16 July 2014

For rejuvenating, not re-engineering, the Ganga

Published: July 16, 2014

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/for-rejuvenating-not-reengineeringthe-ganga/article6214337.eceRamaswamy R. Iyer

Narendra Modi needs to ensure that the objective of reviving the dying Ganga is not compromised by various sectoral plans, programmes and projects. Picture shows a stretch of the river in Varanasi. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

The forces of free market capitalism and the insatiable ‘developmental’ demand for energy will trump all environmental concerns as well as anxieties about the Ganga

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared his objective to rejuvenate the Ganga, anxiety over the state of the river gave way to a sense of relief; there was finally hope for a river in its death throes. Also, the Minister of Water Resources was a known champion of the Ganga. However, satisfaction quickly changed to dismay because of a number of disturbing indicators.


First, the new name for the Ministry of Water Resources is Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. What does ‘river development’ mean? We get a clue from the phrase used commonly in the Water Establishment, namely ‘water resource development.’ In the language of the water engineer, this means harnessing more water for use through dams, barrages, reservoirs, canals, etc. A part of that meaning gets carried over into the term ‘river development’ — where development means development for human use. There is also the allied term ‘river training’ which seems to suggest that a river is a household pet or circus animal waiting to be trained by its human masters. The addition of the term ‘River Development’ to the name of the Ministry is thus an indication of the intention to build more projects on rivers. How does that fit in with the term ‘rejuvenation’?

A second disturbing indicator is the reference by some to the Sabarmati model. Sabarmati was not rejuvenated; a 10.4 kilometre stretch of the river was used as a receptacle for water from the Narmada, i.e., water from another river was used to create an artificial river front for Ahmedabad. From which river will water be brought to the Ganga, and for what length of the Ganga? Is the intention merely to create an artificial water front for Varanasi? I am sure this is not the idea. Reference to the Sabarmati model is therefore misleading.

Third, there is talk of reviving the project announced in 2002 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee — the Inter-Linking of Rivers Project. Among the links forming part of that project is one from the Ganga to the Subarnarekha and the Mahanadi and then further southwards. How is a diversion of waters from the Ganga reconcilable with the idea of rejuvenation of the river?

Fourth, the ‘Save the Ganga’ movement has formulated the slogan of ensuring a nirmal (pollution-free) and aviral(uninterrupted) flow of the river. This phraseology has also been adopted by the IIT Consortium and the National Ganga River Basin Authority. However, a Cabinet Minister in the Modi government has declared the intention of building a series of structures on the river at intervals of 100 km. What will this do to the Ganga? What implications will this have for a nirmal-aviral flow?

Dams without responsibility

Meena Menon, Jul 16, 2014  |
Uttarakhand has to ensure that the quest for hydropower cannot come without a responsibility to preserve a region that is limping back to life after a calamity aggravated by unplanned human interventions neither scientifically assessed nor endorsed by the people of the region

The devastation in Uttarakhand had already happened much before the cataclysmic events of June 2013. The unprecedented rainfall and floods and loss of life drew attention to the alarming situation in a State known for its pristine forests and rivers. It also drew attention belatedly to the “bumper to bumper” dams in the mountains.

Construction on all dams in Uttarakhand was halted by the Supreme Court in August 2013 and on its instructions, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) appointed an expert body which said that 23 hydropower projects out of the 24 it was asked to examine would have an irreversible impact on the biodiversity of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins and should not be constructed.

In May, the Supreme Court reiterated its orders stopping work on the 24 hydropower projects examined by the body. While all this amounts to shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, it is a measure of recognition of the man-made destruction wrought by unplanned hydel power projects in a sensitive and fragile ecosystem.

Endangering the Ganga

The body’s report said, “The problem with the dams is their location in a high or very high biodiversity value area, some of them at elevations above 2,200-2,500 metres. These altitudes come in the paraglacial and glacial zones and in these zones, the rivers are capable of mobilizing tremendous amounts of sediments, under intense rainfall conditions, from the moraine left behind in the past by receding glaciers. In such situations, they cause havoc in the vicinity of dams as witnessed at the Vishnuprayag barrage site and below during the June 2013 disaster.”

The State of Uttarakhand is a part of the Ganga basin and rivers suffer from several depradations apart from dams in high places, including extensive pollution from untreated sewage. Despite huge amounts of money being spent, plans to clean up the river have failed miserably. An IIT-led consortium has been set up to prepare a master plan for the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), to restore its “wholesomeness,” as the extended summary of a draft Ganga River Basin Management plan says. Citing anthropogenic activities, it says dams and barrages have snapped her “longitudinal connectivity.”

While the recent Ganga Manthan event in Delhi attracted more than its fair share of sadhus, there were a few who spoke against dams and said that they were a threat to the river’s existence. But the focus was on keeping the river Ganga “aviral and nirmal” (continuous and unpolluted flow). Activists said only cleaning up the river will not restore it. Some pointed to the lack of studies of the entire river system and hydrological data which was a secret. Since the Ganga is glacier fed, the climate change impact in the Himalayan ecosystem and on the receding Gangotri and other glaciers are also of paramount importance.

In its report of March 2013, the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on Issues Relating to River Ganga says that the development of new hydro power projects has an impact on the environment, the ecology, the biodiversity, both terrestrial and aquatic, and economic and social life. Crucially, it says that in the upper reaches of the river — where the oxygenating abilities of the river are the highest — there are growing signs of contamination. This suggests that even here, water withdrawal for hydroelectricity is endangering the health of the Ganga. Implementation of the 69 hydro power projects will lead to 81 per cent of the Bhagirathi and 65 per cent of the Alaknanda getting affected. The IMG had considered the need to have portions of the river free of hydro projects and recommended that six rivers should be kept in pristine form.

Cumulative impact

In the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins, the report said that 17 dams have been commissioned with a total installed capacity of 1,851 MW. Fourteen projects of 2,538 MW capacity are in different stages of construction and 39 projects with an installed capacity of 4,644 MW are in different stages of planning. The expert body report said that if all the 450 dams in the State are completed, about 252 projects will each have an installed capacity of 5MW or more. The vast majority of them will divert rivers through tunnels to power houses downstream. Their combined impact will affect the landscape of Uttarakhand. The environment management plans of individual projects do not address the cumulative impacts of multiple projects in a river valley.

With dams proposed on major rivers for every 20 to 25 kilometre stretch, large fragments of these rivers could be left with minimal flow as almost all the river water is extracted for producing hydroelectricity, the body’s report has said. Prof. Ravi Chopra, chairperson of the body said that tunnelling is also controversial and leads to damage with natural springs being diverted and homes developing cracks. The government has only looked at the need to generate power and not the impact on the environment. On field visits, the body noticed scarred landscapes, dry river beds and a complete disappearance of riverine ecosystems due to submergence at existing and under construction large hydropower projects such as Tehri Stage I and Koteshwar on the Bhagirathi basin and the Srinagar dam in the Alaknanda basin.


If all the dams are built, studies indicate a loss of biodiversity. A National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) report, quoted by the body, has highlighted the effect of the Tehri dam on the unique self-purifying ability of Gangajal. It attributed this property to river sediments; data indicated that the blocking of sediments behind the Tehri dam diminished this property.

Extensive deforestation and diversion of forest land too has posed problems. The body found that 80,826.91 hectares of forests have been diverted for non-forest use in Uttarakhand since 1980. The diversion for hydropower production is 5,312.11 ha. Most of the diversion for roads and hydropower has been in Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts, the areas most affected in the June 2013 disaster.


People have been agitating against dams for years in the region, notably Tehri. In 2010-11, and for the first time for any project, there were three public hearings on the Devsari hydel project on the Pinder. After two hearings, the third one was accepted by the government, according to Vimalbhai of the Matu Jansangthan which led protests along with the Bhu-Swami Sangharsh Samiti. He says this was the first major protest after the ones against Tehri. A public hearing was also organised where many voiced their opposition to the dams and on the need to keep the undammed tributary of the Ganga that way. He referred to the pathetic status of the catchment area, and the lack of studies on water flows and climate change impacts. The people displaced by the Tehri dam are still to get land rights or basic amenities in their relocated homes, he added.

Local people who have borne the brunt of the devastation due to dams and floods and environmental groups have questioned the feasibility of dams. By all accounts there is cause for concern as reflected in many reports. Even as the Uttarakhand government proposes to approach the Supreme Court in a bid to get a green signal for dam construction, it must remember this. It has to ensure that the quest for hydropower cannot come without a responsibility to preserve a region that is limping back to life after a calamity aggravated by unplanned human interventions neither scientifically assessed nor endorsed by the people of the region.


Go easy on the oil


Jul 16, 2014

Mohan Guruswamy

The oil sector is a goose that lays a golden egg for the economy. We need a policy that will on one hand curb the appetite for oil consumption, and on the other hand will encourage domestic production.

The biggest millstone around India’s neck is its ever-increasing trade deficit. India had a trade deficit of $191 billion in 2013. Of this $109 billion was due to oil. India imports 82 per cent of its oil needs. Last month the price of the Indian basket of imported oil peaked to $114 a barrel when it was assumed that it would be $104.

Every additional dollar adds $1 billion to the oil bill. India is the world’s fourth largest consumer of energy with an oil equivalent of 563.5 million tonnes of oil a year. Its oil demand is growing by 5.1 per cent every year. Clearly there is an urgency to produce more oil and gas domestically. The road to our national salvation means closing in this trade deficit, which means reducing our energy import dependency quite significantly. I would have liked to see a tax holiday for 10 years for oil exploration and production, as was given for the power sector. But then, Gautam Adani and Anil Ambani are not in the oil sector.
There are plenty of oil and gas reserves in and around India. We have to make those fields viable by higher producer prices. There is an essential paradox we must understand here. The higher the prices the greater the reserves, as it make more reserves commercially feasible. The appetite for energy is always going to be huge in a growing economy. And if the government keeps subsidising consumption to the extent it does, that appetite will only keep growing. Last year the government subsidised oil consumption (under-recoveries of petroleum marketing public sector undertakings) to the extent of Rs 190,000 crore or over $30 billion at today’s exchange rates. Fertiliser subsidies and electricity subsidies further ramp up the subsidy bill.

Clearly getting an energy policy that does not drain national resources and drive the national exchequer into near bankruptcy is a national priority. We must also understand that subsidies are always at the cost of the poorest and the voiceless majority of this country. Every rupee given to a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) consumer is at the cost of a poor villager who gets nothing from the state. Since 85 per cent of the LPG is consumed in urban areas and mostly by the middle and upper classes, by no stretch of the imagination can it be called a merited or deserved subsidy. This is not like state provided free education, which is obviously a merited and well-deserved subsidy.

Shubhranshu Choudhary: Giving a Voice to a Ravaged, Neglected R

by Roff Smith

When the India-born BBC reporter went to cover conflict on his home turf, he realized that journalists were getting it wrong. The locals needed to tell the stories themselves.

As the South Asia producer for BBC TV and Radio during the 1990s and early 2000s, Shubhranshu Choudhary spent much of his time darting around the region covering wars and natural disasters, dropping into trouble spots—Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Kashmir, Afghanistan—interviewing local leaders, politicians, or NGO spokespersons, filing his story then moving on. 

It was an exciting life, full of foreign travel, helicopters, and headline events, far removed from the rural coal-mining backwater in India's Chhattisgarh state (part of Madhya Pradesh state until 2000) where he grew up, attending the local tribal school, or his first job reporting for a Hindi-language newspaper in Chhattisgarh's capital, Raipur, and learning English by listening to BBC Radio at night. He was well respected, well connected, with a broad view of news and world events—an accomplished practitioner of what he would later come to regard as an "aristocratic" form of journalism. 

Over the years, every now and then, he would get calls from people he knew back in his old neighborhood, urging him to come back to his roots and report on the issues behind the Maoist insurgencyheadquartered in the hills there, a conflict that had ravaged his region intermittently for decades. 

"To tell you the truth, I kind of ignored them," he recalls. "At the BBC we had a world audience and were more interested in covering bigger international wars." Eventually, though, when the Maoists killed 76 Indian police officers in an ambush, the story became a headline event and Choudhary found himself leading a BBC TV crew into Chhattisgarh. By then what had been a simmering guerrilla war was well on the way to becoming what the Indian government would describe as the single biggest internal security threat facing the nation. 

Listening to the Disenfranchised 

For Choudhary, covering a war on his home turf was a transforming experience. This was no foreign conflict, but one that was unfolding in an area he knew well and understood. From having grown up in a small railroad town and attended the school there as a child, he found he had many useful contacts within the Maoist ranks. They were keen to talk. And what they told him led him to question the role journalists, journalism, and powerful media organizations played in presenting stories to the public and in deciding what was news—and what was not. 

"I saw there were really two wars going on in Chhattisgarh," Choudhary recalled. One involved a small fraction of the rebels who were fanatically committed to communism. The other involved the vast majority of their followers, mainly poor, lower-caste tribal people, who had picked up rifles and joined the Maoists because they had run out of patience. "They could think of no other way to call attention to the grievances they had and the problems they were facing—things like poverty, lack of health care, poor sanitation, crime, corruption, unpaid wages, and the fact that nobody listens to them or seems to care," he said. "It wasn't communism they wanted but to have a voice, to be heard and taken seriously." 

It was the raw material of life and living, the stories of the streets, that fascinated him. He studied anthropology and drifted into journalism. 

Their stories caused him to reflect on his own childhood years in Chhattisgarh. Although he was in school with the other children in the town, his parents were of a Brahman caste, his father had a good job with the railways, and Choudhary had naturally enjoyed the benefits of an upper-caste rearing. Although the children all played together in the streets after school, there were social, economic, and linguistic barriers between them that were as unyielding as brick walls. 

Choudhary's parents had held high aspirations for him. They wanted him to become a professional man, a doctor or an engineer, and saw to it that he had every opportunity to do so. He, on the other hand, had no such ambition. It was the raw material of life and living, the stories of the streets, that fascinated him. He studied anthropology instead and drifted into journalism. 

Don’t Beat War Drums, Go For Drum Diplomacy


The Centre should not repeat mistakes and alienate Adivasis in the red corridor

Domino effect The State’s use of force during the Salwa Judum days ended up creating more Maoists than resolving the conflict. Photo: Tehelka Archives

War drums are getting louder since the arrival of the NDA government as far as plans to tackle the Maoist violence in central India are concerned. Chhattisgarh will be given 10,000 extra paramilitary troops. Bastar has been chosen as the next concentrated area of operation. Mobile tower installations for Bastar will be expedited. Helicopters will now be allowed in anti-Maoist operations.

These are some of the news reports we have been reading lately.

The Maoists must be very happy.

Beginning in 2005, the Chhattisgarh government ran a disastrous military campaign called Salwa Judum with the Centre’s help. Though it was shown as a spontaneous people’s movement, it ended up strengthening the Maoists as never before. Top Maoist leaders wrote articles in their internal magazines in Gondi language with headlines like, “Thank you, Salwa Judum”.

One of their leaders told me, “We called our movement People’s War but Salwa Judum made it a real people’s war. Our recruitment is up many times. Now, there is no chance of fence-sitting for Adivasis and obviously a huge majority has chosen us.”

I remember meeting an old Adivasi man during one of my trips to a Maoist-controlled area. He must have been 80.

Feeling that he will tell the truth as he may be uncaring of threats from the Maoists at this ripe age, I asked him, “Who is better — Dadas (as the Maoists are called in Bastar), or the State?”

Dadas, he replied without hesitation. Then he added, “We need water, medicine and schools, and we know Dadas can’t give us that. They have not given us these things in 30 years, but the State only sends the police, who beat us unnecessarily. That’s why I say Dadas are better. They at least don’t beat us without warning.”

During the Salwa Judum years, the State could not kill more than 50 uniformed Maoists. However, it killed more than 1,000 civilians (around 200 of them were non-uniformed Maoist cadres) and created thousands of new Maoists in return. If the recent reports are correct, the State seems to have learnt very little.

“Bastar is not Kashmir,” say CRPF officers who are posted in the remote areas of Bastar and have served in Kashmir and the Northeast before. “The forest is very thick here. There is almost no direct fight here as we faced in Kashmir. It is impossible to encircle the whole area, it is too big. And the most important point is, we get no intelligence. You have given us Co-BRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), but that has no eyes.”

Defence Allotments Deficient in Threat Perception

14 Jul , 2014


India boosted defence spending by 12.5 percent in 2014-15 over the previous year in a budget presented on 10 July and further opened the domestic weapons industry to foreign investment to help rebuild the military and narrow the gap with China.

The present defence expenditure of 1.78 per cent of the GDP is just not sufficient for the modernisation of acutely deficient defence forces when the threat perception from our adversaries is looming large.

India has been the world’s top arms buyer for the last three years, trying to replace an ageing Soviet-era military with modern weapons as a deterrent to a rising China, with which it fought a war more than half a half century ago.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley set the military budget at Rs.2.29 lakh crore or 2.29 trillion Indian rupees ($38.35 billion) for 2014-15, 50 billion rupees more than what the previous government agreed in an interim budget earlier this year.

The capital budget went up from Rs 89,588 crore in February’s interim allocation to Rs 94,588 crore. The revenue budget remains Rs 1,34,412 crore and Rs 1,000 crore was allocated for the rollout of the one-rank-one-pension policy announced by the previous government.

The capital budgets of the army, navy and air force stayed at roughly the same levels allocated in February. The army will have Rs 20,665 crore for modernisation; the navy Rs 22,312 crore and the air force will have Rs 31,818 crore for new equipment.

There has been a massive increase in funding to the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). DRDO’s capital allocation of Rs 5,985 crore, provided in February’s interim Budget, has been increased by almost 60 per cent to Rs 9,298 crore — the largest jump in DRDO’s history.

This takes R&D in the defence sector to Rs 15,283 crore, almost seven per cent of the Rs 2,29,000 crore-defence budget. DRDO, which has been receiving about 5 per cent of the defence budget, has long pleaded for 7 to 8 per cent.

The capital allocation for the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which will be used for modernising the ministry’s network of 41 factories that manufacture arms, ammunition and equipment for the military, was doubled. The OFB’s allocation of Rs 530 crore has been raised to Rs 1,207 crore.

Coming late to the war


Christophe Jaffrelot | July 16, 2014

For years, the Pakistan army tried to negotiate with the Islamists of the FATA.
In FATA, Pak army may be on verge of a paradigm shift. But it might be too late.

Earlier this month, the Pakistan army launched a new offensive in North Waziristan, which came close on the heels of unprecedented air strikes aimed at Islamist groups. This troop deployment is different from previous ones in its sheer magnitude and its targets.

North Waziristan is one of the best known Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a region which was demarcated by the British to act as a buffer against Afghanistan, as Russia’s southward expansion in the Great Game had set off several wars. The British never managed to establish any real control over the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Not only was the Durand Line disputed by the Pashtun tribes straddling the “border”, but some of those located to the east also continued to swear allegiance to the Afghan rulers.

After 1947, taking into account this sense of independence, the Karachi government followed the path trodden by the British: it relied on local leaders, the maliks, to whom it granted an annual stipend and considerable autonomy. As the name implies, the agencies of the FATA come directly under the authority of Pakistan’s president, who delegates power to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to oversee the administration. But at the level of each agency, power lies mainly in the hands of the political agent (PA, whose name and scope of action have not changed since the British), who enjoys extensive authority under the British Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), which remained in effect after 1947. According to this body of laws, the PA, a bureaucrat appointed by the governor, can punish any tribe as he sees fit. He can imprison whoever he likes for three years without having to offer justification.

Imtiaz Gul, an expert on the FATA, believes that “The main reason for the popularity of successive Islamist movements in the tribal areas stems from the draconian system of the FCR… the search for a fair justice system and the craving for equal citizenship has come to be synonymous with sharia” (The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier). Many Islamist groups, in fact, claim the role of dispenser of justice, not only because they purportedly redress the wrongs done to the downtrodden, but also because they combat inequalities. This was one of their justifications for the recent assassinations of maliks, who have traditionally supported the cause of Pashtun nationalism inherited from Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

In the 1980s, Islamist movements began to prosper in the FATA because of the anti-Soviet jihad. At times, up to 40,000 people crossed the Durand Line daily at Torkham in the Khyber agency, one of the border crossing points, and in 1988, 104 of the 278 refugee tented villages in the Pashtun areas were in the FATA (“Demographic Reporting on Afghan Refugees in Pakistan”, Nancy Duprée). Thus, a sort of osmosis took place, closely meshing the FATA movements and the Afghan jihad, a form of integration first reflected in the development of new madrasas. Pakistani jihadist groups also set up their headquarters and their training camps in Wana, South Waziristan, and in Mir Ali, North Waziristan, and on the Afghan side, in Khost, where al-Qaeda had camps in the late 1980s.

Warplanes: The Perils Of Pakistan

July 12, 2014

Pakistan wants more helicopter gunships, in particular it wants some new helicopters rather than used stuff to supplement, and replace the 35 AH-1S and AH-1F gunships it already has. Three of these have been lost in the last few years in the tribal territories where helicopter gunships are badly needed, heavily used and frequently shot at. 

For years Pakistan tried to obtain the 6.6 ton AH-1W model from the United States. This would have been a major upgrade for the Pakistani helicopter gunship force. Developed by the U.S. Marine Corps the W model was configured for naval use, and has two engines and protection against sea water corrosion. Like the AH-1F model used by Pakistan, the AH-1W has a crew of two and is armed with a 20mm, 3 barrel, autocannon (with 750 rounds) and can carry eight TOW missiles or 38 70mm unguided rockets. Typical sorties last about three hours (twice that of the AH-1F). The Pakistanis are also equipping their gunships with night vision (thermal imaging) equipment. 

The U.S. refused to supply Pakistan with the W model or any other modern versions. This included the more recent AH-1Z. The major user of the AH-1W, the U.S. Marine Corps, has remanufactured its 180 AH-1T/W attack helicopters into AH-1Z Viper models. This upgrade includes a new 4 bladed composite rotor system, transmission, strengthened structural components, and modern digital cockpit avionics. The first ones entered service in 2011. 

The U.S. has turned down Pakistani requests for any of these AH-1 models in an effort to persuade Pakistan to be more cooperative in dealing with Islamic terrorism. The Pakistanis repeatedly refuse and have pretty much given up on getting more AH-1s from the United States. Meanwhile Pakistan is seeking other helicopter gunships from China (WZ-10), Turkey (T-129) and Russia (Mi-35) as well as heavily armed commercial helicopters equipped with electronics similar to those used on gunships. None of these other options has worked out, not yet anyway. Part of the problem is that Pakistan has little cash to spend on new or used helicopter gunships and is hoping for a gift, or big discount from someone. There’s not a lot of that around for Pakistan, which provides sanctuary to Islamic terrorists who are hostile to all the nations that could provide new helicopters.


By Tamer Badawi

This article addresses the potential threats posed by ISIS trans-regionally to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India (as well as China) through several scenarios and questioning the likelihood of an ISIS East-pivot.

Maliki’s strategy of subjugating Sunnis in Iraq that boosted ISIS’ moves in Iraq could have far-reaching implications beyond the Middle East, which is already witnessing a process of re-configuration aimed at remapping the region and altering Sykes–Picot boundaries.

ISIS’s robust expansion in Iraq is raising concerns over a similar trans-regional scenario. Afghanistan, a country that is threatened by a looming crisis of legitimacy over the alleged fraud in the presidential elections, could be vulnerable to a spillover from Iraq.

Although Afghani Taliban is ideologically different from ISIS, gaps could be de factobridged if the situation proved to be suitable for Afghani Taliban to make strategic inroads on the ground. However, while until the present, the current moment Afghani Taliban has not shown any signs of allegiance to ISIS in this context. Lately, it has been reported that Afghani Taliban has been warning ISIS of extremism.

Nevertheless, it seems that ISIS’s psychological boost has reached Pakistan, a notorious safe haven for Islamic militants. It was reported that Tehreek-e-Khilafat, an Islamist militant group in Pakistan (Operating under the umbrella of TTP) has pledged its allegiance to ISIS. The group declared it will raise the flag of ISIS above South Asia and Khurasan (comprising parts of Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan).

These developments are definitely raising Islamabad’s concerns. The Pakistani military has been carrying out an operation against Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the North Waziristan Tribal Agency after the negotiations between the state and the militants reached a deadlock. If the TTP follows its offshoot Tehreek-e-Khilafat in joining ISIS, it will be deemed as a menacing precedent not only to Pakistan, but also to Iran and India.

According to one of the published reports, analysts assert that there are proper grounds for ISIS’s influence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions, pointing to the fact that 234 militant groups already operate in Pakistan, about 60 of which seem eager to join ISIS.

Israeli Resumes Attacks on the Gaza Strip After Hamas Rejects Ceasefire

July 15, 2014

Brief Lull in Gaza Ends as Rockets Fly and Israel Resumes Strikes

Jodi Rudoren and Anne Barnard

New York Times, July 15, 2014

JERUSALEM — Egypt’s proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas collapsed Tuesday only a few hours after the Israelis had accepted it, as Palestinian militants in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets into Israeli territory. Israel responded with another round of airstrikes in Gaza, where eight days of Israeli bombings have killed nearly 200 people.

Israel announced at 9 a.m. Tuesday that it had accepted the Egyptian initiative unilaterally but abandoned it after nearly 50 rockets were lobbed into Israel from Gaza in what was assumed to be a rejection by Hamas and its affiliates. By 3 p.m., Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, confirmed that “we’ve resumed some striking in Gaza.”

The Israeli military said in a statement that its resumed aerial assaults had hit 30 targets, including 20 concealed rocket launchers, tunnels, weapons storage facilities and “operational infrastructure” of Islamic Jihad, a Gaza-based militant group aligned with Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel had said earlier that he would respond with force if the rockets did not stop.


Smoke from rockets fired toward Israel from near Gaza City on Tuesday. CreditThomas Coex/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“We agreed to the Egyptian proposal in order to give the opportunity to deal with demilitarization of the strip from missiles, rockets and tunnels through diplomatic means,” Mr. Netanyahu said after a meeting with the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “But if Hamas does not accept the cease-fire proposal, as it looks now, Israel will have all the international legitimacy in order to achieve the desired quiet.”

*** Share Gaza Situation Report

Monday, July 14, 2014

By George Friedman

The current confrontation in Gaza began June 12 after three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the West Bank the month before. Israel announced the disappearance June 13, shortly thereafter placing blame on Hamas for the kidnappings. On June 14, Hamas fired three rockets into the Hof Ashkelon region. This was followed by Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Jerusalem region. On July 8, the Israelis announced Operation Protective Edge and began calling up reservists. Hamas launched a longer-range rocket at Tel Aviv. Israel then increased its airstrikes against targets in Gaza.

At this point, it would appear that Israel has deployed sufficient force to be ready to conduct an incursion into Gaza. However, Israel has not done so yet. The conflict has consisted of airstrikes and some special operations forces raids by Israel and rocket launches by Hamas against targets in Israel.

From a purely military standpoint, the issue has been Hamas's search for a deterrent to Israeli operations against Gaza. Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009 disrupted Gaza deeply, and Hamas found itself without any options beyond attempts to impose high casualties on Israeli forces. But the size of the casualties in Cast Lead did not prove a deterrent.

Hamas augmented its short-range rocket arsenal with much longer-range rockets. The latest generation of rockets it has acquired can reach the population center of Israel: the triangle of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, these are rockets, not missiles. That means they have no guidance system, and their point of impact once launched is a matter of chance. Given these limits, Hamas hoped having a large number of rockets of different ranges would create the risk of substantial Israeli civilian casualties, and that that risk would deter Israel from action against Gaza.

The threat posed by the rockets was in fact substantial. According to senior Israeli Air Force officers quoted on the subject, Israel lacked intelligence on precisely where the rockets were stored and all the sites from which they might be launched. Gaza is honeycombed with a complex of tunnels, many quite deep. This limits intelligence. It also limits the ability of Israeli airborne munitions from penetrating to their storage area and destroying them.

U.S. Sees Risks in Assisting a Compromised Iraqi Force

JULY 13, 2014 

Volunteers trained with the Iraqi Army last week. A classified report says Iraqi troops are dependent on Shiite militias. CreditAhmed Saad/Reuters

WASHINGTON — A classified military assessment of Iraq’s security forces concludes that many units are so deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran that any Americans assigned to advise Baghdad’s forces could face risks to their safety, according to United States officials.

The report concludes that only about half of Iraq’s operational units are capable enough for American commandos to advise them if the White House decides to help roll back the advances made by Sunni militants in northern and western Iraq over the past month.

Adding to the administration’s dilemma is the assessment’s conclusion that Iraqi forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki are now heavily dependent on Shiite militias — many of which were trained in Iran — as well as on advisers from Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.

Shiite militias fought American troops after the United States invaded Iraq and might again present a danger to American advisers. But without an American-led effort to rebuild Iraq’s security forces, there may be no hope of reducing the Iraqi government’s dependence on those Iranian-backed militias, officials caution.

The findings underscore the challenges ahead for the Obama administration as it seeks to confront militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has seized major cities in Iraq, all but erased the Syrian-Iraqi border and, on Sunday, staged a raid less than an hour’s drive from Baghdad.

At the center of the administration debate is whether to send more military advisers, weaponry and surveillance systems — and, if so, in what numbers, at what cost and at what levels of risk — to a country that American combat troops left in 2011, but that now teeters on the brink of collapse.

While sending American advisers to Iraq would expose them to risks and could embroil them again in conflict, waiting to act may also limit the administration’s ability to counter ISIS and encourage the formation of a more inclusive government in Baghdad.

“There’s risks to allowing things just to try to resolve themselves, particularly when there are interests that could affect our country,” Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week when asked why the Americans should not let the warring factions in Iraq fight one another.

The Pentagon’s decision this month to rush 200 troops, plus six Apache helicopter gunships and Shadow surveillance drones, to the Baghdad airport was prompted by a classified intelligence assessment that the sprawling complex, the main hub for sending and withdrawing American troops and diplomats, was vulnerable to attack by ISIS fighters, American officials have now disclosed.

Japan’s New Defense Posture

By Lionel Pierre Fatton
July 10, 2014

What are the implications of Japan’s constitutional reinterpretation on regional security dynamics? 

The Cabinet of Prime 

Minister Shinzo Abe approved on July 1 a reinterpretation of the Japanese Constitution, extending the scope of the right to self-defense to include the defense of an ally under attack. Past governments have maintained that Japan possessed the right to collective self-defense under international law, more specifically under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, but that Article 9 of its pacific Constitution prevented the country from exercising this right because doing so would go beyond the minimum necessary for national defense.

Assuming that the set of bills related to Japan’s defense policy to be submitted to the Diet next year is approved, the new government interpretation enables Japan to use the Self-Defense Forces if “the country’s existence is threatened, and there are clear dangers that the people’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would be overturned” due to an armed attack on Japan or “countries with close ties.” The two other conditions for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense are the lack of “other appropriate means” and the obligation to keep the use of armed forces to the minimum required to guarantee Japan’s security.

One day after the constitutional reinterpretation was approved the Asahi Shimbun stated that July 1, 2014, will remain the “darkest day in the history of Japan’s constitutionalism.” Certainly democratic values seem to be under considerable pressure in Japan. Less than two months after having declared his intention to reinterpret the Constitution, Abe put his plan into action, paying scant attention to an important segment of the population, civil society, or the political opposition. According to a poll conducted by Kyodo News after the reinterpretation,54.4 percent opposed the change of interpretation and only 34.6 percent supported it, while the disapproval rate of the government reached 40 percent for the first time since Abe came back to premiership in December 2012.

In addition to domestic concerns, one may wonder at the implications of the reinterpretation for Japan’s security policy and on regional dynamics. It is argued below that these implications are going to be very important as Japan has recovered the necessary legal flexibility to pursue meaningful international cooperation in military and defense-related affairs. This buttresses the argument that the recent constitutional reinterpretation, with its extensive repercussions for the country, should not be undertaken without amending of the Constitution, and thus without having consulted the population beforehand through a national referendum.



he ruins of Saint Elijah's Monastery founded in 595 AD south of Mosul by the Christian monk Mar Elia. Photo by Doug, Wikipedia Commons. 

“The sound of the shelling was terrifying. In my street no-one was left. We were the last family to leave,” explained Janda, an Assyrian Christian from Iraq.

Her family of six fled the town of Qaragosh (also known as Bakhida and Hamdaniya) 30km east of Mosul, in northern Iraq, leaving their home in the middle of the night.

Travelling by car, they crossed into the capital of semi-autonomous Kurdistan, where they sought shelter in a sports hall in the mostly-Christian district of Ainkawa, in the Kurdish capital Erbil.

Janda is one of an estimated 10,000 Christians who fled from the Nineveh Plain – the region to the north and east of Mosul – to Erbil in the space of days in late June to escape militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and their clashes with Kurdish armed forces (Peshmerga). The aerial bombing campaign of the Iraqi Security Forces against ISIS has added to the concern.

“We are scared because we have heard rumours that ISIS decapitates people,” said Ammar, another Christian, who also left Qaragosh with his wife Iman and their two children, and found refuge in a cramped hall. “What happened to Christians in Syria – we expect the same fate,” he added.

In recent months reports have come out of Syria of churches being burned and Christian communities being attacked and forced to convert to Islam. While not all of them are true, they have stoked deep fear in the Iraqi Christian community.

So far there has been only minor damage to churches inside Mosul – a statue of the Virgin Mary removed and some black ISIS flags hung in place of crosses – though last week two nuns and three orphans went missing, feared kidnapped.

ISIS began its military offensive into northern Iraq in early June, seizing control of large sections of the provinces of Nineveh, Salaheddin and Kirkuk, to add to the swathes of Anbar Province it has held since the turn of the year. On 29 July, it declared the formation of an Islamic caliphate.

Although people of all faiths and ethnicities are among the 1.2 million people who have been displaced since January, rights groups warn that Christians – along with Iraq’s other religious minorities such as Shabak, Turkomans, and Yazidis – are particularly vulnerable to ISIS and also to any political and geographical splits in the country that may come about in the future.

“A clear pattern is emerging whereby ISIS is deliberately targeting Iraq’s minorities as well as others suspected of opposing the group, singling them out for detention and abduction,” explained Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, currently in northern Iraq.

“Every day I meet families desperate to find their sons, husbands and brothers who have been taken by ISIS groups and whose fate and whereabouts are unknown. Most do not want the names of their missing relatives mentioned because they fear for their safety.”

Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counter-terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), agreed that while atrocities were “happening on all sides”, minorities were being “singled out” by ISIS, which follows strict Sunni Muslim ideals.

“Religious minorities are doubly targeted; they are victims of both the general fighting and attacks because of their beliefs,” she said. “This has been a traditional pattern in Iraq, but during conflict it increases and these people are panicked. Right now we are seeing an acceleration of a slow-motion mass displacement of religious minorities,” she added.

ISIS Propaganda Mags Urge Suicide ‘Mayhem’

The violent fantasies of jihadi propaganda magazines

To get a sense of how ISIS sees itself—and how it wants to be seen—it’s worth taking a glance at the terror group’s online English-language magazines.

The designers have a lot of decisions to make. What’s the proper placement for a photograph of an Iraqi soldier with his head destroyed by AK-47 fire? What color pallet properly reflects the Islamic khalifah established in formerly Iraqi and Syrian territory?

Islamic State Report, Islamic State News and Dabiq magazine is ISIS’s message to the world. The publications—available here—clearly show inspiration from Inspire, the digital Al Qaida magazine that carried interviews with prominent jihadis while gloating about the 9/11 attacks—and printing instructions on how to make D-I-Y explosives.

Like Inspire, the point is to broadcast the group’s message to sympathetic ears. There’s also plenty of gruesome jihadi war porn.

Photo features in Islamic State Report serve to promote the idea that Syrians and Iraqis are happy living under ISIS rule. But no Syrians or Iraqis are ever quoted. To further press its message, the magazines show images of shopkeepers with deer-caught-in-headlights expressions next to those of dead Iraqi soldiers.

Dabiq magazine

Global war

Unless anyone thinks ISIS will keep its war contained in the region, the group’s magazines heavily implies otherwise. ISIS sees itself engaged in a Manichean struggle of good versus evil, with the latter represented by America and Russia—both seen as controlled by a global Jewish conspiracy.

The first edition of the group’s Dabiq magazine quotes ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi’s belief that the world is “divided into two camps.” The first is “the camp of Islam and faith,” with the latter being “the camp of kufr (disbelief) and hypocrisy.”

As Militants Close In, Where Is Iraq’s Air Power?

Jul 12, 2014 

How the U.S. screwed up the reconstruction of Iraqi military aviation 

How did the United States screw up the Iraqi air force this badly? Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria occupy much of western Iraq, and so far Baghdad’s warplanes have put up only modest resistance.

In desperation, the Iraqi government organized a crash purchase of 12 ex-Russian Su-25 attack planes … and welcomed three Iranian Su-25s to Baghdad to help fly top cover for local ground troops.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Prior to 1991, Iraq flew one of the largest and most modern air forces in the Middle East. Effectiveness varied, but it had performed well at times in the Iran-Iraq War and was generally capable of undertaking all of the basic tasks that we expect air forces to perform.

The Iraqi air force consisted primarily of Soviet aircraft, but also included a selection of French fighters, including the Mirage F-1.

The Gulf War devastated the force, but didn’t completely destroy it. The coalition concentrated on destroying Iraqi aircraft on the ground and in the air, but a significant fraction of the fleet escaped to Iran, where the Iranians interned, cannibalized and re-used it to good effect.

Despite the impact of the Gulf War and long-term sanctions, the Iraqis could still maintain presence in the air up until 2003. An Iraqi MiG-25 shot down an American Predator drone over the northern no-fly zone in 2002.

But the 2003 U.S.-led invasion finished off the remnant Iraqi air force … and then the subsequent occupation really did a number on Baghdad’s potential to rebuild. Either the Iraqis or the Americans destroyed nearly all of the remaining aircraft, and the United States formally abolished the air force when it disbanded the rest of the Iraqi military in 2003.

Iraq is not a poor country, and it lives in a dangerous neighborhood. Baghdad needs military aviation, it can afford to buy and maintain advanced aircraft and it’s had an air force in the past. There’s no reason that Iraq should have gone for 11 years without usable, sophisticated military aviation.

The fault for this failure lies almost entirely with the United States.

The abolition of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s air arm left the country without even the nucleus for reconstruction. As with the Iraqi army, the U.S. authorities decided to abandon the vast reserve of human and organizational capital associated with Iraqi air power … and to start over from scratch.

It’s easy to appreciate why the U.S. was reluctant to rebuild the force from the available foundations. Hussein’s air force had deep-seated problems with training and maintenance, and in any case was shot through with Baathist sympathizers.

What, Exactly, Is Hamas Trying to Prove?

JUL 13 2014

Seeking to understand why Hamas fires rockets at the civilians of its militarily powerful neighbor

The Iron Dome intercepts a rocket from Gaza in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Mahmoud Abbas, the sometimes moderate, often ineffectual leader of the Palestinian Authority, just asked his rivals in Hamas a question that other bewildered people are also asking: “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?”

The Gaza-based Hamas has recently fired more than 500 rockets at Israeli towns and cities. This has terrorized the citizenry, though caused few casualties, in large part because Israel is protected by the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

In reaction to these indiscriminately fired missiles, Israel has bombarded targets across Gaza. Compared with violent death rates in other parts of the Middle East, the number of dead in Gaza is small. (More than 170,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war to date.) But it is large enough to suggest an answer to Abbas’s question: Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.

The men who run Hamas, engineers and doctors and lawyers by training, are smart enough to understand that though they wish to bring about the annihilation of the Jewish state and to replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood state (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood), they are in no position to do so. Hamas is a militarily weak group, mostly friendless, that is firing rockets at the civilians of a powerful neighboring state.

Dead Palestinians represent a propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true.

The Israeli military has the operational capability to level the entire Gaza Strip in a day, if it so chooses. It is constrained by international pressure, by its own morality, and by the understanding that the deaths of innocent Palestinians are not in its best political interest. The men who run Hamas—the ones hiding in bunkers deep underground, the ones who send other people’s children to their deaths as suicide bombers—also understand that their current campaign will not bring the end of Israel’s legitimacy as a state.

Israeli Air Defense Missiles Shoot Down Hamas Drone Off Israeli City of Ashdod

Associated Press
July 14, 2014

Israel Says It’s Downed Drone Along Southern Coast

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said it downed a drone on Monday along the country’s southern coastline, the first time it encountered an unmanned aircraft since the campaign against Gaza Strip militants began last week.

The drone was launched from Gaza and was shot down near the southern city of Ashdod, the military said. Hamas claimed it launched several drones Monday at Israel, without immediately providing details on their missions.

Since the latest bout of fighting began last Tuesday, militants have fired nearly 1,000 rockets at Israel, causing some injuries and damage to property, but no fatalities among Israelis. By contrast, 172 Palestinians have died as a result of Israel’s air attacks.

But the use of drones with an offensive capacity could potentially inflict significant casualties — something the rockets from Gaza have failed to do, largely because of the success of the military’s ‘Iron Dome’ air defense system in shooting them down.

"Hamas is trying everything it can to produce some kind of achievement and it is crucial that we maintain our high state of readiness," Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said. "The shooting down of a drone this morning by our air defense system is an example of their efforts to strike at us in any way possible."

Israel began airstrikes Tuesday against militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in what it says was a response to heavy rocket fire out of the densely populated territory. The military says it has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes since then, while Palestinian militants have launched nearly 1,000 rockets at Israel.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza says 172 people have been killed, including dozens of civilians. There have been no Israeli fatalities, though several people have been wounded, including a teenage boy who was seriously injured by rocket shrapnel on Sunday.

The military said Monday’s drone was launched from Gaza and was shot down in mid-flight by a Patriot surface-to-air missile in mid-flight near Ashdod.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the current Israeli operation could last for “a long time” and that the military was prepared “for all possibilities.” That includes a wide-ranging Gaza ground operation, which would likely cause heavy casualties in the coastal strip.