9 October 2014

First Picture of New Chinese SIGINT Plane

Japan intercepts new Chinese GX-8 ELINT aircraft
Mike Yeo
IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly
October 6, 2014

Japanese aircraft intercepted a GX-8 - recognisable by the arrays on its flanks - in international airspace over the East China Sea on 3 October. Source: Japanese Ministry of Defense
Japan’s Ministry of Defense has released a photo of a new type of Chinese intelligence-gathering aircraft that its fighters intercepted in international airspace over the East China Sea on 3 October.
Known as the GX-8 (GaoXin, literally High New, the name assigned to China’s Y-8/Y-9 special missions aircraft), the aircraft is based on the Shaanxi Y-9 transport.
The GX-8 is believed to be an electronic intelligence (ELINT) gathering platform, mounting four distinctive elongated antennas on its fuselage. It also carries a prominent nose radar and SATCOM dome. At least three GX-8s are known to be in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) North Sea Fleet’s 2nd Air Division.
While the 3 October interception by Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighters is the first external proof of this variant’s existence, low-resolution photos of the GX-8 were posted online in late 2011. The type is believed to have begun flight tests in early 2011, while the first public sighting of it in service with the PLAN occurred in April this year.
Satellite imagery shows that various GaoXin special mission aircraft also frequently deploy to the East Sea Fleet’s airbase at Ningbo-Zhuangqiao in Zhejiang Province, whence they undertake regular flights over the East China Sea. This aircraft was likely operating from that base when it was intercepted by the JASDF.
China currently operates at least eight different GaoXin special mission variants with the PLAN and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Based either on the Y-9 or the older Y-8C airframes, they serve in a wide variety of roles ranging from psychological warfare to airborne tactical command posts.


Thursday, 09 October 2014 | Claude Arpi |

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong believe that, in ‘One Country, Two Systems', the second part of the promise is more important than the first. Beijing’s emphasis on the first has left them disturbed

On October 1, the People’s Republic of China’s founding day, Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, told the media with a smile, “The sun rises as usual”. This was an indirect comment on the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong. Is it only wishful thinking from Beijing?

Three days later, Xinhua published an article accusing the Western media of carrying biased articles on the recent protests in Hong Kong and “promoting democracy”. The Chinese news agency writes that the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong is one example of the West’s partiality. The article blasted the US “for providing media and financial support” to the protest movement; it further warned that, as the “color” revolutions in Egypt, Thailand, Libya, and Ukraine, all assisted by the West, ended up in domestic chaos and social turmoil, a “Hong Kong Spring” would inevitably lead to a similar situation.

Nobody can deny that the change of regimes in the above examples brought instability to their respective countries, but there is another side to the coin. First, contrary to what Beijing believes, democracy does not belong to the West or the United States; it is a universal value practised the world over (though not in China as yet). India practised it since times immemorial. Was not Suddhodana, the Buddha’s father the ‘elected’ raja of the Sakyas? The small republics of northern India were ruled in a ‘democratic’ way, long before the US existed, so why always associate democracy with the West.

Pakistan’s internal security challenges

The Pakistan army's counter-insurgency operations in North Waziristan have been stuck in a groove. There can never be a purely military solution to an insurgency. Political solutions to counter the alienation have to be worked out with the local leadership
Gurmeet Kanwal

A file photo of Pakistan army vehicles heading towards North Waziristan when the operation began in June. The army chief has said that the present operation in Waziristan is aimed at eliminating “all terrorists and their sanctuaries.” No strikes have been launched against the Haqqani network and the other miltant groups that have been targeting the NATO/ISAF forces. AFP

THE deteriorating internal security environment in Pakistan has gradually morphed into the country's foremost national security threat. The Pakistan army has been battling the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in North Waziristan since mid-June 2014 with only limited success. The Al-Qaida has been quietly making inroads into Pakistani terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayebba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Harkat-ul-Jihad Al-Islami (HuJI), Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Recently, Ayman Al-Zawahari, the Al-Qaida Chief, announced the launch of a new wing in South Asia, to be based in Pakistan.

Fissiparous tendencies in Balochistan and the restive Gilgit-Baltistan Northern Areas are a perpetual security nightmare. Karachi is a tinderbox that is ready to explode. Sectarian violence is rampant; the minority Shia community is being especially targeted by Sunni extremists. Other minorities like the Hindus, Sikhs and Christians have also been assaulted. And, there have been several instances of insider involvement in attacks on military establishments like the Mehran airbase and the Karachi naval dockyard.

Failure to take off


After the 1962 war, it was decided that India must have a minimum of 45 combat squadrons. Half a century later, the IAF has only 34. ( Source: AP )
Written by Inder Malhotra | Posted: October 9, 2014 

All those interested in the country’s security and defence have a duty to pay heed to what the chief of air staff, Arup Raha, had to say about the state of the Indian Air Force. It is worrying, to say the least. The air chief tried not to create panic by pointing out that things were likely to improve soon because the new government “meant business” and was “seized of the matter”. However, even if long-delayed decisions are taken day after tomorrow, desperately needed new acquisitions will take time, perhaps a couple of years, to materialise. This should underscore that the stark situation will persist for quite a while.

Immediately after the debacle in the brief but brutal border war with China in 1962, defence-planners had decided, and declared emphatically, that for its air defence, this country must have a minimum of 45 combat squadrons. Half a century later, this number ought to have gone up considerably, if only because of the massive increase in the military might of China, which is determined to give all help to its “all-weather” friend, Pakistan. But the dismal reality is that the number of combat squadrons of the IAF has dwindled to 34. To make matters worse, some of the fighter aircraft still in service are so aged that they will soon become unusable. At the present rate, it would be no surprise if the number of combat squadrons falls to 32 next year and plummets to 30 in 2016. By 2017, some new acquisitions would start coming in. Until then, the IAF will have to make do with whatever it has. For this purpose, it is trying to upgrade the Jaguars, which are deep penetration strike aircraft, not fighters.

According to Raha, a three-fold failure to adhere to firmly fixed deadlines is the source of the current woes. The first relates to the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA), Tejas, which was to obtain “operational clearance” by December this year but will miss this deadline. Serial production of this aircraft is already delayed. Strangely, IAF pilots are yet to start training to fly the Tejas. Why? Because “flight manuals” have not yet been written!


Thursday, 09 October 2014 | Hiranmay Karlekar |
Reports state that global warming, which had already reduced grain production, could grow much worse if greenhouse gases' emission continued unchecked

For some time, a number of reports by scientists has been showing how climate change has been affecting the whole world. A report in The New York Times of September 29 stated that, analysing the heat wave that hit Australia in 2013-14, five groups of scientific researchers concluded that it was almost certainly the result of the release of greenhouse gases by human activity. Besides the fact that all the five groups came to the same conclusion, the statement by Michael Hoerling, an American scientist who had often been sceptical of claims of links between weather conditions and global warming, that the evidence in these papers were very strong, has reinforced the credibility of the findings.

Other reports showed that global warming had made the occurrence of extreme heat waves more likely in Europe, China, Japan and the Korean Peninsula as well.Unanimity evaded three reports on the drought afflicting California. One of them found that human activity had increased its intensity; two others claimed to have found no direct evidence of that. There was, however, general agreement that whatever the causes, global warming had worsened things as rains that fell evaporated faster in the hotter climates. According to another report — by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change appointed by the United Nations — uncontrolled increase in the emission of greenhouse gases overwhelmed political efforts to contain the problem. It stated that their world-wide emission grew at the rate of 1.3 per cent from 1970 to 2000 and leapt to 2.2 per cent a year from 2000 to 2010. The pace, it appeared, was increasing and posed the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming debates.

Elaborating, the report stated that global warming, which had already reduced grain production by several percentage points, could grow much worse if greenhouse gases’ emission continued unchecked. The consequences would include a rise in sea levels, devastating heat waves, torrential rains and other climate extremes. Most alarmingly, temperatures were rising to a level which made the melting of the vast ice-sheet covering Greenland, inevitable. The process, spread over centuries, would, according to the report, cause sea levels to rise by 23 feet and, along with the melting of Antarctic ice, could potentially flood the world’s major cities.

Change of guard in Afghanistan

Opportunities and concerns as Karzai relinquishes office
G Parthasarathy

Mr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (centre), who has taken over as Afghanistan's President from Mr Hamid Karzai

EVEN as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was cautioning Americans in New York against any precipitate withdrawal, Afghanistan was preparing for a momentous change in Kabul. Mr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was taking over as Afghanistan's President from Mr. Hamid Karzai. Despite efforts to malign him personally and destabilise his government by worthy Americans like Peter Galbraith and Richard Holbrooke and a vicious propaganda barrage from Pakistan, President Karzai succeeded in establishing a measure of effective governance in Afghanistan. He skillfully brought together the country's fractious ethnic groups, to deal with challenges posed by the Pakistan-backed Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network and their Islamist allies, including Al-Qaida.

The change of guard from Mr. Karzai to Mr. Ghani was not smooth. The first round of elections in April produced no clear winner. The second round in June, which was expected to be close, produced a stunning result. Mr. Ghani secured an astonishingly large victory over his rival, Mr. Abdullah Abdullah, a former Foreign Minister. Mr. Abdullah had a substantial lead in the first round of elections, securing 46% of the vote, against 32% for Ghani. A report by the European Union declared the second round of voting as “massively rigged”. A US report held that it was mathematically impossible for Mr. Ghani to have secured the margin of victory that he did. With controversy over the electoral result spiralling out of control and assuming divisive ethnic dimensions, the Americans brokered and virtually imposed an uneasy compromise between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah.

Mr. Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as President and Mr. Abdullah as “Chief Executive,” a post which has no constitutional sanctity. The road map for this transition includes the convening of Loya Jirga to convert the post of “Chief Executive” into that of an “Executive Prime Minister”. It remains to be seen whether the contemplated changes with two separate centres of executive authority can provide stable and effective governance in a country beset with long-standing ethnic rivalries and tensions. Within 24 hours of the assumption of power by President Ashraf Ghani and “Chief Executive” Abdullah, Afghanistan and the US inked a security agreement, which will result in the 9,800 US troops remaining in Afghanistan beyond 2014 for a training and counter insurgency role. An agreement giving immunity to foreign forces against prosecution in Afghan courts was also inked. The agreements will allow the Americans to retain air bases across Afghanistan.



The dynamics of the India-China relationship will dictate the future shifts in the balance of power in Asia, writes Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

The world watched with hawk eyes the first ever visit of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to India for three days from September 17, at a time of great flux in the shifting balance of power in the world. President Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi cast aside diplomatic protocol and decided to begin the visit from Gujarat. Both belong to a new generation of leaders. President Xi has been at the helm for about two years and Prime Minister Modi has just finished 100 days in office. Modi decided to receive the Chinese president at Ahmedabad in person. As the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had made his mark in Indian politics and gained fame for his no-nonsense approach to governance. He visited China four times and got to know the Chinese leadership, at a time when Western countries, in a fit of sanctimonious rage, treated him as persona non grata. Gujarat has benefited enormously from Chief Minister Modi’s determined push for development and has received considerable investments from China. As the prime minister, Modi aspires to bring in the same ethos and energize the race for development at an all-India level.

The symbolism of Xi beginning his India visit from Ahmedabad, on the day Modi celebrated his 64th birthday, was not lost on discerning observers. It marked a historic shift in the way both India and China, known for being sticklers for diplomatic protocol, have decided to break out of the rigidities of their respective protocol traditions. The protocol departments of both foreign offices must have done quite a lot of cogitation to break the bounds of well-laid protocol norms that would, normally, schedule an important visit to begin in the capital city of Delhi.

While the world watched, India’s neighbours watched and interpreted this visit much more avidly than others. Pakistan, China’s all-weather friend, was already feeling neglected since Xi had decided to skip that country during his current swing through South Asia. Pakistan’s television channels went hysterical and read all kinds of meaning into China’s decision to cancel or postpone Xi’s visit. Pakistan’s internal political situation is clearly the reason behind this postponement, and no one, least of all Pakistan’s time-tested friend, China, would have found the situation in Islamabad conducive for a visit.

Coming to the Indian Ocean, the Chinese Navy: How Should India Respond?

October 7, 2014 

"It’s doubtful any Chinese president worth his salt would place Chinese interests in the East or South China Sea in jeopardy for uncertain stakes in the Indian Ocean."

Chinese submarines prowling South Asia’s briny deep? No longer is this some hypothetical prospect. A nuclear-powered People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 093 Shang-class attack boat was sighted cruising regional waters last winter. Indian naval proponents long maintained that Beijing would cross a redline if it dispatched nuclear subs to the Indian Ocean. It would set Sino-Indian maritime competition in motion—a seesaw process with unforeseeable repercussions. And just last month, a Type 039 Song-class diesel-electric boatput in an appearance in the region, tarrying at Colombo in company with a submarine tender. The Song was presumably en route to counterpiracy duty in the Gulf of Aden.

And indeed, these undersea patrols set commentators aflutter on the subcontinent. “China’s Submarines in Indian Ocean Worry Indian Navy,” blared a typical headline. Why get exercised over on-again, off-again PLAN forays? For one thing, such enterprises may presage ominous things to come as China’s naval buildup matures—giving commanders forces to spare for extraregional ventures. Sub cruises, then, could constitute early steps onto a slippery slope.

For another, Indians take a proprietary view of the Indian Ocean region. They bridle reflexively at an extraregional military presence in their environs. Such a presence is doubly objectionable when it looks permanent. As foreign-policy punditextraordinaire C. Raja Mohan observes, even a friendly power like the United States plucks such reflexes when ensconced at strategic locations like the island redoubt of Diego Garcia, to the subcontinent’s south. When a foreign naval presence manifests itself in military bases, that’s a problem.

And yet the tenor of Indian commentary on China’s navy has modulated over the past few years. A decade ago, Indians fretted ceaselessly about encirclement. China, they feared, was assembling a “string of pearls,” a network of Mahanian naval stations dotting the Indian Ocean basin and constricting New Delhi’s freedom of action. Speculation went on and on.

Yet officialdom now appears more comfortable with the strategic setting. For all the chattering classes’ talk about a string of pearls, New Delhi has pursued naval and military modernization at a pace better described as leisurely and methodical, rather than hasty or frantic. The Indian Navy, for instance, is building toward a fleet with enough ships to keep one aircraft-carrier task force combat-ready at any time, factoring in the usual rhythm of at-sea deployment, overhaul, routine upkeep and crew training.

This is not the behavior of a regional hegemon on edge about imminent encroachment from another would-be hegemon. It’s more like prudent action meant to hedge against a future downturn in the threat environment. Former Indian national-security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon captured the prevailing mood a few years back, joking that a string of pearls makes “a pretty ineffective murder weapon as any Clue aficionado will tell you,” referring to the murder-mystery game. No talk of redlines or encirclement for Menon.

Why the relatively laid-back attitude toward a stronger, at-times predatory neighbor? Because India has internalized some basic realities. Sure, Indian economic growth lags China’s by a wide margin. It trails China by other indices of national strength as well.

India nevertheless enjoys sizable advantages when competing in South Asia. Geography, for one. The subcontinent occupies a central position in the region. It juts out into the Indian Ocean, letting Indian mariners and airmen exert some control over maritime traffic crisscrossing the Indian Ocean. India, moreover, holds the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, athwart the western approaches to the Strait of Malacca. And Indian forces enjoy short distances to potential trouble spots. They’re intimately familiar with the physical and cultural terrain in their home region. In all likelihood, furthermore, Indians place more importance on managing what transpires in the Indian Ocean than any external power will. Wanting something more supplies an edge.

Indian Perceptions of China’s Maritime Silk Road Idea

Zorawar Daulet Singh
October 2014


The Maritime Silk Road (MSR) idea is part of this wider attemptby China to construct multiple lines of communication to its economicheartland in eastern China since the early 2000s. The underlying aim ofsuch a geostrategy is to also develop inner Chinese provinces and shapeChina’s regional periphery by exercising economic, political and culturalInfluence.

In May 2014, Xinhua unveiled maps showing China’s ambitious Landand Maritime Silk Roads.3 The MSR envisions an ‘economic cooperationarea’ stretching from the Western Pacific to the Baltic Sea as a sort ofmaritime highway buttressed by Chinese-supported infrastructure andport facilities in states straddling maritime routes along which China’strade and natural resources flow.


Pakistan Taliban Pledges Support to the Islamic State

October 07, 2014

Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban.

Despite the Islamic State’s rivalry with al-Qaeda, the Pakistan Taliban has announced it supports IS. 

The Pakistani Taliban were said to have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) on Saturday though it was later revealed that this was merely an offer of support. The move was not considered a complete surprise when the news broke on Saturday because the Islamic State has been recruiting and advertising in the Pashtun-dominated areas of Pakistan, many of which are sympathetic towards the Islamic State. However, the move would not have been anticipated either, with many believing instead that the less influential jihadi groups would align with IS in order to take advantage of their infamy.

A Taliban offer of aid to IS, which came during the Muslim holy festival of Eid al-Adha, was accompanied by astatement from the Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahid Shahidullah in Urdu, Pashto, and Arabic. “Oh our brothers, we are proud of you in your victories. We are with you in your happiness and your sorrow. In these troubled days, we call for your patience and stability, especially now that all your enemies are united against you. Please put all your rivalries behind you. All Muslims in the world have great expectations of you. We are with you, we will provide you with mujahedeen and with every possible support,” Shahidullah said.

Reports initially suggested that this statement represented the Pakistani Taliban’s growing estrangement from Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, rivals of the Islamic State. In the eyes of many Pakistani Taliban, jihadists in Pakistan have been much less effective than those fighting for the Islamic State. This coupled with rivalrieswithin the Pakistani Taliban, were said to have influenced its alleged decision.

Al Qaeda and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban have been creating a South Asian zone of operations for jihadist groups aligned to them that would rival the Islamic State in the Middle East. Al Qaeda established a newfranchise in the subcontinent called Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) last month, which was designed to bring together the region’s various jihadist groups under one umbrella. Al Qaeda itself also renewed its old pledge of allegiance to the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar last month. Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri repeatedly stressed that all Al-Qaeda groups were under the authority of Mullah Omar who was the “commander of the faithful,” a title traditionally used by caliphs. It was assumed that the Pakistani Taliban shared the same position until Saturday.

However, to clarify matters, the Pakistani Taliban reaffirmed its allegiance to Mullah Omar on Monday. Spokesman Shahidullah said that the statement had been intended as an expression of support for all Islamist militants fighting in Syria and Iraq and struggling against Western interests. “We are not supporting any specific group in Syria or Iraq; all groups there are noble and they are our brothers. If Mullah Omar orders us we are ready to send our mujahedeen to Syria, Iraq and Yemen or any battle ground in the world,” he said. It is unclear as to whether the Pakistani Taliban’s position towards the Islamic State was coordinated with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban or not. Given the rivalry between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and their different priorities, this is doubtful, but it is possible that both groups are trying to build bridges. Nonetheless, the Pakistan Taliban confirmed that their chief goal was to effect regime change in Pakistan.

While the Pakistani Taliban’s offer of aid to IS will probably not impact the situation on the ground in South Asia for a while, it could help the Islamic State as well as bolster the Pakistani Taliban in the long run. A few hundred Taliban may already be in Syria and Iraq fighting alongside the Islamic state, bolstering its capacities. Dangerously for South Asia, these Taliban, upon returning to Pakistan would return as even more radicalized and deadly fighters due to their battlefield experiences in the Middle East. Further cooperation between the Islamic State and the Taliban would contribute to the continuing gradual destabilization of Pakistan. To make matters more complicated, the Pakistani government does not seem to have yet determined its exact stancetowards the Islamic State, so is not fully committed to stopping cooperation between the Taliban and IS. As it does towards the Taliban, Pakistan might attempt some combination of cooperation and antagonism with the Islamic State, a strategy which is unstable and will probably fail in the end. Disturbingly, there are elements in the gulf Arab states who share a similar strategy towards Islamic State, as well as Turkey.


Splits in the Pakistani Taliban

OCTOBER 3, 2014 

The Pakistani Taliban, popularly known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, is struggling to overcome its internal differences and avoid further fragmentation as new groups, who recently emerged in the AfPak region, lure mid-level commanders and foot soldiers into their ranks.

In late August, Omar Khalid Khorasani, a key TTP commander and an erstwhile close aide of Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah, declared his own group in the name of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. In his video message, Khorasani, whose real name is Abdul Wali, introduced Qasim Khorasani as head of his newly-formed group and also presented his group's commanders -- on camera -- for the cities of Peshawar, Swat, and Charsadda, and the tribal districts of Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, and Orakzai.

Days later, Mullah Fazlullah circulated a two-page statement in Urdu in which he removed Omar Khalid Khorasani from the position of TTP chief in the Mohmand tribal district and ended Khorasani's TTP membership.

A few weeks later, in September, another dramatic announcement came, this time from Asmatullah Muavia, Ameer (chief) of the al Qaeda-linked Punjabi Taliban, who announced an end of militancy inside Pakistan and a shift in focus to neighboring Afghanistan.

Until then, Muavia's Punjabi Taliban was part of the TTP umbrella. However, his unilateral announcement of ceasing armed activities in Pakistan came as another blow to the Fazlullah-led TTP, which is primarily focusing on implementing sharia -- Islamic law -- in Pakistan by waging jihad.

In yet another development in September, a Pashto and Dari language pamphlet was secretly distributed in Pakistan's northern city of Peshawar to incite people to support the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), advocating for the same style of jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The authenticity of the pamphlet, named Fatah, or victory, which brandished a logo of Kalma (Muslims' declaration of faith in one God and the finality of the Prophet Muhammad), a Kalashnikov rifle, and a stamp of the Prophet Muhammad, has yet to be confirmed. However, a well-connected source told this writer that a few former Afghan Taliban leaders have been contacted by ISIS leadership to develop a network in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"There is a degree of discontent both among the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban leadership about the possible extension of ISIS' activities in the Af-Pak region mainly because this could share out the Taliban human as well as financial resources," the source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told me.

U.S. and Turkish Governments Clash Over What to Do About ISIS Threat to Syrian Town of Kobani

U.S. and Turkey at Odds as Islamic State Advances on Kobani

Ayla Albayrak, Nour Malas and Julian E. Barnes

Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2014

Islamic State have apparently taken position on Mistenur Hill, a strategic vantage point that looks over the city of Kobani. Violent protests erupt in Turkey. WSJ’s Mark Kelly reports.

Turkey and the U.S. warned that a major Syrian border city was in imminent danger of falling to Islamic State, with the two countries putting the onus on the other to halt the extremist group’s advance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed the U.S.-led coalition on Tuesday to move ahead with plans to arm and train Syrian and Iraqi ground forces to battle Islamic State, saying airstrikes alone weren’t enough.

An American military official said the U.S. believes the situation in the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobani is increasingly dire, and that the city is likely to fall shortly if Turkey doesn’t intervene.

The complications for Turkey stemming from the advance on Kobani were mounting rapidly. Beyond U.S. pressure to step in, protests by the country’s restive Kurds were spreading quickly. At least a dozen people were killed in clashes with security forces in several Kurdish-majority cities, local media reported. The demonstrations reached Istanbul.

Airstrikes Tuesday by the coalition fighting Islamic State hit positions near Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. But Kurdish officials and Syrian opposition members said the militants were still advancing against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Mr. Erdogan declared Kobani was “about to fall” while he was visiting a refugee camp in the border province of Gaziantep.

“You can’t end this terrorism just by airstrikes,” he said. “If you don’t support them on the ground by cooperating with those who take up a ground operation, the airstrikes won’t do it.”

The U.S. and its partners have conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State in recent weeks. But they have so far ruled out the deployment of their own ground forces, opting instead to train and support local forces.

U.S. defense officials reiterated Tuesday that they are not going to directly coordinate operations with any force on the ground in Syria until at least some of the vetted moderate rebels have been through upcoming military training and are ready to enter the fight.

“We are not there now. We need a core of trained fighters,” the U.S. military official said.

2 Israeli Soldiers Wounded in Hezbollah Attack Along Lebanese Border

Hezbollah Attack Along Border With Lebanon Wounds Two Israeli Soldiers

Isabel Kershner and Anne Barnard

New York Times, October 7, 2014
A helicopter carried two wounded Israeli soldiers to a hospital in Haifa after an explosion in a disputed area along the border with Lebanon. Credit Baz Ratner/Reuters

JERUSALEM — In an attack that ended months of relative quiet on the border between Lebanon and Israel, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group, said it set off an explosive device on the Israeli-controlled side of the border on Tuesday, wounding two Israeli soldiers.

Hezbollah and Israel, which fought a monthlong war in 2006, have largely sought to keep the border calm amid chaos elsewhere in the region, and the quick claim of responsibility, less than four hours after the blast, came as a surprise. Hezbollah has denied responsibility for several rocket attacks into Israel in recent years; those attacks were probably carried out by Palestinian militant groups.

Israel responded with artillery fire toward two Hezbollah positions in southernLebanon, according to the Israeli military. The military said that two blasts had occurred, but that the second had caused no injuries.

Hezbollah’s Al Manar channel said the group had detonated an explosive device in Shebaa Farms, a disputed area that Lebanon considers occupied by Israel and that Syria also claims. Israel captured the area, along with the adjacent Golan Heights, in the 1967 war and later annexed both regions in a move not recognized by the United Nations. Israel said the bombs that exploded Tuesday had been placed on the Israeli-controlled side of the border.


A wounded Israeli soldier was evacuated to a hospital in the northern city of Haifa on Tuesday after an explosion in a disputed area along the border with Lebanon.Credit Baz Ratner/Reuters

PLA aborts Modi’s China reset


Brahma Chellaney, Mint, October 7, 2014 

Despite China finally withdrawing its troops from Ladakh’s Chumar area after extracting a concession from India to demolish a key observation post, the tense standoff on the frigid heights of western Himalayas will be remembered as the symbol of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s abortive effort to reset India’s relationship with Beijing. After assuming office, Modi went out of his way to befriend China, making a series of overtures. 

Modi received the Chinese foreign minister before welcoming any other foreign dignitary. His first bilateral meeting with an important head of state was with President Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit in Brazil. Indeed, Modi postponed his own Japan trip so that he met Xi first in Brazil. Furthermore, Xi was given the honour of being the first G-8 head of state to visit India. Not only that, Modi became the first prime minister to receive a foreign leader outside New Delhi — that too on his own birthday. 

So when Xi, wearing a Nehru jacket, toasted the birthday of his host at a private dinner on the bank of River Sabarmati in Gujarat, it highlighted Modi’s charm offensive to build a more cooperative relationship with a country that poses the main strategic challenge to India. Such was Modi’s courtship that Xi quoted him as saying “India and China are two bodies in one spirit”. 

But the diplomatic love-fest quickly turned into diplomatic discomfiture as news trickled in that hundreds of Chinese soldiers had intruded into Chumar. While Modi was publicly espousing “inch toward miles” as the motto of India-China cooperation, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was implementing that call through a fresh action on the ground. Even more galling was the fact that this incursion — the worst in troop numbers in many years — came to epitomize Xi’s birthday gift for Modi. 

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Protest Here

OCTOBER 7, 2014

What Hong Kong's Occupy Central can learn from the Tahrir Square uprising. 

The nine-day-long protests for more democracy in Hong Kong are starting to lose steam, but hundreds of occupiers remain on the streets. As one of the so-called "voices" of the January 25 uprising, I can't help but notice how similar the images coming out of Hong Kong have been to those produced by Cairo's Tahrir Square uprising during those 18 days in 2011.

Inspirational panoramic shots of massive protests; youth in revolt using Twitter and Facebook to get the world to hear their voice against a repressive regime; and scenes that were sometimes celebratory and festive (in both cases, including at least one wedding). While both situations couldn't be more different in terms of background, stakes, and goals, they do share one element: Both are largely dominated by passionate youth who are laying it on the line for a better future against insurmountable odds.

They say failure is the best teacher. Although we managed to unseat the dictator Hosni Mubarak, his regime stayed intact, and after the Muslim Brotherhood's disastrous one-year rule, it now sidelines all conversations about freedom of speech and democracy. Given how spectacularly Jan. 25 failed at reaching its goals of social justice and human dignity, here are some lessons one hopes are useful to the tens of thousands of brave souls who protested in Hong Kong.

1. Do not count on the international community's support.

Receiving international support for your cause is always nice, but counting on it to actually help is wishful thinking. The international community espouses many platitudes it never actually enforces or backs for all sorts of realist considerations -- and being on China's bad side is something no American leader can countenance. Even Egypt, with its reliance on U.S. aid, massive debt, and dependency on Western tourism managed to get its way despite international pressure.

Nations of the world are far less willing to offend China than Egypt. This is not only due to economic considerations, but also because of the lack of any real or effective measure they could actually take against China even if they wanted to. No one loses a strategic ally for a bunch of protesters. Know that.

2. The world's attention span is very limited.

Just like the world is watching Hong Kong now, the world also watched the drama of those 18 days in Cairo unfold across its television screens. It was -- as an American friend put it to me -- "mighty good TV." And then it was over. Some people still cared, but as time went on and brutality increased -- the burned churches, the football riots, the mass sentences -- everyone else changed the channel. You have the world's attention now. Soon very few people will care. Now is the time to communicate your message. 

3. Do not allow the government to manipulate you.

Governments stay in power through the manipulation of their citizens, and that holds true from Norway to North Korea. Holding giant protests and sit-ins without a proper leadership structure makes you vulnerable to government manipulation and character assassination:

Is Indonesia Beijing’s Next Target in the South China Sea?

By Victor Robert 

Indonesian navy vessels at dock, Natuna Island.

Until recently, Indonesia seemed immune to the maritime disputes. That could be changing. 

NATUNA ISLAND – What might be called “homeland security” is tight at Natuna Island, and it should be – this may be the next bite China takes out of the South China Sea.

Upon landing at Natuna (also called Natuna Besar), Indonesia’s largest island within the hotly contested South China Sea, foreigners must register and provide copies of their passports, even though all arriving flights are domestic. No photos are allowed until well outside the airfield because it doubles as an Indonesian Air Force base. When departing the island, all foreigners must “check out” with security personnel, who quiz visitors on where they have been during their stay, and their routing into and out of the area. Even a casually met off-duty naval officer will make pointed inquiries about a visitor’s activities on the island.

Given that Beijing has recently promulgated a map with boundaries that claim a swath of sea that may include the Natuna Islands as part of its territory, the increased security is understandable, but the paucity of military clout on this significant Indonesian border outpost is a stark reminder that Beijing faces little hard resistance to its ongoing annexation of the South China Sea. Over the past two years, China has reinforced its territorial quest through intimidation, naval patrols, localized blockades, oil rig placements, ramming of fishing vessels, and construction of facilities on numerous small islands and sub-surface shoals.

How to connect Beijing’s speculative dashes? The 2013 map is by SinoMaps Press, an arm of the Chinese government (with thanks to Euan Graham for a digital image). Dashes in pink denote Beijing’s claimed “nine-dashed line” (now comprising ten dashes). Superimposed black dashed lines, by the author, show hypothetical ways of connecting the two southernmost dashes in Beijing’s self-proclaimed southern boundary. All three hypotheticals would overlap with Indonesia’s claimed territory around the Natuna Islands, including major natural gas fields.

Report Finds That ISIS Is Having No Difficulty Buying Weapons on the International Arms Market

Report: Islamic State fights in Syria, Iraq with arms produced worldwide

Julia Harte and Jeffrey Smith
McClatchy News
October 6, 2014

WASHINGTON — An independent arms monitoring group has collected evidence that fighters in the Middle Eastern extremist group known as the Islamic State, labeled a “network of death” by President Barack Obama, are using weapons and ammunition manufactured in at least 21 different countries, including China, Russia and the United States.

The group’s report indicates that the Islamic State’s relatively newly formed force has had little difficulty tapping into the huge pool of armaments fueling the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, supplied not only by the world’s big powers but also by up-and-coming exporters such as Sudan.

Much of the Islamic State’s arms and ammunition were captured on the battlefield, but intelligence reports have suggested that the group’s income from oil sales and other sources is high enough to finance purchases of additional weapons directly from the companies and dealers that routinely profit from strife in the Middle East.

Experts say the fact that the armaments have such disparate sources – some were even made at a major U.S. munitions plant in Missouri – provides a cautionary note as Washington prepares to undertake expanded shipments of military supplies, including small arms, to rebel groups in Syria and to a revived Iraqi army force.

“We faced an enormous (monitoring) challenge when we, in effect, owned Iraq and had many bases where we could do this type of training,” said Joseph Christoff, who directed international affairs and trade issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office between 2000 and 2011, when the GAO repeatedly identified shortcomings in controlling the use of U.S. weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it securely in this new program” meant to arm Western-allied rebel forces in Syria, Christoff said.

The new data were collected by a 3-year-old, London-based group called Conflict Armament Research, which sends investigators into conflict zones to identify the types and origins of weaponry used in the fighting. Its latest report, financed by the European Union, lists the origins of more than 1,700 cartridges collected in July and August in northern Iraq and northern Syria by investigators working alongside Kurdish forces that had fought the forces of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The cartridges they found after four battles were manufactured for machine and submachine guns, rifles and pistols. One Soviet-manufactured cartridge dated from 1945, a grim testament to how the production of such weaponry can impact many generations hence.

Manufacturers in Russia and the former Soviet Union made a total of 492 of the recovered shells, according to the report. Russia has been a major arms supplier to the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, whose forces also have been battling the Islamic State.

The presence of such weapons in ISIS’s hands makes clear that its fighters seized substantial stocks not only from Iraqi troops, but from Syrian troops as well. Another 26 of the recovered shells were made in Iran, an ally of Assad’s, and 18 were made in Syria itself, the report states.

The next-biggest country of manufacture was China, which manufactured 445 of the cartridges recovered from Islamic State forces.

The third-highest supplier was the United States, with 323, the report said. Some of these shells, meant for M16A4 assault rifles, were made at the U.S. Army’s huge munitions factory in Independence, Mo., the report said. The plant sprawls over nearly 4,000 acres and has recently produced a staggering 4 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition every day, mostly for U.S. forces.

A promotional video for the Army factory, uploaded to YouTube in 2009, quotes an unidentified worker there saying, “I feel good because I do the best that I can, because I know that they’re fighting for me, overseas, and no junk comes out of here.” Justine Barati, a spokeswoman for the Army’s joint munitions command, confirmed that the plant makes the 5.56 mm ammunition depicted in the report but said she could not comment further until the report was released publicly.

Analysis: Why are Western women joining Islamic State?


By Dr Katherine BrownLecturer in Defence Studies, King's College London

Khadijah Dare, here with her husband Abu Bakr, tweeted that she wanted to kill a Western hostage

Recent news stories, such as those of the missing school girl Yusra Hussien, university student Aqsa Mahmood and twins Salma and Zahra Halane, have triggered concerns about the radicalisation of Muslim women in the UK.

It's estimated that some 50-60 women from the UK have travelled to Syria via Turkey to join the militant extremist movement Islamic State (IS). On arrival they join others from a range of countries, including the US, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway and Sweden. Just why are women from these Western countries joining up?

In the case of Yusra Hussien, it is unclear whether she has been radicalised or indeed whether she has even travelled to Syria (although police believe this to be likely).

For many of the others, their stories are available on social media - on Twitter, tumblr, LinkedIn, and ask.fm.

From these stories, it is clear that the influence of social media networks is considerable. They offer the women advice, support, help with travel, and are a source of propaganda for IS, presenting idealised notions of an Islamic life and jihad.

University student Aqsa Mahmoud travelled to Syria and married an IS fighter


Fleeing the Islamic State militants, they’ve left behind not only their homes in Syria, but also their husbands and sons who have stayed to fight.


SHASDAR AREF WOKE UP NEXT TO HER HUSBAND, MAZLOM IBRAHIM, AND THREE CHILDREN ON FRIDAY MORNING. It was the family's eighth day in a gray, plastic tent with only a plastic sheet covering the gravel floor. They have stayed here in this empty lot turned refugee camp since crossing the border into Turkey after fleeing their village in Syria more than two weeks ago. Friday was also the day Aref’s husband disappeared. 

The young family and their neighbors -- who, like them, are Syrian Kurds -- have settled into the monotony of their new daily routine as refugees. They drink tea in the shade of roughly 100 tents just like theirs in an empty lot in Suruç, a medium-sized town a little over three miles into Turkey from the Syrian border. 

Washington's Secret Back-Channel Talks With Syria's Kurdish 'Terrorists'

As the town of Kobani appears poised to fall to the Islamic State, exclusive, previously classified, State Department cables show how U.S. officials tried to both engage and undermine its Kurdish defenders. 

OCTOBER 7, 2014 

Every day, the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) advance closer to Kobani, a predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria, close to the Turkish border. As the Islamic State rains down mortars on the town, the vastly outgunned People's Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia, are attempting to resist the weeks-long assault. While Turkish troops watch from across the border and the U.S.-led air campaign continues, none of the powerful forces in the region have intervened decisively -- leaving the YPG to face the jihadist advance on its own.

The United States has rejected formal relations with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the party that is essentially the political wing of the YPG. The PYD, which has ruled Kobani and other Kurdish enclaves inside Syria since President Bashar al-Assad's forces withdrew in July 2012, is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant organization that has fought Turkey since 1984 -- and has consequently been listed as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States. But interviews with American and Kurdish diplomats show that Washington opened indirect talks with the PYD years ago, even as it tried to empower the group's Kurdish rivals and reconcile them with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Though Washington has declined PYD requests for formal talks, the United States opened indirect talks with the group in 2012, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told Foreign Policy. "We did meet someone who was an intermediary between the U.S. and the PYD. We met him on several occasions: myself once, and other diplomats on other occasions," Ford said. The talks happened "maybe once every six months" and were mediated by a "Syrian citizen in Europe," according to Ford.

The talks have continued since Ford's departure and are conducted through the U.S. Embassy in Paris, two Kurdish sources familiar with the meetings told Foreign Policy. "They're just briefing each other [on developments in Syria]. We're not sure if the contact is going further, to the top of the administration in the U.S.," one of the Kurdish sources said. Both Ford and the Kurds declined to identify the intermediary.

Concerns about a possible backlash from Ankara shaped Washington's approach to the talks. "We had to be very careful because of the Turkish sensitivities. 

We made sure that the Turks knew that we had passed messages," Ford said.

We made sure that the Turks knew that we had passed messages," Ford said. "They had two requests. One, they appreciated that we were being transparent with them. Sometimes, I think, they knew about the contact and the messages going back and forth. The second is, they had their own direct contactunderway with the PYD. They asked us to go very slow on our own contacts with the PYD, because they didn't want the PYD to be able to play us off against the Turks. They said, 'If you rush in, it will diminish our leverage with the PYD.'"

ISIS and the Politics of Surprise

October 3, 2014 

The recent burst of recriminations about what the U.S. intelligence community did or did not tell the president of the United States in advance about the rise of the extremist group sometimes called ISIS, and about associated events in Iraq, is only a variation on some well-established tendencies in Washington discourse. The tendency that in recent years has, of course, become especially strongly entrenched is that of couching any issue in the way that is best designed to bash one's political opponents. For those determined to bash and frustrate Barack Obama at every turn, it is a tendency that trumps everything else. Thus we now have the curious circumstance of some of Mr. Obama's Republican critics, who in other contexts would be at least as quick as anyone else to come down on U.S. intelligence agencies (and most other parts of the federal bureaucracy) like a ton of bricks, saying that the president got good information but failed to act on it. (Some critics, however, have tried to lower their cognitive dissonance by saying that “everyone” could see what was coming with ISIS.)

Relationships between the intelligence community and presidential administrations over the past few decades have not fallen into any particular pattern distinguishable by party. One of the best relationships was with the administration of the elder George Bush—perhaps not surprisingly, given that president's prior experience as a Director of Central Intelligence under President Gerald Ford. Probably the worst was during the presidency of the younger George Bush, whose administration—in the course of selling the Iraq War—strove to discredit the intelligence community's judgments that contradicted the administration's assertions about an alliance between Iraq and al-Qaeda, pushed for public use of reporting about alleged weapons programs that the community did not consider credible, and ignored the community's judgments about the likely mess in Iraq that would follow the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime. Relations also have varied under Democratic presidents. Mr. Obama, given the evidently deliberate and methodical way he weighs input, including from the civilian and military bureaucracy, before major national security decisions, probably has been one of the better users of intelligence, at least in the sense of paying attention to it. His remark on 60 Minutes that led to the accusations about ISIS, however, did sound like gratuitous blame-shifting.

One very longstanding and bipartisan tendency that this recent imbroglio has diluted (because the political motive to attack Obama is even stronger than political motives to attack intelligence agencies) is to assume that any apparently insufficient U.S. reaction to an untoward development overseas must be due to policymakers not being sufficiently informed, and this must be because intelligence services failed. It is remarkable how, when anything disturbing goes bump in the night overseas, the label “intelligence failure” gets quickly and automatically applied by those who have no basis whatever for knowing what the intelligence community did or did not say—in classified, intra-governmental channels—to policymakers.

Islamic State reportedly on Baghdad’s outskirts after week of victories

By Mitchell Prothero
McClatchy Foreign Staff (MCT)
October 3, 2014

In this undated file image posted by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, fighters from Islamic State group sit on their tank during a parade in Raqqa, Syria.

An Internet video released Friday purports to show an Islamic State group fighter beheading British hostage Alan Henning and threatening yet another American captive, the fourth such killing carried out by the extremist group now targeted in U.S.-led airstrikes. 

The Pentagon has been issuing dire warnings this year that the military is fast approaching a severe money crunch — a problem compounded now by the war in Iraq and Syria. So Congress will almost certainly reach for an old standby accounting solution. 

The Middle East may be sliding toward a warlord era, with nation-states increasingly struggling to control all their territory and millions living under the rule of emergent local chiefs and movements. 

Islamic State group militants armed with a rocket launcher shot down an Iraqi military attack helicopter Friday in the country's north, authorities said, highlighting their ability attack aircraft as a U.S.-led coalition expands its efforts to combat the extremists. 

IRBIL, Iraq — Islamic State militants have taken control of key cities in Iraq’s western province of Anbar and have begun to besiege one of the country’s largest military bases in a weeklong offensive that’s brought them within artillery range of Baghdad.

The Islamic State and its tribal allies have dominated Anbar since a surprise offensive last December, but this week’s push was particularly worrisome, because for the first time this year Islamist insurgents were reported to have become a major presence in Abu Ghraib, the last Anbar town on the outskirts of the capital.

“Daash is openly operating inside Abu Ghraib,” according to an Iraqi soldier, who used a common Arabic term for the Islamic State. “I was at the 10th Division base there two days ago, and the soldiers cannot leave or patrol,” he said, asking that he be identified only as Hossam because Iraqi soldiers are barred from speaking with foreign reporters. “Daash controls the streets.”

Hundreds of miles to the west, Islamic State forces continued their push into the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane, where it appeared unlikely that Turkey would intervene to stop the advance. Kurdish officials from the town said the Turkish government had yet to respond to their pleas for weapons, and reports from the Turkish-Syrian border said there was no evidence Turkey was preparing to take action.