1 November 2016

The pivot through Kabul

November 1, 2016

India’s growing arms footprint in Afghanistan points to an important future aspect of its regional power projection

We have a wish list that we have put before the government of India,” declared the then Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, on a visit to New Delhi in May 2013. “It is up to the government now to provide us according to their means.” Over the next year, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government decided its means were to be modest. It dithered, wary of provoking Pakistan further, concerned by where its weapons might end up, and pleading a shortage of stocks. In April 2014, it agreed to the curious expedient of paying Russia to supply small arms to Afghanistan. This was, perhaps, not so strange in light of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-Russia agreement that same month to maintain Afghanistan’s crumbling helicopter fleet, building on earlier American purchases from Moscow. But it highlighted India’s cautious approach to over-militarising its engagement in Afghanistan. The arrival of President Ashraf Ghani later that year, and his outreach to Pakistan, rendered the question moot.

Bolstering Afghan forces

But with that outreach now in tatters, the Taliban rejecting peace talks, and Mr. Ghani turning back to New Delhi, the question of arms has come back on the agenda. Three Indian-built transport helicopters were donated in April 2015. Over the winter of 2015-16, several attack helicopters followed. General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, spoke in August of an “immediate need for more”, perhaps the most enthusiastic imprimatur ever given by a U.S. official. And now, Indian press reports suggest that New Delhi is “firming up” plans to send artillery, trucks, and — if you believe the headlines — T-72 tanks. There may be some arms inflation at work here. In fact, the Afghans seem to have asked not for Main Battle Tanks (MBT), which would be overkill for fighting the Taliban, but Russian-designed BMPs, which are quick, versatile, and lightly armoured vehicles for infantry. India has been phasing out its older variants and they would be understandably useful to an army haemorrhaging over a dozen soldiers a day.

*** Pakistan's Tactical Nuclear Weapons and India's Response

By Brig Pillalmarri Subramanyam
30 Oct , 2016

Is Pakistan serious when it enunciated that it will use TNWs on its own soil in a deteriorating situation, when an Indian military action is more likely to penetrate through Pakistan’s defences (or has already breached the main defence line causing a major setback to the defence) which cannot be restored by conventional means ? Does it imply that Pakistan will nuke its own soil when Indian forces are in contact threatening the defences of its population centres such as Lahore or Sialkot? What about the casualties to the civil population of Pakistan? According to a calculation by one expert, Pakistan would have to use a 30-kiloton weapon on its own soil, as this is the minimum required to render ineffective fifty percent of an armored unit. Using Lahore as an example, a 30-kiloton weapon used on the outskirts of the city could kill over 52,000 persons. As Indian troops move closer to Lahore and as the population increases, such a weapon could kill nearly 3,80,000.

Consequent to possession of nuclear weapons and particularly on conclusion of six nuclear tests by Pakistan in May 1988; five based on Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) detonations using boosted fission technology and the sixth plutonium based devise using fusion technology, Pakistan’s seems to be exuberating based on her new found confidence, and her tone and tenor vis-à-vis India had seen a dramatic shift bordering jingoism. An alleged remark reported to have been made by President Zia-ul-Haq in 1987 to the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that, “If your forces cross our borders by an inch, we are going to annihilate your cities” explains Pakistan’s misplaced arrogance and total lack of understanding of the nuances of nuclear realities.

*** 1971 War: Military Aims and Objectives

By Air Vice Marshal AK Tiwary
29 Oct , 2016

“1965 and 1971 Wars were a lesson in how wars should not be fought… the sooner people disabused themselves of the impression that the 1965 War ended in a victory for Pakistan the better…” —Editorial in Pak Defence Journal Sep–Oct 2002

“The Campaign (Bangladesh), though studied by armies abroad, is not studied in much detail in India, nor have the lessons from it, particularly mobility and logistics, been given sufficient weightage.” —Lt Gen JF R Jacob (Chief of Staff, Eastern Army during 1971 War.)

The two Wings of Pakistan were separated by 1600 km of Indian territory. A host of factors, overtime, accentuated the alienation of the Eastern Wing from the West. Briefly these were: attempt to force Urdu over Bengalis in the East; lesser effort and resource for development of the East compared to the West; more resource and revenue generation by the East — majority of which was spent by the West on itself; the distinct culture of the Bengalis from Punjabi culture and efforts to impose Punjabi culture over the Bengalis, the domination by the West in Civil Services, Armed Forces, etc, and finally the refusal of the West to permit certain amount of autonomy to the Eastern Wing.

In December 1970 General Elections were held in Pakistan under the martial law of Gen Yahya Khan, to facilitate the return of democracy. The Awami League Party of the East, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman swept the national assembly elections and emerged as the majority party.1 In the West though Bhutto emerged the victorious leader on behalf of the Pakistan People’s Party, securing majority. The inability of Yahya Khan to work out a political settlement between these rival parties spelled doom for the democracy yet to be born. The ruling junta rejected the popular mandate.

…refugee figures swelled to 8–9 million and killings in East Pakistan estimated over one million amongst a population of 70 million. The refugees mostly comprised the Hindus and Bihari Muslims…

** Patel: why he died

By Claude Arpi
31 Oct , 2016

I am posting today a letter from Sardar Patel to Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary-General of the External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations Ministry.

It is dated November 4, 1950, four weeks after the Chinese had entered Eastern Tibet.

This raises a serious question: very little research has been done on the last weeks of Patel’s life.

It is highly regrettable.

One of the problems that all historical documents of this period remains classified in the MEA.

Why should the Modi Government follow a Congress policy is difficult to comprehend.The Sardar passed away on December 15, two days after being ‘shifted’ to Mumbai (because ‘Delhi was too cold’).

What do we know about the last 2 months of Patel’s life?

Practically nothing, except that he opposed Nehru’s policy on Tibet.

His prophetic letter written 3 days after the note to Bajpai (posted below) raises further questions.

From where did Patel got the information cited in his letter to Nehru?

Exploitation Of NSG’s Nuclear Waiver By India – OpEd

OCTOBER 31, 2016

It was July 18, 2005, when Prime Minister of India Mr. Manmohan Singh and President of United States George W. Bush gave joint statement manifesting their intentions of cooperation on civil nuclear energy. Prime Minister of India had also expressed its commitment that civilian and military nuclear facilities of India would be separated, but in a phased manner. The said commitment of the Indian Prime Minister had connoted that India would only have two categories of facilities i.e. civilian facilities under IAEA safeguards and military facilities outside the safeguard.

The Guidelines of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) imply that nuclear material and technology will only be transferred to that non-nuclear weapon state, which would be having comprehensive safeguard agreements. Since India was (and is still) not a party to Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and it is also not acknowledged as nuclear weapon state for the purposes of NPT, therefore, India is not under any obligation to adhere to a comprehensive safeguard agreement with IAEA over all of its nuclear material and facilities. To enable India to receive nuclear supply under the Guidelines, it was imperative for India to obtain an exception. It was in this context that India announced to separate its civilian facilities from that of military facilities in a phased manner and to declare its civilian nuclear facilities to IAEA.

Upon declaration of India to separate its civil nuclear facilities from that of military facilities, NSG granted, in September 2008, clean waiver to India while referring to the commitments of India regarding separation of civil nuclear facilities and filing of declaration regarding civil nuclear facilities with IAEA. Although the separation plan intended to separate Indian Nuclear program in two categories, i.e. civil and military, but this plan actually produced three categories, i.e., “civilian safeguarded”, “civilian unsafeguarded”, and “military”. This complexity has arisen from the unique character of agreement of Indian safeguards with IAEA.

Fire, Film, Tweet: The Taliban’s New Way of War

OCT. 30, 2016

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters posed for the camera, their shawls and bandannas covering their identities but not their jubilation, as theycaptured the main roundabout in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz early this month in what could have been called “operation hoist the flag and pull out a smartphone.”

The shaky cellphone video directly contradicted Afghan and American military spokesmen, who were promising that Kunduz was safe from falling for a second time in one year. During the invasion, insurgents live-tweeted their victory and flooded social media with videos, often shot by fighters narrating their movements in close to real time. In the video from the roundabout, one of the many fighters in the background is heard saying into a phone: “I will call you back. The flag is going up. I have to film it.”

It was not an isolated incident. When the Afghan government said the insurgents were far from the southern provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, the Taliban quickly put out a video showing a fighter driving around the city’s outskirts in a seized government Humvee, steering wheel in one hand and microphone in the other.

The video, shown below, was aimed at displaying the ease with which Taliban fighters were moving near the city. But it also rubbed salt on the wound: The Taliban are making constant use of the American equipment they have captured from Afghan forces, including the Humvee the fighter was driving.

Increasingly, the Taliban — who, when they controlled the government, banned television and jailed people for photography — rely on their front-line fighters not only to gain territory and strike at the Afghan security forces, but also to record the moment and share it.


OCTOBER 31, 2016

American defense analysts and scholars have correctly diagnosed a major problem afflicting American power, but they are perhaps too optimistic when it comes to the prognosis. Brad Glosserman and David Santoro recentlyexemplified this disconnect at War on the Rocks. They are right when they observe that America suffers from a deterrence deficit in Asia and Europe, and they are right about the key cause of that deficit: America’s rivals doubt its resolve. It is easy to agree that it would be good to fix this problem, but it might not be as easy to do so as the two suggest. America’s rivals may simply be right — maybe the United States is not willing to do what’s needed to resist its challengers. Certainly, no American leader has yet tried to argue convincingly that it should.

At first glance, the solution sounds simple enough. Glosserman and Santoro say that to effectively deter rivals, “the United States should show absolute determination to respond to attacks against its vital interests or those of its allies, even in the face of escalation.” But what exactly does that entail? Let us focus on the case of China.

To deter China, Washington must convince Beijing that it is willing and able to fight a war that would impose greater pain on the Chinese than they are willing to bear to achieve their goals. First, we must be clear that China’s goals are much broader than the immediate issues in contention. Disputes over the “nine dash line” or the Senkaku Islandsmatter to Beijing mainly as opportunities to display strength and press its claims to replace the United States as the primary power in East Asia. This is a first-order national priority seen in Beijing and beyond as essential to China’s future security, prosperity, and identity. And it is, after all, Beijing’s own backyard. That means we should expect China to be more determined to change the regional order than America is to preserve it.

SCO’s Economic Region And Iran’s Contribution: An Exploratory Approach – OpEd

By Ali Biniaz*
OCTOBER 31, 2016

Iran is an energy giant in global scale. Just in terms of natural gas resources, conventional estimates by the Shell and BP have indicated that given the current rate of production, Iran will have natural gas resources for the next 220 years. This estimate will go much higher if one can count on some unpublished estimates in the US which tells Iran may have gas for the next 600 years.

Of course, no one is sure that how long the current global fashion of energy use will remain in place. Nevertheless as a nearly clean source of energy with a potential convertibility into hydrogen for car fueling and prevailing speculation over “Secular Stagnation” in the world’s production pattern, it is not unsafe to say that natural gas will remain the energy of 21st century. If so, then for sure the relevance of Iran’s energy capabilities along with Russia giant gas would be critical for the economic development of the SCO and its economic region’s formation and viability. Energy is a powerful engine of growth and with it move capital and technology, and hence prosperity, into geographical regions.

But beyond the significance of energy, one can say that the importance of Iran’s contribution towards the SCO’s economic zone formation may have something to do with economic innovation and flourishing an environment in which indigenous patterns of self-fashioning consistent with economic development and boosting economic growth could be possible.

The fact of the matter is that world seems to be in a state of suffering from two following setbacks with significant repercussions for the formation of the SCO’s economic region:

South Asian Nuclear Brinkmanship And Recent Tensions – OpEd

OCTOBER 31, 2016

The current tensions between India and Pakistan can be easily traced back to the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and now accentuated after the Uri episode; an attack by the militants on the Indian military forces. The issue has become more complicated but knowing Prime Minister Modi and the kind of composition of his government, this kind of situation or deterioration between India and Pakistan could not have been ruled out.

It has been in fact the part of fluctuations that have taken place between India and Pakistan since independence. The South Asian history is interspersed with wars, conflict, crisis and disruption of diplomatic relations and dialogues between the two states, therefore the prevailing tension was quite expected. It is not a cozy situation. There is a kind of conflict growing up which if escalates, either intentionally or inadvertently, will make the situation all the more dangerous, since both India and Pakistan are nuclear weapon states. It needs to be addressed and handled with utmost care. Not just for the sake of peace and stability of both countries but also because the ramification might go beyond the South Asian region.

Regarding the Uri event, India has internationalized this event. This highlights two Indian objectives, first, to malign Pakistan in the world alleging that terrorist attack at Uri was done by Pakistan. Second, India is now trying to make a political capital of local situation and trying to project Pakistan as terrorist state which is also a general objective of Modi’s government. India tried its best to isolate Pakistan and wanted it to be declared a terrorist state at BRICS Summit but failed miserably. China stood with Pakistan and rejected Indian claims. China’s stance was correct as Pakistan remains the worst victim of terrorism despite playing a vital role in suppressing terrorism.

China’s interests in Middle East: Non-intervention meets economic necessity

by Scott N Romaniuk and Tobias J Burgers
OCT. 24, 2016
Source Link

Over the past several years, China has eagerly eyeballed the Middle East, acting on its interest in economic development and expansion, and the development of its trade deals, but has done so relatively under the radar. China’s recent approach to the Middle East finds some familiar friends and previously established relations with some of the region’s most powerful states. Building a new chapter of relations with Iran, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that, “The Islamic Republic will never forget China’s cooperation during [the] sanctions era.”

China’s cultural ties with Egypt go back to the 1930s with student exchanges and visits by China’s Zhou Enlai on three different occasions. Saudi Arabia was the last Arab country to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1990 and less than a decade later China’s Jiang Zemin went to Saudi Arabia to sign the Strategic Oil Cooperation Agreement. It was during the 1990s that the Gulf-China strategic partnership rapidly expanded. Cooperation back then made perfect sense: China needed Gulf oil and found the market for Chinese good in the Gulf region quickly growing.

Back then China was accused of undermining American interests in the region and for sabotaging U.S. efforts to coax Iran into halting its nuclear program. Today China is not just seeking out Gulf opportunities; rather Gulf leaders are equally reaching out to China in the interest cultivating a glowing future of trade, development, and economic prosperity. In China, the Gulf has found a new and powerful strategic ally; in the Gulf, China has stoked opportunities to fuel its varied international interests and growth.

In the past two years alone, a number of partnership agreements have been signed with the “Big Three,” Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt. Further agreements have been signed with other countries, some of which are based on energy transportation. While some analysts have claimed that China’s violated its policy of non-intervention, China has merely to its policy but playing well at its new proactive diplomacy in multiple areas including energy and security.

What Duterte’s Comments Mean For South China Sea Dispute: India’s Position – OpEd

By Arun Mohan Sukumar 
OCTOBER 31, 2016

In announcing his country’s “separation from the United States”, has the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte radically altered the nature of the South China Sea dispute? Not quite. The US effort to influence its outcome has, nevertheless, come a full circle. Duterte’s remarks indicate that the political costs of the SCS dispute to the parties outweigh potential benefits from the legal imprimatur that comes from an arbitral award. The president’s proposal for the Philippines’ “military” and “economic” separation from the US, made during his state visit to Beijing, are unlikely to change political realities in Asia. Far from tipping the balance of power in the region, it is unclear whether Filipinos themselves will endorse a break in ties with Washington D.C that their president has sought. But the “greased cartridge” reason for Duterte’s remarks is the simmering tension in the region brought to bear by the SCS arbitral award. Indeed, many analysts here in China see Duterte’s intervention as “pragmatic”, meant mostly as course correction after the ITLOS arbitral tribunal rubbished many of China’s “historic” claims on the South China Sea. Three outcomes are likely to follow from the Beijing-Manila detente:

Duterte’s remarks signal he is willing to put the SCS arbitral award on the slow burner, and seek a political resolution to the dispute, which reduces pressure on China to escalate its rhetoric. They are also likely to dissuade Beijing from taking dramatic measures, such as suspending its obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. After the ITLOS tribunal based in the Hague ruled in July that the “nine-dash-line” had no historical or legal basis, the sharpest criticism of Beijing’s position has come from the United States and Japan. Japan may not push China into a corner, given the verdict’s own implications for the Xiaoyu/ Senkaku island dispute. Without the support of key allies, the Obama administration’s room to criticise Beijing too will be limited. Duterte’s remarks will be interpreted in China as an attempt to negotiate the SCS dispute on his own terms — not necessarily in favour of Beijing, but to project his image regionally as an independent interlocutor.

China’s Q3 Indicates Cyclical Stabilization, Secular Challenges – Analysis

OCTOBER 31, 2016

According to the third-quarter data, China’s economy grew 6.7 percent for a third consecutive quarter. Critics claim otherwise. Yet, the real disagreement involves business cycles and secular trends.

China’s sequential growth is now at 7.2 percent; fastest in three years. Manufacturing and service sectors may have bottomed around 2015/16 and have risen since, while consumer price inflation rose to 1.9 percent last month. After seasonal adjustments, exports and imports reflect stabilization as well.

Beijing’s effort to rebalance the economy toward consumption and innovation has begun. In the first three quarters of the year, consumption accounted for 70 percent of GDP growth, almost twice as much as 37 percent attributed to investment.

Yet, skeptics argue that surging debt and property markets undermine stabilization.
Overstated skepticism

In August, Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff sent grave warning about China’s economy and its effects toward the world. As a former IMF chief economist and the co-author of a 2009 bestselling debt analysis, Rogoff and his comments carry weight in markets.

Rogoff builds his case on the debt-to-GDP gap. This ratio was developed after the global crisis to quantify ‘”excessive credit.” Large gaps (China’s exceeds 30 percent) have been found to be an early warning indicator of banking crises or severe distress.

America's Latest South China Sea FONOP Did More Harm Than Good

October 30, 2016

Unambitious. That’s the proper adjective for USS Decatur’s “freedom of navigation” cruise near the Paracel Islands last week. Released last year, the Pentagon’s Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy lists “safeguarding freedom of the seas” first among U.S. strategic priorities for the region, followed by “deterring conflict and coercion” and “promoting adherence to international law and standards.” The Maritime Security Strategy is a fine document on the whole, and there’s no quarreling with its to-do list. The document also presents observers a yardstick to judge Decatur’s exploits in the South China Sea.

The yardstick tells a sobering tale: on balance the operation advanced none of the Pentagon’s self-professed strategic aims. It challenged one minor Chinese infraction—Beijing’s demand that foreign ships request permission before transiting waters China regards as its own—while letting China’s major affronts to freedom of the seas stand. Indeed, by seeming to acquiesce in the notion that the transit was an “innocent passage” through Chinese-claimed waters, the operation may have actually vindicated Beijing’s lawlessness. That’s no way to promote adherence to international law and standards, let alone deter conflict or coercion.

A Partnership That Can Stop China in the South China Sea

October 30, 2016

As China continues to exhibit assertive—and sometimes provocative—behavior toward the United States and the other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, tensions are gradually rising in and around the East China Sea (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS). However, Washington’s regional allies and partners—Manila, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo—possess a historic opportunity to enhance peace and stability in and around these troubled waters. By establishing a quadrilateral dialogue, they can facilitate mutual understanding of regional challenges as well as greater cooperation and collaboration; build more mutual trust and consensus; and develop an enduring forum and mechanism for strategic dialogue to manage tensions and maintain peace.

In 2008, the Lowy Institute’s Rory Medcalf reflected upon the “strange rise and fall” of the quadrilateral dialogue established by Australia, India, Japan and the United States. The dialogue quickly faltered, with observers arguing that it lacked a concrete agenda and raised fears of containment in Beijing. The experiment nevertheless “helped to cement awareness of the need for collaboration among those countries willing and able to address regional issues, like disaster relief or sea lane security, while confirming that such ventures” will ultimately prove “more sustainable if they are based on convergent interests and the ability to contribute rather than on supposed shared values.”

Following Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen’s May 20 inauguration andOctober 10 National Day speeches—in which she declined to endorse the so-called “one China” principle while pledging to pursue a consistent, predictable, sustainable and peaceful cross-Strait relationship—Beijing isintensifying diplomatic and economic pressure on Taipei in an attempt to decrease its international maneuvering space and compel it to accept China’s sovereignty demands. Beijing is vigorously attempting to isolate Taipei by calling upon foreign nations todeepen implementation of their “one China” policies, according to Beijing’s own strict interpretation. From forcing “Chinese Taipei” to participate in the World Health Assembly under a “one China” rubric, to successfully pressuringCambodia, Malaysia, Kenya and Armenia to repatriate Taiwanese fraud suspects to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to convincing Kyrgyzstan to deny visas to all Taiwanese citizens, to ensuring that Taiwan was denied an invitation to the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization conference, Beijing is making it clear that it will not tolerate “separatism.” Tsai has responded that the people of Taiwan will not back down to pressure: China must “face up to the reality” that Taiwan not only exists, but that its people “have an unshakeable faith in the democratic system.”


30 OCT 2016

A member of the Iraqi forces in al-Shura, south of Mosul, prepares for an operation to retake the city from Islamic State. Experts say Asian militants fleeing Iraq could return home to pursue jihad. Photo: AFP

As Iraqi forces tighten the noose around Islamic State’s last bastion in the country, it’s tempting to hope that actions to wipe out its self-declared caliphate – one that has been characterised by rape, torture and summary beheadings – could deal the group a fatal blow.

Yet even those involved in the offensive on Mosul – described as the biggest battle in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion – acknowledge that rather than being a key step towards the total defeat of IS, it may instead lead to a shift in the theatre of conflict.

Iraqi pro-government forces south of Mosul ride in a vehicle adorned with an image of Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Husaini al-Sistani. Photo: AFP

There is rising concern among regional counterterrorism officials that the US-backed war machine encircling Islamic State (IS) is inadvertently spawning a jihadist alumni network in Southeast Asia and elsewhere made up of fleeing militants seeking a safe haven in their home countries.

ISIS: An Adaptive Hybrid Threat in Transition

October 29, 2016

Even as coalition forces mass on the suburbs of Mosul and prepare their assault on the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq, strategic planners are far from declaring victory. After all, only two years ago the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or ISIL, captured the Middle East and the world by storm when they launched their bold and brutal offensive across broad swathes of Iraq and Syria. Major cities from Ramadi to Aleppo were toppled like dominoes, and for a time even Baghdad appeared vulnerable. Today, as ISIS begrudgingly withdraws from occupied territories, they are re-inventing themselves as a transnational threat, as evidenced by horrific ISIS-affiliated or inspired terror attacks in Brussels, Paris, Jakarta, San Bernardino, and Manhattan.[i] US ground commander Lieutenant General Sean McFarland’s grave warning is already proving prophetic: “Military success in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily mean the end of [ISIS]. We can expect the enemy to adapt, to morph into a true insurgent force and terrorist organization capable of horrific attacks.”[ii]

Since its inception, ISIS has distinguished itself from other terror organizations in its ambition and tactics, which many defense analysts have characterized as a hybrid threat. To be certain, the ISIS of 2016 looks and acts very differently than it did two years ago, a testament to their ability to rapidly transition from a position of relative strength and adapt to face an overmatching adversary and persevere for the long-term. Despite the loss of ground, ISIS will continue to use multivariant activities to target vulnerabilities and achieve synergistic effects. This article re-visits the authors’ assertion in a previous SWJ publication[iii] that ISIS is indeed a hybrid threat, and that this characterization has implications for decision-makers and planners. The authors propose a conceptual framework for countering ISIS based upon an analysis of their key characteristics and use of a model for understanding and predicting likely transitions and adaptations that hybrid threats employ in response to fluid operational conditions.

Hybrid Threat Characteristics

UNESCO And To Hell With The Truth! – OpEd

OCTOBER 31, 2016

“To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything.” — Eugene O’Neill: “The Iceman Cometh”

Opinions and wishful thinking are not the same as provable facts. It is one thing, for example, to believe fervently that Marxism is a preferable system to capitalism, but to maintain against all the evidence that the world is a flat disc floating in space is surely unsustainable. Yet the Flat Earth Society flourishes, even in 2016. Discounting all the scientific evidence to the contrary, there are people who have convinced themselves that the world is not a globe spinning in space. As the ancient proverb has it: “There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.”

And so, for example, there are large numbers of people who deny that the Holocaust ever occurred, choosing to ignore the overwhelming weight of historical evidence, the testimony of thousands of witnesses and participants, and the tons of documents, photographs and film footage. They can maintain this even in the face of the evidence of such Nazi officials as SS-ObersturmbannführerRudolf Hoess, given at his trial in Nuremberg in 1946:

“I commanded Auschwitz [from 1 May 1940] until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning. …victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens, mostly Jewish, from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.”

Relations Between Kurds And US Following Rise Of Islamic State In Region – Analysis

By Mohammad Ali Dastmali* 
OCTOBER 30, 2016

To understand the details of the United States’ relations with Kurds, we need a flashback to remember that in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century Kurdish groups in the region were mostly related to Britain and, in some cases, Russia. However, after such important developments as the World War II, independence of Syria, developments in Iraq as well as other important events in the world and the region, the United States turned into the most important foreign power having relations with regional Kurdish groups.

During developments, which unraveled after Kuwait was invaded by former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, the United States came to realize that compared to Shia and Sunni groups in Iraq, Kurdish political groups were more ready for political and military coordination and interaction, and it was during the same period that a serious relationship was established between the two sides. That relationship has been profitable for both sides and has become more profound and meaningful on a daily basis.

Following the breakout of the ongoing crisis in Syria, especially after all countries in the region and world realized the importance of the rise of the most dangerous terrorist group in the world, that is Daesh, relations between Kurds and the United States developed into other dimensions. If up to 20-30 years ago, only two Kurdish groups, that is, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani, were in the focus of Washington’s attention, this is not the case anymore during new times.


OCTOBER 28, 2016

Does publicly announcing an impending military offensive expose assaulting troops to dangers that could be avoided if plans to invade were kept quiet? During all three presidential debates, Republican nominee Donald Trump has asserted that the Obama administration was “stupid” for publicly discussing the impeding joint U.S/Iraqi offensive against ISIL in Mosul, claiming that Hillary Clinton was “telling the enemy everything [she] want[s] to do” and asking “why not a sneak attack?” A week ago, he tweeted:

The attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster. We gave them months of notice. U.S. is looking so dumb. VOTE TRUMP and WIN AGAIN!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2016

With the recent slate of successful high-profile covert operations against terrorists and the widespread use of drone strikes to eliminate non-state actors around the globe, on the surface Trump’s critique seems a reasonable question. However, the idea that the United States could conduct a sneak attack against an entrenched ISIL in a city the size of Mosul does not take into account either the logistical realities of major battlefield offensives or the strategic benefits of advertising such an operation beforehand. With the high-profile assault underway against an estimated 5,000 jihadist fighters, it is worth examining in depth the reasons why advertising a major military offensive on an urban target would be in the interest of the assaulting forces. History is instructive here: A review of the battles for Fallujah in 2004 reveals that taking the time to publicly announce and prepare for an assault of this nature can play a critical role in ensuring success on the battlefield.

Why the Maldives Is Sending Terrorists to Syria and Iraq

October 30, 2016

A popular tourist destination could be sliding into Islamist terrorism following its departure from the British Commonwealth, according to regional experts.

The Maldives, a nation of 1,192 islands in the Indian Ocean, is best known for its tropical weather and seaside resorts. But Maldives has sent more terrorists per capita than any other country in the world to fight with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Expert analysts fear a greater terrorist threat following the country’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Nations October 13.

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 52 sovereign states, most of which once were British colonies or former holdings of the colonies. While politically independent, Commonwealth nations cooperate within a framework set forth by The Singapore Declaration, which puts an emphasis on values such as individual liberty, free trade and world peace. The Maldives had been a member of the Commonwealth since 1982.

But President Abdulla Yameen has pursued a crackdown on dissent since his election in 2013. The Yameen administration has arrested opposition leaders, announced plans to end a moratorium on capital punishment, and closed media outlets.

A Commonwealth of Nations meeting on September 23rd resulted in a communiqué warning the Maldives it could face suspension from the group unless its human rights situation improved. Rather than respond to those concerns, the Maldives withdrew from the organization.

Some Maldivians cheered the move, comparing it on social media with the unexpected victory for the Brexit vote in June, which puts the United Kingdom on a path to leave the European Union.

But international observers were not so sanguine.

How Islamic State Is Putting the Balkans on Edge

October 30, 2016

In Europe’s fragile southeast, Islamism threatens to galvanize national rivalries and unravel two decades of cold peace.

For the largely secular, moderate and west-leaning Balkan states, where religious kinship transcends borders, violent extremism is fueling fear, ethnic tribalism and seditious security agendas. And as Islamic State group fighters disband amid the siege against Mosul, the situation only promises to escalate.

In July, footage of Islamists burning Serbian flags to the tune of pro-Bosnia music and gunshots went viral. It followed the murder of a policeman in the Republika Srpska (RS) (Bosnia’s Serbian “entity”) by a lone-wolf Islamist extremist, a similar gunning down of two Bosnian soldiers in a Sarajevo suburb, and deadly clashes between officers and alleged insurgents in Macedonia last year.

A small, yet significant, domestic radical presence, flanked by returning Islamic State fighters are carrying the threat. Salafism, an ultra-conservative strand of Sunni Islam, has been nurtured in the Balkans through Saudi-sponsored preachers, mosques and madrassas ever since the 1990s when the Bosnia and Kosovo wars first lured thousands of jihadists to the defense of fellow Muslims. Poorly governed post-communist and transitions have meanwhile left a legacy of poverty, unemployment and corruption in the former Yugoslav states, which has only pushed the disillusioned further into the path of radical cells.

It’s meant the region has been a significant exporter of fighters for Islamist groups, with official sources claiming around 900 nationals—mainly from Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania—have travelled to Iraq and Syria. But as Islamic State paralyzes in the Middle East, many combatants are slated to return home—some have already done so, aided by the smokescreen of Europe’s refugee crisis. They will possess frontline skills, sharpened ideological beliefs and a desensitization to violence that will intensify and influence the Islamist movement in their homeland.

Syria: The Next U.S. President's First 100 Days

October 29, 2016

According to the Washington Post, there is already a lively debate among Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s foreign-policy advisers about what is to be done in Syria if she becomes the next president. Arguments are between those who call for more U.S. engagement—specifically in support of a safe zone for refugees and/or a no-fly zone—and those who fear that these measures are fraught with risks and are ineffective to boot.

As I see it, the first step ought to be a declaration that the United States is no longer seeking coercive regime change, but rather—for now—only a cessation of hostilities, leading to a negotiated settlement among the main parties involved. For the first four years of this tragic civil war, the United States insisted that President Assad had to leave as a precondition for negotiations; for the last year and a half, the United States has continued to hold this position but rephrased it to allow for some wiggle room. The position was based on the neoconservative theory that the United States’ mission is to push over those regimes that stand in the way of the global march to democracy (inFrancis Fukuyama’s words, those still “stuck in history”) and the belief that the Assad regime was teetering on the brink of collapse anyway. It turns out that Assad held on and is gaining. Above all, we learn—surprise!—that when you demand that the leader of the party you need to deal with remove himself from power, he is most unlikely to accommodate you. (Nor has anyone explained why the United States believed that whoever would have replaced Assad would be any better.)

The same ambition also led the United States to keep looking for liberal, pro-democracy rebels to ally itself with, which turned out to be the smallest and weakest group of the lot, and not a very liberal one either. The humanitarian purpose of saving hundreds of thousands of lives and stopping millions more from being displaced and driven into neighboring countries and to Europe, should be the United States’ first goal. There is no way to reach this goal in the near future and to avoid Assad being part of a settlement, if one can be reached at all.

In Syria, the U.S. may need more troops to manage shaky alliance

By: Andrew Tilghman, 
October 30, 2016

U.S. commanders in the Middle East are trying to determine whether 300 U.S. troops on the ground inside Syria will be enough to oust the Islamic State group from its self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa. 

It’s not a question of combat power. The U.S. has plenty of local allies willing to fight ISIS there. The challenge is convincing those groups to fight the militants rather than each other. 

“The biggest problem with Raqqa will be managing the coalition,” said J. Matthew McInnis, a Middle East security expert with the American Enterprise Institute. “If you get an extra six hundred or an extra one thousand troops, that doesn’t dramatically change the situation from a military standpoint, but it does from a political standpoint. You gain a certain amount of ability to man

U.S. officials say the invasion of Raqqa will begin within weeks. They feel a sense of “urgency” because new intelligence suggests ISIS leaders in Raqqa are planning external attacks in the U.S. and Europe. 

This will draw the U.S. military deeper than ever into the multi-sided Syrian civil war, a battlefield far more complex than the one in Iraq, which for years has been the main focus of the U.S. effort to defeat ISIS. The invasion of Raqqa will put the teams of U.S. special operations troops into a unique role managing the movements of rival allied factions that often have fought each other during the five-year-old conflict. 

The Spy’s Bookshelf

October 30, 2016

A couple new books have come to my attention which deserve note:

* Nate Jones (ed.), Able Archer 83 (NY: The New Press, 2016). Nate Jones, the director of the FOIA Project at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C., has put together a compendium of 13 declassified U.S. government documents he has obtained in recent years concerning the 1983 ABLE ARCHER U.S. nuclear weapons release exercise held in Germany. As the text of this book explains in considerable detail, the Soviet intelligence community badly misread the nature and extent of the exercise, and the Kremlin placed its nuclear forces on heightened alert, thinking that the U.S. military was preparing to attack the USSR. If you want to see how bad intelligence can help start wars, read this book. Further details about this book can be found here.

* Dick van der Aart, The Secret MiGs of Bornholm (Air-Intel Research, 2016). I will bet that few, if any, of you remember that during the Cold War three Soviet-made MiG-15 fighters belonging to the Polish Air Force were flown to the Danish island of Bornholm in the middle of the Baltic Sea, A fourth Polish pilot flew his MiG-15 fighter to Sweden, perhaps wary of the fact that Denmark is by reputation “the happiest country in the world.” This book describes each of these defections, and the resulting furor as the Danish government tried desperately to prevent these defections from becoming a diplomatic crisis while at the same time allowing American and British intelligence specialists to examine the planes. A journalist by trade and aviation enthusiast by habit, Dick van der Aart has written a very readable and important book on a forgotten part of Cold War intelligence history. Well worth reading. Further details can be found here.

* Bob de Graaff and James M. Nyce (eds.), The Handbook of European Intelligence Cultures (NY: Rowan & Littlefield, 2016). This 430-page book consists of 32 chapters covering the activities and political cultures of the intelligence and security services of all European countries, from Albania to the United Kingdom. The editors have chosen academic or journalistic experts from each of the countries to write the chapters, so you really get an excellent and well-sourced reference book on who is doing what to whom in the European intelligence world, foibles and all. This book is not cheap, but it is worth it if you are serious about knowing the details of the European intelligence scene. Further details can be found here.