5 September 2014

Wanted: Conservation of our biodiversity

Lt Gen Baljit Singh (retd)

There is a need to put in place a politico-administrative ideology to safeguard our wildlife, ecology and flora as well as fauna

India has been and remains unmindful, in fact, ignorant, of the country’s rich, ecological heritage

LESS than a year prior to Narendra Modi being sworn in as India’s Prime Minister, the Supreme Court had handed down a historic judgment (Center for Environmental Law WWF – I v. Union of India and Others) which was applauded for its far-sighted, symbiotic wisdom, committing India and Indians to preserve in essence all of the country’s wilderness spaces (which altogether add up to less than 5 per cent of our terrestrial area) together with all the faunal and floral life forms that inhabit therein. Admittedly, this judicial pronouncement is not a jot different to what already lies enshrined within the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), read in conjunction with the Forest Rights Act (2006). But coming as a judicial intervention by the highest court of law, its decree was expected to be read diligently and complied with by the Executive, implicitly.
Diluting the spirit of the judgment

However, even before the “ink dried” over that judgment, the Union Government has issued a Gazette Notification which, not merely, diminishes the spirit of that judgment but also significantly dilutes certain principal elements from the existing mechanism of checks-and-balances from the construct of the apex ecology “watch-dog”, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL); namely, as against five NGOs and 10 “expert” members mandated by the Wildlife Protection Act, the successor NBWL will have just three “non-official” members. Period. The Gazette then goes on to nominate these three worthies, admittedly with excellent credentials in nature conservation fields but when two of the three are retired government servants from Gujarat (the PM’s turf), the fair play element at once becomes suspect.

Rich ecology

It is un-flattering but true that by and large India has been and remains unmindful, in fact, ignorant, of the country’s rich ecological heritage and its attributes in keeping the country’s food-basket brimming all the time, providing natural Carbon-Sinks and absorbing noise pollution at zero cost and impacting positively upon the country’s micro climate. Perhaps it were these scientific revelations which, in 1882, had prompted Sir Charles Darwin and Sir Joseph Hooker to write a memorandum to the Secretary of State for India at Whitehall, for the need to document India's rich bio-diversity. The recommendation was accepted and a series of publications were planned. By 1889, the first results of the undertaking became public when EW Oates and WT Blanford produced Fauna of British India: Birds in four volumes. This was perhaps the beginning of the development of a politico administrative ideology to preserve India's myriad biodiversity niches and wildlife forms inhabiting these wilderness-habitats.

From nine tiger reserves initially, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 47 at present, spread out in 18 of our tiger-range states

Curzon’s contribution

In the long pantheon of Governor-Generals and Viceroys of India post that appeal, the one who truly had the love and understanding of India's wildernesses and provided lead by personal example, was Lord Curzon. It had become an annual ritual for the Viceroy of India to indulge in field-sport (hunting/shikar) during the Christmas week and India's princes vied with each other to host the Viceroy’s hunt in their state. So it was that the Nawab of Junagadh made overtures to the Viceroy to hunt the Asiatic lion in his principality in the Christmas week of 1903. That was also the time, when the only pride of the Asiatic lions surviving in the world was in Junagadh. But the lions numbered less than 20 animals in all and a lesser man would have jumped at the chance of acquiring such a priceless trophy at that “momentous” time but not Lord Curzon. Politely declining the invitation, the Viceroy instead invited the Nawab to start a movement for the preservation of the Asiatic lion for posterity. This was perhaps the first unambiguous policy directive to conserve nature in the country from the man who was the head of both the Executive and the Legislature in India.

Month of Plain Talking

By Bharat Karnad
05th September 2014 
Source Link

LAll diplomacy is calculation but it is how the lines of national interests and strategy clash or converge that are of concern during state visits which, otherwise, are staid, scripted affairs. The decade of the wimpish Congress party regime showed an India at its most pusillanimous, wracked by doubts about leveraging the country’s myriad strengths. The spate of visits this September starting with prime minister Narendra Modi’s to Shinzo Abe’s Japan followed by jaunts to New Delhi by his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott and by Chinese president Xi Jinping, ending with Modi’s September 30 meeting in Washington with US president Barack Obama will, hopefully, reverse the trend. These will be occasions when foreign leaders, because Modi is new on the scene, will be keen to size him up, read his mind, try and decipher his intentions and get a fix on his foreign policy orientation and attitude.

Modi must have been disabused of the notion that cultural links and personal bonhomie count for much in international relations when Tokyo insisted on an unambiguous commitment against resuming nuclear tests before approving a nuclear deal. Despite being fully aware of this precondition why Modi still pitched for a nuclear trade accord isn’t clear. It is troubling that the Indian government from Manmohan Singh’s days persists in making a “nuclear deal” with every passing country the test of its seriousness to engage India, when actually what it does is reduce India to a supplicant and erodes its prestige. One hopes Modi reminded Abe that sections within Japan, which is the proverbial screwdriver’s turn away from the Bomb, are calling for nuclear weaponisation to deal with the North Korea-China combine, and that a thermonuclearised India and Japan at the two ends of Asia is the best solution to keep Beijing quiet. Moreover, surely Modi isn’t prepared to waive India’s liability law and buy the unproven Toshiba-Westinghouse AP 1000 enriched uranium-fuelled reactor just to please Tokyo? An aside, but prioritising the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shinkansen “bullet train” line in existing Indian conditions may not be pragmatic considering it will also take a big chunk ($10-$15 billion) off the promised Japanese $35 billion foreign direct investment (FDI) in infrastructure build-up. It will cost more to protect the special corridor than run the high-speed trains.

Rather than “nuclear deals” and stuff, Modi should propound the logic of geopolitics and military cooperation. It pays. For instance, Modi’s reference in Tokyo to the 18th century-style imperialistic tendencies of China to grab land and sea territories, and Tokyo’s agreeing to sell 15 US-2 amphibious aircraft along with transfer of technology (ToT) that will result in a US-2i version tailored for Indian needs to be designed with Indian military’s inputs, and the talk of the Soryu-class conventional hunter-killer submarine in the Indian fleet, have made an Indo-Japanese pincer real. Beijing has reacted with reports suggesting that Xi Jinping is preparing to match Abe’s ante and to up it with even more attractive investment and other deals. To maximise geostrategic gains, Modi should maintain pressure by announcing the sale/transfer of Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles to Vietnam and other Southeast Asian states in the run-up to Xi Jinping’s visit.

Beijing is worried. The Islamic insurgency is taking hold in the Uyghur Muslim-majority Xinjiang, and Tibet continues to seethe with people angry with the Chinese policy of rubbing out Tibetan cultural identity. In this context, Modi should respond to Xi Jinping’s pleas for restricting the Tibetan exile community’s activities by suggesting the restoration of genuine “autonomy” for Tibet and as buffer zone devoid of the Peoples Liberation Army presence as the foundation for lasting peace.

A LONGING FOR WAR - Pakistan is an example of the best-laid plans gone astray

Pakistan’s stygian journey, as “Land of the Pure,” has been the destabilization and (ultimate) demolition of ‘Hindu’ India, before the restoration of a pristine caliphate of Islamic power and glory. An All-India Muslim League resolution piloted by Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his acolytes, in the aftermath of World War II, called for an immediate British withdrawal from the subcontinent, enabling the forces of militant Islam to reignite the iconoclastic practices of Ghaznavi, Tamerlane, Nadir Shah and Abdali — grist to the mills of an ideologically-driven messianic entity.

It was in the reading room of the old India Office Library in London (now part of the magnificent British Library) that I read the above incendiary sentiments following an accidental reach of the arm to the open shelves and the discovery of the appropriate volume of the Indian Annual Register. Christine Fair, an academic at Georgetown University in the United States of America, has written a meticulously researched and insightful book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, which explores itsjihadi psyche and the compulsive addiction to conflict with India. This, surely, is a matter of moment as the Pakistan military and its jihadi affiliates are the country’s true masters. Fair resolutely avoided personal exchanges, because her subjects were given to hiding what the false heart doth know behind the false face: in other words, they trimmed their words to fit the liberal sensibility of a Western visitor. Wise to such ways, Fair trawled piles of authenticated documents to give the unhinged Pakistani military voice its true vent. She might, profitably, have complemented this with the contents of a US state department minute in 1949 — shortly after the visit of the then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to Washington — suggesting that his country’s “national traits... if not controlled, could make India Japan’s successor in Asiatic imperialism. In such circumstances, a strong Muslim bloc under the leadership of Pakistan and friendly to the US might offer a desirable balance of power in South Asia.” In 1971, the US president, Richard Nixon, and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, were similarly excoriating in their judgment of India; Nixon subsequently told the British foreign secretary, Alec Douglas-Home, that Indian independence was undeserved.

Fair says, in conversation with an Indian scribe: “What Pakistan is trying to do is use jihad to mobilize and to boost the morale of their troops so that they are on perpetual war footing with India... They always pitch India as a ‘Hindu’ nation... because they are in this civilization battle... the Kashmir issue is not causal, it’s symptomatic.” Reading this took me down memory lane, to London in the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, and the liberation of Bangladesh. The former air commodore, M.K. Janjua, the first head of the Pakistan air force, was one of the early supporters of the Bangladesh movement. He had been arraigned, incarcerated and cashiered for his alleged involvement in the 1951 Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. The celebrated Pakistani poet and leftwing activist, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, was also imprisoned; both men were released when the trial collapsed, following the assassination of then Pakistan premier, Liaquat Ali Khan. Faiz assured me at a sumptuous dinner in a lavish Mayfair apartment, belonging to a well-heeled Pakistani businessman, that Janjua, poor man, was neither a communist nor a conspirator, as charged, but simply the fall guy in a factional conflict within the country’s military. Faiz, I may add, was noticeably partial to a good table, withstanding the formidable challenge of his cups with a careless rapture beyond the reckoning of hoi polloi.

Fight alienation and not AFSPA

03 Sep , 2014

Troops patrol in Kashmir

Periodically Omar Abdullah demands abrogation of AFSPA from certain areas of the state of J and K. He claims that there is complete peace in these areas and therefore there is little justification for continuing with this law .These periodic out bursts against AFSPA and the demand for its removal appears to be a political gimmick. Though encounters with insurgents continue to take place.

…because the political class in the valley and certain other elements have been profiting from this deliberately created climate of uncertainty and ambiguity which has enriched them to no end.

He has been chief minister of the state for reasonably long period of time and one would expect him to have better understanding and grasp of phenomena of insurgency. Equally he would be aware what are the causes and how and why insurgency is being sustained in his state. One would also expect him to have a clearer grasp over the varied patterns, insurgencies go through and the ups and downs they normally follow, because the causes of this malady are never adequately addressed, more so in India.

He is not known to make any effort to eliminate atmosphere of alienation which is purposefully generated by vested interests within the valley. This is essentially so because the political class in the valley and certain other elements have been profiting from this deliberately created climate of uncertainty and ambiguity which has enriched them to no end. No one need expect them to kill the goose that has been providing them the golden eggs!

An area has to be first declared as disturbed area before AFSPA can be promulgated. So Omar need voice for the first step. AFSPA is merely an enabling act, which facilitates military to combat insurgency. Since military does not have even routine police powers, it would be impossible for it to operate in an insurgency environment without the facilitating provisions inbuilt in AFSPA. Therefore to expect the military to carry out any manner of operations against the insurgents without support of some legal provisions, may well be too much. As insurgencies can survive only where they have some support of the locals, so the army, perforce, has to operate in somewhat hostile environments, where evidence, even against its fair and normal actions, is projected as excessive: one that allegedly violates human rights.


With the Pakistani press fixated on impending anti-government protests in Islamabad, a major terrorist attack launched in mid-August on the other side of the country went largely unreported.

Fourteen militants—heavily armed and laden with suicide vests—assaulted two airbases in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. Fortunately, the damage was minimal. Pakistani security forces responded promptly, defusing bombs placed outside the bases and preventing the terrorists from breaching either facility. After a gunfight of several hours, all the militants were either dead or captured. There were no other fatalities (though several policemen were reportedly injured).

The Quetta attack was notable because of its timing. It was carried out during a relative lull in terror strikes in Pakistan, which had set in after the military began a countermilitancy operation in North Waziristan in June. Whoever orchestrated the attack clearly wanted to send a strong message of defiance—or revenge.

Several days later, the branch of the Pakistani Taliban based in the Mohmand tribal agency, led by Omar Khalid Khorasani, claimed responsibility for the attack. A letter posted on Twitter said it was carried out in retaliation for the North Waziristan operation.

If there is one militant who can be counted on to shatter a lull in Pakistan’s terrorist violence, it is Khorasani. A founding member of the Pakistani Taliban, he is an uncompromisingly brutal jihadist with a rapidly rising profile. Until recently, these qualities, coupled with a one-time reputation within the organization for uniting divided factions, suggested that he could one day replace supreme leader Mullah Fazlullah (like Fazlullah, Khorasani is rumored to be based in Afghanistan—and therefore out of range of the Pakistani military’s Waziristan offensive).

However, recent days have brought news that Khorasani has turned against the Pakistani Taliban to form a new militant spinoff group called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

A Series of Splits

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is no small-time splinter group. Taliban leaders from across the tribal belt (not just Mohmand) have joined its cause, and even several Taliban officials from the settled areas of Swat and Peshwar have rallied to its side. Its future relationship with the parent Pakistani Taliban is unclear; initial statements from the new faction suggested it was splitting with the group altogether, though subsequent comments seemed to imply that it would still function within the broader Pakistani Taliban movement. Either way, it poses a considerable challenge to the leadership of Fazlullah.

The Pakistani Taliban has long been a fractured organization—and it has already suffered several splits. Earlier this year saw the arrival of Ahrar-ul-Hind, which identifies itself as a Pakistani Taliban splinter group opposed to the parent organization’s efforts to seek talks with Islamabad (Jamaat-ul-Ahrar also opposes talks). Such policy disagreements over talks account for many of the divisions within the Pakistani Taliban. Another policy-related internal spat revolves around enemy targets; some influential forces believe the group should be fighting only in Afghanistan, and not in Pakistan. However, there are also deeper organizational cleavages occurring along tribal lines. For years, members of the Mehsud tribe have dominated the Pakistani Taliban’s senior leadership. Fazlullah, in fact, represents the group’s first non-Mehsud supreme leader. Unsurprisingly, earlier this year a powerful Pakistani Taliban commander known as Sajna (a Mehsud) broke with the organization, citing unhappiness with Fazlullah (reports in recent days, however, indicate that a reconciliation of sorts may be underway).


September 2, 2014 

Lessons Learned: What Did We Learn About the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Israeli Military and Intelligence Services During Latest Invasion of the Gaza Strip

The Grim Lessons of “Protective Edge”

Raphael Cohen and Gabriel Scheinmann

After nearly two months of fighting, Israel and Gaza have agreed to an open-ended ceasefire, and for the third time in six years, Israel finds itself looking back at its attempt to stop the barrage of rockets fired at its citizens from the Hamas-controlled enclave of Gaza. Ever since withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, Israel has sought to prevent the smuggling of weaponry into the coastal territory and to deter militants from firing rocketry by exacting significant tolls on Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Strip. While many have highlighted Protective Edge’s technological innovations and the calls for radical changes to the status quo—be it in the reoccupation of Gaza, the international demilitarization of Hamas, or a jump-start to a true peace negotiation—in the end, most of the operation’s tactical and strategic lessons were quite traditional. For all the attempts to find technological quick fixes or enforce a permanent settlement, Operation Protective Edge has highlighted that a war of attrition, known as a “long war”, remains the only viable strategy in the current environment.

Protective Edge did display remarkable advances in military technology. As a result of its investment in a national advance warning system and Iron Dome, its missile defense system, Israel withstood a Hamas-led barrage of 4,450 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Most impressively, rocket fire only caused 7 civilian casualties, a 652:1 ratio that is unparalleled in any other conflict. For comparison, the ratio during Pillar of Defense in 2012 was 301:1, and in Cast Lead in 2008–09 was 187:1. Moreover, while Hamas’s bombardment managed briefly to scare some Western airlines into suspending flights to Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s strategic infrastructure remained unharmed. Finally, effective air defenses gave the Israeli government the breathing room to control the pace of its military operations to maximum effect. Sustained popular support allowed Israel to focus on destroying the assault tunnels it had discovered during the ground phase, rather than exclusively targeting the rocket threat.

The operation also underscored other less visible, yet no less impressive demonstrations of technology and intelligence. The successful targeted killings of several senior Hamas commanders highlighted the impressive nexus between intelligence-gathering and military action. The Israel Defense Forces’ practice of calling, text-messaging, and “roof knocking” (or dropping empty shells) to warn Palestinian civilians of a military operation were all made possible by technological advances and high quality intelligence. Additionally, rather than send troops deep into Hamas’s vast tunnel architecture, the IDF employed new and advanced robotics, saving soldiers’ lives. Similarly, the repeated interdictions of Hamas frogmen before they could cause civilian casualties further demonstrate the IDF’s ability to identify and interdict targets quickly.

Despite Israel’s clear technological edge and notable intelligence capacity, it could not accomplish all of its objectives through air power alone. Even by the most optimistic Israeli military estimates, the air campaign neutralized very few of the estimated 20,000 Gaza-based fighters in Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades. Additionally, for all of Iron Dome’s successes, neither it nor the air campaign actually stopped Hamas from firing rockets. Nor did it destroy Hamas’s extensive tunnel network. Moreover, despite all the Israeli intelligence assets devoted to Gaza prior to the incursion, even the IDF was surprised by the extent of the tunnel network. In short, even the most sophisticated surveillance systems and weaponry have limitations.

Consequently, the air phase gave way to a ground phase, which predictably was grueling, incremental, and bloody. Although still reliant on aerial reconnaissance and airstrikes, the ground campaign of Protective Edge featured more traditional tactics of urban warfare. As Israeli Major General Sami Turgeman, commander of the IDF Southern Command, aptly reflected in the midst of the fighting, “This is no Iron Dome, but a Sisyphean task, gathering technology and intelligence along with forces on the ground.” Israeli technological prowess, while certainly decisive, is not a panacea.


 Sep. 4, 2014 

Afghan security forces stand guard near the dead bodies of Taliban fighters in Ghazni, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. The Taliban struck a government compound in eastern Afghanistan early on Thursday in an attack that included two suicide truck bombings and left at least 12 people dead, including several off duty policemen asleep in their quarters nearby, officials said. 

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban struck a government compound in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday in a dawn attack that included two suicide truck bombings and left at least 12 people dead, including 10 policemen asleep in their quarters nearby.

The assault followed a stark message from the Taliban to world leaders gathered at a NATO summit in Wales, which will also discuss the drawdown of the alliance's mission in Afghanistan.

The exit of all foreign combat troops at the end of the year is proof that "no nation is able to subdue a free nation, especially a nation proud and free such as Afghanistan," the Taliban note said.

Thursday's attack started at sunrise, with the Taliban setting off two massive suicide truck bombs outside the government compound in the provincial capital of Ghazni, followed by an assault by nearly a dozen gunmen.

The assault triggered a gunbattle with policemen and security forces at the compound and all 21 assailants were subsequently killed, including the two suicide bombers, the Interior Ministry said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to media.

The bombs blew out many windows across the city, and left about 200 people injured, mostly from flying glass, said Ghazni Gov. Musa Khan Akbarzada. He said one truck carved a 10-meter (yard) hole into the ground. The Interior Ministry put the number of wounded at 130.

Sadly, the bombings also destroyed Ghazni's city library and two museums, the governor said.

The attack comes as Afghanistan is embroiled in a political crisis with the country's April presidential election still without a clear winner. Two candidates vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai pulled their observers out of a ballot audit meant to determine the winner of a June runoff. The audit's final results are expected sometime next week.

Nawaz Sharif Chairs Emergency Parliament Session as Crisis Worsens

September 03, 2014

Pakistan’s political crisis enters its third week. 

The crisis that gripped Pakistan’s capital when protesters led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) Imran Khan stormed the city’s “red zone” escalated this week when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired an emergency joint session of parliament. Both houses of parliament have convened for an emergency session that could last through the end of the week. On Tuesday, Sharif presided over the parliamentary proceedings, listening to representatives’ speeches. He is widely expected to make a formal address toward the end of the week in an attempt to defuse the current crisis. Sharif has repeatedly reiterated his commitment to remain in office despite claims by Imran Khan and Tahri ul-Qadri–a prominent cleric also leading protesters in Islamabad–that Sharif came to power through electoral fraud.

The decision to convene an emergency session of parliament was precipitated by a surge in violence between Pakistani security forces and protesters in Islamabad over the weekend. Three people were killed and more than 500 others were wounded in the clashes. Pakistani security forces staged a heavy-handed intervention to stop the protesters from storming Sharif’s residence. The protests have increasingly grown more chaotic. On Monday, protesters managed to storm the headquarters of Pakistan’s state television broadcaster, Pakistan TV (PTV), prompting a brief broadcast blackout. This event prompted Nawaz Sharif to meet with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif (no relation), ostensibly to discuss the military’s next steps in attempting to maintain order in the capital. The meeting prompted some speculation that Sharif had been asked to resign.

While the current crisis in Pakistan was relatively localized in Islamabad initially, protests are slowly spreading across the country to other major urban hubs. With the proliferation of protests across the country, the military could step in to ask Sharif to voluntary resign in the interest of national stability. Sharif is generally wary of the military given that he was ousted in a coup in 1999. In recent weeks, including during his Independence Day speech this year, Sharif praised the military. He additionally invited the army to maintain security in Islamabad ahead of Imran Khan’s “Azadi March.” Sharif, however, remains adamant about the legitimacy of his democratic mandate, refusing to resign under the current circumstances: “I will not resign under any pressure and I will not go on leave,” Sharif said, adding that “there shall be no precedent in Pakistan that only a few people take as hostage the mandate of millions by resorting to force.”

For the moment, what is clear is that the events currently unfolding in Islamabad represent Pakistan’s worst political crisis in years. What is less clear is the trajectory that this crisis could take in the coming weeks. The three sets of actors influencing events–the Sharif government, the military, and the Khan-Qadri opposition–share entirely disparate perceptions about the current state of affairs in the country. For Sharif’s government, state collapse, resignation, or a coup are simply not an option. For Khan, Qadri, and the protesters, the state has already collapsed–it’s simply a matter of evicting the current tenants of Islamabad’s red zone. The military, so far, has kept a pokerface; it even issued a statement declaring itself an “apolitical institution” with “unequivocal support for democracy.” History tells us that hasn’t always been true in Pakistan, but this crisis could prove an exception.


September 3, 2014

When protesters converged on the Pakistani capital of Islamabad to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, many were quick to see the hand of the military pulling the strings behind the scenes. Sharif, who became prime minister in 2013 after Pakistan’s first full transition of power from one democratically elected government to another, irked the army during his first year in office. He put former military ruler Pervez Musharraf — who overthrew Sharif in a 1999 coup — on trial for treason. He tried to carve out an independent foreign policy — the traditional preserve of the army — including promising better relations with India. The protests, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cult religious leader Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri looked like a means of putting Sharif in his place.

Then, with Sharif refusing to resign and the protesters turning increasingly violent over the weekend, the showdown appeared to be following a familiar course. If Pakistan became ungovernable, the Pakistan army would be “forced” to intervene and take over to restore order. It had happened before. In 1977, General Zia-ul-Haq seized power ostensibly to end a political crisis. Throughout the 1990s, elected governments were repeatedly changed as political parties moved through a revolving door pushed by squabbling politicians and spun from on high by the army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

This time around, however, events are not following the script. In what could become a watershed for Pakistan’s fragile democracy, civilian politicians are fighting back. Political parties, with the exception of Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), rallied behind the government. PTI’s own president, Javed Hashmi, broke with his leader to accuse him of acting on the behest of the army in the hope of forcing fresh elections. A statement released by the army — which appeared to draw equivalence between the mob besieging Islamabad and the elected government — was quickly called out by the English-language media. The army statement advised the government against the use of force and said that if the situation were not resolved quickly, it would play its part “in ensuring security of the state” — an apparent warning that it could take over. In response, a remarkablyforthright editorial in Dawn pointed out that “it is the government that is supposed to give orders to the army, not the other way around.” The Nation also declared the army to be out of line and pointed out that the military would not hesitate to use force if violent protesters besieged its own headquarters. On Tuesday, the government called a joint session of both houses of parliament to reaffirm support for democracy.

So what happened to the script? Has Pakistan’s democracy matured to the point where civilian governments can no longer be so easily dismissed? The answer may not be entirely clear for a few days or weeks yet, and will depend on Sharif’s own ability to show flexibility in accommodating opponents inside and outside of parliament.

ISIL’s Rise Highlights Afghan War’s Shaky Premise

By Patrick Knapp
September 02, 2014

The U.S. ought to reassess what it is building in Afghanistan. 

Two days after the emergence of a video depicting the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by so-called Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called a press conference to warn reporters that ISIL is “beyond anything we’ve ever seen.” The candor and urgency of his remarks contrasted with a four-sentence Department of Defense news release posted only a few hours prior. The release noted that Sergeant 1st Class Matthew Leggett had been killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 20, after being “engaged by the enemy.” Kabul police offered a more vivid account: as Leggett crossed a busy Kabul road to help escort his convoy, a Taliban operative slit his throat.

As the Pentagon explores all options short of “boots on the ground” for Iraq, little attention is being paid to the boots still on the ground in Afghanistan, even as weekly losses continue – including the recent loss of Major General Harold Greene, the highest ranking U.S. officer killed in combat since Vietnam. Hagel vowed in his press conference to “take a cold, steely, hard look” at the ISIL threat, but the strategic assessment for Afghanistan, where the Taliban kills aid workers and journalists on a monthly basis, seems to have concluded last May with a Rose Garden statement by President Barack Obama. “[T]his is how wars end in the 21st century,” he noted, as he stressed a “narrow mission” focused on “the remnants of al Qaeda.”

What remains unfinished, however, is an explanation of not only of why these phantom remnants pose a greater threat to Americans than ISIL does, but of how a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan will help defeat them. Indeed, in the minds of most Taliban-sympathizing Afghans, al Qaeda – which has not claimed responsibility for any attack in Afghanistan since 2009 – is less a varsity jihad team than a CIA concoction for justifying a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Conversely, the ISIL “junior varsity team” has rapidly secured in Mosul a writ more destructive and globally minded than that which existed in Kabul during even the most powerful days of the Taliban regime. Indeed, Iraq is quickly becoming more “Afghan” than Afghanistan itself: one Iraqi journalist recently described how new tastes for an “Afghani look” have Mosul men donning the shalwar kameez of Afghan Taliban fighters, leaving locals to ask themselves if their city has become another Kandahar.

Ironically, the selling point of the Afghanistan War strategy laid out by Obama just weeks before ISIL’s June takeover of major Iraqi cities was that it would put Afghanistan on track toward becoming another Iraq: “[B]y the end of 2016,” Obama noted, “our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we’ve done in Iraq.” Yet while recent events in Iraq have prompted a review of Iraq’s trajectory, U.S. policy in Afghanistan continues to muddle along.

Leadership: Chinese War Plans

September 2, 2014

Can China defeat U.S. forces in the Western Pacific with a surprise attack? According to the Chinese, at least in public statements, they believe they can. Developing this capability has been in the works since the 1990s, as China built up its force of ballistic missiles (with high explosive warheads) on their coast to deal with Taiwan and Japan. There are over a thousand of those missiles now, plus a dozen or so that, in theory, can hit an American carrier at sea. Chinese warplanes have been practicing attacks over water and the Chinese fleet is at sea lot more. Chinese subs are stalking American warships and China triumphantly announces “successes” when these subs sneak up on an American carrier. China is also known to have stolen a lot of American defense secrets via over a decade of Internet based espionage. 

The problem here is that, in any major war, both sides do not know everything about what the other side has, nor is able to accurately predict how the known and concealed plans of each side will turn out once the fighting starts. This is an important point for the Chinese as they need to win quick because a protracted war would produce economic collapse in China. That would produce major political problems for China’s leaders. According to the Chinese military this is not a problem because the Chinese generals and admirals seem increasingly confident of a quick victory via surprises. 

That’s dangerous thinking, because it rarely works out that way and the Chinese have a long history of overestimating their capabilities in the opening stages of a war. American naval planners believe the Chinese have greatly underestimated the capabilities of the dozens of American nuclear attack subs stationed in the Pacific and what this force could do to the Chinese fleet and foreign trade. If the Chinese have a secret weapon to deal with the American subs, it is one of the best kept secrets in military history. 

It’s not just the United States that is nervous about Chinese military plans. Taiwan has been increasing its military capability because its arrangement with the United States requires that Taiwan be strong enough to hold off a Chinese attack long enough for American forces to arrive. This means keeping control of air bases on the island for up to a week. China is apparently building up its land, air and naval forces to the point where a surprise attack could conquer Taiwan in a few days, if the defending Taiwanese were not ready. China believes that Taiwan is vulnerable, but the Chinese have never pulled off an amphibious operation like this before and, again, a few American nuclear subs could make a mess of the Chinese attack. 


By Walden Bello

The term “BRICS”—which refers to the bloc of emerging economies in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—was coined years ago by Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O’Neill, who saw the countries as promising markets for finance capital in the 21stcentury. But even if O’Neill had not invented the name, the BRICS would have emerged as a conscious formation of big, rapidly developing countries with an ambivalent relationship to the traditional center economies of Europe and the United States.

The BRICS served notice that they are now an economic alliance that poses a challenge to the global status quo during their last summit in Brazil in mid-July, when they inaugurated two path-breaking institutions intended to rival the U.S.- and European-dominated International Monetary Fund and World Bank: a Contingency Reserve Arrangement, with an initial capitalization of $100 billion, that can be accessed by BRICS members in need of funds; and the “New Development Bank,” with a total authorized capital of $100 billion, that is open to all members of the United Nations. Both institutions aim to break the global North’s chokehold on finance and development.

But while the BRICS countries have made plain their desire to loosen the control of the global economy by the United States and Europe, they’ll have to confront some serious problems at home.

Benefiting from Globalization

The BRICS have been among the key beneficiaries of corporate-driven globalization, owing their rise to the marriage between global capital and cheap labor that has followed the fuller integration of formerly non-capitalist or dependent capitalist countries into the global capitalist system over the last 30 years. This union was among the factors that kept up the rate of profit and raised global capitalism out of its crisis of stagnation in the 1970s and 1980s.

Make no mistake: the BRICS are capitalist regimes—albeit with large central apparatuses capable of controlling workers.

In China, for instance, though the Communist Party leadership retains its socialist rhetoric, the reality is that 30 years after Deng Xiaoping’s pro-market reforms, the country now represents—in the words of the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek—”the ideal capitalist state: freedom for capital, with the state doing the ‘dirty job’ of controlling the workers.” Zizek says China “seems to embody a new kind of capitalism,” with “disregard for ecological consequences, disdain for workers’ rights, everything subordinated to the ruthless drive to develop and become the new world force.”

The other BRICS states may not have the same coercive and extractive power as the Chinese state, and three of them—Brazil, South Africa, and India—are electoral democracies. But all have relatively powerful central bureaucracies that have been the key instrument in the technocratic transformation of their economies. Lula’s Brazil, it might be noted, inherited the developmental state forged by the Brazilian military-technocratic elite that produced the so-called “Brazilian Miracle” in the 1960s and 1970s. South Africa’s ruling African National Congress stepped into a centralized state apparatus that had been honed not only for repression but for extractive exploitation by the apartheid regime. And of course, Putin’s Russia inherited the old super-centralized Soviet state.

While there might be a healthy discussion on whether all of these regimes might be called neoliberal, there can be no doubt that they are capitalist regimes, prioritizing profits over welfare, loosening prior restraints on market forces, spearheading the integration of the domestic to the global economy, following conservative fiscal and monetary policies, exhibiting close cooperation between state elites and dominant forces in the economy, and, most importantly, relying on the super-exploitation of their working classes as the engine of rapid growth.

Contradictions with the Center Economies

Libyan Militias Seize Control of Capital as Chaos Rises

SEPT. 1, 2014

CAIRO — The government of Libya said Monday that it had lost control of its ministries to a coalition of militias that had taken over the capital, Tripoli, in another milestone in the disintegration of the state.

“The government reiterates that these buildings and the public headquarters are not safe and inaccessible, because they are under the control of armed men,” the government said in a statement. It was issued from the eastern city of Tobruk, where the recently elected Parliament has convened in territory controlled by a renegade general who has tried to stage a coup d’état.

The statement indicated the emergence of two rival centers of government — one in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk — each all but powerless.

Over the last two months, the fractious militias that have dominated the country since the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi three years ago — variously local, tribal, regional, Islamist or criminal — have lined up into two warring factions. One side, operating under the name Libya Dawn, aligned with militias from the coastal city of Misurata and the Islamist factions in what fighters portrayed as a battle to prevent a counterrevolution. The other side was aligned with the renegade general, Khalifa Hifter, in the east and partisans from the mountain city of Zintan in the west, to fight what they called a battle against Islamist extremists.
A little more than a week ago, the Misurata militia and its allies won a monthlong battle for control of the Tripoli airport, which had been controlled by the Zintan-based militias since the ouster of Colonel Qaddafi in 2011. The Zintani militias, which now include hundreds of former Qaddafi fighters, fled Tripoli. That left it in the hands of the Libya Dawn coalition, mainly the Misurata militia and its Islamist allies.

That coalition has called for the return of the recently dissolved Parliament, based in Tripoli. It was widely perceived to be dominated by the coalition’s political allies. Now a small reconvened rump that backs Libya Dawn has sought to name its own prime minister, Omar el Hassi, a veteran of an Islamist insurgency under Colonel Qaddafi.

Libya Dawn supporters say the newly elected Parliament was suspect because it had chosen to meet in Tobruk, under the control of General Hifter.

A Way Out for Ukraine and Russia



The progress of the conflict in eastern Ukraine is utterly predictable. Since the rebellion began with Russian backing five months ago, it’s been obvious that the Kremlin would not allow the rebels to be crushed by force. So deeply is PresidentVladimir Putin’s prestige invested in his Ukrainian strategy, and in the image of Russian strength, that to allow a Ukrainian military victory would threaten the stability and even the existence of his own regime.

As many observers have been writing from the start of this conflict, there was never a chance of the Ukrainian government being able to win militarily. Russia has demonstrated an ability to send in whatever lightly disguised forces are necessary to fight the Ukrainian Army to a standstill. For the West to encourage Kiev to seek a military victory — as its governments seem to have been doing — could only lead to inevitable defeat. If confirmed, the reported Ukrainian moves toward an agreement with Moscow on a cease-fire with the rebels are a logical step.

For even if the West were to provide Kiev with enough military aid to give a real chance of crushing the rebels, this would also create a real chance of a full-scale Russian invasion. Such an invasion could only be stopped by the introduction of a Western army — something which is simply not a possibility. A Russian invasion would be a disaster for both Ukraine and Russia — and a disastrous humiliation for NATO and the West.

The toughness of Russia’s stance does not stem from Mr. Putin’s calculations alone. It is also due to the fact that a great many ordinary Russians, including those who are basically pro-Western and anti-Putin, regard American support for the overthrow of a democratically elected (albeit repulsive) government in Kiev last winter as utterly outrageous and a threat to vital Russian interests. Mr. Putin’s popularity soared as a result of his stance on Ukraine, and it shows no sign of declining. As Thomas Graham of Kissinger Associates has written, Russia cares about what happens in Ukraine much more than the West does — for reasons which should be apparent to anyone who has spent 10 minutes studying Russian and Ukrainian history.

Leadership: The Wisdom Of The Mongols

September 3, 2014

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has found that racing to bottom in the bad manners department can be a winning strategy. American intel analysts and Special Forces newly assigned to Iraq (many had been there before) quickly noted the ISIL was deliberately changing their tactics to maximize the ability to terrify Arab soldiers and police. Thus the frequent, self-publicized massacres of adult male opponents, especially soldiers, police and tribal militia. When captured, sometimes with promises of mercy, these men are often massacred. This is often done in gruesome ways like crucifixion or beheading. 

As with the mass shootings, these murders tend to be captured on video and most are uploaded to the Internet for all to see. Adding to this obvious willingness to kill ISIL also encourages a willingness to die. Thus ISIL attacks often feature lots of suicide bombers or gunmen sent into situations they are unlikely to survive. Against professional Western (or Arab) troops this sort of thing doesn’t terrorize as much as it makes it easier to kill the ISIL attackers. But since the main foe ISIL has been facing has been armed Arab amateurs (or poorly trained soldiers and police) this aggressive use of terror often works. Not just in individual battles but on a wider scale in which it encourages foes to run away even before ISIL actually attacks. 

This type of terror is nothing new. It’s been used for thousands of years. One of the most notable examples of this was the Mongol destruction of Baghdad in 1258. As was the Mongol custom when they came to a defended city they demanded immediate surrender. If that did not happen the Mongols made it clear they would take the place no matter the cost and then burn it down and kill everyone (except for some with exceptional talents the Mongols needed) in the city. The Arab ruler of Baghdad refused to surrender. The Mongols took the place in two weeks and burned it down and killed the several hundred thousand people still there. It took Baghdad several centuries to completely rebuild and repopulate. The destruction of Baghdad reminded every ruler in the region what would happen if they did not promptly surrender. Fortunately the ruler of Egypt at that time had a good army and decent subordinate leaders and inflicted a rare battlefield defeat on the Mongols, who decided to go elsewhere. 

Al Qaeda has always been about terror, but often on a smaller scale. Individuals who opposed them (clerics, competent police and army commanders or politicians) were assassinated in an often successful effort to reduce the effectiveness of their opposition. Mass killings were discouraged, especially bombings that killed lots of women and children. ISIL continues this policy but has increased the terror tactics to include groups of opposing gunmen. Thus even competent army or police commanders find themselves with high desertion rates and subordinates who are rethinking their loyalties. 

What Is ISIS Thinking?

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter poses next to the remains of a car bearing the ISIS logo.

As I noted in my last post, it’s a little hard to figure out ISIS’ strategy following its second videotaped execution of an American citizen in less than a month. Over the last two years, the group has shown impressive strategic acumen, growing into the world’s wealthiest terrorist group and something close to a viable theocratic state. It has achieved those aims via a strategy of gaining and consolidating control within Iraq and Syria—two of the world’s most unstable states—while, unlike al-Qaida, avoiding action that would provoke a major U.S. response.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Why is it now carrying out very public killings that seem designed to provoke an escalation of U.S. military involvement in Iraq, and maybe even in Syria? The fate of al-Qaida over the last 13 years doesn’t seem like a wise model to follow. But here are a few possible explanations for what ISIS is thinking.

1. They feel cornered.

ISIS accomplished quite a bit in 2013 and the first half of 2014, including taking over nearly a third of Syria and the city of Fallujah in Iraq. Most remarkably, it managed to do this in such a way that both the Syrian and U.S. governments largely left it alone.

It’s interesting to ponder what might have happened if ISIS had stopped conquering territory after Fallujah and simply focused on consolidating its rule over the areas it already controlled and enforcing Sharia law. If that were the case, it’s possible that there might be a de facto, relatively stable Islamist state between Iraq and Syria right now.

But a group that proclaims itself a caliphate can’t really stop expanding, and it couldn’t stay under the radar forever. The fall of Mosul was one tipping point, leading the United States and Iran to up their assistance to the Iraqi government and muscle out the problematic Nouri al-Maliki. Last month’s encroachment into Kurdistan and the potential massacre of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar was another one, pushing the reluctant Obama administration to finally launch airstrikes.

At that point, with the bombs already dropping, ISIS may have calculated that there was nothing more to be gained from avoiding a confrontation with the United States, and struck back with one of the most politically powerful weapons in their arsenal.

2. They don’t think the U.S. will act.

Terrorism as Theater

August 28, 2014

The beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was much more than an altogether gruesome and tragic affair: rather, it was a very sophisticated and professional film production deliberately punctuated with powerful symbols. Foley was dressed in an orange jumpsuit reminiscent of the Muslim prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. He made his confession forcefully, as if well rehearsed. His executioner, masked and clad in black, made an equally long statement in a calm, British accent, again, as if rehearsed. It was as if the killing was secondary to the message being sent.

The killing, in other words, became merely the requirement to send the message. As experts have told me, there are more painful ways to dispatch someone if you really hate the victim and want him to suffer. You can burn him alive. You can torture him. But beheading, on the other hand, causes the victim to lose consciousness within seconds once a major artery is cut in the neck, experts say. Beheading, though, is the best method for the sake of a visually dramatic video, because you can show the severed head atop the chest at the conclusion. Using a short knife, as in this case, rather than a sword, also makes the event both more chilling and intimate. Truly, I do not mean to be cruel, indifferent, or vulgar. I am only saying that without the possibility of videotaping the event, there would be no motive in the first place to execute someone in such a manner.

In producing a docu-drama in its own twisted way, the Islamic State was sending the following messages:

-- We don't play by your rules. There are no limits to what we are willing to do.

-- America's mistreatment of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay comes with a "price tag," to quote a recently adopted phrase for retribution killings. After all, we are a state. We have our own enemy combatants as you can see from the video, and our own way of dealing with them.

-- Just because we observe no limits does not mean we lack sophistication. We can be just as sophisticated as you in the West. Just listen to the British accent of our executioner. And we can produce a very short film up to Hollywood standards.

-- We're not like the drug lords in Mexico who regularly behead people and subsequently post the videos on the Internet. The drug lords deliver only a communal message, designed to intimidate only those people within their area of control. That is why the world at large pays little attention to them; in fact, the world is barely aware of them. By contrast, we of the Islamic State are delivering a global, meta-message. And the message is this: We want to destroy all of you in America, all of you in the West, and everyone in the Muslim world who does not accept our version of Islam.

-- We will triumph because we observe absolutely no constraints. It is because only we have access to the truth that anything we do is sanctified by God.

Welcome to the mass media age. You thought mass media was just insipid network anchormen and rude prime-time hosts interrupting talking heads on cable. It is that, of course. But just as World War I was different from the Franco-Prussian War, because in between came the culmination of the Industrial Age and thus the possibility of killing on an industrial scale, the wars of the 21st century will be different from those of the 20th because of the culmination of the first stage of the Information Age with all of its visual ramifications.

Iraq Airstrikes Are Strategic, Not Humanitarian

on August 31, 2014

The Obama administration and the mainstream media can make the airstrikes in Iraq sound like a humanitarian war, a New Age operation driven not by realpolitik but by the high-minded and/or fuzzy-headed responsibility to protect. In fact, Obama is using deadly force for strategic goals, just like George Bush. The difference — and it is significant — is simply that Obama relies on airstrikes (as in Libya) and special operations (e.g. Somalia), as spelled out in his 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, rather than risking another ground war.

That brings us to Saturday, when the US opened a new humanitarian front, dropping supplies to Shia Turkomen refugees near the northern town of Amirli – and dropping bombs on the Sunni extremists threatening them. But despite the highly public emphasis on protecting displaced minorities, like the Turkomen and the Yazidis, 86 percent of US airstrikes have happened for strictly military reasons.

86 percent of US airstrikes have supported purely military operations around the Mosul Dam and the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil. Only 14 percent have supported humanitarian efforts.

This afternoon, Tampa-based Central Command released some enlightening statistics on the precisely 120 airstrikes it has conducted across Iraq since August 7, when the air war began against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. CENTCOM has staged four around Amirli, plus another 13 to help defend and rescue the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar. By contrast, the Kurdish defense of their regional capital of Erbil (aka Irbil or Arbil) benefited from 23 US strikes. The joint counter-offensive by the Kurdish peshmerga and the Iraqi central government army to retake the strategic Mosul Dam? Eighty airstrikes.


By David Danelo

What are the West’s principal security objectives in the Middle East? For David Danelo, the two-part answer is simple – destroy the Islamic State, which poses an “irreconcilable threat to humanity,” and sustain a stable Kurdistan, which is critical to accomplishing the first objective.

“Put down your weapons, and we will not harm you,” announced Islamic State (IS) fighters, just before gunning down every Yazidi man that had previously been holding a weapon. In early August, the Yazidis became the latest casualties in the maniacal scourge of violence Islamic State terrorists have unleashed. Using concealed mobile phones, female Yazidi prisoners telephoned horrific dispatches to Rudaw, a Kurdish news network. “Every day the emir fighters pick two or three pretty girls,” said a 24-year-old Yazidi, held captive as a sex slave. “When they return, they are exhausted and humiliated. So far, a number have committed suicide.” The call ended abruptly, according to the news network. “Hang up, hang up. They are coming.”

In the countries that were once called Syria and Iraq, IS fighters control a swath of territory that, at its apex, was the size of Switzerland. They believe Westphalian notions of statehood and national borders must be discarded, and are less interested in governance than imposing submission to a specific Sunni Islam way of life through robberies, extortions, rapes, murders, public executions, crucifixions, and beheadings. During the World Cup, IS fighters dribbled severed heads, boasting on social media that “our football is made of skin.” Women are banned from any occupation outside the home, and basic human rights mean nothing compared to strict religious purity.

The nature of the threat that IS poses means that the security of the West depends on two things: the destruction of IS and the preservation of a stable Kurdish region.
An Irreconcilable Threat to Humanity

As Russia invades Ukraine, sectarian strife destroys Libya, and the Ebola virus marches across West Africa, the Yazidi genocide is only the latest of several atrocities IS has inflicted upon humanity. In early August, the Yazidis were assaulted with an intention to “wipe them from the face of the earth.”

In analyzing the world’s many troubled regions, international security scholars often confront the rhetorical danger of equating every authoritarian figure with Adolf Hitler. Before the 2003 ground invasion of Iraq, United States officials often compared Saddam Hussein to the Nazis, drawing parallels between the Ba’ath regime abuses and the Holocaust. Although Saddam’s cult of personality and aggression against Iran and Kuwait gave credence to such assertions, later reviews suggest Bush Administration officials may have been overzealous in their portrayal.

Spillover from the Conflict in Syria

An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence

Technical Details » 

Research Questions 
What are the main factors that contribute directly to the spread of violence from civil war and insurgency? 
How do these factors affect neighboring states? 
How can a spillover of violence be prevented? 


All roads lead to Damascus and then back out again, but in different directions. The financial and military aid flowing into Syria from patrons and neighbors is intended to determine the outcome of the conflict between a loose confederation of rebel factions and the regime in Damascus. Instead, this outside support has the potential to perpetuate the existing civil war and to ignite larger regional hostilities between Sunni and Shia areas that could reshape the political geography of the Middle East. This report examines the main factors that are likely to contribute to or impede the spread of violence from civil war and insurgency in Syria, and then examines how they apply to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.
Key Findings

Certain Factors Contribute Directly to the Spread of Violence 
External military support, large numbers of refugees, and the fragility of neighboring states are factors that contribute directly to the spread of violence from civil war and insurgency. 
Additional factors are ethnic ties, access to open media, perceived uncertainty and government overreaction by neighbors, timing and effectiveness of intervention, and government and insurgent capabilities. 
Neighboring States Will Be Affected Differently 
Turkey has been and will continue to be significantly affected by the ongoing civil war in Syria. The enormous number of Syrian refugees alone will impose many financial and governance challenges. However, the prospects for the spillover of significant armed conflict are limited. 
Lebanon's particularly high risk of conflict spillover stems from its crippled government, division among its internal security forces, and continued external/Iranian support to Hizbollah. As the Syrian opposition continues to battle supporters of Assad both in Syria and in Lebanon, the propensity for conflict to spill over will remain high and drag Lebanon closer into a full-blown regional conflict.