14 July 2014

Building on the BRICS of solidarity


PM Narendra Modi will be in Brazil for the BRICS Summit, beginning on July 15. It can be an opportunity for India to leverage trade ties with the Latin American countries to its own advantage
Deepak Bhojwani

A proactive India can ensure that Latin American countries become its trade partners

AS the hype of the football World Cup subsides, the Brazilian coastal town of Fortaleza, renowned among other things for its gigantic sand dunes, will host the leaders of the most important emerging countries in the world on July 15.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already established a reputation for recalibrating the teeth-to-tail ratio in foreign policy. In what will be only his second foreign tour, he will meet with the Presidents of China, Russia and South Africa, in the company of Dilma Roussef, the President of Brazil, a vital strategic partner.

The Summit is expected to roll out important decisions, especially on the formation of the BRICS Bank, with a capital base of US $100 billion.

On the sidelines of the Summit, Modi is expected to have a meeting with those of the other 11 leaders of the Union of South American Nations — UNASUR — who accept Brazilian President Dilma Roussef’s invitation, and will be in Brasilia on July 16.

A Brazilian initiative covering all the 12 nations of South America, UNASUR was formalised in Brasilia in 2008. It is still the most powerful political grouping in a región struggling to achieve a common identity since independence two centuries ago. The fact that most of these leaders will be in Brasilia is testimony to the role of Brazil, the only Portuguese-speaking country in a largely Spanish-speaking environment, in bringing Latin America to the world, and vice versa.

Few prime ministerial visits

While the BRICS agenda is a mountain being scaled by the sherpas and others, the meeting which PM Modi will have with the Latin American leaders, apart from his bilateral with President Roussef, holds tremendous significance. It is no secret that visits by an Indian Prime Minister to Latin America have been fewer than to any other region. After Indira Gandhi’s odyssey in 1968 (she visited eight countries), prime ministerial visits, apart from Brazil, have been mainly for multilateral events — to Argentina, Mexico and Colombia.

Although there can understandably be no set agenda, the fact that such a meeting is taking place is important for India’s outreach to that supposedly distant continent. Supposedly because other BRICS members, specially Russia and, more importantly, China, have been aggressively wooing that region. South America, with an area five times that of India, four times its GDP, and an average per capita income of over $11,000 per annum, has still to catch the fancy of our top leadership.

Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab: The Need for a Border States Group

Tridivesh Singh Maini


India-Pakistan ties over the past decade have been a mixed bag. There have been significant tensions, especially in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, and the beheading of Indian soldiers across the Line of Control (LOC) in August, 2013. Amid these tensions, however, there have been noteworthy achievements in the realm of bilateral trade, where trade through the Wagah-Attari land route has gone up nearly four-fold from $664 million (2004) to approximately $2.6 billion (2012-2013) (Source: Ministry of Commerce). In addition to bilateral trade, there has been an emphasis on increasing connectivity

between border regions, especially the two Punjabs and Rajasthan-Sindh. Some of the important Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) include the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service, and the weekly Munabao-Khokhrapar train service, called the ‘Thar Express’. There has been an emphasis on making ‘borders irrelevant’ as was envisioned by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It is not just the two Punjabs and Rajasthan-Sindh that have made efforts to rekindle economic and cultural ties, there have also been interactions between businessmen from Gujarat and Karachi.

The aim of the research report "Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab: The Need for a Border States Group" by Tridivesh Singh Maini is to examine the approach of the political leadership, as well as the business community, in these three ‘border States’ towards India-Pakistan ties. It is very simplistic to link the sentiment in a State with one singular factor: economic, political or cultural. This paper has sought to look at a number of factors, which include politics, economics as well as security issues. It has also attempted to get the views of a reasonably broad spectrum of people from different ideological persuasions, including those representing the Union Government and the State governments.

Drawing lines in the water

C. Raja Mohan | July 14, 2014

An international tribunal’s award last week on the maritime territorial dispute between India and Bangladesh and its acceptance by Delhi and Dhaka should set the stage for substantive regional maritime cooperation in the Bay of Bengal. India and Bangladesh, in partnership with Myanmar, are now in a position to take the destiny of Bay of Bengal into their own hands at a time when the strategic significance of its waters is drawing the attention of great powers.

The judgement of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague brings to a close one of the subcontinent’s long festering territorial disputes. The partition of the subcontinent and China’s entry into Tibet in the middle of the last century left India with multiple territorial disputes on its land frontiers. Nearly seven decades later, India’s land borders with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Nepal remain to be settled.

India’s record on the maritime front has been a little better. Over the years, India has delimited its maritime boundaries with Maldives, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia. The Hague verdict now settles the maritime boundary with Bangladesh. That leaves the maritime boundary with Pakistan the only one to be sorted out.

It is tempting for many in both Delhi and Dhaka to define the verdict in terms of what each side has “won” and “lost”. The subcontinent has the tragic tradition of ignoring the opportunity costs of letting boundary disputes simmer and refusing to find reasonable settlements and move on.

The inability of India and Bangladesh to settle the dispute all these years bilaterally has prevented the fisherfolk of both countries from effectively exploiting the large but disputed waters of the Bay of Bengal. National companies and their international partners could not drill for oil in the bay that has seen the discovery of many new fields in the last few years.


Gwynne Dyer 

As the Russian-backed rebels abandoned almost all their positions in eastern Ukraine apart from the two regional capital cities, Donetsk and Luhansk, the various players made predictable statements. The newly elected Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, said cautiously that this could be “the beginning of the turning point in the fight against militants.” Don’t make promises that you are not sure you can keep.

Pavel Gubarev, the self-proclaimed governor of the Donetsk People’s Republic, told a rally in the city that “We will begin a real partisan war around the whole perimeter of Donetsk. We will drown these wretches [the Ukrainian army] in blood.” That is standard morale-raising rhetoric in the wake of a military collapse —or, as the rebels prefer to call it, a “tactical retreat.” But Igor Strelkov, the military commander of the rebels in Donetsk province, made a truly revealing comment. Pleading for Russian military intervention on July 3, five days before his paramilitary forces abandoned Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and other rebel strongholds in the north of the province, Strelkov warned Moscow that his troops were “losing the will to fight”.

A military commander will never admit such a thing in public unless his situation is truly desperate. How desperate became clear later when Strelkov’s troops all headed south for the relative safety of Donetsk city. The Ukrainian army had been shelling them in Sloviansk, but there was no major Ukrainian offensive. The rebel fighters just started pulling out of the city, and those in other rebel-held northern towns followed suit. Strelkov was left scrambling to explain what was happening in terms that made military sense.

Permanent enemy

This may be telling Poroshenko what he most wants to know, which is whether or not the recent events really constitute a “turning point” in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine. The answer appears to be “yes”: the morale of Strelkov’s troops is cracking as they realize that the motherland is really not going to send its own army into eastern Ukraine to help them out. There never was mass support for the pro-Russian “revolution” in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in April. Most people there speak Russian, and they were worried about where the real revolution in Kiev was taking the country even before Russian propaganda started telling them that “fascists” had seized control of the country and wanted to kill them. But they didn’t actually want to join Russia. There were no huge crowds when pro-Russian rebels seized power in the east, certainly no violence by government forces.

Civilians in the east were sufficiently worried about the intentions of the new government in Kiev that they did not come out in the streets to oppose this armed take-over, but they never came out in large numbers to support it either. This was more evident than ever when Gubarev promised to defend the “whole perimeter” of the city and drown the Ukrainian army in blood. Donetsk has almost two million inhabitants. The crowd at Gubarev’s rally was a couple of thousand at most. Donetsk will not become a new Stalingrad.

So, at the risk of tempting fate, a prediction: the fighting in eastern Ukraine will not go on for months more, and there will be no heroic rebel last stand in Donetsk or Luhansk. The Ukrainian army is already encircling both cities, but it will not launch a major assault on them either. It will just keep the pressure up, and the rebel forces will quickly melt away.

Western countries will repair their relations with Moscow as fast as possible, since they do not want a new Cold War. But Ukrainians will not forget that Russia seized Crimea and sponsored an armed rebellion in their eastern provinces. Vladimir Putin has managed to turn Russia’s biggest European neighbour into a permanent enemy. 

The three ‘Ms’ of change


Thomas L. Friedman | July 14, 2014
Without the Cold War system to prop them up, it is not so easy anymore for weak states to provide the minimums of security, jobs, health and welfare. Source: AP Photo

States are being upended by the market, Mother Nature and Moore’s law.

In the 1960s, there was a popular sitcom — “Get Smart” — about a hapless secret agent named Maxwell Smart, played by Don Adams. Smart went by the code name “Agent 86.” “Get Smart” famously introduced the shoe phone to American audiences, but the show also introduced something else: its own version of the bipolar world. Do you remember the name of the intelligence agency Maxwell Smart worked for? It was called “Control.” And do you remember the name of Control’s global opponent? It was called “Kaos” — “an international organisation of evil.”

The creators of “Get Smart” were ahead of their time. Because it increasingly appears that the post-post-Cold War world is cleaving into the world of “order” and the world of “disorder” — or into the world of “Control” and the world of “Kaos.”

How so? First, we said goodbye to imperialism and colonialism and all their methods of controlling territory. Then we said goodbye to the Cold War alliance system, which propped up many weak and newly independent states with money to build infrastructure and to buy weapons to control their borders and people — because the stability of every square in the global chessboard mattered to Washington and Moscow.

And, lately, we’ve been saying goodbye to top-down, iron-fisted monarchies and autocracies, which have been challenged by massively urbanised, technologically empowered citizens.

So, today, you have three basic systems: order provided by democratic, inclusive governments; order imposed by autocratic exclusivist governments; and ungoverned, or chaotically governed, spaces, where rickety failed states, militias, tribes, pirates and gangs contest one another for control, but there is no single power center to answer the phone — or, if they do, it falls off the wall.

Look around: Boko Haram in Nigeria kidnaps 250 schoolgirls and then disappears into a dark corner of that country. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a ragtag jihadist militia, carves out a caliphate inside Syria and Iraq and boasts on Twitter of beheading opponents. NATO decapitates Libya’s regime and sets loose a tribal-militia war of all against all, which, when combined with the crackup of Chad, spills arms and refugees across African borders, threatening Tunisia and Morocco. Israel has been flooded with more than 50,000 Eritreans and Sudanese refugees, who crossed the Sinai Desert by foot, bus or car looking for work and security in Israel’s “island of order.”

Update on Security Situation in Pakistan

Pakistan Security Brief
AEI Critical Threats Project
July 11, 2014

Reports of an unprecedented wave of extortions and kidnappings by militants in the months leading up to the start of the North Waziristan Offensive; Former Prime Minister Gilani claims former army chief Kayani was a roadblock to North Waziristan operation; DG of Inter-Services Public Relations announces North Waziristan tribesmen and state will not let militants return to region; more than 800,000 people registered as IDPs from North Waziristan; 375,000 children from North Waziristan being inoculated against polio at checkpoints; U.S. refuses to strike bilateral LNG supply agreement with Pakistan; Pakistan re-emphasizes that Kashmir remains disputed territory after India suggests that UN observers on Kashmir leave.

North Waziristan Operation 

Dawn reported on July 11 that militants including the Pakistani Taliban executed an “unprecedented” wave of extortion and kidnapping in the months before the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in order to finance future militant activities. Militants reportedly threatened wealthy individuals with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) outside their homes if they did not give in to extortion demands. Extortion demands in Peshawar allegedly increased fivefold since the start of the year. The crime wave happened simultaneously with peace talks between the Pakistani government and militants.[1]

On July 11, Former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani claimed that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) did not launch an operation into North Waziristan while the PPP controlled the government because former army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani wanted the decision to be his “alone.”[2]

The News reported that Director General of the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Bajwa announced on July 10 that neither North Waziristani tribesmen nor the government would allow militants to re-enter North Waziristan. On July 9, Zafarullah Khan, the General Officer Commanding of the Pakistan Army’s 7th Infantry Division said that 250 military checkpoints were set up to intercept militant movement out of North Waziristan.[3]

The Associated Press reported on July 10 that in a telephone interview, Pakistani Taliban commander Gilaman Mehsood disputed the Pakistani military’s casualty figures, claiming that most Pakistani Taliban fighters had fled to the Afghan border.[4]

Internally Displaced Persons 

Dawn reported on July 11 that the Pakistan government has inoculated more than 375,000 children from North Waziristan against polio at nine vaccination checkpoints in Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Bannu and Karak districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Frontier Region Bannu and Kurram Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.[5]

Pakistan’s Foreign Office reiterated on July 10 that Pakistan has not asked for any foreign assistance in dealing with IDPs and called the rehabilitation of IDPs “an internal matter.” The Foreign Office also said that Pakistan’s and India’s foreign secretaries plan to meet in the near future.[6]

According to the FATA Diaster Management Authority (FDMA), more than 800,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled North Waziristan Agency since the beginning of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. FDMA Director General Arshad Khan told AFP that 833,274 have been registered in the cities of Bannu and Peshawar up to the night of July 8.[7]

International Affairs 

On July 11, the Express Tribune reported that the U.S. has refused to strike a bilateral liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply agreement with Pakistan, instead suggesting that Pakistan reach a deal with Qatar for imports of natural gas. A deal with Qatar would reportedly prove much more expensive for Pakistan, at approximately $19 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) versus the $12-13 mmbtu price the U.S. is offering India. According to experts, Pakistan can afford a price of $13-15 mmbtu and could reach a deal with private U.S. companies such as ConocoPhillips.[8]

The Meaning of the Mandalay Riots in Myanmar

July 12, 2014

The riot reveals interfaith tensions that threaten the country’s nascent democracy. 

More rioting between Buddhist and Muslim groups erupted in Myanmar early this month, killing two people and injuring 14 others. The fatalities included a young Buddhist man who was riding a bike and a Muslim bicycle shop owner. The riots – which took place over four days in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city – were triggered by an unverified online story about an alleged raping of a Buddhist employee by her Muslim employers in a tea shop.

In contrast to their sluggish response in the past, the police were quick to act and restore order. About 362 rioters were arrested and a curfew imposed.

Speculation is rife that the riots were deliberately planned to sow panic and distract public attention. Just a few hours before the riots broke out, the Young Buddhists Association warned of a plot to provoke violence in the country. “We received news that the instigators who want to create religion or race-based violence are planning to inflame [the situation] on the Internet’s social networks and across the country.”

The London-based Burmese Muslim Association described the violent conflict as a “well-planned operation, carried out by a group of well-trained thugs.”

“Since 1 July 2014, a van and a group of about 30 motorbikes, carrying mobs armed with machetes and lethal weapons, were roaming around the city of Mandalay and targeting various Muslims, shops and businesses owned by Muslims, and a number of Islamic religious institutions and premises,” the group said in a statement.

Thein Win Aung, vice chairman of a peace group which was initiated by religious leaders and residents right after the clashes in Mandalay, suspected that the riot could be a “political trick” to stop people from supporting the 436 campaign which aims to amend the country’s military-backed constitution. “If we do not understand these political tricks, if we do not control each other, if we allow ourselves to fall into the trap, then not only Mandalay, but the entire country, will be consumed in the flames of chaos.”

Indeed, the riots have discouraged many people from actively discussing the campaign for constitutional reforms, which is a major political initiative of the opposition led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

But the riots could also mean that religious extremism continues to strengthen its grip on the country. Recent years have seen a surge in anti-Muslim sentiment among the Burmese, majority of whom are Buddhist. Some Buddhist leaders have been openly attacking the Muslim community for conspiring to dominate Myanmar.

If Vietnam and China Went to War: Five Weapons Beijing Should Fear

July 12, 2014 

They went to war in 1979 and it did not turn out well for China. Today, Vietnam has the military muscle to present lots of problems.

In 1975, the armed forces of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam defeated the Republic of Vietnam, capturing Saigon and putting to end nearly thirty years of civil war. The victory came three years after the United States, unwilling to pay the price of continued engagement, left the war. In 1979, the People’s Republic of China invaded Vietnam in an effort to punish Hanoi for its actions in Cambodia, and for its association with the Soviet Union. The war lasted a month, with Chinese forces leaving after heavy losses and without achieving any strategic objectives.

In short, the Vietnam People’s Army has a history of success. Today, Sino-Vietnamese relations are again hitting a low point. The deployment of a Chinese oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam has only exacerbated tensions over control of islands in the South China Sea. Various Vietnamese politicians, including the late Vo Nguyen Giap, have warned about the threat of Chinese encroachment.

If war broke out, what weapons could Vietnam use? It turns out that China and Vietnam shop in the same place; most of the weapons that Vietnam would use against China are also in the hands of the People’s Liberation Army. However, the implications of offensive and defensive employment vary greatly. Here are five systems that Vietnam might use to good effect against the Chinese military.


Airpower played a curiously small role in the 1979 war. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) did not, because of problems with doctrine and technology, have the capacity to extend itself over the battlefront. The much smaller Vietnam People’s Air Force (VPAF) remained quiet, preferring to play the defensive role that it had perfected against the United States a decade earlier, but didn’t need in this conflict.

That won’t be the case the next time around. Both the VPAF and the PLAAF have upgraded with formidable Russian, and in the latter case domestic, aircraft. Most notable among these are members of the Su-27 Flanker family. Vietnam operates around 40 Flankers of various types, with another 20 on order from Russia. In addition to defense air-to-air missions, these aircraft can strike Chinese land and sea targets with long-range, precision cruise missiles. The Flankers are heavy, fast, and deadly, and would see action on both sides.

Why the Next ‘Great War’ Won’t Happen on China’s Doorstep

July 11, 2014

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the July Crisis, the event that led to World War I, and if you believe the alarmists then history is about to repeat itself. Sparked by Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, the Crisis saw a regional confrontation escalate unchecked into a continental war that consumed Europe’s great powers and drew in the United States. In the lead-up to this tragic anniversary, critics of President Barack Obama’s noninterventionism argue that we stand at the brink of another Great War for ignoring China, and its potential threat to Asia.


Michael Hunzeker is a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and a major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. government. Full Bio

Mark Christopher is senior director and head of the Asia practice at The Arkin Group and a fellow with the Truman National Security Project. Full Bio Historical analogies such as these are understandably seductive. They make complex issues seem simple. However, they are also deeply misleading, drawing parallels that don’t exist from a story that didn’t happen. History is not destined to repeat itself, unless those in power create self-fulfilling prophesies by drawing from the wrong lessons.

The first problem with using the “2014 is 1914” analogy is that it doesn’t even get the present right. In all the ways that matter, the Asia-Pacific region of today is unlike Europe a century ago. Although some international relations theorists point to overarching similarities – China is a rising power seeking to reassert regional dominance and the U.S. is a great power with a preference for the status quo – the specific parallels simply aren’t there.

Asia today lacks 1914 Europe’s competing webs of rigid alliances. There is no Serbia-esque regime yearning to carve an ethnically unified nation-state out of existing political boundaries. China is not encircled (the protestations of some of its military planners notwithstanding), nor does an insane monarch lead it. Asia is not swept up in a “Cult of the Offensive” – the shared belief that military technology makes it easier to attack than to defend. If anything, Beijing’s acquisition of anti-access/area denial weapons systems has convinced most strategists that defenders hold the upper hand. Globalized trade and production chains have increased the economic costs of war. And finally, for better or worse, we now live in a nuclear world.

China’s Shaky Latin American Liabilities

July 13, 2014

Xi Jinping is likely to announce new multibillion deals at the upcoming BRICS summit—deals that amount to a doubling down on an already risky Chinese bet.

China may have been a no-show for the 2014 World Cup, but at next weeks’ 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, all eyes will be on President Xi Jinping. While the summit is likely to result in important announcements such aShanghai-based BRICS Bank, the rest of Xi’s Latin America visit, which will include stops in Cuba, Venezuela, and Argentina, is bound to attract even more headlines.

Pundits inside and outside of China will either trumpet or decry the trip as a grand tour of China’s Latin American socialist and statist friends and a slap in the face to the United States. However, no matter how much socialist solidarity and “South-South” diplomatic back-slapping is offered up for public consumption, President Xi’s trip will actually be less about deepening already healthy ties with strong regional allies than seeking to mitigate deep anxieties about its commercial and diplomatic relations with dysfunctional friends.

In contrast to U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip this past spring to shore up ties with American allies in East and Southeast Asia, Xi Jinping’s tour of Latin America’s crisis-prone leftist stalwarts (Cuba and Venezuela) and populist debtors (Argentina) will simply underscore how problematic some of China’s “strategic partnerships” in the Americas actually are. Rather than highlighting the strengths of China’s presence in Latin America, Xi’s trip, especially the stop in Venezuela, will instead expose the limitations of China’s influence in the region China explicitly refers to as America’s “backyard.”

If China’s commodity-focused Latin America policy, based on mutually beneficial, developing countries relations, should be working anywhere, it is with Venezuela and its unprecedented energy resources. Indeed, the initial euphoria and also many of today’s concerns about the Chinese-Venezuelan relationship share similar roots: Chavismo and oil. It was under Hugo Chavez, during his presidency from 1999-2012, that Venezuela and China created a strategic partnership based on both countries’ desire to seek out new oil trade and investment partners. It was a match made in heaven—or a perfect storm, depending on how you see it. Chavez made clear his intention to embrace China as a socialist comrade and counterweight to traditional Venezuelan oil dependence on the U.S. Even though China retained a certain distance from Chavez’s efforts to form a fully fledged trans-Pacific ideological alliance, China’s actions spoke louder than words. Through its own state-sponsored loans-for-oil deals, valued at over $50 billion, and national oil company investments, China cemented a special state-to-state relationship with Chavez’s Venezuela.

Despite official Chinese and Venezuelan rhetoric, sure to be repeated during and after Xi Jinping’s visit, all has not been well in bilateral commercial and diplomatic relations between the two countries. In fact, quite the contrary. Rising Chinese anxiety and discontent with their Venezuelan partners is based on a combination of unmet, high expectations and a rising sense that China is precariously tied into Venezuela’s deeply troubled economic and social problems as well as its increasingly unstable political system.

Chinese cyberspies have hacked Middle East experts at major U.S. think tanks

7 July 2014

Middle East experts at major U.S. think tanks were hacked by Chinese cyberspies in recent weeks as events in Iraq began to escalate, according toa cybersecurity firm that works with the institutions. 

The group behind the breaches, called "DEEP PANDA" by security researchers, appears to be affiliated with the Chinese government, says Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer of the firm CrowdStrike. The company, which works with a number of think tanks on a pro bono basis, declined to name which ones have been breached. 

Alperovitch said the firm noticed a "radical" shift in DEEP PANDA's focus on June 18, the same day witnesses reported that Sunni extremists seized Iraq's largest oil refinery. The Chinese group has typically focused on senior individuals at think tanks who follow Asia, said Alperovitch. But last month, it suddenly began targeting people with ties to Iraq and Middle East issues. 

This latest breach follows a pattern identified by experts of Chinese cyberspies targeting major Washington institutions, including think tanks and law firms. It's rarely clear why Chinese cyberspies hack specific American targets, but experts say there are a few clues to why the DEEP PANDA group may have been interested in Middle East experts at think tanks. 

China's need for natural resources has skyrocketed along with its economic profile, and the country has increasingly turned to the Middle East to fuel its energy needs. China surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest net importer of petroleum and other liquid fuels last September, according to the US Energy Information Administration. In Iraq, China is a major oil investor. 

"It wouldn't be surprising if the Chinese government is highly interested in getting a better sense of the possibility of deeper U.S. military involvement that could help protect the Chinese oil infrastructure in Iraq,"wrote Alperovitch in a company blog post. 

Experts say that breaking into organizations like think tanks can give adversaries access to sensitive communications about international strategy – and potentially allow them to use compromised e-mail accounts to get at other targets: A phishing message coming from a trusted acquaintance at a prominent think tank that asks a user to download an attachment is more likely to succeed than a seemingly random e-mail. 

"If you can go after these indirect targets that have some of the information or you can see who they are communicating with you build up a lot of intelligence," explains Benjamin Johnson a former National Security Agency employee who now works at cybersecurity firm Bit9. 

The troubling implication of this is that pretty much everyone is a target, he says. "If you have a relationship with anyone who has something valuable in terms of information, you yourself are a target because it might be easier for them to go after you than the target directly," Johnson explains. 

"It's similar to when companies are trying to do a merger, and an adversary might go after their law firm or accounting firm where a lot of information might be stored," he added. 

Caution, another Cast Lead lies ahead

Haaretz Editorial 
Jul. 11, 2014
Source Link

The first few days of Operation Protective Edge indicate that Israel hasn’t learned anything from previous instances of mass killing.

Relatives of 8-year-old Hadil Ghraben during her funeral in Beit Lahiya, Gaza. 

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge after showing restraint for a number of weeks in response to the insufferable firing of rockets on its southern residents, which continues and has even spread to the center of the country. But, the response must not be mass killing of innocent civilians.

Abdullah Abu Ghazal, 5, became the 77th Palestinian fatality of Operation Protective Edge yesterday morning . He died in an Israeli air strike on Beit Lahia. His death was preceded by that of dozens of other civilians in the Gaza Strip, including women and other children.

Eight members of the Hajj family were killed in Khan Yunis yesterday. Before that, nine Palestinian civilians were killed in Khan Yunis while watching the World Cup, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an. Three women were killed when the Israel Air Force bombed the Beit Hanun home of Islamic Jihad operative Hafez Hamed. The Shalat family, parents and two children, were killed in their home in al-Zawayda.

Nearly the entire Kaware family, of Khan Yunis, was wiped out on Tuesday – eight family members, including six children, were killed in what the IAF termed “a mistake.” The family left their home after the IAF warned it of an impending strike, but after the house was hit by a small “warning” missile they returned and went up to the roof, on the assumption the IAF pilot would hold fire if he saw them there. Their hopes were dashed, in a horrifying fashion.

The longer Operation Protective Edge continues, the clearer the nature of the IAF’s targets become. This time they include the homes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives. Israel’s B’Tselem human rights organization said yesterday that this violates the international humanitarian law, which permits attacks only against targets that effectively assist military efforts. The homes of people involved in the fighting against Israel do not meet this definition. Nor is killing their relatives a military necessity.

After Operation Cast Lead in early 2009, during which hundreds of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip were killed, Israel paid a heavy price in the form of international censure, which reached its peak in the Goldstone report. Israel should have learned its lesson and been as careful as possible to avoid harming civilians. But the first few days of Operation Protective Edge make us fear that Israel hasn’t learned anything. The growing body count not only damages its international standing, it is first and foremost a corruption of its own moral character.

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The Hamas Way of War

"No matter how this latest round of Palestinian-Israeli retribution ends, it won't be the last."

Hamas starts wars it knows it can't finish. It also knows full well that wars in a very small place put innocents at risk. And Hamas is fine with that.

No matter how this latest round of Palestinian-Israeli retribution ends, it won't be the last. Long rooted in the Gaza Strip, Hamas will ever rise to the sound of the trumpets. It can do no differently.

Waging wars that can't be won, fighting battles where your own people are bound to bear the biggest loss, measured in funerals, missing limbs and smoking ruins, it ought to make no sense. But, to Hamas, that way of war makes perfect sense—and always will.

Those seeking to understand the Hamas way of war can gain great insights by reading a book on the Pakistan military. In “Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War,” Georgetown University Professor C. Christine Fair unpacks the "strategic culture" which drives an endless military competition with India—a contest that logic dictates can never be won.

The Pakistan-India long war, Fair argues, isn't about the border dispute over Kashmir. In fact, she labels Pakistan a "greedy" state. If India just handed the district over and walked away, the Pakistan Army would still see New Delhi as an existential threat. That's because Pakistan’s military defines its core purpose as opposing the larger and more powerful state to the south.

Similarly, Hamas defines its raison d’etre as fighting Israeli occupation. That is a worldview without end as long as Israel exists—and even then, one wonders if Hamas would not turn on its Arab neighbors as the next oppressors.

From the Hamas perspective, not fighting is not an option. The struggle is not about winning and losing, it's what justifies the group’s existence. The casualties, the destruction, the deaths of innocents on both sides, all are secondary in the group’s strategic calculus. At its core, the Hamas strategic culture calls for constant conflict.

India and Pakistan share a subcontinent. Their endless struggle can go on forever, and both states can still—maybe—go about their business.

Palestine is a very different place. Hamas can't have its wars without outsized human tragedy for the size of the ground that lives under its shadow.

Israel can defend itself. It can punish Hamas. But Israel can no more win its war with Hamas than India could force the Pakistani army to play nice.

1 in 10 Iraqi Soldiers Has Deserted Since ISIS Offensive Began, Report

Ben Van Heuvelen
Washington Post
July 12, 2014

Iraqi soldier tells of desertion as militants attacked refinery: ‘Our officers sold us out’

IRBIL, Iraq — Ammar, an Iraqi Shiite Muslim, was so eager as a teenager to join his country’s army that he considered lying about his age. Three years after he finally joined, he found himself defending an oil refinery as it came under attack in late June by Sunni militants.

What happened next left him convinced that the Iraqi army was broken: His brigade commanders fled, leaving their men behind.

And with that, Ammar and about 400 fellow soldiers also decided that night to leave the refinery, joining the thousands of Iraqi troops who have deserted since the Islamic State began capturing territory across northern Iraq last month.

Over the past three weeks, nearly one-tenth of Iraq’s 700,000 active soldiers have shed their uniforms, according to Michael Knights of the Washington Institute, who has extensive contacts in the Iraqi military. Iraqi officials have estimated that the number might be as high as 90,000.

The Iraqi government is now rushing tens of thousands of new recruits through basic training, and it has solidified alliances with Iran-backed Shiite militias and enlisted their help in joint operations. But experts and Iraqi soldiers say additional manpower is unlikely to remedy a weakness that contributed to the army’s collapse and is highlighted by Ammar’s account of the chaos that unfolded at the Baiji refinery: poor leadership.

How the Islamic State is carving out a new country “Our officers sold us out,” said Ammar, who, fearing government reprisal, spoke on the condition that only his first name be used. “They abandoned us.”

‘I wanted to defend my country’ Since he fled, Ammar has evaded authorities, who are arresting deserters, by moving between the houses of friends and family in his home city of Baghdad. It was there that, as a bored teenager cooped up during the U.S. occupation, he tried to get a fake ID to dodge enlistment-age restrictions.

“I wanted to defend my country,” said Ammar, who, in his tight T-shirt and acid-washed jeans looks more like an Arab Idol contestant than a soldier. “Also, it was something to do.”

The Iran Factor in Afghanistan

JULY 10, 2014 

This article is part of a monthly series by the author that highlights possible post-2014 scenarios for Afghanistan.

In recent years -- and especially in recent weeks, amid the alarmingly rapid gains of the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) -- much ink has been spilled about the role that Iran plays in neighboring Iraq.

Considerably less has been said about the role Iran plays in Afghanistan, another of Iran's neighbors, and the country where the United States has waged its other post-9/11 war.

In the West, what has been said has largely depicted Tehran's Afghan policies as deleterious, not to mention divergent with American interests. U.S. and NATO officials have accused Tehran of providing weaponry to the Afghan Taliban. In 2007 and 2011, international forces in Afghanistan intercepted Iranian arms shipments destined for the Taliban.

In 2010, the New York Times revealed that Tehran was literally handing bags of cash to Hamid Karzai's deeply trusted chief of staff, Umar Daudzai -- part of an effort to "drive a wedge" between Afghans and Americans.

More recently, in May, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran was hiring Afghan Shias to fight in Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. Some Middle East militancy experts believe this has been happening for nearly two years.

Yet, despite all of this, the role Iran plays in Afghanistan is relatively constructive. U.S. and Iranian interests in the country (such as stability) are for the most part convergent. Tehran can help advance these interests in post-2014 Afghanistan -- and especially if long-fraught relations with Washington continue to improve.

Tehran has a history of helping the U.S. government in Afghanistan. During the Bonn conference in late 2001, it was Iran that broke a stalemate over the composition of Afghanistan's first post-Taliban government. James Dobbins, the U.S. representative at Bonn, hasrecounted how the Iranian representative, current foreign minister Javad Zarif, had a brief whispered conversation with the Northern Alliance representative, Younis Qanooni, in the corner of the negotiating room. A minute later, Qanooni returned to the table and a deal was reached.

Tehran and Washington have also cooperated to counter the Taliban and al Qaeda. In the initial years after international forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, according to reportage by journalist Barbara Slavin, Tehran arrested al Qaeda figures on its soil and gave Washington maps showing Taliban positions in Afghanistan. According to Dobbins, Iran's military also offered to train 20,000 Afghan troops as part of a U.S.-led program to rebuild Afghanistan's army. This collaboration could have gone even further. In 2003, Tehran made a formal offer to open comprehensive negotiations with Washington, but it was ignored by the George W. Bush administration. Afghanistan had been one of the agenda points.

Such cooperation shouldn't be surprising. When it comes to Afghanistan, Tehran and Washington tend to see eye to eye on many core issues, including the Taliban. Despite the arms that Tehran has supplied to the group, Shia Iran recoils at the thought of an Afghanistan once again led by the Sunni Taliban. And yet, sectarian concerns aren't the sole reason why.


July 10, 2014 

On June 10, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city. A string of smaller cities, including Tikrit, and Iraq’s largest oil refinery fell to ISIL in the ensuing week. These victories capped ISIL’s successful conquest of Fallujah early this year. At the same time, ISIL has done battle with forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and contested territory controlled by other Syrian rebel groups. It now controls cities spanning 500 kilometers across both Iraq and Syria, as well as a wide swath of territory de jure administered by either the Republic of Iraq or the Syrian Arab Republic. ISIL has set its sights on Baghdad and revealed an even broader agenda by renaming itself simply the “Islamic State” and claiming the establishment of a new Caliphate. These successes, and the group’s regional and even larger ambitions, led some to ask whether ISIL has in fact established a new state spanning portions of eastern Syria and western Iraq.

Statehood is more than men under arms, carrying a common banner, and forcing erstwhile authorities from the territory they administer. Statehood is the international legal personality that comes with the sovereign exercise of authority over a defined territory and defined population. TheMontevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States identifies four objective criteria of statehood: a permanent population, a defined territory, government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. In practice, these criteria are often melded into two interrelated questions that determine whether a putative state is a state. First, is the putative state in fact independent? And second, does the putative state exert effective control over the population and territory it claims? However you approach the question of this group’s statehood, the answer is almost assuredly, no, the Islamic State is not a state.

The territory and population that ISIL controls is ill defined and shifting. While it has made significant gains in Iraq in recent weeks, its footprint in Syria decreased between January and May. Importantly, the territory and population it does control are only a fraction of what it claims. Although contested borders and imperfect control have never been fatal to statehood claims, entities making such claims must be able to exert control over substantial amounts of the territory they claim. In this case, ISIL faces not just contested borders, but exclusion from thousands of square miles and the bulk of the population it claims.

ISIS Now Has 88 Pounds of Uranium, but TheyProbably Can't Make a Bomb Out of It

The building that houses the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Insurgents in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university in the country's north, Iraq told the United Nations in a letter appealing for help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad."

Nearly 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of uranium compounds were kept at Mosul University, Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the July 8 letter obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

It could be worse, though:

A U.S. government source familiar with the matter said the materials were not believed to be enriched uranium and therefore would be difficult to use to manufacture into a weapon. Another U.S. official familiar with security matters said he was unaware of this development raising any alarm among U.S. authorities.

The New York Times backs up the notion that the threat posed by the seizure is limited, quoting an International Atomic Energy Agency representative who says the news likely does not present "a significant safety, security or nuclear proliferation risk."

Here's an informative Smithsonian article on the differences between typical uranium and weapons-grade uranium.

Why Iraq Is More Stable Than You Think

July 09, 2014 

The news from Iraq is bad. Four distinct yet intertwined problems—the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the dysfunctional politics of Iraq, the utter collapse of the Syrian state and the larger cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran—have combined to disrupt the fragile stability gained by the Iraqis in the wake of the 2006-2008 civil war. Iraq is, once again, the paragon of a “wicked problem.”

There are, however, a number of rash conclusions being arrived at in the wake of the bad news. One does not have to read very far to find a series of assumptions being made about Iraq’s future—that Baghdad is about to fall, that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s days are numbered, that Kurdistan’s independence is imminent and that oil production is at risk. None of these are certain and some are extremely unlikely. Let’s cover them one by one.

1. Baghdad is about to fall.

This is very, very unlikely. Although comparisons between the 1975 fall of Saigon and the fall of Baghdad have (predictably) emerged, Baghdad is a city of six million people. Six million. It has had a Shia majority since at least 2007, after a wave of ethnic cleansing drove out much of the Sunni population. Iraq’s security forces, the majority of them Shia, will likely fight with much more dedication then they did in northern Iraq. Further, the Kadhamiya Shrine, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam, is on the northern fringe of Baghdad. We can expect fanatical dedication to protect this monument from advancing ISIL columns, particularly on the part of newly mobilized Shia militias.

And indeed, the battle lines already beginning to stabilize to the north of Baghdad and Samarra, a mixed city with another important Shiite shrine, the Askariya Mosque. This is happening even before any appreciable amount of airpower—whether U.S., Iranian, Syrian, Russian or Iraqi (via newly acquired aircraft)—has been brought to bear. If the northern front stabilizes and ISIL can hide in defensive positions and cities, then airpower may be of limited utility. If ISIL begins to move en masse toward Baghdad, then the group could present quite attractive targets for airpower.

This is not to say that Baghdad will not be contested. We should be concerned about two possibilities in particular. The first is Baghdad International Airport (BGW), the capital’s primary link to the outside world and a major resupply node for Iraqi forces. BGW sits on the western edge of Baghdad province and is bordered by the majority-Sunni suburbs of Abu Ghraib and Ameriya to the north and east, respectively. The western side of BGW is open desert that leads to Anbar province. It is in a uniquely vulnerable piece of geography.

Second, we should not be surprised to find “fifth columns” of volunteers recruited from among the Sunni citizens of Baghdad. The neighborhoods of Ghazaliya, Doura, Abu Ghraib, Ameriya and Adhamiya could all see a return, or remobilization, of nationalist militias loosely aligned with ISIL (or just ISIL cells) in the coming weeks. I suspect that ISIL’s plan is to use these internal forces to create vulnerabilities that can exploited by their more traditional military units from the north. I don’t think anyone believes that the ISIL forces are capable of further significant moves southward, but this does not mean that we will not see skirmishes in the streets of Baghdad regardless. So, will we see increased violence, much of it sectarian? Yes, quite possibly. Baghdad falling? Utterly improbable.