27 December 2015

Afghanistan After America's War

Pakistan and the Taliban are battling for influence after the end of U.S. and NATO combat operations.
Lisa Curtis, December 24, 2015

The dust hasn’t yet settled around the monumental changes that have taken place in Afghanistan over the last two years: the establishment of a National Unity Government, the ending of U.S. and NATO combat operations and the first-ever face-to-face (albeit short-lived) talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
But the most potentially game-changing development in Afghanistan is the fracturing of the Taliban movement following news this summer that Taliban supreme commander Mullah Mohammed Omar died over two years ago.

Navigating the shifting terrain in Afghanistan won’t be easy. The United States will need to continue working closely with the Afghan government, even as it deals cautiously with Pakistan, which has supported the Taliban since its creation twenty-five years ago. But if Washington plays it smart, there is a chance that the Afghan regime, with support from U.S. and NATO partners, can shape the new environment in a way that brings long-term peace and stability to the war-ravaged country.
If, on the other hand, the United States pushes the Afghan government to make concessions to Pakistan while Taliban attacks continue unabated, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s hand will weaken and the country will further destabilize.

Skepticism over Pakistan’s Role
The Heart of Asia ministerial meeting, held in Islamabad earlier this month, was designed to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. The display of diplomatic bonhomie between Pakistani and Afghan leaders raised hopes that Pakistan will facilitate a resumption of Afghan-Taliban peace talks. Dialogue between the insurgents and Afghan authorities—launched in Murree, Pakistan last July—broke down a few weeks later, following revelations that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died two years prior.

But Pakistan’s diplomatic outreach and pledges to get the peace talks going again are incongruous with what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan. The Taliban have intensified their attacks in recent months, and according to arecently released report by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, the insurgents are making unprecedented territorial gains throughout the country and even threatening key provincial capitals.

Rajan’s crackdown on $59 billion bad loans means M&A surge in India

Lenders have already started converting debt owed by 10 firms into equity since Raghuram Rajan introduced the strategic debt recovery mechanism in June and they have 18 months to find suitors and sign sale deeds. Photo: PTI

Mumbai: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan’s war on bad loans is set to spur a slew of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) after he allowed lenders to take control of defaulting companies and sell those assets to recover dues.
The volume of deals in India will jump from a five-year high as banks, racing to meet a 2017 deadline to tidy up books, seek to dispose of their holdings in distressed companies, M&A advisers say. Lenders have already started converting debt owed by 10 firms into equity since Rajan introduced the strategic debt recovery (SDR) mechanism in June and they have 18 months to find suitors and sign sale deeds.

“We are seeing interest from both domestic and international firms in picking up some of these assets,” Ajay Saraf, executive director at ICICI Securities Ltd, the second largest M&A adviser for India last year, said in a telephone interview on 14 December. “Banks attempting to recover stressed loans will add significant numbers to mergers and acquisitions.”

India wants 24x7 online war room to tackle cyber threat from ISIS

With ISIS trying to lure young Indian Muslim men into its fold by spreading propaganda material in Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati and Urdu on cyber space, the Indian government is all set to create a war room to monitor social media. The plan is to set up a 24/7 monitoring centre.
Abhishek Bhalla , New Delhi, December 24, 2015 |

With ISIS trying to lure young Indian Muslim men into its fold by spreading propaganda material in Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati and Urdu on cyber space, the Indian government is all set to create a war room to monitor social media. The plan is to set up a 24/7 monitoring centre.
Intelligence inputs indicate that the increasing use of Indian languages to spread the message of ISIS is an alarming trend that suggests that the terror outfit sees potential recruits from across the country. Other than English and Hindi, several regional languages are also being used to put out pro-ISIS material. In the past, Bangla has also been used to spread ISIS' hate propaganda targeting vulnerable youths in Bangladesh and India.

To combat the threat in cyber space the government set up a committee on December 15, 2015 to examine the feasibility of setting up a multi-agency 24x7 social media analysis centre and to prepare a blue print for the creation of a 'Situation Room' to analyse social media.
The committee is headed by Ashok Prasad, Secretary of Internal Security in the Home Ministry and has members from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Information Technology and central intelligence agencies, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, stated in a written reply to a parliament question on Wednesday.
Mail Today had first reported in August that the government was planning an inter-ministerial body dedicated to the scrutiny of social media.

Indian youths who have already joined ISIS, or aspire to, are all attracted to the jihadi group's ideology that was put up on the internet. "ISIS handlers get in touch with potential recruits on social media. The vulnerable ones get radicalised after interacting with ISIS members, handlers online and then they are given further instructions on how to join the outfit," said an intelligence official.
According to intelligence reports, till now 23 Indians who joined ISIS have been accounted for and several others were intercepted before they could leave the country to join the group in Syria. While six are reportedly dead and two have returned, 15 Indians are still part of ISIS. Many of them are also in touch with Indian handlers who are recruiting for ISIS. "Some of these handlers were active within the country and some are in the Gulf," said an intelligence official.

Recent intelligence inputs have indicated that the Indians who are still in the ISIS war zone want to return home fearing for their lives. The terror threat on social media is not restricted to ISIS but also cover the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The arrest of Mehdi Masroor Biswas, the Bengaluru-based executive, for allegedly putting out material favouring ISIS last year, had alerted intelligence agencies about the mounting threat on cyber space. Social domains have gradually become the new recruiting grounds for terror groups. Since then several youths, who were recruited online and wanted to join ISIS, have been intercepted.

Fading magic - Why can't the Congress dump the Nehru-Gandhis?

Politics and Play: Ramachandra Guha

In May 2014, general elections were held in India as they were held in the United Kingdom in May 2015, the country whose electoral system we adopted as our own. In the UK, the Labour Party got 232 seats, 24 seats less than it had obtained in 2010. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, resigned at once, owning responsibility for the defeat.

Meanwhile, in India, the Congress got 44 seats, more than 150 fewer than it had obtained in the previous elections. However, the main Congress leaders - the president, Sonia Gandhi, and the vice-president, Rahul Gandhi (who was the public face of the campaign) - stayed in their posts. They would not accept responsibility for their incompetent (not to say disastrous) leadership.

It is now a year-and-a-half since our last general elections. In that time, the Gandhis have further consolidated their hold over the country's oldest political party. This was manifest last Saturday, December 19, the day the Gandhis had to appear in court in connection with the National Herald case. It was a private case, filed by a private complainant, and yet a large phalanx of senior Congress leaders, including former Union ministers and chief ministers, had turned up to march with the accused to the court. Was this a show of solidarity and support, or merely of sycophancy? Most likely the latter. Congressmen (and Congresswomen) jostled to get closer to their leaders, seeking proximity to Sonia Gandhi, or else to Rahul Gandhi, or - if the frame around these two was already too crowded - at least to Priyanka Gandhi.

Upside down state We seem happy to hollow out the public sector where we shouldn’t and regulate the private in harmful ways.

Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Published:Dec 25, 2015, 0:51
Much of the energy of the debate has shifted from a concern about the role of the public and private to a concern about proper regulation of the private.

The debate about reforms pivoted on one central axis. What should be the role of the public and private sectors in development? This debate is not as simple as ideological purists think. And the mere rolling back of the licence-permit raj in areas of industrial production was only a small part of this debate. Admittedly, much of the energy of the debate has shifted from a concern about the role of the public and private to a concern about proper regulation of the private. This is all for the good. But you get the sense that thinking about the role of the public and private has become extremely ad hoc.

Just take one example, in the apparent ideological moorings of this government. It should be obvious to most that this government, contrary to the myth supporters had created, does not believe in disinvestment of state-owned companies. It has no intent of meeting even the disinvestment targets it had set itself for fiscal reasons. Quite the contrary, it seems to believe that with the right bureaucratic intervention, public-sector companies can be turned around. Certainly, some companies can. But it would take a peculiar obtuseness to argue that in some areas, disinvestment cannot be a good thing. The opportunity cost in terms of finances and human capital of the state running things that are unnecessary for it to run are still huge. Yet there remains an immense 1970s-style commitment to the public sector in areas of production.

An ode to the odious little Nasr

Dec 25 2015 , Sunil Sharan

Pakistan has developed low-yield nuclear bombs on short-range rockets to make the Nasr. Pakistan claims that this free proliferation of nuclear weapons at the brigade level was undertaken to counter India’s Cold Start military doctrine. 
Aah, you little beauty, you little Nasr, you have finally brought two major powers to their knees, and that too without firing a single shot. Illustration: Sandeep Joshi

Out there in the US, there is real consternation that this micro-mini Pakistani tactical nuke will fall into the hands of jihadis who would then use it against the American mainland. Washington has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in securing Pakistan's big, strategic nukes but to the Nasr it has no answers. Why? 
Because the Nasr is a javelin-like structure, deployed in the battlefield against tanks, and under the operational command of a brigadier. Think of how many brigadiers there are in Pakistan's seven hundred thousand-strong army — two hundred, three hundred, five hundred- and that would be the number of tiny Nasrs floating about in the battlefield. 

The Pakistani army is steeped in religion. Its soldiers are indoctrinated as ghazis — warriors of the faith — against the infidel, Hindu India. Its forces have time and again been caught with jihadi tendencies, whether it is the PNS Mehran attack or the arrest of the radicalised Brigadier Ali Khan. Its leadership has emphasised that its force is free of jihadi strains but the world at large has remained unconvinced.
A dirty bomb, small enough to be smuggled in a suitcase, is America's worst nightmare. Until now it was assumed that that terrorists did not have the wherewithal to put one together. But Pakistan has solved their problem for them. All a jihadi officer has to do is smuggle the little Nasr to a terrorist and there you have it, America's worst nightmare would have come true.

Pakistani Diplomat With Terror Links Recalled from Bangladesh

This is the second such incident this year involving personnel at Pakistan’s high commission in Bangladesh.
By Ankit Panda, December 24, 2015
In a diplomatic controversy, Pakistan has recalled a junior diplomat from its high commission in Dhaka after allegations by Bangladeshi authorities that the diplomat abetted and financed terrorist activities in Bangladesh. Farina Arshad, a relatively junior diplomat the Pakistani mission in Dhaka, left the country two days after the Bangladeshi government issued an informal request to Pakistan requesting her removal.
Arshad’s recall comes after the Pakistani high commission denied the claims against her. “All diplomatic norms and courtesies have been thrown out to the wind by publishing fabricated details of an imaginary ‘sinister plot’ to destabilise the host country,” the Pakistani high commission had said in a statement last week.

The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper, noted that authorities were able to make the request after an arrested Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militant, Idris Sheikh, confessed that Arshad had transported him in her car and provided him with 30,000 taka (roughly $380). The militant had additionally spoken with Arshad “several times,” according to the paper.
This incident is the second of its kind this year. Earlier this year, Mohammad Mazhar Khan, an attaché at the Pakistani high commission, was recalled after Bangladeshi intelligence found evidence of links to terror groups in the country. Khan was not a Pakistani diplomat but part of the high commission’s staff, according to a foreign ministry spokesperson. Bangladeshi media reports noted that Khan routed funds to terror groups including Hizb ut-Tahrir, Ansarullah Bangla Team and the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The Arshad and Khan incidents will prove embarrassing for Pakistan, which is accused of sponsoring terrorist activity in the region—most prominently by India. In Bangladesh, the incident comes at a time of heightened national sensitivities about the legacy of the 1971 war of independence and the continued influence of Islamists in the country’s politics.

The World Economy in 2016: Watch China

Author: Sebastian Mallaby, Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics
December 22, 2015
The U.S. subprime crisis, the successive melodramas of the euro crisis, the excitements and disappointments of Abenomics in Japan: for several years the big shocks to the world economy have emanated from the rich nations. But 2015 was different. Although there was a scare over Greece’s near exit from the eurozone, the bigger commotion came from China, which suffered a sudden collapse in confidence in the summer, triggering jitters across other emerging economies. Even the U.S. Federal Reserve cited China-driven uncertainty when it deferred an interest-rate hike in September.
China's market slide triggered global market concerns in 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Next year, like this year, the chief uncertainty in the world economy will come from China. If the International Monetary Fund world forecast of 3.6 percent growth in 2016, slightly up from the 3.1 percent in 2015, turns out to be misguided, it will not be because some wild card dealt by the rich economies has changed the outcome.

Consider the United States, the least wild of all of the major growth centers. Its economy expanded at a respectable 2.6 percent in 2015 and is forecast to grow by a not hugely different 2.8 percent next year. With inflation still below the Federal Reserve’s target, the central bank will raise interest rates only very cautiously, sparing the economy the risk of an abrupt shock. Debt of all kinds—household, corporate, and government—is stable: no skeletons there. Financial markets, which looked bubbly at the start of 2015, seem relatively sober after a year in which the S&P 500 has abstained from intoxicating advances. Only technology companies appear to be valued on the basis of not-quite-rational exuberance. But many of the hottest tech ventures are owned privately and not particularly indebted. Even if their values suffer a correction, there need not be a wider economic reversal.

Europe and Japan are both growing more slowly. Although they face deep-seated economic problems, these pose no imminent threat. After growing at just under 1 percent in 2014, theeconomies of the eurozone managed growth of 1.5 percent in 2015 and will deliver a similar performance next year. They have been buoyed by low oil prices, low interest rates, and a weak currency that boosts exports; former crisis economies, such as Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, have recovered well. Huge government debts in some euro member economies remain an unsolved problem, and at some point the conundrum of a common currency—interest rates that are necessarily too high or too low for some members—will reassert itself. But, having demonstrated the political will to avoid a Greek exit from the currency union, Europe’s policymakers have earned some credibility. Speculators are unlikely to bet aggressively on the exit of a eurozone member, at least not for the moment.

What if the Kuomingtang Had Won the Chinese Civil War?

By Benjamin David Baker
December 24, 2015
This is the first in a four-part mini-series of articles focused on key counterfactuals in the Asia-Pacific.
History, paraphrased by the British historian Niall Fergusson in Civilization, can be taught in many ways. Lamenting the lack of proper context and structure in British sixth-form school history classes, Ferguson quotes the playwright and actor Alan Bennett: “There is a trilemma in history teaching today. Should history be taught as a mode of contrarian argumentation, a communion with past Truth and Beauty or is it just one … thing after another?”

One often underestimated but immensely popular form is the “What if?” form, or counterfactual history. Often derided as mere fiction, or in the words of the historian and international relations scholar E.H. Carr “mere parlor games,” plausible counterfactual history can in fact be very useful. It can be a tool to enhance the understanding of history and make it come alive. It can reveal, often in stark detail, how the world could, or even should, be. History is the literature of what has happened; counterfactuals can lead to the questioning of long-held assumptions.

A great place to start reading contrafactual history is the Collected What If?, edited by Robert Cowley. It includes over 20 essays written by authors like John Keegan, Stephen E. Ambrose, and Caleb Carr. This is the first of the the Diplomat’s four holiday counterfactual articles which will be presented over the next few weeks.
What if Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomingtang had won the Chinese Civil War?

Hezbollah's Russian Military Education in Syria

Brig. Gen. Muni Katz, IDF and Nadav Pollak
December 24, 2015

Working alongside Russian forces will likely enhance the group's ongoing shift toward a more offensive-minded strategy, with significant implications for the planning and conduct of any future conflicts against Israel.
For the first time in its history, Hezbollah is conducting offensive maneuver warfare as part of its operations in Syria. The Russian intervention is only enhancing that experience, likely giving the group important lessons for future conflicts.

Thus far, Hezbollah has long followed a strategy of defense and attrition in hostilities against its main enemy, Israel -- an approach that many high-ranking officers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) liked to call "not losing." Taking into account Israel's manpower and technological advantages, this strategy focused on prolonging the fighting as much as possible, maintaining home-front attrition by firing rockets on Israeli population centers, and increasing the costs of IDF ground maneuvers in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah displayed this defensive mindset during the 2006 war when it hid rockets and fighters in elaborate networks of underground fortifications and areas of dense vegetation that Israeli officers dubbed "nature reserves." The group believed that as long as it did not crumble, it could claim that it survived a war with the mighty IDF, which according to its narrative was actually a win. The Syria war has changed this defensive paradigm, however.

In Syria, Hezbollah has had to shift its main objectives to taking over territory and maintaining control over it, all while fighting quasi-conventional forces that use guerrilla tactics. Against the IDF, the group was accustomed to fighting in small units on familiar terrain, but now it is deploying hundreds of fighters in complex offensive operations on unfamiliar territory. For Hezbollah's commanders and fighters, such experience can change their views on the most effective way to win a battle, and Russia's involvement means that they are learning such lessons from one of the best militaries in the world.

*Russia Rearms for a New Era


Russia has bolstered its military and asserted itself on the world stage with a forcefulness not seen since the Cold War, ratcheting up tensions with the West. Here is what Russia has been doing to reclaim its influence.
Russia Is Building and
Expanding Bases in the Arctic
Russia is reinvesting in its bases in the Arctic: building new ones, expanding old ones and deploying personnel to operate them. Analysts say Russia’s efforts in the Arctic are driven in part by climate change, as the country seeks to exploit and defend maritime trade routes and oil and natural gas resources in areas made more accessible by melting ice.

Northern military activity since early 2014:
New or updated military bases

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies
Its Military Budget Has Been Growing Steadily

Russia has made big increases to its military budget, including a jump of nearly $11 billion from 2014 to 2015. According to Moscow, it is making up for years of disinvestment after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But sanctions from the Ukrainian conflict, dropping oil prices and other financial problems have weakened the Russian economy, and analysts expect military spending to slow.

“If they don’t like someone, they just behead him”: why ISIS fighters quit

Updated by Zack Beauchamp on December 23, 2015,
ISIS territory, from everything we hear, is an absolutely miserable place to live. This should be a liability for ISIS: if it's really so terrible to be live under its rule, you'd think that a number of their fighters would want to leave.
There haven't been waves of mass defections from ISIS — partly because, according to some reports, ISIS commanders shoot people who try to leave. But a few people have left the group. Scholars Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla found some of them and got them to agree to interviews, excerpts of which they have published in the newest issue of the journal Perspectives on Terrorism.
The defectors' stories are harrowing. They're also a valuable window into how life in ISIS works — and some of the group's real weaknesses.
Why the defectors quit: life in ISIS territory is awful

Speckhard and Yayla found these defectors, all of them originally from Syria, on the Turkish-Syrian border. To a man, they had horrific stories to tell. Take, for instance, this account from one of the defectors (names were withheld or replaced with pseudonyms) about how ISIS executed prisoners where he was stationed:
There is a well by the name of Hute. There they cover the eyes of the prisoners and tell them, ‘You are free now, just walk now, but don’t open your eyes.’ They walk and fall into the well. It smells horrible because of all the corpses inside the well. I know that over three hundred people were thrown into that well.

According to Speckhard and Yayla's sources, such cruelty is central to ISIS's strategy. The group uses fear of atrocity to keep the population in line, and to intimidate other armed groups. One fighter recalls how ISIS used child suicide bombers to drive the Free Syrian Army (Jaysh al-Hur in Arabic) out of the city of Raqqa roughly two years ago (note:Daesh is another name for ISIS):
When Daesh came to Raqqa, Jaysh al-Hur was in power, but Daesh took over for many reasons. First, Daesh sent small groups to establish themselves inside the city. Secondly, they sent suicide bombers of young boys, especially to the gates where Jaysh al-Hur had guards. This was very effective, as everyone feared the suicide bombers and it was very difficult to distinguish if an approaching child was a suicide bomber or not. Being unwilling to shoot a possibly innocent child, the sentries would run away and Daesh could enter.

Only Saudi Arabia can defeat Isis Nawaf Obaid

I have often heard claims that my country created Isis. On the contrary – we are leading the fight against it
Tuesday 22 December 2015 10.32
As the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino show, Islamic State has achieved a global reach. No longer satisfied with terrorising large swaths of the Middle East, it is inspiring, recruiting, training and supplying terrorists to carry out murderous acts around the world.
US, Britain and others welcome announcement of 34-member coalition to fight terrorism, but some observers question Saudi motives

Given this new international agenda, analysts are struggling to assess the source of the group in an attempt to improve their understanding of how to stop it. In terms of its source, most point to Saudi Arabia; in terms of stopping it, most point to the United States. However, a closer look at Isis reveals that it is engaged in an entrenched theological war with the Saudi religious establishment to determine who justifiably espouses the purest tenets of Sunni Islam. As the custodian of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina and the host of the world’s Muslims for the pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia leads one and a half billion Muslims in fighting Isis. The kingdom’s leadership of the recently announced Muslim coalition to fight terrorism in all its forms confirms that Saudi Arabia is not only not the source of Isis but it is the terrorist group’s central opponent and the only nation that can fully and legitimately defeat it once and for all. More than 34 countries have joined the coalition.

Three factors clarify Saudi Arabia’s intrinsic and total war on Isis. First, many people claim that Saudi Arabia is the source of Isis because both practise a version of Islam called Salafism (erroneously known in the west as Wahhabism). Salafism is rooted in the word salaf, or “forefathers”, and refers to the way the prophet Muhammad’s followers in the religion’s first three generations practised Islam. And while it is true that the kingdom espouses Salafism, Isis’s claim that it is Salafi has no theological basis, because the group is in fact a continuation of a crude sect known as the Kharijites, or the ones who “defected” from the Muslim community (ummah) during the reign of the fourth caliph Ali (whom the Kharijites assassinated). The Kharijites, like Isis, believe that whoever disagreed with them should be murdered as infidels (takfir), rationalised mass killings against civilians including women and children (isti’rad), and practised an extreme form of inquisition to test their opponents’ faith (imtihan).

Challenge of Jihadi Cool


ISIS’s countercultural appeal is real. And it must be taken seriously.
Simon Cottee, Dec 24, 2015

If you want to get a sense of what attracts westernized Muslims to ISIS, you could do worse than listen to one of its sympathizers, as opposed to its legion of opponents, who are liable to pathologize the group’s appeal as an ideological contagion that infects the weak, instead of taking it seriously as a revolutionary movement that speaks to the young and the strong-minded.

Check out, as just one of many examples, the Twitter user “Bint Emergent”: an apparent ISIS fangirl and keen observer of the jihadist scene. (Bint Emergent has not disclosed her identity, or gender, but bint is an honorific Arabic word for girl or daughter; like umm—mother in Arabic—bint features prominently in the Twitter display names of female ISIS sympathizers.)
Why It’s So Hard to Stop ISIS Propaganda

“Jihadis,” she explains on her blog BintChaos, “look cool—like ninjas or video game warriors—gangstah and thuggish even—the opposition doesnt.” She concedes that “There aren’t a lot of jihadist ‘poster-girls’ displayed—they all wear niqab [face veil], but sometimes its tastefully accessorized with an AK47 or a bomb belt.” By contrast, “Team CVE [a reference to Countering Violent Extremism, or Anglo-American counterterrorism entrepreneurs whose role, state- or self-appointed, is to challenge “extremist” narratives],” consists “mostly [of] middleaged white guys with a smidgin of scared straight ex-mujahids [ex-jihadists] and a couple middleaged women.”

“Jihadis have cool weapons. And cool nasheeds [a cappella hymns],” she continues. They also have “young fiery imams that fight on the battlefield,” whereas Team CVE “has ancient creaky dollar scholars…” Most importantly:

[S]alafi-jihadism made being pious cool. It became cool to quote aya [verse] and study Quran. And CVE has absolutely no defense against this. … I love jihadi cant—dem, bait, preeing, binty, akhi [brother]… its like Belter dialect in the Expanse. And it borrows from all languages—because jihad draws from all races and ethnicities. The voice of youth counterculture and revolution for an underclass. Like ghetto culture in the US—the inexorable evolution of cool.

Romancing the jihad Islamism’s attraction for Western, particularly American, policymakers spawned the tyrannies that now ravage West and Central Asia

Written by Praveen Swami, Published:Dec 25, 2015

In 1953, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser sat with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, attempting to hammer out a compromise with the powerful Islamist group. Hassan al-Hudaybi made just one stipulation for peace, Nasser told a gathering of party workers eight years later: “to make wearing a hijab mandatory in Egypt, and demand that every woman walking in the street wear a tarha [headscarf]”.
“They will say that we have returned to the days of al-Hakim bi-Amr-Allah, who forbade women from walking outside during the day,” Nasser recalled he had replied. “I told him, ‘Sir, you have a daughter in the Cairo School of Medicine, and she’s not wearing a tarha. If you are unable to make one girl, who is your daughter, wear the tarha, how can you tell me to put a tarha on 10 million women?’”

The crowd laughed. “Tell him to wear a tarha,” someone shouted.
Five decades after Nasser’s speech, the West is struggling to reach accommodation with the religious rightwing unleashed by the long war against secularism that deposed the Egyptian revolutionary leader.

In Syria, the United States and its allies are backing so-called “moderate” groups like Ahrar al-Sham — a sometime ally of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front, which is also battling the Islamic State around Aleppo. They also remain committed to pushing forward talks with the Taliban to give them a share in power, despite the jihadist group’s savage war on its own people.

Playing a Give-Away Game? The Undeclared Russian-Ukrainian War in Donbas.

by Tatyana Malyarenko
Journal Article | December 23, 2015
This article is based on my field research in Donbas in spring-summer 2014 and summer 2015, including embedded observation and in-depth qualitative semi-structured interviews with the key leaders of pro-Russian rebels, Ukrainian and Russian military officers and experts (subjects are: tactics of low intensity operation, including the military occupation, technologies of destabilisation, individual and group motivation, scenarios of future conflict escalation/de-escalation). Leaving aside, for the moment, the reasons for the undeclared war between the Ukraine and Russia, I trace the escalation of conflict in Donbas with particular focus on the contribution of various parties to the escalation of violence. Although most research focuses on the tactics that Russia uses to orchestrate conflict in eastern Ukraine, I argue that domestic factors and rifts in Ukraine contributed as much to the heightening violence as Russia’s destabilizing efforts. My study is based on the following hypotheses:

1. The conflict between Kyiv and Donbas was artificially designed, escalated and exacerbated by the involvement of an external actor, Russia. For all 25 years that Ukraine has been independent, Donbas has not had disputes with Kyiv (neither ethnic nor religious) serious enough to drive it separate from Ukraine. Russia’s attempts to fuel conflict between Donbas and Kyiv were based on a number of wrong assumptions and miscalculations. As a result, Russia did not achieve its goals in Ukraine. Russia’s mistakes turned Donbas into a ‘white elephant,’ an occupied zone that neither Moscow nor Kyiv can get rid of or integrate.

2. The weakness of the state in Ukraine facilitated the creation and deepening of tensions between Donetsk, Luhansk and Kyiv equally or even more than Russia’s intentional tactics. Ukraine missed chances to settle the conflict with Donbas in its early stages and prevent the Russian invasion. Now, both conflict sides play a ‘zero-sum game’ and increasingly escalate tension.

3. Countries with weak state institutions are particularly vulnerable to a combination of tactics: the creation of internal tensions, managed escalation, and covert military operations for the purpose of political regime change implemented by external actors. To become more resilient, Ukraine needs not only to strengthen its military but also to strengthen its institutions and promote political stability.
Chronology of the Conflict Escalation in Donbas
March-April 2014: ‘Local Protests’

At Greece’s Borders, a Test for Europe

Nikos Konstandaras DEC. 23, 2015
ATHENS — The deceptively beautiful waters between Greek islands in the eastern Aegean and the Turkish mainland are the border between Greeks and Turks, a dividing line that has been shifting since Muslim Seljuk Turks pushed westward into the Christian Byzantine Empire a thousand years ago. It’s also the European Union’s external border, where ideals collide with reality.
This is where member states must ask themselves whether they truly trust one another for protection, see the European Union’s borders as their own and can accept closer union. Will they be able to reconcile the need for collective security with reduced national sovereignty, and bear the political cost that is entailed? The answers will determine the union’s future.
Borders are the symbol but also the reality of national sovereignty. The fear of their violation by neighbors, transnational institutions, terrorists or refugees is an existential one. Economic problems may have a more immediate impact on people, but borders are still the greatest taboo — especially when they have been fought over, and troubles with neighbors are still deeply ingrained in the national consciousness.

Now the question of whether national borders are primarily European Union borders becomes a question of identity — for member states and for the union as a whole. Are we French, German, Slovak, Greek and so on, or are we Europeans first?
Compared with the total European Union population of about 500 million, the number of migrants and refugees entering Europe is small — some one million this year. Yet the refugee crisis, a growing fear of terrorism and a surge of nationalism have shaken the union’s foundations, an edifice already damaged by the euro crisis. Harsh words exchanged then have left a legacy in the way member states see one another.

As in that crisis, Greece is at the center of the debate — part of the problem and, necessarily, part of the solution. “Europe must understand that Greece is guarding the European Union’s borders,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in November. “Neither fences nor transferring the problem from one country to another will stop the human flood caused by war and poverty.” At the time, Greece was being criticized for not stopping the thousands passing through each day.

Greece’s border with Turkey pulsates with history, stoking powerful emotions on both sides. For over a millennium, Christian Greeks and Muslim Turks have coexisted and fought in this region. In 1922, after Turkish forces routed an invading Greek army, the same islands that are most refugees’ first stop in Europe were havens for hundreds of thousands of Greeks fleeing ancestral homes in Asia Minor. Part of modern Turkey’s founding myth is that it rose from the Ottoman Empire’s ashes with the expulsion of foreign forces.

How Protective Intelligence Can Prevent Armed Assaults

Over the past several weeks, the Paris, Bamako and San Bernardino attacks have focused my writing on armed assaults. I've written about how, contrary to the hype, armed assaults are not a new tactic, and the threat they pose should not be allowed to push politicians to rashly adopt security measures that undermine personal liberties while doing little to actually keep people safe. I have also written about ways that security forces and individuals can respond to such attacks to help mitigate their impact. Finally, I discussed how advances in medical equipment and the procedures followed by medical first responders and trauma centers have helped to save the lives of many armed assault victims.

But all of these themes are reactive and do very little to help prevent such attacks. However, while I've been writing on these reactive topics, I have also been working with a team to forge a new Stratfor product that focuses on protective intelligence, which is inherently proactive. The confluence of these two concepts - armed assaults and protective intelligence - has me again thinking about ways to prevent armed assaults rather than merely responding to them. Obviously, prevention is always better than mitigation.
Understanding Attacks

The first step in working to prevent any type of attack is to understand how such attacks are conducted. This pertains not just to the tactics and techniques used in the actual attack but also to the planning process that must occur before the attack can be launched. Viewing attacks as the result of a discernible planning process - what we refer to as the terrorist attack cycle - and then breaking that process into its distinct phases and tasks makes it possible to identify times during the attack cycle when those conducting it are vulnerable to detection.

In anti-terror fight, the problem is the West

Ajai Sahni, terrorism specialist and executive director, Institute for Conflict Management, said the problem in forging an international coalition against terrorism is the duplicity of the West. He spoke in an exclusive wide-ranging interview with RIR.
The most significant component of fighting terrorism is intelligence. Source: Reuters

RIR: Russian vice prime-minister Dmitry Rogozin visited India recently and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who expressed support for Russian efforts in struggle with terrorism. What does the terrorism problem mean for India?

Ajai Sahni: As far as India is concerned we have been with terrorism for nearly three decades now. Our principal problem has been Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorism. This is a movement which speaks in the name of Islam but is eventually controlled by the Pakistani state. This is a movement which has been particularly intense in Kashmir, but has also been active in other parts of the country. And this is a movement which responds to the strategic objectives of the Pakistani state. Whatever are the names of actual groups operating, they are all connected with their Pakistani controllers. Particularly the Inter Services Intelligence of the Pakistan army. We understand what Pakistan wants, we understand how Pakistan operates. So we can exert countermeasures on Pakistan.

This changed when Al-Qaeda came into this region. Because Al-Qaeda doesn’t follow the state interests of Pakistan. It has its own agenda. And that agenda is global. Nevertheless Al-Qaeda has failed in its efforts to extend its jihad to India. We have records of Osama Bin Laden referring to the need of jihad in India and calling on Indian Muslims to join the jihad going back to 1996. In these 19 years Al-Qaeda has failed to get any kind of traction in India. That doesn’t mean nobody from India went to join Al-Qaeda. In fact, one of the most powerful radicalization movements in India, the Students Islamic Movement of India had, in the early 1990s, declared Osama Bin Laden to be what they called “the ideal man”. But it (SIMI) had been more or less neutralized. Many SIMI cadres and leaders left India and now operate from Pakistan.

** Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Apple, Google and Microsoft I’m putting more trust in communities than corporations


When I became a technology columnist in the mid-1990s, the public Internet was just beginning its first big surge. Back then, I advised my readers to avoid the semi-political, even religious battles that advocates of this or that technology platform seemed to enjoy. Appreciate technology, I urged, for what it is — a tool — and use what works best.

So why am I typing this on a laptop running GNU/Linux, the free software operating system, not an Apple or Windows machine? And why are my phones and tablets running a privacy-enhanced offshoot of Android calledCyanogenmod, not Apple’s iOS or standard Android?

Because, first of all, I can get my work done fine. I can play games. I can surf endlessly. The platform alternatives have reached a stage where they’re capable of handling just about everything I need.

More important, I’ve moved to these alternative platforms because I’ve changed my mind about the politics of technology. I now believe it’s essential to embed my instincts and values, to a greater and greater extent, in the technology I use.
Those values start with a basic notion: We are losing control over the tools that once promised equal opportunity in speech and innovation—and this has to stop.

Avoid a false sense of cybersecurity by dodging these three pitfalls

More cybersecurity spending does not mean better cyber defenses when technology, people, and strategy aren’t utilized correctly.
By Lockheed Martin December 15, 2015
More than 60 percent of US information technology professionals said their cybersecurity budgets have increased up to 30 percent in the last 12 to 18 months, according to a recent Lockheed Martin survey.
Cybersecurity is being discussed on an unprecedented scale, including in corporate board rooms — thus, the boost in funding.

And while we’re happy to see more resources coming to the problem, the ways in which additional dollars for cyber defense are being spent leave much to be desired. That makes us wonder: Are we being lulled into a false sense of cybersecurity?
A false sense of cybersecurity — three pitfalls to avoid (Lockheed Martin white paper)
Are our misconceptions of three key areas — technology, staffing, and strategy — keeping us from an effective cybersecurity approach?
To ensure you aren’t putting your cyber resources to waste, consider three common pitfalls that hit each of those core cybersecurity competencies and see how your organization stands up.

So many alerts, so little time

Is the Cybersecurity Act really government spying in disguise?

The Cybersecurity Act of 2015, signed by President Obama last week, promises to expand information sharing on digital threats between the private sector and government. Critics, however, call it privacy-killing surveillance legislation.
By Jack Detsch, Staff writer December 23, 2015

After years of debate over how Washington and the private sector should cooperate on confronting cybersecurity threats, last week President Obama signed into law the Cybersecurity Act to vastly expand the flow of information on digital threats into federal agencies.
While the law signed as part of a $1.1 trillion omnibus package aims to boost the exchange of data between the private sector and the government, the information sharing act has been maligned by critics as a Patriot Act in disguise, another mechanism for government spying on citizens, and an overall detriment for cybersecurity. Before its passage, the Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a petition campaign against the measure, calling it a "privacy invasive surveillance bill that must be stopped."

While it's too early to know how the legislation previously known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, will be put into practice, the primary thrust of the law is to give liability protection to companies that share cyberthreat information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including details on data on breaches, phishing attacks, and malware downloads. The law also calls upon DHS to automate data sharing with other federal government agencies and scrub any personal information included that's not relevant to cybersecurity.
"If anything, it’s about connecting the dots," says Matthew Eggers, senior director for national security and emergency preparedness at the US Chamber of Commerce, which is part of the Protecting America’s Cyber Networks Coalition, which includes dozens of industry groups such as the American Bankers Association and the United States Telecom Association that have championed other information sharing bills in the past. "We’re trying to paint a better threat picture of the bad actors so we can get out in front of cyberattacks before they happen."