30 April 2016

*** INDIA: Unexpected Calm - Ajai Sahni

Ajai Sahni

Unexpected Calm 

Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, ICM & SATP

Despite shrill assessments across the board and an enveloping sense of apprehension promoted by polarizing politics, the past year has been astonishingly peaceful in India in terms of terrorist and insurgent violence. Total terrorism/insurgency related fatalities across India at 772, are at a dramatic low – certainly the lowest since 1994, when the South Asia Terrorism Portal began maintaining datafor this category. Indeed, since 2012, total fatalities across the country have remained below the ‘high intensity conflict’ threshold of a thousand fatalities per year. It is useful to recall that fatalities remained above 2,000 for 18 of these 22 years; out of which they were above 3,000 for 11 years; above 4,000 for five years; and over 5,000 in 2001.

Indeed, in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) alone, fatalities remained above the critical ‘high intensity’ threshold from 1990 to 2006 – and had risen to 4,507 at peak in 2001.

Cumulative totals of the multiple insurgencies in India’s troubled Northeast, similarly, remained above the ‘high intensity’ threshold in 2007 and 2008, but have declined enormously since, with 273 killed in 2015.

The Left Wing insurgency saw a thousand-plus fatalities in just a single year, 2010, (at 1,180), which have declined continuously since, to 251 fatalities in 2015.

*** China's Long March Into Central Asia

April 28, 2016

▪ China's military role in Central Asia will increasingly focus on arms sales, counterterrorism and bilateral initiatives outside the Russia- and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

▪ The country's regional security efforts will reflect the need to protect growing Chinese economic interests, including the Belt and Road Initiative.

▪ Beijing will promote Chinese language instruction in Central Asian countries to mitigate linguistic barriers and boost cooperation.

▪ China's military influence in the region will continue to trail behind Russia's but will ultimately weaken Moscow's presence in the long term.


*** Indian Ocean Region Strategic Net Assessment: The South Asia Subregion

APR 25, 2016 

The South Asia subregion presents a moderate overall risk within the strategic context of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Two key issues take precedent: 1) the standing risk of armed conflict between the nuclear-armed forces of India and Pakistan, and 2) India’s potential to emerge as a dominant regional sea-air power, as well as a rival of China’s in both military and economic terms, in light of Chinese military and economic expansion into the region.

Currently, the risk of a major Indo-Pakistani armed conflict seems low, but the potential for minor border clashes and terrorist attacks remains high. Tensions persist between the two countries, which have fought four wars since their partition in 1947. Small arms, artillery, and mortar fire along the line of control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir are not uncommon and were especially prevalent during the second half of the summer of 2015. [i] The frequency of these armed exchanges indicates that the risk of a sudden major crisis, followed by the potential for escalation to a serious conflict, cannot be disregarded, especially when viewed in the context of the 1999 Kargil War.

To reduce tensions, the two neighbors announced their intention to resume high-level bilateral talks in December 2015 (the first of their kind since 2012), [ii] and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a surprise visit to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore that same month; it was the first visit by an Indian premier in almost 12 years.[iii] Despite these positive developments in Indo-Pakistani relations, a January 2016 terrorist attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed on the Indian Pathankot Air Force Base seems to have derailed bilateral talks for the time being.[iv]Terrorist attacks by Pakistani- and Kashmiri-based groups have the potential to spark a much larger conflict, given Indian accusations of Pakistani ISI links to terrorist groups; this applies in particular to Lashkar-e-Taiba, to whom India claims the ISI had direct links before and during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. [v]

** India-China Competition Across the Indo-Pacific

April 27, 2016

India and the People’s Republic of China are encountering each other across the Indo-Pacific, the predominantly maritime region spanning the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Harsh Pant’s prognosis in March 2016 is persuasive that “the turf war between the two navies, as both nations seek greater roles in regional [Indo-Pacific] dynamics, is set to grow.” Both countries are developing blue waterlong distance naval capabilities, and adopting Mahanian-styleseapower strategies for power projection. Implicit competition in what has been dubbed “a new great game for influence in the Indo-Pacific” between these two rising powers is the order of the day in the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, the West Pacific, and the South Pacific.

Indian Ocean

India has long held an implicit view of natural regional preeminence, based on its central geographical location in the Indian Ocean, whereby the Indian Ocean should somehow be India’s Ocean, which was the title of David Brewster’s book, complete with the subtitle The Story of India’s Bid for Regional Leadership. The challenge, or “wake up call” (Kapila), for India is China’s increasing Indian Ocean presence on the military, diplomatic, and economic fronts. Militarily this is shown through the deployment of the Chinese navy into the Indian Ocean. Diplomatically this is shown through China’s pursuit of littoral states and its “cheque book diplomacy” among the micro-island states of the Indian Ocean basin. Economically this is shown through China’s recent Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative which it has pushed since November 2014.

* The Rise and Deadly Fall of Islamic State’s Oil Tycoon

By Benoit Faucon and Margaret Coker 
April 24, 2016 

A document trove tells how Abu Sayyaf ran the terror group’s operations; approving expenses for slaves, dodging U.S. airstrikes

Islamic State oil man Abu Sayyaf was riding high a year ago. With little industry experience, he had built a network of traders and wholesalers of Syrian oil that at one point helped triple energy revenues for his terrorist bosses.

His days carried challenges familiar to all oil executives—increasing production, improving client relations and dodging directives from headquarters. He also had duties unique to the extremist group, including approving expenses to cover the upkeep of slaves, rebuilding oil facilities damaged by U.S. airstrikes and counting towers of cash.

Last May, U.S. Special Forces killed Abu Sayyaf, a nom de guerre, at his compound in Syria’s Deir Ezzour province. The raid also captured a trove of proprietary data that explains how Islamic State became the world’s wealthiest terror group.

Documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal describe the terror group’s construction of a multinational oil operation with help from officious terror-group executives obsessed with maximizing profits. They show how the organization deals with the Syrian regime, handles corruption allegations among top officials, and, most critically, how international coalition strikes have dented but not destroyed Islamic State’s income.

Accounting for Terror

Asia’s Troubled Water

A column internationally syndicated by Project Syndicate
Asia’s water woes are worsening. Already the world’sdriest continent in per capitaterms, Asia now faces a severe drought that has parched a vast region extending from southern Vietnam to central India. This has exacerbated political tensions, because it has highlighted the impact of China’s dam-building policy on the environment and on water flows to the dozen countries located downstream.

Today’s drought in parts of Southeast and South Asia is the worst in decades. Among the hardest-hit areas are Vietnam’s Mekong Delta (a rice bowl of Asia) and central highlands; 27 of Thailand’s 76 provinces; parts of Cambodia; Myanmar’s largest cities, Yangon and Mandalay; and areas of India that are home to over a quarter of the country’s massive population.

Droughts may not knock down buildings, but they carry high social and economic costs. Millions of Asians now confront severe water shortages, and some have been forced to relocate. Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia have had to scale back traditional water festivals marking their New Year. The High Court of Bombay moved the world’s biggest and wealthiest cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League, out of the state of Maharashtra. In one Maharashtra county, the local authorities, fearing violence, temporarily banned gatherings of more than five people around water storage and supply facilities.


Sino-Indian relations have become increasingly complex in the last few years. Though bilateral trade and cooperation has been growing, relations have been increasingly strained by mutual suspicion and intermittent disputes. Given the huge influence the two Asian giants have over the global strategic environment, a key question that arises will be whether they can maintain a stable relationship amidst their growing distrust.

This paper will analyse their relationship through the perspectives of the three major international relations (IR) theories of realism, liberalism, and constructivism and will be split into two parts. The first will describe the main factors that influence bilateral relations. The second will analyse these factors using the three main IR theories as mentioned. The analysis will show that Sino-Indian relations reflect a peculiar kind of stability: although their relationship will continue to be marked by distrust and intermittent disputes, the risk of escalation to war remains unlikely. In general, Sino-Indian relations are influenced by four factors: (1) their history of enmity; (2) strategic competition; (3) nuclear relations; and (4) trade.

History of Enmity

The chopper challenge for the CBI

April 28, 2016 

The HinduTHROWBACK: “Comparisons between AgustaWestland and Bofors are not ill-founded. Both illustrate how easy it is to make inroads into the political spectrum and administrative echelons with the help of just one unscrupulous middleman.” Picture shows the Congress president at a campaign meet in Odisha, in 2009. File photo: Ashoke Chakrabarty

The AgustaWestland case is a chance for CBI to re-establish its professionalism and neutrality.

The AgustaWestland (AW) scam is proof — if at all one were needed — that in India, very little in government moves without bribing those in high places, be it politicians or civil servants. It is poor consolation that things are not very different in many other countries as well. We are aware of the recent happenings in Brazil where President Dilma Rousseff is on the verge of being eased out of office after impeachment by Parliament. A recent report from Pakistan speaks of the dismissal for corruption of a few army officers at the very top. There are any number of other countries where too only money talks. This appalling scene gives no licence, however, to permissiveness of the kind that stalks every Indian now.

The question is: how does one react to ‘Choppergate’? Will we be right in ignoring it as one of those usual scams for which India has become notorious? Or should we indulge in some hyperbole and rabble-rousing so that AgustaWestland does not go the Bofors way?

AgustaWestland: Is This Sonia’s Bofors?

Swarajya Staff 
April 27, 2016

Congress cannot claim innocence purely because it cancelled the AugustaWestland helicopter contract. It was the likely conviction of the bosses of that company on charges of corruption that forced the Manmohan Singh government to scrap the deal

What is the scam?

This is going straight up to the doorsteps of Sonia Gandhi. No less than her confidante (officially her political secretary) Ahmed Patel is alleged to have received kickbacks from the AgustaWestland (AW) VVIP chopper deal. India was supposed to purchase 12 helicopters for Rs 3,600 crore from this manufacturer if the deal had gone through. 

The Milan Court of Appeals - an Italian court, which is equivalent in judicial status to an Indian high court - which made news the day before yesterday (25 April) for naming the Congress President and UPA chairperson has also listed the following personalities that the Italian company had targeted via their Indian operations head Peter Hulett to influence them in favour of the deal: former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, current President and then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Veerappa Moily identified by the company as an adviser to Sonia, another Sonia confidante Oscar Fernandes, then National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Sonia’s aide Vinay Singh.

In the letter from middleman Michel to AW’s India head Hulett, where the politicians above are named, there is no claim that these Indian leaders took money from the Italian company. But the question is, why would a broker, officially unconnected to the defence contract, be discussing with the company representative what helicopter Sonia Gandhi would fly in? And, why would they seek to “target” the other politicians named above?

Note mentioning a certain “Mrs Gandhi”

A pessimistic outlook - India's export conundrum

S.L. Rao 

Trucks at the Mahadipur export land checkpost, Malda

Almost 60 years ago, Manmohan Singh's thesis in Oxford was on India's export pessimism. The Indian mindset has not changed. Before the British took over India's governance, India was with China a major economy in the world, and a powerful export-oriented one. British colonial rule systematically destroyed India's export capability in order to give a free rein to British manufacturers.

So the declining exports of the last many months happened to a country that was not much interested in exports. For nearly half a century, 'socialism' had made State domination of government economic policies possible through ownership of key sectors; severe restrictions on technology, production and investment; a hostile attitude to private ownership and profits; high taxation, leading to many people hiding proceeds. From over- invoiced imports and under-invoiced exports to poor quality and high costs due to government controls, India became a non-competing exporter. We were good only for commodity exports.

In recent months, there has been a sustained decline in exports from India. As percentage of GDP in 2006-10 and 2011-15, it was 41.9 per cent and 38.3 per cent.

A Perfumed Skull

(Antonin Artaud, gazing upon the summit of interiority)

So, McLeod Ganj, India where I am living, ‘Little Lhasa’, or the Tibetan capital in exile, is a funny kind of place. It’s really only a very small town, but its few streets and rural mountain town feel belies its cosmopolitanism. It is a junction point for a virtually unceasing stream of Tibetan and foreign visitors, for news and information from all over the globe. Besides formal support from the Tibetan government in exile, and informal flows of money from friends and family – everything from transnational remittances, informal/illegal trade, community saving unions, personal support structures centered around people from the same home regions in Tibet and exile, from common Tibetan exile or Indian school graduating groups, or shared monastic colleges – many Tibetans rely on tourist dollars to survive.

I have often said that this town exists for better or worse in the midst of overlapping economies of curiosity. Romantic stereotypes and Tibetans’ global reputation precedes them. One silver lining about this curiosity or global gaze is that it can at least be turned into a source of continued survival and livelihood for exile Tibetans, who let it not be forgotten, remain by and large stateless refugees living deeply precarious lives.

This town is a strange jumble, yes – a shifting mix of local and visiting Tibetans and Indians alongside tourists, journalists, researchers, student study abroad groups, yoga trainees, activists, missionaries, cyber security experts, and Buddhist translators and practitioners from all over the world. I am here primarily as a PhD student researcher. Virtually every week or so I meet another (usually white) foreigner who is here in town to do some type of Tibet-related research (I meet non-white researchers too of course, but I what I want to reflect on here seems to be something that happens most often with white researchers)

Provocation on both sides of the divide

Vijay Kranti
28 April 2016

New Delhi has revoked Dolkun Isa’s visa. But the real issues are far deeper and more serious than what meets the eye, writes Vijay Kranti.

The four-day conference of a host of anti-Beijing international Chinese action groups in Dharamsala from April 28 is bound to mark a watershed in the history of India-China relations. Contrary to India’s established policy of playing the hesitant victim, New Delhi appears to have moved into combat mode in its dealings with Beijing.

This is the first time such a big conglomeration of leaders representing various anti-Beijing Chinese action groups belonging to Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and, of course, pro-democracy Chinese dissidents and leaders of oppressed religious minorities of China like Christians, Muslims, and Falun Gong will be meeting together in India. 

They are scheduled to exchange notes and probe common strategies on democratising China and getting justice for China’s colonised nationalities like Tibet, East Turkistan, and Inner Mongolia. Invited leaders include Yang Jianli, the star of 1989 Tiananmen Square democratic uprising of Chinese students.

A leading NGO, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), will host the conference jointly with US-based group Citizen Power for China (CFC) and Initiatives For China (IFC), also US-based. 

What a Semi-Naked Woman Posing by a Lake Says About China’s Relationship With Tibet

April 14, 2016

MCT/Getty ImagesBuddhist prayer flags flutter at a pass overlooking Yamdrok Lake, which is considered one of Tibet's holy lakes. The lake sits at an altitude of more than 13,000 ft.
While professing reverence for Tibetan culture, Beijing is also swift to crack down on Tibetan freedom

The sacred waters of Yamdrok Lake in Tibet shine a brilliant blue green that attracts pilgrims and tourists alike. But earlier this week the focus shifted from the turquoise waters to a semi-naked woman who was photographed by the lakeshore. Images of the scantily clad model were posted — and reposted — on Chinese social media earlier this week, catalyzing debate about whether the nude photo shoot constituted a cultural sin, akin to, say, images of undress in the heart of the Vatican. The lake is believed by locals to be a kind of female Buddhist guardian, and its waters are used to sanctify souls.

By April 14, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, tweeted in English that the photographer “got 10 days’ detention for taking photos of unclad female tourist at sacred Tibetan lake.” The website of Xinhua, China’s official news service, carried a similar report, with an article noting that the model was being accused of “conduct that did not respect Tibetan culture.”


By Ajaya Kumar Das

Since becoming the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has swiftly reached out to India’s smaller neighbors and, more boldly, to Pakistan. He has turned India’s vision from “Look East” to “Act East.” Modi has wooed large investments from China while simultaneously deepening its partnership with the US.In this photograph released by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) on September 30, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre L) walks with US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 29, 2014.

While not disregarding other key bilateral partnerships, he has taken India-Japan relations to a new level. He asked his diplomats to “shed old mindsets” and position India as “a leading role, rather than just a balancing force globally.” In articulating foreign policy for a leading power, India prefers to see a multi-polar Asia as well as a multi-polar world and expresses desire “to shoulder greater global responsibilities.” While under-performing in economics, Modi has surprisingly been most successful in pursuing a ‘positive’ foreign policy. This has attracted the strategic community in India and beyond to analyze prospects and limits of a potential leading or great power role for the nation. While India’s ascendance to great power status will take time, owing to domestic constraints, how India positions itself in the Indo-Pacific balance of power and rises as a ‘net security provider’ will contribute significantly to its security and status.


By Ching Chang
APRIL 27, 2016

Defining Strategic Rivalry

As we examine the issue of the Sino-India strategic rivalry, we should start from the fundamental definition of the strategic rivalry. As previous research already indicates, the strategic rivalry is concerning territorial disagreement, i.e. competing for space, or alternatively, concerning status and influence, i.e. contesting for position on the political stage. Nonetheless, the author would like to argue that three factors should be also put into consideration. There are mutually exclusive interests, explicitly stated objectives, and insignificant third-party effects. Of course, we may also interpret the third-party effects more broadly to cover any other political, economic, social, or cultural elements capable of constraining the escalation of antagonism.

Adopting the basic definition to measure the relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of India, we may clearly identify that they do have territorial disagreement along their borders. On the other hand, they also have certain degrees of competition of status as well as influence in various aspects on the world stage. Particularly, the influence within the maritime space is a key issue frequently noted by strategic commentators and political observers. Yet, how real can the general perception be? Whether the maritime competition between China and India either is in the Indian Ocean or the South China Sea may prove to be only an elusive speculation though seemingly plausible.

Does China Really Have a Strategic Vision for the World?

April 27, 2016

Does China have a strategic outlook when it deals with the outside world? That has always been the assumption among some in the analyst and diplomatic community. Observers from Hugh White in Australia to Henry Kissinger in the United States write as though Chinese foreign policymakers have an encoded, shared idea of where they are all heading and what they want from the world around them. From issues like the South and East China Sea, to China in the Arctic and Antarctica, there is some overarching narrative that China is corporately driving for. The task for the outside world is to uncover this and then respond to it.

The People’s Republic of China has existed for long enough now to see whether history bears out this idea of some strategic coherent vision. The problem until recently was that there has been no overview which looked at the full sweep of Chinese engagement with the rest of the world over this period to see what sort of patterns can be divined. Now, with the publication of John Garver’s China’s Quest, the story of China’s diplomacy since 1949 is finally contained in a single, albeit lengthy, volume.

Why Did Russia’s Pivot to Asia Fail?

April 24, 2016

On the surface, the concept of a Russian pivot to Asia made sense, particularly greater cooperation between Moscow and Beijing. But, as a pair of fellows from the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin and a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center made clear in separate articles published this month, Russia’s Asia pivot has failed so far to bring benefits to Moscow.

“Two years after the Kremlin’s rift with the West, Moscow’s hopes that a new business relationship with Asia would make up for Russia’s losses have not materialized,” Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Moscow Centerbegins his analysis of Russia’s pivot to “nowhere.”

Thomas S. Eder and Mikko Huotari began their recent Foreign Affairs article by remarking, “Ever since Europe imposed sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has held high hopes of countering them by strengthening its alliance with China on energy, defense, and agricultural trade and investments.”

What’s at the core of this failure? One place to look is at the motivation for increasing cooperation in both Moscow and Beijing. Russia’s deteriorating relations (and trade) with Europe precipitated a search elsewhere for partners. For this reason, the $400 billion gas deal signed in May 2014 drew headlines. But the devil, as always, was in the details: Russia would be getting less money per cubic meter of gas than when it sold to western Europe and in the past two years the construction dates have been pushed further into the future.

China Tests New Weapon Capable of Breaching US Missile Defense Systems

April 28, 2016

Last week, China has yet again successfully tested the developmental DF-ZF (previously known as WU-14) hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), Bill Gertz over at The Washington Free Beacon reveals.

The test of the high-speed maneuvering warhead took place at the Wuzhai missile test center in central China’s Shanxi Province, some 250 miles (400 kilometers) southwest of Beijing.

“The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country,” Gertz reports.

China has now tested the new weapon a total of seven times. The last launch of the DF-ZF– an ultra-high-speed missile purportedly capable of penetrating U.S. air defense systems based on interceptor missiles–occurred in November in November 2015 (See: “China Tests New Hypersonic Weapon”).

The DF-ZF HGV can allegedly reach speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10, or 6,173 kilometers (3,836 miles) per hour and 12,359 kilometers (7,680 miles) per hour. I previously explained the sequence of a DF-ZF HGV launch:

The DF-ZF warhead is carried to the boundary between space and Earth’s atmosphere, approximately 100 km above the ground, by a large ballistic missile booster.

Who Is Xi?

by the Editorial Committee for the Biography of Xi Zhongxun
Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, two volumes, 1,283 pp. (2013)
by Agnès Andrésy
University Press of America, 157 pp., $60.00
Zoubutong de “hongse diguo zhilu” [The “Road of Red Empire” That Cannot Be Traversed]
an article by Li Weidong
by David Shambaugh
Polity, 203 pp., $59.95; $19.95 (paper)Xi Jinping

More than halfway through his five-year term as president of China and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party—expected to be the first of at least two—Xi Jinping’s widening crackdown on civil society and promotion of a cult of personality have disappointed many observers, both Chinese and foreign, who saw him as destined by family heritage and life experience to be a liberal reformer. Many thought Xi must have come to understand the dangers of Party dictatorship from the experiences of his family under Mao’s rule. His father, Xi Zhongxun (1913–2002), was almost executed in an inner-Party conflict in 1935, was purged in another struggle in 1962, was “dragged out” and tortured during the Cultural Revolution, and was eased into retirement after another Party confrontation in 1987. During the Cultural Revolution, one of Xi Jinping’s half-sisters was tormented to the point that she committed suicide. Jinping himself, as the offspring of a “capitalist roader,” was “sent down to the countryside” to labor alongside the peasants. The hardships were so daunting that he reportedly tried to escape, but was caught and sent back.

No wonder, then, that both father and son showed a commitment to reformist causes throughout their careers. Under Deng Xiaoping, the elder Xi pioneered the open-door reforms in the southern province of Guangdong and played an important part in founding the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen. In 1987 he stood alone among Politburo members in refusing to vote for the purge of the liberal Party leader Hu Yaobang. The younger Xi made his career as an unpretentious, pragmatic, pro-growth manager at first in the countryside and later in Fujian, Zhejiang, and Shanghai, three of China’s provincial units that were most open to the outside world. In the final leg of his climb to power he was chosen in preference to a rival leader, Bo Xilai, who had promoted Cultural Revolution–style policies in the megacity of Chongqing.

Dumb General Tricks: Pentagon Revises General’s Claim of Dramatic Drop in the Number of Foreign Fighters Joining ISIS

April 29, 2016

U.S. military softens claims on drop in Islamic State’s foreign fighters

The U.S. military on Thursday retreated from a top general’s claim this week that the number of foreign fighters joining Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has plummeted by as much as 90 percent.

Air Force Major General Peter Gersten, deputy commander for operations and intelligence in the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State, told reporters on Tuesday that the number of foreign fighters joining the group had fallen to 200 a month from between 1,500 and 2,000.

U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the coalition, told Reuters that the official estimate is higher than the one Gersten offered, although he did not provide a precise figure.“We believe the foreign fighter flow was 2,000 at one point and is now down to a quarter or less of that,” Warren said. That would equal roughly 500 fighters per month, or a drop of about 75 percent from the peak.

“The key is the cumulative effect over time of the damage we have done to them on the battlefield combined with reduced (foreign fighter) flow, so they have to increasingly use younger fighters, conscripts, and security/governance personnel to field their force,” he said.

It was unclear why Gersten used a figure of 200.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity had questioned Gersten’s remarks. There are multiple signs that the tide of foreign fighters has abated but not that dramatically, they said.

U.S. Begins Drone Surveillance of ISIS Activities in Libya

April 29, 2016

US beefs up surveillance over Islamic State in Libya

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has moved surveillance drones into the skies over Libya to gather intelligence and get a better picture of what’s going on in case additional military strikes against Islamic State militants are authorized.

The top U.S. military officer told a Senate committee on Thursday that the Pentagon has shifted assets to Libya, based on recommendations from the U.S. commander for Africa.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the decision was made more than a month ago to increase resources for U.S. Africa Command.
U.S. officials say the decision allows the Pentagon to shift unmanned aircraft to Libya. Dunford said he agrees with assessments that there are about 6,000 Islamic State militants in Libya.

The rise of the Islamic State in Libya has triggered broad concerns, particularly in Europe. Earlier this month, Army Gen. David Rodriguez, head of U.S. Africa Command, said that the number of Islamic State militants in Libya has doubled in the last year or so to as many as 6,000 fighters, with aspirations to conduct attacks against the U.S. and other nations in the West.

Rodriguez said that local Libya militias have had some success in trying to stop the Islamic State from growing in Benghazi and are battling the group in Sabratha. But he said that decisions to provide more military assistance to the Libyans await a working national government.

Saudi Arabia’s post-oil future

Bold promises from a young prince. But they will be hard to keep

IF ANYONE needed confirmation that Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, is a man in a hurry, they got it on April 25th. The 30-year-old unveiled a string of commitments to end the kingdom’s dependence on oil by 2030 which, in themselves, would be a remarkable achievement for a hidebound country. Then he proceeded to trump himself, saying that the kingdom could overcome “any dependence on oil” within a mere four years, by 2020.

That may have been meant to convey a sense of urgency; but it also sums up what seems to be manic optimism among the youthful new policy-setters of the royal court. They have yet to set out a cool, detailed explanation of how to turn vision into reality. That has been promised since January, and will now supposedly be provided in a few weeks’ time.
In this section

Saudi Arabia’s post-oil future

[Hot Issue] Recent Attacks Illuminate the Islamic State’s Europe Attack Network

April 27, 2016

Social network analysis of the Zerkani Network (source: authors). Please see the bottom of the page for high-resolution graphics to accompany the article.

The recent major terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels represent a watershed moment not just for the Islamic State (IS), but for the entire jihadist movement. The attacks mark the first time that a single jihadist network has succeeded in carrying out two separate mass casualty attacks in Europe. In the past, when jihadist networks struck in Europe, they were pursued with the full weight of European security and intelligence services and all relevant perpetrators were neutralized before they could mount a second attack.

IS’s successes are the result of a complex strategy executed by officials in the Amn al-Kharji, a shadowy wing of IS’s bureaucracy responsible for selecting and training external operatives and for planning terrorist attacks in areas outside of IS’s core territory, including those within European borders. This article delves into the structure of IS’s external operations branch and explores this branch’s strategy and on-the-ground network in Europe.

The Amn al-Kharji


APRIL 27, 2016

Choosing what to call the Syrian war is intensely political. I once saw a Syrian staffer at a company conducting stabilization programming inside Syria threaten to quit if a report to donors called the conflict a “civil war.” For the Syrian government, the conflict is a “war on terror.” For many Syrians reluctant to choose a side, it’s the “Syrian crisis.” For the opposition, the war is and always will be a “revolution” against tyranny. For the jihadists in al-Qaeda and the Islamic State who eventually overshadowed the mainline Syrian opposition, the war has always been the “jihad,” one front in a universal holy war. Yet even jihadists have remained conscious of broader opposition sensibilities. There’s a reason why Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, the head of Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah, made a point of congratulating the Syrian people and the Islamic nation on “the fifth anniversary of the revolution” this March.

The focus of Charles Lister’s The Syrian Jihad is there in the book’s title. Lister zeroes in on the evolution of the jihadist trend within the Syrian insurgency, principally Jabhat al-Nusrah and the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but also the revisionist-jihadist Ahrar al-Sham and an assortment of smaller jihadist splinters. Yet he also makes clear that jihadists are not the whole of Syria’s armed opposition, and he attempts to define the relationship between the jihadists and the rebel mainstream. These hardline groups, Lister argues, are often best understood in terms of the different ways they have allied with or tried to overtake the revolutionary insurgency.


APRIL 27, 2016

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be “the world’s most insulted President,” and has certainly become veryunpopular among Washington’s policy elite. This has something to do with his domestic repression, but also with his regional strategies, which frequently both surprise and frustrate his counterparts and critics. In their excellent recent essays in War on the Rocks, Burak Kadercan and Selim Koru provided badly needed context for the evolution of Turkey’s strategic mindset and regional approach in the Mideast. Kadercan argues that American critics of Turkey’s foreign policy have wrongly focused on the person of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, both by exaggerating his Islamism (which is instrumental, but not fundamental to his character), and by underestimating the influence of domestic political constituencies and external destabilizers in driving the present crisis. Koru notes that critics frequently miss the fact that Erdogan for a decade hewed to the restrained and liberal foreign policy precedents of 20th century Republican Turkey, only shifting to a more cynical and muscular approach after watching friends and foes in the region do the same.

Too Small for What? The Absence of American Strategic Introspection

April 27, 2016 - 

Too Small for What? The Absence of American Strategic Introspection

Robert Murphy

“Americans have a tendency to believe that when there's a problem there must be a solution.”

-- Henry Kissinger

"America has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings....She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

-- John Quincy Adams, 1821

The National Commission on the Future of the Army’s report confirmed several long-standing biases. Among them was the assertion that the Army is too small, a statement paired with a recommendation to expand the Army’s footprint in Europe, and the premise upon which the entire report is based[i]. What is not evident through the smoke of the apocalypse described in the report should America’s Army not grow, is the deeper, more relevant question of what America really needs an Army for.

It seems audaciously optimistic that America would only apply a larger Army against the problems our military leaders want it applied against. Although more combat brigades would certainly provide the force with more flexibility and capability to deal with today’s problems, it is a near certainty that Americans would consume a larger force against a variety of boutique problems. Global challenges better left to be managed with standoff, would now be ‘solved’ at bayonet range. The temptation to intervene in every political fancy would be irresistible to any politician wanting to appear tough or hawkish to a constituency. Remember Michelle Obama’s #bringbackourgirls selfie? The result of an expanded force would be a larger, more costly Army stretched as thin as today’s is.

China and Russia to Increase Number of Military Exercises in 2016

April 28, 2016

The Chinese and Russian defense ministers agreed to hold more joint military drills in 2016 than in previous last years. 

China and Russia are planning to deepen military cooperation and increase the number of joint military exercises in 2016, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Defense Minister Gen Chang Wanquan, said in a meeting in Moscow on April 27, TASS reports.

“We highly appreciate a high level of Russian-Chinese contacts both at the state and defense levels. This year we are going to hold more exercises and events than in the past years,” the Russian defense minister said. ”Here I would like to underscore that we will conduct both ground and naval exercises,” Shoigu added. “Certainly, the aim is to strengthen mutually beneficial relations of partnership.”

The largest scheduled Sino-Russian military exercise this year will be the Joint Sea-2016 naval drill, hosted by China.

Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan, who is in Moscow to attend the Fifth Moscow International Security Conference, emphasized that “opinions should be shared and watches synchronized.” In addition, he stated:

Study: Snowden Disclosures Have Dramatically Affected Internet Usage

Jeff Guo
April 28, 2016

New study: Snowden’s disclosures about NSA spying had a scary effect on free speech

In June 2013, reporters at The Washington Post and the Guardian ran a series of stories about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency was harvesting huge swaths of online traffic — far beyond what had been disclosed — and was working directly with top Internet companies to spy on certain people.

Glenn Greenwald, one of the Guardian journalists who reported the disclosures and a surveillance skeptic, argued in a 2014 TED talk that privacy is a critical feature of open society. People act differently when they know they're being watched. “Essential to what it means to be a free and fulfilled human being is to have a place that we can go and be free of the judgmental eyes of other people,” he said.

Privacy advocates have argued that widespread government surveillance has had a “chilling effect” — it encourages meekness and conformity. If we think that authorities are watching our online actions, we might stop visiting certain websites or not say certain things just to avoid seeming suspicious.

The problem, though, is that it’s difficult to judge the effect of government-spying programs. How do you collect all the utterances that people stopped themselves from saying? How do you count all the conversations that weren’t had?

A new study provides some insight into the repercussions of the Snowden revelations, arguing that they happened so swiftly and were so high-profile that they triggered a measurable shift in the way people used the Internet.

How an Italian Magnate Built a Hacking Empire for Dictators

David Kushner 
April 27, 2016

Fear This Man

To spies, David Vincenzetti is a salesman. To tyrants, he is a savior. How the Italian mogul built a hacking empire.

As the sun rose over the banks of the Seine and the medieval, half-timbered houses of Rouen, France, on July 13, 2012, Hisham Almiraat opened his inbox to find “Denunciation” in the subject line of an email. “Please do not mention my name or anything,” wrote the sender, Imane. “I do not want any trouble.”

The editor and co-founder of Mamfakinch, a pro-democracy website created in Morocco during the Arab Spring, Almiraat was one of his country’s most outspoken dissidents and someone accustomed to cryptic emails: Moroccan activists faced jail time for their views and risked their jobs, or even their lives, for speaking out against their government. From Normandy’s capital city, where Almiraat was in medical school, the bespectacled 36-year-old spent his time — in between classes and hospital shifts — mentoring, coaching, and editing more than 40 citizen journalists. The group covered the roiling unrest back in Almiraat’s homeland, where he would soon return after completing his studies. (Almiraat contributed to Foreign Policy in 2011.)

Almiraat and his colleagues also trained Mamfakinch’s writers to use encryption software, most notably the Onion Router, so that their online activities remained anonymous and shielded. Tor, as it’s widely known, masks a user’s identity and physical location. “People were relying on us to protect their…reputations, their careers, and probably also their freedoms,” Almiraat says. “All of that could be put in jeopardy if that were made public.” It was precisely this forethought that had earned Mamfakinch the Breaking Borders Award, sponsored by Google and the citizen-media group Global Voices, for its efforts “to defend and promote freedom of speech rights on the Internet.”

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APRIL 27, 2016

Editor’s Note: This piece is adapted from a new report published by the National Bureau of Asian Research. The full report, entitled “U.S.-China Relations in Strategic Domains,” is available online.

In spite of significant differences in views, Beijing and Washington appear committed to not letting cyber issues derail the U.S.-China relationship or interfere with cooperation on other high-profile issues. Among the wide range of issues raised at their recent meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping reiterated their commitment to last September’s breakthrough cybersecurity agreement. The agreement included important cybersecurity measures, including a pledge to refrain from stealing intellectual property or trade secrets to give domestic companies a competitive advantage. Both sides also agreed to identify and endorse norms of behavior in cyberspace and to establish two high-level working groups and a hotline for crisis response. The success and ultimate implications of which have yet to be determined and the two sides work cautiously to build greater collaboration in cyberspace.

While these are solid first steps, the two sides have very distinct views about cyberspace. The United States has interest in the flow of information across borders, calling for countries to respect intellectual property rights and the privacy of individuals. On the diplomatic front, Washington aims to ensure freedom of expression and the free flow of data across national borders. The United States has also argued that international law, including the laws of armed conflict, applies to state behavior in cyberspace