22 May 2018

A Mighty Wind

Hawa, a Hindi word for wind or air, carries a subtler meaning in Indian politics. A politician’s hawa is the tailwind that propels him to victory; it is the superior momentum that comes with being on a roll. For the past five years in the world’s biggest democracy, one man, one party, and one ideological current have pretty much cornered all the hawa. A puffing guardian spirit tangibly energizes Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister; despite his modest stature, the bearded sixty-seven-year-old can fill a room with a swirling air of quiet purpose or, some would say, menace. All across the country hawa can be felt ruffling the ubiquitous orange flags of his Bharatiya Janata, or Indian People’s Party (BJP), and stirring the long-suppressed ambitions of the Sangh Parivar, the “family” of Hindu nationalist groups that is the party’s ideological home.

Now is the best time to create solutions for Bharat

Neharika Vohra Errol D’Souza

Vidyaviniyogadvikasah, meaning “development through the application of knowledge,” is the motto of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). This motto has served as an apt rudder throughout the course of its history, as the institute, alumni, staff and faculty played change-makers to address the various developmental needs of India. The impact of these initiatives is incalculable and unreported. The Jawaja Experiment is one such initiative. In the mid-70s, assisted by several volunteers and the National Institute of Design, Ravi J. Matthai, IIMA’s first full-time director, set out to help communities in drought-prone Jawaja in Rajasthan. The goals were education, empowerment and better livelihoods.

Diplomatic manoeuvrings

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May 18, 2018-The United States, the sole global power, has lately brought out four documents: National Security Strategy, National Defence Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review and US South Asia Policy articulating the shift in US policy to great power strategic competition, primarily with China and Russia, and prioritising military options and an arms race over diplomacy and arms control. US President Donald Trump’s policy shows that globalisation and interdependence are not perceptible for global peace and stability, and that they have been replaced by great power competition and conflict with investments in new technologies.

Is Pakistani Agriculture Ready for CPEC?

By Andrew McCormick

The basmati rice grown in Pakistan’s Punjab province is long and slender-grained. It is aromatic, fluffy when cooked and, in classic Pakistani dishes, pairs well with lentil and gravies made from chickpea flour and spices. At market, it draws double the price, if not more, of non-basmati, long-grain rice varieties. In recent years, however, basmati revenues have slumped in Pakistan amid low-yield harvests and uneven quality. At the Sino-Pakistan Hybrid Rice Research Center in Karachi, Chinese and Pakistani scientists are working to reverse this trend. Using state-of-the-art genetic technologies, they are developing high-yield, high-quality, and pest-resistant rice varieties, for both domestic sale and export.

On The U.S. War In Afghanistan

by Constantin Gurdgiev,

On and off, I have written occasionally about the complete lack of value-for-money accounting in the U.S. military spending and its imaginary successes. This is just another one of such occasions. Here is a summary of the Special Report by the U.S. military watchdog, filed by the neoconservative in it is geopolitical positioning Foreign Policy magazine (the folks who support wars, like the one conducted in the Afghanistan): http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/01/the-afghan-war-isnt-being-won-says-new-pentagon-audit/.

I have summed the main findings in a series of tweets reproduced here:

War with Taiwan would risk China’s place in the global community


It is an anxious time for Taiwan. China’s People’s Liberation Army is flying bombers around the island, openly simulating attacks on Taiwanese targets, and threatening that it won’t wait for reunification forever; it hopes to scare the island into submission beforehand. The worrisome thing is that Beijing’s Warrior President Xi Jinping seems to be talking himself into a fight. And PLA generals – flush with new weapons and hardware – might be egging him on. If it came to a cross-strait showdown, China could certainly hammer Taiwan, and probably seize the island. But it would come at massive costs in lives, gold and goodwill.


BY: Bill Gertz

China’s large-scale military buildup, regional coercion, and economic aggression are part of plan for global domination, experts told Congress on Thursday. The nuclear and conventional weapons buildup, militarization of islets in the South China Sea and global infrastructure investments aimed at controlling nations are signs Beijing has emerged as America’s most significant national security challenge, a panel of specialists told a hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a total, protracted struggle for regional and global supremacy,” retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief told the committee.

Impact of Qualcomm and ZTE Cases on US-China Trade War

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Andrew Gilholm – director of China and North Asia analysis at Control Risks – is the 139th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.” Explain how geopolitics affects national regulators’ role in cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and how this may be changing.

Working with Vietnam, Russia's Rosneft Draws China’s Ire

By Nicholas Trickett

China has been the driving force behind Russia’s “Pivot to Asia,” becoming the largest individual consumer of Russian oil among its energy trade partners. Early this month, it was reported that Russia had completed the delivery of its first S-400 regiment – the country’s most advanced air defense system for export – to China. Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce is signaling that trade turnover with Russia may reach $100 billion this year Russia and that investment under the aegis of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is growing fastest in percentage terms in Russia. Trade is up because oil prices are up, not necessarily because of an economic breakthrough, but the messaging is part of a broader commitment to making it appear as though all is well between the two countries.

The China-Japan Infrastructure Nexus: Competition or Collaboration?

By Ravi Prasad

China and Japan are fueling intensified efforts to build infrastructure in Southeast Asia. Both countries have placed infrastructure at the heart of their regional strategies in a new era of infrastructure diplomacy. China launched its flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, while Japan initiated its “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure” in 2015. At the same time, ASEAN countries are reorienting their growth strategies toward prioritizing infrastructure. China and Japan are facilitating this shift through offering large amounts of financing and seeking to increase their infrastructure exports.

Do Indonesia’s Surabaya Attacks Signal a Rising Terrorism Threat?

By Erin Cook

A string of attacks in the East Java capital of Surabaya last week in the wake of a prison siege in West Java has once again brought Indonesia’s fight against terrorism to the forefront. The first of the Surabaya attacks, orchestrated by one family unit including young children, appears to be a major departure from ‘traditional’ Islamic extremism in the region which is almost exclusively conducted by men. Paired with fears of fighters returning from Syria and other structural issues including in the legal realm, concerns have been sparked about how serious the threat is and how Indonesia will respond.

Houthi Missiles: The Iran Connection; Scuds Are Not Dead Yet


DEN HELDER, Netherlands: The Saudi and US governments have accused Iran of manufacturing ballistic missile used in attacks by Houthis against targets in Saudi ArabiaThe longest-ranged flights reached Riyadh, a distance of roughly 950 km, with a missile called the Burkan 2-H (Figure 1 above). In terms of the physical damage they can cause, these missiles with their 500 kg payload make for a relatively poor weapon. However, their speed makes them difficult to intercept (the flight time is only about nine minutes). The fact the launches are continuing a few years after the start of the conflict, shows that the Saudi-led coalition has not succeeded in interdicting Houthi missiles or destroying them on the ground. Consequently, Saudi civilians as far away from the conflict as Riyadh are not completely safe from Houthi attacks. In a broader context, it is a disturbing development that this sort of weapon is in the hands of a rebel movement fighting a war in the Middle East and aligned with Iran. The Scud is not dead yet.

Trump's Strategy for the Middle East Is Working

Leon Hadar

Remember the days when any sign of growing tensions in the Middle East, not to mention a new act of violence involving Arabs and Israelis, would have immediately triggered pressure on Washington to “do something” as soon as possible. Doing nothing, U.S. officials were warned, could risk a full-blown regional war, outside intervention by global adversaries, oil embargoes, the collapse of pro-American Arab regimes, the survival of Israel, and perhaps even the end of the world as we know it. As the rest of the nation’s international and domestic problems would be placed on the policy backburner, the U.S. president would make urgent phone calls to Middle Eastern leaders, as he and the rest of Washington would consider sending the Marines, dispatching American envoys to the Middle East, launching another “peace process” and perhaps even convening another “peace conference.”

The Gaza Challenge: Social Warfare Strategy in Action

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With hundreds of Palestinian casualties and many acres of burned Israeli wheat fields, the week of May 15 is witnessing the predictably tragic climax of several weeks of Palestinian protests along the Gaza border fence in confrontation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). These events have pitted the IDF against tens of thousands of protesting Gaza residents, inspired and organized by Hamas, who have managed to set fire to Israeli fields and have aimed to topple the fence and cross into Israel while some are engaging in acts of terrorism under the cover of mass nonviolent protest. Much attention has been given to these events from a current affairs perspective; this short piece offers a more fundamental explanation of the dynamics and their policy implications.

The East-West Divide in Europe’s History Wars

Diverging narratives about history and about World War II in particular are causing a widening rift between the post-Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the older Western European nations of the EU. More than a decade after the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined the European Union, there is a widespread belief that deeper European integration has got stuck. Most of the analysis explaining why this is so focuses on issues of economics, political institutions, and corruption. But a big reason why this is so comes from different narratives of history.  From Poland to Bulgaria, this is a region that, as Winston Churchill once reputedly said of the Balkans, “produces more history than it consumes.” Recent amendments to Poland’s law on the Institute of National Remembrance are a prime example. The amended law now outlaws any public claim that the Polish nation bears responsibility for and participated in the Holocaust. It puts the actions of “Ukrainian nationalists” on a par with those of Nazi and Communist regimes. This change has caused a strong backlash in the United States, Ukraine, and Israel. 

Can the U.S.-Europe Alliance Survive Trump?

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Fifteen years ago, it was the Iraq War that divided Europe and the United States. Five years ago, it was the awkward revelation that the U.S. had been eavesdropping on the German chancellor’s cellphone. The two powers, pillars of the postwar world order, don’t always see eye-to-eye on policies and practices. But U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and his embrace of a protectionist approach to trade even with close allies have blown a hole in their trans-Atlantic alliance, a breach so big that it could jeopardize decades of stability and prosperity for the West and end up benefiting two other global powers: Russia and China.

Society needs a reboot for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Murat Sönmez,
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Society’s operating system needs an upgrade. The model we have been using is simply not up to the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A new era is unfolding at breakneck speed. It has huge potential to address some of the world’s most critical challenges, from food security, to reducing congestion in big cities, to increasing energy efficiency, to accelerating cures to the most intractable diseases. But it also raises a host of social and governance issues that need addressing.

What the Gaza Protests Portend

Tareq Baconi
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The battle against infiltration in the border areas at all times of day and night will be carried out mainly by opening fire, without giving warning, on any individual or group that cannot be identified from afar by our troops as Israeli citizens and who are, at the moment they are spotted, [infiltrating] into Israeli territory. This was the order issued in 1953 by Israel’s Fifth Giv’ati Brigade in response to the hundreds of Palestinian refugees who sought to return to homes and lands from which they had been expelled in 1948. For years after the war, the recently displaced braved mines and bullets from border kibbutzim and risked harsh reprisals from Israel’s army to reclaim their property. The reprisals included raids on refugee camps and villages that often killed civilians, as the Israeli historian Benny Morris and others have laid out. Still, refugees persisted in their attempts to return, and Israel persisted in viewing these attempts as “infiltration.”


Henry A. Kissinger

The speaker described the workings of a computer program that would soon challenge international champions in the game Go. I was amazed that a computer could master Go, which is more complex than chess. In it, each player deploys 180 or 181 pieces (depending on which color he or she chooses), placed alternately on an initially empty board; victory goes to the side that, by making better strategic decisions, immobilizes his or her opponent by more effectively controlling territory.


Russia’s state-of-the-art hypersonic glide vehicle, which analysts say is capable of easily cutting through the existing US missile shield, will become operational by 2020, reports citing US intelligence have warned. Speaking to CNBC on the condition of anonymity, sources aware of US intelligence reports, said the Russian military successfully tested the weapon twice in 2016. The third known test of the weapon was allegedly carried out in October 2017, and allegedly failed when the device crashed seconds before hitting its target.


Gil Shwed, CEO and Founder of the cyber security firm , CheckPoint Technologies, was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning/May 18, 2018, regarding his outlook on the cyber threat. Mr. Shwed said it was imperative that governments and the private sector “develop innovative, sixth generation defenses. Mr. Shwed added that “fifth-generation cyber attacks, excel at identification theft, as well as in targeting cloud services, and mobile devices.” 

Italy — what happens next?

Brussels’ nightmare — a Euroskeptic government in one of the EU’s largest countries — could become reality as soon as next week. The leaders of Italy’s anti-establishment 5Stars and far-right League are putting the final touches on a coalition agreement they have pledged to deliver to Italian President Sergio Mattarella “by Monday.” 5Star leader Luigi Di Maio emerged from a meeting with League leader Matteo Salvini Thursday to say there were still a few “minor details” to be hammered out. Among those: Who will be the country’s next prime minister.

The ironies of George Soros’s foundation leaving Budapest

by By M.S.
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Imagine you want to do something nice for the world. Let’s say you believe in the virtues of democracy, freedom of speech and association, government transparency and that sort of thing. Perhaps you have personal experience with how awful life can be in countries that lack these civic features. How about starting an organisation to promote them? Of course, it’s hard to build such an organisation without money. But what if, by fortunate coincidence, you are a canny trader who has made a vast fortune on the currency markets? If you were to launch such an organisation and donate hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to promoting democracy and freedom all over the world, what sort of reaction might you expect?

How democracy dies


“Democracy is no longer the only game in town.” In this short sentence, David Runciman states the most important political fact of our time. When Winston Churchill wrote in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, he did so in a context in which the alternatives were Nazism and fascism, which had recently been defeated, and the Soviet Union, which was consolidating its tyrannical hold over half of Europe. Seventy years later, it is no longer obvious that democracy is always the least bad form of government. Runciman explains:

120 Machine Learning business ideas from the latest McKinsey report.

12 sectors where automation will take over in the short term.

“Heat map” of automation

What Third-country Role is Open to the UK in Defence?

What expectations should the EU harbour with respect to Britain’s continued contribution to EU defence activities after Brexit and can the former member state expect special treatment? With Brexit, the UK will become a ‘third state’ vis-à-vis the European Union. In the defence domain, this means that the UK will no longer take part in EU decision-making or operational (planning) bodies, will not command or be the framework nation of an EU-led force, and any British contribution to an EU operation will be subject to the rules that apply to third countries.

21 May 2018

What Trump’s JCPOA Withdrawal Means for India

By Tanvi Madan

Over the last few years, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has sought to deepen its relationships in the Middle East (or what Delhi calls West Asia). It has continued its predecessors’ approach of maintaining links with Israel, the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (both the Qatar and Saudi/UAE wings), and Iran. Arguably, the latter is the least significant of the three for India—and definitely less crucial than India’s partnership with the United States for Indian interests. Nonetheless, for Delhi, Iran is important because of a) India’s energy interests, and b) connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Both could be affected by the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, which Modi in an India-Iran joint statement two years ago said represented a “triumph of diplomacy and sagacity.” In its response today, New Delhi was careful not to condemn the U.S. action—but it will not welcome the step, particularly as it comes at a time of global and regional flux and uncertainty.

Indian Foreign Policy 2018 Reclaiming the Neighbourhood

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Indian PM Narendra Modi in 2018 has wisely switched once again the focus of Indian foreign policy on reclaiming India’s neighbourhood which stood lost and was inherited in mid-2014 as a legacy inherited problem. The notable point that needs to be made at the outset is that in the gigantic task of PM Narendra Modi reclaiming India’s neighbourhood in terms of Indian ‘Area of Influence” and Indian “Area of National Security Interest” the attitude of the P-5 members is critical. India in 2018 can expect no support from China or Russia in this direction. It is only the United States & West with Japan that can emerge as India’s “Natural Allies” in this direction. This chiefly arises from their security interests in the Indian Ocean and also that China’s aggressive military rise and brinkmanship needs to be checkmated

India’s “hug, then repent” proclivity

Brahma Chellaney

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, Napoleon’s famous foreign minister, prescribed a basic rule for pragmatic foreign policy: “by no means show too much zeal”. In India’s case, oozing zealousness, gushy expectations and self-deluding hype have blighted foreign policy under successive leaders, except for a period under Indira Gandhi. Zeal has been to India’s male prime ministers what grand strategy is to great powers. India has rushed to believe what it wanted to believe. Consequently, India is the only known country to have repeatedly cried betrayal, not by friends, but by adversaries in whom it reposed trust. India’s foreign policy since independence can actually be summed up in three words: hug, then repent. Consider Narendra Modi’s abrupt U-turn in China policy. Stemming the deterioration in relations with Beijing makes eminent sense so as to create more strategic space for India. With escalating US sanctions forcing Moscow to pivot to China even as Washington still treats Beijing with kid gloves, India can rely on an unpredictable and transactional Donald Trump administration only at its own peril. During the Doklam standoff, for example, Washington stayed neutral.

Changing Indo-Pacific power dynamics

Brahma Chellaney

China’s two main Asian rivals, Japan and India, are seeking to mend their relations with it at a time of greater unpredictability in U.S. policy under President Donald Trump’s administration. This development carries significant implications for geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific region and could strengthen Chinese President Xi Jinping’s hand just when he has made himself China’s absolute ruler by dismantling the collective-leadership system that Deng Xiaoping helped institutionalize. Add to the picture Australia’s hedging of its bets, despite a national furor there over China’s interference in its internal affairs, and America’s persistently cautious approach toward Beijing, seeking neither overt competition nor confrontation. All this gives Xi the strategic space to carry on with his muscular and revisionist foreign policy, reflected in China’s growing military assertiveness in the vast Indo-Pacific region stretching from the Pacific to the Horn of Africa.

Indonesia is Islamic State’s new frontline


A government worker removes ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flags painted on to walls near Veteran Street in Surakarta City, Indonesia, in an attempt to discourage the promotion of the jihadist group in the region. For a long period during last week’s 36-hour stand-off at Indonesia’s paramilitary Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters, scores of rioting militants were in charge of a massive cache of automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. According to sources familiar with what transpired, the only reason the siege didn’t turn into a pitched gun-battle with police was that the leaders of the uprising lost contact with three coordinators outside the prison, known only as Deden, Ronggo and Ilham.

Why Vietnam is so Darn Tough

Vietnam thinks it can fight just about anyone and win.

This attitude stems from the country’s many wars with China, as well as its having defeated the French and outlasted the U.S. As a result of all these conflicts, the Vietnamese are fiercely determined to maintain freedom of action in their foreign policy, as evidenced by the ramping up of their naval capabilities. While the country does possess a formidable sea force, it lacks the muscle to dislodge China from the disputed Paracel Islands or prevent Chinese harassment of Vietnamese drilling in disputed waters. However, it has enough military firepower to serve as an invaluable aid to America’s effort to contain Chinese expansion in the region. Unfortunately for the U.S., Vietnam wants amicable relations with Russia, so it’s reluctant to do America’s bidding.

Views on Islam in Times of Terrorism

By Darius Farman and Enzo Nussio for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

How have recent jihadist terrorist attacks in Western Europe and the attendant debate over countermeasures affected Swiss attitudes towards Islam? Darius Farman and Enzo Nussio highlight that despite some fluctuations, there has been no significant increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in Switzerland since the 1990s. However, they also point out that public debate on Islam has shifted, particularly in terms of its prevalence and Islam’s portrayal as a potential threat. Further, discrimination against Muslims has risen, possibly because of the erosion of inhibitions against such behavior due to the hardening of negative attitudes.

Iran Energy Profile: Holds Some Of World’s Largest Deposits Of Proved Oil And Natural Gas Reserves – Analysis

Iran holds some of the world’s largest deposits of proved oil and natural gas reserves, ranking as the world’s fourth-largest and second-largest reserve holder of oil and natural gas, respectively. Iran also ranks among the world’s top 10 oil producers and top 5 natural gas producers. Iran produced almost 4.7 million barrels per day (b/d) of petroleum and other liquids in 2017 and an estimated 7.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of dry natural gas in 2017.[1]  The Strait of Hormuz, off the southeastern coast of Iran, is an important route for oil exports from Iran and other Persian Gulf countries. At its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is 21 miles wide, yet an estimated 18.5 million b/d of crude oil and refined products flowed through it in 2016 (nearly 30% of all seaborne-traded oil and almost 20% of total oil produced globally). Liquefied natural gas (LNG) volumes also flow through the Strait of Hormuz. Approximately 3.7 Tcf of LNG was transported from Qatar via the Strait of Hormuz in 2016, accounting for more than 30% of global LNG trade.

Face it: Trump has Been Right About Iran and North Korea

Author: Niall Ferguson

The greatest gunfight in the history of cowboy films is in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” It’s a three-cornered shoot-out between Clint Eastwood (Blondie), Tuco (Eli Wallach), and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef). The crucial point is that before the shooting starts, Blondie has emptied Tuco’s revolver of bullets. To members of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, regardless of party affiliation, President Trump’s decision to exit one nuclear deal (with Iran) only to enter another nuclear deal (with North Korea) is beyond baffling. They clearly never saw “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Like Eastwood’s Blondie, Trump understands that only one of his antagonists has a loaded gun. I wish I had a fistful of dollars for every article I have read in the past year about the foolishness or recklessness of Trump’s foreign policy. The funny thing is how few of the people writing such pieces ever pointed out the much greater foolishness and recklessness of his predecessor’s foreign policy.

Closing the Deal: The US, Iran, and the JCPOA

Payam Mohseni

On May 8, President Donald Trump framed the withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a dire necessity, calling attention to the "rotten structure of the current agreement" and promising a new era of allied engagement to devise a more robust deal to constrain Iranian ambitions in the region. Trump's decision, however, is strategically incoherent. On the one hand, he is preaching the old neoconservative rhetoric - doubling down on hawkish policies towards Iran, signalling regime change, and undertaking unilateral US actions against Iran without the support of key historical allies. On the other, he is practising Fortress America on the cheap - pledging to reduce American commitments to the Middle East, announcing removal of troops from Syria, and demanding US allies in the Middle East share the financial burden of American security umbrellas.

Challenges in Implementing JCPOA after the US Withdrawal

S. Samuel C. Rajiv

President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that the United States ‘will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal’.1 Trump went on to note that the US will be ‘reinstating nuclear sanctions against the Iranian regime’. These sanctions, which were waived as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in return for significant Iranian commitments on its nuclear programme, were imposed by successive administrations as part of a ‘dual-track’ policy of ‘applying pressure in pursuit of a constructive engagement and a negotiated solution’.The JCPOA was the result of more than 12 years of negotiations, which initially began with the European Union-3 (EU-3; made up of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) in 2003 and later expanded to include the other members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) after Iranian nuclear concerns were referred to the UNSC in February 2006.

Russian Analytical Digest No 219: Russia in the Middle East

By Mark N Katz and Nikolay Kozahanov for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

In this edition of the RAD, Mark N Katz first examines how President Putin’s Russia seeks to maintain good relations with multiple actors in the Middle East that consider one another as adversaries, and the limits to this policy. Nikolay Kozhanov then considers the Russia-Saudi Arabia relationship, noting that the efforts to promote better relations between the two have not as yet been derailed by various stress-tests in their relations. The two articles featured here were originally published by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) in the Russian Analytical Digest on 3 May 2018. What Do They See in Him? How the Middle East Views Putin and Russia

A Primer on Countering Terrorism

By Isaac Kfir

Terrorism’ is usually defined as the real or threatened use of violence by a non-state actor against non-combatants or civilians to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives. This definition underlines the fact that the term carries many additional connotations. (The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies has established a database of legislation that defines terrorism.) With Daesh adjusting to a huge loss of territory and al-Qaeda resurrecting itself, we need to recognise the existence of several factors involved in terrorism if we are to respond to it effectively. There are two additional elements. One is that terrorist groups will seek to justify their actions by presenting them as a response to state oppression (the state is always the stronger party).

Remaining and Expanding: Why Local Violent Extremist Organizations Reflag to ISIS

Nicholas A. Glavin


As the U.S.-led coalition nears the military defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the collapse of its physical caliphate in the Levant, its various affiliates pose complex threats to host nation governments and Western interests from West Africa to Southeast Asia. Understanding how, when, and why local violent extremist organizations (VEOs) affiliate can inform policymakers and general officers in applying instruments of natiaonal power. This report analyzes Islamic State – West Africa Province and Islamic State – Sinai Province to examine the question, “What explains the appeal for local VEOs to reflag under the ISIS brand?”

ISIS Branches Grow as ‘Caliphate’ Fades in Syria, Iraq

by Yaroslav Trofimov 

In its former heartland of Syria and Iraq, the once mighty Islamic State has turned, at least for now, into little more than a nuisance. But that’s not the case for the self-declared caliphate’s far-flung “provinces,” from West Africa to Afghanistan to Southeast Asia. There, local insurgencies that adopted Islamic State’s brand and ideology in its heyday in 2014-2015 keep up the fight, gaining new ground and perpetrating new massacres. Some are also attracting a new influx of foreign fighters. “For now, it is really in the peripheries that everything happens,” said Prof. Mathieu Guidere, an expert on Islamic extremism at the University of Paris VIII. “The peripheral branches of Islamic State have become much more important and much more active than its original central organization.” Last year, U.S.-backed campaigns by the Iraqi government and by predominantly Kurdish fighters managed to seize Islamic State’s two main cities of Mosul and Raqqa, liberating a territory that once spanned a landmass the size of Great Britain.

Developing a Containment Strategy in Syria

Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States should withdraw its military forces from Syria. But the United States has several interests in Syria:  Balancing against Iran, including deterring Iranian forces and militias from pushing close to the Israeli border, disrupting Iranian lines of communication through Syria, preventing substantial military escalation between Israel and Iran, and weakening Shia proxy forces. Balancing against Russia, including deterring further Russian expansion in the Middle East from Syrian territory and raising the costs—including political costs—of Russian operations in Syria. Preventing a terrorist resurgence, including targeting Salafi-jihadist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda that threaten the United States and its allies. 

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Violence in Gaza: “An Ugly Witch’s Brew”

Since the United States declared the opening of its new embassy in Jerusalem, violence has broken out along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, where thousands of protesters have gathered for months for what they have dubbed “The Great March of Return” [to Israel]. Earlier this week, Israeli troops fired into the crowd from across the border fence, killing at least 58 Palestinians and wounding more than 2,700. Israel has faced international backlash for its heavy-handed approach to the protests, including Turkey expelling its ambassador and a number of countries calling for an investigation of the bloodshed. However, what’s just as interesting is which voices are missing in the conversation.

Europe Must Confront America’s Extraterritorial Sanctions


Europe’s biggest challenge in resisting US sanctions on Iran is not legal or even geopolitical. It is psychological: European leaders act as if the US still cares about a trans-Atlantic alliance of shared interests, values, and approaches. NEW YORK – Donald Trump’s renunciation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and the reimposition of US sanctions on that country threaten global peace. Europe’s security depends on defending the agreement with Iran despite the US withdrawal. That, in turn, requires Europe, along with Russia, China, and other United Nations member states, to ensure that economic relations with Iran can develop. And that can happen only if Europe confronts, and ultimately overturns, America’s extraterritorial sanctions, which aim to deter trade and financial activities with Iran by non-US actors.

The Known Unknowns of US Sanctions Against Iran


The sanctions against Iran reinstated by US President Donald Trump raise two all-important questions that have no convincing answers. But they also raise a third question, about which financial markets are likely to be wrong. BEIJING – The sanctions against Iran reinstated by US President Donald Trump raise two all-important questions that have no convincing answers. First, will this action make the world safer, as Trump claims, or will it further destabilize the Middle East and undermine future efforts to limit nuclear weapons, as argued by most geopolitical experts not directly employed by the US, Israeli, or Saudi governments? And, second, will US efforts to compel foreign companies to observe its sanctions against Iran prove as tough as Trump’s belligerent rhetoric?

Is Big Tech Destroying Retail Markets?


When online markets for consumer goods and services first emerged, they were hailed for empowering shoppers, encouraging competition, and reducing transaction costs. But much as changed since then, and if current trends continue, online markets will become markets in name only. Information technology is not just transforming markets; it is also making them ubiquitous, particularly for household consumers. From pretty much anywhere in the world, one can now search out goods and services, compare prices from multiple sellers, and give detailed shipping and delivery instructions, all with a mouse click or a screen tap.

The View From Olympus: Israel, Gaza, and 4GW

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Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, has traditionally been less competent than Hezbollah at Fourth Generation war. Its rocket attacks on Israel, although they have frightened Israelis, have done little physical damage while they have created a moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel that hurts the former. Now, however, it is beginning to look as if Hamas has gotten smarter in a way that poses a real 4GW strategic threat to Israel. On successive Fridays, Hamas has sponsored demonstrations at the border fence between Gaza and Israel. On April 27, the demonstrators broke through the fence. Israel responded, as it has before, with live fire that killed several Gazans. Anytime that happens, Israel suffers a defeat at the moral level, which in 4GW is the decisive level. Hamas’s challenge is to push that defeat up from the tactical to the strategic. Conditions may be ripe for it to do so. Israel, Egypt, and Fatah have combined their efforts to degrade the quality of life in Gaza to the point where people there feel they have nothing to lose. When everyday life is hell, risking that life is a modest risk. Hamas may be able to mobilize, not hundreds of demonstrators, but hundreds of thousands.

Study: Russian Support Gave Assad Half of Syria

Agence France-Presse

Airstrikes against Syrian rebels have gone up 150 percent since Russia intervened in the conflict in 2015, helping the regime triple the territory under its control, a report published on Tuesday showed. The analysis by IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC) also found that just 14 percent of the strikes were against the Islamic State group. It found that the Syrian state had increased the area under its control from 16 percent of the country in September 2015 to 47 percent in March 2018. Russian intervention not only ensured the survival of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, it changed the course of the war.

Here’s How a National Cybersecurity Agency Could Work

By Brian Rodger, 

Over the past few months, some private-sector companies have called for building a national cybersecurity agency. This agency would consist of a centralized authority responsible for the nation’s cybersecurity that would harmonize policies and set priorities across the government. This is a very interesting idea for a few reasons. For one, it is difficult to understand where cybersecurity oversight and responsibilities start and stop in the federal government. Currently, there are at least three different agencies tasked with responding to a cyber incident: Homeland Security Department, FBI and National Security Agency. This collective of responsible agencies may lead to confusion when the federal government entity can least afford it: When an agency is under attack.

The Google Tax – Analysis

By Giancarlo Elia Valori*

The European Treasury, individually as member States or collectively as Union, has so far reached – with a race to the bottom – as many as 72 agreements with large global companies. Tax competition is still very strong and active. Just think of the US corporate tax that-following the latest reforms- has decreased to a maximum 26% rate, more than one third less than the previous rate, with a US average corporate tax rate which is now below all OECD and G7 levels. Similar approaches, however, are developing in Argentina, Colombia, Luxembourg, Canada and even Japan. Conversely corporate taxes have increased in Turkey, Portugal and Taiwan, with further increases – albeit slight – also in India. They are selective increases to favour some foreign or national companies compared to others.

The Legal and Ethical Complexity of Developing ‘Super Soldiers’

Charlie Dunlap

There has been a lot of discussion recently about what impact developments in artificial intelligence might have on the military, but there is also a growing amount of talk regarding how emerging advancements in human intelligence will influence tomorrow’s wars – much thanks to remarkable work occurring in neuroscience. Fortunately, we have one of the world’s experts right here at Duke Law, Professor Nita Farahany . At our annualLENS conference earlier this year she gave an absolutely mesmerizing presentation entitled “The Legal and Ethical Complexity of Developing ‘Super Soldiers’ ” What did she address? Here’s an overview: