26 August 2014

ISIS offered to swap Pak scientist for slain US journalist

 August 22, 2014 

"We have also offered prisoner exchanges to free the Muslims currently in your detention like our sister Dr Afia Siddiqqi, however you proved very quickly to us that this is NOT what you are interested in," said the email, which was released by The Global Post yesterday.

Dr Afia Siddiqqi was jailed by a US court for 86 years. She was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008.

In an email to the family members of slain American journalist James Foley, his captors from the Islamic State militant group demanded release of several prisoners, including a Pakistani woman scientist who has been convicted of terrorism charges in the US.

In their email dated August 12, to family members of Foley, the Islamic State or ISIS, claimed that the US has refused several offers of release of the journalist, which included not only money but also the exchange of prisoners.

“You were given many chances to negotiate the release of your people via cash transactions as other governments have accepted. We have also offered prisoner exchanges to free the Muslims currently in your detention like our sister Dr Afia Siddiqqi, however you proved very quickly to us that this is NOT what you are interested in,” said the email, which was released by The Global Post yesterday.

“You have no motivation to deal with the Muslims except with the language of force, a language you were given in ‘Arabic translation’ when you attempted to occupy the land of Iraq!” the email said, adding Foley would be “executed”.

The Islamic State this week released a video showing one of its members beheading Foley, who was abducted in Syria in November 2012.

Dr Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 and found to have documents on chemical weapons, dirty bombs and viruses indicating she was planning attacks against American enemies, reports said.

Later, she was jailed by a US court for 86 years.

“Now you return to bomb the Muslims of Iraq once again, this time resorting to Aerial attacks and ‘proxy armies’, all the while cowardly shying away from a face-to-face confrontation! Today our swords are unsheathed towards you, government and citizens alike! and we will not stop until we quench our thirst for your blood,” the email said.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to bring to justice those responsible for killing Foley.

According to Global Post, the email was published after the Foley family agreed to release it.

“Global Post has chosen to publish it in full in the interest of transparency and to fully tell Jim’s story. We believe the text offers insight into the motivations and tactics of the Islamic State,” the news website said.

The Global Post said in addition to the extreme views it espouses, the email contains factual inaccuracies.

For example, the Foley family was not “given many chances to negotiate” for his release.

Capturing Afghanistan’s troubled history


We see through Nickelsberg’s eyes, the story of a country and its people as they transitioned from one war to the next

Much has been written about three decades and more of war and turmoil in Afghanistan. Mostly, these books depict a land that was once a buffer between Czarist Russia and the British Empire, went on to become a Cold War battleground, was owned by Pakistan and Al Qaeda through the Taliban to use as a staging post for their respective ambitions, and is a country teetering on the edge of an abyss after the U.S. and the rest of the world and their militaries have given up trying to build it as they thought it should be built. Wars have raged through this land, but reading these books leaves you with a question: as the Great Game plays itself out, is Afghanistan just strategic real estate? What about its people?

Now for the first time, here is a book that tells you about the people — Afghans, non-Afghans, combatants, civilians, fighting, fleeing, dying, living, dancing, surviving — each pages speaking more than a thousand words, in the only way this happens.

More border areas may threaten to go to China if India doesn’t wake up, now

August 24, 2014 

I don’t know how many of you read a report in last week’s Times of India, where the residents of Pin valley, which borders China, have threatened to seek China’s help if the state government in Himachal does not wake up to their plight.

For a nation that stands up and screams and shouts even when a Chinese bee were to flutter across, often without any impact, I was surprised by the lukewarm response to this development. But think, and you would realize that the reason why the residents of the valley reacted thus is hidden in our reaction itself — irrespective of who is in control, we take our own for granted. And if they are out of sight, they are out of mind too. That is what the residents of these remote parts of the country are. They don’t even signify a decent vote bank to enthuse our rulers.

And if I read into the discussions I often have with friends all across this nation’s north and northeast, who are not too far from the China border, this may not be the last. For, the way the governments, both the Centre and the state, treat our countrymen at the borders is, well, shocking. Be it development, both infrastructure or their personal, avenues for growth, connectivity, and anything else. In fact, if the rest of the country is poor in infrastructure after the so-called development over the years, even that has given these areas a miss.

In contrast, the Chinese have road, air, even train connectivity, including a pressurized train that connects mainland China to the Tibetan plateau. And this is expanding at an amazing pace. I remember the kind of infrastructure being readied over a decade ago when I travelled from Lhasa to Mansarovar. Lhasa and Lhatse, as cities, looked more modern than anything that qualifies as modern in India, at least in terms of roads and glass and steel.

And what about us? Sixty-eight years after independence, we are still huffing and puffing our way from Jammu to Srinagar. Let’s be honest, the only major new line we have built since independence is the Konkan Railway, while the rest of it has been doubling of tracks with virtually no improvement in quality anywhere. In fact, the toughest part, the hill railways to Shimla and Darjeeling and Ooty, were all built by the British and we should be grateful to them for that.

Back to the threat of the villagers from the Pin valley. These are among the most amazing parts of India. Sometimes stark, sometimes breathtakingly green, but awesome in every which way you look at it.

But it is one thing to visit these places as a tourist, or as a trekker or adventurer, as I have often done, and completely different when you have to live there. One has to see the conditions in which they live to understand what they go through. You would marvel how, but they do. They are generally uncomplaining, mostly because they are simple people, but also for they know no one would listen to them.

But the times they are a-changin. They are more aware of the money that the government is “supposedly” spending on development in their area, with zero results, and they also have a fair idea of what changes are taking place on the other side of the border. In a way you can say, at least in terms of information flow, there is an improvement, and that also means the politicians, and administrators who work under their political masters, need to change. They must know what works and what doesn’t and that in an area where our northern neighbours waste no opportunity to needle us, it would help if this realization dawns NOW.

Else, the way we treat our countrymen in these remote areas, the way our corrupt babus and politicians pocket even the paltry sums that are earmarked for development there, it would hardly be a surprise if the beleaguered residents plead with the Chinese to improve their standard and quality of life.

For the Chinese, the geopolitical game is more significant than the money making politicians and bureaucrats here would ever understand. We better take corrective steps now before what happened in Pin Valley grows.

U.S. rejects Bashar al-Assad’s offer to cooperate with West against terrorism

Damascus will cooperate with the West and the international community to combat terrorism, its Foreign Minister said on Monday, but warned that any attacks against militants within its borders would be considered acts of aggression.

“Whoever wants to coordinate and cooperate with us should be taking the matter seriously, and not with double standards,” Walid al- Moallem told reporters in Damascus.

The United States has repeatedly rejected any cooperation with the government of President Bashar al-Assad in combatting Islamist terrorists in Syria, saying the leader was responsible for the current civil war, which arose after pro-reform protests were brutally put down.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday that any action in Syria must involve Arab countries, and come “from multiple directions in order to initially disrupt and eventually defeat them. It has to happen with them, much less with us”. That could put any action at odds with the stance laid out in Mr. al-Moallem’s speech, during which he welcomed this month’s U.N. Security Council condemnation of radical Islamists operating in Iraq and Syria, “even if it was late”. He made clear that any action against the Islamic State — a militant Sunni group that has carved out a self-declared caliphate in territory overrun from Syria and Iraq — within Syrian territory would be considered an aggressive act.

“We are committed to implementing the international resolution against terrorism, and the resolution does not give a mandate to anyone” to breach the sovereignty of any country, Mr. al-Moallem said.

Washington has sharpened its tone against Islamic State terrorists in Syria since the August 19 release of a video showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

The White House on Friday deemed it a terrorist attack upon the U.S., but on Monday Mr. Dempsey said there was no evidence that Islamic State militants were actively “plotting against the homeland”. Dempsey last week said the militants could not be defeated without action against their strongholds in Syria. The White House has said it would not be “restricted” by borders.

On Monday, President Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest backpedalled, saying, “What you shouldn’t necessarily do is jump to the conclusion that that means robust American military action is required in Syria to further or accomplish that goal.” Mr. Earnest said Mr. Obama would not hesitate to use military force to protect Americans and would continue to consult with Congress about military actions. The Defence Department is always planning for a range of options, he said.

“The President has not made a decision to pursue any sort of military action in Syria,” Mr. Earnest noted.

The Islamic State has been fighting rival rebels and Kurdish forces, and, to a lesser extent, the Syrian Army.

The U.N. resolution called on member states to take measures to prevent residents from travelling to join terrorist outfits and to block the movement of terrorists and their supply with arms or financial support.

Mr. Al-Moallem said Syria should be “inside the international coalition to fight terrorism” and charged there had been no “seriousness” as yet by the West to fight terrorism.

Syrian authorities term all rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad “terrorists”. They have repeatedly portrayed the conflict in Syria as one between a legitimate government and Islamist extremists.

Mr. Al-Moallem confirmed that military personnel withdrew from the Tabqa military airport “to secure their safety”. Islamic State militants seized full control of a major Syrian airbase, the last government outpost in the north-eastern province of al-Raqqa, a watchdog group said on Monday.

“The Tabqa military facility has fallen in the hands of the IS fighters, but the Syrian Army Air Force has carried several airstrikes on the base earlier Monday,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told dpa.

“There are 150 Syrian Army soldiers whose fate is still unknown,” he said, noting that the missing soldiers were mainly from Mr. al-Assad’s Alawite sect.

The Observatory said at least 346 extremists have been killed and hundreds more wounded since the Islamic State launched its Tabqa offensive a week ago. The watchdog said more than 170 Syrian Army soldiers were killed.

Most government troops withdrew into the desert, west of the Tabqa military airport after the jihadists left the road open for them to evacuate, the Observatory said.

Islamic State, which has captured swathes of northern Iraq since June, had previously established full control last year of al-Raqqa province, with the exception of three heavily defended military bases. The other two both fell in recent weeks.

The jihadists have made considerable territorial gains in eastern Syria in recent months, capturing most of Deir al-Zour province to link its strongholds in al-Raqqa and across the border in Iraq.

Unstable Pak: India must remain alert

Aug 23, 2014

Uncertainties have crept in and favour the Army, India will need to keep a close watch on the Kashmir situation and on developments in Pakistan in the run-up to the Western withdrawal 

It is hard not to be struck by the fact that the two sets of agitators who sought to besiege Pakistan capital Islamabad to protest the Nawaz Sharif regime arrived on the scene at the same time, and are pressing the same demand of the Prime Minister’s resignation.

The orchestration of the move seems obvious, and the agency with the capacity to do so is obviously the Pakistan Army. The Nawaz regime is just over a year old and hasn’t really done anything of note. Even so, the elephant in the room, the Pakistan Army, is far from pleased. Perhaps it was insecure about its ties with the civilian government which sided with the media house whose journalist was killed, allegedly on the Army’s orders. Maybe the soldiers weren’t pleased about the PM showing an interest in affairs relating to Afghanistan or India, which they deem to be their preserve.

While civil-military relations in Pakistan have generally been uncertain, what seems pretty evident now is that the Nawaz regime has now lost any capacity for stability it might have even theoretically possessed. This will be taken advantage of by its opponents, which is exactly what the Army would like of course.

This means the Army would move on the country’s Afghanistan policy unfettered by any inputs from the civilian government. It would also determine how to pitch the India policy. So, while the civilians might remain nominally in charge, the men in khaki would call the shots, directly even if discreetly. That can pretty much raise a question mark on the question of normalisation of relations with India.

Some believe the Kashmir issue was close to solution under President Pervez Musharraf, an Army man. Such a sweeping hypothesis neglects the widely accepted assumption that self-preservation dictates that the Army must not let the Kashmir tangle to come undone.

The Nawaz government could survive the twin onslaught mounted by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf and the maverick preacher Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek, but it is doubtful India would have an interlocutor of any worth in Islamabad in the remaining part of Mr Sharif’s term on office, which may well be cut short at any time of course. An important reason for this is that Pakistan is yet to arrive at the tradition of political parties getting together to challenge the machinations of the military.

Given the fact that uncertainties have crept in and favour the Army, India will need to keep a close watch on the Kashmir situation and on developments in Pakistan in the run-up to the Western withdrawal. Improving trade ties also now appears a long shot.

A pity an elected government can so easily be put on ice. But we must accept the political dynamics in a neighbouring land, and just be watchful.


August 23, 2014

Remarks at the Workshop on Prospects for Russia-US Arms Control,2 Moscow, May 16, 2013

It is my pleasure to address this audience today and it is my honor to represent my views on this subject. I’d like to thank the organizers for this opportunity.

The idea of reducing strategic offensive arms below the ceilings provided for in the New START treaty began to be actively discussed well before the treaty was concluded in April 2010. It has been for a long time since Russian expert community has realized that before a new round of negotiations is launched three problems need to be resolved: the problem of ballistic missile defenses (BMD), the problem of non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) and the problem of strategic conventional offensive arms. Events that followed after the New START was signed further strengthened this understanding.

Previous two sessions of our meeting dealt with exactly two of the problems mentioned. The problem of conventional strategic arms was mentioned just briefly, but it certainly deserves a separate discussion.

The subject of this session is further reductions in the strategic arsenals. First of all I’d like to outline status quo and prevailing trends in the development of strategic forces of the U.S and Russia.

The graph shows the forecast for strategic delivery systems development for the next 18 years provided that both parties adhere to the START treaty over this period of time. The numbers were calculated in accordance with the rules provided by the START treaty currently in force. Blue curves represent U.S. strategic systems, and the red ones – Russian systems. Dotted curves show aggregate numbers for deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, deployed and non-deployed SLBM launchers, and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers. Solid curves show the number of deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers. Two solid red curves shown for Russian missiles and bombers represent two extreme scenarios of strategic forces development – the most optimistic and the most pessimistic ones. I’ll elaborate on this later.

At the time being there is a lively discussion in the U.S. on renovation of nuclear triad and related issues. However, since existing delivery systems are to be preserved for at least fifteen years to come, any U.S. decision on replacement of delivery systems is unlikely to affect the blue curves any time before 2030. СНВ США и РФ

According to Pentagon’s existing plans, all fourteen Trident strategic submarines will be in service till 2027 and one submarine a year will retire after that. Starting 2030, the U.S. Navy is going to get one new SSBN yearly to replace retiring submarines. Service life of “Minuteman” ICBMs is going to end not earlier than in 2030. Currently an option to extend it at least till mid 2070-s is under discussion. Heavy bombers will also be capable to carry out nuclear mission at least till 2030-2040s.

Unlike the U.S., Russia has long been replacing its nuclear triad. The process of phasing out old delivery systems (currently about 80% of total deployed delivery systems) will likely continue till mid-2020s. At the moment this process proceeds with a pace that is still faster than the new missiles are built.


August 24, 2014 

URGENT: Iran Downs Israeli Spy Drone Near Natanz Nuclear Site

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force shot down an Israeli spy drone before it could reach Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, in Central Iran, on Sunday.

“A pilotless Israeli spy plane was shot down after it was traced and intercepted by the IRGC Aerospace Force,” a statement by the IRGC’s Public Relations Department announced minutes ago.

According to the statement, the Israeli pilotless aircraft was a radar-evading, stealth drone with the mission to spy on Iran’s enrichment activities by flying over Natanz nuclear enrichment plant.

The IRGC also pointed out in its statement that the Israeli hostile aircraft has been targeted by a surface-to-air missile.

“This mischievous attempt once again made the adventurous nature of the Zionist regime more evident and added another black page to the dark record of this fake and warmongering regime, which is full of crimes and wickedness,” the statement added.

The IRGC further warned that it “preserves the right of reaction and retaliation for itself”.

It also noted that the IRGC alongside other Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic is fully and resolutely ready to defend the noble Iranian nation and Islamic Iran.

Iran has so far downed several US drones in the last few years. In the most notable case the country announced on December 4, 2011 that its defense forces had downed a US RQ-170 aircraft through a sophisticated cyber attack. The drone was the first such loss by the US. US officials have described the loss of the aircraft in Iran as a setback and a fatal blow to the stealth drone program.

Israel-Hamas conflict: Is Qatar responsible for collapse of peace-talk

August 24, 2014

Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal. 

Qatar threatened to expel exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaa if Hamas accepted an Egyptian peace proposal.

As the tension between Israel and Hamas entered its 48th day and casualties from both the sides crossed 2,200, (Israel has lost 68), the UN and the entire world is concerned with continuous collapse of peace talks between Israel and Hamas.

Some quarters are blaming Qatar for stopping Hamas from reaching lasting ceasefire in the Gaza strip.

Here is why Qatar is under a shadow of doubt:

1. Qatar has been home to Hamas chief-in-exile Khaled Mashaal since 2012 and considers itself a key financial patron for Gaza.

The targeting of large buildings appears to be part of a new military tactic by Israel. 

Hamas manual that backs ‘using civilians as cover’ found: Israel

 Aug 25, 2014

Israel launched its offensive on Gaza on July 8 in response to intense Hamas rocket fire from the narrow coastal enclave. 

JERUSALEM: The Israeli army has released what it says is a page from a seized Hamas training manual that would appear to support its case that Palestinian militants deliberately use the cover of residential areas for combat operations.

Hamas, which denies it puts civilians at risk by storing and firing weapons from built-up areas, dismissed the document as a forgery intended to justify Israeli attacks that have killed hundreds of children, women and other non-combatants.

Israel has been criticised by the United Nations and others for its tactics during the war, including the shelling of densely populated areas and attacks on several UN schools, which Israel says militants were using for cover.

While many legal experts say Hamas is operating outside of international law by firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns and cities from built-up areas in the Gaza Strip, they stress that does not absolve Israel of responsibility to comply with the laws of war itself, notably on endangering civilians.

The Israeli army said the training manual was found in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun at the end of July, when troops were operating inside the enclave. The full manual is 102 pages long, the army said, but it released just one page of it.

That page appears to set out guidelines on how to hide weapons and ammunition in civilian areas, how to transport them into buildings and how to conceal or camouflage explosives.

It is marked at the bottom with "Izz-el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Training and Guidance Branch, Engineering Corps". The al-Qassam Brigades are the military wing of Hamas, the Islamist group that has controlled Gaza since 2007. Unlike other Hamas documents, the page bears no Hamas logo.

"The process of hiding ammunition inside buildings is intended for ambushes in residential areas and to move the campaign from open areas into built up and closed areas," reads the document, written in Arabic.

"Residents of the area should be used to bring in the equipment," it continues, adding: "For jihad fighters, it is easy to operate inside buildings and take advantage of this to avoid (Israeli) spy planes and attack drones."

The guidelines also explain that "the action of hiding weapons inside a building must be carried out secretly and shouldn't have a military character".

Hamas executes four more suspected Israeli spies in Gaza

August 24, 2014

Hamas has warned that Israel will "pay the price" for killing three top leaders of its military wing - the Qassam Brigades.

The executions raise the total number of Palestinian "suspects" paraded to their deaths to 25.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, continued with its executions of “collaborators”, killing four more Palestinians suspected of spying for Israel.

Masked Hamas militants fatally shot the Palestinians in the courtyard of a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp on charges of spying for the enemy yesterday.

Hamas-affiliated Al-Majd website quoted security sources as saying that the four were executed in a “revolutionary” way after “legal measures were completed”.

The website has warned that future collaborators would be dealt with in the field to create deterrence.

The Islamist faction declined to release the names or pictures of the executed for the sake of social stability, fearing backlash against their families.

The executions raise the total number of Palestinian “suspects” paraded to their deaths to 25; 18 of them were executed on Friday and three on Thursday.

Hamas has warned that Israel will “pay the price” for killing three top leaders of its military wing – the Qassam Brigades.

Earlier, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank, denounced the executions of alleged collaborators, calling them “extrajudicial”.

The PA President’s office condemned Hamas for failing to abide by existing legal procedures for dealing with the cases.

Although collaboration with Israel is punishable by death in the Palestinian legal code, President Mahmoud Abbas has maintained a moratorium on the death penalty since 2005.

Amnesty International called on Hamas to halt the campaign of summary executions of suspected collaborators.

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza has now reached 2,102, including about 500 children, with more than 10,550 injured during the 47-day conflict. In Israel, 68 people have died.

UN agencies have said that 70 per cent of those killed in Gaza are civilians, including women and children.

Israel destroys 13-storey Gaza apartment building in air strike

August 25, 2014 

The U.N. estimates that more than 17,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

The tallest building ever to be brought down by Israel - It housed 44 families.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Palestinian civilians on Sunday to leave immediately any site where militants are operating, one day after Israel took the Gaza war to a new level by flattening a 13-storey apartment tower.

Israeli aircraft first fired a non-explosive rocket at the building, a sign to residents to get out, before attacking it on Saturday. Seventeen people were wounded in the strike on the structure, which Israel said had housed a Hamas command centre.

“I call on the inhabitants of Gaza to evacuate immediately from every site from which Hamas is carrying out terrorist activity. Every one of these places is a target for us,” Netanyahu said in public remarks at a cabinet meeting.

The U.N. says about three-fourths of the Palestinians killed have been civilians. (Source: AP)

With no end in sight to fighting now in its seventh week, Netanyahu’s tough talk could indicate a move towards bolder strikes in densely populated neighbourhoods, even at the risk of raising more international alarm.

How WWII could have ended

AUG 22, 2014

August 15, 1945, is the much-remembered date of Japan’s surrender in World War II. But that date could have been much later. On a recent visit to Australia, I discovered an act of Stalinist perfidy that could easily have delayed that war end and have left much of Japan subject to Soviet occupation.

This was the fact that in 1945 Soviet leader Josef Stalin was passing on to Tokyo information from unsuspecting Australian sources that would allow the Japanese military to resist the Allied invasion from the south and provide time for a Soviet invasion into Japan from the north.

If the Soviet plan had succeeded, many more Americans, Australians and Japanese would have died as a result, and much of Japan would have come under Soviet occupation or control.

For pure ugliness and perfidiousness it rates with the Warsaw Ghetto affair when Stalin’s refusal to help the 1943 uprising there did much to allow Moscow later to take over the country and impose communist rule.

The story begins in the later stages of the Pacific War against Japan when Australia had become the base from which U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur hoped to launch his final attack from the south. In a collection of dilapidated shacks near Melbourne a small group of cryptographers were working with the British to decode intercepted Japanese military and diplomatic messages, many from the Japanese consulate at Harbin far away in northern China but sharing the same longitude as Melbourne.

From some of the painfully decoded messages the decoders had discovered that somehow the Soviets had got their hands on the detailed U.S. plans for the invasion of the Philippines and were passing them to that Harbin consulate, which was then passing them on to Tokyo where they could be used to prepare defenses against the planned Allied attacks through the islands of the western Pacific and into the Philippines.

At the time the Soviets were supposed to be cooperating with the Allies to defeat Japan. Yet here they were trying to help Japan resist the Allies. Some background is needed.

In February 1945 the Allied powers had met at Yalta and had gained Soviet agreement to prepare for an attack on Japan once Nazi Germany had been defeated. A Soviet attack from the north was seen as crucial in bringing about Japan’s early surrender and avoiding the dreadful casualties that would follow an Allied invasion of Japan.

The Root Problem of IS in Indonesia

By Rizvi Shihab
August 23, 2014
The Islamic State is exploiting the disconnect between real and perceived economic growth. 

Amidst the drama of the presidential election between Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto last month, the news that the Islamic State (IS) has “arrived” in Indonesia has raised alarms throughout the country. IS is a transnational, radical religious group that is adamant about creating an absolute Islamic state in any country it enters, for political and economic gain, as shown by its interest in taking control of some Iraqi oil fields.

As with certain radical Islamic groups, IS’s understanding of the Qur’an’s text is rigid and puritanical by nature, and it considers others who do not follow their beliefs to be unbelievers. For IS, this difference of interpretation is sufficient justification to kill. Videos of IS members brutally executing and decapitating both military and civilian opposition have been documented, and have sent shockwaves worldwide.

Consequently, the mere presence of IS in Indonesia, and the threat a growing presence might represent, has attracted serious reactions from the government and leading religious scholars in the region. Why has radicalism entered Indonesia so easily and attracted a following? Could it be due to a lapse in national security, social media disinformation, and insufficient rural education? These are all reasonable explanations, but they may overlook the basic root of the problem that has allowed these radical concepts to infiltrate Indonesia: poverty and the illusion of a growing national economy.

By some measures, Indonesia today boasts a top ten world economy, in purchasing power parity terms. The question is, does having a high GDP necessarily translate into a balanced economy that benefits most of Indonesia’s citizens and not only the elite? Contrary to popular belief, poverty levels for the past several years have deteriorated and plateaued at around 11.5 percent. The main reason for this discrepancy is the fact that a large portion of Indonesia’s natural resources are controlled by foreign entities, such as Chevron in the oil and gas sector and Freeport in the mining industry.

For example, only 25 percent of the oil and gas produced in Indonesia is handled by state owned Pertamina, while Freeport has enjoyed decades of control over Indonesia’s most attractive mining sites. Their contract has been extended recently, in anticipation of a possibly more strict policy change from the new government.


By Gautam Sen,IDSA

Bangladesh and Myanmar have had a not-too-stable a relationship on the border – both land and maritime. In 1980 an agreement on border cooperation was signed between the two countries. A verdict was subsequently obtained from the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas in March 2012 concerning delineation of their common maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal and accepted by both the governments. This backdrop enabled deployment of respective border forces (Border Guards Bangladesh and Border Police Force of Myanmar) without provocative maneuverings and also peaceful exploration of hydrocarbons in the Bay of Bengal. However, tension had again flared up along the 270-km long land boundary in May this year, leading to killings of border guarding personnel on both sides and also some persons alleged to be from the Rohingya Security Organisation (RSO) – reportedly an anti-Myanmar militant outfit to protect Rohingya interests.

Both the countries had thereafter interacted with each other to downplay the tension, but the overall situation does not seem to have returned to normalcy. In both Bangladesh and Myanmar, the ruling governments have numerous pressure groups and detractors to contend with. Therefore, an early resolution of the border problem seems difficult and irksome, particularly on ways to deal with the Rohingya refugees moving out of Myanmar in large numbers from Rakhine province. India has an interest towards containing the Rohingya issue, so that the refugee spillover do not disturb the political situation and economic conditions in the adjoining Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura and also adversely impinge on the security of other north-eastern states.

Notwithstanding the recent bilateral differences between Bangladesh and Myanmar a broad measure of accommodative relationship has been prevailing between the two countries. The Rohingya problem, notwithstanding issues of human rights, can be permanently resolved only when devolution of politico-economic powers to regions dominated by different ethnic groups and their inter-se rights are settled within the framework of Myanmar`s Constitution and enacted within its ambit. This, however, appears unlikely in the next couple of years, at least before the next parliamentary elections in Myanmar in December 2015, considering that the Aung San Suu Kyi`s National League for Democracy and other political parties drawing upon the support of the dominant Burman ethnic community would not like to concede much to the Rohingyas.

There are logical reasons for India to suitably intercede with both its neighours to facilitate an agreement on the border. There are geopolitical reasons for this. It is in India`s interest to avoid an emerging situation in which the Rohingyas in general or RSO takes to arms, develop tactical ground-level cooperation with other militant groups operating in India`s north-east and transgress into the north eastern states through Bangladesh territory. Hot pursuit of Rohingya militants – and in the process some incidental action against harmless Rohingyas fleeing from persecution of other Myanmarese ethnic groups and also state elements – by the Myanmar army across the disputed portions of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, will only exacerbate the existing border tension.

A mediatory role by India may not be unwelcome by Bangladesh and Myanmar as both have friendly relations with India. On humanitarian grounds, New Delhi may try to subtly prevail upon the Myanmar to at least provide the Rohingyas rights to continue to reside in the places where they were originally settled, give them permits to work and earn their livelihood through their traditional economic activities, ie., without pressing for their political rights of citizenship. These concessions may be acceptable to the moderate ethnic Burmans if suitably advocated by the existing Myanmar state establishment. Spillover of persecuted Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh and also their forced eviction thereafter from Bangladesh is likely to lead to their eventual movement towards India to find shelter in the north-eastern states like Mizoram and Tripura, jeopardizing normal civic life and demographic balance.


By Patience Kabamba,Pambazuka News

In the midst of an abundant anti-ethnic bias in much of the critical literature in African studies, there may be a renewed necessity to theorize the salience and continuing production of “ethnic” difference in a manner that could problematize and challenge the notion that ethnicity was merely a devious and divisive invention of colonialism, pure and simple, and must be overcome. The current study is questionning non-state formations based on ethnic networks in Africa to see if and how these networks mobilize social capital or social liability for economic and political development within the different contexts of their respective “weak” states. This study revives in a distinctly new way an older tradition in anthropology to use the study of “stateless societies” to pose critical questions about the constitution of modern society and the institutions on which political economy presumably rests.

In political science theory, the state is a basic and largely unquestioned category. Other categories such as authority, rights, and sovereignty retain a certain amount of fluidity and are deemed worthy topics of discussion and debate, but the state, as a category, is simply assumed. Max Weber defined the state as a “ruling organization [which] will be called ‘political’ insofar as its existence and order is continuously safeguarded within a given territorial area by the threat and application of physical force on the part of the administrative staff” (1978:54). Weber defines a state as a rationalized administrative form of political organization and identifies legibility as the process par excellence for its creation and retention. Compounded by capitalism and globalization, this Eurocentric conception of statehood has become a fixed and rigid fact and the gauge by which all other “normative” states are judged.

In the dominate political science literature, state “collapse” refers to the crumbling of institutions while state failure is defined as the non-performance of key state functions (Zartman 1995). State collapse occurs when the structure, authority, law, and political order of a state has disintegrated while state failure begs the question of what the core functions of the state actually are, from concern about basic security to respect for the rights of its citizens. In the advanced capitalist world, what some call the first world, where globalization is about the deepening of commodity relations, the privatization of public services, and the search for cheaper and more productive labor, (Moore 2001, Harvey 2000) African states are often interpreted not only in terms of their failure to adhere to a Weberian model of the rational-legal state, but also in terms of their limited capitalist possibilities; their inability to insert themselves in the world market with regard to resource extraction, social control, and policy implementation. However, this “failure” of the state does not necessitate anarchy because “there can be a governance without government” (Rosenau and Czempiel 1992, Rodhes 1996, Vlassenroot and Raeymaekers 2008). The former can be provided by non-state social networks that involve loyalties beyond national ones. Many African states are experiencing just this kind of political and economic organization through a deepening of social relations.

Due to ongoing war, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has seen the demise of conventional state control and the growth of privatized exercises of power at the local level. From a humanitarian point of view, the Congolese conflict has caused levels of suffering unparalleled in any recent war. As of 2006, out of a population of 58 million Congolese, as many as 4 million had died, 7 million suffered from malnutrition, 3 million were HIV positive, at least 40,000 had been victims of sexual violence, 2.4 million were internally displaced, 880,000 had become refugees, and 3 million children were orphans (Coleman S., 2005). In 1998 the country’s territory was controlled by three main Congolese rebel groups, a dozen Congolese militias, rebel groups from Uganda, Burundi and Sudan, the Interhamwe—the Rwandan militia responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda— and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Few traditional functions of the state are in evidence within the country and extensive zones are still controlled by internal and external rebel groups; however, political order and economic development—even development involving transnational trade—have arisen in the DRC.

2014: A Year of Botched Elections in Asia

By Andrew Oplas
August 24, 2014

Setbacks in Thailand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh suggest that democratic reforms are on the retreat. 

It is commonly understood that genuine elections are among the most indispensable prerequisites for effective and sustained democratic governance. And yet as with democracy itself, elections are imperfect and malleable. Often associated with triumphant images – the purple-stained finger or zigzagging queues of hopeful voters risking everything in the face of threats – it is easy to overrate the ability of elections to set the stage for lasting democratic reforms in countries with little history of self-government.

In Asia, many anticipated 2014 to mark a turning point with a number of watershed elections, an opportunity for democratic reforms and consolidation. Yet with a couple of significant exceptions, elections across the region were undermined and manipulated, even annulled. Far from bolstering fledgling democracies, more often than not the “democratic cause” suffered. This record of failed elections may even be part of a larger trend of democracy in retreat in the region, and beyond.

Failed Elections, Fraught Electoral Systems

The year opened with a farcical January parliamentary election in Bangladesh, where the vote was marred by widespread protests and violence. Rather than serve as pawns in a rigged and corrupted vote, supporters of the strongest opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) instead took to the streets. As a result of the boycott, the results were not in question and most citizens didn’t even bother to vote.

Those who braved the disruptions witnessed widespread chaos and violence as 50,000 troops were deployed, dozens were killed, and scores more injured. The ambivalent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League party shrugged off criticism as her party captured nearly complete control of parliament based on a flawed, illegitimate poll.

In truth, the balance in Bangladesh between military rule, dictatorship, and dysfunctional democracy has always been dubious. But the course of the current government, suffering from endless corruption, chaos, and little appetite for serious institutional reform, much less tolerance of opposition voices, is increasingly authoritarian.

On the surface, Thailand is a country with a more aesthetically pleasing reputation and experience with democratic governance, but an existential divide long plaguing the national polity opened up after Prime Minister Yingluck Thaksin made a crucial political miscalculation last year, allowing the opposition, led by the traditional social elite and royalists of Bangkok, to pounce. An election in February was perhaps Asia’s most conspicuous failure of democracy in action this year.

Opposition to Thaksin and her billionaire exile father, led by firebrand anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban, who can hardly conceal his contempt for majority rule, clearly had only minority support (as demonstrated repeatedly in national elections), but nonetheless crafted a persistent strategy to discredit and paralyze the government. In the February poll, protesters succeeded in disrupting voting in 69 of 375 precincts, and Thailand’s anti-Thaksin majority Constitutional Court nullified the election on grounds that it could not be successfully held in a single day. This created perfect conditions for regime overthrow, Thailand’s 12th successful military coup since 1932.

Prompt and efficient steps were taken to stifle dissent, quiet the media, and get on about the business of building a new order, which is certain to further restrict and limit future self-governance, though unlikely to reconcile the nation’s festering social divisions. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha (soon to be prime minister under the junta) has instituted an unapologetically authoritarian government and is attempting to systematically neuter the Shinawatra family’s influence and prepare the way for royal succession under the watchful eyes of the conservative elite, democracy be damned. Leaders of the coup have received the blessing of ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej to grant substantial new powers and a new Constitution. The pendulum has swung decisively away from democratic rule.

Tightening Ukraine-Russia border is key to peace deal

German Chancellor proposes observer mission to control frontier

August 23

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that the standoff over Ukraine could be solved but only if control was tightened over the Ukraine-Russia border across which, the West alleges, Russia has been funnelling arms to help a separatist rebellion.

Merkel was visiting Kiev as a prelude to a meeting next week between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders that diplomats say is the best chance in months of a peace deal in eastern Ukraine, where government forces are fighting pro-Moscow rebels.

But she arrived as tensions flared up again. NATO has alleged Russia's military is active inside Ukraine helping the rebels, and Moscow angered Kiev and its Western allies by sending an aid convoy into Ukraine against Kiev's wishes.

"There must be two sides to be successful. You cannot achieve peace on your own. I hope the talks with Russia will lead to success," said Merkel, looking ahead to a meeting on Tuesday involving Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko.

"The plans are on the table...now actions must follow," the German leader told a news conference after talks with Poroshenko in the Ukrainian capital.

She said a ceasefire was needed, but the main obstacle was the lack of controls along the nearly 2,000 km border. She proposed an agreement between Kiev and Moscow on monitoring of the frontier by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Poroshenko suggested he saw scope for accord. "The Ukrainian side and our European partners will do everything possible to bring about peace - but not at the price of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the independence of Ukraine," he said.

Hours before her plane landed in Kiev, there was heavy artillery bombardment in Donetsk, the main separatist stronghold on the east of Ukraine, near the border with Russia. Reuters reporters saw apartments destroyed and puddles of blood, where, according to residents, two civilians were killed.

The unusually intense shelling may be part of a drive by government forces to achieve a breakthrough against the rebels in time for Ukrainian Independence Day, which falls on Sunday.

Diplomats say Merkel has two aims for the visit: primarily to show support for Kiev in its stand-off with Russia, but also to urge Poroshenko to be open to peace proposals when he meets Putin next week.

The conflict in Ukraine has dragged Russian-Western relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and sparked a round of trade sanctions that are hurting already-fragile economies in European and Russia. — Reuters

Truck convoy a fresh bone of contention

A convoy of about 220 white-painted trucks rolled into Ukraine on Friday through a border crossing controlled by the rebels after days waiting for clearance. 
Moscow said the trucks moved in without Kiev's consent because civilians in areas under siege from Ukrainian government troops were in urgent need of food, water and other supplies 
Kiev called the convoy a direct invasion, a stance echoed by NATO, the US and European leaders. A Reuters journalist said trucks on Saturday had started pouring back onto the Russian side 
The foreign ministry in Moscow said the convoy had now left Ukraine, though a Ukrainian military spokesman disputed this, saying only 184 of the 220 vehicles had re-entered Russia

A Diplomatic Solution for Ukraine

August 23, 2014 

"The urgent priority should be to end the fighting."

Ukrainian forces are gaining ground in the country's east, but Russia’s military interference shows no sign of slackening. This is a dangerous moment. Fortunately, diplomacy to alleviate the crisis is intensifying, but negotiation will need to be matched by firmness. It remains unclear whether a political settlement will be possible.

Despite uncertainty about Russian military plans and the outcome of Ukrainian military operations against the rebels in their remaining redoubts, it is not too soon to consider how to lay the foundations for a negotiated solution.

On Saturday, German chancellorAngela Merkel will visit Kyiv, and next Tuesday, European Commission leaders will meet in Minsk with Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. These contacts offer opportunities to assess whether the conflict can move from the battlefield to the negotiating table.

There have been a number of telephone calls between Russian, Ukrainian and Western leaders—over thirty between Merkel and Putin—but formal negotiations on defusing the crisis are stalled. On July 2, in Berlin, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met and agreed to create a contact group comprising the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Russia and Ukraine. Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier gushed that the meeting yielded “a clear commitment to a multilateral ceasefire.” On August 17, at a second meeting of the ministers, he highlighted the ministers’ efforts to devise a “roadmap toward a sustainable cease-fire.” But Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said he saw no “positive results” to this end or progress on a “political process” for resolving the conflict.

In addition to a lack of good-faith participation by Russia, the negotiations have three structural weaknesses: the exclusion of key actors, the narrow scope of the talks and the illogic of pursuing a cease-fire. Talks ought to include the European Union, the United States and Canada. This would bring more leverage to bear in areas beyond the crisis, such as energy and economic assistance. It would also reduce pressure on Ukraine to accept a cease-fire in place, which would create a frozen conflict and permanent instability, as in Abkhazia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. Ukraine has to be able to restore its territorial integrity.

America, Take Notice: China's Five Military Game Changers

August 23, 2014 

Beijing's military prowess grows with each passing day. Should Washington be concerned?

For decades, China has played catch-up with the world’s most advanced military powers. Starting from a very low technological base, and without the benefit of access to foreign technology markets, the defense base of the People’s Republic of China struggled to develop innovative technologies that could compete with Russian, European, and American systems. China compensated for this deficiency by importing advanced foreign weapons and tech, and by orienting its military strategy around defense.

To some extent, China continues to play catch-up today. However, new advances are bringing the Chinese defense-industrial base ever closer to its counterparts (indeed, in some ways Chinese technology has surpassed Russian). This article examines five pieces of future Chinese military technology that could become “game changers.” These five systems each threaten to contribute to the transformation of China’s security environment, and by extension to revolutionize the politics of East Asia.

China’s intentions with respect to its carrier fleet have remained mysterious for decades. The completion of theLiaoning made clear that China does intend to develop a carrier force, but questions remain about the size of the force, and about its eventual capabilities. The lack of transparency with respect to China’s carrier plans means that we don’t yet have a sense of what new ships will look like, although they may carry the stealth-style fighters and could possibly launch AEW (airborne early warning) aircraft.

To be sure, Chinese naval aviation still has a very long way to go before the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) can challenge the U.S. Navy (USN). The planes and the carriers, while impressive, will lack the capabilities of a U.S. super-carrier air wing. While the Chinese are working out deck operation procedures on Liaoning, future carriers will undoubtedly demand different kinds of expertise.

Nevertheless, a carrier fleet fundamentally changes China’s approach to maritime affairs. Even if the carriers enjoy limited capabilities by American standards (ski-jump aircraft can’t carry much ordnance for strike missions), China will still radically increase its power projection capability as soon as the next two carriers hit the water.

Type 055 Cruiser:

China appears to be building its first big cruisers. Although shipbuilders have yet to lay down the first ship of the class, a mockup suggests that China could be planning a cruiser of (by contemporary standards) very large proportions. If built, these ships won’t be as large as the Russian Kirovs or the USN’s Zumwalt destroyers, but they still represent a jump forward for China’s naval capabilities.

Analysts have estimated the Type 055 at around 12,000 tons, and have suggested that it could carry up to 128 vertical launch cells. A cruiser of this size could threaten to strike into the deep interior with cruise missiles, or could control the airspace in order to protect a task force. The PLAN may consider ship size a useful substitute for the wealth of bases that the United States Navy enjoys. Larger ships, with greater ranges and more internal stores, can operate far from China’s relatively restricted ports.

Perhaps as importantly, construction of these cruisers would represent a major political commitment on the part of the Chinese government to the future of the Navy, a vision which undoubtedly includes power projection. Along with the continued development of the PLAN’s carrier aviation, it speaks to the important that Beijing now allocates to the development of a blue water fleet.

Triangulating Cyberespionage for Better US Diplomacy

By Lawrence L. Muir, Jr.
August 22, 2014
Why the US should seek a meaningful trilateral treaty with China and Russia on cyberespionage. 

The United States is under significant diplomatic pressure. International turmoil that began with destabilizing events in smaller nations, such as North African coups and Venezuelan protests, has grown into the testing of boundaries by two of the world’s most powerful nations, Russia and China. As Russia tests American resolve with its actions in Ukraine, and China tests America with its actions in the South China Sea, foreign policy experts have expressed their opinions on what the United States needs to do to stabilize international affairs. An article in Foreign Affairs suggested that theUnited States must reach a “grand bargain” with Russia to stabilize Europe. An article in The Diplomatsuggested the United States must reach a “grand bargain” with China to stabilize Asia. These individual grand bargains with Russia and China are, however, the wrong efforts at the wrong time. Rather than pursuing grand bargains with each nation individually, the United States would secure a much-needed strategic diplomatic victory by triangulating the two nations and forming a trilateral treaty concerning cyberattacks.

American relations with both countries are failing, while relations between China and Russia are strengthening. China has reached an agreement with Russia to supply it with discounted energy at bargain prices, bolstering the economies of both nations going forward. The American government is too fractured to reach consensus on what a grand bargain with either nation should contemplate, and American diplomatic capital is too bankrupt to achieve the grand bargain even if the U.S. could frame it. Instead of negotiating separate grand bargains with each country, the United States should negotiate a small but important agreement between the three nations. By forming a trilateral agreement on cyber issues, specifically cybercrime, cyberespionage and cyberwarfare, American diplomats could resolve an important geopolitical issue, while strategically pulling Russia and China closer to America and further apart from each other. By opening diplomatic talks with a smaller issue, the cyberattack treaty would allow for a linkage of issues that could ultimately lead to stabilization.

The United States is on the brink of both a trade war and a cyberwar with each country. Chinese cyberespionage, for which China accepts no responsibility, has contributed to America’s economic malaise. McAfee estimates cybercrime reduces U.S. GDP growth by up to 0.8 percent. In response to Chinese hacking, the FBI indicted five officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on cybercrime charges. This unilateral American effort, undertaken because bilateral diplomatic efforts failed to reach an accord on cyber-issues, has proven to be a foreign policy blunder. American companies have faced retribution from the Chinese government. The U.S. has retaliated with trade sanctions against Chinese solar companies. The Chinese, in turn, have stated that a promising bilateral investment treaty now faces serious difficulties. The two nations, so dependent upon each other for economic growth through exports, stand on the precipice of a trade war exacerbated by a cyberwar, due in no small part to the foolishness of an indictment that will never produce convictions.

While the Dragon receives the lion’s share of attention for illicit cyberactivity, one must not overlook the Bear. More specifically, the “Energetic Bear,” a Russian-linked form of malware that infected energy companies in the United States and Europe. The malware allowed the controllers to monitor energy consumption, another form of economic espionage directed against the United States. Moreover, Russian hackers recently stole 1.2 billion passwords from websites, further demonstrating Russia’s offensive cyber-capabilities. As with China, American bilateral diplomatic efforts with Russia have failed to achieve desired American outcomes. American sanctions against Russia over Ukraine have not only failed to retard Putin’s ambitions in the region, but they have led to Russian sanctions against American agricultural imports. These sanctions have pushed the two nations towards a trade war, with cyberthreats looming in the background.

Perhaps the simplest explanation for these bilateral failures is that both Russia and China pursue national interest diplomacy (the best interest of its nation) compared to America’s preference for collective security diplomacy (seeking multinational moral responsibilities). Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, responding to the American sanctions against Russia, taunted the United States. He chided the Americans for not appreciating that the Russians have a national interest in how they conduct foreign affairs, and proclaimed that the American foreign policy arsenal is not very rich. As to the cyber-issue with China, U.S. President Barack Obama wants to work with China to set rules that all nations can agree upon, language that rings hollow with Chinese diplomats in theory, and in practice has stalemated negotiations on the issue.

In light of these bilateral failures, triangulation may provide the United States with an opening to achieve diplomatic success with both nations. Though the cyberattack issue is significant, cyberattacks are less threatening to geopolitical stability than the events in Ukraine and the South China Sea have been. The reduction in significance enables open discourse on a less volatile subject, thereby allowing the United States to find areas of cooperation and agreement between the three nations, while also exploring potential diplomatic fault lines between Russia and China.

Despite the energy deal, Russia must have concerns about Chinese interests toward Russia, and must worry about becoming the junior partner in their blossoming geopolitical romance. Russia and China have a long-standing historic rivalry, including skirmishes in the Border Conflict of 1969. Russia has significant energy resources in Siberia, a region over which China has staked historic claims. As China makes investments in Russia, while populating Siberia with ethnic Chinese immigrants, Russia must watch its partner closely for signs of assertiveness in that region. Moreover, as Russian energy fuels Chinese economic expansion, it reduces the Russian share of the balance of power between the two nations, which is a significant problem for Russia’s bid for greater Asian influence.

The cyber-issue highlights the growing economic disparities between Russia and China. The United States invests 2.9 percent of its GDP in research & development. China invests 1.7 percent of its GDP in the same way. This gap is partially explained by the fact that China has been stealing American intellectual property, skipping the expensive costs of economic growth and heading straight to production. As stolen American intellectual property fuels Chinese economic growth, Russia becomes more subordinate to China, thus providing Russia with a national interest in preventing Chinese cybertheft of American intellectual property. If Chinese economic growth falls below 7 percent, it cannot maintain full employment, which would create internal problems for the Chinese government; problems that could work to Russia’s favor in pursuing its Asian strategy.