27 July 2014

The ‘Why’ of Rethinking Indian Nuclear Deterrence!

25 Jul , 2014

Indian nuclear decision making was always in the global political context. These were almost exclusively political decisions with the armed forces not in the loop. The 1974 Pokhran I tests were in response to the emergent Sino-US quasi alliance of 1972 (Shanghai declaration by Nixon and Chou En Lai) that threatened the withdrawal of the implicit American nuclear ‘umbrella’. The 1998 tests were in the context of CTBT that was to be universally applicable which would have left India permanently as a Tier II power. The other context was emerging multi-polar world.

A rising China which has adopted revanchist policies in its neighbourhood was a also a major factor in that decision, as has become clear now. In both the cases the emphasis was exclusively on preserving the ‘political independence of decision making’ and had very little if any, security linkages. Neither in 1974 nor in 1998 was there any immediate security threat to the country, nuclear or otherwise.

Many Indians nostalgically point out at the proactive Israeli strategy against terror attacks but fail to appreciate that India does not enjoy that kind of superiority over Pak.

Given this context it is futile to rue the fact that the military was never a part of the decision making since the decisions were guided by political and long term considerations. Both the actions had the Sino-US combine as their intended targets.

Close to six years after India’s Pokhran I test of 1974, India’s nuclear strategy remained a political strategy with global aims. This ought to have changed when under the Reagan administration (the US and its then ally China) brought about/facilitated Pakistani nuclear capability to ‘balance’ the then Soviet ally, India. The US and China have thus done permanent damage to the sub-continent by creating a regional nuclear flashpoint. Unlike India, Pakistan is not a ‘natural state’ with constant questions by its own citizens about its existence. It is at the same time a revisionist state that wants a part of India (J&K) and wants to forever redress the adverse balance of power in the sub-continent.

Thus in the 1980s, India’s nuclear strategy acquired a clear security linkage, yet the political and military elite continued with the earlier thinking and promoted concepts like ‘nuclear ambiguity’ and ‘recessed deterrence’ to name a few. In the context of nuclear weapons, the first is positively dangerous as ‘ambiguity’ can lead to miscalculation and detracts from the concept of ‘deterrence’ that is central to the nuclear zero sum game with armed peace as a saddle point. The less said about ‘recessed or hidden deterrence’ the better.

Can India Become a Multilateral Maritime Leader?

July 25, 2014

In addition to maritime bilateralism, India should expand its multilateral leadership.

As Akhilesh Pillalamarri reports on The Pulse, India, Japan, and the United States are set to begin the latest iteration of the Malabar series of naval exercises. The event is notable for involving three of the most capable navies from democratic countries that operate in the broader Asia-Pacific region. The exercise is a source of anxiety for China as it’s a stark reminder of what Asian waters could look like should its rivals work together to contain it. In 2007 and 2009, China protested Japan’s participation in what was originally envisaged as a bilateral exercise between the United States and India. For India, Malabar represents a step in the right direction. Despite its improving relations with China on the economic front, it is important for India to invest in the future of Asia’s maritime security order.

The Malabar exercise itself is not concerned with broad strategic cooperation, but merely tactical issues, including improving the interoperability of the participating navies in disaster relief, anti-piracy, humanitarian and other missions. However, India rarely participates in these sorts of multilateral exercises in any serious way. Malabar has generally been an exception to this rule. Furthermore, that India took the initiative this year in inviting Japan represents a step in the right direction. Indian naval analyst Uday Bhaskar notes that New Delhi’s initiative is “a reflection of the new strategic environment where there is a degree of unease in India and elsewhere over Chinese activities.”

Similarly, as China has ramped up its assertive behavior in the East and South China Seas since 2012, these sorts of multilateral exercises are a good reminder of the Asian powers that will stand in the way of Chinese attempts to unilaterally revise the status quo. The countries participating in Malabar might allege that the intention is not to contain China, but in reality, the fact that the exercise comprises three powerful Asian democracies vested in the survival of the status quo in the Asia-Pacific is no coincidence.

Outside of Malabar, India ought to take up the banner of leading multilateral exercises in the Indian Ocean, its own strategic backyard. As Asia’s second largest country, India could take the lead in hosting an Indian Ocean exercise in the vein of the United States’ RIMPAC exercise which takes place biannually in the Pacific Ocean. In February of this year, the Chinese Navy, ostensibly in an attempt to demonstrate its reach to Australia and India, conducted an exercise in the eastern Indian Ocean. If done right, India’s leadership in the Indian Ocean need not be threatening to China. China will likely treat its maritime interests in the East and South China Seas with higher priority.

This year’s Malabar exercise is an important reminder that India is seeking to “shape the environment by building collective capability,” as Bhaskar notes. Indian foreign policy’s legacy of non-alignment continues to have lingering effects today on the country’s willingness to assertively band together with other nations. With a combination of deft bilateralism and proactive multilateralism, however, India can emerge as the sort of guardian of regional security it deserves to be.

India’s Space Diplomacy

By Vidya Sagar Reddy Avuthu
July 25, 2014

The country’s burgeoning space sector could be a useful foreign policy tool.

On June 30, India celebrated another successful launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the workhorse of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). This time, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in attendance. His SHAR speech emphasized the role of technology in aiding development and referenced the humble beginnings of the ISRO. Among the many points he made, two were geopolitically significant. First, he observed that the satellite being launched, SPOT 7, belonged to a developed nation: France. Second, he challenged the ISRO to develop a satellite that would serve the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation nations. Those thoughts coincidewith two of the three major foreign policy issues that confront India, as noted by Shivsankar Menon: its relations with major powers and its need for a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood.

Major Power Relations: France

Cooperation with France in space launches and spacecraft construction represents an improvement in bilateral relations. Contested during the Cold War, the global commons is now increasingly a platform for cooperation, a reflection of the success of the policy of détente. A partnership that began with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) ultimately evolved into one of the largest international cooperative projects, the International Space Station (ISS). An “Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology,” which included space technology, is one of the foremost partnerships the U.S. established immediately after its historic diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

The cooperation and collaboration that India has enjoyed with France has been matched perhaps only by its work with Russia. ISRO acquired the use of French launch complexes, received technical assistance in the construction of the SHAR launch complex, and executed contracts with the French Arianespace launchers. This provided the impetus for the 2008 Indo-French framework on joint space missions. The development of Megha-Tropiques, launched in 2011, and the satellite with ARgos and ALtika (SARAL) in 2013 are the results of that framework. While the Ariane launchers have placed into orbit 14 geo-stationary satellites for India, starting with the first communication satellite APPLE, a commercial agreement between Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix) and Astrium SAS allowed PSLV to reciprocate by launching the SPOT-6 satellite, in addition to Megha-Tropiques and SARAL.

This long-term relationship has helped India expand its presence into other European countries, including Germany, which flew nine satellites and an instrument onboard Chandrayaan-1, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, and a number of other countries. The latest launch coincided with the arrival of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in India to extradite the Rafale fighter jet deal and others, further strengthening the relationship. India has been able to maintain its independence by balancing relations with Russia in this arena with France. Meanwhile, the ISRO was able to overcome U.S. controls on the export of defense and aerospace technology by establishing an indigenous base for satellite manufacturing and developing launch vehicles. These in turn helped to preserve India’s strategic autonomy.

U.S. Wants Pakistan to Prevent Haqqani Fighters From Returning to Their Former Sanctuaries in Northern Pakistan

U.S. Tells Pakistan: Do Not Let Haqqani Fighters Resettle

Reuters, July 25, 2014

ASPEN Colorado (Reuters) - The U.S. government urged Pakistan on Friday to prevent displaced Haqqani militants from returning to their traditional sanctuary after a Pakistani military offensive near the Afghanistan border.

The Haqqani network, which mainly operates out of Pakistan’s border areas, has been blamed for some of the deadliest and most sophisticated attacks on NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.

"What we’ve asked for is that the Haqqanis, yes they’ve been displaced, yes they’ve been disrupted, but that they not be allowed to regroup and resettle back into those historical areas," said Jeffrey Eggers from the White House’s National Security Council, speaking at a security forum in Colorado.

That would break a long tradition of tolerating those who did not target the Pakistani state. No one from the Haqqani network has been reported killed, however, since the offensive began in June in the remote region of North Waziristan.

The United States has long pressed for Pakistani action against the Haqqanis. Islamabad has said it would target any militants, including the Haqqanis, as they proceed with the military operation.

Pakistan’s envoy to Washington, Jalil Abbas Jilani, sitting alongside Eggers and others at the event, acknowledged that Haqqani fighters almost certainly fled the region ahead of the military operation because it was pre-announced.

But Jilani also urged more to be done across the border in Afghanistan to deal with any militants who may have fled there.

"We are having good cooperation but I think something more is required to be done in order to make sure that the successes … are conclusive," Jilani said.

Afghanistan’s envoy to Washington, Eklil Hakimi, said his information suggested that Haqqani militants had safe passage inside Pakistan and were going elsewhere inside Pakistan.

John Allen, the retired four-star general who led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, voiced skepticism about Islamabad’s past willingness to go after the Haqqanis, even as he acknowledged the opportunity presented by the ongoing offensive.

"When I was commander there, the Haqqani killed or wounded over 500 of my troops. And the operations in Waziristan somehow missed them every time they conducted ops on the eastern side of the border," Allen said at the event.

U.S. lawmakers warn that Pakistan will have to crackdown on the Haqqanis or lose millions in U.S. military aid.

"What matters now is how this continues and whether or not the Haqqanis are afforded a sanctuary to return to when the operation gets into its terminal phase," said Eggers, the senior director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the NSC.

Westphalia with Chinese Characteristics

July 24, 2014

What will be the future implications of China’s rise in power? The towering political scientist Stephen Krasner has produced a lucid synopsis for the Hoover Institution. One of the biggest take-away points is that the organization of global governance stands to undergo a significant overhaul if Beijing’s capabilities continue to expand vis-à-vis the United States.

In terms of the international economic order, Krasner notes that

“[t]he existing trade and investment regimes more or less assume that corporations are independent of the state; this assumption is comfortable for the United States. It is not so comfortable for China: a more powerful China might press for principles, norms, and rules that were more accepting of state direction of the economy.”

It warrants pointing out that China’s preferences for statism in economic affairs are not simply because of its communist leadership. Rather, developing economies in general tend to rely upon government intervention for growth. This was true of the so-called Asian Tigers in the 1970s and is certainly true of China and the other BRICS nations today, all of which blend an appreciation for markets with a dyed in the wool commitment to a form of dirigisme.

The difference between the newly industrialized countries (NICs) of the 1970s and the BRICS of today, of course, is that the latter entertain hopes of refashioning the international economic architecture to better suit their particular interests. Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan never aspired to global leadership. Whether the BRICS will succeed in their bid any time soon is far from certain; as yet, the BRICS lack the cohesion, the will and the means actually to lead a new global order. Nevertheless, their dissatisfaction and rise in power do combine to produce a long-term potential threat to the western-made status quo.

China’s rise might also portend implications for how states engage with each other politically and diplomatically. “China’s internal divisions make it one of the strongest proponents of the sanctity of sovereigntist principles that totally reject external interference in the internal affairs of other states,” Krasner points out. “The United States as a proponent of human rights, and as target for transnational terrorist, has a much weaker commitment to non-intervention.”

There is some irony to this mismatch in attitudes. Sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-intervention are the cornerstones of the Westphalian system, a model of international relations that emphasizes the centrality of state actors to global politics and which is supposed the epitomize the western approach to international organization. Yet Krasner is correct that the U.S. and Europe have been at the forefront of enervating Westphalia over the past several decades while China has emerged as a champion of Westphalian principles.

Just as the Westphalian ideal has been at times convenient for western powers and inconvenient (and ignored) at other times—a system of “organized hypocrisy” in Krasner’s own words—so too are Westphalian norms a valuable (and pliable) resource for China’s leadership. As Stephen Hopgood argues in his book The Endtimes of Human Rights, the logic of Westphalia affords Beijing a rationale for maintaining authoritarian rule at home and opposing the imposition of western influence abroad (including, recently, in Syria).

China’s Military Diplomacy Heats Up

July 25, 2014

The last week has seen China engage in a ferocious amount of military diplomacy.

China’s military diplomacy has been heating up on all fronts over the past week or so.

Most notably, China is currently participating in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, for the first time this month. As previously noted, China sent the second largest delegation to the RIMPAC exercise this year. Its RIMPAC fleet includes the missile destroyer Haikou, the missile frigate Yueyang, the supply vessel Qiandaohu, the Peace Ark hospital ship, two helicopters and a dive unit, along with 1,100 personnel. More controversially, China sent an uninvited Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) ship to spy on the exercise just as it did for the 2012 RIMPAC when it wasn’t a participant.

Similarly, last week Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of operations of the U.S. Navy, visited China. While there, he held meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Adm. Wu Shengli, the commander in chief of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). It was third meeting between Greenert and Wu over the past year. Moreover, Wu gave Greenert a tour of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during the trip. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was given a similar tour of the aircraft carrier earlier in the year.

In a post-trip interview with the Wall Street Journal, Greenert also revealed that Wu asked him to reciprocate the gesture by bringing one of America’s aircraft carriers to China. According to the report, Wu asked Greenert to send the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier based in Japan, to a mainland Chinese port so that the crew of the Liaoning could get a tour of it. China is currently in the process of try.

“He’d [Wu] like his crew to get a tour of the George Washington and have the George Washington crew, a gaggle of them, come to the Liaoning,” Greenert told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m receptive to that idea,” he added.

The PLAN are trying to perfect the art of operating an aircraft carrier. The WSJ report noted that other Chinese sailors were given a tour of the USS Ronald Reagan, another U.S. aircraft carrier, during the RIMPAC exercise.

At the same time that Greenert was in China last week, a top PLA officer was visiting Australia. Specifically, General Fan Changlong, a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission– China’s top military decision-making body– visited Australia to hold talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott. While there, General Fan also met with Australian Defense Minister David Johnston, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Defense Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin.

During General Fan’s trip to Canberra, the two sides agreed to hold a trilateral exercise in Australia in October with U.S. Marines. The trilateral drill will be called “Exercise Kowari.” In announcing the upcoming exercise,Australian Defense Minister Johnston noted, “This marks the first trilateral military exercise involving Australian, Chinese and United States personnel.” He went on to explain that the exercise “ will provide those taking part with an understanding of the basis principles, procedures, techniques and military equipment that best support survival in a harsh environment.”

Following his trip to Australia, General Fan traveled to New Zealand where he met with Prime Minister Jonathan Key, Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman, New Zealand Chief of Defense Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, and Acting Secretary of Defense, Tony Lynch. The New Zealand press release on Gen. Fan’s visit noted that the two sides had agreed to strengthen bilateral security ties. This included agreeing to hold the 7th China-New Zealand Strategic Defense Dialogue in China later this year.

The Current State of the Al-Shabaab Insurgency in Somalia and Its Spread to Kenya and Tanzania

Al Shabaab in East Africa

James Miller

AEI Critical Threats Project

July 24, 2014
Click image to enlarge.

Multiple crises throughout the world—in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and now Israel—have pulled attention from growing violence in East Africa. Al Qaeda’s group in Somalia, al Shabaab, now has an operational reach that covers all of the Horn of Africa. Even within Somalia, al Shabaab continues to conduct significant attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and in key cities like Kismayo, Baidoa, and Beledweyne. There exists a popular notion that al Shabaab is in decline due to the efforts of Somali forces and the African Union peacekeepers, a view echoed on June 3, 2014 by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. But al Shabaab’s recent activity in the region belies any such claim.[1]Al Shabaab still controls significant territory in Somalia and in the past year, has been active in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Djibouti.

Al Shabaab voiced its intent and increasingly demonstrates its capability to conduct attacks throughout East Africa. Its first major international attack was in July 2010, when al Shabaab carried out twin suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda.[2] The absence of a second major attack and the start of a major offensive against al Shabaab in fall 2011 led many to dismiss the Kampala bombings as a one-off strike and to assess that al Shabaab had been significantly weakened. The group had lost control of territory and announced that it would focus on asymmetrical attacks, rather than holding land. Its continued threats against the regional troop-contributing countries (TCC) to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia appeared to be aspirational at best.

The spectacular assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013 was al Shabaab’s second major international attack.[3] Al Shabaab cultivated its Kenyan network leading up to the Westgate attack, establishing partnerships with Kenyan extremist networks. Key partners such as al Hijra, a group comprised primarily of indigenous Kenyans, provided al Shabaab with an extensive fundraising and recruitment network in Nairobi and along the Kenyan coast.[4] The growth of these networks allowed al Shabaab to declare a pivot to Kenya on May 22, 2014, encouraging Muslims to take up arms against the Kenyan government.[5] Since then, al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for killing as many as ninety people in a series of attacks along the Kenyan coast in June and July.[6]

Al Shabaab has also focused its efforts on other TCCs. Of the six primary countries, al Shabaab has attempted attacks in four over the past year. Two al Shabaab operatives attempted, but failed, to bomb an October 16, 2013 World Cup qualifying match in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Ethiopian authorities announced the arrest of five Somali conspirators on December 19.[7] Uganda remains a target. U.S. Embassy Kampala has issued several terror warnings in the past year for Uganda, most recently citing a specific threat to Entebbe International Airport on July 3, 2014.[8] Al Shabaab has also been tied to the May suicide attack at a Djibouti restaurant popular among Westerners.[9] Though not all of al Shabaab’s attacks have been successful, its growing operational reach and regional influence is evident.

ISIS Fighters Capture Part of Syrian Army Base at Raqqa

Islamic State Kills Syrian Soldiers, Captures Parts of Base: Group

Reuters, July 25, 2014

BEIRUT — Fighters from al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State killed at least 50 Syrian army soldiers and took over parts of their base on Friday outside the northern city of Raqqa, as the radicals escalated their attacks on government forces, a monitoring group said.

Fighters from the ultra-hardline group captured and killed at least 50 members of the army’s 17th Division after ambushing them outside Raqqa when they withdrew from the area where they were based, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Raqqa is already a stronghold of Islamic State, which has advanced in Syria and taken over swaths of territory in neighboring Iraq in what it has described as a bid to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Since its lightning advance in Iraq last month, the group has confronted government forces in Syria more frequently whilst continuing to attack rival rebel groups fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Raqqa is the only Syrian provincial capital to have fallen completely outside Assad’s control and Islamic State has paraded military hardware through its streets.

A Twitter account linked to Islamic State also published pictures of the beheaded corpses and heads of five soldiers killed in Raqqa province, saying they belonged to the 17th division.

A separate video posted online on Friday appeared to show an Islamic State fighter filming himself entering an abandoned part of the base and tearing down images of Assad and Syrian flags.

The video, with the title “What is left of Division 17 in Raqqa,” in German, shows the fighter opening a refrigerator, pulling out wine bottles and then pouring one of them on ground outside in front of other armed men.

However, it was not immediately possible to verify the contents of the video independently.

The Islamic State draws its strength in Syria from foreign fighters and members sometimes post videos filmed in a mixture of Arabic and other languages.

The group, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has mainly advanced in Syria by capturing land from more moderate rebel fighters. But it is now clashing more often with the Syrian military directly, and the army has responded by stepping up aerial bombings on its positions.

Last week, Islamic State killed 270 soldiers, guards and staff when it captured a gas field in central Syria, in one of the deadliest clashes between the group and government forces, according to the Observatory, an anti-Assad monitoring group that tracks the violence using its sources on the ground.

Syrian soldiers also fought Islamic State militants outside a government-controlled army airport in Deir al-Dor province in the east of the country last Friday.

How Will This War End?

By Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, U.S. Army retired

The primary metric in war is attaining one’s strategic aims. In the post-9/11 war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, who is winning? Both the U.S. and al Qaeda have done a lot of killing, but attrition alone is not decisive. The U.S. is now on its third strategy in this war. This strategy seems as unlikely to attain America’s strategic aims as the previous two.

Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, but it was not their first attack against us. The December 1992 bombing of two hotels in Yemen that had housed U.S. troops in transit to Somalia was the first. In February 1993, an al Qaeda-trained truck bomber attempted to bring down New York’s Twin Towers. Al Qaeda-trained Somalis brought down a U.S. helicopter in October 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. In August 1996, Osama bin Laden publically declared war against the U.S., and in August 1998, al Qaeda bombed the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in October 2000. These were the major attacks that succeeded; there were others that were foiled.

These attacks were not isolated acts; they were tactical actions, part of campaigns designed to attain strategic aims. Al Qaeda’s campaign objectives are:

- Conduct “bleeding wars,” wars intended to defeat Western powers in Iraq and Afghanistan by causing their withdrawals, and attacks on Europe and the U.S. intended to further bleed the West’s will.

- Establish safe havens and franchises throughout the rest of the Islamic world, the ultimate franchise being Palestine, with the intent to create bases for future operations as well as cadres of leaders and fighters who can take advantage of local situations as opportunities arise.

Al Qaeda’s three strategic aims are:

-  Drive the U.S. from the Muslim world.

-  Destroy Israel.

-  Create a jihadist caliphate along the lines of the Ottoman Empire at its height.

The U.S. should understand by now that al Qaeda’s aims are to control land and peoples. Al Qaeda may use irregular forces, employ terrorist, guerilla and insurgent tactics, and be a network rather than a nation-state, but its strategy is a classic offensive one: conquer, defeat and control.

Though pushed out of Afghanistan in 2001, al Qaeda has retained its safe haven in Pakistan, from which it threatens that country’s government and seeks to return to Afghanistan once the U.S. departs. Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the civil war in Syria and established itself as a main contender for power. It is on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, the southern entrance to the Red Sea: in the Arabian Peninsula (on the Yemen side) and in East Africa and Al Shabab (on the Somali side). Another group, al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, is active in Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania, and it has links to other terrorist and criminal organizations. An al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus, operates in North Caucasus, Chechnya and the surrounding areas. These are the main affiliates; there are other associates, supporters and sympathetic organizations. The Army of Islam operating in the Gaza Strip, for example, is inspired by al Qaeda, even if it is not yet a fully recognized affiliate. The network is dynamic and complex, and names change as do leaders; the threat does not.

The end of Christianity in the Middle East could mean the demise of Arab secularism

23 July 2014

In a Middle East rebuilt on intolerant ideologies, there is likely to be little place for beleaguered minorities

An Iraqi security officer guards the Church of the Virgin Mary in the northern town of Bartala, near Mosul, in 2012. Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

The past decade has been catastrophic for the Arab world'sbeleaguered 12 million strong Christian minority. In Egypt revolution and counter-revolution have been accompanied by a series of anti-Copt riots, killings and church burnings. In Gaza and the West Bank Palestinian Christians are emigrating en masse as they find themselves uncomfortably caught between Netanyahu's pro-settler government and their increasingly radicalised Sunni neighbours.

In Syria most of the violence is along the Sunni-Alawite fault line, but stories of rape and murder directed at the Christian minority, who used to make up around 10% of the population, have emerged. Many have already fled to camps in Lebanon, Turkey or Jordan; the ancient Armenian community of Aleppo is reported to be moving en masse to Yerevan.

The worst affected areas of Syria are of course those controlled by Isis. Last weekend it issued a decree offering the dwindling Christian population of eastern Syria and northern Iraq a choice: convert to Islam or pay a special religious levy – the jizya. If they did not comply, "there is nothing to give them but the sword". The passing of the deadline led to possibly the largest exodus of Middle Eastern Christians since theArmenian massacres during the first world war, with the entire Christian community of Mosul heading off towards Kirkuk and the relative religious tolerance of the Kurdish zone.

Even before this latest exodus, at least two-thirds of Iraqi Christians had fled since the fall of Saddam. Christians were concentrated in Mosul, Basra and, especially, Baghdad – which before the US invasion had the largest Christian population in the Middle East. Although Iraq's 750,000 Christians made up only 7% of the pre-war population, they were a prosperous minority under the Ba'athists, as symbolised by the high profile of Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister, who used to disarm visiting foreign dignitaries by breaking into Onward, Christian Soldiers in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

According to tradition it was St Thomas and his cousin Addai who brought Christianity to Iraq in the first century. At the Council of Nicea, where the Christian creed was thrashed out in AD325, there were more bishops from Mesopotamia than western Europe. The region became a refuge for those persecuted by the Orthodox Byzantines, such as theMandeans – the last Gnostics, who follow what they believe to be the teachings of John the Baptist. Then there was the Church of the East, which brought the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato, as well as Greek science and medicine, to the Islamic world – and hence, via Cordoba, to the new universities of medieval Europe.

Life in a Jihadist Capital: Order With a Darker Side

JULY 23, 2014

In a Syrian City, ISIS Puts Its Vision Into Practice

Background on ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Video CreditBy Christian Roman on Publish DateJune 30, 2014

RAQQA, Syria — When his factory was bombed in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, the businessman considered two bleak options: remain at home and risk dying in the next airstrike, or flee like hundreds of thousands of others to a refugee camp in Turkey.

Instead, he took his remaining cash east and moved to a neighboring city, Raqqa, the de facto capital of the world’s fastest growing jihadist force. There he found a degree of order and security absent in other parts of Syria.

“The fighting in Syria will continue, so we have to live our lives,” said the businessman, who gave only a first name, Qadri, as he oversaw a dozen workers in his new children’s clothing factory in Raqqa.

Long before extremists rolled through Iraq and seized a large piece of territory, the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, took over most of Raqqa Province, home to about a million people, and established a headquarters in its capital. Through strategic management and brute force, the group, which now calls itself simply the Islamic State, has begun imposing its vision of a state that blends its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam with the practicalities of governance.

In time, it has won the surprising respect of some war-weary citizens, like Qadri, who will accept any authority that can restore a semblance of normal life. Rebel-held areas of Aleppo, by comparison, remain racked with food shortages and crime. But there is a darker side to Islamic rule, with public executions and strict social codes that have left many in this once-tolerant community deeply worried about the future.

East Africa Rising

July 24, 2014

The Greater Indian Ocean is the maritime organizing principle of geopolitics, uniting the entire arc of Islam (including the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf), East Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. But while economic dynamism has focused more on the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia over the past quarter-century, lately the most intriguing success story has been East Africa. So while the situations look dire in Ukraine and Gaza this week, take a moment to look at a part of the world -- once deemed hopeless -- that is quietly experiencing a regeneration.

From Mozambique northward to the confines of Somalia even, there has been sustained progress and renewed hope. Over the past ten years, annual GDP growth rates have averaged 8 percent in Mozambique, 7 percent in Tanzania, 5 percent in Kenya and 10 percent in Ethiopia. Tens of billions of dollars are in the process of being poured into Mozambique and Tanzania to tap into vast offshore deposits of natural gas intended to feed growing demand in both South and East Asia, at the other end of the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, hydrocarbon exploration is occurring in northwestern Kenya and off of Kenya's coast, as well as in the interior reaches of East Africa, particularly in the Great Rift Valley basin stretching through parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.

Exploring for energy is not the only development in East Africa. A growing middle class with an attendant consumer sector -- along with increased economic and political integration -- is contributing to significant foreign interest in building road, harbor, rail and power projects that will connect these Indian Ocean countries with Africa's interior. Such projects will also make these countries a maritime and energy center on which the Indian subcontinent and Asia partly depend.

Even Somalia, long isolated because of its civil war and Islamist insurgency, is no longer quite as cut off from global economic interests as it once was. The radical al Shabaab group is still a guerrilla threat, but it has lost substantially the capability of defeating and replacing the Somali government. A multiyear effort by African Union peacekeepers, with extensive Western security and economic backing, has led to the group's degradation. And thanks to counterpiracy operations from a host of world navies, Somali piracy is just not the threat it once was. As Somalia slowly and tenuously moves in the direction of stabilization, there is interest from foreign companies in exploring for minerals in the country's interior and for hydrocarbons off the Somali coast -- for the rich offshore natural gas fields of Somalia's southern neighbors may extend farther north.

Even the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo -- to the west of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda -- may be on the long march to greater stability as peacekeepers from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi have been making some headway against Rwandan-backed guerrillas there. If this trend continues, there is sure to be more foreign interest in the region's vast yet underdeveloped mining sector, even as Uganda becomes a hub for a cross-border trade in hydrocarbons and consumer goods for central-east Africa. Rwanda, too, has attracted investment in its agriculture and light manufacturing sectors -- the fruit of greater stability there also.

Of course, nearby South Sudan has been going in the opposite direction, toward greater dissolution. The Western-encouraged breakup of Sudan in 2011 has thus far tragically backfired, with tribal animosities inflamed by an internal battle over the hydrocarbon spoils of the new nation in the south. Unity in South Sudan existed only as long as there was a common threat in Khartoum. That threat now absent, distrust has spiraled into a seemingly irreconcilable armed conflict between the once brothers-in-arms.

Will Hamas Accept a Ceasefire?

July 25, 2014 

Nearly 800 Palestinian killed; 36 Israelis (the vast majority soldiers) lost in the line of fire; an estimated 150,000 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip scurrying to safer places in order to protect themselves and their families from the fighting; hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed in strikes from the Israeli air force. Operation Protective Edge, the code name for Israel’s latest military operation against Hamas militants in the sealed-off enclave, is now in its second week of combat.

As of July 24, those are the raw numbers—a set of disturbing figures that will continue to go up if Israeli and Palestinian factions are unable to arrive at an arrangement that would calm the waters, stop the rockets from flying, and cease the pounding that has pummeled Gaza’s already terrible infrastructure for the past two and a half weeks. 

After nineteen months in the job, Secretary of State John Kerry has guaranteed himself the label of the planet’s most famous, recognizable, and tireless negotiator. The discussions over Iran’s nuclear and uranium enrichment programs, Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, Ukraine’s war against pro-Russian separatists, and the attempt to arrive at an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, however different they may appear, have one thing in common: Kerry is the middle of all of them. The flare-up in violence between Hamas and Israel, however, has stretched Secretary Kerry and the Obama administration’s national security team to a breaking point. Right now, getting the quiet restored along the Gaza-Israel border—and saving countless Israeli and Palestinian lives in the process—is a foreign policy priority at the very top of the administration’s “to-do” list.

John Kerry and his State Department team have been camped in the region since July 21 and are doing as much as they can to send home the message to Israel and Hamas that a cessation of hostilities is in both of their best interests. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Elliot Abrams, and the folks at the American Enterprise Institute may like to remind him of his failures over the past year and a half as America’s top diplomat, but what the critics cannot do is call Kerry passé or lazy. Indeed, just as he sought earlier in the year to create and push forth a two-state framework that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority could accept (with reservations), Kerry is again choosing to sacrifice more of his diplomatic capital on the Israel/Palestine portfolio. The only difference this time is that his efforts today are far more immediate and could be the difference between life and death for the tens of thousands of civilians in the middle of the conflict through no fault of their own.

Can Israel Win In Gaza?

July 23, 2014

As Israeli forces continue their offensive into Gaza, many have been surprised by Hamas’ ability to fight back. Some are beginning to ask whether Israel can achieve the kind of victory it wants in Gaza.

An Israeli military helicopter evacuates soldiers near the Gaza border. Baz Ratner / Reuters

EREZ CROSSING, Israel — The Israeli intelligence officer cast a suspicious eye on the dry and dusty field that stretched along the border with Gaza. To the east, the black plumes of smoke hung in the sky, drawing a thick line marking where the Palestinian territory begins. More than a dozen tunnels are underfoot, he said, and no one is sure how the intelligence community missed the “underground city” being built by Hamas beneath the Gaza-Israel border.

“We knew that there were tunnels, but not that there were so many, or that they would be so well-enforced and professional, it’s an underground city!” said the officer, who gave a briefing to a group of reporters, on the condition he not be named. He stomped on the ground, a combination of clay and silt he said was “ideal” for building tunnels. “We were not aware of the preparedness, the advancement of Hamas’ fighters either. It was a large, and punishing, surprise.”

As Israel’s offensive in Gaza comes toward the end of its second week, senior Israeli intelligence and military officials have begun to question whether the army can achieve its objectives without absorbing a significant number of casualties. Twenty-nine Israeli soldiers have already been killed, as have two civilians. In Gaza, 637 people have been killed, more than 149 of them children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Israel’s military spokesman said that, as of Wednesday morning, 210 Hamas fighters were amongst the dead Palestinians. When asked about civilian casualties, he said Israel did not keep numbers of civilians killed. The United Nations and Gaza Health Ministry, which both keep independent counts of the dead in Gaza, estimate that 75% are civilians — roughly 478 people — meaning that for every Hamas fighter killed, 2.3 civilians have lost their lives.

Those numbers, accompanied by graphic videos and photographs of entire families dying in Israeli airstrikes, have been widely circulated on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, bringing a human face to the high civilians casualties in Gaza to homes across the world.

Meanwhile, of some of the Israeli soldiers waiting to enter the fray along the border, many have begun to question the very purpose of the mission.

Israel Provoked This War

July 22, 2014

It’s up to President Obama to stop it.

There seems to be near-universal agreement in the United States with President Barack Obama’s observation that Israel, like every other country, has the right and obligation to defend its citizens from threats directed at them from beyond its borders

But this anodyne statement does not begin to address the political and moral issues raised by Israel’s bombings and land invasion of Gaza: who violated the cease-fire agreement that was in place since November 2012 and whether Israel’s civilian population could have been protected by nonviolent means that would not have placed Gaza’s civilian population at risk. As of this writing, the number killed by the Israel Defense Forces has surpassed 600, the overwhelming majority of whom are noncombatants.

Israel’s assault on Gaza, as pointed out by analyst Nathan Thrall in the New York Times, was not triggered by Hamas’ rockets directed at Israel but by Israel’s determination to bring down the Palestinian unity government that was formed in early June, even though that government was committed to honoring all of the conditions imposed by the international community for recognition of its legitimacy.

The notion that it was Israel, not Hamas, that violated a cease-fire agreement will undoubtedly offend a wide swath of Israel supporters. To point out that it is not the first time Israel has done so will offend them even more deeply. But it was Shmuel Zakai, a retired brigadier general and former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division, and not “leftist” critics, who said about the Israel Gaza war of 2009 that during the six-month period of a truce then in place, Israel made a central error “by failing to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians in the [Gaza] Strip. … You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they are in and expect Hamas just to sit around and do nothing.”

This is true of the latest cease-fire as well. According to Thrall, Hamas is now seeking through violence what it should have obtained through a peaceful handover of responsibilities. “Israel is pursuing a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely eight hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets.” It is not only Hamas supporters, but many Gazans, perhaps a majority, who believe it is worth paying a heavy price to change a disastrous status quo.

The answer to the second question — whether a less lethal course was not available to protect Israel’s civilian population — is (unintentionally?) implicit in the formulation of President Barack Obama’s defense of Israel’s actions: namely, the right and obligation of all governments to protect their civilian populations from assaults fromacross their borders.

But where, exactly, are Israel’s borders?

It is precisely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to identify those borders that placed Israel’s population at risk. And the reason he has refused to do that is because he did not want the world to know that he had no intention of honoring the pledge he made in 2009 to reach a two-state agreement with the Palestinians. TheRoad Map for Middle East peace that was signed by Israel, the PLO and the United States explicitly ruled out any unilateral alterations in the pre-1967 armistice lines that served as a border between the parties. This provision was consistently and blatantly violated by successive Israeli governments with their illegal settlement project. And Netanyahu refused to recognize that border as the starting point for territorial negotiations in the terms of reference proposed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Exposing the Weakness of the U.S. and Europe

July 23, 2014

The downing of Malaysia Flight 17 casts new light on just how inept and decadent the United States and Europe have become.

Faced with Russia's annexation of Crimea and attempts to repeat in eastern Ukraine, the best Western Europe and the United States have mustered are strong words and token sanctions on top Russian officials and several companies. That's hardly enough to deter Vladimir Putin's ambitions to make Russia the dominant power in Eurasia.

Now, public outrage at the downing of the Malaysian airliner will force Western governments to offer Russia restraint from imposing truly effective sanctions on its subversive activities in Ukraine in exchange for an international investigation.

That will likely yield little more than already inferred. Russia supplied the missiles and is culpable for enabling separatists who shot down the plane.

Not much else will happen.

Six months from now Russian agents will still be operating in Ukraine and planning similar uprisings in other former Soviet states.

The United States lacks sufficient military assets in Europe to deter Russian aggression, and Europe's most powerful state, Germany, lacks the will to stand up to Russia. President Obama has been too successful at paying for entitlements by cutting the defense budget, and German businesses are profiting too much from commerce with Russia.

Obama naively misjudged Putin. There is no reset button for relations with a regime led by a criminal. Putin has plundered businesses, crushed dissent and killed journalists. To believe he can be persuaded through diplomacy or imposing minor economic costs is a fool's journey.

Putin knows if he unwinds his plans slowly and feigns cooperation he can dupe Obama and Germany's Angela Merkel and co-opt their political constituencies. The latter have already rationalized Russia's annexation of Crimea and will do the same if he slices off more of Ukraine.

The U.S. and European economies have grown so slowly in recent decades that their governments cannot afford both the militaries needed to deter Russian aggression and to maintain their welfare states. And voters have been so lulled into complacency with high-minded talk about international law and diplomacy that they believe they can turn their eyes away from Russian state terrorism without peril to their own security, much in the manner of Munich and Neville Chamberlain.

IDF says 'defined essence of cyber warfare'

Post on military's website says IDF engaged in 'intelligence gathering, clandestine operations'; will not hesitate to use cyberspace 'to execute attacks'


A recent post on the Israel Defense Forces' official website all but admitted the IDF's use of cyber warfare tactics against Israel's enemies.

"The IDF defines its activity in cyber space as a platform to improve operational effectiveness and defense," the post said, adding that the Israeli army has been "relentlessly operating in the field."

A new book released in the United States this week linked both the United States and Israel to the string of cyber-strikes which have been plaguing Iran's computer systems over the past two years.

The Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame cyber-bombs wreaked havoc on the systems controlling Iran's nuclear facilities, and although Tehran repeatedly blamed the US and Israel for them, Washington and Jerusalem have remained mum.

According to the IDF's website, the military's Operations Department had "recently defined the essence of IDF cyber warfare, putting together instructions that define the military's operational methods in cyberspace and clarify its goals in facing potential enemies."

For more on the raging cyber war click here

"Cyberspace is to be handled similarly to other battlefields on ground, at sea, in the air and in space," the statement said.

"The IDF has been engaged in cyber activity consistently and relentlessly, gathering intelligence and defending its own cyberspace. Additionally if necessary cyberspace will be used to execute attacks and intelligence operations."

Part of the military's operational goal in the area, the post continued, is to "maintain Israel's quality and advantage over its enemies and prevent their growth and military capabilities, while limiting their operation in this field."

The IDF's cyber warfare doctrine also stresses "thwarting and disrupting enemy projects which may aim to target the Israeli military and government."

It's Time to Get Ready for Cyberwar

July 22, 2014

Military and national security operations in cyberspace have made headlines with increasing frequency.

 Security companies for several years have documented massive cyber-espionage by China’s People’s Liberation Army against the U.S. private and public sectors, and the U.S. Department of Justice recently responded by indictingfive Chinese military officer for computer hacking, economic espionage, and other offenses directed at American nuclear power, metals and solar products companies.

· Edward Snowden’s allegations of massive cyber spying by the National Security Agency and close American allies have raised worldwide fears about the security and privacy of the Internet.

· Russia and Iran have been accused of launching covert cyber operations against political and economic targets in the United States and neighboring countries. According to recent reports, it now appears Russian hackers attempted to place a “digital bomb” inside the NASDAQ stock exchange. 

Fears are growing that, in an echo of the outbreak of World War I a century ago, some cyber event—the equivalent of the Serbian gunman’s assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Grand Duke in Sarajevo—could escalate into an outright cyberwar with dire consequences around the world. This article assesses whether these fears are well grounded by looking at cyber skirmishing that has been reported to date, what these incidents mean, how they might escalate, and how private-sector, not-for-profit, and government organizations can prepare for this contingency.

What Does “Cyberwar” Mean?

Nineteenth-century military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted, “War is a mere continuation of policy by other means.” In the 21st century, nation-states and a host of private actors are using cyber exploits as a means of attaining policy goals, which often include stealing sensitive corporate data, disrupting information technology systems (IT) and other critical infrastructure, and reconnoitering the cyber networks of potential military adversaries. In the same way that patrolling gunboats in disputed waters or foot soldiers along ill-defined borders risked sparking conflict in Clausewitz’s time, today’s aggressive use of cyber tools has led to diplomatic sparring, skirmishes, and the threat of escalation.

When I say “cyberwar,” I do so with a Clausewitzian meaning: the use of computers by actors controlled by a nation state for a prolonged, cross-sector disruption of an adversary’s activities, especially deliberate attacks on IT systems. This definition excludes minor acts of cyber vandalism such as sporadic defacements of websites and distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks, and also—since espionage per se is not traditionally considered an act of war—the clandestine collection of information from IT systems.