1 July 2014

India’s National Security Advisor: What advice will Modi receive?

India’s new National Security Advisor is a highly respected intelligence officer, whose extensive writings show him to be a cautious hawk with a strong focus on internal security.

The foreign policy of recently elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an open book: some expect an internationalist, economics-focused reformer; others a security-focused hawk. We have had few glimpses of Modi’s foreign policy in action, apart from purposeful engagement with India’s neighbours. But a leader’s choice of counsellors can be revealing.

Modi has sent an important signal in appointing former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Ajit Doval as his new National Security Advisor (NSA). Doval is a highly decorated intelligence officer who until his appointment had been leading the right-leaning Delhi think-tank, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), in which capacity he participated in a number of projects with RUSI. Fortunately for analysts, Doval has left a rich seam of writing on national security issues, running to tens of thousands of words.
Doval’s Priorities

First, Doval clearly believes that national security begins at home. Reflecting his career in the field, his writings are marked by a consistent emphasis on the primacy of domestic problems over foreign ones. As early as 2006 Doval argued, ‘India's internal vulnerabilities are much higher than its external vulnerabilities’.

He therefore sees the most dangerous foreign threats as being those that target India’s domestic weaknesses, and stresses the importance of growing and equipping state police forces. But hisseverest warning is directed elsewhere: ‘I consider infiltration of Bangladeshis the biggest internal security problem. Bangladesh supports the demographic invasion of India’.

Second, Doval views internal security in broad and sweeping terms. One recurring theme is his disdain for ‘front organizations supporting the cause of anti-national forces, masquerading as human right groups’. This is an issue with particular resonance after the IB’s recent description of Greenpeace and its European funders as ‘a threat to national economic security’.

In a Hindi-language speech to an audience comprising largely of supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the party of government – Doval also argued that a millennia-old Indian national identity was under threat. He also claimed that the core of national security was not physical security but cultural identity, and praised the BJP as the only political party promoting Indian-ness. This suggests that Doval envisages a crucial – and controversial – cultural dimension to internal security.

'70% of India Has Yet to Be Built'

Can the government turn slums into the world's greenest cities?

A slum in Gujarat (Emmanuel Dyan/Flickr)

ASPEN, Colo.—We don't typically see an upside to slums—the squalid, makeshift settlements that house one-third of the urban population in developing countries. But not everyone's so glum. The economist Edward Glaeser, for instance, has argued that slums don't make people poor, but rather attract and inspire poor people seeking a better life in the city.

Shirish Sankhe, a director in McKinsey's Mumbai office, offers more cause for optimism. For him, slums are cities waiting to be built. By that, he doesn't necessarily mean new cities conjured from scratch, like China's "ghost cities." Instead, he means developing the sophisticated infrastructure that India's furious urbanization demands. If and when these cities are built, they can be conceived as 21st-century metropolises, equipped to meet modern challenges like climate change in ways that established cities like New York can't be.

Three hundred million Indians are expected to move to urban areas over the next 20 years, Sankhe noted during a panel discussion on Saturday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is organized by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. That means India will be 40-percent urban by 2030 (more than 60 million Indians already live in slums).McKinsey

All this, in turn, is going to put a premium on developing urban infrastructure. In a 2010 McKinsey report he co-authored, Sankhe estimated that rapid urbanization in the country will require the construction of 700 to 900 million square meters of commercial and residential space, or "a new Chicago every year."

As the study put it, "70 to 80 percent of the India of 2030 is yet to be built."

Ask Sankhe how he arrived at that staggering figure, and you get the sense that it's not a precise estimate—and more a rough and impressionistic measure of untapped possibility. He applies it not just to India but also to other emerging markets like Bangladesh and Indonesia, and bases it on a variety of factors.

"Seventy percent of these cities are not yet built," he explained. "Seventy percent of almost everything: the water systems, the houses.... Sixty percent of Mumbai, for example, live in slums, so their houses are not yet built. The transportation networks: Mumbai has finished only one corridor, it requires 15 corridors of metro. So 14 corridors are not yet built.... Not the population—the population is there. Everything related to climate change, everything related to energy sufficiency, a lot of things are not yet built. So we have a rare chance of designing it right."McKinsey

Virtual courses for a knowledge-based society

Virander S. Chauhan
Published: July 1, 2014

Equal access to higher education requires the introduction of massive open online courses

With a staggering population of 1.25 billion — and almost half of it under the age of 25 — India is confronted with enormous challenges while it plans to fulfil the aspirations of its people. Despite these challenges, it has the potential to become a leading nation in many areas of development, including education. If we accept that knowledge-based societies develop at a faster rate, then providing access to good education, particularly higher education, becomes crucial.

The current model of higher education in India, mostly adopted from developed countries, is largely campus-based, limited in its range of learning, and essentially attempts to comply with the needs of the industrialised world. While it is true that higher education has enabled social mobility for many in India, it is also true that those who have access to higher education belong to the more privileged sections of society. To bring about a change in this restrictive character of higher education and meet the ever-increasing demands of students and teachers, we need to evolve and adopt innovative ways of teaching and learning. Providing equal or at least more equitable access to higher education cannot be brought about through changes in the existing model; it requires a clear and genuine disrupter that will usher in sea change.Virtual learning

Introducing Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs in higher education in developing and densely populated countries like India and China could be one such intervention. MOOCs are online courses with unrestricted participation and open accessibility. However, they are different from other distance-learning programmes. First, they are essentially structured courses and not programmes that award degrees or diplomas. Second, they are interactive — there is continuous teacher-learner contact and assessment. Third, they allow a distinct possibility of virtual community/group learning.

How China Becomes a Cyber Power

by Adam Segal
June 30, 2014
Employees work inside a LCD factory in Wuhan, Hubei province, on May 8, 2013. Chinese flat screen makers, once dismissed as second-class players in the global LCD market, are drawing envious looks from big names such as LG Display Co Ltd and Samsung. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

One of the justifications for the creation of the Chinese leading group on cybersecurity and information technology was the need to move China from a “big” network country to a “strong” cyber power (从网络大国走向网络强国). While China has the world’s largest number of Internet users and a vibrant domestic market, policymakers and outside analysts seem to have significant concerns about Beijing’s technological prowess, the coherence of its international strategy, and its ability to respond to the growing sophistication of cyberattacks. It is one thing to be big, it is another to be powerful.

What defines a cyber power? China’s hacking is constantly in the news, but how do Chinese leaders see their strengths and weaknesses in cyberspace and what are they trying to achieve? In an article published last week, Wang Yukai, an academic and adviser to the government, draws on the comments President Xi Jinping made when the small leading group was announced to list six indicators of cyber power:

1. Infrastructure, including network size and broadband penetration

2. A clear international strategy that lays out priorities and defends China’s right to have a voice on cyber issues

3. Independent technological capabilities, especially in the areas of operating systems and central processing units

4. The ability to defend networks, be it for national security, economic security, user privacy, or social stability and harmony

5. Competitiveness in the development of software applications, e-commerce, and online markets

6. Occupying the “commanding heights” of cyberspace

Wang believes the path to cyber power must be followed at three levels. At the national level, China needs to strengthen its institutional and legal frameworks. The leading group will help Chinese companies develop trained information technology personnel, and adapt to and adopt big data, mobile Internet, and cloud computing.

The second level is the market. The government should create a competitive market and avoid excessive intervention. At the same time, China should implement a localization strategy for information technology products, the government should favor domestic over foreign products in procurement, and Beijing should experiment with new methods of achieving state-directed innovation, including support for private companies. At the individual level, Wang sees a need to guide expression online, protect privacy, enhance the quality of users, and combat crime.

Warrior State, Pakistan A country at war with itself, and a menace to others

B.G. Verghese

Supporters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which has been declared a "foreign terrorist organisation, chant slogans during a protest rally in Karachi.
WHILE India has been invaded from the Northwest, the Northeast and from the coast, it is the Northwest passage that has historically been the main strategic gateway through which conquerors and caravans have entered. Alexander was an early visitor. It is perhaps easy to see why this should have been so. India was long a source of pepper, spices and fine calicoes for Greek, Roman and Arab traders and regarded as a fabled land of wealth and wisdom lying athwart both the silk and spice routes. Hsuen Tsang, Marco Polo, Ibn Batuta and other travellers wrote of its wonders. To those living in the arid or cold deserts of West and Central Asia, the well-watered plains of India seemed most inviting.

While the British conquered India from the sea and fought off the Portuguese, Dutch and French for supremacy, it was Russian penetration from the Northwest that it most feared. The Great Game was played out along the wild, tribal marches of the Northwest Frontier and the High Karakoram. The nature of the Great Game changed after the Second World War, when containing communism became the prime Western agenda.

As the Second World War wound down, Britain wondered how it might dispose of India should irrevocable differences between the Muslim League and the Congress force Partition. The British “breakdown plan” favoured the creation of two Muslim-dominated Anglo-US allies in the Northwest and Northeast of the sub-continent to halt the march of communism. Both would have preferred to partner the larger and more resourceful India; but Nehru’s non-alignment and the seeming Soviet-Chinese tilt was suspect. Pakistan, staunchly Islamic and in need of support against what it saw as a larger, permanent and ideological Indian enemy, readily fitted the bill. It was also strategically placed, especially as a guardian of the passes to Afghanistan and beyond.

No surprise then that Pakistan soon became a staunch ally, a “frontline state”, a strategic partner and a base of operations for the West in containing communism and controlling the emerging oil wealth of Iran and the Arab lands beyond. Ideology, rooted in faith and geography, endowed Pakistan with a strategic value on which its leaders traded. TV Paul, (“The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World”, Random House) sums up this geo-political asset as a “strategic curse”. A feudal, emigre-led people divorced from its historical, geographical and cultural roots to embrace a wholly negative non-Indian, non-Hindu identity became a rentier state, trading its strategic utility for military and economic assistance.

Pakistan's Frankenstein

By Karamatullah K Ghori
Published: 01st July 2014

Old adages have a lot of wisdom. There’s one which says the proof of one’s intelligence is that one learns from the mistakes of others. Ordinary people learn from their own mistakes. But, knaves and fools don’t learn even from their own mistakes.

Pakistan in its tortured history of a deeply divided nation has made some horrible mistakes but hardly learnt any lesson from any of them.

The most grievous national blunder was Pakistan’s truncation in 1971 that birthed Bangladesh as a sovereign state. The tragedy hit Pakistan because of its Bonapartes’ crass appetite to hog national fortunes by manipulating its ethnicity-based politics. The majority Bengalis were treated like pariahs. In the end, they hit back and turned the course of Pakistani history.

Another reason of Pakistan’s humiliating defeat in then East Pakistan, to the Indian Army, was that its military leadership had written off East Pakistan as “indefensible” because it had, in their myopic military sense, no strategic depth. It was argued with conviction by the then military geniuses that the defence of East Pakistan lay not there but in West Pakistan, where conventional battles could be fought on an equal turf and on a winnable terrain.

That same military wisdom was also hooked on the notion that West Pakistan—which came to be known as only Pakistan after 1971—needed the “strategic depth” that neighbouring Afghanistan amply provided to face off a more powerful and better resourced “enemy” India. The Pakistani Bonapartes’ infatuation with Afghanistan’s fabled “strategic depth” was the bedrock that induced Pakistan to nurture the Taliban. It’s conventional wisdom in Pakistan that the ISI was the mother goose that laid the eggs for the Afghan Taliban and then hatched them with care to ensure that once in power in Kabul they’d be all too hospitable to allow Pakistan its coveted “strategic depth” in spades against India.

A second string to the philosophy of strategic depth was husbanding militant armed factions—the Lashkar-e-Taiba and others of its ilk—to operate against India. The military genius of the era argued with conviction that it made all the military sense for terrorist groups of a few hundred armed men to tie down several Indian military divisions in Kashmir. It was deemed a stroke of brilliance—cheap and affordable and garnering handsome dividends in return.

Why America’s Military Dominance Is Fading


In the long run, Congress’ inability to change the status quo is eroding the military’s readiness for the next fight and mortgaging the future for the present.
Mackenzie Eaglen, June 30, 2014

It is often said Congress hates to cut or cancel weapons systems, usually for reasons relating to jobs and elections back home. But the record shows that Congress is much more likely to curtail new equipment purchases for the military rather than get rid of or retire the old stuff.

This tendency is increasingly problematic for the U.S. military. In many capability sets and domains, the traditional margins of U.S. military technological supremacy are declining across the services. Too often, policy makers think of this as an emerging challenge that can be dealt with in the coming years. But, as has been documented previously and stated by many senior Pentagon officials over the past year, America’s declining military superiority is now a “here-now” problem.

Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, recently said, “I’m very concerned about eroding technological superiority and where we’re headed. […] We’ve had 20 years since the end of the Cold War [and] sort of a presumption in the United States that we are technologically superior militarily. I don’t think that that’s a safe assumption. In fact, I think that we’ve gotten complacent about that and we’ve been distracted for the last ten years fighting counterinsurgencies.”

U.S. Pacific Command chief Admiral Sam Locklear reiterated the same point recently, noting “Our historic dominance that most of us in this room have enjoyed is diminishing, no question.”

Now that defense budgets are in their fourth year coming down, this preference to fund the old is increasingly coming at the expense of the new. Paying for yesterday’s equipment is not a static or one-time bill. This is one that only grows as equipment ages and gets more expensive to maintain. These restrictions are starting to hurt investment in innovation and tomorrow’s forces and their battlefield edge.

Fighting Terrorism: A Third Way

Max Boot 

It is not just in Iraq that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are on the march. This is a general trend across the Islamic world. As Seth Jones of Rand notes in a recent report, “from 2010 to 2013 the number of jihadist groups world-wide has grown by 58%, to 49 from 31; the number of jihadist fighters has doubled to a high estimate of 100,000; and the number of attacks by al Qaeda affiliates has increased to roughly 1,000 from 392.”

How should the U.S. combat this distressing trend? Simply pulling back from the Middle East, as President Obama envisioned, is not working–American retreat is increasing conflict, not decreasing it. But that doesn’t mean that the only other alternative is, as the president suggested in his West Point address, to launch a major ground war with American troops.

There is a third way and it can be found in the Philippines where, after 9/11, the U.S. set up a Joint Special Operations Task Force to combat Abu Sayyaf and other Islamist terrorist groups. That task force, whose operations I described in this 2009 Weekly Standard article, never had more than 600 personnel and it never went directly into combat. Rather its mission was to assist the Philippine armed forces with intelligence, planning, civil affairs, psychological operations, training, and other important tasks. Now, having accomplished a lot, the task force, based in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, is being disbanded.

The New York Times quotes one analyst as saying “that the unit ‘undoubtedly helped the Philippine military to curb the activities of violent extremist groups operating in the region’ so that militants ‘now only pose a small, localized threat.’ ” That doesn’t mean Abu Sayyaf has ceased to exist but its numbers have been drastically cut–from an estimated 1,200 fighters to 400–and it has become more of a criminal than a terrorist menace.

That’s not a bad result, all things considered; it would certainly look like victory if we were to achieve anything approaching that outcome with such groups as Boko Haram, the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and of course the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The new Islamic caliphate and its war against history

June 30

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria, on Sunday. (Reuters/Stringer)

ISIS, the Sunni jihadist group whose fighters now control a vast swath of territory in Syria and Iraq, punctuated its astonishing rise last weekend with the declaration of an Islamic state, a new "caliphate" to which Muslims everywhere must pay obeisance. "Here the flag of the Islamic State, the flag of tawhīd (monotheism), rises and flutters," read the group's statement, posted online in various languages. "Its shade covers land from Aleppo to Diyala," referring to territory in Syria's north and Iraq's east.

The new caliph is the militants' shadowy leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. My colleagues have already explored what this declaration means for ISIS (now also referred to simply as "IS", for the Islamic State), an al-Qaeda splinter group that is at odds with its extremist parent. The restoration of a caliphate is the stated objective for many jihadist organizations, eager to overthrow the 20th century nation-state system grafted onto the Middle East after World War I.

During their offensive through Iraq earlier this month, ISIS fighters reportedly bulldozed an earthen bulwark on the Iraq-Syria border. A statement posted alongside a picture of the bulldozer claimed the group was demolishing the "Sykes-Picot" border that divided the two countries, nations the militants deem artificial creations by European colonial powers.

"This symbolic action by ISIS fighters against a century-old imperial carve-up shows the extent to which one of the most radical groups fighting in the Middle East today is nurtured by the myth of precolonial innocence," writeshistorian Malise Ruthven in the New York Review of Books.

The "Sykes-Picot border" is a reference to a secret agreement hatched in 1916 by two leading British and French diplomats, Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot. The two countries covetously eyed the lands of the crumbling Ottoman Empire -- a World War I enemy -- and, alongside Russia, agreed to its partition into separate spheres of influence and control. This flew in the face of separate, more public deals made with Arab leaders, offering guarantees of an independent Arab state with Damascus as its capital in return for support against the Ottomans.

What followed after World War I is the source of justified grievance in the Arab world. While the victorious Allies affirmed the national aspirations of Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks and other Eastern Europeans who once lived under the Ottoman yoke, they did not afford such courtesies to Arabs seeking their own independence. The French soon sent troops into Syria and brutally cracked down on nationalist dissidents; the British retained control over modern-day Iraq's oil fields and turned the port city of Basra into a strategic stop along the route to its colonial dominions in India. British Arabists like T.E. Lawrence who had helped engineer the Arab uprisings against the Ottomans were left bitterly disappointed by the double-dealing of their masters.


Ben Connable
June 30, 2014

If U.S. policymakers desire a whole, stable, and democratic Iraqi state, then the United States requires a strategy that fosters this objective. Yet public debate over what to do in Iraq is mired in the examination of short-term options that are unanchored from long-term vision. It may not be too late to elevate the debate from the tactical to the strategic — from the short to the long term — to facilitate the development of a U.S. strategy that may help preserve Iraq’s national integrity. Such a strategy will require addressing the root causes of the current conflict: Sunni disenfranchisement must be undone, the Shi’a majority must feel secure, and the Kurds must have good reason to believe the Iraqi state offers them a safe and productive future. All minorities must be safeguarded. Effective strategy will require the patience to forego the enticement of dangerous short-term alternatives that will erode rather than nurture chances for stability.

Two of the many proposed solutions for the crisis in Iraq have gained traction: either the United States can conduct air strikes against to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in order to preserve the current Iraqi state, or it can accept and help consolidate the de facto partition of Iraq into three sectarian and ethnic states. Airstrikes are a military tactic that would, ostensibly, stop ISIL in its tracks and give the Iraqi army a chance to regain lost ground. Advocates of partition propose that Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis have already abandoned the central state and the Iraqi constitution in favor of three smaller sectarian or ethnic states. Neither of these solutions is, in fact, a solution because neither is derived from, nor supports, a vision for long-term stability for Iraq.

Killing Sunni leaders and fighters with airstrikes is neither a political strategy nor even tactically viable. While the first wave of strikes may succeed in killing members of ISIL, targets will quickly dry up as the smarter ISIL fighters disperse and conceal themselves more deeply among the Iraqi populace. And without a practical Iraqi Army campaign plan to retake northern and western Iraq, airstrikes will have no operational value; they will not even further the mid-term objective of re-stitching the state. If this operational plan exists it has not been articulated, and at least for now it seems impracticable.

And while ISIL and other groups have made significant progress in northern and western Iraq, the battle lines have probably solidified in the center and east. While ISIL can do great damage if it manages to close the Baghdad airport, it will be hard pressed to make any lasting gains in Baghdad or in the southern Shi’a-dominated provinces. The argument that airstrikes will help “stop the bleeding” is rapidly losing traction.

Russia Completes Week-long Snap Military Exercise in Urals and Central Asia

Joshua Kucera
June 30, 2014
Huge Russian Military Exercises Test Readiness For Central Asia Deployment

Snap Russian military exercises involving 65,000 troops also included Russian forces based in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. And the exercises demonstrated that “the main tasks of the Russian army in the near future will be focused not only on the Western, but also on the Central Asian military theater,” wrote Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The exercises took place June 21-28 in Russia’s Central Military District, and is part of a broader push by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to institute these sorts of large-scale, unannounced exercises as a way of testing the armed forces’ readiness. “The war games will give the picture of combat readiness of the troops stationed on a swathe of huge territory from the Volga River through the Urals Mountains to Siberia, and from the Kara Sea in the Arctic to the steppe on Russia’s southern border with Kazakhstan,” reported state television network RT.

Some units from the Western and Southern military districts also took part in the drills, and NATO accused Moscow of using them to threaten Ukraine. “A NATO spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, lamented Moscow’s military exercises, saying that ‘it can be seen as a further escalation of the crisis with Ukraine,’” the AP reported.

The exercises should rather be seen in the context of the upcoming withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan, military experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The newspaper reported that troops from Russia’s bases in Tajikistan (the 201st military base) and Kyrgyzstan (Kant) took part, and that the drills were a sort of preparation for three exercises under the Collective Security Treaty Organization coming up this summer. The just-finished exercises focused on mobility, which will obviously be a big issue if Russia decides to intervene in Central Asia some day.

One of the upcoming CSTO exercises, involving the organization’s Rapid Deployment Forces to take place in Russia’s Chelyabisnk, will be called Rubezh (“Frontier”) 2014

From Russia With Love: ENERGETIC BEAR Malware System Hits U.S. and European Energy Companies

Sam Jones
June 30, 2014
Energy companies hit by cyber attack from Russia-linked group

The industrial control systems of hundreds of European and US energy companies have been infected by a sophisticated cyber weapon operated by a state-backed group with apparent ties to Russia, according to a leading US online security group.

The powerful piece of malware known as “Energetic Bear” allows its operators to monitor energy consumption in real time, or to cripple physical systems such as wind turbines, gas pipelines and power plants at will.

The well-resourced organisation behind the cyber attack is believed to have compromised the computer systems of more than 1,000 organisations in 84 countries in a campaign spanning 18 months. The malware is similar to theStuxnet computer programme created by the US and Israel that succeeded in infecting and sabotaging Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities two years ago.

The latest attacks are a new deployment of malware that was first monitored by IT security companies at the beginning of the year.

Early infections by Energetic Bear appeared to be based solely around espionage.

Symantec, a US cyber security company, said on Monday, however, that it had identified a virulent new “attack vector” designed to give the malware control over physical systems themselves.

Symantec said the group behind Energetic Bear, who they have dubbed Dragonfly, succeeded last year in infecting three leading specialist manufacturers of industrial control systems. Dragonfly then inserted the malware covertly into the legitimate software updates those companies sent to clients.

As clients downloaded the updates, their industrial control systems become infected. Contaminated software from one of the companies was downloaded to more than 250 industrial systems.

The malware is said to have indiscriminately infected hundreds of organisations, but by filtering infections to see where it is in regular contact with its command and control servers, Symantec said it had a clear picture of where Dragonfly’s interests lie.

According to Symantec, which produces the Norton range of antivirus software, Energetic Bear is most actively in use in Spain and the US, followed by France, Italy and Germany.

Symantec said it believed that Dragonfly was “based in eastern Europe and has all the markings of being state-sponsored”.

ISIS Military Capabilities in Iraq and Syria Vastly Better With Tanks and Heavy Weapons Abandoned by 5 Iraqi Divisions

June 30, 2014

ISIS weapons windfall may alter balance in Iraq, Syria conflicts

Nabih Bulos, Patrick J. McDonnell, and Raja Abdulrahim

Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2014

Six months ago, Sunni Arab militants faced a daunting firepower imbalance in their uprising against the U.S.-equipped Iraqi army west of Baghdad.

But once their campaign for the city of Fallouja was launched in January, their lethal capabilities were bolstered from the stockpiles of the Iraqi armed forces.

Many soldiers fled, throwing down their weapons, which were picked up by the insurgents. Police stations and security posts overrun by Sunni militants yielded more martial booty to be turned against the forces of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s Shiite Muslim-led government.

"Praise God, we soon had enough weapons to fight for one or two years," said Ahmad Dabaash, spokesman for the Islamic Army, a Sunni rebel faction, who spoke in a hotel lobby here in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region. "And now? Don’t even ask!"

Shiite Turkmens in the Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu prepare to head out in mid-June to defend their homes in the nearby town of Basheer after it was seized by Sunni militants. (Karim Sahib, AFP/Getty Images)

By “now,” he was referring to the current ground assault by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the Al Qaeda breakaway group that in the last two weeks has seized large swaths of northern and western Iraq, including Mosul, Iraq’s second-most populous city. Fighting alongside ISIS formations are other Iraqi Sunni Arab factions such as the Islamic Army, which rose against the U.S. occupation a decade ago.

As the Iraqi government mobilizes to halt the insurgents’ advance toward Baghdad, the capital, there is no full accounting of the stocks of plundered arms, ordnance and gear. But experts agree that the haul is massive, with implications for the merging wars in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Rival Syrian rebel factions already report seeing U.S.-built, ISIS-commandeered Humvees almost as far west as the vicinity of Aleppo, some 250 miles from Iraq. The influx of arms and fighters from Iraq could shift the balance of power among fractious groups fighting for supremacy in Syria.

ISIS, which also reportedly snatched the equivalent of close to $500 million in cash from a Mosul bank, has been catapulted to the position of the world’s wealthiest and best-equipped militant group, analysts say. Its riches easily eclipse those of Al Qaeda under Osama bin Laden, despite his personal fortune. The group, which has attracted thousands of fighters from the Arab world, Europe and elsewhere, also holds sway over a broad swath of contiguous territory in the heart of the Middle East.

Daily Iraq Situation Report

Ahmed Ali
June 30, 2014
Iraq Situation Report
Institute for the Study of War, June 30, 2014

ISIS may be launching a renewed military o­ffensive to take control of all urban centers in Anbar Province, beginning with Haditha and moving toward Ramadi. The Haditha Dam is a critical element of Iraq’s infrastructure, which ISIS and other anti-government groups may use to obstruct ISF mobility in Anbar, much like the Fallujah Dam in April 2014.

**** Wars Update: Changing The Faces Does Not Change The Facts


July 1, 2014: The last year was the best of times and the worst of times. Wars continue to decline in number and intensity. Those that still exist get lots of publicity because that’s what the media does. But overall there are more conflicts ending (via negotiation, mutual exhaustion or one side actually winning) than new ones getting started. And new wars are more frequently quickly addressed with peacekeeping efforts. This is all a post-Cold War trend that has been going on for over two decades now. Let us hope it continues.

Most current wars are basically uprisings against police states or feudal societies which are seen as out-of-step with the modern world. Many are led by radicals preaching failed dogmas (Islamic conservatism, Maoism and other forms of radical socialism), that still resonate among people who don't know about the dismal track records of these creeds. Iran has replaced some of the lost Soviet terrorist support effort. That keeps Hezbollah, Hamas, and a few smaller groups going, and that's it. Terrorists in general miss the Soviets, who really knew how to treat bad boys right.

The "Arab Spring" has devolved into the “Arab Winter” as the “successful” uprisings against dictators and monarchs (Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya) turned out to have superficial impact on the corrupt and mismanaged societies that were seeking some fundamental reform and improvement. Other candidates for Arab Spring failed or never got going (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, Morocco, and Lebanon). Syria is not over but the rebels are losing momentum because of internal squabbles while the government is made stronger by Russia and Iran. In Egypt, the disgruntled population triggered another uprising in mid-2013 and the army removed the recently elected Islamic conservatives because most Egyptians saw the new bosses as too similar to the old ones. In 2014 Egypt elected another military man, who replaces one who was overthrown in 2011.

In 2011 the Libya rebellion was won by armed civilians assisted by NATO smart bombs and warships. The Syrian rebels want this kind of help but the West is reluctant to do this again because the new Libyan government tolerated Islamic terrorist groups, who killed the American ambassador to Libya on September 11, 2012. This made clear that Arab gratitude is brittle and can quickly turn to treachery or hate. This has led to hesitation by the West in backing the Syrian rebels too energetically. Libya is still in chaos as the factions continue to fight to decide who shall have what.

The Tajiks' Forgotten War

JUNE 26, 2014 

On June 16, Alexander Sodiqov, a Ph.D student in political science at the University of Toronto, was arrested in his native Tajikistan and reportedly charged with espionage and treason. His crime: investigating a local conflict that the government would rather you not know anything about.

It is easy to keep secrets in the Pamir Mountains — the rugged, sparsely populated eastern region of Tajikistan that borders China and Afghanistan. There is one flight a day from the capital Dushanbe to the region’s main city, Khorog, and it is canceled at the slightest hint of bad weather. The only alternative is a 15-or-so-hour drive over rough mountain roads. Foreigners need a special permit to visit; during times of tension the government stops issuing those, and it cuts off phone and Internet access to the outside world.

Since becoming an independent country in 1991, Tajikistan has struggled to assert its control over the Pamirs, where informal leaders (known generally as “commanders”) who are often involved in smuggling and other criminal activities hold substantial power. The Pamirs are home to the Pamiri people, who speak a different language from other Tajiks, and follow the Ismaili branch of Shiite Islam (most Tajiks are Sunni). Many of Tajikistan’s roughly 135,000 Pamiris have come to see themselves as victims of a chauvinistic dictatorship that wants to suppress their culture. Pamiris are among the strongest opponents of President Emomali Rahmon, whose 22-year rule over Tajikistan has become more and more kleptocratic and nepotistic.

In the summer of 2012, after a local security official was killed near Khorog, which is by the Afghan border, the government undertook a military operation there. Ostensibly aimed at capturing several commanders it blamed for the official’s death, the operation’s scale and intensity made it seem more like an attempt to finally get the Pamirs under control. Snipers stationed on the two steep ridges that encase the town fired indiscriminately at residents, backed up by mortars and helicopters.

If anything, though, the operation cemented the commanders’ position as defenders of the Pamiris. When I visited Khorog last summer, I found a town united in its opposition to the government. One resident who had previously opposed the commanders told me that when the fighting started in 2012, “I didn’t think twice about which side I was on; these were invaders.” Unexpectedly strong resistance from the Pamiris forced the military to retreat.

The conflict then mostly lay dormant, at least until May of this year, when protests broke out in Khorog after police officers shot at a car of suspected drug dealers in the city center. Residents took to the streets for several hours and set fire to some government buildings.



William Kammerer and Corina Simonelli
July 1, 2014 ·
Editor’s note: We’ve partnered with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) to publish a series of infographics based on data from their Global Terrorism Database and related START projects. Each week we’ll release a new set of graphics that depict trends in global terrorism activity. Sign up for the War on the Rocks newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any of them!

This week’s offering’s depict violence perpetrated by ISIS, in its current and previous incarnations, in Iraq and Syria.


This map visualizes the attacks have been attributed to ISIS/ISIL in Baghdad since 2009. The incidents, which have been weighted by fatalities and injuries to reveal their respective intensity, are overlaid onto Baghdad’s neighborhoods. In turn, the neighborhoods have been separated into their respective majority demographic based on religion. As you can see, the majority of ISIL attacks in Baghdad since 2009 have occurred in Shia-majority neighborhoods. Christian majority neighborhoods, especially Dora, are also routinely targeted in ISIL attacks. Sunni neighborhoods have not been completely spared from ISIL attacks, however, as the group regularly launches attacks in Adamiyah and Mansour. (Graphic designed by William Kammerer)

Attacks in Baghdad attributed to ISIS/ISIL, 2009-2013. Click to enlarge.

Iraq and Syria

This heat map visualizes the attacks that have been attributed to ISIS/ISIL from 2009-2013 in Iraq and Syria. Again, the incidents have been weighted by fatalities and injuries to reveal their respective intensity. It may be important to note that incidents in Syria only include those which are identified and confirmed in the open-source literature, and meet the GTD’s inclusion criteria. Thus, attacks in Syria are a conservative estimate. (Graphic designed by William Kammerer)

ISIS/ISIL attacks in Iraq and Syria, 2009-2013. Click to enlarge.

Daily Fatalities

This chart shows levels of violence perpetrated by ISIS/ISIL and its precursors over the course of a decade, and indicates key events that provide context for various trends illustrated by the chart. (Graphic designed by William Kammerer)

Daily fatalities from attacks by ISIS/ISIL and its precursors, 2003-2013. Click to enlarge.
Organizational Relationships

The Illusion of Chinese Power

The belief that China is a global power is widespread, understandable, and wrong. 

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM has it that the China juggernaut is unstoppable and that the world must adjust to the reality of the Asian giant as a—perhaps the—major global power. A mini-industry of “China rise” prognosticators has emerged over the past decade, all painting a picture of a twenty-first-century world in which China is a dominant actor. This belief is understandable and widespread—but wrong.

Recall that not so long ago, in the 1980s, similar forecasts were made about Japan being “number one” and joining the elite club of great powers—before it sank into a three-decade stagnation and was shown to be a single-dimensional power (economic) that did not have a broader foundation of national attributes to fall back on. Before that it was the Soviet Union that was said to be a global superpower (an assumption over which the Cold War was waged for a half century), only for it to collapse almost overnight in 1991. The postmortem on the USSR similarly revealed that it had been a largely single-dimensional power (military) that had atrophied from within for decades. In the wake of the Cold War, some pundits posited that the expanded and strengthened European Union would emerge as a new global power and pole in the international system—only for the EU to prove itself impotent and incompetent on a range of global challenges. Europe too was exposed as a single-dimensional power (economic). So, when it comes to China today, a little sobriety and skepticism are justified.

Certainly China is the world’s most important rising power—far exceeding the capacities of India, Brazil and South Africa—and in some categories it has already surpassed the capabilities of other “middle powers” like Russia, Japan, Britain, Germany and France. By many measures, China is now the world’s undisputed second leading power after the United States, and in some categories it has already overtaken America. China possesses many of the trappings of a global power: the world’s largest population, a large continental land mass, the world’s second-largest economy, the world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves, the world’s second-largest military budget and largest standing armed forces, a manned space program, an aircraft carrier, the world’s largest museum, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, the world’s largest national expressway network and the world’s best high-speed rail system. China is the world’s leading trading nation, the world’s largest consumer of energy, the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter, the world’s second-largest recipient and third-largest originator of foreign direct investment, and the world’s largest producer of many goods.

Capabilities, however, are but one measure of national and international power—and not the most important one. Generations of social scientists have determined that a more significant indicator of power is influence—the ability to shape events and the actions of others. As the late political scientist Robert Dahl famously observed: “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do.” Capabilities that are not converted into actions toward achieving certain ends are not worth much. Their existence may have an impressive or deterrent effect, but it is the ability to influence the action of another or the outcome of an event that matters. There are, of course, various means by which nations use their capabilities to influence the actions of others and the course of events: attraction, persuasion, co-optation, coercion, remuneration, inducement, or the threat or use of force. Power and its exercise are therefore intrinsically relational: the use of these and other instruments toward others in order to influence a situation to one’s own benefit.

How to Have a Big Disastrous War with China

June 27, 2014 
The flawed logic of Offshore Control.

In their June 10 National Interest article, T. X. Hammes and R. D. Hooker again propose “Offshore Control” as a viable strategy for a conflict with China. Using CSBA’s AirSea Battle concept as a contrast to their ideas, Hammes and Hooker claim that Offshore Control can provide the “military component of the U.S. national strategy in Asia,” while AirSea Battle cannot. The DOD’s Air-Sea Battle operational concept is not the same as CSBA’s AirSea Battle concept (note the lack of a hyphen). The DOD concept was finalized in 2011 and is being implemented at present. Both “ASB” concepts have received their fair share of criticism from Hammes and Hooker, among others; meanwhile, the Offshore Control strategy, originally introduced by Hammes in 2012, has received scant scrutiny. This paper exposes the flawed logic of Offshore Control and demonstrates why it would likely fail if tried, and that using it as a part of the U.S. strategy would risk a large, destructive war with China.

It is reasonable to assess that China will continue its attempt to exert regional hegemony in the western Pacific through selective intimidation of its neighbors and reinforcement of its resource and territorial claims. It is also generally agreed that America, together with treaty allies and partners in the region, has the only realistic ability to deter or thwart China from achieving its ambitions. Further, it is in America’s and other countries’ national interests that China not behave as a regional hegemon but rather “peacefully rise” as a responsible nation working within international norms and respectful of the rights of other nations. Since China may be unwilling to behave in accordance with these norms, the U.S. and allies need operational approaches to address the requirements of possible conflict. Hammes and Hooker have assessed that an approach that directly threatens or attacks anything on China’s mainland is both unacceptably escalatory and unlikely to succeed. The CSBA AirSea Battle concept discusses and provocatively recommends mainland attacks. While neither CSBA’s nor the DOD’s concept are strategies or operational plans, Hammes and Hooker assail them as such. Meanwhile, their Offshore Control is rarely studied or discussed outside their own advocacy.

ISIS Risks Everything to Declare a Caliphate

ISIS Risks Everything to Declare a Caliphate 

After months of gaining territory, weapons, and cash, ISIS is putting its global credibility on the line in a play that could backfire spectacularly. 

On Sunday morning, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or ISIL, if you must) pronounced the reformation of the caliphate—the historical Islamic state that once stretched over much of the modern-day Muslim world—with ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the man in charge. 

It’s arguably the boldest move yet by the group, which renamed itself simply The Islamic State. But if ISIS isn’t careful, this could be the moment when all of its gains in Iraq and Syria are squandered; when would-be allies are alienated; and when the group’s critics within the jihadi community were proven right all along. 

In the statement—released in Arabic, English, German, French, and Russian—ISIS claimed that it had fulfilled all the legal requirements for the caliphate and that all existing jihadi groups and indeed all Muslims around the world were religiously obligated to swear loyalty to the new Caliph Ibrahim (using the name provided by ISIS in the course of proving that Baghdadi has the required lineage for the title). 

Prior to this pronouncement, my assessment was that there was almost no way ISIS could exit June in worse shape than it entered the month, and that still holds. But July is beginning to look like an open question. ISIS, an al Qaeda breakaway group, had made a bold move to seize territory in Iraq that had resulted in tremendous gains in both equipment and money. Even if it lost all of the territory it gained in June, it would still retain many of those spoils, with new clout, status and physical assets to compete with the other jihadi groups operating in Syria and near the Iraq border. 

The declaration of the caliphate is a massive gamble that puts many of these gains at risk, although the potential benefits are also substantial. Here's a quick rundown of the moving parts: 

Competition with al Qaeda 

Beguiling Books on Steroids Make Interactive Reading a Pleasure

Beguiling Books on Steroids Make Interactive Reading a Pleasure 

Two cool interactive e-books—one about discovering New York with Moondog’s help, the other a Mozart biography—make you think more hopefully about the future of reading. 

When e-books first appeared a few years ago, a lot of us assumed that in no time this new format would quickly go where print could not. We would have “books” about music, for instance, that would incorporate music into the text, or history books that would supplement text with, say, film clips or facsimiles of original documents in their entirety. 

Given that technological breakthroughs so often precede and engender artistic breakthroughs, I could envision the day when novelists, artists, and musicians became multimedia artists who would use e-books to fuse disciplines into wholly new cross-platform genres, as opera composers and theatrical managers did several centuries ago. 

Apparently these things take time, because so far the revolution hasn’t materialized in a big way. Part of the reason is the cost—the cost of obtaining rights to music, for instance, or the cost of producing new videos to embed in the text. But a big reason, according to people I’ve talked to in the e-book end of publishing, is that there is no great demand by readers for this type of thing. Even when offered the option of an enhanced e-book, customers often choose the version that most closely resembles a conventional printed version. 

To their credit, publishers keep trying. There are now two new enhanced e-books on the market that are so good that if quality were the only hurdle to mass success, then the battle would be won already. 

Not until I experienced ‘Twice Upon a Time’ did it dawn on me that the sound of the city, a soundtrack that never stops, is utterly integral to any newcomer’s acclimation.


The novelist Hari Kunzru has issued Twice Upon a Time: Listening to New York through the e-book publisher Atavist Books (whose majority stockholder is IAC, the company that owns The Daily Beast). 

In what is best described as an extended essay and not a full-length book, Kunzru describes moving to New York City and deciding to take Moondog as his guide to the metropolis. 

Kunszru never spells out why he chose Moondog over Fodor’s or the Circle Line Tour or some other conventional guide, but I admire his choice so much that my first reaction was, I wish I’d thought of that. 

For those who don’t make a habit of keeping up with eccentric street musicians, Moondog (1916-1999) was composer whose real name was Louis Hardin. Blinded in an explosion as a teenager, he lived for years on the streets of New York, composing and performing music, often on instruments of his own devising. He would be but a footnote in the long and elaborate history of Big Apple eccentricity but for two things: He was insanely talented and also very influential. Composers as different as Stravinsky and Philip Glass fell under the spell of his incantatory and polyrhythmic music (to call it minimalism does it a grave disservice). 

The e-book fuses Kunzru’s immigrant tale with Moondog’s music and the sounds of the city, and it’s the total package, not any one element, that beguiles. Indeed, text and sound not only complement but enhance one another. After describing how Moondog was blinded by a blasting cap that exploded in his face, Kunzru writes (and the page goes black while the type goes white), “My brother is blind. This is one of the major dynamics in my life. His blindness, my sight. I can only imagine how it would feel to negotiate this city as a blind person. The open delivery hatches in the sidewalk, the fierce commuters. With so much uncertainty, so much to go wrong, there’s a need to make your own certainty, to find a system. The blind develop an appreciation for precision, repetition, knowability.” While you’re reading this, Moondog’s music—bells, drums—is playing, intermingled with the sounds of the street—traffic, a ship’s foghorn. It seems louder suddenly, the city presses in. 

Not until I experienced Twice Upon a Time did it dawn on me that the sound of the city, a soundtrack that never stops, is utterly integral to any newcomer’s acclimation. And if it seems too eccentric to choose an eccentric as your guide to a new home, in this case it works perfectly. I would give this e-book to anyone who just arrived in the city and tell them to listen, to read, and to thereby recognize what a crazy, wonderful place they now call home.