31 July 2016

Modi In Iran: A Successful Visit – OpEd

By Ambassador KP Fabian* 
JULY 29, 2016

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Iran from 22-23 May 2016 is easily one of the best visits in terms of impact, made by this globe-trotting head of government who went to 26 countries in 2015. This visit has to be viewed in context. Iran is a superpower in energy with 10 and 18 per cent of global oil and gas reserves respectively. Treated as a pariah state by Washington since the 1979 US embassy hostage crisis and later put under more sanctions by others too for the absurd charge of enriching uranium, Iran demonstrated singular skill in playing diplomatic chess by concluding the nuclear agreement in July 2015, leading to the lifting of most of the sanctions by January 2016. China’s President Xi Jinping was the first to reach Tehran after the lifting of sanctions.

Any criticism of Modi for not rushing earlier to Iran is misplaced. He correctly chose the sequencing, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, and soon, Qatar. If Modi had gone to Iran first and then to Saudi Arabia, he would have risked a cold reception in Riyadh, of which US President Barack Obama got a taste with the Saudi media not highlighting his visit.

Modi’s meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is significant as such a meeting is rarely accorded to a visiting chief of government or state. The Ayatollah had come to India in the early 1980s when he was deputy minister of defence. Twelve agreements on matters ranging from Iran’s Chabahar Port to foreign office-level consultations were signed. The most important themes covered by the agreements are connectivity, trade, and investment. Pakistan permits Afghanistan to send goods to India via the Wagah border but it does not permit Afghanistan to import from India via the same route. Chabahar Port will give India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The word ‘Chabahar’ means four springs in Persian, meaning that it is always spring there. There is a road from Chabahar in Iran to Zaranj in Afghanistan, and from there to Delaram (built by India in 2009) which is on the Garden Highway linking the four major Afghan provinces of Herat, Balkh, Ghazni, Kabul, Farah and Kandahar. India will be constructing a railway line in Iran connecting Chabahar to Zahedan.

Elections In PoK And Protests In Kashmir Valley: The Linkage – Analysis

By Prabha Rao*
JULY 29, 2016

Burhan Wani’s death on July 8 occurred just before the elections in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Expectedly, election rhetoric from all concerned political parties, including the ruling Pakistan Muslim League ­Nawaz (PML­N), and the opposition, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and others, contained passionate eulogies for the ‘martyr’ Burhan Wani, and re­runs of the usual Pakistani litany of Indian atrocities and human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a cabinet meeting on July 15 in which he declared Pakistan’s unstinting support for the Kashmiris’ “just struggle for self-determination.”1 Interestingly, he announced Islamabad’s intention to observe July 19 as a “Black Day”, which was swiftly postponed to July 21, to coincide with elections in PoK. In a campaign speech in Islamabad, he asserted that Pakistan was and will continue to be a stakeholder in Kashmir, which could not be considered India’s internal matter. Nawaz Sharif was echoed by the Pakistani establishment. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary requested the Islamabad-based Ambassadors of the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, which comprises Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Niger, to raise their voice against “the blatant human rights violations” of Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley.2 Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaz Aziz stated on July 25, in reply to Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement that Burhan Wani was considered to be a terrorist by India, thus: “Let us not forget, that not long ago the British labelled Indian freedom fighters as traitors and terrorists because at that time India was considered an integral part of the British Empire.”3 While the intention to rile India, especially in international fora, is always an objective with Pakistan, the political mileage that Nawaz Sharif and the PML­N has extracted from this situation in the past two weeks needs to be evaluated and factored.

AQIS Ups Ante, But Against India Or Islamic State? – Analysis

By Balasubramaniyan Viswanathan 
JULY 29, 2016

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has come out with a new message titled “a message to Mujahid nation of Kashmir,” encouraging Kashmiris in India to emulate knife attacks similar to the ones carried out against the Israelis in the Palestine. “Your brothers in Falasteen” AQIS extols, referring to Palestine, “have written new chapters of jihad with decentralized knife attacks on Israelis, what stops you from using a dagger or knife to slit the throats of forces of Kufr?”

This message comes in the wake of widespread protests in Jammu and Kashmir for the past one week as a result of the death of a popular flamboyant militant leader, Burhan Wani belonging to the Hizbul Mujahideen. The mass protests have left 30 dead and hundreds injured; they have witnessed scenes of army camps being attacked by unruly mobs and weapon snatched from army men. All these occurrences have been mentioned in the AQIS statement as well, indicating a possible change in the AQIS strategy while attempting to up the ante in India. It is quite unlike AQIS to come out with statements in real-time; they rarely coincide with the actual incidents that trigger them. This Kashmir-centric message closely follows an earlier statement by AQIS, which, though not incident or region-specific, also has aimed to instigate Indian Muslims. The message titled “No to the slogan of disbelief” was released by the head of AQIS, Moulana Asim Umar.

“Even if you come out with merely knives and sword,” proclaims Moulana Asim Umar in the earlier message, “history bears witness – Hindus cannot withstand you.”

Indian Defense System And Options For Pakistan – OpEd

JULY 29, 2016

The former US President Ronald Reagan, while deliberating upon the goal of defensive technologies stated “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?”

The statement indicated the steadfastness of defense system in order to ensure shelter however the realities have changed after decades about the BMDs in the contemporary environment especially about the South Asian region. The strategic stability of South Asian landscape revolves around the corollary of nuclear deterrence. The stable or unstable deterrence influence the security dilemma, nuclear threshold, regional asymmetry, nuclear employment and peace accordingly. Pakistan and India experienced the effectiveness of nuclear factor and strategic equation in the region. However, few recent developments in the region has put the nuclear optimist assessment about the nuclear weapon’s impressive contribution and impression of deterrence equilibrium in constructing strategic stability, under stress.

The BMD system consists of sensors to detect and track the missile/warhead and a guided missile, called interceptor, to intercept and destroy the incoming enemy ballistic missiles by using the “hit-to-kill,” direct impact technologies—i.e., by “hitting a bullet with a bullet.” In nuclear factor, not the number of nuclear weapons but their credibility and survivability matter unless influenced by other features having direct relevance with deterrence like transition in military doctrines, Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, Multiple Independently Targeted Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) and assured second strike capability. Thus status quo remains stable if strategic equilibrium is in play; the concept of mutual destruction functions and the nuclear opponents has reciprocal annulment of options for war at any level. This piece aims to specifically analyze the recent Indian test of supersonic interceptor missile in pursuit of full-fledged and multi-layered BMD system in a strategic environment which is greatly complex, unstable and unpredictable.

The Persecution of Afghanistan's Hazaras Has Less to Do with Religion Than You Think

July 28, 2016

On Saturday, thousands of ethnic Hazaras rallied in Kabul to press for an electricity transmission line to be routed through their heartland (Hazarajat) in central Afghanistan. Months of tensions had led up to the protest—the second since May. The protestors were met by two suicide bombers, purportedly from the local affiliate of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), known as the “Khurasan Province” (IS-Khurasan). At least eighty people were killed in the dual blasts.

Given Afghanistan’s unique sociohistorical context, the attack claimed by IS-Khurasan elevates the danger not of sectarian conflict, but of ethnic conflict and the collapse of the power sharing agreement in Kabul.

The Syrian War Comes Home?

IS-Khurasan stated that it attacked the Hazaras because of their involvement in the war in Syria. Most, but not all Hazaras are Shia Muslims, and they constitute a vast majority of the Shias from Afghanistan and Pakistan recruited by Iran to fight on behalf of the al-Asad regime in Syria. Their involvement in Syria is billed as part of the defense of the holy sites revered in particular by Shia Muslims. In reality, however, what began with a few hundred Shias from Afghanistan and Pakistan defending holy sites has mushroomed into a division-size force fighting as part of the Liwa Fatemiyoun. Hundreds of these Shia fighters have been given sniper trainingby Hezbollah. Recruited by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Hazara Shias have been used by Iran to make up for heavy losses on the battlefield. While IS poses a compelling threat to holy sites revered especially by Shias, the involvement of Hazara Shias in Syria’s sectarian war puts their own community back home in greater danger.

An IS-Khurasan commander told Reuters, “Unless they [the Hazara Shias] stop going to Syria and stop being slaves of Iran, we will definitely continue such attacks.”

China And North Korea’s Missiles: Having The Cake And Eating It? – Analysis

 By Nah Liang Tuang*
JULY 29, 2016

Beijing bitterly opposes the deployment of US missile defence systems in South Korea, but unless it is prepared to implement sanctions which would seriously punish Pyongyang’s missile aggrandisement, such deployments are inevitable.

The progress of the North Korean ballistic missile programme seems inexorable. If recent history is any guide, it shows that Pyongyang will order its rocket scientists and technicians to doggedly pursue their life’s work until success is achieved and can be trumpeted to the international community.

Looking at the DPRK’s long range missile programme, the Pyongyang regime’s determination to exhibit rocketry progress is shown by failed Paektusan and Taepodong model tests on 31 August 1998 and 5 July 2006 respectively, followed by failed Unha model rocket launches in 2009 and 2012. Eventually, North Korea determination was rewarded with a successful Unha launch in December 2012. Such tenacity to showcase missile development was also displayed in the shorter ranged Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) category.

North Korean SLBMs: Same Stubborn Resolve?

Islamic fundamentalists have a special loathing for Christianity

On Tuesday morning, an 85-year-old man was forced to his knees while his throat was slit by Islamic fanatics. The murder of Father Jacques Hamel in the church at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, has been recognised by western public opinion as an act of unspeakable barbarity. One could say that the facts speak for themselves. But for Catholics, this atrocity possesses a special horror.

Father Hamel was killed while re-enacting the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is the essence of the Catholic Mass, which — unlike Protestant commemorations of the Last Supper — is presented to the faithful as the same sacrifice offered by Jesus.

Douglas Murray and Haras Rafiq discuss Europe’s summer of terror:

To kill a priest who is saying Mass is therefore an act of unique desecration. You do not need to be a believer to grasp this point. Enemies of the church have understood it since the beginning: an early pope, St Sixtus, was beheaded during Mass in 258 ad by agents of the Emperor Valerian.

Islamists, who reach back to the Dark Ages for so many of their actions, have rediscovered this crime. Their intense (and very successful) campaign to cleanse the Middle East of Christians reached its symbolic peak on 31 October 2010, when Father Thaer Abdal was shot dead at the altar of the Syrian Catholic church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. Fifty-seven other innocent people, many of them worshippers, died with him.

The gunmen who broke into the church during Sunday Mass were heard to scream: ‘All of you are infidels… we will go to paradise if we kill you and you will go to hell.’ They were members of an Iraqi faction of al-Qaeda that had declared war on churches, ‘dirty dens of idolatry’, and in particular ‘the hallucinating tyrant of the Vatican’.

The motives of Islamic terrorists are sometimes hard to disentangle from their personal biographies and factional infighting. But sometimes they are obvious, and the only thing obscuring them is the politically correct preciousness of the liberal western media and commentariat.

Many Islamic fundamentalists, including those who don’t participate directly in violence, loathe Christianity with a poisonous passion reminiscent of medieval Christian anti-Semitism. Its practice must be suppressed — either without violence, as in Saudi Arabia, or amid carefully staged scenes of bloodshed, as in Baghdad or Rouen.

In the 21st-century Middle East, Christianity has been suppressed on an astonishing scale. Countless atrocities have reduced ancient Christian communities to shrivelled and terrified ghettoes or underground churches. Although this persecution has been reported in the West, it is of no great interest to secular politicians or the media. It is, as Neville Chamberlain said in a different context, part of ‘a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing’.

Nice, Orlando and More

July 29, 2016
Latest Attacks Show the Limits of Counter-Terrorism
The steady stream of terrorist attacks over the last two months has seen the worst fears of many terrorism analysts realised, and called into question the fundamentals of how governments 'do' counter-terrorism.

The investigative ethos at the heart of counter-terrorism is fairly simple. Intelligence agencies ask two broad questions: is this person or group linked to people we already know are terrorists, and does their visible activity include behavioural precursors that have been reliably linked to terrorism in the past?

These two questions lie at the heart of both the triaging of new leads and active investigations. In the case of the latter, agencies have created 'tripwires' to identify suspicious behaviour, such as suddenly buying large quantities of fertiliser or making unexpected plans to travel overseas.

In the current climate, where most agencies have more targets than investigative capacity, drawing a negative on both of these questions means an investigation is unlikely to go any further. Yet from what we know so far about the staggering number of individuals and groups behind attacks over the past eight weeks and beyond, for some the answers to these questions would have drawn a blank.

This is in large part due to a shift in terrorism strategy articulated by al Qaeda in their Inspire magazine in 2010 but brought to life by ISIS: open-source jihad. By encouraging attacks in which the attacker alone identifies the target, timing and method, it removed the requirement for pre-attack coordination with known terrorist entities.

Afghan, U.S. Commandos Launch Offensive Against ISIS

JULY 28, 2016

Last week’s Islamic State bombing of a protest rally in Kabul that killed 80 people and injured over 200 more came amid a major assault by the Afghan army — and U.S. special operations forces — on the group’s stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.

The bombing was by far the Islamic State’s deadliest attack in the country to date, and the worst in the capital since the Taliban was ousted in 2002. The scale of the assault also calls into question comments by Afghan and American officials that the Islamic State had been largely contained to just a handful of districts in the mountainous border region with Pakistan.

France’s War Against the Islamic State Is Not in Syria

François Hollande has taken France to war against Islamist enemies abroad. He should use those resources closer to home.

The new fighting in the east comes as Afghan security forces struggle to reverse Taliban gains across the country, where the militants now control more territory than at any point since 2001, and have inflicted record casualties on government forces. In 2015, about 16,000 Afghan soldiers and police were killed or wounded, a number which was already a significant increase from 2014’s record of 12,500 casualties.

And 2016 promises to be even bloodier. Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, told reporters Thursday that casualties this year are 20 percent higher than last year, as the Afghan army and police continue to grapple with poor leadership, high turnover, and near-constant combat. Washington has spent almost $70 billion since 2002 to build and train the country’s security forces.


JULY 28, 2016

There is still much uncertainty about the causes and consequences of Turkey’s failed coup attempt last week, but one thing is for sure: it will prove to be a watershed moment in Turkish politics.

It is the first time since 1963 that Turkey witnessed a coup attempt launched outside the chain of command. Accordingly, the events of July 15 came as a complete surprise to most and only a very few (including yours truly, as I first pointed out in 2013 and last September) saw a “not top-down” coup attempt coming.

In Turkey’s long history of military interventions, the recent coup attempt also marks the first time that people in the tens of thousands took to the streets and literally faced off tanks, even at the expense of their lives. In addition, it is the first time a military intervention, or a coup attempt, led to this much blood, with around 300 dead and thousands wounded. The images of rebel F-16s bombing the Parliament, tanks running over peaceful protestors, and conscripts opening fire on civilians will stain Turkish collective consciousness for decades.

While the failed coup attempt is a “first” in many dimensions, it is also the last chance President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have to prevent Turkey from sliding into a “political winter” that will be marked either by an increasingly authoritarian one-man regime or as I previously wrote here, a perfect storm that brings together two dark episodes in Turkish political history: the political polarization of 1970s and the ethnic tensions of 1990s. On the other hand, if Erdogan can actually prevent the Turkish winter, he may pave the way for a political spring, with him acting as the catalyst for Turkey’s transformation into a truly democratic and tolerant country.

What Makes Islamic State A Formidable Terrorist Group? – OpEd

JULY 29, 2016

It is an indisputable fact that morale and ideology plays an important role in the battle; moreover, we also know that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists, these days, has directly been inspired by the puritanical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is not sufficient to succeed in the battle.

Looking at Islamic State’s spectacular gains in Syria and Iraq in the last couple of years, a question arises that where does its recruits get all the training and state-of-the-art weapons that are imperative not only for the hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding vast swathes of territory?

The Syria experts of the foreign policy think tanks also seem to be quite “worried,” these days, that where do Islamic State’s jihadists get all the sophisticated weapons and especially those fancy white Toyota pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns at the back, colloquially known as “The Technicals” among the jihadists?

I think that I have found the answer to this riddle in an unprecedented December 2013 news report[1] from a website affiliated with the UAE government which supports the Syrian Opposition: it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, RPGs and other military gear, the Saudi regime also provides machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who have completed their training in the training camps located at the border regions of Jordan. Once those militants cross over to Daraa and Quneitra in Syria from the Jordan-Syria border then those Toyota pick-up trucks can easily travel all the way to Raqaa and Deir ez-Zor and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq.

Not A Religious War: Reacting To Killing Of French Catholic Priest – Analysis

By Paul Hedges*
JULY 28, 2016

The killing of a French priest in a church in France seems to mark an escalation of ISIS/Daesh’s campaign in the West. It may lead to a dangerous narrative of a religious war which would play into extremist narratives on both sides. What is needed is a response which underlines how this is antithetical to Islam and a continuation of the Church’s voice in speaking up for immigrants and Muslims.

The killing of an elderly French priest in his church while saying mass may mark the beginning of a dangerous new stage in ISIS/Daesh’s assault. Certainly, the targeting of other religions, including Christianity, is not new for it has occurred in the Middle East and elsewhere for some time by ISIS/Daesh and other militant groups acting in the name of Islam. However, for Western nations this targeting of a priest will certainly appear to signal a specific escalation of potential targets.

It also raises the danger of portraying the situation as a war of religions, or clash of civilisations, and harming relations between the religious communities. Considering that, between them, Muslims and Christians count for over half the globe’s population, with numbers of both expected to rise as an overall proportion by 2050, any breakdown in relations could have dramatic effects. Responses to this attack must therefore highlight that we are not seeing a war of religion taking place.
Not an Islamic Act

A first response must be to make it known that this attack is deeply anti-Islamic. Stretching back to the earliest days of Islam, priests and other religious personnel were considered sacrosanct. Even in times of war they were amongst the categories of people that could not be killed. Moreover, considering the example of Muhammad, which Muslims are expected to follow, his often generous and kind treatment of Christians stands in marked contrast to this brutality.

Why Is Iran Fighting This Kurdish Group Again After 20 Years?

July 28, 2016
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Last month, reports emerged of clashes between Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and members of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI or KDPI), reportedly killing six from each side. These clashes came just a few days after the IRGC announced that they had killed five members of another Kurdish group, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PEJAK). Several days later, news of more clashes between the PDKI and the IRGC in the area of Oshnavieh (known as “Shno” in Kurdish) in northwestern Iran was made public. Then, in early July, Iran reportedly shelled Camp Liberty near Baghdad Airport in Iraq, which hosts several dissident Iranian Kurdish groups, wounding at least forty individuals.

Most recently, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of the Iranian Majles, survived what appeared to have been an assassination attempt on the car in which he was travelling in Kermanshah (also in northwestern Iran) that left two other occupants dead. Just this past Saturday it was announced that the IRGC had arrested three individuals connected with the assassination attempt.No specific details were offered on the alleged attackers nor was it made clear if they had any connection with any armed groups, but they were arrested in Kermanshah making the odds of them being Kurdish fairly high.

These clashes between the PDKI and Iranian security services represent the first major escalation between the two in twenty years—since they agreed to a ceasefire in 1996, which saw the Kurdish group agree to withdraw from Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan. Coming as they do during a time of seriously heightened tension between Iran and several regional rivals, many observers (myself included) automatically assumed that these clashes were a function of a proxy war. A closer examination of the situation, however, revealed that this may not have actually been the case.

Nazi Germany's Battleship Bismarck vs. America's Iowa Class: Who Wins?

July 28, 2016
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Despite the vast scope of the Second World War, the navies of the United States and Nazi Germany fought few, if any, direct surface engagements. By the time of America’s entry into the war the Royal Navy had already sunk or neutralized the lion’s share of Hitler’s Kriegsmarine, with only Hitler’s U-boats remaining a substantial German threat.

But what if the UK’s Royal Navy hadn’t been as successful as it was, and the U.S. was forced to hunt down the German Navy’s major surface combatants? What if the Iowa-class fast battleships had been sortied into the Atlantic to square off against their counterparts, the Bismarck-class battleships?

The Bismarck-class battleships were the largest surface ships built by Germany before and during the Second World War. Germany had been prohibited by the Treaty of Versaillesto build warships over 10,000 tons, but the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1935 implicitly allowed them—though the German Navy was not to exceed thirty five percent the size of the Royal Navy.

With that restriction out of the way, Germany immediately began construction on the Bismarck-class battleships. Two ships, the Bismarck and Tirpitz, were planned. The ships were 821 feet long and displaced up to 50,000 tons fully loaded. Twelve high-pressure boilers powered three turbines, giving the ship a top speed of 30.1 knots. Three FuMo-23 search radars could detect surface targets at more than thirteen miles.

How Left and Right Are Both Blinded to Islamist Terrorism

Political correctness, cultural relativism and moral cowardice can’t protect us from militant Islamists.

From the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 to the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels, Istanbul, Orlando and now Nice, the United States and much of the democratic world has experienced attacks committed by Islamist terrorists. And as we have seen so many times in recent years, politicians on both the left and the right are either unable or unwilling to conceptualize a legitimate response to the problem.

On the right, many Republicans have shown that they understand neither the U.S. Constitution nor American values. From Ben Carson arguing that a Muslim should not be president, to Jeb Bush claiming that only Syrian Christians should be allowed into the country, to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump demanding a wholesale ban on Muslims crossing our borders, to Newt Gingrich demanding that Muslims in the United States betested on whether they believe in sharia, many prominent Republicans seem unaware of—or unconcerned with—the very values and principles this country is supposed to represent.

Unfortunately, one would be just as hard-pressed to find a politician on the left who has spoken with consistent moral clarity and intelligence about this problem. What we see instead from the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s presidential election campaign is the belief that a carefully calibrated strategy of political correctness, cultural relativism and moral cowardice can protect us from militant Islamists. And in the absence of honesty about the nature of the problem, it is easy to see why average citizens would be confused and turn to demagogues for answers and leadership.

Abortive Coup Has Changed Role Turkey’s Spy Master

Suraj Sharma
July 28, 2016

Erdogan’s spymaster: From ‘keeper of secrets’ to post-coup hanger-on

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkey’s spymaster Hakan Fidan has been his nation’s “keeper of secrets” for six years, in that time running intelligence policy on issues from Syria to the conflict with the Kurdish PKK and the storming of the Mavi-Marmara passenger ship by Israeli commandos.

But earlier this month, Fidan and the National Intelligence Organisation (known as MIT) he oversees failed to detect the attempted coup against his president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prompting questions over his effectiveness and his future.

His number seemed to be up when he was summoned by Erdogan last Friday and, while he retained his job, the comments by the Turkish leader suggested he had much to do to keep his trust. Erdogan’s comments came in the form of a Turkish idiom: “You don’t change horses midstream.”

Erdogan said that both Fidan and army chief of staff, General Hulusi Akar would stay during what he termed a period of “transition”. He said any decision in this regard would be taken later following consultations with the prime minister and others. 

But it is a sharp decline in status for a man Erdogan once called “my keeper of secrets”, who has faced calls from members of Erdogan’s ruling AKP party to fall on his sword.

Erdogan has said he had learned of the coup attempt from his brother-in-law and wasn’t informed by MIT, despite reports suggesting it began to suspect something was wrong six hours before tanks appeared on the Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul.
Fidan was also seen visiting the military headquarters a few hours before the attempted coup and meeting Akar, who was later taken hostage by coup conspirators.

The MIT headquarters compound in Ankara was one of the locations to come under heavy attack during the coup attempt.


JULY 29, 2016

This week, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s great hope in Syria, chose a different path, breaking ranks with Ayman al-Zawahiri’s crumbling empire. Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Joulani shed his hood and his al-Qaeda allegiance in announcing the newly branded group, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, in his first ever recorded message. This new Syrian group, he told the world, will be dedicated to defeating the Assad regime and ultimately forming an Islamic State in post-conflict Syria. Joulani’s announcement comes alongside new branding, with white flags replacing the black banners of al-Qaeda and to set the group apart from the Islamic State. Al-Qaeda saved face by gracefully allowing al-Nusra to break away by endorsing the move through an audio message from their deputy Ahmed Hassan Abu al-Khayr. The split signals a new chapter for global jihad and raises the question: What is al Qaeda without a stake in Syria?

Global Jihad: Politics, Power and Incentives First; Ideology Second

The al-Nusra break up has been a long time coming, and it represents the logical next step in al-Qaeda’s disintegration and the evolution of the jihadist movement. Since the death of Bin Laden, al Qaeda has struggled to control its legions. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) quickly pushed for emirates before being repulsed. Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s final affiliate merger, pursued a violent sharia law model as it retracted under coalition pressure. Then Syria came along. Al-Qaeda saw one last chance to regain its footing by deploying stalwart emissaries to Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that had been dispatched and resourced by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) to build a jihadist and Islamist coalition against the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war.

France Facing its Biggest Threat Since 1945

July 29, 2016
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“The sanctions [on Russia] are an instrument, they are not an end in themselves,” Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, said at the Atlantic Council on July 28. “We are not going to keep the sanctions for the next twenty years,” he added. (Atlantic Council/Victoria Langton)

France, a victim of terrorist attacks for the past nineteen months, is facing its greatest security challenge since World War II, according to Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States.

“It is a very, very dark moment for my country,” said Araud. “It is obviously the biggest threat that France really has been facing since 1945.”

“It is a threat against our security, but it is also a threat against our values, the social fabric of our country,” he added.

Araud spoke at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative in Washington on July 28. He was later joined in a panel discussion by Frederic Hof, director of the Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; John E. Herbst, director of the Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center; and Laure Mandeville, a nonresident senior fellow in the Future Europe Initiative. Jérémie Gallon, a nonresident senior fellow in the Future Europe Initiative, moderated the discussion.

France has been attacked multiple times since January of 2015 when an assaulton the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris and a Jewish deli left seventeen people dead. 

Trump Implores Russian Hackers To Expose Missing Clinton E-Mails – OpEd

JULY 29, 2016

Just when you thought the Trump campaign couldn’t get any stranger…it did. Russian hackers doing the bidding, either explicitly or implicitly of the Putin government appear to have hacked the Democratic National Committee. 20,000 e mails have been offered to Wikileaks, which has dutifully released them into the public domain, though Julian Assange claims the source isn’t Russian.

So far, the material exposed has proven that the DNC staff, undoubtedly following orders from the boss, Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, had rigged the primary campaign for Hillary Clinton. But aside from one explicitly offensive e-mail, in which a staffer appeared to believe if the DNC could get Bernie to admit he was an atheist, rather than a practicing Jew, it would scuttle his campaign–there’s been more smoke than fire.

That’s not to say that there might not be more to come. Likely, whoever hacked the DNC server plays to dish out the material in dribs and drabs like Chinese water torture. The best (or worst, depending on your perspective) may be yet to come.

We also don’t know the totality of what the Russians hacked. Did they also gain access to Hillary’s private e-mail server? The FBI claims this is unlikely, though they concede that the Russians did try (and failed). But there remains the distinct possibility that this data dump is but the tip of the iceberg.

All this raises a whole host of issues. Most critical among them is: how could a major American political party do such a terrible job of securing its servers from infiltration? Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel wrote a piece a few months ago quoting cybersecurity experts warning that both parties had woeful security protections. The latest Wikileaks e-mails reveals one blundering bloke ridiculing Frenkel for her claims. Now who looks the fool?

Russia Hasn’t Returned To 1937, But Rather To 1983 – OpEd

JULY 29, 2016
Russia has not yet returned to the Stalinist horrors of 1938 as many fear but rather to those of 1983 when, after 18 years of Brezhnevite stagnation, Yury Andropov, the former head of the KGB who had become general secretary of the CPSU, tried but failed to save the USSR, according to Oleg Kashin.

What is on offer now, the Russian journalist argues, is “not Stalinism but rather a replay of the Andropovshchina, not 1937 but 1983.” Some of the obvious parallels – the Olympics, Afghanistan, and the end of detente — have been noted, he suggests, but there are other less obvious but more important ones (svoboda.mobi/a/27883749.html).

After 18 years of Leonid Brezhnev’s rule in which everyone including those at the top of the nomenklatura recognized that the USSR was rotting and that something had to be done, Yuri Andropov came to power, not as a result of some KGB seizure of power but because the party elite knew that someone had to act to avoid a disaster.

But Andropov got sick and so “instead of order,” Kashin says, the country had to watch as its leader went on dialysis. As a result, “the entire Andropov campaign about the struggle with the Brezhnev nomenklatura and its habits should be seen as a prelude to the reanimation procedures Andropov was involved in over the course of his 15 months in power.”

Russia Hacks The World – OpEd

By John Feffer*
JULY 29, 2016

The email trove that WikiLeaks released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention has all the hallmarks of a dirty tricks campaign.

The messages reveal, among other things, that the Democratic National Committee tried its best to tilt the electoral playing field in favor of Hillary Clinton. For anyone who has had even the slightest interaction with the Democratic Party — or mainstream politics at all in America — such politicking is nauseating but routine.

More unusual about the revelations is who acquired the information. The proximate source for the WikiLeaks dump is a hacker named Guccifer 2 — not to be confused with the original Guccifer, a Romanian hacker who broke into Hillary Clinton’s email account and is now in a U.S. jail. Guccifer 2 also claims to be Romanian, but his command of the language is weak to non-existent.

Despite Guccifer’s professed hatred of Russian foreign policy, all signs so far point to Russian hands behind this latest hacking scandal. Russian intelligence agencies had apparently been vacuuming up material from within the DNC for a year or so and only went public with the info when they were shut out of the system last month. They created the Guccifer persona to cover their tracks and used WikiLeaks as their messenger.

It’s big news for a foreign entity to try to manipulate U.S. elections. Of course, you could argue that turnaround is fair play. The United States has manipulated many a foreign election in the past.

Brexit And The EU’s ‘Syrian Bill’ – Analysis

By Haizam Amirah-Fernández* 
JULY 29, 2016

Syria is indeed a European problem, and it shall become increasingly so. The UK’s vote to withdraw from the EU has many and complex causes but it cannot be understood without making reference to the turbulence generated by the Syrian conflict. Two years have sufficed since the Europeans became aware of the‘refugee crisis’ and since Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the self-proclaimed Islamic State) announced its ‘caliphate’ through terror for the foundations of the European edifice to tremble. And the building’s British storey is on the verge of collapse, thus threatening its entire structural integrity.

The dread of immigration, the rejection of Muslim population, the threat of jihadi terrorism and criticism of the EU for its failure to control its borders are factors that have weighed in the final result of the Brexit referendum. These factors have also been the driving force behind the isolationist campaign promoted by Europhobic, xenophobic and populist leaders. Considering that the difference between the ‘Out’ and ‘In’ was merely 3.8 percentage points, it seems evident that they were essential to tilting the balance towards the option of the UK withdrawing from the EU.

Middle-Eastern conflicts are coming ever closer to Europe. The calamitous invasion of Iraq in 2003 flared up a destructive dynamic in a highly flammable region, marked by radicalisation, sectarianism, the banalisation of violence, a regional cold war between Tehran and Ryadh and the displacement of peoples, among others. Nevertheless, it is the conflict that broke out in Syria in 2011 that has had the greatest destructive impact on the populations of the Middle East and, foreseeably, increasingly more on European societies.

The Emerging Trump Doctrine?

July 28, 2016

Trump's fundamental critiques of U.S. foreign policy have merit. Now they must be matched with wise solutions.
Recent presidential campaigns have not focused on foreign policy. This year could be different. The volatility of the international system has increasingly become intertwined with the domestic issues that tend to dominate presidential elections.

The civil war within Islam has produced the worst international terrorist threat of the modern era: ISIS, or Daesh. This conflict, as well as instability in Africa, has already pushed millions of migrants into Europe, which has given rise to greater nationalism and threatens the European project. Increasing terrorist attacks in the West—including the United States—call into question current counterterrorism strategies.

At the same time, slow growth and economic dislocation is producing a backlash against globalization. And against the backdrop of economic stagnation, isolationist sentiments in America are hitting levels unseen since the immediate post-Vietnam era.

Most significant, a major presidential candidate is challenging fundamental assumptions about U.S. foreign policy. Consensus behind a new grand strategy did not quite cohere after the Cold War. But presidential candidates since 1992, while differing on their approaches to specific issues, generally agreed that the U.S.-led postwar architecture should be preserved—and that American leadership was necessary to respond selectively to global crises and to keep the peace among major powers.

Donald Trump is different. Trump's pronouncements are more than an attack on Hillary Clinton’s worldview. Although stated in provocative and unique ways, he takes issue with many of the tenets that have guided U.S. foreign policy across both Republican and Democratic administrations since the end of the Cold War. What we are witnessing is nothing less than the birth of a Trump Doctrine, which calls for a break from the status quo on at least five main issues: U.S. goals, countering the terrorist group ISIS and Islamist extremism, democracy promotion, immigration and great-power relations.

America Would Never Be the First to Use Nukes. So Why Say We Might?

Obama should declare a No First Use policy—and go even further.

President Barack Obama is reportedly considering changing U.S. policy to say that the United States would never be the first nation to use nuclear weapons. Good idea. The United States has nothing to lose from this new policy, and everything to gain.

No sane U.S. leader would ever—ever—initiate the first use of nuclear weapons. So why keep the option open?

Most Americans will be surprised to learn that current U.S. policy allows the first use of nuclear weapons and horrified that we would even consider it. Given our vast advantage in conventional weapons and the devastating consequences of nuclear war for both the United States and its allies, using nuclear weapons first would be a military and diplomatic blunder of historic proportions.

Against a state with nukes, like Russia, U.S. first-use would be suicidal; the attacked state would hit us back with atomic devastation. Imagine Washington looking like Hiroshima in 1945, only worse. Nukes are truly weapons of last resort, useful only to deter their use by others.