full control of the city for nearly two weeks. Kunduz made world headlines when during the heat of the battle to retake the city, U.S. forces launched an airstrike on a hospital run by the aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières, killing 42 and wounding dozens more.

The day after the Taliban seized the city, its forces went looking for government employees, prominent residents and others who might oppose them. They detained Hamid after a local boy told Taliban commanders that there was a gun inside Hamid’s house. Owning a gun is neither unusual nor illegal in Afghanistan, but this was the second day after the Taliban had taken the city, and they wanted no surprises. “My wife took the gun when she left,” Hamid told the Taliban. His wife was among many civil servants in Kunduz who fled in panic as the Taliban advanced on the city; earlier this year the Taliban had identified all government employees as well as persons working with foreign organizations as potential targets. But the Taliban weren’t satisfied with Hamid’s answer – they wanted the gun. For the rest of that day, they threatened him repeatedly, leaving him fearful that he would be killed at any moment, and with good reason, as he witnessed Taliban commanders beating neighbors they identified as government officials. Eventually the Taliban released Hamid after someone intervened on his behalf, and he fled to Kabul.

After I spoke to Hamid, his question hung in the air: If he goes back, will government forces be able to protect him and his family?

The Never-ending War in Afghanistan: What Next?

strategypage, December 17, 2015

Pakistan insists it has cracked down on Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan but Afghanistan points out that the Afghan Taliban still have a sanctuary in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) and there is lots of recent evidence that the Haqqani Network is still supported by Pakistan. Many senior American officials agree with this assessment and more of them are openly saying so. Afghanistan’s new president is criticized by many Afghans for trying to use Pakistan to help get peace talks with the Taliban going. The head of Afghan intelligence, who the Pakistanis openly criticized, resigned over the issue and many in parliament back the departed intel chief in this matter. But the president has a point in that there cannot be real peace in Afghanistan without cooperation from Pakistan. Such cooperation may be an impossible goal, but that’s life in Afghanistan.

Another problem with the peace talks is who to talk to. Taliban supreme leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was shot on the 2nd during a meeting with dissident Taliban. Officially he still lives and an audio recording has been released to prove it. But many Taliban who know Mansour say the audio is a fake and it is pointed out that it was Mansour who, for two years, hid the fact that founding leader Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013. This leads many Afghans to wonder if you can trust the Taliban if the Taliban don’t trust each other. Meanwhile the Afghan government officially accepts Taliban claims that Mansour is alive and recovering from his wounds and is waiting for some good news.

The fundamental problem for Afghanistan is the endemic corruption. This makes it very difficult to run the country effectively when any law or regulation can be bypassed with a large enough bribe. This makes it possible for the drug gangs to produce and export most of the world supply of heroin. The Taliban sustains itself by providing security for drug gang operations as well as extorting and stealing cash and goods at every opportunity. The corruption stems from the tribalism which fell out of use in the West, China and elsewhere centuries ago. But in Afghanistan is persists and it is an inefficient and, for the people involved, expensive and deadly historical artifact to live with.

The Long Road to Justice in Bangladesh

Posted by Nuzhat Choudhury on December 11, 2015
On Dec. 15, 1971, a microbus covered in mud came to our home in war-torn Bangladesh and took my father away. Dr. Abdul Alim Choudhury was one of my country's top eye specialists -- a highly respected, much loved man. Three days later, we found his battered, bullet-ridden body in a ditch alongside hundreds of other leading intellectuals. His only crime was that he loved his country and wanted independence for its people.

I was 2 years old back then. Not a single day has passed that my mother, my sister, and I have not asked for justice for this heinous crime. Now, finally, we are beginning to see progress thanks to the trials and convictions of war criminals by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Dhaka. The trials are at long last revealing the tragic truth about the genocide, including the wholesale murder of intellectuals like my father, which occurred during Bangladesh's War of Independence from Pakistan 44 years ago.
The pro-liberation party called the Awami League heeded the popular demand for a war-crimes tribunal in 2009. The League's promise to establish the tribunal was an important reason it won election by an overwhelming majority.

But even since the formation of the tribunal, the path to justice has not been easy. There is no witness protection law in Bangladesh, and supporters of the perpetrators are powerful, wealthy and well connected. Witnesses have been harassed and threatened. A few have been killed. Yet these patriotic people, who had already paid such high price for the country, moved valiantly forward with their eyewitness accounts.

The Complex Impact of Urbanization in Xinjiang

The Complex Impact of Urbanization in Xinjiang
There’s a logic to China’s urbanization scheme, but its social and cultural impacts are complex.
By Wade Shepard, December 16, 2015
Hardly a year ago the city of Horgos didn’t exist. It was little other than a rural expanse of small towns, villages, and lavender fields on the farthest fringe of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region, right on the border with Kazakhstan. Once a vibrant junction on the ancient Silk Road, Horgos endured a long descent into obscurity as the trade routes that were its lifeblood dried up, leaving it marooned from the rest of the world by sheer distance, mountains, and deserts. Now, it is precisely this frontier position that has brought Horgos and many of Xinjiang’s other cities to the forefront of China’s national policy, and the influx of development and urbanization which has followed has severely affected the region’s local people and traditional cultures.

Horgos was formally named a municipality on June 29, 2014. With this elevation of status came $3.25 billion in investment from the central government and a hundredfold increase in land area. The reason for this newfound relevance was clear: Horgos was to become the main land port of China’s Belt and Road initiative, a $140 billion network of trade corridors, ports, pipelines, and logistics zones stretching from East Asia to Europe that is otherwise known as the New Silk Road.

As the benefits of shipping overland between Asia and Europe become more evident, trade relations with the countries of Central Asia continue to grow, and industry continues moving inland, the importance of China’s western frontiers has increased proportionally. The vision is to develop some of the cities in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost region, into an economic counterweight to balance out the booming cities of the country’s east coast. If Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen became hubs of global commerce due to the international access their sea ports provided, then why shouldn’t the land ports on the western borderlands experience a similar prosperity? With $16.3 billion in investment from the central government, Xinjiang cities like Horgos, Kashgar, and Alataw are being built up to be major economic and logistics hubs — ports for trains and trucks instead of ships.

The Army that we must watch out for

The Army that we must watch out for
Thursday, 17 December 2015 | Claude Arpi |
President Xi Jinping is faced with a daunting task to reform his Army. While he will have to face hurdles, India must get ready as Chinese defence forces will become fitter and better prepared for any eventuality

Chairman Xi, as the Chinese President is known in the defence circles in China (he chairs the all-powerful Central Military Commission), will face his most serious challenge in the weeks to come as he has undertaken to ‘reform’ the People’s Liberation Army.
On November 7, The People’s Daily carried a commentary calling on military authorities to win the ‘battle of military reforms’. It clearly means that the battle is not won. The Communist Party’s mouthpiece reiterated the party’s absolute leadership over the military and asked the Armed Forces “to remain consistent with the Central authorities’ decisions.”

One reform is to cut the troops by 300,000 by 2020. The People’s Daily warned: “Senior leading departments and officials should play a guiding role in the process. They must back the Central authorities’ decisions and oppose political liberalism. They must not act on their own, gossip or make irresponsible remarks.”
Under the new rules, ‘PLA Inc’ will stop its song and dance troupes, hospitals and other profit-making activities. Will this help solving the problem of deep corruption within the Chinese defence forces, is another question. It is indeed a fact that the PLA, which once upon the time was a Peasants’ Army, has become corrupt, very corrupt and incompetent.

The South China Morning Post commented: “For decades, the PLA has profited from accepting civilian patients at military hospitals, leasing military warehouses to commercial firms, hiring PLA song and dance troupes for public events, outsourcing military construction companies, and opening military academies and institutions to public students.”
The Hong Kong daily cites the case of senior Naval officers sending warships abroad to smuggle home appliances and cars. This will change now.

China’s Arctic Strategy: The Geopolitics of Energy Security

By Mercy A. Kuo and Angelica O. Tang
December 16, 2015
The Rebalance authors Mercy Kuo and Angie Tang regularly engage subject-matter experts, policy practitioners and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into the U.S. rebalance to Asia. This conversation with Dr. Øystein Tunsjø – Associate Professor at the Center for Asia Security Studies, Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies, and author and editor of multiple publications on East Asian security, China’s energy security policy, geopolitics, risk and hedging management, including Security and Profit in China’s Energy Policy: Hedging Against Risk, Twenty-First Century Seapower: Conflict and Cooperation at Sea and US-China-EU Relations: Managing a New World Order – is the 24th in “The Rebalance Insight Series.”

How is China positioning itself in the Arctic?
China has not published any official Arctic strategy, policy or white paper, which suggest that the region has not been a priority and presently not high enough on the political agenda in Beijing. Nonetheless, statements by Chinese officials and China’s membership as a permanent observer in the Arctic Council have clarified China’s position on Arctic affairs and acknowledged China’s interests in the region. China’s growing activism in the Arctic is primarily shaped by scientific and climate considerations, commercial interest in the petroleum, shipping and mineral sector, as well as diplomatic and legal concerns. China’s willingness to become an Arctic Council observer supports the view that China does not challenge the sovereignty of the littoral states in the Arctic Ocean and remains committed to respecting the rule of law, including UNCLOS. China is positioning itself, and gaining a “foot in the door,” in order to access and extract resources and take advantage of strategic, economic, military, and scientific opportunities in the Arctic region in the years ahead.

How does China’s Arctic strategy fit into its Maritime Silk Road initiative?
China’s objectives in the Arctic could complement the One Belt, One Road Strategy (OBOR). Geographically, the Indian Ocean and the Arctic Ocean are the southern and northern flanks of the Eurasian landmass. Investments in shipping and infrastructure along the Northern Sea Route and the Maritime Silk Road can enhance China’s Silk Road Economic Belt strategy. In addition, China remains a huge littoral state. Consequently, China can add three oceanic frontiers to Mackinder’s “heartland” in Eurasia and overcome some of the challenges in controlling the heartland envisioned in the past. This could provide China with a favorable geopolitical position and an opportunity to “command the world islands” – Asia, Europe and Africa – in the twenty first century. However, it remains to be seen if China can successfully implement the OBOR strategy and whether Chinese investments in the Arctic region can complement this strategy.

China Continues Its Strategic Nuclear Modernization Programs

Richard D Fisher Jr, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, December 15, 2015

China has advanced its nuclear deterrent capabilities by sending a Type 094 (‘Jin’-class) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) out on its first deterrent patrol and by conducting a fifth reported test of its mobile, solid-fuel, multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV)-capable DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), according to US officials.
Although China’s first second-generation Type 094 was launched in 2004, according to IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships , US officials have not acknowledged that its premier deterrent patrol had occurred until this month.

“Given China’s known capabilities and their efforts to develop a sea-based deterrent, in absence of indicators to the contrary it is prudent to assume that patrols are occurring,” said US Strategic Command spokesperson US Navy captain Pamela Kunzein in a statement to The Washington Times published on 10 December.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN’s) preparations for deterrent patrols, however, have been lengthy. The Pentagon’s 2014 annual report to the US Congress on China’s Military Power had stated: “China is likely to conduct its first nuclear deterrence patrols with the JIN-class SSBN in 2014.” Since at least 2008 Chinese internet imagery has shown the Type 094 based at the new large PLAN base at Yalong Bay on Hainan Island.

Recent satellite images have shown three Type 094s at Yalong Bay. The Pentagon’s China report said in its 2015 edition that four Jin-class SSBNs are currently operational and for several years has stated up to five may be built. However, in Congressional testimony on 15 April the previous US Pacific Command commander, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said China might build up to eight Type 094s.
The Type 094 SSBN is armed with 12 7,000-8,000 km range JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles armed with single nuclear warheads.
China’s land-based nuclear forces also advanced with a 4 December test of the road-mobile DF-41 ICBM employing two warheads, according to US sources reported on 11 December in the Washington Free Beacon .

Analysts: Saudi Arabia's Clerics Inspire Islamic Extremism

by Voice of America
SWJ Blog Post | December 16, 2015 - 1
Sharon Behn, Voice of America

A new Saudi Arabian-led Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism could be part of the solution in Syria, but analysts say Riyadh will have to first overcome its ambivalence toward Islamic extremism.
Marri Janeka, assistant director of the Middle East Peace and Strategy Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said Riyadh could be the key to organizing the Syrian opposition and helping end the war in Syria.

"To be sure, Saudi Arabia is a driver of radicalism, but can also be an important and influential agent of change," Janeka told VOA via email.
But other analysts suspect the new regional grouping is growing out of a number of Riyadh's political desires, not just fighting groups like al-Qaida and IS.

"It is partly the impulsivity and enthusiasm of the new defense minister (Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz), partly PR, partly an attempt to turn money into political power to boost Saudi influence over its regional partners, and also partly to genuinely combat terrorism," said David Weinberg, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Dual Strategy
 Saudi Arabia has been a key ally and provided crucial intelligence to Washington in the battle against al-Qaida, said Bruce Riedel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA currently with Brookings Institution.

ISIS is a revolution

by Scott Atran
Islamist fighters walk through the streets of Al Raqqah. The town is now the capital for the so-called Islamic State.
​​​​​‘Virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue…’
Maximilien Robespierre, On the Principles of Political Morality (1794)

As pundits and politicians stoked the recent shootings in California into an existential threat; as French troops were deployed in Paris; as Belgian police locked down Brussels, and US and Russian planes intensified air attacks in Syria following yet another slaughter perpetrated in the name of the so-called Islamic State, it was easy to lose sight of a central fact. Amid the bullets, bombs and bluster, we are not only failing to stop the spread of radical Islam, but our efforts often appear to contribute to it.
What accounts for the failure of ‘The War on Terror’ and associated efforts to counter the spread of violent extremism? The failure starts with reacting in anger and revenge, engendering more savagery without stopping to grasp the revolutionary character of radical Arab Sunni revivalism. This revival is a dynamic, countercultural movement of world-historic proportions spearheaded by ISIS, (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). In less than two years, it has created a dominion over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and millions of people. And it possesses the largest and most diverse volunteer fighting force since the Second World War.

What the United Nations community regards as senseless acts of horrific violence are to ISIS’s acolytes part of an exalted campaign of purification through sacrificial killing and self-immolation: Know that Paradise lies under the shade of swords, says a hadith, or saying of the Prophet; this one comes from the Sahih al-Bukhari, a collection of the Prophet’s sayings considered second only to the Qu’ran in authenticity and is now a motto of ISIS fighters.
This is the purposeful plan of violence that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-anointed Caliph, outlined in his call for ‘volcanoes of jihad’: to create a globe-spanning jihadi archipelago that will eventually unite to destroy the present world and create a new-old world of universal justice and peace under the Prophet’s banner. A key tactic in this strategy is to inspire sympathisers abroad to violence: do what you can, with whatever you have, wherever you are, whenever possible.

To understand the revolution, my research team has conducted dozens of structured interviews and behavioural experiments with youth in Paris, London and Barcelona, as well as with captured ISIS fighters in Iraq and members of Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria). We also focused on youth from distressed neighbourhoods previously associated with violence or jihadi support – for example, the Paris suburbs of Clichy-sous-Bois and Épinay-sur-Seine, the Moroccan neighbourhoods of Sidi Moumen in Casablanca and Jamaa Mezuak in Tetuán.
While many in the West dismiss radical Islam as simply nihilistic, our work suggests something far more menacing: a profoundly alluring mission to change and save the world.

Saudi bid to lead anti-terror campaign raises questions of intent

Saudi Arabia, which is heading a Muslim anti-terror coalition, has long pursued policies that critics say have spread extremism across the Muslim world.
By Taylor Luck, Correspondent December 17, 2015
Amman, Jordan — Saudi Arabia’s attempt to form an umbrella coalition of Muslim nations to combat terrorism is reviving its decades-old failed aspirations to lead the Muslim world while also risking wider Sunni-Shiite sectarian strife, observers say.

Announcing the new 34-member coalition, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said Tuesday that the alliance would take a “two-track” approach in battling terrorism: militarily and ideologically.
Observers say the second track – the ideological fight at the pulpit – may be the tallest task. Some question whether Saudi Arabia can lead a wider ideological and tactical war against a form of extremism that its own policies have allowed to expand.
Recommended: How much do you know about Saudi Arabia? Take our quiz!
More than 2,500 Saudis have joined the self-described Islamic State (IS), according to analysts, while Tashfeen Malik, the wife of the Muslim couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., two weeks ago, had spent extensive time in Saudi Arabia and may have been radicalized while there.

Under the umbrella of the new coalition, Saudi Arabia is looking for Muslim states to speak in one voice and counter terrorist narratives on a grand scale.
Observers say such measures will likely include gathering influential imams from across the Muslim world to issue joint statements and fatwas condemning groups such as IS; using returning fighters as cautionary tales; and reforming Islamic schools or mosques that may espouse extremist dogma.

“In Saudi Arabia, counter-terrorism has never been just a security operation, it has always been a public awareness campaign where they attempt to discredit terrorist narrative, their ideology,” says Fahad Nazer, former political analyst at the Saudi Embassy in Washington and an analyst at Virginia-based intelligence firm JTG Inc. “Saudi is looking to replicate its efforts in countries which may not otherwise have the means or funds to do so.
Yet can Saudi Arabia truly present an alternative to ISIS ideology? For decades it has wielded control over religious institutions yet failed to curb extremism, while spreading ultra-conservative Wahabi Islam that has given rise to jihadism.

The Coming Anarchy in the Levant

by Ehsan Ahrari, Journal Article | December 16, 2015
Ehsan M. Ahrari

With the passage of each day, the Levant increasingly appears a place where anarchy might be the only order of the day unless a number of anti-ISIS actors come up with some plan to destroy that entity and save the region.
President Barack Obama’s pragmatism and his fetish for not repeating the ‘mistake’ of ousting Muammar Qaddafi brutal regime in Libya has not only guaranteed Russia’s presence in Syria, but also its influential participation in the future stability of Syria and Iraq. An important side-payoff for Putin is negotiating a long-term presence in the post-Assad Syria.

The only country that has decided to take on Putin in his underhandedness maneuvering in the Levant is Turkey. The downing of Russian jet by Turkey might be viewed as an example of that perspective. However, given the Turkish President Recep Erdogan later expressed of regrets over the incident, might also be perceived as Turkey’s attempt to avoid a military conflict with Russia. However, Putin remains angry over the incident and has accused Erdogan of conducting illicit oil trade with ISIS, a charge that Obama has labelled as “just not true.”

Regardless of the varying interpretations of that event, it seems that Erdogan’s moderate Islamism is clashing with Putin’s Pan-Slavic overreach into a Muslim region, which has become a wide open area for political one-upmanship and Machiavellian power games in the wake of America’s decision to preside over the unmaking of its own historical dominance in that region. This struggle for dominance on the part of a number of actors within and without the region is only promising to prolong the staying power of ISIS, which does its brutal work best under chaotic conditions. Such conditions seem to be mounting in the Levant.

Peering into the Past and Future of Urban Warfare in Israel

David Betz, December 17, 2015

I traveled recently to Israel to visit a state-of-the-art military training facility in the southern Negev Desert opened by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) last year. The facility, at the Tze’elim army base, is meant to simulate urban operations of the kind the Israelis have so often faced in their conflicts with Palestinian and Lebanese militants. Though the degree of emphasis the IDF has placed on military operations in urban terrain has waxed and waned, since the mid-1980s at least it has maintained an extensive training infrastructure for this purpose, which from time to time other armies have admired. After the Second Intifada, however — a conflict that was fought almost exclusively in the densely built-up environment of the West Bank and Gaza — the need for even more and better urban warfare training was deemed all the greater.

Known as “Baladia” (Arabic for “city”), the core of this facility is indeed a small city — or large town — of some 600 buildings of a range of types, including five mosques, several cafes, a clinic, a town hall, a casbah, an eight-story apartment building, a cemetery, and a “youth club,” all arranged in Middle Eastern fashion with narrow winding streets, alleys, and passageways running higgledy-piggledy throughout. Some War on the Rocks readers may be familiar with the place as American and other forces train there quite regularly — and it may remind other readers of their deployments to Iraq. (There was a good Vice News video report on it a year ago that is worth watching).

The wider purpose of my visit to this base was for research on a new book I am writing on the resurgence of fortification strategies in contemporary security affairs — Israel, for obvious reasons, being an important case in point. Specifically, though, at Tze’elim I was hoping to answer a few questions:

What happens when Daesh loses momentum on the battlefield?

Angry Staff Officer

The militants of the so-called Islamic State dominated headlines through 2013–2015 with their swift seizure of territory and population centers across Syria and Iraq. Their use of basic tenets of maneuver warfare (mobility, mass, concentration) allowed them to overwhelm state-sponsored militias and military forces from Assad’s Syrian regime and Iraq. Coupled with a strong information operations (IO) campaign and the targeted use of terror to cow local populaces into submission, this maneuver warfare impacted the region in a way not seen since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The IO campaign highlighted these successes and served as a strong recruiting tool for Daesh, which drew (and continues to draw) recruits from all over the world. Bolstered by dramatic videos of flag-waving militants travelling unmolested in convoys through swathes of the Middle East, Daesh was able to capitalize on their initial momentum with surges in manpower and captured equipment. Their seizure of the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Fallujah in 2014 highlighted their ability to wage protracted warfare along an extensive front. However, as in the case of all offensive warfare, there comes a point when a force reaches its operational limits. Clausewitz called this, “the diminishing force of the attack.”

As delineated in On War, Clausewitz outlines the dangers inherent in a prolonged offensive movement: lengthening lines of communication and supply, increased losses, sieges, relaxation of effort, and defection of allies. As Daesh has seized and occupied territory, its lines of supply have lengthened and they require more manpower to hold strategic points. When only opposed by local militias and the Iraqi Army, Daesh were able to establish strong points, static defensive positions, and consolidated supply dumps with relative impunity. The entrance of the U.S. air campaign has served to disrupt these lines of supply and destroy static positions. While this campaign does not have the force to completely stop or drive back Daesh incursions, it has effectively slowed Daesh operations long enough for static fronts to develop; such as around Mosul, where Kurdish Peshmerga fighters face off Daesh militants in elaborate trench networks.

The Islamic State Is Going Down

Posted by Ronald Tiersky on December 14, 2015

This is no time to panic. Above all, it's a mistake to lash out in the heat of tragic circumstances that do not justify out-of-proportion reactions.
It's understandable that the San Bernadino terrorist attack has mesmerized many Americans, terrorized by Islamic State's capacity to inspire or to command mass killings and bombings. It's all too easy for people to be swept up in the fear that the Islamic State group is unstoppable; to believe that ISIS is "making war on the world," as one typically over-dramatic CNN headline put it a week ago.

But a more sober and realistic view - one that imagines how the events of the now might look to future historians - provides a different picture. First of all, look at the Islamic State's position in Syria and Iraq - the so-called caliphate as it exists today. It's hardly conceivable that this fighting force - comprising a couple of tens of thousands of fighters, or maybe somewhat more - can win its war against the array of internal and outside military powers that are now bent on destroying it. This is all the more so after the successful attacks in Paris, San Bernadino, and elsewhere: The result of the Islamic State's terrorism abroad will be to increase the determination of its enemies to go after the group. All the conflicting interests and strategies of the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Kurds, the Assad regime, and others will tend to diminish in light of what is now the overriding purpose: the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq must be eradicated. No outside government will now be willing to accept a tacit armistice with Islamic State.No one is afraid the group could possibly win in Syria and Iraq, but ISIS's very existence increases the terrorism threat across the globe, including those governments for which it is still for now a second priority. For governments from Washington to Moscow, and from Paris to Istanbul, allowing the Islamic State to survive has become an unacceptable risk.

The most likely next stage - I understand this is a controversial forecast - will be that Islamic State in Syria and Iraq will be dismantled by military defeats and ousted from the Middle East. In effect, the Islamic State as a coherent structure will be shoved off the Eurasian continent entirely. Its leadership is already preparing for this by setting up new headquarters in Libya in the city of Sirte (Moammar Gadhafi's hometown). A move to North Africa will not constitute some dramatic expansion of the Islamic State's governance - the addition of a Mediterranean beachhead to bolster its governance in Syria and Iraq. It will be the result of a strategic defeat for ISIS.

Climate Change is a National Security Issue — But Not for the Reasons You Think

Neil Berg and Nick Burger, December 16, 2015
The connection between climate change, conflict, and U.S. national security is receiving increasing attention from political analysts, government agencies, and even the White House. At COP21, President Obama called climate change an economic and security challenge. Recent research has emphasized the link between climate and violence. Although some commentators argue that climate change will have—or is already having—major direct effects on U.S. security interests, much of the debate has argued in favor of a more nuanced interpretation given the complex set of drivers that relate climate change to military assets and social conflict.
Climate change can affect conflict around the world in uncertain and complex ways, although we can’t establish the magnitude of a causal relationship with confidence. In addition, there are unresolved hypotheses about indirect climate-security linkages, such as destabilization. Consequently, it is difficult to effectively and appropriately factor climate change into U.S. policy decisions about how to manage conflict. We can nonetheless make confident statements about the ways in which climate change might and might not suggest changes in current US security policy, since there are a number of more direct ways in which climate change is likely to affect national security in the near-term.

We need to identify the areas—both internationally and domestically—where we understand the likely climate impacts on national security and where those impacts might require us to make a significant change in current practices. This will help us prioritize resources to combat climate change and decide how much to plan and budget for climate change induced impacts.

Gen. Dunford: U.S. commands, war plans outdated

By Rowan Scarborough - The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2015

The nation's top military officer said on Monday that the Pentagon will revamp combat commands for the "fight of the future" because current "old plans" take too long to execute.
After two months as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford provided the first detailed look at his agenda as the chief military adviser to the president.

At the "top of my inbox," he said, is reorganizing combat commands such as in the Pacific, which is a check on China, and the Middle East, which is leading the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The reason: He said a war with North Korea, for example, would not be confined to the Korean Peninsula because weapons such as ballistic missiles and cyberattacks would propel the fighting into other nations.

"Our current planning, our organization construct, and our command and control is not really optimized for that fight," he told a defense conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security, which is led by Michele Flournoy, a possible secretary of defense in a Hillary Clinton administration.
Gen. Dunford elaborated: "If you believe what I believe and you do look at the nature of the fight today even against violent extremism and then look at the nature of what the fight might be against peer competitors in the future, I don't think we'll be able to be as responsive. I don't think we will generate the tempo. I don't think we'll be able to frame decisions and act in a timely manner as much as we should unless we make some fundamental changes to our organizational construct — the way we plan, the way we develop strategy."

Geopolitics at the World's Pivot: Exploring Central Asia's Security Challenges

This paper discusses Central Asia’s geopolitical significance and security challenges. In the case of each security issue – such as trans-border water management; terrorism and narco-trafficking; migration, human trafficking, border management; and nuclear surety – the paper’s author 1) briefly reviews the issue; 2) explains why or how it developed over time; and 3) looks at its significance within a broader regional framework. She then focuses on Canada’s role in Central Asia, including its trade and investment interests in the area, and how Ottawa might become more engaged in the area, particularly in the security sphere.

© 2015 Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution — Non-commercial — No Derivatives License.

English (PDF · 24 pages · 1.0 MB)

Author: Jacqueline Lopour
Editor:  Carol Bonnett

Office of Naval Intelligence Releases Report on Evolution of the Russian Navy

Office of Naval Intelligence Releases Report on Evolution of the Russian Navy

December 16, 2015The U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) has just released a 68-page unclassified report on the evolution of the Russian Navy from czarist times to the present. Interesting and worth a read. The report can be accessed here

The Medical Response To Armed Assaults

17 December 2015
from STRATFOR ,  -- this post authored by Scott Stewart

I discussed in the Dec. 3 Security Weekly how law enforcement agencies are changing their tactics to deal with armed assaults and how citizens can take steps to protect themselves in the event they encounter such a situation. But another critical component of the response to armed assaults lies in how to mitigate such attacks, an area to which the medical response is key. This includes the training given to law enforcement personnel, changes in the deployment of emergency medical service professionals and emergency room procedures. An additional lifesaving component comes in the form of new medical technologies made available to first responders and trauma centers.

Law Enforcement
Battlefield medicine has advanced a great deal over the past several decades, advances well illustrated during the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Battlefield medical kits carried by combat medics and other soldiers have changed dramatically since 9/11. For example, when I was a young soldier attending U.S. Army basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, in 1983, the only first-aid kit issued to individual troops was a pressure dressing (though we were also taught some battlefield expedient procedures, such as using the cellophane wrapper from a cigarette pack with the pressure dressing to help seal a sucking chest wound).

By contrast, today's soldiers carry an Improved Field Aid Kit (airmen and Marines carry something similar) that contains elastic emergency trauma bandages (a replacement for the old-fashioned pressure bandages), tourniquets, hemostatic combat gauze (gauze treated with a clotting agent such as QuickClot to stop bleeding) and an airway tube. These kits permit soldiers to administer first aid to themselves and others.

The same tools that have saved countless lives in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are also now being issued to police officers inside the United States. Many officers carry these trauma medical kits in their squad cars along with smaller medical kits attached to their heavy raid vests. Police officers are taught how to use these tools to perform first aid on themselves and to administer aid to fellow officers and civilian victims. However, it is important to remember that in an active shooter situation, the primary focus of law enforcement efforts is to immediately engage the shooter to neutralize the threat and prevent further harm to victims. For police officers, first aid is only a secondary concern until the shooter is neutralized. Even so, the presence of first-aid kits with tourniquets and clotting agents at the scene of a shooting can mean the difference between life and death for a shooting victim who is bleeding out.
Emergency Medical Service

Defending Our Satellites

17 December 2015
US space personnel are traditionally trained to conduct flight operations and cope with satellite malfunctions. This has to change, says Lincoln Bonner. Given the contested environment that space has become, familiarity with electronic warfare is now also necessary.

By Lt. Col. E. Lincoln Bonner for The Air University
This article was originally published in the Air & Space Power Journal (Volume 29, Issue 6; November-December 2015) by the Air University.

The US military enjoys tremendous advantages over any potential adversary because of its exploitation of space capabilities. It is of paramount importance that Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) position its Airmen to defend and protect America’s space advantage in the contested space environment of the present and future. AFSPC can best develop space Airmen to win tomorrow’s fight in this contested environment by significantly improving and expanding education and training in the use of electronic warfare to defend US satellites and improve their survivability.

The following discussion first describes why improving space system survivability is critical to US war fighting. It then explores and compares the role of electronic warfare in aircraft survivability to the space domain to demonstrate how prowess in electronic warfare is essential for successful defensive space control. The article next describes the current state of electronic warfare education and training for space operators. Finally, it explores suggestions for improving space leaders’ readiness to win in electronic warfare in order to defend America’s space advantage.

Space System Survivability and US War Fighting
The US military gains a disproportionate advantage over potential adversaries by exploiting space capabilities. Satellites provide an advantage similar to that of reconnaissance aircraft in World War I—(1) warning of enemy attack to help ensure that these attacks fail and (2) the enabling of precision strikes.[1] Additionally, satellites provide over-the-horizon communication at a combination of speed, volume, and mobility that terrestrial communications cannot match.

Commentary: Needed: A Revolution in US Military Education


By James Stavridis and Harlan Ullman  December 15, 2015

As US national security issues become more complicated, interrelated and less amenable to easy or simple solution, and as resources will be subjected to greater constraints, the nation can draw on a not-so-secret weapon to prepare our military for this dynamic new world. That weapon is education on which the Department of Defense spends many billions of dollars a year.
But, while these individual institutions generally work well, they are still often oriented around 20th century practices and methods that do not always capture the demands of the 21st century. A revolution can change that.

From non-commissioned officer and service academies, through command and staff and other technical institutions to senior war colleges, the Department of Defense is the largest bill payer in the world for education (let alone training). Despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the best and most advanced weapons and combat systems in world, the advice of Robert Jones, arguably the greatest golfer ever to swing a club, applies.
In golf, it is the 6 inches between the ears where the game is played. And it is this space that must be the strategic center of gravity for preparing service personnel to defend the nation.

This is where the revolution must begin, in the minds of our greatest resource: our people.
Several years ago, at the direction of Gordon England, twice secretary of the Navy and once deputy secretary of defense, a major study of naval education was conducted. That study could be the model for a broader evaluation of DoD education. Three areas for improvement became strikingly apparent.

• Virtually none of the naval institutions were integrated or even closely linked with each other, or worse, within the “joint” world. That meant that any synergies from transfers of knowledge and leverage from joint research and academic curricula were being wasted. Despite the need for service “jointness,” this absence of educational interconnectivity is even more pronounced across the services.

• Education is still based on a 20th century vertical structure based on time in service and experience. Graduate school, command and staff, and then senior war college assignment depended on seniority and not need. Hence, while a relatively junior officer serving in a joint assignment in the Middle East or Arabian Gulf where the more advanced education of a war college might be important, he or she would have to wait to become more senior before attending.

• Much of that education was based on 20th century models and not fully aligned with the information and social media revolutions of the 21st. While textbooks are important, it is the Internet that has become as or more dominant in education and learning. In today’s world, separating useful information and knowledge from the nearly infinite amount of often-useless material that exists on the Internet must be central to teaching and learning no matter the subject matter.

How Law Enforcement Can Use Google Timeline To Track Your Every Move

Jana Winter
THE RECENT EXPANSION of Google’s Timeline feature can provide investigators unprecedented access to users’ location history data, allowing them in many cases to track a person’s every move over the course of years, according to a report recently circulated to law enforcement.

“The personal privacy implications are pretty clear but so are the law enforcement applications,” according to the document, titled “Google Timelines: Location Investigations Involving Android Devices,” which outlines the kind of information investigators can now obtain.
The Timeline allows users to look back at their daily movements on a map; that same information is also potentially of interest to law enforcement. “It is now possible to submit a legal demand to Google for location history greater than six months old,” the report says. “This could revitalize cold cases and potentially help solve active investigations.”

The report was written by a law enforcement trainer, Aaron Edens, and provides detailed guidance on the wealth of historic location information available through Google Timeline and how to request it. A copy of of the document was obtained by The Intercept.
The expansion of Google’s Timeline feature, launched in July 2015, allows investigators to request detailed information about where someone has been — down to the longitude and latitude — over the course of years. Previously, law enforcement could only yield recent location information.