9 September 2014

HISTORIAN NONPAREIL - Bipan Chandra’s moral courage

Prabhat Patnaik

Professor Bipan Chandra, the outstanding historian of modern India who passed away on August 30, did not just produce brilliant historical analyses based on research and erudition, but he also provided his readers with a whole new Weltanschauung, which reflected his unique intellectual position.

Nobody dwelt more passionately than Bipan, as he was universally called, on the grandeur of India’s anti-colonial struggle. In fact, he used to say that India achieving Independence was one of the three most significant events of the first half of the 20th century, the others being the Bolshevik and the Chinese Revolutions. But, in his intellectual engagement with the anti-colonial struggle, he was rather unique among his peers because he brought to it an unflinching Marxist perspective. At the same time, however, he was also unique among Marxists. His analysis of the anti-colonial struggle, and the significance he attached to 1947, which he saw as India’s “bourgeois revolution”, was very different from the position of several other Marxists, and of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Bipan had a brief association with the CPI(M), whose programmatic understanding was that India’s bourgeois democratic revolution still needed to be completed. This difference never took the form of an antagonism vis-à-vis the party, but it was always there, as is evident, for instance, from E.M.S. Namboodiripad’s laudatory yet critical review of Bipan’s magnum opus, The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India, in the CPI(M)’s weekly journal, People’s Democracy.

Two kinds of criticism have usually been raised against Bipan’s intellectual position. First, he did not explore the dialectics between the anti-colonial struggle and the social emancipation struggle led by Phule, Periyar, Shri Narayana Guru, Ambedkar and others, implicitly privileging the former. This, however, is a criticism that can be levelled against a good deal of Left analysis and not just against Bipan alone. Second, he over-estimated the anti-imperialism of the Indian bourgeoisie, which is the standard criticism against him from many of his friends on the Left.

These, of course, are issues that would continue to be debated. But even Bipan’s critics would agree that the position he took sprang from a view, which accorded centrality to the phenomenon of imperialism. This view perhaps also reflected the influence upon his thinking of Paul Baran, the renowned American Marxist economist, whose lectures Bipan had attended during his days at Stanford University. And with this perception of the centrality of imperialism one can scarcely disagree.

‘Plan to clean Ganga by 2019 impossible’

Published: September 8, 2014 
Suvojit Bagchi
While there were many argumentts and counter argument over the cleaning up of the holy river Ganga, a file picture shows a man throwing waste materials into the river. A frequent scene on its banks. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar.
The HinduDevotees take a Dip in the Holy Rivver Ganga at BrahunKund on the Occasion of Makar Sankranti at Haridwar. A file photo: Virender Singh Negi.

Modi’s ‘simplified’ plan a dream, warns ex-environment minister
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “simplified” plan to clean Ganga, is an “impossible task.” The government will never be able to clean the river before the next Lok Sabha election feels former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh.

However, with a carefully drawn up strategy the river can be cleaned over 10 years, the former minister said in an interaction on climate change in Kolkata. In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi first tried to clean the 2,500 kilometre river. Later in 2009, Mr Ramesh launched his own brand of “Ganga Action Plan (GAP)” and now the Prime Minister has vowed to come up with his plan to clean the river. However, recent studies suggest pollution kept growing over all these three decades.

Cleaning up of Ganga by 2019 is an “impossible task” and the “biggest of all the dreams” of the BJP Government, said Jairam Ramesh. Analysing his conclusion, Mr Ramesh said that it is not easy to treat the pollutants in the river. “75% of the pollutants in the river are untreated municipal waste, while only 25% is industrial waste,” he said. “Perhaps it is possible to control the industrial effluents, but it is an impossible task to treat the municipality waste flowing into the river as we do not have sewage treatment facilities in most of these towns and cities,” Mr Ramesh said.

However, the former minister also said that if the sewage flowing in to the river is treated “properly” the project is doable. “River Rhine in Europe flows through six countries, while Ganga moves through only five states. When Rhine could be cleaned up, so it is doable but we can not underestimate the magnitude of the problem,” he said. “But it can never be done by 2019 as it would take at least three years to build sewage treatment facility if we could start now, which is impossible…Prime Minister has simplified the issue bit too much,” Mr Ramesh said.

How to lead from within

Both Putin and ISIS are totally dependent on exploiting high-priced oil or gas to finance their madness.
Written by Thomas L Friedman | September 9, 2014 12:38 am

Lifting the self-imposed ban on US oil exports would make America stronger and Putin and IS weaker.

I don’t know what action will be sufficient to roll back both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, but I do know what’s necessary. And it’s not “leading from behind”, which didn’t really work for President Obama in Libya, and it isn’t simply leading a lonely and unpopular charge from in front, which certainly didn’t work for President Bush in Iraq. It’s actually reviving America’s greatest strategy: leading from within.

The most effective leadership abroad starts with respect earned from others seeing us commit to doing great and difficult things at home that summon the energy of the whole country — and not just from our military families. And the necessary impactful thing that America should do at home now is for the president and Congress to lift our self-imposed ban on US oil exports, which would significantly dent the global high price of crude oil. And combine that with long overdue comprehensive tax reform that finally values our environment and security. That would be a carbon tax that is completely offset by lowering personal income, payroll and corporate taxes. Nothing would make us stronger and Putin and ISIS weaker — all at the same time.

How so? First you need to understand how much Putin and ISIS have in common. For starters, they each like to do their dirtiest work wearing a mask, because deep down, somewhere, they know that what they’re doing is shameful. Both are clearly motivated to use force by an intense desire to overcome past humiliations.

For Putin, it is the humiliation over Russian weakness that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, which he once described as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, which left millions of Russian speakers outside the Russian state. And for ISIS, it is how modernity has left so many Arab/ Muslim nations behind in the 21st century by all the critical indices of human development. Both are looking for respect in all the wrong places. Both are also intent on rewriting the prevailing rules of the international system, which they see as having been drawn up by America or the West to advantage themselves and disadvantage Arabs or Russians. And, very significantly, they both are totally dependent on exploiting high-priced oil or gas to finance their madness.

Refreshed relationship

The Statesman, 09 Sep 2014


Australia’s Prime Minister Mr Tony Abbott has just concluded a visit to India. It went well, as was only to be expected, for the two countries have established warm and friendly relations with each other. Many useful agreements were concluded amidst reiteration of the many ties that serve to link the two countries, such as cricket, the English language, a growing Indian student body down under, and other similar matters. These are well-established features and it does no harm to restate their significance, and to dramatize their binding force as Mr Abbott did by having at his side two great cricketing heroes of his country to interact with Indian icons of the sport. These are gestures to which a universal response of Indian goodwill could be guaranteed.

There was more to the visit, of course, than generating friendly feelings, and some substantive agreements were concluded, none more significant than the long-term agreement for the supply of Australian uranium ore to India. This is something that has been waiting to happen for quite some time: Australia is a major producer of uranium ore and India has ambitious plans for the expansion of its nuclear power industry, for which it must look abroad for the raw material it needs. The fit between the two, demand and supply, is obvious but until Mr Abbott’s visit it could not be fully put together. Uranium is a strategic material that cannot be traded on economic considerations alone and all sides are aware that for decades conditions have not been conducive for India-Australia cooperation in this field. Indeed, through much of the post-war era the two countries have been on different sides of the global divide, one stoutly non-aligned, the other closely allied to the USA, the two strategically distant from each other even though there has always been much they have shared in common. The strategic distance between them was underlined by their different responses to the treaty on global non-proliferation (NPT) and the subsequent international nuclear instruments; the treaties had discriminatory features India could not accept, while Australia was an ardent advocate, and this widened the strategic gulf between the two.

Apart from these global factors, there were also issues closer home to impede the growth of relations, chief among them the impact on the South Asian region of US-led military alliances. Pakistan was part of the alliance structure from which it drew benefit in its unending contest with India, and this remained a long-term irritant, creating enduring misgivings in India when Australia chose to supply military aircraft to Pakistan. For some years, this one issue overshadowed India-Australia relations, so much so that one Australian envoy made the rueful observation that when he came to India the question he had to face was the re-sale by his country of French-made military aircraft Mirage to Pakistan, and when he left three years later, Mirage was still the big issue. 



Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

An anachronistic new political entity has risen over the horizon in West Asia or the Middle East. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, (the region comprising parts of modern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon) or ISIL, also known as ISIS, the acronym derived from its Arabic name, Ad-Dawla Al-Islamiyya fil Iraq wa as-Sham, announced its arrival in June this year. The self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate, in parts of eastern Syria and the western part of Iraq, soon changed its name to simply the Islamic State. The jihadist leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has declared himself to be the new Caliph and assumed the title of the Commander of the Faithful Caliph Ibrahim (Amir al-Muamineen al-Khalifah Ibrahim).

In its message to the world, the new Caliphate has claimed religious authority over all Muslims worldwide. The Caliphate aspires to unite all Muslims and bring Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its direct political control. To start with, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus and parts of southern Turkey will be brought into the Caliphate. For ideological jihadists, the Caliphate is the ultimate goal and IS has come closest to reviving that vision. The problem is that over one-fifth of Muslims in the world, the Shias, are ideologically opposed to the Caliphate, which is seen as a Sunni enterprise. There exists a certain amount of nostalgia for the Caliphate. Muslims regard the first four Caliphs, Al Rashidun or the Rightly Guided, all companions or relatives of Prophet Muhammad, with considerable pride since it was during their reign that Islam achieved its apogee in terms of territorial expansion and conversion of the conquered people to build the Islamic Ummah. The great schism in Islam, the Sunni-Shia cleavage, occurred over the issue of succession after the fourth Caliph.

The Caliphate in the Islamic world has a long history. A Caliph is a person who, theoretically, is the political and spiritual leader of all Muslims. The last Caliphate was claimed by the Ottoman rulers of Turkey since the 15th century CE. They gradually came to be viewed as the de facto leaders of the Islamic world. By the eve of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was the largest and most powerful independent Islamic political entity. The Ottoman sultan also enjoyed some authority beyond the borders of his shrinking empire as Caliph of Muslims in Egypt, India and Central Asia. Mughal emperors also claimed the title, along with various other states, such as the Sokoto Caliphate in West Africa. Thus, assumption of the title of Caliph became a ritual, indulged in by Muslim rulers, more to inflate their egos by sycophantic courtiers and such claims were never taken seriously. By adopting the title of Caliph, always contested by rivals, no ruler in Islamic history has been able to command sole spiritual and political power over all Muslims and it does not guarantee the survival of any Muslim ruler. Indeed, the announcement of the Caliphate has been met with derision everywhere except in jihadicircles. No Caliphate in Islamic history has succeeded in uniting all Muslims or created a political entity for the Islamic Ummah as a whole.

A strong foundation for the roof of the world

Published: September 9, 2014 
Suhasini Haider

Given the possible changes in China’s policy towards Tibet, India must lose no time in adjusting to the new possibilities they bring

When asked about the Dalai Lama and prospects of talks with Tibetans living in India, Chinese officials normally follow a hard line by portraying the 14th spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists as being a “splittist,”and his supporters across the world as being secessionists, even “terrorists.” This is why the response of Wu Yingie, the second most important person in the Chinese communist party in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), came as a bolt from the blue. “Talks with the Dalai Lama are ongoing and smooth,” he told journalists from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries visiting Tibet last month. “What we are discussing, however, is not Tibet’s future, but his own.”

The remarks were significant for two reasons. One, because Chinese references to the Dalai Lama are now polite and even acknowledge his religious status. Second, for the admission that talks with his personal envoys, which are known to be under way, were discussing the question of his possible return to Tibet. The unwritten significance is the new confidence that the Chinese government feels with regard to Tibet — a development India must engage with.

Less security

That confidence is evident on the ground, especially when compared to the nervousness prevalent during the Olympic Games in 2008 when reports of self-immolations and protests were common. At that time, security forces manned Lhasa’s streets, with locals undergoing frequent document checks. Today, the security presence is minimal, even as “crowd control kiosks” — police outposts that were stocked with riot gear — now lie padlocked. The influx of (Han) Chinese migrants from other parts of the country has also changed things. While there is no way of confirming figures put out by a Human Rights Watch report in 2013 of “two million” migrants being resettled, it is quite obvious that they now own or run a sizeable number of shops, malls, and hotels in Lhasa and other cities. The other obvious change is in infrastructure. Over the past 20 years, Beijing has pumped in more than $14-billion into the region. In 2014, it announced a further investment of $21-billion for more airports, a lakh-plus kilometres of roads, and 1,300 kilometres of railway lines.

Essay: Dumb-dumb bullets

July 1, 2009 

By T.X. Hammes
As a decision-making aid, PowerPoint is a poor tool

Every year, the services spend millions of dollars teaching our people how to think. We invest in everything from war colleges to noncommissioned officer schools. Our senior schools in particular expose our leaders to broad issues and historical insights in an attempt to expose the complex and interactive nature of many of the decisions they will make.

Unfortunately, as soon as they graduate, our people return to a world driven by a tool that is the antithesis of thinking: PowerPoint. Make no mistake, PowerPoint is not a neutral tool — it is actively hostile to thoughtful decision-making. It has fundamentally changed our culture by altering the expectations of who makes decisions, what decisions they make and how they make them. While this may seem to be a sweeping generalization, I think a brief examination of the impact of PowerPoint will support this statement.

The last point, how we make decisions, is the most obvious. Before PowerPoint, staffs prepared succinct two- or three-page summaries of key issues. The decision-maker would read a paper, have time to think it over and then convene a meeting with either the full staff or just the experts involved to discuss the key points of the paper. Of course, the staff involved in the discussion would also have read the paper and had time to prepare to discuss the issues. In contrast, today, a decision-maker sits through a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation followed by five minutes of discussion and then is expected to make a decision. Compounding the problem, often his staff will have received only a five-minute briefing from the action officer on the way to the presentation and thus will not be well-prepared to discuss the issues. This entire process clearly has a toxic effect on staff work and decision-making.

The art of slide-ology

Let’s start by examining the impact on staff work. Rather than the intellectually demanding work of condensing a complex issue to two pages of clear text, the staff instead works to create 20 to 60 slides. Time is wasted on which pictures to put on the slides, how to build complex illustrations and what bullets should be included. I have even heard conversations about what font to use and what colors. Most damaging is the reduction of complex issues to bullet points. Obviously, bullets are not the same as complete sentences, which require developing coherent thoughts. Instead of forcing officers to learn the art of summarizing complex issues into coherent arguments, staff work now places a premium on slide building. Slide-ology has become an art in itself, while thinking is often relegated to producing bullets.

Our personnel clearly understand the lack of clarity and depth inherent in the half-formed thoughts of the bullet format. In an apparent effort to overcome the obvious deficiency of bullets, some briefers put entire paragraphs on each briefing slide. (Of course, they still include the bullet point in front of each paragraph.) Some briefs consist of a series of slides with paragraphs on them. In short, people are attempting to provide the audience with complete, coherent thoughts while adhering to the PowerPoint format. While writing full paragraphs does force the briefer to think through his position more clearly, this effort is doomed to failure. People need time to think about, even perhaps reread, material about complex issues. Instead, they are under pressure to finish reading the slides before the boss apparently does. Compounding the problem, the briefer often reads these slides aloud while the audience is trying to read the other information on the slide. Since most people read at least twice as fast as most people can talk, he is wasting half of his listeners’ time and simultaneously reducing comprehension of the material. The alternative, letting the audience read the slide themselves, is also ineffective. Instead of reading for comprehension, everyone races through the slide to be sure they are finished before the senior person at the brief. Thus even presenting full paragraphs on each slide cannot overcome the fundamental weakness of PowerPoint as a tool for presenting complex issues.

Why jihad against India must continue

https://in.news.yahoo.com/why-jihad-against-india-must-continue-074011405.htmlBy ANI | 

New Delhi, Sept.8 (ANI): The statement by Al Qaeda leader Al Zawahiri about India, Myanmar (he called it Burma - something that the Americans do also) is too important to be ignored by the media. Yet the issue and its significance has probably been lost by the competitive sensationalism that has described the contents of the video tape. Whether or not an Al Qaeda cell exists in India can only be confirmed by the intelligence agencies; for the rest it is speculation. By calling it AQIS (Al Qaeda in South Asia) they have scored a psywar victory. It absolves Pakistan of the charge that there is an Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Or at least dilutes it. The next terror attack in India can then be attributed to AQIS and not to any Pakistani outfit, notably the LeT. Thereby, Pakistan, LeT or other surrogates will have been absolved by default.

Meanwhile, we should be asking a few questions. Did we ask how old the video was? Where was it recorded? Where is Zawahiri when he recorded that speech? Is he still alive? How did it reach the channels and the media? Where was that? How many such speeches? Why now?

If there is an AQ in the region, it is in Pakistan. But we must also remember Al Qaeda is an idea and an ideology and it is quite pervasive in Pakistan. That is what we should highlight all the time. Remember how the Americans had to struggle to get them, assisted by the Pakistanis on occasions, the number of AQ leaders that were picked up and finally even OBL was found in a Pakistani safe house close to its military academy. It would not at all be surprising if Ayman Al-Zawahiri is safely ensconced in some similar safe house in another part of Pakistan not far from an Army facility in the Gilgit Baltistan area or some such location. His latest purported statement was certainly not issued from Iraq or Syria but most likely from Pakistan.

The reference to three or more caliphates in India is not new. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba has constantly repeatedly referred to its dream to establish these caliphates in India - and the LeT had established sleeper cells in India. The LeT and JuD have a Face Book account Ghazwa.e.Hind (final apocalyptic war against Hindus) which shows the

Intelligence Experts Cooncerned by Sudden Appearance of ISIS Propaganda Has Begun Appearing in India and Pakistan

September 7, 2014
After Syria and Iraq, Islamic State makes inroads in South Asia

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014.

(Reuters) - Islamic State pamphlets and flags have appeared in parts of Pakistanand India, alongside signs that the ultra-radical group is inspiring militants even in the strongholds of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

A splinter group of Pakistan’s Taliban insurgents, Jamat-ul Ahrar, has already declared its support for the well-funded and ruthless Islamic State fighters, who have captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in a drive to set up a self-declared caliphate.

"IS (Islamic State) is an Islamic Jihadi organisation working for the implementation of the Islamic system and creation of the Caliphate," Jamat-ul Ahrar’s leader and a prominent Taliban figure, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told Reuters by telephone. "We respect them. If they ask us for help, we will look into it and decide."

Islamist militants of various hues already hold sway across restive and impoverished areas of South Asia, but Islamic State, with its rapid capture of territory, beheadings and mass executions, is starting to draw a measure of support among younger fighters in the region.

Al Qaeda’s ageing leaders, mostly holed up in the lawless region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, are increasingly seen as stale, tired and ineffectual on hardcore jihadi social media forums and Twitter accounts that incubate potential militant recruits. [ID:nL6N0PU0EA]

Security experts say Islamic State’s increasing lure may have prompted al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri to announce the establishment of an Indian franchise to raise the flag of jihad across South Asia, home to more than 400 million Muslims. [ID:nL3N0R51YH]


Seeking to boost its influence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, a local cell with allegiance to Islamic State has been distributing pamphlets in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and eastern Afghanistan in the past few weeks, residents said.

The 12-page booklet called “Fatah” (Victory), published in the Pashto and Dari languages of Afghanistan, was being mainly distributed in Afghan refugee camps on the outskirts of Peshawar.

The pamphlet’s logo features an AK-47 assault rifle and calls on local residents to support the militant group. Cars with IS stickers have also been spotted around Peshawar.

Sameeulah Hanifi, a prayer leader in a Peshawar neighbourhood populated mainly by Afghans, said the pamphlets were being distributed by a little-known local group called Islami Khalifat, an outspoken Islamic State supporter.

What made the British take extra care to feed Indian soldiers during World War I

Vikram Doctor
7 Sep, 2014

By providing rotis, fresh meat and ghee, the British army made sure that the Indian soldiers did not rebel. 

On December 14, 1914 The Times of India (ToI) carried a report from the northern French town of Boulogne. The writer was there to follow the war that had started a few months earlier and here was an unexpected side of it: "A flock of sheep and blunt-faced herd goats driven through a French boulevard by Punjabi Musulmans." In true village style one of them shouted at a startled old French lady who was in the way: "Budhi Budhi nikal jao!"

The Punjabis were soldiers, just a few of the thousands of Indians who would serve in World War 1 and their presence, and that of the goats, was a sign of how different this war would be. Before 1914 Europe had enjoyed a long era of relative peace, which meant that when war finally came their armies weren't prepared for the profound changes that had taken place.

Battle for Food

As the Crimean, Boer and American civil wars had shown, new technologies like railways and machine guns had reset all rules of war and the great tragedy of WW I was that it took the leaders so long, and so many lives lost, before they realized this. But the grim truth was they also had more lives to lose — 19th century industrialization had driven people from villages to towns where they could be signed up faster, and Britain and France now had large colonies from where they could call up reserves, like those Punjabis in Boulogne.

Deployment on this scale meant huge logistical challenges especially in feeding the men. Armies in history had generally combined some advance provisioning with looting the countryside for food, but the latter was not allowed by the French, who were effectively hosting the war (the Germans did it) and in any case would not have been effective given the scale of supplies needed. A lot of army activity in the early stages of the war went into solving this problem.

Andrew Robertshaw, in his book Feeding Tommy (British soldiers were called Tommies), writes that the British army did better than it has been given credit for. Soldiers wrote home complaining about the food, and it was alleged that more fodder for horses was sent than food for men. But as Robertshaw points out, motorized transport was still not total and horses pulled everything from wagons to guns; this was perhaps the last war where oats were like petrol!

Soldiers did complain, but Robertshaw suggests that this was more about the boredom of the food. The core of British military rations was canned meat, called bully beef (from the French for boeuf bouilli or boiled beef ) and hard baked biscuits and in the early stages that was what they got. In time rations improved. An army cooking school in Aldershot was reopened and new recruits persuaded to sign up. Few wanted to be cooks, since it was seen as unheroic, yet risky — smoke from the kitchens made them an easy target for enemy gunners.

One Man's Meat...

September will sparkle in history of Indian diplomacy

Veteran journalist M.J Akbar is the founder of The Sunday Guardian. 

Japan, China, Australia and America are Pacific mercantile and military powers. This quadrilateral is at the top of the PM’s foreign policy. 

PM Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping during 6th BRICS summit at Ceara events centre, Fortaleza, Brazil on 15 July 2014. PTI

here are many ways of travelling from India to America. One of them is via Japan. That indeed is the quickest way to the richest parts of USA, the west coast; and the only option if you are headed towards the heart of America's strategic presence in the Pacific, Hawaii.

The Pacific, overlapping the Indian Ocean, is far closer to us than the Mediterranean or the Atlantic. Our popular, and policy, reflexes so far have been so embedded in attitudes formed during the British Raj that we have stopped thinking of the Pacific as the bridgehead to anywhere.

Japan, China, Australia and America are Pacific mercantile and military powers. This quadrilateral is at the top of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign policy.

September 2014 will sparkle in the history of Indian diplomacy. Modi began the month with a triumph in Japan. He returned to welcome Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with whom he signed a significant civil nuclear deal that will permit the sale of Australian uranium to India. Within two days the leaders built a rapport that will prompt a quick return visit to cement a vital relationship. In the third week of September, Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Delhi to add important building blocks to investment as well as security cooperation.

When in the last week of September Prime Minister Modi goes to the White House, India will not be a supplicant nation. America will converse with an empowered India.

All sides are never equal in any multilateral partnership, but harmony is essential for the careful construct to hold. India and Japan may have stronger bonds than India and China, but the three Asian giants know that they have much to gain by maximising complementary strengths and minimising conflict zones. It is this matrix that can turn the 21st into an Asian century. This is the rationale and objective of India's "Look East" policy; and if you look far enough into the east, across the Pacific, you can see America.

Rebalancing India’s Maritime Posture in the Indo-Pacific

By Abhijit Singh
September 05, 2014

India could help maintain strategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific, if it is prepared to broaden its thinking. 

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successful visit to Japan, New Delhi and Tokyo have upgradedtheir relationship to a “Special Strategic and Global Partnership.” For India, the visit has, indeed, been quite “special.” With Japan committing to increase its investment in India’s economy and formally declaring its intention to transfer equipment technology to the Indian defense sector, the takeaways for New Delhi have been substantial. An agreement to accelerate talks on the possible sale of the US-2 amphibious aircraft is poised to make the Indian Navy the beneficiary of Japan’s first overseas military sale in nearly 50 years.

The deepening of defense relations has also raised hopes of a stronger maritime partnership. If the media reports of the various interactions and press-briefings at Tokyo are anything to go by, India and Japan could soon be in a strategic maritime embrace. Both countries reportedly committed themselves to increasing their maritime interaction and reaffirmed support for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s continued participation in the annual Indo-U.S. MALABAR maritime exercises. In a veiled mention of China, Modi even spoke of “expansionism” and “maritime encroachment” – issues that resonate with the Japanese masses – even as he recognized India’s “shared interest” with Japan in ensuring common maritime security.

Yet, expectations that the two countries’ maritime forces will be patrolling the sea lanes of the Pacific together are unlikely to be fulfilled any time soon – ironically, because of the very symbolism of deeper strategic cooperation that promises to give each side a broader security role.

The paradox is reflected in recent maritime discussions in India. Following last month’s commissioning of two indigenous warships – Kolkata and Kamorta – most commentary in the Indian media focused on the Indian Navy’s role as “protector” of India’s economic interests in the Indian Ocean. The generous references to the navy’s contribution in ensuring the safety of maritime trade and the protection of India’s offshore energy interests, seemed driven by a deep concern for the security of the sea-lines of communication (SLOCs) in the IOR.

The growing emphasis on the Indian Navy’s economic-security role, though well-intentioned, appeared to detract from the Navy’s larger role in defending India’s strategic equities in the Indo-Pacific region. A navy is, after all, a military arm primarily meant for use in traditional conflict scenarios involving a clash of broader strategic interests. By first principles, it is a weapon of defense in situations where the nation’s strategic stakes are threatened by a rival maritime power.

The proponents of the Indian Navy’s economic role are buoyed by views expressed on the subject by Narendra Modi himself. As he commissioned INS Kolkata a few days ago, Modi stressed the Navy’s role in securing the sea lanes, drawing attention to the “inextricable connection between maritime power and national growth story” and “the Indian navy’s potential to inspire confidence among those involved in maritime trade.” His observations, though legitimate from an economic-security perspective, highlight a deeper reality: popularly elected governments today increasingly look upon maritime forces to protect national economic interests, sometimes at the cost of other strategic functions. Having been elected into office on a plank of economic renewal, the NDA government too is likely to pursue a maritime policy aimed at supporting domestic growth. As a corollary – and regardless of the political warmth between India and Japan – New Delhi will not do anything to antagonize Beijing. If anything, its maritime policy will be built around the twin principles of strategic risk avoidance, and robust multilateral engagement.

Tibet in Sichuan

By Miguel Cano
September 08, 2014

Independent journalist Miguel Cano recently spent a month walking in the most remote, ethnically Tibetan areas of the Tibetan plateau in Sichuan Province, sleeping in monasteries, and talking to locals, monks, Tibetan activists and Chinese (Han) citizens and officials.

Although foreign visitors can ostensibly travel freely within Tibet, in reality Cano was regularly detained by Chinese police, sometimes for several hours while an English-speaking officer was fetched to ask basic questions and impress upon him their concern for his welfare.

Yet despite the heavy official presence, Cano still found much to remind the visitor of the region’s Tibetan history.

Israel’s War Went Badly—Now Its Spy Agencies Are Furious

The IDF was unprepared

It’s been close to two weeks since Israel’s war in Gaza ended—for the time being—with an extended ceasefire. Now with some hindsight, what’s more apparent is how much Israel miscalculated and how much it underestimated its enemy.

This is also the subject of a major debate within Israel’s own spy agencies. The Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate and Shin Bet—Israel’s domestic counter-terrorism agency—are squabbling over who is to blame for several mistakes made before and during the war.

The details, reported by Haaretz’s Amos Harel, “points to difficulties in deciphering the intentions of Hamas prior to the outbreak of the war and an under-estimation of Hamas’ readiness and determination to continue fighting.”

Sixty-five Israeli soldiers died in the conflict, more than six times the number killed during the Operation Cast Lead ground invasion in 2009. More than 2,100 Palestinians died, including hundreds of Hamas fighters. Israel also committed some of its heaviest ground forces, including the highly mobile 36th Ga’ash Armor Division.

All of this for ostensibly destroying tunnels leading from within the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.

But as Harel notes, the Israeli government added tunnels to its list of objectives—their main objective—well after a week into the military operation. It wasn’t until Hamas fighters began staging attacks using the tunnels that Israel sold their existence as a new, unexpected and existential threat.

To be sure, it’s not as if Israeli intelligence wasn’t aware of the tunnels already.

Israeli troops at a tunnel entrance during Operation Protective Edge. IDF photo. At top—IDF artillery during the operation. IDF photo


September 8, 2014 · 

Hezbollah’s Call to War Against Israel

Just 10 days after a ceasefire ended a 50-day Israel-Hamas conflict, the Israeli army is “making plans and training” for “a very violent war” against Hezbollah in south Lebanon, an Israeli TV report said Friday night, without specifying when this war might break out. The report, for which the army gave Israel’s Channel 2 access to several of its positions along the border with Lebanon, featured an IDF brigade commander warning that such a conflict “will be a whole different story” from the Israel-Hamas conflict in which over 2,000 Gazans (half of them gunmen according to Israel) and 72 Israelis were killed.

“We will have to use considerable force” to quickly prevail over the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, “to act more decisively, more drastically,” said Colonel Dan Goldfus, commander of the 769th Hiram Infantry Brigade.

The report said Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 rockets — 10 times as many as were in the Hamas arsenal — and that its 5,000 long-range missiles, located in Beirut and other areas deep inside Lebanon, are capable of carrying large warheads (of up to 1 ton and more), with precision guidance systems, covering all of Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system would not be able to cope with that kind of challenge, and thus the IDF would have to “maneuver fast” and act forcefully to prevail decisively in the conflict, Goldfus said.

Goldfus said it might be necessary to evacuate the civilian residents of the area. “Hezbollah will not conquer the Galilee (in northern Israel),” the officer said, “and I won’t let it hurt our civilians.” He said that anyone who thought Hezbollah was in difficulties because it has sustained losses fighting with President Bashar Assad in Syria is mistaken. The report noted, indeed, that Hezbollah has now accumulated three years of battlefield experience, and has greater military capabilities and considerable confidence as a consequence.

The report said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 that, in a future war against Hezbollah, Israel would have to hit homes in villages across southern Lebanon from which Hezbollah would seek to launch rockets into Israel. As with Hamas in Gaza, the report said there were concerns that Hezbollah has also been tunneling under the Israeli border ahead of planned attacks. A deputy local council chief, Yossi Adoni of the Ma’aleh Yosef Council, said dozens of border-area residents have reported the sounds of tunneling under their homes since 2006 — when Israel and Hezbollah fought a bitter conflict known as the Second Lebanon War.

“We are absolutely certain there are cross-border tunnels,” Adoni said. “There could be,” noted Goldfus, describing the tunnel threat as “one more concern… If in Gaza there were tunnels, it stands to reason that it’s possible here too.” Israel’s launched a ground offensive in Gaza in mid-July to destroy some 30 Hamas tunnels dug under the border; 11 IDF soldiers were killed during the Israel-Hamas war by gunmen emerging from the tunnels inside Israel.


September 8, 2014 

PRAGUE — When the crisis in Ukraine dramatically heated up last November and in the ensuing weeks, I was impressed by the ability of the Russian state to mobilize so many different tools in its bid to destabilize its neighbor. It became clear very quickly that Russian politicians, journalists, purportedly nongovernmental organizations, state companies, think tanks, the military, the courts, government agencies and the Duma were all working from the same instructions for the same goals. At the time I remarked on Twitter that the crisis showed the tactical effectiveness of the “unitary state” Russian President Vladimir Putin has been building since 1999.

In June, I came across a fairly obscure article by General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Federation, and was struck by how closely it mirrored my observations of the unfolding Ukraine crisis.

Gerasimov writes about how “a perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war.”

This is achieved, Gerasimov writes, by “the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other non-military measures applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population.” The goal is “to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state.”

Gerasimov’s article is of great interest to military specialists, but it is of broader interest as well. It reveals much about Russia’s view of the West — particularly the United States — which the Kremlin believes carries out such operations regularly around the world. The view of global affairs presented in this article, I think, accurately reflects an important strain of Kremlin thinking. After all, it is presented in an obscure publication and its exposure to foreign audiences could not have been foreseen.

It also presents a candid and fairly negative assessment of Russian military science. Gerasimov notes the field has been stymied in the past by “a scornful attitude toward new ideas,” for which the Soviet Union paid “in great quantities of blood” during World War II. Reading between the lines, one might learn a lot from this article about relations between the military and the government and about competing schools within security structure itself.

Finally, I think this article offers a lesson for the West. The Russian government is intentionally shrouded in secrecy, but it is not nearly as inscrutable as the Soviet government was. There is a huge amount of important and revealing information to be found that needs to be researched, translated, and brought into the larger discussion of Russia’s relations with the West and its role in the world. But very little of this information ever gets beyond a small circle of specialists. And that is proving to be a very costly mistake.

Here is my translation of key portions of General Gerasimov’s article, which appeared on “Military-Industrial Kurier” on February 27, 2013

In the 21st century we have seen a tendency toward blurring the lines between the states of war and peace. Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template.

The experience of military conflicts — including those connected with the so-called colored revolutions in north Africa and the Middle East — confirm that a perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war.

The Lessons of the “Arab Spring”


September 8, 2014

Israel has a first-rate air force and a strong capability to perform precision strike. Why then, in this most recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza, did it deal with rockets and tunnels through a costly, destructive, and unpopular ground incursion? One factor may be the hard technical limitations of Israel’s aerial Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets. Like all military capabilities, Israel’s ISR assets must obey the laws of physics and geometry. Reliably detecting targets from the air is hard. Detection is even harder when the targets are either fleeting or well camouflaged, like Hamas’s rockets and tunnel entrances. Contrary to media narratives, there is no such thing as an aerial “unblinking eye” for this mission. These problems are difficult enough that they will probably not be solved any time soon; the laws of physics place harsh limitations on what intelligence can collect. In the future, Israeli decision makers should consider these facts and implications if and when they decide to fight. Other policymakers who plan to rely on ISR operating in cluttered environments might also benefit from understanding these limitations.

When Israel decided to expand Operation Protective Edge (OPE) to include a ground incursion into Gaza, it significantly increased its exposure to Hamas’s combat power. Israel knew from experience that incursions into Gaza are risky: 19 IDF soldiers died during its last two raids into the territory. Hamas, unable to inflict damage to Israel’s military for weeks prior to the assault, was able to kill dozens of soldiers once OPE ground operations began. Hamas’s tunnel network and rocket capabilities were both major targets of the incursion. The tunnels were a massive undertaking for Gaza’s small economy. By one estimate each one required ten truckloads of building material to complete. By another reckoning these projects required 800 tons of concrete. These tunnels served multiple purposes; they were conduits for the movement of weapons into Gaza, provided protection for fighters and equipment, and some tunnels dug under the border gave Hamas the ability to send ground forces into Israel. The rocket threat is linked to the tunnel threat. The former are smuggled into Gaza through the latter. Rockets are then often cached in tunnels and sometimes fired remotely from underground launch sites.

Every successful rocket attack against Israel demonstrates that its highly capable security and intelligence apparatus cannot completely seal off the country. Israel is vulnerable to rocket fire despite its effective intelligence collection and analysis, and its complete access to and dominance of Gazan airspace. Israel’s use of rocket (and tactical missile) defenses such as the Iron Dome surface-to-air missile system and civil defense measures like bunkers mitigate the rocket threat. Mitigation, though, is not invulnerability. There is evidence that Iron Dome is not performing as well as hoped. Rockets get through, and they have an effect.

The Threat Detailed

As Evidence Piles Up, How Is Russia’s Role in the War in the Ukraine Being Covered in Moscow?

Russian Journalist: ‘Convincing Evidence’ Moscow Sent Fighters To Ukraine

Charlotte Alfred
Huffington Post, September 6, 2014

Every week, The WorldPost asks an expert to shed light on a topic driving headlines around the world. Today, we turn to Russia’s involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.

Finally good news out of Ukraine. After five months of fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, representatives of both parties reached an agreement on Friday to end hostilities and negotiate a permanent settlement.

Looming large over the negotiations was the question of Russian involvement in the conflict and western leaders’ accusations that Moscow had systematically worked to deepen the Ukrainian crisis.

The extent of Russia’s involvement in separatist violence in past months has been fiercely contested. Russia denies it has had any hand at all in the violence, while Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having sent thousands of troops and military equipment across the border.

To better understand reports of a Russian presence in east Ukraine, The WorldPost turned to Elena Racheva, a special correspondent for Russia’s Novaya Gazeta opposition newspaper. Racheva says that she has found “convincing” evidence that Russian troops have been sent to fight in Ukraine.

Who are the main groups fighting the government in east Ukraine?

I had the chance to talk to some of the rebels in the Russian town of Donetsk [not to be confused with the Ukrainian town of Donetsk]. About three-quarters of them were originally from Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions and a quarter of them were Russian citizens. Many of the rebels from both of these groups had fought in the Russian wars in Chechnya or Afghanistan. They wanted to fight again. They had blindly trusted Russian media and repeated Russian TV stories about Ukrainian forces using phosphorus bombs and children being crucified.

Relatives of Russian soldiers told me that while soldiers were occasionally sent on short-term missions inside Ukraine in July, the situation started to change at the beginning of August, when the Ukrainian army was able to push back the separatist rebels. Russia then started sending in larger regiments and military equipment, although without any identifying markings or license plates. I have no idea what the current proportion of Ukrainian separatist volunteers to Russian troops is. No journalist does.

Does this mean that Russia is actually sending forces to Ukraine?

Some soldiers were going voluntarily in June and July. Their relatives told me that army chiefs offered them big salaries to retire from the military and go to Ukraine as “volunteers” without official documents, although only a small number of soldiers agreed to do this.

China-India Strategic Alliance Should Not Be Unthinkable, (Paper No.1375 Dated 13.05.2005) a Mid-2014 Review


Paper No. 5783 Dated 08-Sept-2014

By Dr Subhash Kapila

“China-India Strategic Alliance Should Not Be Unthinkable” was a SAAG Paper penned by me in May 2005 (Reproduced as Annexure) in which after detailed analysis of all facets of such a proposal, and while highlighting the significant strategic advantages to both China and India of such an alliance, came to the conclusion that such an alliance stood no chances of materialising with existing Chinese mind-sets. The more noteworthy salient conclusions were:
China-India relationships with any strategic connotations will never materialise as a marked “Strategic Distrust” hovered relentlessly on any moves in this direction.
China has to modulate and refashion its strategic and political formulations on India to regain India’s “Strategic Trust”
Adversarial postures were inflicted by China on India and not by India on China and hence China has to take a higher call in terms of eliminating Chinese adversarial postures against India directly and by proxies
China would have to recognise India’s strategic pre-eminence in the Indian Sub-Continent and desist from strategic encirclement of India and propping up politically unstable proxies like Pakistan to destabilise India.

Content of the above quoted SAAG Paper and the many conclusions that emanated in 2005 are not only valid today but hold out greater validity in 2014 when contemporaneously reviewed against China’s insensitive strategic postures and formulations against India in the follow-up period of 2005-2014. China-India trade relations which have risen exponentially during this period are off-set by China’s equally increased adversarial postures against India. India needs to remember that national security interests cannot be subsumed by an economic up-surge.

China has not taken any serious or meaningful initiatives to erase the persisting “Strategic Distrust” that it has generated in the Indian psyche which more than in the Indian Government stands deeply embedded in the Indian public’s psyche. This is likely to persist as China and India tussle for the Asian strategic space.

If the visiting Chinese President is sincerely and genuinely committed to forge a meaningful relationship with India, then China under his leadership must take steps to jettison its existing mind-sets on India and flawed strategic assessments on India. The first bench-mark for the Chinese President would be to initiate a Chinese “Hands Off” policy in the Pakistan-centric fixations that dominate Chinese strategy in this region.

India is not the India of 1962 and in 2014 stands tall as an emerging Asian power, recognised as such in the wider Indo Pacific Asia and the rest of the world. India is not strategically cornered in 2014; it is China that is strategically cornered today. China needs to recognise this strategic reality on the eve of the Chinese President’s visit to India in September 2014.

India today has to address the strategic predicament of how to balance the Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership which promises great potential as opposed to the India-China Strategic and Composite Partnership for Peace and Prosperity signed in April 2005 which never took off due to China’s relentless intransigent aggressive actions on India’s borders with Tibet to date.

Shoot First and Ask Questions Later: Use of Excessive Force by Chinese Counterterrorist Police in Western China a Growing Problem

Killings by China Anti-Terror Cops Raise Concerns

Associated Press, September 8, 2014

BEIJING — When attackers from China’s minority Uighurs killed 37 people in a July rampage in far western Xinjiang, police responded by gunning down at least 59 of them. When three Uighurs allegedly killed a top state-appointed Muslim cleric, police shot dead two of them. When security forces led a raid on 10 suspected Uighur terrorists, they fatally shot all but one.

The incidents are part of a pattern raising concerns that Chinese police are excessively using deadly force in their bid to prevent more attacks by Uighur militants, who have killed dozens of civilians in train stations and other public places over the past few years. In some cities, patrolling SWAT units have already been authorized to shoot dead suspected terrorists without warning.

An Associated Press review of articles by China’s official Xinhua News Agency and other state media has found that at least 323 people have died in Xinjiang-related violence since April last year, when the unrest began to escalate. Nearly half of those deaths were inflicted by police — in most cases, by gunning down alleged perpetrators who are usually reported as having been armed with knives, axes and, occasionally, vaguely-defined explosives.

Beijing’s tight controls and monopoly on the narrative make it difficult to independently assess if the lethal action has been justified. And Chinese authorities prevent most reporting by foreign journalists inside Xinjiang, making it nearly impossible to confirm the state media numbers. Uighur exile groups and the U.S.-government funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia report far more violent incidents than Chinese state media do, and in some cases, higher death tolls and police shootings of Uighur protesters. But those reports are similarly hard to verify.

To understand just how tough it can be to determine whether China’s hand is being forced — or whether officials are recklessly lashing out at those who resist them — consider this recent series of confrontations in Xinjiang: On Aug. 1, police cornered a group of alleged terrorists in an abandoned house and shot nine of them dead, arresting one. In June, police gunned down 13 “mobsters” who allegedly attacked a local police station. In April, checkpoint police fatally shot a teenage Uighur motorcyclist after he allegedly attempted to grab their guns.


By Bhavna Singh

Map showing the location of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. 

The execution of Juma Tahir, the Uighur imam of the Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, the largest in China, earlier last month has raised concerns about the nature of religious extremism in Xinjiang. It comes as no surprise since these imams are mostly handpicked by the Central Chinese authorities and are targeted repeatedly for endorsing state apparatuses. What is China’s game-plan? Will they succeed in effectively curbing the ethno-religious radicalisation in Xinjiang?

The 2000 National Census suggests that of the 10 recognised Muslim Minzu (nationalities) in China, Uighurs constitute around 8 million, amounting to 45.2 per cent of the total Xinjiang population. Most adhere to Sunni Islam; some, mostly of Tajik origin, followers Shia Islam; and some have Sufi influence. According to the state-controlled Islamic Association of China – that coordinates the annual pilgrimages to Mecca – there are 30,000-40,000 mosques with equal numbers of imams in China catering to the religious sentiments of these communities.

A closer look at the structure of this organisation reveals that its primary goal is to bring all the Muslims in China under the ambit of the Central Chinese government. One of the stated missions is to “unify Muslims in participating in the socialist construction of the motherland.” For this purpose, it imparts training to imams and all religious teachers and the state draws upon their assistance as and when required. For instance, both the President Xilalunding Chen Guangyuan and the Vice-President Juma Tahir of the Islamic Association of China declared the Urumqi riots in 2009 as “against the principles of Islam.” Juma Tahir had also been repeatedly urging Uighurs “not to fall into the traps set by exiled separatists.”

This incessant supervision of day-to-day religious practices has led to intermittent clashes in the region over denial of religious freedom. The recent incidents in Kashgar, Yarkand and Urumqi over the past few months are but a mere reflection of this tension. Under the pretext of building harmony between Hans and Uighurs by prohibiting the practice of religion in public spaces, the state has resorted to repressive policies such as banning of headscarves, public religious gatherings, prohibition of Ramadan fasting and has even outlawed residents wearing clothing with the Islamic star and crescent symbol from boarding buses – especially throughout the time of the sports competition held in August 2014 in the north-western city of Karamay.

The 5 Most Powerful Chinese Weapons of War in the Sky

September 6, 2014 

Beijing's forces in the air have made the great aeronautical leap forward. Should Washington be worried?

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force is no longer a peasant air force of ancient fighters incapable of projecting power beyond its borders. During the Cold War, there was no need for such an expensive force—or to fight a major war outside of China’s borders.

Now, as China’s economy has expanded at a staggering rate, China’s interests have grown beyond its borders, indeed even beyond its traditional area of interest in East Asia to a truly global scope. A Chinese air force is emerging that is capable of acting in support of those interests, capable of challenging longstanding powers such as the United States and Japan.

China’s youthful aerospace industry is churning a dizzying array of weapons systems. From slow, low-flying cruise missiles to hypersonic vehicles that rip through the sky at Mach 5, from bombers based on sixty year old designs to advanced, fifth generation combat planes, China’s air forces have made the great aeronautical leap forward.

WU-14 Hypersonic Glide Vehicle:

China is actively conducting research and development into hypersonic weapons. Hypersonics are a new type of weapons system capable of delivering a payload or vehicle at speeds between Mach 5 and 10, or 3,840 to 7,680 miles an hour. Hypersonic weapons are extremely fast and difficult to shoot down.

On August 7th of this year China conducted a second test of the WU-14 Boost Glide Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV). The test, conducted from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province, literally fell short of expectations—that is to say, near the Bulong Hu Hotsprings Resort in Inner Mongolia.

The test failure is not exactly unexpected—due to the extreme stresses of flight at hypersonic speeds, those researching hypersonics—including the United States—are experiencing a high rate of failures testing hypersonic systems. It did, however, come on the heels of a successful January 9th test, also launched from Taiyuan.

China’s recent tests have involved using the so-called “boost glide” method to get to hypersonic speeds. The weapon is boosted high into the atmosphere by a rocket or repurposed ballistic missile and glides back to Earth at hypersonic speeds. The kinetic energy of the glide vehicle is such that an explosive payload can be considered optional.

Thanks to 150 US Airstrikes, ISIS Now on the Defensive Across Iraq

Iraq: ISIL On The Defensive


September 8, 2014

The American air attacks have increased and put ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) on the defensive. There have been about 150 American air attacks since they began on August 8 th and now occur everywhere ISIL has forces in Iraq. Thus in the last month ISIL has lost control of a major dam, a refinery and major oil fields around Kirkuk. ISIL is also losing control of the oil smuggling operation it had established in Syria and western Iraq. The attack against the Haditha dam includes local Sunni tribal militiamen who have refused to join ISIL. Many Sunni tribes backed away from supporting ISIL or agreed to work with the government. Haditha is the second largest dam in the country in terms of hydroelectric power and water supply.

Kurdish troops, also backed by American air power (directed by American air controllers on the ground with the Kurds) are also taking back territory around Mosul. This is one of several operations in the last month where the Kurds have shown that, with the help of American air support, they are nearly invincible against ISIL forces. Even Iraqi Shia troops and Sunni militias have some success when aided by air support. Most ISIL fighters now accept this new battlefield reality, but some less determined ISIL gunmen are discouraged and desertions are more common. There have also been several recent instances of ISIL gunmen fleeing after the first smart bomb or missile hits, not willing to shoot it out with the oncoming Kurds. This often involves abandoning vehicles, weapons, ammo and equipment.

More American and NATO trainers and advisors on the ground have helped reform the Iraqi security forces. There are now more Shia and pro-government tribal militias involved but the most reliable local force remains the Kurds. However, most of the Kurdish troops are deployed on the border between Kurdish and Arab Iraq. The Kurds must continue to keep Arab Islamic terrorists out and that requires reliable troops. Thousands of Kurdish women have been mobilized for this, many of them combat veterans from past crises. The women generally take care of internal security to free up more men for duty on the border.

The U.S. is depending on the Kurds and Iraqi government to provide some help on the ground to identify targets in the urban areas (Mosul, Fallujah and Tikrit) the fighting is moving into. Out in the open it’s a lot easier to avoid civilian casualties since you can spot nearby civilians. In urban areas this is more difficult. The Americans want to avoid civilian casualties as ISIL can use this to generate media criticism of the military operations against the Islamic terrorists. The criticism causes political problems.