20 April 2014


Sunday, 20 April 2014 | 
G Parthasarathy | 

India can bring itself to face the multi-faceted challenges posed by China across the border and across Asia if, apart from developing its own economic and military strength, it also attempts to understand the complexities of the Chinese mind

The disastrous 1962 conflict with China still haunts public memory in India, and painful memories of the conflict have been revived recently. Author Neville Maxwell, though known to carry an anti-Indian bias, has made public what are undoubtedly the authentic contents of the report prepared by the late General Henderson Brookes on the 1962 military/political debacle. Lt General Brookes and Lt General (then Brigadier) Bhagat were asked by the then Army Chief in 1963, to analyse the causes for the debacle that traumatised the nation. Their report is a direct indictment of both the political and military leadership of the time. It focuses on the follies of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Forward Policy” in the years and days preceding the conflict.

This ill-advised policy involved forward deployment of an inadequately armed and underequipped Indian army, with tenuous lines of communications, to face a treacherous enemy, which had posed as a friend. While the years since the disastrous conflict have witnessed an upgrading of our military capabilities, are we, even now, economically and psychologically, prepared to meet the multi-faceted challenges that China poses today? What exactly are these challenges? More importantly, have we at all studied Chinese behavioural patterns and what constitutes the basis of their strategic thinking? These are issues that have been comprehensively addressed in the book Uneasy Neighbours authored by Ram Madhav Varanasi, who is the Director of the Delhi-based Strategic Affairs Think Tank ‘India Foundation.’ He is also a member of the Central Executive of the RSS.

Dealing with Chinese strategy during and in the days preceding the 1962 conflict, the author draws attention to the plaintive statements by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that he had been “deceived” by the Chinese. The “Forward Policy” after all involved moving Indian forces into areas the Chinese had laid claim to and even held periodically. Mr Nehru often alluded to the assurance that Chinese Defence Minister Marshal Chen Yi gave to his Indian counterpart VK Krishna Menon in July 1962. Marshal Chen Yi had then averred that: “There may be skirmishes between the two countries along the border, but full scale hostilities were unthinkable”. The redoubtable Krishna Menon, in turn, told the media at the UN, that there was absolutely no trouble along the India-China border!!

US discovers a rock star economist from France


New York, April 19: French economists who boldly question the dominance of capital over labour — and call for a progressive global tax on wealth — visit the American halls of power about as often as French rock stars headline Madison Square Garden.

But those halls of power are where Thomas Piketty, a 42-year-old professor at the Paris School of Economics, has been singing his song of late.

Since touching down in Washington this week to promote his new book, Capital in the 21st Century, Piketty has met US treasury secretary Jacob Lew, given a talk to President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and lectured at the International Monetary Fund, before flying to New York for an appearance at the UN, a sold-out public discussion with the Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, and meetings with media outlets ranging from The Harvard Business Review to New Yorkmagazine to The Nation.

The response from fellow economists, so far mainly from the liberal side of the spectrum, has verged on the rapturous.

Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times, predicted in The New York Review of Books that Piketty’s book would “change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics”.

But through all the accolades, Piketty seems to be maintaining a most un-rock-star-like modesty, brushing away comparisons to Tocqueville and Marx with an embarrassed grimace and a Gallic puff of the lips.

“It makes very little sense: How can you compare?” he said on Thursday between gulps of yoghurt during a break in his packed schedule — before going on to list the 19th-century data sets that Marx neglected to draw on in Das Kapital, his 1867 magnum opus.

Operation Cactus: India’s 1988 intervention in the Maldives


by David Brewster — April 18, 2014 8:10 pm

India’s intervention in the Maldives was a model for the benign security role that India could play in the Indian Ocean. 

A defining moment in the India-Maldives strategic relationship occurred in 1988 when India intervened in the Maldives to prevent an attempted coup by mercenaries, organised by a Maldivian businessman. In November 1988, a force of some 80-200 mercenaries, largely drawn from a Sri Lankan Tamil insurgent group, the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), infiltrated the Maldivian capital of Malé and took control of key points in the city. The rebels failed to capture the Maldivian President, Abdul Gayoom, who took refuge in the Maldives National Security Service headquarters. Gayoom personally or though the Maldivian ambassador to the United Nations, requested military assistance from several countries, including India, the United States, Britain, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and ‘other’ Asian states. The Sri Lankan military placed 85 commandos on standby at its Ratmalana Air Base at Colombo, and Malaysia reportedly alerted its navy (although it is three to four days sailing from the Maldives). The US Marine detachment at Diego Garcia was also placed on alert but the US State Department ruled out direct intervention, and worked with Britain to help coordinate a response from India.

Cyclone Phailin in Odisha, October 2013 : Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment Report


Government of Odisha
Asian Development Bank
World Bank

The severe cyclone storm "Phailin" that hit the coast of Odisha on October 12, 2013, brought with it very high speed winds and heavy rainfall that caused extensive damages particularly to houses, standing crops, power and communication infrastructure in the coastal districts of the state. The need to immediately start recovery and reconstruction work after Cyclone Phailin, especially in the affected districts, has prompted the state government, in collaboration with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, to initiate an assessment of the recovery needs in order to draw up a comprehensive recovery framework. This rapid damage and needs assessment report details the damage caused due to the storm, and the action taken for effective recovery after the impact. It provides a detailed analysis of the affected sectors, the extent of damages sustained, the reconstruction and recovery needs, and the recovery strategy.

Distributional Implications of Climate Change in India



Jacoby, Hanan
Rabassa, Mariano
Skoufias, Emmanuel 

Global warming is expected to heavily impact agriculture, the dominant source of livelihood for the world's poor. Yet, little is known about the distributional implications of climate change at the sub-national level. Using a simple comparative statics framework, this paper analyzes how changes in the prices of land, labor, and food induced by modest temperature increases over the next three decades will affect household-level welfare in India. The authors predict a substantial fall in agricultural productivity, even allowing for farmer adaptation. Yet, this decline will not translate into a sharp drop in consumption for the majority of rural households, who derive their income largely from wage employment. Overall, the welfare costs of climate change fall disproportionately on the poor. This is true in urban as well as in rural areas, but, in the latter sector only after accounting for the effects of rising world cereal prices. Adaptation appears to primarily benefit the non-poor, since they own the lion's share of agricultural land. The results suggest that poverty in India will be roughly 3-4 percentage points higher after thirty years of rising temperatures than it would have been had this warming not occurred.

Running Water in India's Cities : A Review of Five Recent Public-Private Partnership Initiatives



India is home to more than 370 million people in urban areas. Historically, almost all water supply provision has been managed by the public sector through municipal or state-level departments or parastatals. Benchmarking initiatives show that coverage through piped water supply ranges between 55 percent and 89 percent in urban areas. Per capita availability is fairly high, at 90 to 120 liters per day, but no city yet offers continuous water supply. Daily supply averages four hours, with many cities alternating supply every other day. These challenges occur in a context of weak management systems and little data on existing assets, which makes it difficult to assess investment needs and time lines to improve service levels and operational efficiencies. While investment requirements are likely to be significant, it is recognized that investments alone will not be effective unless the country simultaneously addresses related issues such as complex and fragmented institutions with little accountability; lack of capacity to run utilities efficiently and meet performance standards; weak commercial orientation; interference in utility operations by external entities; and the absence of a regulatory framework focused on customer service and financial sustainability. In response to social issues, all contracts have proactively provided for service delivery options to consumers as well as tariff concessions (bulk supply to poor neighborhoods, fortnightly payment options, special tariff for group connections, and so forth). It will also be useful to explicitly state the subsidy that the city will bear for connecting poor consumers to the network. Explicit arrangements in the contract will allay apprehensions of urban poor as well as encourage the operator to connect the poor.

Development of Local Supply Chain : A Critical Link for Concentrated Solar Power in India


World Bank

Amid the success of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) projects in India, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology also provides a compelling case for support by the government as among solar technologies; CSP is the only techno-economically viable option at present that provides a storage option for dispatchable and dependable solar energy. Furthermore, the conversion of solar to steam is a relatively high-efficiency process versus the conversion efficiency of PV. This process can effectively supplement fossil fuels and renewable fuel, such as biomass, and thus contribute to the overall energy security of the country. The specific objective of the study is to assess the potential of India's industries to set up a manufacturing base to produce CSP technology components and equipment. The study assesses competitive positioning and the potential of Indian companies in the manufacturing of important CSP components. Various analysis models were prepared for the analysis, and the details have been explained in the elaborated version of the report. The report also proposes an action plan to help develop this potential and evaluate the resulting economic benefits. This report includes the following activities: i) assessment of the competitive position of local industries to support the development of CSP technologies in India; ii) evaluation of short, medium, and long-term economic benefits of creation of a local manufacturing base; and iii) action plan to stimulate local manufacturing of CSP technology components and equipment. This document is a summary of the larger report. The data analysis and messages presented in the report are based on very limited information presently available in the Indian market. Therefore, it is recommended that the trends and ideas to be given more attention than the data itself.

Bridging the Civil-Military Gap: Soldier Photography in Afghanistan

Journal Article | April 14, 2014
Bridging the Civil-Military Gap: Soldier Photography in Afghanistan
Kris Bachmann

The twenty-first century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced and experience the most media coverage of any conflict in American history. Take for instance the famous picture of a statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down by Marines as a crowd of Iraqis looks on. This image made the rounds of television media and government as proof that the Iraqis saw U.S. troops as liberators. Later revelations exposed that the toppling did not come at behest of the Iraqis and that much of the crowd in the photo came from the press staying at the nearby Palestine Hotel.[i] Television news, taken in by the story, replayed it incessantly while removing the context by making comparisons to iconic events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall. The photo did not lie, but its usage became propaganda to push forth a narrative that an administration desperately needed the public to believe. This image, and the aftermath, clearly displays the dangers inherent in the irresponsible use of photography without context. While the image did not necessarily get staged, the lack of context and availability of journalists along with twenty-four hour news changed the meaning of the event for the audience. Iconic images often run into issues with interpretation due to their power in presentation. On the other hand vernacular images by soldiers, never published, and not seen outside their circle of family and friends allows for a more intricate view of their war and their response to it and building the foundation for a broader understanding of the experiences of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Less than one percent of the US public participated in uniform these wars over the last decade.[ii] This historically low number underlies much of the disconnect, and rage, among young veterans returning home to discover the assumed apathy of their countrymen. On the professional reporting side many journalists risk their lives to bring the realities of war against an often unidentifiable foe into the American home. Several respectable documentaries detailing the more crude aspects of these wars attempt to engage in public dialogue, such as the documentary Restrepo and the accompanying bookWar by Sebastian Junger, but they are so far, underappreciated. The journalist’s war does not concern us here today; with the proliferation of mass media devices the soldiers fighting these wars created a massive, yet untouched, realm of primary documents presenting the soldier’s view of the conflict. With the advent of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) the Civil-Military divide increases as fewer citizens and politicians are related to, or know someone in the military. The military must be kept in conversation with the populace it serves or risk the rise of a warrior class unable to relate to or understand the public they are defending. Additionally, due to the fact of their not being personally invested, much of the public hardly engages with U.S. foreign military adventures, a fact increasing the isolation of the military from the populace. Utilizing Soldier photography to bridge the gaps between Army culture, American culture and Afghan culture will allow us to uncover the Soldier’s experience and assist in bridging the growing divide between society and their protectors.

Xi Jinping’s Africa Policy: The First Year

Yun Sun | April 14, 2014 

Editor’s note: In this blog, Yun Sun examines the Xi Jinping administration's new engagement with Africa during the first year since his inauguration. For a more detailed look at the evolving relationship between China and Africa, read Sun's latest paper, Africa in China's Foreign Policy.

It has been more than a year since Xi Jinping’s inauguration as China’s new president in March 2013 and his unprecedented visit to Africa in his first overseas trip as the head of state. During the first year of the Xi administration, China’s policy toward Africa has shown several new trends that illustrate Beijing’s evolving priorities and strategies in the continent. These new trends foreseeably will have significant implications for the future of Africa and Sino-Africa relations. 

Peace and Security in Africa Most strikingly, China under Xi has greatly and assertively enhanced its direct involvement in Africa’s security affairs. Two months into Xi’s reign, Beijing unprecedentedly dispatched 170 combat troops from the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Special Force to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali. Compared with China’s past tradition of dispatching only non-combat staff such as engineers and medical personnel, this is the first time China sent “combat troops” to a foreign country under a U.N. mandate. It remains to be seen whether the move changes PLA’s tacit operating principle of “no troops on foreign soil” given the U.N. authorization and local government consent. Nevertheless, China’s choosing Africa to dispatch combat troops for the first time does suggest Beijing’s rising interests, enhanced commitment and direct role in maintaining peace and security of Africa. 

In another unprecedented but more surprising move, China under Xi engaged in open intervention in the South Sudan conflict through direct mediation. In 2013, China’s special envoy for African affairs, Ambassador Zhong Jianhua, paid more than 10 visits to Africa to coordinate positions and mediate the South Sudan issue. Then, in January 2014, in a rare overt political intervention, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi publicly called for an immediate end of hostilities in South Sudan. At Ethiopia’s invitation, Wang Yi traveled to Addis Ababa to meet with rebel and government delegations. He openly urged “immediate cessation of hostilities and violence,” and publicly called for the international powers to back the Ethiopian-led mediation efforts. Given China’s considerable oil stake in the unstable South Sudan (China imported nearly 14 million barrels of oil from South Sudan in the first 10 months of 2013, twice that from Nigeria), many believe that China is gradually abandoning its long-term “non-interference” principle to protect its overseas economic interests. 

Philippines: China Will Not Negotiate

April 17, 2014

American and Filipino negotiators have agreed on the details of the new defense treaty. This will be signed by the end of the month and will allow regular visits by American forces and the delivery of more military aid (hardware and training.) While the new deal does not establish any American bases in the Philippines it does allow for American ships, aircraft and troops to operate on a long-term basis from existing Filipino military bases. This provides the Philippines with a lot more military muscle to confront an increasingly aggressive China. The U.S. has been recently been more active in describing how far it would go in resisting Chinese attempts to take control of the South China Sea. The U.S. recently pointed out that the sanctions being used against Russia could also be used against China. A trade war with the United States is the last thing the Chinese government wants right now, because they are having lots of problems with their economy. But the Chinese have used the South China Sea claims as part of a propaganda campaign to distract Chinese from the looming economic crises at home and backing off is not really a good option either. 

MILF admitted that four of the men killed while fighting alongside Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists last week were MILF members. MILF insisted these men had broken MILF rules by working with Abu Sayyaf. MILF has long been accused of tolerating such cooperation, which is usually done because some Abu Sayyaf groups earn a lot of money via smuggling, kidnapping and extortion. The government is again pressing MILF to be more active in disciplining its members who are criminals on the side. The government also wants more active MILF efforts to shut down MILF dissident groups like BIFF and MNLF, which are still operating like bandits in the south, often in cooperation with nearby MILF members. The newly signed peace treaty leaves MILF in charge of security in the southwest next year and the government is not sure MILF will be able to handle it. 

Several days of heavy fighting in the south (Basilan, Jolo and Zamboanga City) failed to achieve the primary objective, which was the capture of two terrorist leaders (Puruji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon) wanted for organizing several bombings and kidnappings. Abu Sayyaf is mainly operating in the new Moslem autonomous area and has resisted years of efforts by thousands of soldiers and marines to shut down the Islamic terrorist group. 

Expanding the Anti-Access Problem Set

Journal Article | April 17, 2014
Expanding the Anti-Access Problem Set

Daniel Sukman

Over the past decade, it has been wildly accepted that adversaries of the United States will adapt and develop Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2/AD) systems to keep the United States from projecting military power. Although recent U.S. military concepts have addressed the A2/AD threat, they have focused on what opposing military forces will bring to the fight. In turn, U.S. military concept writers have focused on systems that can defeat adversary A2/AD or operate outside the range of A2/AD. This is all well and good, but ignores how our adversaries have adapted to keep the U.S. from projecting military power. 

In early 2012, the Joint Staff J7 published the first in a series of concepts designed to examine how the United States military can overcome the A2AD challenge. The Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) dealt with the problem of adversary anti-access. It defined anti-access as “Those actions and capabilities, usually long range, designed to prevent an opposing force from entering an operational area."[i] The shortfall in the JOAC is that it focuses on adversary lethal capabilities and not on all the other actions and coercive attempts to keep hostile from entering an operational area. This is where the concept of Non-Lethal Anti-Access fills the gap. Non-Lethal Anti-Access is the use of a nation’s “soft power” (as defined by Joseph Nye[ii]) in conjunction with non-lethal elements of hard power to prevent an adversary from projecting military power.

Today, and in the decades to follow, the United States possesses an overwhelming advantage in technology and military might over all other nations on the planet. In the foreseeable future, one or two nations (China or Iran) may develop some near-peer capabilities or challenge our dominance in their respected regions, but most nations will not be able to challenge the U.S. military and the power it brings to bear. America stands as the Goliath, and the Davids of the world will find alternate ways to keep the American Military out of their neighborhood. Overcoming non-lethal anti-access will be a decisive factor for America’s Combatant Commands in the years ahead. 

Not only does non-lethal anti-access represent an option for America’s potential adversaries, in some cases it is the only option, and may be the option of last resort. History is replete with examples that display that once the United States chooses to employ its military arm of national power, especially land power, the opposing regimes days in power are limited. Saddam Hussein learned this lesson, as did Slobodan Milosevic but only too late. Adversaries of the United States now understand that if the U.S. can sustain over 150,000 Soldiers in central Asia for over a decade, actively opposing U.S. military power projection is a recipe for disaster. For all the talk of anti-access being the application of lethal fires, you must consider what the U.S. response would be if we lost an Aircraft Carrier, or other strategic power projection platforms. Bashir Assad learned this lesson and applied it to remain in power.

The Real Reason China Wants Aircraft Carriers

April 16, 2014
China's Carrier Plans Target U.S. Alliances, Not Its Navy

Chinese seamen stand in formation forming six Chinese characters reading "Chinese dream, military dream" on the board of China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning. (Xinhua)

Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was the guest of honor for a tour of China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, an event that once again raised U.S. media interest in China’s navy, its aspirations, and the role this carrier and others may someday play. 

It is not clear how many or what kind of carriers China will eventually build—whether they will more closely resemble Liaoning or be somewhat more modest in design, akin to U.S. Wasp-class amphibious assault ships. The former point China toward grander power projection missions; the latter toward the more immediate goal of establishing hegemony over its neighbors, many of whom have territorial disputes with China in the South and East China Seas. But it does appear that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has the aircraft carrier “bug” and the implications for the United States are large, whichever course Beijing takes.

Several commentators were quick—and correct—to observe that the PLAN aims to deny the U.S. Navy and American seapower in general access to the Western Pacific. This sensible observation, however, overlooks the strategic objectives China seeks to accomplish by turning to carrier aviation. 

China's Stealth Fighters: Ready to Soar?

April 16, 2014

The test pilots of China’s state-run Shenyang Aircraft Corporation have been joyriding in a high-tech new aircraft. Does China already have a multi-role fighter in the works to challenge the F-35? Or is this new aircraft really “all about the program?” Chinese military research and development is notoriously secretive, so Chinese and international People’s Liberation Army (PLA)-watchers were surprised by the October 2012 appearance of the J-31, a fully-fledged, advanced fighter prototype, deployed by the Shenyang Aircraft Company. It’s similarity in shape to the F-35 is noteworthy. In recent months there has been a great deal of speculation about successful Chinese espionage against the F-35 program, although most of it has focused on the appearance of certain sensor systems on China’s prototype air-superiority fighter, the J-20. The J-20 might very well have been influenced by the F-35, but the J-31 almost certainly was.

With a rumored three prototypes in production, the J-31 might be one-half of a “high-low mix” of big J-20s for high-altitude dogfighting with the elite aircraft of China’s enemies, while the J-31 fills the ranks as the mainline fighter and strike aircraft, in a force configuration similar to what the U.S. Air Force is pursuing with the F-22 and the F-35A. But it’s not likely. It’s always hard to know in advance what the Chinese military is going to do with its technology; so far, the signs are that the J-31 is intended for export and is not going to be in service with the PLA Air Force in large numbers. There have been mixed statements from Chinese military officials and state-run media about the aircraft’s future. This could be a result of the fact that China’s military-industrial complex often employs a “generational leap-frogging” system of development. Numerous different designs are rapidly produced and used as prototypes or inducted into service in small numbers to quickly advance Chinese mastery of the technology, but also to build institutional capability for the mass production of a system that can match its international peers. This system is clear in China’s naval development: the PLA Navy has inducted five native-produced destroyer classes into service since the 1990s, each an incremental improvement over the previous one, with only the final class, the 052D, approved for mass production.

The Gathering Storm in the Ukraine

April 17, 2014
Gathering storm: Russia would find holding territory in Ukraine harder than taking it
The Economist

ACCORDING to satellite pictures and military intelligence, some 50,000 Russian troops are massed along the border with Ukraine. The forces represent a substantial fraction of Russia’s 270,000-strong army, and they cannot indefinitely maintain the high state of readiness they have been in since early March, not least because it is now the time of year when conscripts at the end of their term have to be sent home, and new ones trained.

Ukraine’s armed forces are, by comparison, small, ill-equipped and out of position. Ukraine has just 77,000 troops. The interior ministry’s paramilitary forces are of similar number, but in the south and east of the country their loyalty may be questionable. A reserve of 1m men might theoretically be mobilised—all those who are within five years of completing their military service—but it would probably be poorly disciplined, and of very limited use.

Russia spends more on its armed forces than any other country save China and America—$88 billion in 2013, half as much again as Britain. According to SIPRI, a research institute, its spending is increasing fast as deficiencies exposed in the 2008 war against Georgia are put right. On the other hand, Ukraine’s military spending amounted to $2.4 billion last year. Its forces are mainly equipped with Soviet-era tanks and field guns. Ukraine’s 36 Su-27 fighter aircraft are based in Crimea, and thus grounded. It has 90 smaller MiG-29s and some other aircraft capable of ground-attack missions, according to the latest edition of the “Military Balance” published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. But they would be overwhelmed by the far greater number of similar aircraft carrying more up-to-date missiles and radars that Russia has at its disposal. Ukraine’s air-defence system is a ropy Soviet-era remnant.


April 17, 2014

When plotting the way forward on European security, it is sensible to consider European perspectives. Unfortunately, many American analysts, including WOTR’s Ryan Evans, have overlooked them in response to recent events in Ukraine. It is however particularly important in this context, because the situation provides an opportunity for Europeans to rise up to the challenge and be more responsible about taking their security into their own hands. It requires the “Big Three” (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) to understand that it is up to them to convince their partners that European security is a European core task. To do so, they need to appreciate and act upon the fact that in-area concerns are as central to European security as out-of-area ones.

The crisis in Ukraine has multifaceted consequences for Europe. First, it will bear consequences on how the Europeans approach their relationship with their Eastern neighborhood. Second, it could provide an opportunity to tailor a more common position on Russia. Last, it sparks a strategic debate over what the Europeans are willing to do to defend their territory.

Ukraine: the tip of the iceberg

Ukraine represents the lynchpin for a broader question of how the Europeans approach their Eastern neighborhood. Can Ukraine simply be a bargaining chip in a deal between the United States and Russia? As Evans and others suggest, such a compromise could involve endorsing Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli or having NATO promise not to incorporate Ukraine as a way to reassure Russia. From a European perspective, this would be inappropriate. Such a deal would condone Russia’s actions and would be too favorable to Moscow’s interests. Besides, it would not preclude future Russian meddling in Ukraine. There would be no enforcement mechanism. Third, it would be mistaken to restrict Europe’s options while Russia has not hesitated to act in an unrestricted manner, having already violated several international agreements and treaties. Lastly, it would send a dreadful signal to Europe’s eastern neighbors, especially Georgia and Moldova: Do not think of getting too close to us, because if Russia disapproves, we will let you down.

Information Warfare: Hezbollah And The Three Front War

April 16, 2014

The war in Syria is spreading to Lebanon and this is a major problem for Hezbollah, the armed militia that has become the dominant political and military power in Lebanon since the 1980s. The problem here is that most Lebanese, including lots of Hezbollah supporters, are hostile towards Syria. That is because most Syrians consider Lebanon part of historic “Greater Syria” and want to incorporate Lebanon back into Syria. Hezbollah has played down this angle for three decades by depicting itself as the defender of Lebanese independence against Israel. But Israel has no historic, or current, claims on Lebanon while Syria does and more Lebanese are realizing that these days. Worse yet, the well-publicized activities of Hezbollah gunmen in Syria are making these Syrian claims more visible in Lebanese politics. Despite orders from their leaders to stay out of the media Hezbollah fighters in Syria are sending back cell phone photos and videos that end up on the Internet for all Lebanese to see. Threats to seize cell phones from Hezbollah gunmen sent to Syria is not a good option because it is so unpopular with the young men doing the fighting. 

The Hezbollah gunmen are fighting in support of the Assad government, which has long interfered in Lebanese affairs and is a known supporter of Greater Syria. Many of the Syrian rebels are more interested in merging Syria with Iraq under the control of a religious dictatorship. Then again, many of the Syrian rebels also support Greater Syria, especially since that unification would make it easier to punish those damn Lebanese Shia for supporting the Assads. 

This situation got worse over the last year as Sunni Lebanese joined the fight via local militias in Lebanon or by joining anti-Assad Islamic terrorist groups in Syria. In Lebanon the fight is often between Sunnis and Shia. This is further complicated by the Iranian connection. Hezbollah is a Shia militia financed and organized by Iran in the 1980s to protect Shia interests in Lebanon (where Shia are the largest minority in a nation of religious minorities). The biggest loser in Lebanon was the Sunni minority, who had long dominated the less educated and affluent Shia. By embracing Islamic radicalism (especially al Qaeda), the Lebanese Sunni found themselves with a suitable weapon to use against the better organized and more numerous Hezbollah gunmen. The Sunni terrorist attacks occur all over the country now, wherever there are Hezbollah facilities or Shia populations (mostly in the south). In the northern city of Tripoli, with its many Shia and Sunni neighborhoods right next to each other, local militias have been battling each other for years now. So far in 2014 there have been hundreds of casualties even though the army and police struggle to maintain the peace. 


April 17, 2014

Despite its ongoing spat with the United States, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will remain undeterred in its crusade to topple Bashir al Assad in Syria. And despite recent tensions, its wealthy little neighbor, Qatar, will remain onside in this quest.

President Obama recently visited Saudi Arabia for a long-anticipated meeting with King Abdullah. The visit was viewed as an Administration effort to directly assuage Riyadh’s nervousness over American inaction and perceived shifts in American policy in the Middle East on the Iranian nuclear program, the status of Egypt, the civil war in Syria, and Iran’s role in Iraq. Visit observers reported no closure between Washington and Riyadh on these issues during this visit.

Then again, the Saudis really didn’t need to close the policy gaps with America to pursue their top drawer regional aims. Riyadh’s most pressing need is to keep its vital Sunni Arab neighbors onside.

Thus when it comes to Saudi vital interests in the region, the Kingdom’s long smoldering struggle with its tiny, uber-rich, Wahhabi-based Islamic neighbor, Qatar, is more consequential. This rivalry has escalated sharply in the past two years, stoking a subtle joust over regional primacy into a highly visible row. On March 5th, Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew its Ambassador from Qatar in protest of Doha’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and “moderate” Islamists in the region. The three states accused Doha of using the Brotherhood to violate a multi-lateral Gulf State accord not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.

Long willing to poke at each other over perceived slights, indiscretions, and hypocrisies across state-run media outlets Al-Jazeera (Qatari-owned) and Al-Arabiya (Saudi-owned), these Sunni Arab neighbors have nonetheless found common ground in the past. They worked side-by-side to erode Hezbollah influence in the Lebanese military after the 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli war. They were in lockstep when working to topple the universally despised Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. And, most recently, they have not only both declared that Assad in Syria must go, but have taken active steps to defeat his regime.

Washington's Biggest Strategic Mistake

April 18, 2014

The United States is on the brink of committing a cardinal sin in foreign policy: antagonizing two major powers simultaneously. There are frictions in bilateral ties with both Moscow and Beijing that have reached alarming levels over the past year or so. It is a disturbing development that could cause major geopolitical headaches for Washington unless the Obama administration takes prompt corrective measures and sets more coherent priorities.

Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea has created a deep freeze in relations that were already rather frosty. Although few knowledgeable Americans agreed with Mitt Romney’s assertion in the 2012 presidential campaign that Russia was the principal geopolitical adversary of the United States, there were surging sources of friction even before the onset of the Crimea crisis, including sharp disagreements over policy toward Syria and Iran. The Crimea episode has made matters dramatically worse, with Washington and its European Union allies imposing economic sanctions on Russia, and the Kremlin responding with (mostly symbolic) sanctions of its own. The language coming out of both Washington and Moscow is characterized by a hostility not seen since the end of the Cold War. U.S. officials ruminate about deploying troops to NATO members in Eastern Europe to discourage additional expansionist moves by Russia. Hawks in the U.S. foreign policy community openly advocate an even more provocative troop deployment, along with military aid, to Ukraine

Washington’s relations with Beijing also have become noticeably more contentious. That point was highlighted during Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s recent visit to China. A series of testy exchanges culminated with a pointed warning from Defense Minister Chang Wanquan that efforts to “contain” China would never succeed. Beijing has been increasingly irritated by U.S. stances on a variety of issues. Washington’s position regarding China’s territorial disputes with neighboring states in both the South China and East China seas is an especially prominent grievance. From Beijing’s perspective, the Obama administration has exhibited an unsubtle backing of Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other rival claimants. The new security agreement between Washington and Manila is likely to further exacerbate Sino-U.S. tensions on territorial issues. 

Revealed: the radical clerics using social media to back British jihadists in Syria

Academic study points to radical preachers cheerleading western Muslims in fight against Bashar al-Assad 

The Guardian, Tuesday 15 April 2014 22.30 BST 

Two radical Muslim clerics have been identified as influential online cheerleaders for fighters seeking to topple the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in a pioneering academic study published on Wednesday.

Researchers based at King's College London reveal how social media is being harnessed by a network of radical preachers to inspire and guide British and other western Muslims waging jihad in Syria.

By examining tweets and Facebook postings used by certain rebels, people who follow the conflict from abroad and the two clerics, the academics say they have been able to provide a "unique and unfiltered window into the minds" of western and European foreign fighters in Syria.

The information allowed the analysts to identify a "set of new spiritual authorities" who have the largest followings. The report says they are the American-based cleric Ahmad Musa Jibril and the Australian preacher Musa Cerantonio. Both speak English and are based in the west.

Although there is no evidence to suggest these individuals are physically involved in facilitating the flow of foreign fighters to Syria, or that they are co-ordinating their activity with jihadist organisations, they are playing the role of cheerleaders. "It is clear that they are important figures whose political, moral and spiritual messages are considered attractive to a number of foreign fighters," the researchers conclude.

"Syria may be the first conflict in which a large number of western fighters have been documenting their involvement in conflict in real-time, and where – in turn – social media represents an essential source of information and inspiration to them," the report, a product of a year-long study, concludes.

The King's College team were able to assemble a database which now includes the online profiles of 190 western and European fighters, most of whom are affiliated to the two most prominent groups fighting the Assad regime – Jabhat al-Nusrah or the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Isis).

Overall, the researchers estimate, there are about 11,000 foreign fighters in Syria, and about 2,800 are European or western. Anti-terrorist investigators in the UK believe about 400 Britons have gone to Syria to wage jihad, and have raised concerns about what might happen if and when they return.

A total of 12,000 people have "liked" and receive updates from Cerantonio on Facebook and he is "more explicit in his endorsement of violent jihad" than Jibril, according to the researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College.

The U.S. Army must remain prepared for battle

By Gian P. Gentile, 

Gian Gentile is a senior historian at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Rand Corp

Gen. Matthew Ridgway , who took command of U.S. forces in Korea in December 1950, famously wrote that the “ primary purpose of an army [is] to be ready to fight effectively at all times .” 

Ridgway arrived in Korea at a low point in the war: The Chinese had launched a counteroffensive across the Yalu River and pushed a dispirited and disorganized U.S. Army all the way south past Seoul. 

How had the force that had driven the German army across France and back into Germany just five years earlier, at the end of World War II, lost the ability to fight effectively? 

The answer: During those few years, U.S. political leaders had concluded that with the advent of nuclear weapons, land wars were a thing of the past. Taking this cue, generals had allowed the armored brigade combat teams from World War II to atrophy. In their place were skeletal divisions of poorly trained U.S. infantry on constabulary duty in Germany and Japan. 

Slightly more than 40 years later, a very different U.S. Army evicted Saddam Hussein’s military — a far more formidable foe than the North Korean army of 1950 — from Kuwait. In 1991, the U.S. Army was not only better trained and had better resources; it was also working as part of a joint force. 

Virtually no Americans anticipated either the North Korean attack in 1950 or Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait 40 years later. That seems to be the pattern: U.S. presidents send the Army to resolve unexpected crises, ready or not. 

The world today presents a wide array of potential threats to U.S. interests, including a failed North Korean state losing control of its weapons of mass destruction, the morass of civil war in Syria, an aggressive and expansionist Russia or China, or still-unforeseen humanitarian crises in Africa and other areas. If called upon, the U.S. Army would deploy and engage in peacekeeping operations or major combat between state and non-state actors. In any event, it needs to be ready. 

Some have argued that after the frustrating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is little American appetite to send the Army into foreign lands, whether to fight, build nations or distribute humanitarian supplies. This line of thinking holds that the U.S. Air Force, Navy or Marine Corps can handle most of the security problems the world throws our way. 

Moscow: India’s ticket to the energy riches of the Arctic

by Kabir Taneja — April 4, 2014 5:35 pm


New Delhi should make an attempt to be a vibrant ‘observing voice’ in the Arctic Council and look to push Moscow in giving support the country’s private sector.

It is fair to presume that most Indians till some time back were unaware of the very existence of the region of Crimea, which Russia has now included as part of its own territory after Kiev was left leaderless following months of protests.

It is no secret that India and Russia share a special relationship. Ties between Moscow and New Delhi are solid, and on back of this relationship, the seemingly aggressive nature of Russia got a meek nod from India in form of a vague statement from National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon, who said that there were “legitimate Russian and other interests involved.”

Clearly New Delhi did not want to take any definitive stand on the issue, and it tried to avoid just that by making the above mentioned statement. Even though it was seen as validity to Moscow’s stance on Crimea, many experts questioned whether the NSA’s statement was in support of the Kremlin or not. The answer to this question was confirmed by Moscow, instead of New Delhi.

During the official signing ceremony of Crimea as part of Russia, President Vladimir Putin in midst of his flamboyant and ornate speech (where he took on Western hypocrisy and celebrated the referendum held in Crimea which showed overwhelming support to re-join Russia) went on to thank China and India for their stance on the issue. He said: “We highly appreciate India’s restraint and objectivity,” while also praising Beijing saying the Chinese saw the situation in Crimea “in all its historical and political integrity.”

India’s decision to not go against Russian aggression is understandable. Ties between the two countries are deep. Russia has been for long India’s by definition strategic partner. India, which is the world’s largest importer of military equipment, has historically bought most of its supplies from Russia. Even though for a long time this was mostly due to lack of options, Russian military hardware dominates much of Indian military establishment today.


April 17, 2014 · 

Armenia (1915–18), Ukraine (1932–1933), the Nazi Holocaust (1938–1945), Cambodia (1975–1979), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1992–1995), Darfur (2001–present). The events that took place during these periods in these countries resulted in more than 17 million deaths related to 20th century genocides or ethnic cleansing, each with little or late reaction by the community of nations. Leaders of Western democracies piously vow that “never again” will they allow such actions to take place, their hollow words translating to “Never again — until next time.”

Twenty years ago the world stood by while Rwanda became a scene of horror with the massacre of ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu people. In 1994, an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered and millions fled to neighboring countries in four months alone. The United States referred to Rwanda as a “local conflict,” and did not intervene. In his account of events in Shake Hands with the Devil, Canadian General Rome Dallaire, the U.N. commander on the ground, documented the shameful record of non-intervention by the U.N.

Nations act and react in their perceived national interest, while spending billions of dollars on U.N. peacekeeping missions that benefit participating countries and U.N. officials more than the victims.

In the present day, despite strong rhetoric, the United States and western democracies have failed to halt the Khartoum government’s consistent plan to “de-Africanize” its western state of Darfur. It was, and is, in our national interest to support a strong reaction, but the argument to do so has at best been relegated to the back pages due to our poor understanding of the conflict and its concomitant issues.

Darfur, Sudan

Sudan’s western department of Darfur was an independent sultanate until incorporated into greater Sudan in 1918 at the insistence of Britain. Its strong tribal society includes both African and Arab tribes, pastoralists, traders, and nomads. Geography and culture separate Darfur from the government of Sudan in Khartoum; it has more in common with neighboring countries. The government of Omar al-Bashir initiated and implemented a deliberate policy to “de-Africanize” Darfur that led to organized rebellion by the three principal non-Arab tribes: the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit. They were joined by members of other tribes — notably the southern Rezigat and Tai’sha — who refused to support Bashir.

The people of Darfur are Muslim, which makes Khartoum’s violent and inequitable treatment of them Muslim-on-Muslim crimes against humanity. The Darfuris, however, are moderate, Western-friendly Muslims, while the elite of the three Arab tribes that lead the National Congress Party and dominate Sudan — the Shaigiya, Jaaliyeen, and Dangala — lean Islamist. The destruction, slaughter, displacement and rape of Darfur have been ignored by the world’s predominately Muslim countries.

Prosperity for All / Ending Extreme Poverty : A Note for the World Bank Group Spring Meetings 2014


World Bank

In 2013, the Board of Governors endorsed two new goals for the World Bank Group (WBG). First, the WBG would commit its full energies to bringing an effective end to extreme poverty by 2030. This means reducing to no more than 3 percent the fraction of the world’s population living on less than $1.25 per day. Second, the WBG would focus on ensuring that the benefits of prosperity are shared by shifting from a focus on average economic growth to promoting income growth amongst the bottom 40 percent of people. Critically, the goals need to be achieved in a sustainable manner, thus helping secure the long-term future of the planet and its resources, ensuring social inclusion, and limiting the economic burdens of future generations. This short note begins by looking at progress to date in reducing global poverty and discusses some of the challenges of reaching the interim target of reducing global poverty to 9 percent by 2020, which was set by the WBG President at the 2013 Annual Meetings. It also reports on the goal of promoting shared prosperity, with a particular focus on describing various characteristics of the bottom 40 percent. A more detailed report with policy recommendations in the areas of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity is due for release at the Annual Meetings later this year.

Climate Change, Disaster Risk, and the Urban Poor : Cities Building Resilience for a Changing World


Baker, Judy L. 

Poor people living in slums are at particularly high risk from the impacts of climate change and natural hazards. They live on the most vulnerable land within cities, typically areas deemed undesirable by others and thus affordable. This study analyzes the key challenges facing the urban poor, given the risks associated with climate change and disasters, particularly with regard to the delivery of basic services, and identifies strategies and financing opportunities for addressing these risks. The main audience for this study includes mayors and other city managers, national governments, donors, and practitioners in the fields of climate change, disaster-risk management, and urban development. The work is part of a broader program under the Mayor's task force on climate change, disaster risk and the urban poor. The study is organized in four chapters covering: 1) a broad look at climate change and disaster risk in cities of the developing world, with particular implications for the urban poor; 2) analysis of the vulnerability of the urban poor; 3) discussion of recommended approaches for building resilience for the urban poor; and 4) review of the financing opportunities for covering investments in basic services and other needs associated with climate and disaster risk.

Cities and Climate Change : Responding to an Urgent Agenda


Hoornweg, Daniel
Freire, Mila
Lee, Marcus J.
Bhada-Tata, Perinaz 
Yuen, Belinda

The 5th urban research symposium on cities and climate change responding to an urgent agenda, held in Marseille in June 2009, sought to highlight how climate change and urbanization are converging to create one of the greatest challenges of our time. Cities consume much of the world's energy, and thus produce much of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Yet cities, to varying extents, are also vulnerable to climate change impacts, with poor populations facing the greatest risk. Thus, adaptation and increased resilience constitute priorities for every city, and cities have a key role to play in mitigating climate change. Climate change mitigation and adaptation in cities has emerged as a new theme on the global agenda, creating a strong desire among governments, the private sector, and the academic community worldwide to learn from experiences and good practice examples. The 5th urban research symposium made an important contribution to the growing body of knowledge and practice in the area of cities and climate change. During the three-day symposium, approximately 200 papers were presented to more than 700 participants representing more than 70 countries. As co-organizers, the authors found it very rewarding to have such an audience and to see the wide range of topics discussed, from indicators and measurement to institutions and governance. This publication is comprised of an edited selection of the many papers submitted to the symposium and gives a flavor of the questions asked and possible answers. (The entire collection of symposium papers is available as an online resource for interested readers.) The authors look forward to the benefits that the knowledge gained and the partnerships forged during the symposium will have for global efforts on cities and climate change.