5 December 2013

Can Joe Biden rescue the Asia pivot?

By: Josh Gerstein
December 3, 2013
President Barack Obama’s much-touted pivot to Asia — a foreign policy drive which has languished recently amidst a lack of high-level direction — could be reinvigorated by Vice President Joe Biden, analysts said.
Biden is on a swing through Asia this week amid heightened tensions following China’s announcement last week of a new air defense zone over long-disputed waters between that country and Japan.
The pivot to Asia was a central foreign policy theme of Obama’s first term, underscoring a need many policymakers saw for the United States to shift its diplomatic, security and economic attentions from the traditional focus on Europe and the Middle East to the rising powers in the Pacific — most notably, China.

However, over the past year, a series of crises and personnel shifts contributed to perceptions here and abroad that the strategic shift towards the Far East was losing steam. And some see that perceived inattention as emboldening China.
“The U.S. has gotten a little distracted in terms of putting meat on the bones of the pivot,” said Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. “China has also done a number of things to try to raise the temperature in terms of tensions…It may be that while the mouse was away, the cat started to play.”
Close observers of China also say the U.S. relationship with that country is suffering from the lack of a high-profile point person on the American side who can pledge and deliver follow-through on Chinese concerns.

“The typical practice has been for someone in the Cabinet or at Cabinet level to be designated as a go-to person on all things China. That doesn’t exist today,” said Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to China during the first two years of the Obama administration. “That does hobble the administration’s ability to actually implement China policy.”
“There’s a huge missing piece in this relationship,” Schell said. “Now, you have no one, not even anybody in the State Department, who’s a China specialist and a ranking person. The White House is hardly better. There’s a whole missing series of connective tissues….They urgently need to solve that.”
Huntsman said the departure of key first-term officials like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon has contributed to a sense of drift regarding U.S. China policy, but that a bigger role for Biden could improve the atmosphere.
“It’s a different lay of the land this go-round, which means we could see the relationship fall into inertia,” the former ambassador said. “The vice president is the one person who really does have the heft and the strategic ability to help keep the relationship sturdy and focused in a more strategic direction.”

Nawaz Sharif and army coups Why Raheel Sharif was named Kayani's successor

G Parthasarathy

Zulfiqar Bhutto, who never tired of boasting of how he had got the better of Indira Gandhi in Simla, appointed the obsequious Gen Zia-ul-Haq as Pakistan’s army chief superseding six serving officers. Describing this appointment as her husband's greatest mistake, Begum Nusrat Bhutto told me in 1982 that her husband had been carried away by Zia’s professions of eternal loyalty. There was even an occasion when, Quran in hand, Zia swore before Bhutto: “You are the saviour of Pakistan and we owe it to you to be totally loyal to you”. Barely a year later, on July 5, 1977, Zia ousted Bhutto in a military coup staged by the army's infamous Rawalpindi-based 111 Brigade. On April 4, 1979, Zia had the person he described as the “saviour of Pakistan” hanged, after a farcical trial.

Nawaz Sharif appears to fight shy of appointing Pashtun officers with distinguished family connections to the post of army chief. AFP file photo

Nawaz Sharif was a product of Zia’s military rule, enjoying a meteoric rise under the patronage of Zia’s military Governor of Punjab, Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan. It was a period when Zia was bent on destabilising India’s Punjab province. Sharif’s fondness for contacts with “Khalistanis” like the Washington-based Ganga Singh Dhillon continued even through his second term. When Benazir was voted to power in 1988, Sharif made common cause with Zia-appointed President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the army chief, Gen Aslam Beg, and ISI chief Asad Durrani. Benazir was ousted and Sharif's Muslim League was swept to power in 1991. Sharif's ISI chief, a fundamentalist member of the Tablighi Jamat, Gen Javed Nasir staged the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts with assistance from Dawood Ebrahim. Sharif was sacked shortly thereafter by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, but restored to office by the Supreme Court. When the army chief, Gen Asif Nawaz, with whom he had serious differences, died in mysterious circumstances, Sharif superseded three senior officials to appoint the soft-spoken Waheed Kakkar as the new army chief. Kakkar sent Sharif packing from office soon thereafter.

Sharif learnt nothing from this experience. He unceremoniously forced the resignation of his army chief, Gen Jehangir Karamat, after he was re-elected in 1997, only to appoint a Muhajir, Gen Parvez Musharraf, as his army chief, believing Musharraf could be kept in check. He superseded a highly rated Pashtun Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan. Believing that the nuclear tests of 1998 had given him unparalleled popularity and power and disregarding the fact that he was ruling a bankrupt country, Sharif encouraged and participated in Musharraf's Kargil misadventure. When the misadventure became a fiasco and he was forced to rush to the Clinton White House to bail him out, Sharif threw the entire blame on Musharraf for the international disgrace and disrepute his country faced following the Kargil misadventure. Growing mutual distrust and animosity between Sharif and Musharraf led to the coup of October 12, 1999, with Sharif being incarcerated and later bailed out by the Saudis.

Through Metok, China tunnels its way to India

Thursday, 05 December 2013 | Claude Arpi |


Beijing has been trying to set up transport connectivity to the remote Tibetan region, close to the McMahon line, for long. It has now succeeded, and with immense consequences for the defence of Arunachal Pradesh

A Chinese website affiliated with the official Xinhua news agency, China Tibet Online, recently gave what it calls ‘fast facts on controversial Arunachal Pradesh’: “The recent Indian President’s visit to the so-called Arunachal Pradesh has triggered the controversial discussion of border issue between China and India again”. Commenting on President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Arunachal, Xinhua said that Beijing ‘urged’ India “to refrain from moves that complicate boundary issues and work with China to create conditions for talks”. The claims and the counter-claims aside, an important aspect of the border dispute is the infrastructure development close to the McMahon Line. Here the Chinese are far in advance of India.

As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao landed in Delhi in December 2010, Xinhua dropped a bombshell: “The tunnel of highway linking Tibet’s Metok completed”. With Metok located just north of the McMahon Line, this development heralded one of the most important strategic changes for the defence of India’s north-eastern border.

The enormity of the project was obvious; construction workers had taken some two years to complete the construction of the 3,310m Galongla tunnel, built at an altitude of 3,750m. It was the most difficult section of the highway which was to link Metok County to the mainland (and allow troops to come close to the Indian border in a much shorter time). The rain and the snow made the mountain roads impassable for nine months of the year, and the trek to cross the Galongla pass could take 10 hours or more: “The new road will dramatically shorten the time as the journey through the tunnel will take just half an hour,” announced Xinhua. At that time, some 90km of highway remained to be built. The Metok road is the symbol of China’s will to develop its border with India. With a population of just 11,000, it was not only China’s last county to have a highway, but the road is a crucial link to the area bordering the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

For Tibetans, it has been one of the most sacred and pristine regions of their country; they consider Pemakoe, another name for Metok County, as the home of Goddess Dorjee Pagmo, Tibet’s Protecting Deity. Xinhua admits: “There is no other place in Tibet that gets so many titles as Metok, such as the ‘secret lotus’, ‘lonely island on the plateau’, ‘world’s wildlife museum’ and ‘rare animal gene pool’.”

But the Pemakoe is not an isolated paradise anymore. On October 31, China Tibet Online reported that the 117km Metok Highway had been opened to traffic. CNTV affirmed that the people in Metok country can now reach the highway linking their remote place to the nearby Bomi County by cars or buses; if the weather conditions are good, the journey takes hardly seven to eight hours. The Chinese correspondent added: “Getting out of Metok (Medog for the Chinese) used to be very dangerous, involving climbing two snow mountains 4,000 meters above sea level.” When the Bomi-Metok road joins the National Highway No 318 near Zhamog township, it has already crossed six rivers.

NSA tracks billions of cellphones daily: report


Published: December 5, 2013

The Hindu National Security Agency tracks the locations of nearly 5 billion cellphones every day overseas, including those belonging to Americans abroad, The Washington Post reported. File photo

The National Security Agency tracks the locations of nearly 5 billion cellphones every day overseas, including those belonging to Americans abroad, The Washington Post reported.

The NSA inadvertently gathers the location records of “tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad” annually, along with the billions of other records it collects by tapping into worldwide mobile network cables, the newspaper said in a report on its website on Wednesday.

Such data means the NSA can track the movements of almost any cellphone around the world, and map the relationships of the cellphone user.

The Post said a powerful analytic computer programme called CO-TRAVELER crunches the data of billions of unsuspecting people, building patterns of relationships between them by where their phones go. That can reveal a previously unknown terrorist suspect, in guilt by cellphone-location association, for instance.

The programme is detailed in documents given to the newspaper by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden. The Post also quotes anonymous NSA officials explaining the program, saying they spoke with the permission of their agency.

Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, declined to comment on the report.

The DNI’s general counsel, Robert Litt, has said that NSA does not gather location data on US cellphones inside the US but NSA Director Keith Alexander testified before Congress his agency ran tests in 2010 and 2011 to see if it was technically possible to gather such US cell-site data.

Mr. Alexander said that the information was never used for intelligence purposes and that the testing was reported to congressional intelligence committees.

But senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at the time that Alexander could have explained more. “The intelligence leadership has decided to leave most of the real story secret,” Wyden said, though he would not elaborate on the extent of the program.

Wyden is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have introduced legislation to trim NSA’s surveillance powers.

Alexander and other NSA officials have explained that when US data is gathered “incidentally” overseas, it is “minimised,” meaning that when an NSA analysts realize they are dealing with a US phone number, they limit what can be done with it and how long that data can be kept.

Rights activists say those measures fall short of protecting U.S. privacy.

“The scale of foreign surveillance has become so vast, the amount of information about Americans ‘incidentally’ captured may itself be approaching mass surveillance levels,’” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program.

Bangladesh’s new radical Islamists


Published: December 5, 2013 
Haroon Habib

AP Most people in Bangladesh want a political consensus so that a credible election can be held. Picture shows commuters trying to board an overcrowded train on the fourth day of the six-day blockade called by the opposition in Dhaka.

The resurgence of new radicals such as the madrasa-based Hefazet-e-Islam, patronised by both the Jamaat and the BNP, is viewed by India as inimical to the interests of a stable, democratic Bangladesh

Bangladesh is set to go to the polls on January 5, 2014 to elect its 10th Parliament amid a protracted political crisis. The Opposition combine has initiated a new wave of violent agitation to undo what it calls a “unilateral election.” However, it is unlikely that the Election Commission will cancel the polls it has announced to meet the nation’s constitutional obligations, unless the political players manage a negotiated settlement of the crisis.

Interestingly, the political crisis of the small South Asian nation has drawn global attention of varying dimensions. Some of Bangladesh’s “foreign friends” are subscribing to what the ruling “pro-liberation” secular political parties stand for, and others are possibly lending weight to the anti-government protagonists who largely pursue political Islam, including militancy.

The stand taken by the country’s “foreign friends” has come into public discourse too. The Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies see an “Indian hand” behind the ruling Awami League’s views, while the Awami League and its allies see an “overt U.S. support” for the BNP-Jamaat coalition.

1971 liberation war

The United States has had frosty relations with the Awami League since the time it supported Pakistan (then West Pakistan) during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. That the Awami League has a somewhat socialist orientation and maintains closer ties with India, could also be other reasons for Washington’s antipathy.

The U.S. is for a “constructive dialogue” between the major political parties and against any election excluding the main opposition party. Even though India is a strategic ally of the U.S., the two countries are not in common understanding of the Bangladesh situation.

The reasons may be more than one. Bangladesh is not only India’s next door neighbour; India played a historic role when the people of former East Pakistan fought their war of independence against the Pakistani army. India, as media reports and analyses suggest, has maintained that the polls should be free, fair and credible, and that it is for the people of Bangladesh to decide who will form the next government.

Addressing Indian concerns

In recent years, Bangladesh has met some vital security concerns of India. Moves were made to restore regional connectivity which New Delhi wanted, including boosting of trade and commerce. All these, however, irked the Jamaat-e-Islami and its ally, the BNP. The BNP’s strong alliance with the Jamaat since 2001 and the Islamist militancy that developed when they shared power are cause for concern.

The resurgence of new radicals like the madrasa-based Hefazet-e-Islam, patronised by both the Jamaat and the BNP are also seen as being inimical to the interests of a stable, democratic Bangladesh. The U.S., which, ironically, considers the Jamaat as a “moderate Islamic party,” appears to think that the threat perception of Bangladesh’s liberals, perhaps shared by India, is overblown.

China was the firm ally of Pakistan in 1971, and it vetoed twice Bangladesh’s entry in the United Nations. However, Beijing’s relations with the Awami League developed in later years. For China, which maintains a significant military relationship with Bangladesh, a stable Bangladesh is important. Going beyond its tradition, it has made a number of public statements about the current political situation, calling for dialogue between the major parties.

In 1971, the former Soviet Union supported Bangladesh’s independence, as part of its alliance with India. During the tenure of the Sheikh Hasina government, relations were revived. However, Moscow has made no statement on the current political stalemate.

The European Union’s stated position is that it would like to see a participatory and credible election with a level-playing field. There are some who feel that as, according to the Bangladesh Constitution, elections must take place by January 24, 2014, it is irrelevant which party boycotts it. But an election without the participation of a major political party might lack credibility.

West’s stand

Many pro-West civil society leaders in Bangladesh think India’s understanding of the Bangladesh situation may “backfire.” On the contrary, secular thinkers overwhelmingly see the U.S.’s understanding of the situation as a “sheer misjudgment.” They argue that the implementation of Washington’s stand may be “dangerous” for Bangladesh’s democratic future, as the “defeated forces” of 1971 may get a further boost.

Many diplomatic experts say that India should not pursue a “one-friend policy” in Bangladesh. But it must neither pursue, they argue, a policy that harms secular “pro-liberation” forces and encourages religious fundamentalists and communalism.

Democracy, development and counter-terrorism are common among Washington and New Delhi's concerns as stated. But India, perhaps, has an additional responsibility — of ensuring that it does not support the rebirth of militant and political Islam, against which Bangladesh was born 42 years ago.

As a political consensus is still remote and Bangladesh is firmly on its way to election, a vital question is: will the opposition succeed in undoing the electoral process? A significant population of Bangladesh will answer in the negative, even while admitting that the opposition might succeed in causing destabilisation resulting in death and destruction. The BNP’s weak organisational strength was evident in the recent anti-government campaign, when it was almost dependent on the hardcore Jamaat “cadres” whose prime concern is to undo the war crimes trial and get its convicted leaders freed. If this dependence continues, even many BNP leaders fear, the ultimate leadership of the opposition camp might be taken over by the Jamaat. There is a near-consensus that the violent means demonstrated in the recent street agitations have largely eroded the BNP’s popularity.

A majority of people in Bangladesh wants a political consensus, so that a credible election can be held. However, there is a third option that always comes to mind when the country is in a political crisis: the intervention of the army. When the BNP-Jamaat coalition was in power (2001-06) and desperately wanted to be re-installed in power by holding a unilateral election in 2007, the military intervened covertly. Initially popular, the military-backed regime stayed in power for two years. Despite a series of controversial actions, the regime organised fair and credible elections in 2008.

The scenario has changed today and there is not much likelihood of a repetition of events.

Will Kayani's Departure Benefit US-Pakistan Relations?


There are few reasons to believe that Raheel Sharif’s ascension to Pakistan’s top military post will change things.

By Ankit Panda
December 04, 2013
As far as Pakistan Chiefs of Army Staff went, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was merely tolerable for the United States. Tolerable, of course, is not the kind of descriptor you’d want to ascribe to a major military partner, especially in the sort of security environment around the fraying Durand Line. Kayani’s erstwhile American counterpart, Admiral Mike Mullen, famously accused the Pakistani Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of majorly aiding and abetting militant groups in direct opposition to U.S. interests — he specifically named the Haqqani network which is a known associate of both Taliban and al Qaeda.

In a column late last week for The Daily Beast, former-CIA Pakistan expert and current Brookings expert Bruce Riedel levels harsher allegations against Kayani, writing that he “ran the ISI’s covert operation assisting the Taliban directly until his promotion to COAS in 2007, when Musharraf’s regime began to fall apart. As DG/ISI, Kayani would also have been in charge of the early planning for the attack on Mumbai by the Pakistani terror group Lashkar e Tayyiba, which killed 166 people including six Americans in 2008. Kayani as the spymaster of ISI undoubtedly knew his organization had recruited an American, David Headley, to assist in doing the reconnaissance for the attack, which began in 2005.” In the twilight of his days as Chief of Army staff, Kayani commanded the trust of nearly no senior Obama administration officials dealing with Pakistan (a trend that began with Obama’s decision to cut the Pakistani army out of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout).

Now that Kayani has left the building, and his successor, General Raheel Sharif, has stepped in is there any reason for optimism about the trajectory of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship?

Unfortunately, the reasons for skepticism run deeper than personalities and individual preferences. The Pakistani military practices a relatively static form of outward strategic planning, to its immediate east and to its immediate west. Since independence in 1947, Pakistan has been locked in a rivalry with India that takes on a position of existential importance for the Pakistan military establishment. To this end, the army and the ISI have gone to extreme lengths to wrangle with India over the disputed northern province of Kashmir, fighting three all-out conventional wars in the process and numerous skirmishes per year. In the months leading up to Kayani’s retirement, the number of skirmishes between India and Pakistan increased to new heights, all against the backdrop of Nawaz Sharif’s rather meek attempts to foment a bilateral peace dialogue. Ostensibly, the army’s rather direct involvement derailed Sharif’s attempts by transforming the Indian domestic political climate as wholly unreceptive to engagement with Pakistan.

*** General Kayani’s Legacy: Trying to Get Pakistan’s House in Order

America Just Can’t Win These Mountain Wars And not only because of the terrain

10th Mountain Division Soldier in Afghanistan in 2007

This year marks the anniversaries of three miserable wars. It’s the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Italy and the 50th anniversary of the final and most pointless year of the Korean War. 2013 also marks the 12th year that America has been stuck in Afghanistan.
All three of these conflicts were fought in mountains.
Unless you’re a goat, a Gurkha or a Goumier, mountains are bound to make life inconvenient. But for the U.S. military, the exemplar of mechanization, mobility and firepower, mountains are simply awful.

First, there was the Italian campaign targeting the “soft underbelly” of Europe—or so the British promised their American allies. Perhaps it would have been soft had Italy been as flat as Nebraska. Instead, the war became an endless slog up Italy’s mountainous spine, famous for the bitter struggle to capture Monte Cassino, followed by a year spent grinding against the mountainous Gothic Line.

The only nice thing to say about the Italian campaign? The Allies never tried to pull off Churchill’s lunatic plan to land in Yugoslavia and advance through the Balkan mountains into Germany.

Then came the Korean War, which by 1953 had degenerated into bloody and pointless fighting over obscure mountains while both sides bickered over the negotiating table at Pammunjom. The futility of the last year of the conflict was epitomized by the two battles of Pork Chop Hill, which cost the U.S some 350 dead—and the Chinese a lot more—for a piece of real estate that had no strategic value and changed nothing in the eventual cease-fire.

The only nice thing to say about Korea? It didn’t trigger World War III.

And then there’s Afghanistan, which unlike the two previous conflicts, is a counterinsurgency rather than a conventional war. Also unlike Italy and Korea, the Americans have helicopters for mobility. Nonetheless, while the Canadians and U.S. Marine had some success using tanks, Afghanistan is not the most favorable place for mechanized troops.

The only nice thing to say about Afghanistan? You tell me.10th Mountain Division in Italy in 1945. Wikipedia photo

What is it about these big bumps in the ground that are so difficult for America to fight in? The tactical reason is that mountains restrict mechanized troops to narrow routes, preclude easy maneuver, and allow outnumbered, lightly armed or non-mechanized warriors to hold their own against a more powerful foe.

Obama war chiefs widen drone kill box

Lethality of collateral damage ‘must not be excessive’

By Kristina Wong-

The Washington Times, Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Pentagon has loosened its guidelines on avoiding civilian casualties during drone strikes, modifying instructions from requiring military personnel to “ensure” civilians are not targeted to encouraging service members to “avoid targeting” civilians.

In addition, instructions now tell commanders that collateral damage “must not be excessive” in relation to mission goals, according to Public Intelligence, a nonprofit research group that analyzed the military’s directives on drone strikes.

“These subtle but important changes in wording provide insight into the military’s attempts to limit expectations in regards to minimizing collateral damage and predicting the lethal effects of military operations,” Public Intelligence said in a recent report.

The number of civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes is a point of contention among Washington, human rights groups and countries where strikes are conducted, chiefly Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Because the strikes are classified operations, the U.S. typically does not acknowledge when they occur, or reveal how many combatants and civilians are killed or injured.

An official for the Air Force — the service primarily tasked with carrying out drone strikes — said “tactical directives have changed a number of times over the years to tackle collateral damage concerns not only from aircraft and helicopters but from mortars and other weapons that deliver effects beyond line of sight.”

The official, who requested anonymity to discuss security matters, declined to say how the directives have changed or what the collateral damage concerns are, citing “operational security.”

Military officials, however, said the Joint Chiefs document is one of several that instruct commanders on conducting drone strikes, as well as theater-specific rules of engagement and the overarching Law of Armed Conflict.

The October 2012 document was published on a Pentagon website several months ago but has since been removed, said Public Intelligence founder and editor Michael Haynes, who obtained and analyzed the documents.

A military official confirmed that the document is being used, among others, to provide guidance for drones.

With Iran Nuclear Deal, US Avoids Dangerous Collision with Timing of Afghan Withdrawal

December 2, 2013 ·

In response to a renewed offer by Vice President Joe Biden at the Munich Security Conference in February for direct U.S.-Iran talks, then Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi promised that, “We are the golden key to the region.”

That assertion is yet to be tested through the many pitfalls ahead as the United States and Iran begin to walk back from more than three decades of antagonism.

But in the short-term, one of the more significant outcomes of the agreement in Geneva to curb elements of Iran’s nuclear program in return for a roll-back of some sanctions is the reduction in what was previously a major risk – confrontation with Iran is now less likely to converge with U.S. efforts to wind up the war in Afghanistan in 2014.

Iran as Help or Hindrance?

For several years, two of the Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities looked perilously close to colliding. After once insisting that Afghanistan was the “good war” – in contrast to Iraq – President Obama now needs to pull out U.S. combat troops by the end of 2014, begin to put in place a political settlement that can outlast the American withdrawal, and see the country through a stormy election next year.

Tehran can be helpful in achieving this. Its new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, played a pivotal role in the agreement at the 2001 Bonn conference, which established a new Afghan government after the overthrow of the Taliban. Along with India and Russia, Iran had supported the former Northern Alliance which opposed the Pakistan-backed Taliban when they were in power. Before being denounced by President George W. Bush in 2002 as part of the “axis of evil,” Iran cooperated quietly with the United States on Afghanistan. And as a direct neighbour of Afghanistan, Iran has built up powerful political and economic interests there over recent years.

But Tehran also has the capacity to play spoiler. Notwithstanding its ideological opposition to the Sunni Taliban, Shi’ite Iran – which has always put national interests above the religious divide – has been cultivating ties with Afghan insurgents; in 2007 then Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested it was supplying weapons to the Taliban. It hosted for years a group of senior members of al Qaeda who fled Afghanistan after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks, and it has never been entirely clear what plans Iran had to use that group against the United States. Moreover, Iran’s hostility to al Qaeda has increased markedly with the outbreak of the civil war in Syria. That said, few have ever doubted that it would use whatever means necessary to create trouble for the United States in Afghanistan were it to face military action over its nuclear program.

China’s Air Defence Identification Zone and its role in Chinese Geo-Strategic Policy

RUSI Analysis, 4 Dec 2013

China’s sudden declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone covering the uninhabited Senkaku islands is not intended to extend Chinese airspace as part of an area-denial/anti-access strategy. China’s real aim is instead to strengthen their quasi-legal territory claims in the long term.

By Justin Bronk for RUSI.org

The long-running territorial dispute between China and Japan over the uninhabited Senkaku islands (known as Diaoyu in China) in the East China Sea recently flared up due to China’s sudden declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering the islands and the disputed Chunxiao gas field.

Although this announcement has created a storm of protests from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States, the imposition of an ADIZ is by no means novel and in fact is a well established tool for formalising claims to national security interests in a region without attempting to expand territorial borders. Japan’s own ADIZ covers the Senkaku islands, the Chunxiao gas field and over half of the entire East China Sea. South Korea has an ADIZ to the North and the US has had one in place around Guam for many years.

Therefore, although the Chinese declaration has raised the diplomatic temperature in the region, the announcement of the ADIZ should be seen within this wider context. The ADIZ has been portrayed in Japan and much of the Western media as an ineffective attempt at area denial which greatly increases the risk of a miscalculation which could result in a major crisis. However, Chinese actions so far suggest that this is a misleading view and that the ADIZ should instead be seen as a long term strategy to strengthen China’s quasi-legal claims to the Senkakus, and test the Obama administration’s willingness to risk a protracted and costly stand-off over the East China Sea.
Initial Reactions and the Risks of Accidental Escalation

Since the Chinese ADIZ was announced on 23 November 2013, USAF B-52 bombers, Japanese fighters, surveillance and AWACS aircraft, and South Korean P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft have all deliberately patrolled the zone without complying with the new requirements to maintain radio contact, submit flight plans, and identify themselves to Chinese air controllers. Furthermore, Japanese airlines have refused to comply with the new rules unless their destinations are in Chinese territory.

So far, despite Chinese Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke’s statement on 29 November that fighters had been scrambled to monitor US and Japanese aircraft in the ADIZ, no actual aerial challenge has been reported. The Chinese government has faced domestic criticism for not reacting to the incursions and has reacted by deploying early warning aircraft and jet fighters to patrol the disputed airspace.

This has led to widespread media speculation about the dangers of a miscalculation by either side in the air resulting in a wider crisis, especially between China and Japan, which could draw in the US. Certainly, the ADIZ is having the effect of worsening relations in an already tense standoff that has seen multiple incursions by Chinese naval and airborne assets into declared Japanese waters around the Senkakus. However, it is important to bear in mind that unlike other episodes in the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute, which recently saw the Japanese government threaten to shoot down any Chinese unmanned aircraft violating its airspace and China warning that such a move would be an act of war, the ADIZ has only been accompanied by vague warnings of ‘defensive emergency measures’ for violations. In fact, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said it was ‘incorrect’ to suggest China would shoot down aircraft which entered the zone without first identifying themselves.

This Chinese declaration suggests that the risks of military confrontation in the ADIZ are not as high as some in the media have suggested. Whilst the danger of miscalculation is certainly significant, it was already a factor in the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute before the Chinese ADIZ was declared and is unlikely to greatly increase as a result.
What Role Does the ADIZ Play in Chinese strategy if it is Not Enforced?

The announcement that China is not threatening to shoot down intruders raises the question of what role China actually assigns to its new ADIZ in national security policy. There is no recognised legal justification for ADIZs but the extent to which they differ from no-fly zones can be seen in legal guidance on the subject that is issued to the US Military. In contrast to Chinese demands, the US Navy Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations states that:

Why Suez Still Matters

China’s New Map: Just Another Dash?


201309 NB
Graham (344 Kb)

RUSI Newsbrief, 3 Sep 2013 By Euan Graham
The recent publication of China’s new national map – which both re-affirms its historical claims to the South China Sea and incorporates a 10th ‘dash’ in the East China Sea, near Taiwan – has created ripples in Southeast Asia and beyond. Since the 10th dash is not, in fact, new, there is less novelty to this development than first meets the eye. It nonetheless raises important questions about China’s intentions, which hover around the basic ambiguity of its position.

The latest national map was published in June by SinoMaps Press, China’s state mapping authority, under the jurisdiction of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping. It is thus officially approved. Previously, Beijing had asserted its South China Sea claims with reference to a nine-dash line encompassing a large swath of the strategically important sea, including disputed islands close to neighbouring countries. This was previously presented as an ‘inset’ within the official map, with this inset appended, for example, to China’s official protest against Vietnam’s and Malaysia’s joint submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in May 2009. Yet now, Beijing’s familiar nine-dash line has been supplemented by a 10th dash east of Taiwan, and has been fully integrated into the new national map. This map also features as a background in China’s latest passports, a development that has drawn protests from both Vietnam and the Philippines.

Close-ups of the front and back of the new SinoMaps Press map showing China’s ten-dash line in the South China Sea. Courtesy of SinoMaps Press.

China’s dashed-line claims in the South China Sea date back to a map issued by the Kuomintang government in 1947. This map featured a line of eleven dashes, extending from Taiwan to the Gulf of Tonkin. After the Communists came to power in 1949, the Kuomintang’s claims in the South China Sea were asserted by both of the rival regimes in Beijing and Taipei. However, it was in Beijing that the ‘inset’ map emerged as the official frame of reference, albeit without the 11th dash originally marked near Taiwan. Later, Beijing’s dashed line was further modified to reflect the bilateral maritime boundary agreed with Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin, ratified in 2004. Hence, the nine-dash line has become the most familiar reference point for China’s claims in the South China Sea.

China’s South China Sea ‘inset’ map showing the previous nine-dash line. Courtesy of SinoMaps Press.

As such, the demarcation of a 10th dash off the coast of Taiwan is not, in itself, new. Yet it is not surprising that many Asian states, some of which contest China’s claims in the South China Sea, have elicited political significance from its re-appearance and the incorporation of the inset into the main part of the latest map.

In Japan, for example, the map has raised eyebrows because the new line is drawn very close to Yonaguni, the western-most island in its Ryukyu chain – located only 70 miles from Taiwan – and part of Okinawa Prefecture. Indeed, while China does not dispute Japanese sovereignty over Yonaguni – unlike the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands to the north – the island is practically obscured by the shading surrounding China’s 10th dash.

Meanwhile, its re-appearance also serves to re-iterate Beijing’s longstanding assertion of sovereignty over Taiwan, as an extension of its claims in the South China Sea. Indeed, while the 10th dash does not expand on China’s existing territorial claims, it symbolically subsumes Taiwan’s identical claims in the South China Sea, which are derived from the same Kuomintang source. Taiwan is still an important player in the South China Sea, occupying the largest island in the Spratly archipelago. In the East China Sea, moreover, it vigorously disputes Tokyo’s claim to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, its position virtually identical to that of Beijing. China may therefore be aiming to highlight the mirror-image symmetry of its own maritime territorial claims with those of Taiwan, as a means of further narrowing the cross-strait gap, aligning Taipei and Beijing along a common nationalist axis, and demonstrating a unity of purpose between the two. In doing so, it has sought to capitalise upon recent tensions between Taiwan and the Philippines, over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the latter’s coastguard in May. Beijing may also see advantage in reaching out to Taiwan’s scholarly community, with the aim of buttressing the evidence base for China’s historical claims in the South China Sea through the study of documentation from the pre-1949 era.

Despite the improvement in cross-strait ties in recent years, however, Taiwan’s political leadership is wary of accepting overt support from China for its maritime claims, cognisant of the risk that Taiwan could be perceived as a proxy supporter of China’s own territorial ambitions and of the strains this would place on Taipei’s relations with the US and its regional allies as a result.

China, however, continues to promote this symmetry, particularly in relation to its ongoing confrontation with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, where China’s claim to the islands runs through Taiwan. As such, the 10th line on the map hints at a broader linkage, in Chinese minds, between claims in the South China Sea and claims in the East China Sea, where Beijing’s political and strategic priorities are currently centred. It is also read as such by Japanese analysts.

Legend of China’s new map. Courtesy of SinoMaps Press.

Meanwhile, the new map’s legend has also attracted attention, both in Japan and Taiwan and, indeed, further south. This is because it designates the dashed line as a national boundary, using identical shading to that surrounding China’s land borders. This shading around the ten dashes has the visual effect of projecting China’s claims in the South China Sea, however defined, closer to the coastlines of the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. Yet, in fact, the dashes themselves (apart, of course, from the 10th) are all in the same locations as those in recent Chinese maps. As such, the addition of the new shading, plus the fact that the space in between the dashes is marked (in diminutive characters within the legend) as ‘boundary not defined’, indicates that China seeks to maintain some ambiguity around the status of the dashed line, to minimise controversy while preserving its future room for manoeuvre. This may be having some effect, given that, to date, Southeast Asian reactions to the publication of the new map – and to the full incorporation of the dashed line within it – have been subdued, at least publicly.

Reading Clausewitz in Riyadh

John Amble
December 4, 2013 ·
The November announcement of an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 to curb the former’s nuclear program in exchange for some easing of sanctions was met with mixed global reactions. As the most significant step yet toward deescalating a crisis that has hung over Middle East politics like an ominous cloud pregnant with unpredictable stormy consequence, the deal was quite unsurprisingly lauded by many in the international community. But in some corners, the response was one of skeptical condemnation. This was the tenor of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction to the announcement. Similar concerns that were less forcefully voiced, but no less sincerely felt, were heard from Saudi Arabia’s government.

That these two countries have become the de facto public faces of regional scepticism of the Iran deal has prompted no small level of speculation that this development could signal the burgeoning of some sort of Saudi-Israeli alliance. In turn, other commentators have scoffed at the notion that such an unlikely alliance could ever materialize. Bruce Riedel, for instance, argued that “a mutual aversion to Iran and annoyance with the United States,” should not be mistaken for a sign of any measurable change in the relationship between the two states, and thus cannot form the basis for an Israeli-Saudi axis.

But why must the outcome be one or another? Must the events surrounding the Iran deal necessarily either (A) imply the potential for a newly formed alliance or (B) obscure a statically tense relationship? Such a simple, binary explanatory model is the result of a misconception of the notion of strategic alliance as fundamentally rigid and defined by a considerable degree of permanence. This conceptualization applies the term only to those groupings of states – like NATO, for instance – that are bound together by formally contracted agreements.

Butchered like a joint of meat': Jurors gasp as they are shown footage of Lee Rigby murder

Jurors told that Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale drove car straight at him at around 30mph to 40mph

Paul Peachey
Friday 29 November 2013

The final moments of Fusilier Lee Rigby's life are captured in a series of CCTV images - some still, others moving, all apparently mundane. Wearing a "Help for Heroes" hoodie with a camouflage bag slung over his shoulder, he is filmed as he heads up the escalator at his local station. He is then pictured passing through the ticket barrier and starting his walk home to Woolwich Barracks. One shot shows him passing the Great Harry pub; two more the council offices and the library.

Then he is caught on film, a small figure in the distance walking along Artillery Place. From the footage it is clear he glances at the Vauxhall Tigra coming his way as he crosses the road. But he had turned his back by the time it veers over the central line and accelerates towards him. The 25-year-old is thrown on to the bonnet; the car then disappears off-screen.

In a split second the horrifying details of Lee Rigby's death were revealed at the Old Bailey yesterday, leaving the courtroom in silence.

The car was just the beginning. Like a "butcher attacking a joint of meat", Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, then set about the unconscious man with a cleaver and knives in a "serious and almost successful" attempt to saw off his head, Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, told the jury.

The attack is hidden from the sight of the camera fixed to the outside of a shop. But two small figures soon come back into shot, dragging the body of the dead 25-year-old into the road where he is dumped as a double-decker bus drives past. "They wanted the members of the public present to see the consequence of what can only be described as their barbarous acts," said Mr Whittam. "They had committed, you may think, a cowardly and callous murder by deliberately attacking an unarmed man in civilian clothes from behind using a vehicle as a weapon. Then they murdered him and mutilated his body with that meat cleaver and knives."

The court was told that Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale killed the soldier in retaliation for the British military presence in Muslim countries.

As Mr Adebolajo was being taken away after being shot and injured by police, the court was told that he said to paramedics: "I did it for my God." Both Mr Adebolajo - who held a copy of the Koran in the dock - and Mr Adebowale deny murder.

The killing and its aftermath - caught on mobile phones and security cameras - was too much for some members of Fusilier Rigby's family. His widow, Rebecca, and his mother Lyn both left in tears before the footage was played.

Ukraine's Invisible Fascists

John Allen Gay |
December 3, 2013

We Westerners love a good liberation. Whenever protests or rebellion spring up in an autocracy, we cheer on the underdog, the weaker party, the ones facing down the shock troops and riot police of the government—pardon, of the regime. It’s an attractive vision—after all, so much of Eastern Europe freed itself from Soviet-backed tyranny like this, turning their states into some of the West’s staunchest allies. Yet other underdogs we’ve loved have turned out to be less lovable. Egypt’s revolution saw liberals sidelined by the Muslim Brotherhood, which made cack-handed power plays until overthrown by a military dictatorship that’s turning out harsher than Mubarak—and less friendly to Washington, too. Protests in Syria turned over a rock, and found lots of bugs, Al Qaeda among them. Rwanda’s Paul Kagame turned out to be an autocrat and an exporter of violence. Ahmed Chalabi and the Free Iraqi Forces barely turned out at all, except when the chance to loot was involved. We usually ignored the awkward questions about all of them until it was too late, content in a belief that those against dictatorship are for freedom.

The same thing is now happening in Ukraine. President Viktor Yanukovych passed up the chance to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, a step that would have tilted the country toward the West and away from Russia. Yanukovych’s motives were impure: drawing closer to the EU would have required more political openness, potentially creating an opening for his opponents and a platform for jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. And so outraged Ukrainians have poured into the streets in the hundreds of thousands, calling for Yanukovych to step out and the EU to step in. Riot police responded with violence—and the demonstrations continued. The West knows whom it wants to win. The press is breathless. It’s easy to come away with the impression that we’re witnessing a struggle between freedom and tyranny, between European openness and Putinist autocracy, between peaceful protesters and jackbooted thugs.

But sometimes the jackboot is on the other foot. Western coverage of the protests has ignored or downplayed the role of the crypto-fascist All-Ukrainian Union party, “Svoboda.” Its presence, however, is obvious—banners with its three-fingered symbol appear in many photographs from Independence Square in Kyiv. A man in a Svoboda jacket can be seen (at 1:26) in footage of an attack on police protecting a statue. And Svoboda’s leaders have associated themselves with the protest’s most radical action—the occupation and barricading of the Kyiv City Hall. The press noted a Svoboda leader’s claim that the protesters were merely there to warm up, and helpfully pointed out that it was four degrees Celsius outside. Meanwhile, Svoboda head Oleh Tyahnybok declared the City Hall a “temporary headquarters” for the revolution, announced that similar headquarters should be set up around the country, and condemned alleged government plans to restore government control of government buildings. He’s called for “a total social and national revolution,” and urged his supporters to “block and sabotage the work of the local councils where most of the deputies are not patriots. We are starting to rock the boat of the regime. In order to oust this regime, we must lock the entire operation of the state.” All that might count as pertinent information in reports that Ukrainian prime minister Mykola Azarov’s claimed that the protests show “all the signs of a coup d'etat.” Yet it’s absent.

Media outlets also have been cagey about identifying Svoboda’s ideological aims—when mentioned at all, the party’s often branded as merely “nationalist.” Yet they can only be described as national socialists—that is, as members of the statist, ethnocentric, totalitarian family of political movements that have included Italy’s fascists and Germany’s Nazis. Indeed, they were founded under the name Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine, and their official political program should sound familiar to those versed in old fascist manifestos like the Nazis’ Twenty-Five Points. The ideological similarities are deeper than mere ethnonationalism—other fascist hobbyhorses like the empowerment of the military, recapture of irredenta, the return of the diaspora, a central role for the state in the economy and the public settling of old historical grievances are there, too. Svoboda’s logo until about a decade ago was a rune that had once appeared on the crests of several SS divisions, and which is now illegal to display in Germany.

A Kinder, Gentler Immigration Policy

America’s Military at a Crossroads

The U.S. military faces a 21st century identity crisis. But despite blanket spending cuts, it has options.

By Harry Kazianis

December 04, 2013

More than a decade after initiating the “War on Terror,” along with invasions and occupations that brought regime change to both Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington’s defense planners face the arduous task of refocusing America’s military towards the threats of the future: defeating anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weapons and strategies that are quickly being adopted by nations and non-state actors alike.

How will the United States deal with this challenge?

Any defense analyst will tell you that reading the tea leaves when it comes to the future of America’s military these days is a thankless task. Those of us who track such developments for a living are fed an endless stream of information that, when combined, are prone to produce information overload. Even so, two paths seem pretty clear.

The first choice is not really a choice at all. The United States could have a military that has been slashed to the bone thanks to massive cuts in spending through what is known as sequestration. Without any sort of strategy or purpose besides cutting costs and shrinking Washington’s massive budget deficit, this military would be unable to meet the challenges of the future, costing blood and treasure in the process while truly becoming “hollowed out.” Or it could have a smaller, leaner but high-tech military that can fight from long distances and that has a clear, defined strategy: defeating forces that would deny America’s military access to the global commons across multiple domains. The key to this? The ability to develop new weapons systems to strike from long distance.

America’s Military: Death by Sequestration? It’s Possible

During the recent budget battle that brought America to the brink of default, very little was mentioned about cuts to the nation’s military, cuts that have already had an impact on readiness, training practices, and the ability of Washington to react in a crisis. While many politicians have sought to replace the sequester with some sort of common-sense defense planning, the cuts remained in place. They are already being felt and could degrade America’s military edge as nations like China and Iran develop specific anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weapons to deny Washington’s access to the commons. And given China’s recent declaration of an ADIZ over the East China Sea, a crisis is no longer inconceivable.

“Sequestration poses the most serious threat to our military’s readiness since the days of the ‘hollow force’ after the Vietnam War” notes U.S. congressman and The Diplomat contributor J. Randy Forbes.