2 October 2016

* The Uri Fiasco and Ensuring Accountability

28 Sep , 2016

While it is not known as to what conclusions the Army’s Court of Inquiry has arrived at over the Uri fiasco, it needs little intuition or professional knowledge to conclude that there were serious lapses in following Standard Operating Procedures. There can be little doubt that this has deeply embarrassed the Army, especially the battalions involved, and must be attributed to what the military terms “command failure”. If there was a shining light in this dark episode it is the fact that the PARA (SF) Quick Reaction Force that was employed neutralized the militants within 15 minutes of engaging them as per media reports.

Under no circumstances can the Army behave as if it is a victim of “terrorism”, as it seems intent on doing.

Surely, the Army is fully cognizant that in the prevailing environment its establishments are logical and legitimate targets for enemy action and must be defended as we would any other military outpost based on a clear cut and detailed operational plan. Under no circumstances can the Army behave as if it is a victim of “terrorism”, as it seems intent on doing. No other mindset can otherwise explain why the Army has meekly submitted to the Governments’ direction for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate the Uri disaster, just as the Air Force had earlier, after the fiasco of the attack on Pathankot Air Force Station.

Fifth column: No more strategic restraint

Tavleen Singh

As things stand, the military men who control that country and the religious fanatics they have nurtured know well that if there is peace with India, their time is up.

NO idea has failed India more spectacularly in its relations with Pakistan than ‘strategic restraint’. And yet, it seemed in the past week that this was the road the Prime Minister would take once more. After his speech at the BJP meeting in Kozhikode, strategic restrainers applauded loudly. Men and women who despiseNarendra Modi came forward to praise him for not listening to ‘hawks’ (like your columnist) and for changing the narrative of war to one in which the fight in both India and the Islamic Republic next door would be against poverty, illiteracy and disease. A fine thought but one that can only become reality, in our shamefully backward region, if we succeed in convincing Pakistan to invest in peace and not war.

Gandhi's songs - The prayer of music, the music of prayer

Gopalkrishna Gandhi

In the course of a public conversation in Chennai ,Vidvan T.M. Krishna asked me if Gandhi had any music in him. I was unsure of the answer then, but going through some Gandhi-related writings recently has shown an unexpected presence of music in that life of hectic preoccupations - a presence, not in spite of the preoccupations, but in a mutually sustaining bond.

The recitation of texts is not quite music but, nonetheless, it is nearer to singing than it is to speaking as this reference in his autobiography to the twilight days of his father, Karamchand or Kaba Gandhi, shows: "He had not read religious texts but... had begun to study the Gita and every day, during his puja, he would recite, in a high pitch (unchesvare), a few sloka-s from it." And the following, translated from the original Gujarati, connects father, mother and son musically: "There came to our place around that time itinerant showmen. Shravana carrying, by means of slings fitted from his shoulders, his blind parents on a pilgrimage was one of the pictures painted on glass I was shown.The agonizing lament ( vilap) of the parents over Shravana's death is still fresh in my memory. The tender verse (lalitchhand) moved me deeply and I played it on a music box ( vajun) that my father had procured for me. I liked learning to play musical instruments."

Uri aftermath: Retaliation, with de-escalation built In

SEP 30 2016 

A chopper at surveillance at the Army Brigade camp in Uri, September 18, 2016

There is nothing new in shallow cross-border strikes conducted by Indian forces across the Line of Control; what is new is the public — and political — affirmation of such a strike. But Pakistan has conveniently side-stepped the military and diplomatic challenge this poses by simply denying such a strike took place.

As a result of the Indian claim and Pakistani denial, both domestic opinions have been taken care of. The government of India has satisfied the public demand for action against Pakistan for the Uri strike which took the lives of 18 soldiers on September 18. And by their subterfuge — of attributing their casualties to Indian shelling across the LoC — the Pakistanis have signalled to their public that they remain firm against India.

It was in 1993-1994 that in response to some Pakistani attacks, General Bipin Chandra Joshi permitted the Army to conduct cross-LOC strikes, “as long as you don’t leave behind any one, dead or wounded.” So over the years, a deadly game of strike and counter-strike was played out by the two sides, most recently in 2013 and 2014.

However, this time around the Government of India has changed the rules of the game when the DGMO declared that “based on very credible and specific information which we received yesterday that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along the Line of Control with an aim to carry out infiltration and terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and in various other metros in our country, the Indian army conducted surgical strikes last night at these launch pads.”

Having said this, Lt. General Ranbir Singh took the precaution of adding that this was a one-time affair for the present. “We do not have any plans for continuation of further operations.” So clearly New Delhi has built de-escalation into its retaliatory action.

Pakistan’s marginalisation in South Asia

In search of options against Pakistan after this month’s Uri terror attack, India is pressuring Islamabad on multiple fronts. Militarily, India on Thursday launched “surgical strikes” on bases along the Line of Control with Pakistan, resulting in what Indian officials call significant casualties “to the terrorists and those who are trying to support them.” Politically, New Delhi is reviewing its stand on most-favored-nation trade status and the Indus Waters Treaty. And diplomatically it is seeking Pakistan’s global and regional isolation.

The already moribund South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has come in handy in the diplomatic realm. “In the prevailing circumstances,” India announced this week, it is unable to participate in SAARC’s November summit in Islamabad. This unprecedented move found quick support from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan, which caused the summit’s suspension by following India in pulling out. Nepal, the present chair of SAARC, also issued a stern rebuke to Islamabad.

Pakistan has always been paranoid about SAARC and regional integration. It refuses to grant India the preferential trade status it received from New Delhi in 1996, and it backtracked this year from supporting the trans-South Asian road connectivity project, saying it needed more time to consider the project’s implications. With that it managed to scuttle a pact that would have allowed the free movement of passenger and cargo vehicles across SAARC nations.

After an earlier Pakistani refusal to endorse the road project at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 2014, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal decided to move ahead on their own. Last year those four states signed a landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement for the regulation of passenger, personnel and cargo vehicular traffic.

Strategic restraint and surgical strikes: Modi’s ‘on again, off again’ approach to Pakistan


The “surgical strikes” on terrorist bases along the LoC brought about a sigh of relief for the NDA government, which was under pressure to punish the perpetrators of Uri attack. However, questions remain as to why it took 11 days to examine Narendra Modi’s idea of strategic restraint.

Unlike its predecessors, the Modi government has given tactical and operational autonomy to the armed forces. This resulted in the Indian Army “crossing the LoC” and inflicting significant casualties “on the terrorists and those who are trying to support them.”

The Modi government’s initial response to terrorist attack on Uri Army base was measured despite Pakistani provocations, including an earlier strike at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, in January. There were signs that India was losing patience and there seemed to be a push for retaliation in order to avoid a domestic backlash. Modi was reviewing the government’s options and in his first public reaction in Kozhikode last week, he made a case for strategic restraint.
The challenge

Modi laid down a challenge to ordinary Pakistanis, asking them if they could find solutions to development issues faster than India could: “I want to tell the people of Pakistan, India is ready to fight you.”

“If you have the strength, come forward to fight against poverty. Let’s see who wins. Let’s see who is able to defeat poverty and illiteracy first, Pakistan or India,” he said.

His speech, which drew a stark contrast between an India which exports software and a Pakistan which exports terror, befuddled his critics and his supporters alike but there is a strategic logic to Modi’s arguments. There is a sense at the highest echelons of government in New Delhi that Modi’s overtures towards Pakistani civilian government have not been reciprocated.


SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

India’s recently annoounced blockbuster $8.7 billion Rafale buy could be seen as a dogged, hard-fought victory for Dassault Aviation SA and France’s defense sector. But the deal is less deserving of celebration than it might appear. The challenges that Dassault and other leading aerospace companies faced in the nine-year saga leading up to the sale will become a fixture in the 21st century defense marketplace.

Export deals matter more than ever to Western defense contractors, whose sales at home have come under sustained budgetary pressure going on a decade. But the emergence of non-Western industrial rivals and the proliferation of countries desperate to boost their domestic defense industry have stiffened the competition on doing business abroad. They have also made nearly every international competition a certain occasion for colossal headaches and heartbreak. From Israel to South Korea, and even such countries as Saudi Arabia which has historically been a reliable customer of Western defense firms, more governments are stepping up their efforts to spawn, incubate, and promote indigenous defense production.

Nowhere is this truer than in India, whose defense budget recorded double-digit per annum growth between 2010 and 2015 and will reach $40 billion next year. What should not be lost on foreign executives and defense officials from Friday’s Rafale deal is that it still leaves India with an outstanding requirement for over 100 fourth-generation fighter aircraft that will only likely be realized with foreign assistance. Dassault and other Western suppliers will be tempted to pursue this and other opportunities that address the profound needs of the Indian armed forces. Yet these firms and their supporting governments are certain to encounter an unwillingness to fulfill those requirements without first securing stringent offset conditions from foreign suppliers. In a determined effort to reduce what it views as a dangerous over-dependence on defense imports, India will seek to wring as much as it can from foreign firms agreements on the transfer of technology, license production, and even the re-locations of entire production lines.

The Uri fiasco and ensuring accountability

While it is not known as to what conclusions the Army’s Court of Inquiry has arrived at over the Uri fiasco, it needs little intuition or professional knowledge to conclude that there were serious lapses in following Standard Operating Procedures. There can be little doubt that this has deeply embarrassed the Army, especially the battalions involved, and must be attributed to what the military terms “command failure”. If there was a shining light in this dark episode it is the fact that the PARA (SF) Quick Reaction Force that was employed neutralised the militants within 15 minutes of engaging them as per media reports.

Under no circumstances can the Army behave as if it is a victim of “terrorism”, as it seems intent on doing.

Surely, the Army is fully cognizant that in the prevailing environment its establishments are logical and legitimate targets for enemy action and must be defended as we would any other military outpost based on a clear cut and detailed operational plan. Under no circumstances can the Army behave as if it is a victim of “terrorism”, as it seems intent on doing. No other mindset can otherwise explain why the Army has meekly submitted to the Governments’ direction for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate the Uri disaster, just as the Air Force had earlier, after the fiasco of the attack on Pathankot Air Force Station.

Obviously, those dealing with the subject in the Armed Forces are not conversant with the charter and duties of the NIA and the fact that it is a police establishment meant for conducting “counter terrorism and other national security related investigations at the national level” aimed at “creating deterrence for existing and potential terrorist groups/individuals.” In simple terms, this implies that after a terrorist attack they are responsible for detecting the identity of those involved, tracking them down, arresting them and then bringing them to justice.

Responding to Uri Attack: What Are India's Options?

By Muhammad Daim Fazil
September 29, 2016

India has three main options: a surgical strike, covert ops, or a diplomatic offense to isolate Pakistan. 
Just when New Delhi was finding its way out of the latest Kashmir imbroglio, which has now entered its third month, the Uri attack of September 18 dragged India much deeper into the conflict. A pre-dawn ambush by four heavily armed militants killed 18 Indian soldiers and wounded 30 in Uri, a town of Baramulla district just 10 kilometers away from Line of Control (LoC). Hours later, the terrorists had been killed; however the aftermath witnessed a furious blame game from both India and Pakistan. In a tweet, Rajnath Singh, the Indian home minister described the attack as a cross border infiltration by militants trained and equipped by Pakistan and thus labeled Pakistan yet again “a terrorist state.” Likewise, Indian politicians and the media also joined the spree of calling Pakistan solely responsible for the Uri killings. In some corners, a punitive strike to avenge the attack became inevitable.

Ten days later, there seems to be no end to the war of words. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the 71st session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) underscored Indian atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) by saying that “Indian brutalities are well documented” and that “these will not suppress the spirit of the Kashmiris.” Sharif also demanded a “free and fair plebiscite held under UN auspices.” Indians were already reeling over Pakistani moral and political support to Kashmir and Sharif’s speech at UNGA added fuel to the fire. A multi-level debate has started inside India about waging total war or a limited strike against Pakistan.

Currently, India has several options in the wake of Uri attacks.

Will “Surgical Strike” On LOC Chasten Pak? No, But It Needed To Be Done

R Jagannathan 
September 29, 2016,

The point of retribution is not to solve a problem, but to increase the costs of terror for Pakistan. This is why Thursday’s early morning strike by the army against terrorists across the LOC was needed, even if it does not stop cross-border terrorism.

Retribution is a moral requirement and the only thing to be kept in mind is ensuring that the enemy’s costs are greater than yours

Thursday’s “surgical strike” on terrorist launchpads across the line-of-control (LOC) in Jammu & Kashmir by the army was sorely needed. But it will surely ignite a controversy back home once the dust settles.

One of the questions that keeps popping up in discussions on India’s likely responses to the Uri attack by Pakistan-backed terrorists is this: will this stop Pakistani terrorism? Will ending MFN status help us achieve this? Or cancelling the Indus Water Treaty? Or, for that matter, the “surgical strikes” conducted by the Indian army early today. Will these strikes lead to Pakistani retaliation or a reduction in terrorism?

This question can really be answered only with another question: did doing nothing stop Pakistani terrorism on Indian soil?

The simple point is this: retribution may not stop further evil acts by Pakistan, but it is a moral response to violence against us. If wrongdoing does not face retribution, it will grow. If this was not the case, why would states have strict laws against stealing, or rape or murder? Why don’t we argue that there is no point sentencing murderers to life terms since that won’t stop people from murdering.

India Inc Busts The Myth That India Has A Lot To Lose By Military Action Against Pakistan

29 Sep, 2016

Amidst reports that the Sensex took a plunge today following surgical strikes conducted by the Indian Army on terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, it was heartening to see India Inc rallying behind the Army's move. Some industry leaders said that the time to act tough was now and ruled out any adverse impact on the nation's economy.

Our civil n decent response in the past hasn't been met with reciprocity so it's time to act tough https://t.co/qN4R6CSloc— Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (@kiranshaw) September 29, 2016

Reiterating his earlier backing of the army, prominent industrialist Anand Mahindra tweeted this:

I trust our army.They know how to pursue&retaliate.Their strategy need not be advertised on Twitter.. https://t.co/h0eYpWckUB— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) September 18, 2016

While industry bodies like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) were reluctant to comment, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said that despite the predictable fall of the stock market after the news of India's surgical strikes, there is no need to worry about the country's economy.

In the words of Assocham secretary general D S Rawat,

The Indian economy has a strong bandwidth to deal with any possible after-effects of the current state of tensions with Pakistan.

Pulls And Pressures In India And Pakistan – Book Review

By Sadia Tasleem* 
SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Title: Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism
Authors: George Perkovich, Toby Dalton
Publisher: Oxford University Press, India, 2016,
Pages: 298

An upcoming book titled, ‘Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism’ authored by George Perkovich and Toby Dalton – two of the US’ most acclaimed and well-versed scholars on India-Pakistan issues – has already generated heat in Pakistan as well as in India. Given the peculiar dynamics of India and Pakistan, it is seen by some as paternalistic; and by others as favorably biased toward the Indian narrative. However, this rigorous and engaging work has a lot more to offer if it is viewed not from the vantage point of narrow national identity but a broader lens focusing on critical questions and policy-related challenges in view of greater interest of regional stability.

This book is first of its kind, offering an exhaustive analysis of one of the most perennial problems that haunts prospects of peace between India and Pakistan. It is widely believed that a future Mumbai type terrorist attack traced back to actors in Pakistan will result in a war that might turn nuclear. This fear has strong basis in India’s growing frustration over Pakistan’s alleged support to anti-India militant organisations that are accused of fomenting terrorism in India. Indian thinkers and strategists continue to articulate strategies to prevent “cross-border terrorism” and prepare response options to punish the perpetrators in the wake of a terrorist attack. The Indian discourse developed over the past fifteen years presents a variety of response options, including proactive operations, air strikes, covert operations and Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation by non-violent means.

Dalton and Perkovich in their seminal work take stock of the Indian policy discourse and evaluate the feasibility of India’s options against India’s material and non-material capabilities. They further analyse the utility of each option by asking a set of questions: what are the short and long term strategic objectives that India could fulfill by exercising a given policy option? Will the policy choices under consideration help satisfy domestic political demand for retribution? More importantly, to what extent will India be in a position to influence the behaviour of Pakistani decision-makers and persuade them to take decisive action against anti-India militant groups in Pakistan?

The Indus Water Treaty In Post Uri Situation – Analysis

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan 
SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

In the over frenzied atmosphere post Uri attack in Kashmir, the media as well as the analysts have been freely discussing ways to punish Pakistan. Options that should be left to the Army, the Intelligence agencies and the Ministry of External Affairs are being openly discussed with pros and cons and even recommendations are being made!

One of the issues that has come up for punishing Pakistan is a review of the Indus Water Treaty that has stood the test of time and in the past has survived despite wars, near wars, acts of terrorism and other conflicts between the two countries.

Following the Uri attack, suddenly a large number of Indus Treaty Experts have emerged and while most of them have recommended only review some have even suggested out right cancellation.

There are reports that a formal exercise is being under taken at the highest level to review the treaty. Three issues come to my mind.

One- The treaty though facilitated by the World Bank, the latter is not a Guarantor to the treaty. Yet any unilateral amendment will bring in international criticism.

Two- India has not made any infrastructure ready to divert or reduce the waters of the three western rivers- the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab. This should have been done more as a deterrence and is much more lethal than a nuclear one.

The Curious Case of Altaf Hussain

By Abdul Basit
September 29, 2016

“There is a fundamental disconnect between those who view MQM from the outside and those who view it from inside.” 

For many, Muttahida Quami Movement’s (MQM) founding leader Altaf Hussain is a political enigma. They believe there is a method to his madness that shows through his rabble-rousing oratory and his rollercoaster style of politics. Since joining mainstream Pakistani politics in 1984, his party has been in and out of different governments as well as being on the right and the wrong side of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, for different reasons.

Hussain’s anti-Pakistan speech on August 22 was not the first or, perhaps, the last time that he has engaged in a head on confrontation with the country’s powerful military establishment. Staying true to his colors, as in the past, he rendered an immediate apology for his oratorical gaffe after kicking up a political storm. However on August 23, he made even more venomous anti-Pakistan statements while speaking to his supporters in the United States by telephone.

Like his mercurial personality, Hussain’s political career is equally mystifying. Despite a hostile media campaign, the ongoing paramilitary operation in Karachi, allegations of money laundering and criminal charges in the U.K. following Dr. Imran Farooq’s murder, his vote bank has remained largely intact. MQM’s impressive electoral performance in the 2013 general elections, subsequent by-polls, and the recent local government elections testify to this assertion. Moreover, since its inception, MQM has consistently swept the polls (except the 1993 elections for National Assembly elections, which the party boycotted) in Karachi, Pakistan’s financial capital.

Russia’s New Approach to Pakistan: All About Arms Sales

By Sanjay Pulipaka
September 28, 2016

It’s not retaliation against India for its U.S. outreach. Moscow is seeking out new markets in tough economic times. 

Recently, Russia initiated its first ever joint military exercise with Pakistan. A few months earlier, in a first, Russia agreed to sell Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan. Numerous reports also suggest that Pakistan is reportedly in talks with Russia for the purchase of Su-35 combat aircraft. The sale of defense equipment to and military exercises with Pakistan indicate a significant shift in Russian foreign policy.

To state that Russia and Pakistan were Cold War enemies is an understatement. Approximately 14,000 Soviet soldiers were killed and more than 35,000 were wounded in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Many of these causalities were the consequence of mujahideen forces that received significant support from Pakistan and the United States. Even after the end of the Cold War, Pakistan was an important U.S. ally. As a consequence, the defense relationship between Russia and Pakistan was very minimal. That seems to be changing now.

The perception that evolving India-U.S. defense relationship, at the expense of India-Russia defense trade, may have contributed to the shifts in Russian policy toward Pakistan is erroneous. Contrary to popular opinion, India has spent more money on importing Russian military equipment in the recent past. Calculations based ondata from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that from 1994-2004 India purchased approximately $11.43 billion worth of defense equipment from Russia. After the India-U.S. nuclear agreement in 2005 until 2014, arms exports from Russia to India amounted to $20.70 billion. From 1999 to 2003, India received about 23 percent of Russian defense exports, which increased to 24 percent in 2005-2009 and to 39 percent in 2011-2015. In terms of both absolute numbers and as a percentage of Russian exports, India has procured more from Russia in the last ten years than the preceding period. Higher rates of economic growth and growing security concerns prompted India to diversify its defense acquisitions from various countries including the United States. However, such diversification did not happen at the expense of India-Russia defense trade.

China’s New Ocean Surveillance Satellite

September 28, 2016

The High Eyes Of The Chinese Carrier Killer

One interesting aspect of a recent (September 1 st ) failed Chinese satellite launch was that the satellite involved was headed for a high (35,786 kilometers) geostationary orbit. This Gaofen satellite weighs about five tons and it is believed designed to monitor the ocean waters east of China for American aircraft carriers. It does this by using a geostationary orbit, which is more expensive to get to but allows a satellite to remain still relative to the earth below. In the past maritime reconnaissance like this was performed by lower (under 600 kilometers high) orbit radar satellite and moved around the earth every 90 minutes or so. These lower orbit satellites were cheaper to launch abnd got higher resolutionimages of what was below. But these lower orbits are now vulnerable to some anti-missile missiles and can be quickly put out of action.

But a geostationary orbit is much farther out, beyond the range of smaller anti-satellite launched from the surface, In a geostationary orbit a satellite can cover a much larger area. In the case of Gaofen this is a circular patch of the planet 7,000 kilometers wide off the coast of China. Satellites like Gaofen use an optical sensor which can detect objects at sea as small as 50 meters from a geostationary orbit. An American aircraft carrier is over 300 meters long and when its moving the Gaofen can not only spot, identify and track it but does so in real time.

This not only lets China know where the American carrier task forces are but provides targeting information for their new ballistic missile (DF-21D) that has a guidance system enabling it to hit moving warships at sea. DF-21 is a 15 ton, two stage, solid fuel missile that is 10.7 meters (35 feet) long and 140cm (4.6 feet) in diameter. The DF-21D (the carrier killer version) missile gets precise locationinformation from the Gaofen satellites and when it gets to the area within fifty kilometers of where the carrier the DF-21 warhead terminal guidance system can lock onto and hit the moving carrier.

Why the 9/11 Bill Establishes a Dangerous Precedent

September 29, 2016

It’s difficult to argue against a bill entitled the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism act and apparently even harder to vote against it. The so-called “9/11 bill” jointly sponsored by a Republican Senator from Texas and a Democratic Senator from New York, was passed by Congress over Obama’s veto this week. The White House called it the “single most embarrassing thing the Senate has done” in forty years.

The bill allows victims’ families to sue Saudi Arabia for the World Trade Center attacks, primarily based on the citizenship of the attackers (fifteen of the nineteen were Saudi citizens).

Saudi Arabia is an easy target for this legislation. Though officially an ally and quite a good customer of U.S. arms and defense equipment, it has long been viewed with suspicion by the American public. In Foreign Policy, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal noted that Saudi Arabia gets “blamed for everything from global terrorism to high gasoline prices.” The country has been implicated by both sides of the political spectrum, though Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the attacks, and mounted campaigns against Al-Qaeda in concert with the United States. In regional operations, the Pentagon has used Saudi bases, and has a long relationship advising and training the Saudi armed forces.

The presidential veto was based not on an argument to preserve a strategic alliance, but to prevent blowback. The bill establishes a dangerous precedent of allowing victims to hold liable a state for the actions of its citizens. If other nations pass reciprocal measures, the United States could face politically motivated legal retaliation from foreign governments. In separate letters, the Pentagon, White House and intelligence agencies’ argued to uphold the long-standing principle of sovereign immunity as embodied in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. CIA Chief Brennan noted the consequences: “If we fail to uphold this standard for other countries, we place our own nation’s officials in danger. No country has more to lose from undermining that principle than the United States.”

Can Washington Confront Russia, China and Terror All at Once?

September 29, 2016

Much has changed in the fifteen years since the 9/11 attacks. The “low-end” threat posed by terrorist organizations continues. But there is growing recognition that the U.S. military must also be prepared to meet “high-end” threats from potential adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

While America was fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia and China focused on the future: increasing their defense spending, growing their forces, modernizing nuclear capabilities and infrastructure, and capitalizing on any opportunities to advance their interests. Iran continues to develop its ballistic-missile capabilities, provide support to terrorist organizations and undermine U.S. interests throughout the Middle East. North Korea has also made frightening advances in its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities, posing a threat not only to U.S. allies and forces in the Pacific, but even the homeland. In short, today’s military must be prepared for threats like 9/11 as well as those more reminiscent of the Cold War.

Yet America’s ability to defend her interests has weakened. The 2016 Index of Military Strength assessedthat the U.S. military is only “marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.” At least three factors have contributed to this weakness. First, while defense spending increased after 9/11, the defense budget has fallen by 25 percent in real terms since 2011. Second, ongoing missions (Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, etc.) have required a significant investment of money, time and equipment. Third, much of the military’s equipment has aged at an accelerated pace due to a decade of continuous use and high operational tempos. However, we continue to rely on legacy platforms and systems (including our decaying nuclear infrastructure) due to a lack of investment and poor acquisition outcomes. According to Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, “our strategic muscles [have] atrophied.”

Six Factors Will Determine Whether Mosul Is a Success or a Failure

September 27, 2016
Source Link

The Iraqi government, in coordination with Kurdish Peshmerga forces and with strong support from the United States, will begin operations to liberate Mosul from ISIS control as early as this week. Although the campaign is likely to succeed in wresting back control of Iraq’s second largest city, local and regional rivalries could quickly turn the tactical success into a strategic setback.

Without better preparations for the day after, the Mosul campaign could spark several wars within the war and cause great destruction in Mosul. Such a development would complicate stabilization efforts in Iraq, already marred by the virtually nonexistent reconstruction of devastated liberated Sunni towns, the minimal return of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the fear of, and abuses by, Shiite militias. These factors point to continuing, and perhaps worsening sectarian tensions, with resurgence opportunities for ISIS or its successors.

Six issues in particular remain outstanding:

The Role of Shiite Militias. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi initially declared that Shiite militias would not have a role in the operation to retake Mosul. Abadi’s decision was motivated, in large part, by events in the aftermath of the Fallujah liberation earlier this year. When Shiite militias surrounded the city, the predominantly Sunni population accused the militias of committing atrocities against local civilians. Some 600 civilians remain unaccounted for. Aggression by the Shiite militias overshadowed ISIS enormities and provoked Sunni outcries, which led to revenge attacks against Shiite targets. Three months after its liberation, only 500 IDPs had returned to Fallujah, a city that was once home to 350 thousand. Were Shiite militias to enter Mosul or “screen” fleeing civilians, one could expect complications on a yet larger scale. Sunni-Shiite tensions in Mosul could spread across Iraq and foment more extremism. 

Mission Creep Watch: Obama Orders 600 More U.S. Troops to Iraq

Helene Cooper
September 28, 2016

U.S. to Send 600 More Troops to Iraq to Help Retake Mosul From ISIS

American and British soldiers at the Besmaya base southeast of Baghdad in January. Credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Obama has authorized sending an additional 600 American troops to Iraq to assist Iraqi forces in the looming battle to take back the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, United States officials said on Wednesday.

The announcement means that there will soon be 5,000 American troops in Iraq, seven years after the Obama administration withdrew all American troops from the country. Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has criticized both Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, for that decision.

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, traveling in New Mexico, said the additional troops would help with logistics as well as providing intelligence for Iraqi security forces in the fight for Mosul. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that Iraqi forces would be ready to retake the city by early October.

“These are military forces that will be deployed to intensify the strategy that’s in place, to support Iraqi forces as they prepare for an offensive,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday.

Two-And-A-Half Years After ISIS’s Rise: Global Jihad Spreads And Morphs – Analysis

By Clint Watts*
SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

(FPRI) — Today, Islamic State foreign fighters bleeding out of Iraq and Syria power an unprecedented wave of directed attacks on three continents inspiring cascading waves of inspired violence from distant supporters scattered around the world. With that having been said, the good times for the Islamic State ended in 2016. Their decline has come as fast as their rise and points to yet another shift in global jihad. The jihadi landscape, in only three years, has transformed from the unipolar world of al Qaeda to a bipolar competition between the al Qaeda and Islamic State networks to a multipolar jihadi ecosystem with dozens of groups holding varying degrees of allegiance and affinity for their extremist forefathers. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State now represent two big players in a sea of militancy filled with many competing currents. As seen in Figure 10 below, the world of jihad has never been so vast, dispersed, and diluted.

As always, there are a few notes on the al Qaeda versus Islamic State chart as of September 2016 (see Figure 10). I generally don’t like organizational charts for describing jihadi terrorist groups. I’ve been to too many military briefings where organizational charts have been pushed as command and control diagrams. Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and their affiliates largely represent swarming collaborative relationships rather than a directed, top-down hierarchy synonymous of Western military constructs.

Oil Jihad: A Strategic Weapon Against Low Prices? – Analysis

By Ashay Abbhi* 
SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

For terrorist outfits like Al Qaeda and ISIS, low oil prices are counter-productive. These organizations, much like Venezuela, depend mostly on oil for their revenues that ultimately fund their weapons. There is, therefore, a need for them to attack oil infrastructure to freeze production and engineer a price rise.

Oil prices fell through the roof. Unrelenting oil glut. Exporters in shambles. Rejoicing end consumers. But there is more to oil price volatility than meets the eye. Let’s call it Oil Jihad.

The physical security of the world’s source of energy security has been undermined since the Arab Spring and exacerbated since the birth of ISIS, leaving 80% of the world’s crude vulnerable. Groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda and Niger Delta Avengers are fighting for control of oil rich territories in Iraq and Syria to fund terror through back-end trading. In attacking oil infrastructure, there is a grander scheme of choking production and national revenues until such time as prices sky rocket and a black market is established.

But, is there more to what motivates these extremist outfits? Could energy terrorism have deeper roots? Are their motives restricted to only destabilization of government revenues and/or taking control of the oil reserves? Or are the distraught oil-economies looking at it as a desperate measure to engineer an eventual price rise?
Recent attacks and the motivation


SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Five years of horrendous conflict in Syria has given birth to a menacing array of threatening and destabilizing repercussions. From the rapid proliferation of terrorist groups, to mass civilian displacement and an international refugee crisis, not to mention the disintegration of a major nation state at the heart of the Middle East, the consequences of the conflict’s apparent intractability are clear for all to see.

Until now, the United States has adopted an inconsistent and largely half-hearted approach to the crisis. Despitepublicly proclaiming that President Bashar al-Assad had lost his legitimacy in July 2011, the Obama administration has not once determinedly sought to push that political statement towards being a reality. Despite near-daily war crimes for over 1,800 days in a row, the United States has done little to prevent their continuation. Diplomatic statements of concern and non-binding and open-ended initiatives for dialogue based on non-existent trust have all fallen far short of what is necessary to at least slow the rate of killing and destruction.

The inherent mismatch between U.S. rhetoric and practical policy has contributed in part towards the prolongation of Syria’s conflict and to the amplification of its deleterious consequences — locally, regionally, and internationally. The perceived vacuum created by a lack of full U.S. commitment has been filled by Iran, Russia, and countless terrorist organizations. The consequences of that are clear for all to see, particularly this past week around Aleppo.

This is not to say that the United States and the Obama administration have not done anything in response to the conflict in Syria. They certainly have, but not nearly enough. Obama’s insistence on pursuing a diplomacy-first approach is right, brave, and something to be lauded. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to operationalize that diplomacy-first approach, without the threat of any harder U.S. power behind it, are nothing short of extraordinary. However, when diplomacy by itself demonstrably fails for five years in a row and as the consequences of continued conflict worsen by the week, new and alternative policy approaches must by necessity be considered.

To many American policymakers, the Syrian crisis may be seen as distressingly violent, but it is not perceived as an issue of immediate strategic importance. Unfortunately, this ignores the long-term effects of seeing a country at the heart of the Middle East gradually consume itself and begin to destabilize surrounding countries and regions. Terrorism and immigration may be the immediate consequences of concern in the U.S. homeland, but more and much worse may still be on the horizon, if Syria is not dealt with more resolutely.


SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Russia is engaged in an unprecedented, sophisticated attack on the American political system. Defeating it won’t be easy.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was curt to his former aide. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “is a national disgrace and an international pariah,” he wrote. In the leaked email, Powell, whose public persona is dignified and deeply appealing to both political parties, comes across as frustrated and upset by the 2016 presidential election. “I would rather not have to vote for her,” he wrote elsewhere, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, describing her as having “a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational.”

It was the sort of juicy gossip political reporters just cannot ignore, and they predictably ran stories detailing who got burned and who got shade from the famously dignified and respectful Powell. Yet this email leak was the latest vanguard of what has become a sustained campaign of cyber operations by the Russian government, seemingly geared to manipulate the election. By aggressively hacking into email accounts and then selectively leaking documents meant to embarrass Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, Moscow is combining two different strains of security threats in a way no one is sure how to counter. Combining a traditional form of cyber operation (the actual email hacks) with targeted releases to affect a political outcome (information warfare), the Russian government has innovated a type of cyberwarfare that is catching both the media and policymakers off guard.

The Powell emails have been linked to a hacking group called Fancy Bear, and they have been behind some of this year’s biggest cyber operations on the United States. It is the same group that hacked into the Democratic National Committee and released emails in an effort to embarrass Hillary Clinton and hurt her campaign for the presidency. They hacked into the World Anti-Doping Agency in an effort to embarrass Venus and Serena Williams over exemptions they claimed for taking prohibited drugs during the Olympics. They leaked emails by former Supreme Allied Commander-Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove to undermine U.S. policies in Europe. And now they’ve been linked to the Powell email leaks as well.

Has Hong Kong's Economy Peaked?

September 28, 2016 

The sun may be setting on Hong Kong's once indomitable economy.

From 1981 to 2015, Hong Kong sustained an annual growth rate of almost 5 percent, despite numerous global recessions. It was a testament to the power of economic freedom.

For twenty-one consecutive years, The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom has ranked Hong Kong’s economy as the freest in the world—and for good reason. The overall tax burden is only 15.7 percent of GDP. The average tariff rate is 0 percent. The entrepreneurial environment remains one of the world’s most transparent and efficient. Hong Kong also serves as a very important banking and financial center in the Asia-Pacific region. And underpinning its free-wheeling business and trade environment are property rights rated among the strongest in the world.

In recent years, however, Hong Kong’s underlying economic statistics show clear signs of deterioration. Over the last five years, despite modest global economic expansion, Hong Kong’s economy has grown at an annualized rate of only 2.3 percent, roughly equivalent to that of the United States. The government forecasts that Hong Kong’s economic growth will drop to 1 or 2 percent this year, and exports are projected to decline by 4 percent.

Hong Kong’s gross national savings rate declined from 36 percent in 2008 to 25 percent in 2015, leaving fewer funds for domestic investment. The fertility rate (per 1,000 females aged 15 to 45), has fallen from 65.2 in 1981 to 35.9 in 2014, dramatically reducing the growth of the working-age population. More importantly, productivity growth, which ultimately determines living standards, faltered to a paltry 0.8 percent during the past four years. 

Rapid Growth In Propane Exports Drove US Petroleum Product Export Growth In First Half Of 2016 – Analysis

SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

In the first half of 2016, the United States exported 4.7 million barrels per day (b/d) of petroleum products—almost 10 times the crude oil export volume—an increase of 500,000 b/d over the first half of 2015. While U.S. exports of distillate and gasoline increased by 50,000 b/d and nearly 140,000 b/d, respectively, propane exports increased by more than 230,000 b/d (Figure 1).

Propane is now the second-largest U.S. petroleum product export, surpassing motor gasoline. While total U.S. petroleum product exports grew, export destinations remained largely unchanged.

Mexico, Canada, and the Netherlands received the greatest volumes of U.S. petroleum products in the first half of 2016, importing 775,000 b/d, 579,000 b/d, and 271,000 b/d, respectively. Exports to these nations were, respectively, 129,000 b/d, 67,000 b/d, and 66,000 b/d above their level in first half of 2015.

Remember Syria’s Adib Shishakli – Analysis

By Christopher Solomon* for Syria Comment 
SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Nearly 52 years ago, a Syrian political leader hiding in exile was killed in the heart of Brazil. As Syria watchers continue to monitor and understand the country’s grinding civil war, the era of the former Syrian political figure Adib Al-Shishakli could yield some clues.

The flag of the Syrian opposition factions bares the green, white, and black tricolor with three red stars. The very same flag once flew over Syria from its independence until the late 1950’s, a turbulent era marked by political intrigue, military coups, early experiments with democracy, and authoritarian rule. At the center of this era was a powerful political figure now barely remembered both outside of Syria, Adib Al-Shishakli.

As policy makers in capitals across the Western World grapple with Syria’s endless violence, Shishakli’s legacy and the lessons from his time are worth remembering today. Shishakli’s rule over Syria, geopolitical trends, his relationship with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), and his ensuing ouster yield some clues on what we might expect as the civil war prepares to enter its sixth year.
Coups, Stability, and Authoritarian Rule

Adib Al-Shishakli

Hailing from Hama, Shishakli was a Syrian Kurd who served in the Arab armies that took part in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. His exploits on the front lines earned him a following among Syria’s officer corps. Though Shishakli was not known to be an ideologically driven figure, he entertained many of the nascent political activists at the officer’s club in Damascus. Shishakli was largely known for his close association with Antoun Saadeh’s SSNP, also sometimes referred to as the Parti Populaire Syrien (PPS). In addition, his participation in nationalist inspired actions against the French, such as the take over and occupation of the Hama citadel in 1944, only added to his reputation as a man of action.