15 July 2014

Overhaul Defence Policy


By Harsh V Pant

Published: 15th July 2014

There is a new government in power and there are expectations that it will be able to give India’s moribund defence policy a new direction. These hopes have been heightened by some of the right noises the prime minister and defence minister have been making since assuming office. The focus on defence in this year’s budget is a welcome change from the perfunctory increases in the allocations over the last several years. It underscores that this government remains committed to military modernisation which was losing traction under A K Antony, without doubt the worst defence minister India has ever had. The attempt to do away with anomalies in pensions to ex-servicemen under the One Rank One Pension policy and the announcement of the construction of a war memorial and a museum is heartening and should go a long way in assuaging the concerns of the community.

The increase in FDI cap to 49% from the present 29%, though welcome, is unlikely to be a game changer. It is a welcome first step but hopefully this will be complemented by other moves to make the defence PSUs in India more accountable. And ultimately, it all comes down to setting a strategic direction for Indian defence. That’s where the focus should be from now on. The prime minister can start by promptly appointing a full-time defence minister, allowing Arun Jaitley to focus solely on finance.

Traditionally, it’s the glamorous issue of resources that tends to hog the limelight. But the Indian defence sector suffers from some fundamental vulnerabilities and unless they are rectified, no amount of resources will make a difference. For a nation that has been one of the major defence spenders over the last few years, having embarked on an ambitious plan to modernise its largely Soviet-era arms since the late 1990s, and is acknowledged as the fourth-largest military power, it was striking when after the Mumbai terror attacks it came to light that one of the reasons why India did not dare use the military option vis-à-vis Pakistan was the reluctance of Indian Army’s leadership to go to war with an inadequate and obsolete arsenal. This lack of any credible military option against Pakistan has brought into sharp relief the fundamental weaknesses of Indian defence policy.

The then Indian prime minister had declared in his address to the nation in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks that his government “will go after these individuals and organisations and make sure that every perpetrator, organiser and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price”. He also suggested he would “take up strongly with our neighbours that the use of their territory for launching attacks” will not be tolerated and that “there will be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them”. By doing so, he raised the stakes without realising that he doesn’t have very strong cards to play. The nuclear aspect is important because it is part of the reason that elements within the Pakistani security establishment have become more adventurous. Realising India will be reluctant to escalate the conflict because of the threat of it reaching the nuclear level, sections of the Pakistani military and intelligence have pushed the envelope on the sub-conventional front, using terror groups to launch assaults on India. For India, it presents a structural conundrum: nuclear weapons have made a major conventional conflict with Pakistan unrealistic, yet it needs to find a way to launch limited military action against Pakistan without crossing the nuclear threshold. Nuclear weapons have allowed Pakistan to shield itself from full-scale Indian retaliation as well as to attract international attention on the disputes in the subcontinent.

GOING WITH THE FLOW - Capitalism and inequality

There is a growing concern among several economists in the advanced countries — of which Thomas Piketty’s recent book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is an expression — with the rapid increase in wealth and income inequality occurring in their societies, which, they fear, is fundamentally inimical to democracy. An interesting debate has broken out among them in this context over the roots of this increase in inequality.

Some see it as an immanent tendency under capitalism that had been held in check in the exceptional situation of the post-war period, marked by two specific features: a militant working class that had emerged from the war having made great sacrifices; and a looming threat of socialism. They see this tendency now expressing itself freely. Others, notably Joseph Stiglitz, attribute growing inequality not to any “economic laws of capitalism”, whose very existence they are not prepared to accept, but to government policies driven by politics. Growing inequality, they hold, is not inevitable under capitalism.

However, even the latter group does not see politics as being unrelated to economics; it sees growing wealth and income inequality causing growing inequality in political power, which, in turn, promotes a further increase in wealth and income inequality. It visualizes, much like the former group, an interlinked process of growing economic and political inequality. The difference among them on this question relates to what sets off this process. The former sees it as being immanent to capitalism (when it is not restrained by exceptional circumstances), while the latter attributes its emergence to contingent political factors, among which Stiglitz emphasizes the collapse of the Soviet Union. This collapse made it possible to portray State intervention in a poor light, and set the stage for rolling back regulatory measures on big capital. (This debunking of State intervention was always a disingenuous argument: when the intervention was in favour of finance capital, as in the wake of the 2008 crisis, it was considered perfectly acceptable).

The problem with this latter position, however, lies elsewhere: it does not appreciate sufficiently the importance of the institutional barriers against the growth of income and wealth inequality that come up under capitalism, despite its hostility, and that did come up under post-war capitalism. The most important of these institutional barriers was the trade union movement.

Trade unions are usually presented as serving the interests of only a privileged segment of the working class; as undermining any work ethic (the “I am all right Jack” syndrome famously depicted in a Peter Sellers film of the same name); and as generally being in cahoots with the “bosses” with very little concern for the working poor.

Wars without winners

 July 15, 2014
Suhasini Haidar

Contrary to the view that extremism thrives when America is absent, empirical facts indicate that the opposite is truer. And each of the countries at the centre of global concerns over extremism is in fact one that has seen direct or indirect western intervention, not western absence

In her autobiographical work, based on her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton makes a startling statement while explaining the need for U.S. intervention around the world, despite the “dangers” to American lives. “While we can and must work to reduce the danger,” writes Ms. Clinton, “the only way to eliminate risk entirely is to retreat entirely and to accept the consequences of the void we leave behind. When America is absent, extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened” (Hard Choices, p.387, Simon & Schuster, 2014).

It is curious that Ms. Clinton thinks that extremism thrives when America is absent, as empirical facts and the patterns one can glean from them indicate that the opposite is truer. While Iraq and ISIS’ brutal advance on Baghdadis at the top of the news now, it must be remembered that each of the countries today at the centre of the world’s concerns over extremism is in fact a country that has seen direct or indirect western intervention, not western absence — Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq.

Authoritarian yet secular regimes

There are other patterns to these interventions. In each of these countries, what the United States, along with allies sought to oust were authoritarian regimes that were secular. The Soviet-backed regimes of President Najibullah in Afghanistan, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. The movements these leaders set up were dictatorial; they controlled their people through stifling intelligence agencies, and crushed all political Islamic movements where they could. But a by-product of the secularism was that women and minorities had a more secure status under these regimes than under their Islamist and monarchist neighbours like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. Unlike them, Mr. Assad, Qadhafi, Saddam and Najibullah had women and minorities in their cabinets, and a sense of Arab/Afghan nationalism overshadowed the sectarian divide in their countries.


By Bhaskar Roy

The Chinese were quietly watching each step of Mr. Narendra Modi even before he became Prime Minister of India. Mr. Modi had visited China at least three times as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. He was particularly impressed by China’s infrastructure and the railway system, especially the “bullet train” which runs at a speed of 300 to 350 kms per hour.

The Chinese continue to see Mr. Modi as a leader focused on economic development, something he did in his own state. They brushed aside his hard statements on Arunachal Pradesh and the India-China border issue, cautioning Beijing to stop expansionism. This was said in the course of his election campaign. Bill Clinton had called the Chinese leaders “butchers of Beijing” during his presidential campaign for the first term. Once president of United States, Mr. Clinton was the key to China’s entry in WTO as a developing country.

A leading Chinese think tank compared Mr. Modi to US President Richard Nixon who opened US-China diplomatic relationship and established a kind of an axis along with Pakistan to counter the Soviet Union. Of course, the statement did not include military or strategic partnership, but was in terms of trade and economic cooperation.

The US relationship followed by its reform and opening up policy made China what it is today. The China-US trade has crossed $ 500 billion. It has acquired high technology by methods fair and foul.

China is moving from an only investment inviting country to a country looking for suitable investment targets. India is one such target. Last year (2013) when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang came to India he carried a plane load of businessmen who were looking for export and investment opportunities, but not import of Indian goods. India-China trade stands at around $ 65 billion with a huge trade deficit against India. This needs to be corrected for a healthy trade and economic relations.

The intention is to reach $100 billion bilateral trade in 2015, a difficult target to achieve unless India opens up its iron ore exports mainly. China is pushing in cheap goods, otherwise known as “shoddy goods” into India. On the other hand there is a glass wall against Indian exports to China. This is a political wall. Nobody gets into China through purely business decisions. India is in this category.

China’s desire to invest in India is welcome. But in the past decade and a half experience suggests that the Chinese are interested in areas that are strategically sensitive for India’s security. These areas include ports, airports, certain areas bordering Tibet and, most importantly, the information technology/cyber technology sectors. Two Chinese cyber technology companies, Hua Wei Technologies and ZTE are already in India. They have questionable backgrounds where the host country’s security is In any case, these are issues of details which the Indian government would have to consider with inputs from its security and intelligence agencies. It must be taken into account that cyber warfare includes planting of “Trojans” or “assassin’s mace” weapons into the adversary’s system. This is just one example.

India: A Reluctant Partner for Afghanistan

By Sandra Destradi
June 01, 2014

The year 2014 will prove crucial for Afghanistan. The presidential elections will shape the country’s political future, both who will govern and how much the process of democratic consolidation will have advanced. On the military front, by the end of the year, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission is expected to withdraw all combat troops from the country. While the United States and other Western countries are planning to stay engaged in Afghanistan after 2014 through the presence of training and counterterrorism forces, in late 2013 and early 2014 the difficulties in finalizing a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the United States and Afghan governments led to calls for a “zero option”—a complete departure of all foreign troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, leaving the country alone to manage its security, train its armed forces, and fight extremist groups.

Against the backdrop of troop withdrawal, Western countries have encouraged Afghanistan’s regional neighbors to find regional solutions to stabilize the country. However, the progress of regional initiatives like the Istanbul Process—a series of meetings of regional countries interested in Afghanistan initiated by Turkey in 2011—has been slow due to tensions and mistrust among regional states and numerous conflicts among key actors in South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Among the regional states surrounding Afghanistan, an often overlooked but potentially essential partner for the West is India.1Over the past years, India has quietly expanded its influence in Afghanistan, becoming its fifth-largest bilateral donor and engaging in a range of major infrastructure and capacity-building projects. In 2011, India was the first country with which Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement. This agreement, however, has not led to a substantial upgrade of India’s engagement in Afghanistan, since New Delhi has been extremely reluctant to cooperate in the field of security. If the West wants to harness the potential of cooperating with India, it needs a better appreciation of India’s engagement and motivations, as well as of New Delhi’s assets and concerns about Afghanistan’s future.

India’s Engagement and Its Motivations

Since 2001, India has greatly expanded its activities in Afghanistan. While not helping to provide security,2 India has substantially contributed to the country’s reconstruction.3 Overall, India has pledged US$2 billion for Afghanistan, with about half already disbursed. The main projects involve infrastructure,4 including the Delaram-Zaranj highway connecting Afghanistan’s main highway, the Ring Road, to the Iranian border. This will allow easier transport of goods through Afghanistan to the Iranian port of Chabahar, and in whose expansion India is planning to invest.5 This port is expected to play a central role in India’s trade with Afghanistan, especially since it bypasses Pakistan.

Partnership with Iran is incredibly valuable to India in this regard—a driving force of India’s Afghanistan policy is the desire for access to Central Asia and its vast energy resources.6 India recognizes Afghanistan’s potential as a bridge and a trade corridor, and has tried to tie Afghanistan more closely to South Asia by promoting its accession to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) since 2007. At the same time, Indian policymakers are quite aware of the limitations inherent in geography, given India’s lack of direct access to Afghanistan and Pakistan’s obstructionism. Pakistan does not allow Indian goods to be transported to Afghanistan through its territory, while Afghan goods can transit to India according to the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) of 2010. The Iranian port of Chabahar and good relations with Iran are therefore high priorities for New Delhi: that route is the only realistic option for India to develop reliable commercial ties with Afghanistan and, through it, with Central Asia.7

Further highly visible Indian infrastructure projects in Afghanistan are the parliament building in Kabul, electricity transmission lines for the capital, and the Salma Dam power project in Herat province. Beyond that, the Indian government has been active in providing humanitarian assistance, such as food aid as well as free medical services through “medical missions” set up by India in five Afghan cities. While infrastructure projects account for 42 percent of India’s development cooperation, 25 percent is devoted to government administration expenses, 24 percent to food aid, and only three and two percent to health and education, respectively.8 The largest part of India’s total assistance comes in the form of grants in response to requests by the Afghan government—something Kabul highly appreciates.9 Several capacity-building programs entailing hundreds of scholarships for Afghan students and civil servants round out the picture, making India’s presence highly visible in Afghanistan.10

Iran’s Continuing Interests in Afghanistan

By Sumitha Narayanan Kutty
June 01, 2014

As the year 2014 rolls on and the United States nears completion of its military drawdown in Afghanistan, its neighbors have no choice but to adjust to the quickly changing landscape. One of Afghanistan’s most important—but largely understudied—neighbors is Iran. In the years that have passed since 9/11, it is often forgotten that Iran was an early supporter of the ensuing October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Tehran had long been wary of the Taliban and the raft of Sunni Islamist extremists it had aided and abetted. Tehran played an extremely constructive role during the Bonn Process, which produced Afghanistan’s constitution including the emphasis upon democracy and support for the military invasion, Operation Enduring Freedom.

As Iran came into increasing confrontation with the international community over the reprocessing and enrichment of fissile materials, the United States and other Iran-wary countries suspiciously eyed Tehran’s various efforts to shape events in Afghanistan. The United States in particular viewed Iran’s relations with Afghanistan in zero-sum terms: a gain for Iran is a loss for the United States. The United States generally has been ambivalent toward countries like India that have sought to engage Iran, even when that engagement has focused upon rebuilding and reconstructing Afghanistan—goals which the United States embraces.

Indeed, U.S. apprehensions about Iran’s influence in Afghanistan is ironic in some sense: Iran has more in common with the United States with respect to Afghanistan’s future than does Pakistan, the United States’ reluctant and increasingly frustrating partner in the war. Iran, like the United States, would prefer a future Afghanistan that will deny militant Sunni Islam any sanctuary. Iran, like the United States, would prefer an Afghanistan at peace with itself and unobtrusive to its neighbors. Iran, like the United States, worries about Afghanistan’s endless supply of narcotics and associated criminality. Further, Iran has taken steps to invest in Afghanistan (especially in western Afghanistan), to engage in aggressive counter-narcotics, and facilitate the repatriation of Afghan refugees in Iran, among other important steps. Pakistan, in stark contrast, prefers an Afghanistan governed by Sunni Islamists that would deny India access to the country and that may again provide sanctuary and amenities to the Sunni terrorist groups that Pakistan has long instrumentalized in India.

In this essay, I focus upon the Afghan–Iran relationship with an eye to Iran’s key interests and goals in Afghanistan after 2014 and consider how Iran will prosecute those interests. Next, I describe the means (e.g. military, economic, diplomatic, etc.) that Iran has at its disposal to secure these objectives, as well as some reflection upon the constraints placed on Iran’s resources. Third, I describe some of Iran’s unique assets (e.g. ethnic groups, co-religionists, etc.) that it could deploy after 2014. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of Iran’s goals that may conflict or converge with the interests of other regional and extra-regional actors as the drawdown approaches and completes.

The Ties that Bind Iran to Afghanistan

Afghanistan and Iran have long been tied by culture and geography, as various Persian empires annexed parts of Afghanistan over several centuries. The two states share a 582-mile border along a plain in western Afghanistan. Although they have not fought a war in the last two centuries, and territorial disputes over Afghanistan’s western provinces of Herat, Nimroz, and Helmand were settled in 1872, they have had issue-based rivalries over conflicting economic interests, shared river waters, and treatment of ethnic and sectarian minorities in Afghanistan. Approximately one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population is Shia—a focal point for contemporary Iran, which views itself as the guardian of the Shia.

During the 1980s, Iran’s Afghan policy was centered on the creation of an “ideological sphere of influence” by organizing and revitalizing Afghan Shias.1 With the Iran–Iraq War raging on its western front, Tehran provided basic military training for six months to members of Afghan Shia organizations, some of whom fought on the warfront. The Iranians returned the favor by deploying their own in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and export Khomeini’s policies.2 Curiously, the Soviets did not dominate the Shia stronghold in Afghanistan’s Hazarajat region, which permitted Iran to form a sophisticated network of Afghan Shia organizations,3 facilitating the 1987 formation of a pro-Iran alliance of eight Afghan Shia groups. The Tehran Eight formed a resistance to the Soviet-led Afghan government, along with an organization of seven Sunni groups supported by Pakistan (called the Peshawar Seven).

Iran’s Foreign Policy in Post-Taliban Afghanistan

June 01, 2014
by Kayhan Barzegar
Source Link

Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, Iran has followed a two-pronged policy in Afghanistan: first, preserve stability and support the Afghan central government, and second, oppose the presence of foreign forces in the country. For Iran, Afghanistan is the focus point of its “Look to the East” grand strategy—which primarily seeks increased energy and economic relations between Iran and eastern countries in the Asia region, especially India, China, and Japan,1 and is the axis of its goal to establish stability in Southern and Central Asia. That is why, for the past 13 years, Iran has supported so many state-building efforts in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

At the same time, Iran opposes the presence of foreign forces—especially U.S. forces—in Afghanistan, asserting that it is a pretext for spreading extremism in the country and the region at large. Moreover, Iran perceives the presence of U.S. forces as part of Washington’s strategy to strengthen its own strategic position in Central and South Asia, as well as the Persian Gulf, at the expense of Iran’s national and security interests. Iran also believes that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will undermine Iran’s legitimate demands, including re-establishing close political and economic ties between the Iranian and Afghan governments. Therefore, Iran criticizes the 2012 U.S.–Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA),2 which provides the framework for U.S.-Afghan relations after the 20163 drawdown, maintaining that such an agreement is against the traditional neutrality of Afghanistan in South and Central Asia, consequently sowing distrust in regional states’ relations. The environment under such an agreement would minimize Iran’s role in its political-security backyard.

An active and strong political-security presence across its immediate borders in order to preempt future security challenges has become a constant in Iran’s national security strategy. One of the main objectives of Iran’s foreign policy in Afghanistan is to increase its relative security in the broader region. Iran views security as an interconnected network that runs all throughout Asia—insecurity in one area is equivalent to insecurity of the whole region, and so instability in Afghanistan could easily metastasize to other countries. As such, Iran’s foreign policy in Afghanistan in the post-U.S. exit era will revolve around the two themes of “cooperation” and “rivalry” with other regional and trans-regional players, such as Pakistan and the United States. This trend is likely to persist during the reign of the pragmatic government of Hassan Rouhani, unless nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 could yield a comprehensive agreement that would subsequently improve U.S.–Iran relations.

Iran’s Interests in Afghanistan

Geographically, Afghanistan is located in a region called the “Greater Ariana,” a wide area running north-south from Tajikistan to the Maldives and east-west from Burma to Iran. Afghanistan serves as an important gateway to this region, and thus plays an important role in Iran’s grand strategy of “Look to the East.”

Iran uses a developmental approach to foreign policy here, through energy security and economic integration. Due to Western sanctions during the last few years, the orientation of Iran’s energy exports and economic integration has shifted toward Asia, subsequently increasing the volume of economic exchanges with Asian countries, especially India and China. Today, increased economic activities with these countries are vital for Iran’s economic development.4 The way toward achieving this goal is to seek political stability in the South Asia region.5 In this context, establishing security and stability in Afghanistan is of great importance for Iran’s geopolitical interests.

In this context, three different issues are important to Iran in Afghanistan. The first is cultural: the two nations share a rich history that saw the spread of classical empires, Islamic conquest, and the rise and fall of many dynasties. Eventually, the third Anglo-Afghan War started in May 1919 and ended in August that same year (the first and second Anglo-Afghan wars took place between 1839–1842 and 1878–1880, respectively), and Afghanistan declared itself a sovereign and independent state; Iran, meanwhile, continued under various dynastic rulers, called Shahs, until the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Today’s Afghanistan was part of Iran’s greater Khorasan Province, which historically was called Greater Khorasan and referred to a much larger area of the Persian empire. It contained Iranian-origin sects and ethnicities, thereby making it part of the historical and cultural territory of Iran. Khorasan Province in modern-day Iran was the country’s largest until September 2004, when it divided into three smaller provinces that are geographic neighbors to a variety of Afghan ethnic groups (i.e. the Tajiks to Khorasan-e Razavi Province, the Pashtuns to Southern Khorasan Province, and the Baluchis to Sistan and Baluchestan Province). Today, the cultural-identity characteristics of the ethnic groups in these regions are somehow combined.

India’s Role in a Changing Afghanistan

by Shashank Joshi
June 01, 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, the war in Afghanistan will reprise the peripheral role it occupied for the United States and NATO between 2001 and 2006: out of sight, out of mind, and a distraction from other more pressing strategic challenges. Al-Qaeda’s center of gravity has shifted away from Pakistan, at most a few hundred al-Qaeda operatives are left in Afghanistan, and the United States and European publics are weary of war.

For India, however, the Western drawdown of forces, culminating in the withdrawal of all US troops by 2016, will represent the greatest adverse structural shift in its security environment for over a decade, with potentially far-reaching implications for the Indian homeland and the country’s regional position. It is a mistake to think that New Delhi would be inclined or able to salvage a disappointing military campaign on behalf of the West. The risk exists that India, like other regional actors anxious over the prospect of a security vacuum in the coming years, may adopt more independent and assertive policies in Afghanistan which diverge from those of the United States. However, one would be equally remiss to overlook the fundamental congruity of interests between Washington and New Delhi, and the opportunities that this might afford for cooperation.

India’s Assessment of Afghanistan

The dominant Indian view of Afghanistan over the past decade is that the West has botched its war.1 It failed to break the Taliban’s back with a 30,000-strong troop surge in 2010, largely because it was unable or unwilling to target the insurgency’s cross-border sanctuaries in Pakistan. Now, Indian thinking runs, the West seeks a face-saving exit by partially resurrecting Islamist rule in Kabul with the help of Pakistan, the Taliban’s primary historic benefactors. The debacle surrounding the opening of a Taliban office in Doha in the summer of 2013—an episode recounted in greater detail in a moment—exemplified these concerns. To Indian observers, the mangled opening looked like a U.S. and European effort to undercut President Hamid Karzai’s authority and appease the already confident insurgents, a Faustian pact with the Taliban that might purchase short-term stability and domestic electoral contentment, but at the price of incalculable long-term dangers. As veteran Indian national security reporter Praveen Swami put it, the United States is “subcontracting the task of keeping the peace in Afghanistan to the [Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI],” Pakistan’s intelligence service.2

India’s fears stem partly from the fact that it has so much to lose. Its diplomats, intelligence officers, soldiers, and aid workers watched as their country’s economic, political, and capacity-building role in Afghanistan bloomed in the decade after 2001.3 For instance, India built Afghanistan’s new parliament building, constructed new infrastructure like roads and power lines, ran hospitals, trained Afghan army officers, invested in Afghan mineral wealth, and pledged $2 billion in aid between 2002 and 2012. Now, they worry that India will bear the brunt of the Taliban’s gradual renewal or, worse, restoration. In January 2014, India’s former National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan argued that “Taliban extremism in [Pakistan and Afghanistan] shows no signs of muting itself…if they succeed in Afghanistan, India is their next target. We need to be on our guard.”4

These Indian fears are frequently filtered through the analogy of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, which saw Afghan veterans travel to Indian-controlled Kashmir where they amplified an indigenous insurgency that ravaged the territory in the 1990s. Today, many Indian security officials worry that combat-hardened fighters—including members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group responsible for the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008—will once again move eastward into Kashmir.5Some Indians point to volatility along the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan, which last year experienced its most serious skirmishes since the landmark 2003 ceasefire, as an indication of the post-2014 threat.6 Pakistani-sponsored attacks on Indians in Afghanistan, diminished in recent years, might flare up again. Lashkar-e-Taiba suicide bombers, who had in previous years assaulted India’s embassy in Kabul, attacked India’s consulates in Jalalabad in August 2013 and Herat in May 2014; India considers these a taste of things to come. Growing security risks could jeopardize India’s massive investments, including a $10 billion stake in the Hajigak iron-ore mine. All this could gradually sever India’s broader access to Iran and Central Asia; indeed, India reportedly sought to renegotiate its Hajigak stake as a result of both legal uncertainty and heightened violence in the province.7

Five Ways Japan Could Have Won World War II

July 12, 2014 

"Japan could never have crushed U.S. maritime forces in the Pacific and imposed terms on Washington. That doesn't mean it couldn't have won World War II."

Let's face it. Imperial Japan stood next to no chance of winning a fight to the finish against the United States. Resolve and resources explain why. So long as Americans kept their dander up, demanding that their leaders press on to complete victory, Washington had a mandate to convert the republic's immense industrial potential into a virtually unstoppable armada of ships, aircraft, and armaments. Such a physical mismatch was simply too much for island state Japan -- with an economy about one-tenth the size of America's -- to surmount.

Quantity has a quality all its own. No amount of willpower or martial virtuosity can overcome too lopsided a disparity in numbers. Tokyo stared that plight in the face following Pearl Harbor.

So Japan could never have crushed U.S. maritime forces in the Pacific and imposed terms on Washington. That doesn't mean it couldn't have won World War II. Sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? But the weak sometimes win. As strategic sage Carl von Clausewitz recounts, history furnishes numerous instances when the weak got their way. Indeed, Clausewitz notes that it sometimes makes sense for the lesser contender to start a fight. If its leadership sees force as the only resort, and if the trendlines look unfavorable -- in other words, if right now is as good as it gets -- then why not act?

There are three basic ways to win wars according to the great Carl. One, you can trounce the enemy's armed forces and dictate whatever terms you please. Short of that, two, you can levy a heavier price from the enemy than he's willing to pay to achieve his goals. The value a belligerent assigns his political objectives determines how many resources he's prepared to expend on those objectives' behalf, and for how long. Taking measures that compel an opponent to expend more lives, armaments, or treasure is one way to raise the price. Dragging out the affair so that he pays heavy costs over time is another. And three, you can dishearten him, persuading him he's unlikely to fulfill his war aims.

A disconsolate adversary, or one who balks at the costs of war, is a pliant adversary. He cuts the best deal he can to exit the imbroglio.

If a military triumph lay beyond Tokyo's reach, the second two methods remained available in the Pacific. Japanese commanders could have husbanded resources, narrowing the force mismatch between the warring sides. They could have made the conflict more costly, painful, and prolonged for America, undercutting its resolve. Or, alternatively, they could have avoided rousing American fury to wage total war in the first place. By foregoing a strike at Hawaii, they could have enfeebled the opponent's resolve or, perhaps, sidelined the opponent entirely.

Bottom line, no likely masterstroke -- no single stratagem or killing blow -- would have defeated the United States. Rather, Japanese commanders should have thought and acted less tactically and more strategically. In so doing they would have improved Japan's chances.

Which brings us to Five Ways Japan Could Have Won. Now, the items catalogued below are far from mutually exclusive. The Japanese leadership would have boosted its prospects had it embraced them all. And granted, enacting some of these measures would have demanded preternaturally farseeing leadership. Foresight was a virtue of which Japan's vacillating emperor and squabbling military rulers were woefully short. Whether it was plausible for them to act wisely is open to debate. With these caveats out of the way, onward!

- Wage one war at a time. Conserving enemies is a must even for the strongest combatants. It's imperative for small states with big ambitions to avoid making war against everyone in sight. Imposing discipline on the war was particularly hard for Japan, whose political system -- patterned on Imperial Germany's, alas -- was stovepiped between the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy (IJA and IJN), with no meaningful civilian political oversight. Absent a strong emperor, the army and navy were free to indulge their interservice one-upsmanship, jostling for influence and prestige. The IJA cast its gaze on continental Asia, where a land campaign in Manchuria, then China proper, beckoned. The IJN pushed for a maritime campaign aimed at resources in Southeast Asia. By yielding to these contrary impulses between 1931 and 1941, Japan in effect surrounded itself with enemies of its own accord -- invading Manchuria and China before lashing out at the imperial powers in Southeast Asia and, ultimately, striking at Pearl Harbor. Any tactician worth his salt will tell you a 360-degree threat axis -- threats all around -- makes for perilous times. Tokyo should have set priorities. It might have accomplished some of its goals had it taken things in sequence.

SITTING ON A POWDER KEG - What the Iraq crisis means for the world as well as for India

Harsh V. Pant 
July 14 , 2014 

The Middle East is back, and back with a bang. For some time now, the West — the United States of America in particular — had lulled itself into believing that if it would only ignore the region, its problems would go away. After all, at a time of diminishing economic resources in the West, the Indo-Pacific, with a rising China at the centre of its changing strategic landscape, was the region that deserved greater attention. The strategically diffident Barack Obama administration embraced this thinking with great enthusiasm partly for sound economic reasons and partly because it saw no need for the US to get bogged down in the millennium-old Shia-Sunni feuds.

It was in this wider context that Obama was quick to accept total withdrawal from Iraq. Behind the façade of the US not getting legal immunity for its soldiers from the Iraq government, the Obama administration was quite happy to get out of Iraq and to be publicly sanguine about Iraq’s future prospects as a stable State. A hands-off approach is preferred by many in Washington as it is viewed as the Iraq government’s job to fix it. The Nouri al-Maliki government is being pressed to take steps to make the Shia-dominated government more inclusive. If it fails to do that, there are reports that Washington might be working towards removing Maliki from office. Washington is also reaching out to Iran, trying to use Tehran’s leverage over the Maliki government to make a political resolution of the conflict in Iraq more tenable.

As the US scrambles to recover from its flat-footed recognition of the fact that the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria could no longer be ignored, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, visited Iraq to send a direct message to the Maliki government that it was time to govern inclusively or to get out of the way. But contradictions abound in the larger policy and it remains to be seen if Obama’s confused and rather late move to douse the Iraqi fire will have any real impact on the situation on the ground. Iraq’s prime minister has rejected such calls for a national salvation government to help counter the offensive by jihadist-led Sunni rebels. Instead, he is ratcheting up the military pressure on the insurgents, with the US providing 775 military advisers along with a detachment of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles to help Iraq’s security forces. Russia is also supplying some second-hand Sukhoi jet fighters.

The entire Middle East is sitting on a powder keg, with a burgeoning civil war in Libya, a once-in-a-generation humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and a ruthless Islamist group on the verge of gaining control over Iraq. Formed in 2013 and led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS has as its proclaimed aim the establishment of an Islamic emirate that straddles Syria and Iraq. The ISIS is a highly organized, motivated, resourceful and powerful group that uses violence without any compunction. It had been gaining ground steadily over the last few weeks culminating in the declaration of a caliphate — an Islamic State ruled by a single political and religious leader — with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its seat of power. Ungoverned territories are dangerous and if the ISIS succeeds in controlling territory from Syria to Iraq, it will draw Islamist extremists who will threaten Western interests much like what happened before September 11, 2001. If Iraq collapses, there could be a knock-on effect on the rest of the Middle East as well, given the artificiality of the entire region.

The caliphate threat : Why ISIS's rise should worry Americans

July 13, 2014


As Americans know well by now, a violent Muslim extremist group has overrun Tikrit, Mosul and other northern Iraqi territory liberated at great cost by U.S. and Iraqi troops and has proclaimed the founding of an Islamic state in much of northeastern Syria and large portions of Iraq. 

Its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has proclaimed himself the emir of a caliphate - recreating the Islamic state that once stretched over much of the Islamic world. The group has already set about changing its name from ISIS - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - to simply the Islamic State. 

Is this the final ending for our struggle in Iraq, and does it portend the outcome in Afghanistan? Was it avoidable? The historical evidence suggests that far from the climax, this thrust by ISIS looks like a coming attraction. And yes, it was avoidable. 

Restoring the caliphate has been on the list of things to do for Islamists virtually from the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1916. It was then that two European diplomats - Mark Sykes of Great Britain and Francois George Picot of France - drafted what was initially a secret agreement that drew the boundaries of the countries of the current Middle East that became reality after World War I. Islamists regard the Sykes-Picot Agreement as a boil on the face of Islam, and have made every effort to eradicate those boundaries and to unite Muslims under the banner of their religion and the rule of Sharia law. 

ISIS itself is a split-off from Al Qaeda, and differs from its parent only as to how to achieve the goal. Al Qaeda says that jihad, or holy war, must come first; ISIS has leaped ahead to proclaim the caliphate even as it wages war. 

DROPCAP HERE. Some American observers suggest we have nothing to fear in the ISIS-declared caliphate. It may have grand ambitions, they say, but is unlikely to truly threaten American interests. 

While we must understand its limitations, which are real, we ought not be so dismissive of its ambitions. ISIS has been funded generously by wealthy Sunnis in the Middle East, including some in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar that purport to be our allies. The organization has picked up material and human support as it has taken territory - robbing banks, seizing weapons abandoned by Iraqi troops and drawing recruits with its two most consistently reliable attractions: the religious message and a record of success. 

The religious message, contrary to what many in the West, including many in the Obama administration, have suggested, is not some fringe version with no basis in Islam; it is straight from the later passages in the Koran which, because they are later, have more authority than what precedes them, and urge, for example, that believers "fight . . . the disbelievers . . . and let them find harshness in you . . . ." 

Certainly as regards Iraq, the Sykes-Picot lines may in fact have been obliterated, although not entirely by ISIS. When the United States established a no-fly zone over the Kurdish regions in northern Iraq when Saddam Hussein was still in power, it helped establish the conditions for achieving a Kurdish state in that part of the world, and it is unlikely Iraq's central government will regain control of them any time soon. 

How should we understand the teenage jihadists' mind?

10 July 2014

Their threat is exaggerated, but even in liberal Britain many youngsters seem to be lured by the most authoritarian edicts of the Qur'an

'Invading armies, bloodthirsty occupations and drone bombings have been extremism's most potent recruiting sergeants.' Illustration by Satoshi Kambayashi

A friend of mine once gazed at her wayward teenagers and told me she could handle the usual drugs and sex. The one thing she couldn't deal with was them "getting religion". How awful must the agony be of parents who find their offspring vanished "to fight jihad" in the Middle East.

What could have induced two teenage boys from Cardiff and two 16-year-old Manchester girls to go to Syria? Young people have long felt the romance of distant wars – Spain in the 1930s or the French Foreign Legion – but surely not a Salafist dispute with the Alawite faction of Shiaism over the control of the caliphate.

Ten per cent of British children under five are Muslims, and will one day be teenagers. Many attend mosques teaching the Qur'an and Sharia law. How many instruct in pluralism and tolerance is moot. When I used to visit Muslim countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Iraq, I was impressed at how far their secular regimes, however dictatorial, guarded religious tolerance. The Ba'athists and others might be politically brutal, but they were foes of religious extremism: from Ataturk and Nasser to Assad and Saddam, they held the fundamentalists at bay.

The British author Ed Husain wrote movingly in his book The Islamist of the multi-faith liberalism he found in Damascus just a decade ago. Conventional wisdom then saw Islam as evolving, like Christianity, to respect a division between church and state. Scholars extolled the contemplative, pacifist passages in the Qur'an. To Husain London was far more dangerous than Damascus. The British authorities were reluctant to accept the warnings given by him and others of the inflammatory teaching of many imams in mosques and of groups such asHizb ut-Tahrir in colleges. He called it a "typical British willingness to turn a blind eye, avoid a fuss, and hope that somehow it will work out in the end".

The New Jihad : A new generation of Islamist extremists battle-hardened in Iraq and Syria sees the old guard of al Qaeda as too passive

July 11, 2014 

ISIS is rejecting the leadership of al Qaeda. What's the difference between the two radical jihadist organizations? WSJ's Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer 

Last week, a self-described heir to the Prophet Muhammad declared himself the supreme leader of a new Islamic state stretching from eastern Syria to northern Iraq. How did Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the nom de guerre of a mediocre Iraqi religious scholar in his mid-40s, outmaneuver al Qaeda as the new vanguard of jihadist ideology? How did he and his followers—armed with Kalashnikovs, smart phones and their ominous black banner—so suddenly take over the campaign to rid the Muslim world of Western and secular influence? 

The rise of Mr. Baghdadi and his newly proclaimed "caliphate" highlights what had been a closely held secret of the Sunni jihadist movement: a split in the ranks that had been festering for years. It pits a new generation of shock troops hardened by battle in Iraq and Syria against al Qaeda veterans who had built the movement but were increasingly seen as too passive, both politically and theologically. 

Mr. Baghdadi's proclamation was stunningly brazen. The leader of a faction of puritanical Sunni militants who have plagued Iraq with suicide bombings and beheadings, he was long considered a relatively inconsequential cog in the larger al Qaeda machine. Few people outside jihadist circles had heard of him, let alone seen him, before last month, when his followers in the militia known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, rolled across northern Iraq, conquering Mosul, one of the largest cities in the country. Then on July 4, Mr. Baghdadi emerged at Mosul's al-Nuri Grand Mosque, promising to restore to his Sunni brethren their "dignity, might, rights and leadership," according to a video of the sermon distributed by his group. 
Islamic State militants drive a tank in a June 30 parade in Syria's Raqqa province to celebrate the declaration of a "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria. Reuters 

Mr. Baghdadi's military offensive has startled the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies, who fear that it portends prolonged regional instability and terrorist attacks far afield from Iraq. Yet for the man leading what he now calls simply the Islamic State, the latest campaign has meant more than territorial conquest. Mr. Baghdadi's victories also mark the crescendo of a 10-year theological battle between veterans of al Qaeda, the core organization started by Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and now led by the Egyptian-born extremist Ayman al-Zawahiri, and its rebellious affiliate in Iraq, which Mr. Baghdadi took over in 2010. The prize: purported leadership of the world's estimated 1 billion Sunni Muslims and of a jihad supposedly waged in their name. 

British guilt over jihadis is for dummies

12 Jul 2014

In order to persuade young Muslims that their allegiance belongs here, this country will have to question its own casual self-loathing

The new issue of a Taliban magazine originating in Pakistan and Afghanistan urges Western recruits to leave behind their children and join the jihad 

In the midst of the deeply unfunny news coverage of the two young British jihadi volunteers who were arrested on terror charges when they arrived back from Syria, there was one moment of comic absurdity. It seems that before setting off on their mission, Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar found it necessary to place orders with Amazon for those invaluable scholarly treatises, Islam for Dummies, The Koran for Dummies and Arabic for Dummies. Hilarity aside, there is something important to be noted here.

First, these 22-year-olds were obviously not the products of some extreme mosque which had drilled them in Islamist fundamentalism. In fact, they were so untutored in the religion to which they were nominally affiliated that they had to equip themselves with a crash course in its basic principles. Nor had they come from families which were inclined to endorse their terrorist fantasies. Indeed, their own parents were so horrified when they learned of the men’s activities that they turned them in to the police. So we need to ask, as a matter of urgency, where it came from, this bizarre determination to be inducted into a campaign of seditious murder that (we can assume from their decision to plead guilty to the terror charges) they fully intended to bring home with them. What causes young men to risk their own lives, and those of who knows how many others, for a cause about which they know so little that they have to mug it up before they catch the plane?

Actually, this kind of thing is not unprecedented: romantic death cults involving nihilistic violence and garbled philosophy have a well-established attraction for the young. (Even suicide is a form of power, to choose your own death being the ultimate expression of omnipotence.) What is peculiarly dangerous about this version is that it has a global power base. This is not a handful of neo-Nazi fantasists plotting in a suburban garage, or a clique of misfit teenagers arming themselves for a school shooting spree. There are international, well-funded movements churning out professional recruitment videos designed specifically to invade the daydreams of the credulous Ahmeds and Sarwars of Britain and lure them into annihilation.

There has come to be something of a consensus that this is a problem that only the moderate Muslim community can deal with through its own moral authority. But parents as courageous and civically responsible as these two would-be jihadis had are not going to be ten-a-penny. And it is unfair for the society at large to wash its hands and leave it all to the families and the neighbours, most of whom are as new to all this as we are. If too many young Britons are drawn to a hateful, barely understood dogma because it seems to bring some magical sense of belonging, then something is clearly wrong with their lives in this country. There is apparently nothing on offer here that can compete with the promise of exaltation that is available for the price of a plane ticket.

Contrary to all the educational shibboleths of our time, young men are motivated by aggression and power: their dreams are of glorious triumph over rivals. If they are denied these things – even in the ritualised forms that used to be provided by an education system that understood how dangerous male adolescence was – then they will seek them wherever they can be found. Gang violence, with its criminal initiation rites, or Muslim fanaticism can fill a void, offering not just a licence for brutality but for banding together into hostile tribes. There was a time – before characteristically male behaviour was devalued in favour of the female virtues of empathy and conciliation – when these proclivities were dealt with quite effectively by combative team sports and military cadet corps. Institutionalised aggression was supervised by adult authority until the young men grew up and became responsible for their own impulses.

IRAN IN A HOT SPOTMullah Dreams: Not Counting Sheep

July 11, 2014

The ISIS offensive has so far played to Iran’s advantage, but poses a strategic nightmare for it in the long run as Iraq continues to dissolve. 

AJuly 3 Daily Beast column by Josh Rogin has been getting a lot of play over the past few days. Even my friend Michael Doran mentioned it—in order to get at a particularly egregious Tony Blinken remark—in his Brookings piece on Wednesday. Rogin’s main burden is to describe an argument allegedly going on inside the Obama Administration over the most useful attitude to take toward the Assad regime in Damascus in light of the ISIS breakout in Iraq.

The basic difference is simple, as these things go, and as Rogin apparently accurately sketches it out. One side reasons that if ISIS is the more urgent and bigger potential danger right now, whether because it is destroying the Iraqi state or poses a terrorist threat to the United States and its allies, then, according to the standard wisdom that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, the Assad regime becomes our objective ally. This is despite the fact that this would put us on the same side as Iran, Russia and, just by the way, Hizballah. But that’s fine because, as some believe, we need to bring Iran “in from the cold” and, with its current crop of leaders, we have the best chance to do so since the Iranian Revolution. In this view, the Iranian Revolution is ready now for its Thermidor phase, to invoke Crane Brinton’s classic language from 1938, and we have every interest in speeding that nebulous social impulse to political fruition.

The other side reasons that ISIS exists in whatever strength it now musters because of the Assad regime, which has behaved in such a way as to greatly exacerbate sectarian toxins in the region. As long as Assad and his Alawi thugs are there ruling in Damascus, Sunni jihadism will thrive; so he is not an objective ally, but rather he and his allies are the source of the problem in the first place. The solution, however hard to achieve, is to build up the Free Syrian Army and other non-jihadi Sunni opposition forces in Syria to change the battlefield situation so that some kind of political settlement can be arranged providing for Assad’s departure.

According to Rogin, Blinken, the Deputy National Security Advisor, epitomizes and leads the way for the pro-Assad side, which would accord with views Blinken has taken going back at least to 1999, when he served on the NSC staff and tried to persuade Bill Clinton that the Syria Option was the way to crack the nut of Arab-Israeli peace. (Then Senator John Kerry, it may be recalled, nursed a similar view at the time.) Here is what he said—the selfsame remark Doran quoted yesterday: “Anyone calling for regime change in Syria is frankly blind to the past decade; and the collapse of eastern Syria, and growth of Jihadistan, leading to 30 to 50 suicide attacks a month in Iraq.”

It’s not obvious who rallies the second point of view within the Administration, but Rogin quotes Robert Ford, the recently departed U.S. Ambassador to Syria:

The people who think Bashar al Assad’s regime is the answer to containing and eventually eliminating the Islamic-based threat do not understand the historic relationship between the regime and ISIS. [They] don’t understand the current relationship between Assad and ISIS and how they are working on the ground together directly and indirectly inside Syria. . . . The people who think Assad’s regime survival is essential have not explained how his survival would solve the problem of extremism in Syria.

Like Ambassador Ford, Ambassador Margaret Scobey before him and Ambassador Ted Kattouf before her, and really anyone who has paid day-job level attention to Syria in recent years, agree with this assessment. The Assad regime and its allies—especially Iran, if one is looking at the region in geopolitical terms—are the problem, not the solution. The fact that Rogin could not find anyone in a “higher” line position within the Administration to speak on behalf of this position for the record does suggest that the de facto pro-Assad point of view now rules the Administration roost. But since the policy is still that “he has to go”, it is sort of embarrassing to actually come right out and say this. And if that’s so, then Doran’s argument—that the Administration’s recent announcement of $500 million in aid to the FSA is a cynical “two-step”, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t form of bait-and-switch diplomacy designed just for show—is plausible.

Well, what to make of all this? I myself have mused in earlier days about bringing Iran in from the cold, too. That would be a huge game-changer, and for the better. When Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani says that the United States and Iran can cooperate over Iraq—as he said yesterday to Asahi Shimbun—it gets some people all fuzzy and dream-eyed. The Thermidor thesis might be right, too, and maybe Rafsanjani is its unlikely herald.

But it’s nothing to bet the rent on. Certainly, whenever I hear arguments urging the United States to be delicate and generous in the nuclear negotiations for the far-reaching impact it may have politically in Tehran, I cringe up real tight. That’s a sucker’s argument if there ever was one, and one generally proffered by only slightly veiled propagandists for Iran. It certainly is no way to negotiate the sticky details of a life-and-death scale, tentative agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.

Anyway, as we all know, hope is not a policy. Wanting Iran to be a normal, moderate, non-WMD-possessing actor that can deal pragmatically with the United States and others—maybe even Israel one day—is not the same as being able to have it. Ambassador Ford is right: Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies are the problem in Syria, and that is a problem which now looms over the entire region, radicalizing all politics, militarizing all tactics, poisoning hope for a normal future for the peoples of the Levant and beyond.