6 November 2014

Bringing back the hostages from Iraq

Nirupama Subramanian
Published: November 6, 2014 

The HinduForeign Minister Sushma Swaraj with Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal addressing the media after meeting family members of Indian men who went missing in Iraq, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V. Sudershan

India should have mounted a multi-agency effort to free the men abducted by the Islamic State; but the national security establishment has curiously taken a back-seat in this crisis

It is nearly six months since 40 men, mainly from Punjab and some from other parts of North India, working in construction sites in Iraq, were abducted by the Islamic State (IS). On Tuesday, their families met Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj who assured them that the government had information that the men were still alive, and that efforts were on to free them.

They were the first Indians to be captured by the IS, a few days before the nurses from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Thenurses’ ordeal ended quickly: they were bussed to Mosul and released, all within a matter of 48 hours.

The swiftness with which the nurses came back home had raised hopes that the release of the men would also be secured quickly. The Punjab government and the Opposition came under pressure, and were compared unfavourably with Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who camped in Delhi until the women were released.

Special Envoy’s role

Within a day of the men being seized in mid-June, India sent a Special Envoy to Iraq, a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), who had weeks earlier relinquished charge as the Indian Ambassador to that country. The diplomat, Suresh Reddy, played a critical role in bringing the nurses’ saga to an end, directly establishing contact with the captors and negotiating with them for the release.

Warming signals


The report also provides India an argument against unreasonable expectations from the global community. It includes a section on ethics for the first time.
Written by Navroz K Dubash | Posted: November 6, 2014 

Attitudes toward climate change in India can appear paradoxical. Although India is one of the countries most deeply vulnerable to climate impacts, climate change does not rank high on policymakers’ list of concerns. Two factors explain this inattention. First, India has pressing and immediate development concerns, such as providing sanitation, improved healthcare and access to affordable energy to its population, while the effects of climate change appear abstract and distant. Second, there is a fear that India will be pressured to undertake costly actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which would stifle growth and efforts at poverty eradication. For these reasons, the predominant attitudes towards climate change range from polite disengagement to wariness. A new synthesis report from the UN-sanctioned Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides messages that challenge these perceptions and the basis for a more productive politics of climate change in India.

In discharging its core function of updating scientific understanding, the report states more forcefully than ever before that the problem simply cannot be ignored. Warming of the climate system, it says, is “unequivocal”. The last 30 years were likely the warmest 30-year period in 1,400 years, and this warming is probably largely due to higher greenhouse gas emissions. The Earth’s physical system is already registering impacts such as a 26 per cent increase in ocean acidity and a shrinking of the arctic ice sheet at the rate of over 3.5 per cent a decade. Future impacts include likely increases in water stress, reduced crop yields, species extinctions and damage to coastal areas from sea-level rise.

These are the sharpest and starkest warnings the IPCC has yet provided, although they are consistent with past reports. The real novelty of this report and its potential for a new politics lies in its discussion of what can be done about climate change

Surge of the Caliphate

06 Nov 2014 

The surge of the Islamic State and the triumphant march of the virulently radical Sunni militants of the new “caliphate”, headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been halted virtually at the gates of Baghdad. The ISIS militia, numbering between 20,000 and 30,000, have seized key border crossings with Syria and Jordan and now control a large area straddling the Syria-Iraq border. After capturing Faluja in January this year, ISIS fighters made rapid progress in advancing along the Euphrates River in Anbar province of Iraq. Meanwhile, the Peshmerga, forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that had captured oil-rich Kirkuk, regarded as the Kurd capital, have joined the fight against the ISIS in the Syrian border town of Kobani. 

After vacillating for several months and admitting that he had no strategy, President Obama decided to join the fight against ISIS by launching air strikes against its forces. The United States has been joined in this endeavour by Australia, Britain, Canada and France and five Arab countries (Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates). So far the air strikes have been only partially effective in military terms, but have succeeded in buying time for the disorganised Iraqi forces to regroup and put up a more cohesive fight. Between 500,000 to one million refugees have been added to the large number of displaced persons already struggling to stay alive in the steaming hot cauldron that is West Asia today. 

The ideology of the ISIS is so primitive and barbaric that Osama bin Laden is reported to have declined to have anything to do with them when they had approached him. Al-Baghdadi has openly proclaimed the intention of ISIS to expand eastwards to establish the Islamic state of Khorasan that will include Afghanistan, the Central Asian Republics, eastern Iran and Pakistan. The final battle, Ghazwa-e-Hind ~ a term from Islamic mythology ~ will be fought to extend the caliphate to India. An ISIS branch has already been established in the Indian subcontinent. It is led by Muhsin al Fadhli and is based somewhere in Pakistan. Some factions of the TTP have already declared their allegiance to al-Baghdadi. Afghanistan’s new National Security Adviser, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, has said that the presence of Daesh or the ISIS is growing and that the group poses a threat to Afghan security. And, nearer home, some ISIS flags have been appearing sporadically in Srinagar. 


Thursday, 06 November 2014 |

Having undertaken a huge amount of infrastructure work along the border with India, China has no business to object to similar activity by New Delhi on the pretext it will complicate matters. Modi regime must remain firm

The Chinese are amazing. During his monthly press conference, Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun questioned India’s plan to build 54 border posts on its Arunachal frontier. He said: “We have taken notice of the reports. China and India have disputes over the eastern part of their border. We hope India will try to help maintain stability and peace, instead of taking moves that may further complicate the situation.”

Beijing is also unhappy about India’s plans to build a road on the southern side of the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei had earlier grumbled: “The boundary issue between China and India is left by the colonial past. Before a final settlement is reached, we hope that India will not take any actions that may further complicate the situation.” But who is complicating the situation? As the Chinese spokesmen whined, Beijing announced its plans to invest 278 million yuan ($45 million) for expanding the Mainling (Nyingtri) airport, just north of the McMahon line.

China Tibet Online says: “The abundant tourism resources and many famous scenic spots in the region attract more and more tourists to Nyingtri as their first stop for Tibet. In the first half year of 2014, Nyingtri totally received 836,200 tourists from home and aboard.” The project has a vital military angle as Bayi, the main Chinese garrison in Southern Tibet, is located close by.

China’s Nepal Gambit

By Jayadeva Ranade

Published: 05th November 2014 

Just weeks before prime minister Narendra Modi is due to visit Nepal, China and Nepal visibly demonstrated their strengthening bilateral ties by exchanging high-level visits in quick succession. The focus of the visits was on enhancing security cooperation. China simultaneously sought to expand direct ties with Nepal’s political parties including by offering material assistance. Beijing had earlier, ignoring objections from the Nepal government, established direct links with Nepal’s Army and police. These efforts have been accompanied by stepped-up efforts inside China to reinforce controls in the border areas, monitor Tibetans more closely and enhance stability inside Tibet.

Noteworthy were the visits of Nepal’s vice-president Parmanand Jha to Lhasa in late September, deputy prime minister Bam Dev Gautam to Beijing and Lhasa in mid-October, and of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) chairman Lobsang Gyaltsen to Kathmandu later that month.

Jha and his entourage, who were invited to the First China-Tibet Tourism and Cultural Fair, arrived in Lhasa on September 24, and were received by TAR party secretary Chen Quanguo and chairman of the TAR people’s government Lobsang Gyaltsen. Jha also met Deng Xiaogang, who as TAR deputy secretary and secretary of the TAR politics and law committee heads Tibet’s security apparatus, and vice-chairman of the TAR people’s government Jiang Jie.

Chen Quanguo recalled the long friendship between both nations and observed that they will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties next year. TAR would adhere to the policy of an amicable, secure and prosperous neighbourhood, he assured. Jha asserted that Nepal believes in the “one-China” policy and considers Taiwan and Tibet to be inalienable parts of China. He assured that Nepal would not allow any “anti-China” activities in its territory and “around the Nepal-Tibet border”. Speaking at the Tibet Tourism and Culture Fair in Lhasa on September 26, Jha hoped the Tibet railway can be extended to Nepal to boost bilateral trade and tourism. Pointing to the “tremendous potential” for cooperation in trade, tourism, agriculture, energy and minerals, he added that better road and rail connections would help Nepal further explore the Chinese market and raise the number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal.

Looking East for energy Have long-term agreements for the import of LNG from Australia


G Parthasarathy

PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi will be setting a new record for an Indian Prime Minister by his participation in four multilateral summits in November 2014. He will be in Myanmar for two meetings, the first with ASEAN Heads of Government. He then participates in the East Asia Summit, which will bring him together with leaders of the US, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. He thereafter proceeds to Brisbane to participate in the G-20 Summit, bringing together leaders of the developed world and emerging markets. Towards the end of the month he will attend the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu — a grouping showing little economic promise, thanks to Pakistani obduracy.

The recent BRICS Summit led to tentative steps for ending the global economic dominance of the US and its European partners by the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Bank in China. These institutions should be realistically seen as complementing, supplementing, but not supplanting institutions like the World Bank, the IMF and Asian Development Bank. A multiplicity of institutions for developmental funding fits in excellently with its belief in a genuinely multi-polar world. If some countries take serious objection to American unilateralism, an equal number have serious misgivings about the increasing manifestations of Chinese hegemony, territorial expansionism and crass mercantilism in developing countries.

One of the most productive aspects of Indian diplomacy over the past two decades has been the country's growing economic integration with the fast-growing economies in its eastern neighbourhood, which extends across the Straits of Malacca, to the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The greatest security concern of Japan and ASEAN countries like Vietnam and the Philippines has been the Chinese propensity to use its growing military power to enforce its maritime territorial claims. While India should go along with an ASEAN consensus on this issue, it has happily put aside the Hamlet like self-doubt and pusillanimity that characterised the approach of the national security establishment of the UPA Government, in responding to Chinese aggressiveness, not only on China's maritime boundaries, but also on its land borders with India.

Once upon a time in Kathmandu


Though King Tribhuvan had burnt all bridges with the prevailing power structure in Nepal, he was probably assailed by doubts about India’s intentions.

Written by Nalini Singh | Posted: November 5, 2014 

On November 6, in a Kathmandu palace, King Tribhuvan and his three princes told their retinue to load four cars with picnic hampers. Curiously, the king and his sons had packed the hampers themselves. It was 9.45 am, 64 years ago to the day, and an icy wind lashed the tall trees in the Narayanhiti palace.

The king’s two wives, the princes and their families, and crown prince Mahendra and two of his three sons settled in the cars for a picnic-hunt in Shivpuri forest. Mahendra’s wife had died two months earlier. His other son, three-year-old Gyanendra, was left behind in the palace.

Tribhuvan led the convoy, driving along the route that swept past the Indian ambassador’s residence-cum-office. His sons were at the wheels of the other three cars. As Tribhuvan’s Shah dynasty was a mere prop to power-wielding, autocratic, hereditary Rana prime ministers and army generals, a Rana army officer sat in each car. This was established practice to ensure that the king did not act autonomously. The king was trotted out and exhibited on ceremonial occasions. The Ranas controlled his budget, interaction with the world and, most importantly, his reputation.

At 10 am, as the convoy neared Shital Niwas, the 100-room residence-cum-office of the Indian ambassador, Tribhuvan suddenly swerved his car left, through the open gates of the building, followed by the other three cars. A Sikh guard opened the car door for the king. The Indian ambassador hurried down the stairs, and the king told him formally that he and his family were at the embassy to seek asylum, and asked that the accompanying Rana officers be taken into detention.

In Air and Cyberspace, on Land and Sea, Russia Shows Muscle

OCT. 31, 2014 

MOSCOW — The casual reader of The New York Times may be forgiven for thinking he or she had dozed off and awakened in a John le Carré novel. How else to explain the sudden increase of bombers in the skies over Europe, kidnapped spies, troop buildups in Eastern Europe and roaming submarines in the Baltic Sea?

Much of what we see today, we hope, is bluster, as when a popular Russian television host reminded his prime-time audience that Russia could reduce the United States to “radioactive dust” (to help explain why President Obama’s hair was graying).

But something has indeed been afoot since Vladimir V. Putin resumed the presidency of Russia in 2012 and sought to push back against the West, which he has accused of meddling in Russia’s backyard.

Here are recent examples of Russia’s new assertiveness. Of course, none of this has been confirmed by Moscow.


In response to an “unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” NATO scrambled fighter jets to intercept 26 Russian aircraft in just two days this week, including 19 Russian fighters, bombers and refueling aircraft on Wednesday.

The Russian planes, which were intercepted in international airspace over the Black Sea, Baltic Sea and North Sea, included Tu-95 Bear H bombers, Su-27 fighter jets, and Il-78 tanker aircraft. According to NATO, they did not file flight plans or maintain contact with civilian air traffic control.

Mr. Putin has dispatched bombers as a show of force before: During a period of heightened tensions in 2007, he resumed the Soviet-era practice of long-range patrols far beyond Russia’s borders.


Is Russia Afraid of Chinese and Indian Missiles?

NOVEMBER 3, 2014

Russia’s official pronouncements have been increasingly critical of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and other Russian-American agreements that are alleged to run counter to the Russian national interests. Even the Russian president made numerous statements about the changed international climate that may put compliance with the INF into question for the sake of national security.

Putin alluded to it in his speech at the Munich Security Conference on February 10, 2007. He made a similar comment quite recently on August 14 while meeting the members of Duma factions in Yalta. Responding to the remark by the Communist Duma member Leonid Kalashnikov that the time to abandon the treaty has come, the president said, "we are thinking of it, of course; we are analyzing it. Today we are capable of ensuring our security with the systems that we have and are developing. But this is not an idle question".

The Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov voiced his opinion on the INF Treaty at the same time in his interviewto Rossiyskaya Gazeta. He acknowledged that the situation in the world has changed since the time the treaty was signed. "In 1987, apart from the USSR and the United States, only France and China possessed intermediate and short-range missiles. Now, the number of countries that have these weapons is approaching thirty. Most of them are located in the immediate proximity to Russia."

Subsequently, on September 22, the Presidential Administration Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov named the countries whose development of intermediate and short-range missiles causes Russia’s concern. He said that "all the countries on the arch that spans from North Korea to Israel, including Pakistan, India and Iran, possess this type of weapons."

Let us put the Russian-American dimension of this issue aside and discuss the third countries. The president and other officials speak of the threat posed to Russia by North Korea, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and possibly other states located along the arch spanning from North Korea to Israel that possess short and/or intermediate-range missiles.

Thus, in the context of the country’s escalating tensions with the West, Russian officials have chosen to stress the missile threats coming from many countries in the East, which necessitates Russia’s leaving the INF Treaty to counteract these threats.

These statements could be ignored if they were made by some scandalous Duma member or concerned a particular regime that discredited itself. However, they are repeated time and again by the highest-ranking officials and concern most countries located on the arch spanning from North Korea to Israel, including the countries that Russia is developing strategic partnership with – namely, China and India. Therefore, this is a deliberate position that Moscow is consistently advancing in its foreign and defense policies.

If this is indeed Russia’s position, it certainly requires clarification, at least with respect to Russia’s partners in Beijing and New Delhi. China and India would definitely want to know if Russia is really so afraid of the missiles they are developing that is ready to abandon the INF Treaty.

Naftogaz Is Ukraine’s Achilles’ Heel

NOVEMBER 3, 2014

On October 30, the EU, Ukraine, and Russia concluded seven months of negotiations that ended the latest gas dispute between Kiev and Moscow.

The EU’s engagement in the dispute has become so intense that Brussels should now go a step further in its attempts to modernize Ukraine’s economy.

The EU should no longer have to endure Russian threats over Moscow’s gas supplies to Ukraine and Kiev’s continuing mismanagement of its energy sector. Instead, the union should temporarily become a major stakeholder or lessee of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-owned energy company.

Naftogaz accounts for one-eighth of Ukraine’s gross domestic product and provides one-tenth of the state’s budget revenues.

Of course, it would be a high-risk strategy for the EU to acquire a stake in the firm. But it could be the key to dismantling the corruption that has built up aroundNaftogaz over the past two decades.

The move could also put in train a long-overdue reform of a company that during the first six months of 2014 alone ran up debts of over $4.4 billion, according to Naftogaz itself. Under clean and transparent management, Naftogaz could become a highly competitive company.

According to the terms of the October 30 EU-brokered agreement, which lasts only from November 1, 2014, until March 31, 2015, Ukraine will settle its debts with Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant.

Briefly, Ukraine will pay Russia $1.45 billion up front and another $1.65 billion by the end of 2014. Those debts are based on a preliminary price of $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. Russia, for its part, will deliver gas, again with Ukraine paying in advance. The price will be below $385 per 1,000 cubic meters.

According to the European Commission, Ukraine will be able draw on €760 million ($950 million) in EU loan facilities in addition to an existing International Monetary Fund (IMF) facility of $1.5 billion. In short, the West is paying Russia.

The EU should temporarily become a major stakeholder or lessee of #Naftogaz.

'Finlandization' Abandons Ukraine

Author: Mark P. Lagon, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Human Rights
November 3, 2014 

With the Sept. 5 ceasefire tenuously holding in eastern Ukraine, discussion surrounding the conflict has refocused on the need for a negotiated settlement to prevent a resurgence of violence. Proposals concerning the "Finlandization," or neutralization, of Ukraine have received increasing attention, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has made plain that Kiev's membership in NATO is incompatible with his regime's conception of Russian security interests. However, proponents of a non-aligned Ukraine misinterpret the Finland model; where control over Helsinki's foreign policy alone in theory may have appeased the Politburo, the Putin government would ignore Ukraine's domestic developments at great risk. Even as a neutral state, an economically prosperous and democratically flourishing Ukraine would threaten the Putin regime by exemplifying a viable alternative to Putin's authoritarian-statist paradigm. If the transatlantic community accepts the Finlandization of Ukraine as an exit from the current crisis, it will be a sacrifice of Western values in order to implement a policy destined to fail, and at the cost of a successful Ukrainian democracy. 

The debate surrounding the Ukraine crisis has centered on Russia's objections to NATO enlargement to the point of marginalizing other salient issues. John Mearsheimer'sSeptember article in Foreign Affairs illustrated this misperception in postulating a scenario in which by abstaining from further NATO expansion, the West could shift "gears and work to create a prosperous but neutral Ukraine, one that does not threaten Russia and allows the West to repair its relations with Moscow." While Mearsheimer outlines Moscow's perception that the alliance's expansion threatens Russia's "core strategic interests," his vision of neutralization misinterprets the historical lessons of the Finnish experience, ignoring the potential for a nonaligned Ukraine to undermine hold on power. 

Why Afghanistan Courts China

NOV. 3, 2014 

WASHINGTON — Last week, Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, traveled to China for his first state visit abroad. Mr. Ghani’s calculation — that Beijing could offset the decline in American and Western support — creates a long-term strategic conundrum: Can Afghanistan attract Chinese investment and security assistance while avoiding the perils of excessive dependency on Beijing?

Mr. Ghani’s outreach to China is driven by a combination of short-term realities and long-term goals. The Western drawdown comes at a time when the Afghan government is neither fiscally self-sufficient nor capable of defeating the Pakistan-backed Taliban insurgency. In the short term, there is little alternative to international assistance to keep the Afghan state afloat.

In the longer term, however, Afghanistan hopes to leverage two of the country’s assets to achieve genuine stability and self-reliance: its natural resources and its strategic location, wedged as it is between Iran, Pakistan, China and the Central Asian states. The development of Afghan infrastructure could turn the country into a regional land bridge. Afghanistan would enjoy unimpeded access to regional and global markets while collecting transit fees from the region’s commercial activity.

Washington’s long-standing support hasn’t been enough to bring the land bridge concept to fruition. Although the United States has spent $4 billion constructing roads, the project requires far more money and political stability. The Asian Development Bank estimates that an additional $2 billion of investments in roads and transmission lines is required — and even more for pipelines, railways and upgrading regional infrastructure. Yet continuing security challenges are diverting attention and resources from the initiative.


November 5, 2014 
Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series.
A popular narrative holds that the surprising recent events in Iraq can be attributed mainly to the unraveling of Syria. The story goes something like this: beleaguered in Iraq since 2008, the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq moved into Syria once the rebellion against Assad started. They grew to dominate the eastern part of the country, where they developed expertise in conventional fighting with heavy weapons captured from the Assad regime. They then turned back to Iraq with a small army that took Mosul and other major cities in June of 2014. This ability to transition from Syria to Iraq was enabled by the mismanagement of sectarian relations by Nouri al Maliki, whose abuse of power as Prime Minister drove Iraq’s Sunni population into the arms of the Islamic State. This narrative affirms global concerns about the effects of allowing ungoverned spaces, as well as regional concerns about the sectarian divide between Shia and Sunni that the Syrian conflict has exacerbated.

While there are elements of truth in this narrative, it is just part of a picture, one constructed by connecting the dots from events that we can observe, rather than from a careful analysis of the group known as the Islamic State. Consider another possibility: the Islamic State’s resurgence since 2010 in both Iraq and Syria is the result of a carefully crafted plan. The Islamic State counteroffensive in Iraq, conducted under the noses of a waning U.S. presence in the country, created conditions for the Islamic State to establish a new political coalition that remains intact to date. The high-level of military excellence achieved by the Islamic State in their campaign as much as any political factor, has influenced their return and creates a host of challenges for the military, intelligence, and diplomatic professionals tasked with their defeat.

The idea that military excellence at the tactical and operational level can have a large impact has become slightly controversial. It certainly does not reflect the experiences of the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan, where tactical and operational adaptation and excellence did not translate into durable strategic success. Salvation only arrived when U.S. commanders aligned and bolstered a grass-roots movement – the Awakening –among the political minority – the Sunni Arabs – thatcommitted to securing its neighborhoods, and killed, captured, or drovejihadist fighters out of the populated areas they thrived in. Well described in a recent book called Fallujah Redux, a key to this success was recruiting high-quality local leaders to fill the roles of mayors, police chiefs, army commanders, and auxiliaries willing to risk all to fight the Islamic State. It is not an exaggeration to say that by 2006, the American military learned how to balance military objectives with adeptness in local politics in order to produce the security that is so necessary for a political solution.

A Newly Discovered Chinese Intelligence Unit Has Been Hacking U.S. Targets For Six Years

November 1, 2014 · 

A Newly Discovered Chinese Intelligence Unit Has Been Hacking US Targets For Six Years

A Chinese intelligence unit carried out a massive cyber espionage program that stole vast quantities of data from governments, businesses and other organizations, security analysts who uncovered the operation said Thursday.

The activities of the Chinese unit called the Axiom group began at least six years ago and were uncovered by a coalition of security firms this month.

Cyber sleuths traced Axiom attacks to the 2009 cyber operation against Google in China and other US companies known as Operation Aurora.

The group was also linked to a Chinese hacking program that targeted dissidents and opposition groups known as GhostNet. More recent Axiom attacks took place against Japan, the US Veterans of Foreign Wars, and US think tanks.

In the past two weeks, 43,000 computer networks at nearly 1,000 organizations were cleaned of multiple types of cyber espionage spyware from Axiom cyber spies, including 180 highly sophisticated computer penetrations at key Chinese targets that employed a program called Hikit that specializes in automated data theft.

Investigators found that the Chinese used up to four different types of malicious software in a single information-stealing operation, and a total nine different types of spying malware overall, ranging from rudimentary to very sophisticated.

The group conducting the attacks is “a truly advanced hacker,” said Zachery Hanif, a cyber security expert with Novetta, a Virginia-based company that was one of the first to identify Axiom cyber attacks.

“We believe they are a highly sophisticated and very prolific cyber espionage team,” Hanif said in an online briefing for reporters. “We certainly have a moderate to high degree of confidence that the [Axiom] tasking is part of the Chinese intelligence apparatus.”

An FBI alert issued Oct. 15 bolsters the commercial findings. The alert states that the Bureau has high confidence that the new unit is “a group of Chinese government affiliated cyber actors who routinely steal high value information from US commercial and government networks through cyber espionage.”

The FBI said the new group differs from the Chinese military hacking unit known as PLA Unit 61398 by operating in an “exceedingly stealthy and agile” fashion, compared to the military unit.

Is China Committed to Rule of Law?

Interviewee: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
October 29, 2014

Chinese leaders gathered for the fourth plenum amid a widening anticorruption campaign, ongoing protests in Hong Kong, and the release of weak economic indicators. While the plenum report, released on October 23, disclosed no major surprises, the Chinese leadership signaled it wants to improve the effectiveness and fairness of its legal system and ensure better implementation of laws, says CFR Senior Fellow Elizabeth C. Economy.But the plenum's emphasis on rule of law "doesn't mean that the Communist Party itself is subject to the law," nor is there likely to be greater transparency for the much-touted anticorruption campaign, she says. 

Paramilitary policemen stand in formation as they pay tribute to the Monument to the People's Heroes in Beijing, November 17, 2013. (Photo: Courtesy Reuters) 

China's fourth plenum focused on rule of law this year. What does this mean in a Chinese context? 

It's difficult for Westerners to understand what the rule of law means in China, because it doesn't mean the same thing as it means in the West. It doesn't mean that the Communist Party itself is subject to the law. In fact, the party stands above the law. When we are looking at the outcome of the fourth plenum, we have to bear that in mind. 

"The [anticorruption] campaign is being conducted by the party and for the party—and it's going to be on the party's terms." 

China Strikes Back! Orville SchellOCTOBER 23, 2014 ISSUE

Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter at the White House with their wives after a gala at the Kennedy Center that was held in Deng’s honor, January 1979

When Deng Xiaoping arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington in January 1979, his country was just emerging from a long revolutionary deep freeze. No one knew much about this five-foot-tall Chinese leader. He had suddenly reappeared on the scene after twice being cashiered by Mao, who famously described him as “a needle inside a ball of cotton.” But in 1979 he knew exactly what he wanted: better relations with the US. He and President Jimmy Carter appeared to be serious about resolving differences. While reporting on these meetings, I had the impression that they were aware they were appearing in a kind of buddy film, and were using the opportunity to suggest clearly that they were ready to cooperate. 

“Today we take another step in the historic normalization of relations which we have begun this year,” Carter said in welcoming Deng at a state dinner in the White House. 

We share in the hope which springs from reconciliation and the anticipation of a common journey…. Let us pledge together that both the United States and China will exhibit the understanding, patience, and persistence which will be needed in order for our new relationship to survive. 

They then took off for Atlanta, Houston, and Seattle, with the most unforgettable moment occurring in Simonton, Texas. Deng was attending a rodeo when a cowgirl galloped up on horseback to his front-row arena seat to present him with a ten-gallon Stetson hat. When he clapped this symbol of Americana on his diminutive head, it almost came down over his eyes. But he accomplished his goal: demonstrating to people in both countries—it was China’s first live broadcast from abroad—that bygones were bygones and it was time start anew. 

Even now photos of these events from over three decades ago radiate camaraderie and a sense of leaders putting suspicion aside and trusting one another enough to allow for new ways of interacting. Their efforts, however, led only to a partial transformation of the relationship. One thing “normalization” did not, and could not, change was China’s Leninist form of one-party government. And since our two political and value systems remained opposed, an enormous block of contention continued to exist between us. What allowed some sense of fraternity to arise anyway was that Deng and Carter were able to imagine (in their different ways) that the two countries and societies might still slowly find more grounds for cooperation. 

“How Counterinsurgency Has Changed Across the 20th and Into the 21st Century”?

“How Counterinsurgency Has Changed Across the 20th and Into the 21st Century”?


The straightforward approach to evaluating how counterinsurgency had evolved across the 20th and into the 21st centuries would commence by evaluating the successful approaches to some of the early insurgencies of the 1900’s. Against this we could chart a course of lessons learned, then forgotten, and later relearned. We would recognise some enhancements and adaptations to suit the emerging insurgencies at various times. This would eventually lead us to the modern counterinsurgency publications, which have emerged in the wake of what were commonly accepted as disastrous attempts to quell insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. While this might prove to be a good history lesson, much of the enduring nature of successful counterinsurgency practice might be lost in the process.

Instead, this paper will focus on the modern doctrine crafted in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan, its foundational basis and its adequacy to cope with a new form of globally networked and ideologically based insurgency. With scrutiny, it should become apparent that current practices have eclipsed modern doctrine and now reflect some revolutionary thinking in terms of defeating the global insurgency. This paper will suggest that modern counterinsurgency practice is fighting a new insurgency with new tactics based on old principles. In so doing we shall see how counterinsurgency has changed across the 20th and into the 21st centuries.

The Modern Doctrine

Frank Hoffman, a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Research at the National Defense University (NDU) in the US, believes that the new US field manual on Counterinsurgency (FM 3-24) is a long step forward, reflecting our current understanding of this increasingly complex mode of conflict (2007: 84). This publication, issued in 2009, establishes doctrine for tactical counterinsurgency operations at the company, battalion, and brigade level. Based on lessons learned from historic counterinsurgencies and current operations, FM3-24 defines the operational environment of counterinsurgency and covers planning for tactical operations and working with ‘Host Nation Security Forces’ (Department of the Army 2009: viii).

Of course, the US is not alone in developing counterinsurgency doctrine; the British Army publication, issued later in the same year, bears remarkable resemblance in substance[i]. It is the more comprehensive US doctrine, which has been described as probably the most influential piece of doctrine in the last twenty years (Griffin 2014), that will serve as the principal basis for this paper’s evaluation of modern counterinsurgency doctrine.

Modern Counterinsurgency Doctrine - New Concepts, or Old Lessons?

External Support to Insurgencies

October 28, 2014

This essay argues that external support to the insurgents is usually a decisive factor in determining the outcome of an insurgency. The first part of this essay looks at historical accounts of specific insurgencies and finds that external support can be a significant factor in determining the outcome. The second part of this essay reviews research on the impact of external support to insurgency, finding that the preponderance of scholars who studied multiple insurgencies came to the same conclusions regarding the importance of external support. First, external support is critical to insurgents. Second, external support can have a decisive impact on the outcome of an insurgency. Third, the presence or absence of external support may indicate the probability of insurgent success. Finally, external support might be the most important factor in an insurgency. This essay concludes that the evidence from historical analysis and scholarly research overwhelmingly demonstrates that external support is a decisive factor in determining the outcome of an insurgency and identifies the need for development of a comprehensive counterinsurgent response theory aimed at isolating the insurgent using the diplomatic, informational, military, and economic instruments of national power.


The United States’ involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq during the previous decade sparked a renewed interest in the study of insurgency and counterinsurgency. For the most part, academics and practitioners focused their attention on revisiting the ideas developed since World War II and put forth by notable counterinsurgency experts such as David Galula, Robert Thompson, Frank Kitson, and Roger Trinquier. These individuals proposed different formulas for counterinsurgency success. The concept of protecting the population and winning “hearts and minds” espoused by Galula and Thompson has particularly influenced counterinsurgency doctrine development in the United States. To a lesser degree, Kitson’s emphasis on intelligence, information and training as the path to defeating insurgency has also been influential. Trinquier’s advocacy of treating insurgents as terrorists and using all means necessary, including torture and physical coercion, has been dismissed as unproductive, immoral and illegal. Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned counterinsurgency theorists emphasize the importance of denying external support to insurgents. Consequently, current United States’ counterinsurgency doctrine includes only cursory reference to insurgent external support, treating outside aid as minor consideration in counterinsurgency operations.

This essay argues that external support to the insurgents is usually a decisive factor in determining the outcome of an insurgency. “External support is a broad term that includes any form of support provided to an insurgent force from outside the political boundaries of the insurgency.”[1] Insurgents can receive active and passive external support. Active support is the intentional provision of sanctuary, logistics, training, political backing, and economic aid. Passive support occurs when an adjoining state is unable to deny access to insurgents. Contiguous borders can facilitate external support while geographic isolation can render external support difficult at best. A review of the literature reveals three distinct categories of writing on the subject of external support to insurgencies. The first category includes historical accounts of individual insurgencies. The second category analyzes collective groups of insurgencies to identify common characteristics. The third category specifically focuses on analyzing the impact of external support on insurgency.

The Historical Record

‘We Were Winning When I Left’: A Review of John Nagl’s ‘Knife Fights’

By Collin Hunt,Contributing Writer
November 2, 2014

Counterinsurgency advocate John Nagl broadens his audience with a humor-peppered retelling of his military career in Knight Fights.

As one of the earliest evangelists of adapting United States military thinking to match a low-intensity conflict environment, Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl (Ret.) stands in a unique position to critique the services’ haphazard application of counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Using a form of gallows humor that illustrates many of Nagl’s complaints about military bureaucracy erasing intrepid units’ gains after their tours’ conclusions, a cup made by one of the author’s subordinates upon return from Iraq serves as Knife Fights’ leitmotif: it reads “Iraq 2003-2004 - We Were Winning When I Left.”1

Clear from the book’s opening pages is that it is in no way meant to augment Nagl’s seminal review of COIN strategy, Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife. However, this distance is often of great value: by structuring Knife Fights as a memoir rather than just a niche title for COINdinistas, Nagl’s appeals for an institutionally responsive U.S. military reach a broader audience. 

Nagl begins the narrative with his service as a tank commander in Desert Storm, where through conventional warfighting the U.S. turned the fourth-largest army in the world into the second-largest army in Iraq.2 Fresh off a textbook victory in a major regional conflict that it had prepared for through much of the Cold War, the military restored its confidence lost so bitterly in the jungles of Vietnam and began molding its future force posture to repeat the 90-day success of Iraq. However, as the result of a grueling 1992 exercise at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center, Nagl realized that the traditional American way of war no longer sufficed for future conflicts. A National Guard unit familiar with the landscape from many training rotations routed the author’s tanks with unexpected guerilla tactics, and no current doctrine existed to prepare conventional units to counter this threat.

Performing an after-action review and determining that the Guardsmen had eschewed a head-on assault on an experienced armor unit, Nagl describes his eureka moment as the realization that future opponents would not risk such an engagement either. Instead, he grew convinced that the future of warfare lay in smaller, hit-and-run situations that would allow the enemy to slip away and blend into the population when the going got tough.3 Such conviction led the author to return to Oxford for a doctoral dissertation on COIN that later evolved into Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife, which earned Nagl recognition as one of the Army’s pre-eminent scholars of a strategy foolishly ignored after Vietnam’s collapse.

In his follow-up assignment after a stint teaching at West Point, Nagl’s brigade deployed to the restive Anbar Province in Iraq’s lawless west, an experience that makes up the majority of Knife Fights. Recounting many experiences where the minimal deployments ordered by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld compromised the mission’s objectives and left forces treading water, Nagl’s assertion that U.S. forces should instead have been used in greater number—what he refers to as “loaded for bear” —is weighty and damning.4

Nagl’s descriptions of the ad hoc style of COIN practiced on the battalion level but thwarted by the upper echelons’ punitive decisions targeting Saddam-era institutions should dispel claims by COIN’s opponents seeking to discredit the idea of a “savior general.”5 While those like Colonel Gian Gentile may wish to vindicate their role in the pre-Surge Iraq War, Nagl’s depiction of the sharp turnaround of Iraq’s faltering security situation after General David Petraeus achieved strategic buy-in for COIN’s application is hard to argue against. Furthermore, Knife Fights addresses head-on the second major complaint raised by COIN detractors, as Nagl is blunt in stating that insurgencies will not end in the U.S. military’s preferred fashion. Instead, a politically unsatisfying drawdown and continued support for fragile host governments via cash and a small advisory force will need to suffice, if only to continue to work toward long-term gains.

Russia Deploys 2 IL-78 MIDAS Tanker Aircraft to Egypt

Why are two Russian Il-78 Midas tankers deployed to Egypt? Are Moscow’s bombers heading to the Mediterranean Sea?

David Cenciotti

The Aviationist, November 3, 2014
The presence of two Il-78M Midas tankers in Egypt fuels theories about past and future Russian Air Force missions across the world.

A photo taken at Cairo International airport on Oct. 29 proves the Russian have deployed two Il-78M Midas tankers to Egypt. The reason behind their presence in North Africa is still unclear.

There are chances that the Russians deployed the tankers to Egypt in support of the long range missions flown across northern Europe as far as the Atlantic off Portugal on both Oct. 30 and 31: most probably they were using the tankers to support the trip of the Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers, intercepted and escorted by several air forces including the Portuguese along their way, to the southern Atlantic.

One radio enthusiast on Twitter noted a message being relayed to Bort 94290 (IL-78M) and passing (Heading Easterly) waypoint EVIRA (East of Malta).

Then, according to Tom Hill, a radio enthusiast and reader of The Aviationist, the Tu-95MS and IL-78Ms were active in Voice and Morse Code.

The Russians still use quite a lot of Morse and especially for these extended out of area missions. They send the same short 3 figure tactical messages back to their control in Russia using Morse and Voice. Radio enthusiasts were busy logging the activity last week.

“I just copied the Morse. You can’t really get any info from the Morse as it is short encoded three figure groups. They send the same in Voice. The only thing different here was the IL-78s using the Bort number in voice for the air route over the Mediterranean. Morse Key fit on Tu-95MS radio operators station. On the HF radios you can see 8909 KHz USB set up for the voice transmissions. This is the frequency they use during the Summer,” Hill explained in an email to us.

Even though at least one of the two IL-78Ms (RF-94920) was heard passing a waypoint in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, it’s still unclear whether it really refueled the Tu-95s that flew to the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal FIR (Flight Information Region), and back (remaining in international airspace).

Was it just a practice for future missions or perhaps the Russians are intending to route Tu-95MS Bear Hs into the Mediterranean?

If so, maybe we are going to see some shots of the Russian bombers as those taken by the Italian air force pilots during their Cold War intercepts.

The puzzle is also: how did the IL-78Ms get to Egypt? Did they deploy through the Gibraltar Straits or did they take the Iran, Iraq and Syria route? Possibly the Iranians were a bit twitchy about combat aircraft such as Tu-95s deploying but they allowed the tanker support?

How to Beat ISIS

If Washington is leading a coalition against the Islamic State, and it is, then the United States must be on the ground as well. There is no other way.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is a pernicious, brutal organization that directly threatens the stability of the Middle East, and ultimately, nations worldwide. It is also roughly the size of a small American state university, fielding no more than 30,000. It doesn’t have an air force, a navy, a reliable tax base or any of the other resources found in even the smallest and most fragile of nations. 

The U.S. needed only 31⁄2 years to defeat the Axis in World War II. During that war Germany alone was able to field more than 20 million soldiers. So why, when U.S. Admiral John Kirby, the spokesperson for the most powerful military force the world has ever known, was asked how long it might take to defeat the modest threat posed by ISIS, did he say that it could take five years, six years or even more?

While it’s well known that fighting insurgencies is challenging—witness the 13-year war against the Taliban—that’s not the whole answer. Unlike al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, ISIS isn’t fighting purely guerrilla-style, fading in and out of the background. ISIS is seeking to claim and hold territory, build and maintain supply chains, protect illicit oil shipments—all in the effort to construct a state. ISIS is a hybrid force—part insurgency and part traditional army—and the U.S. should have no trouble defeating a traditional army.

But to do that, you need to rely on more than just air strikes. Ground forces are needed to seize and hold territory where ISIS has been weakened. While those troops needn’t be entirely or even primarily American, if Washington is leading a coalition against ISIS, and it is, then the U.S. must be on the ground as well. There is no other way.

That leadership can’t be left up to the rest of the U.S. coalition. Most of the participants have really only signed up for secondary duty, far from the battles on the ground. Virtually none have made meaningful commitments to field the troops and take the risks needed not only to degrade ISIS but to defeat it. With some—like Turkey and Qatar—it can be hard to tell whose side they’re really on.

Can Oil and Gas Markets Adjust to a Rising Persia?

OCTOBER 30, 2014

A nuclear deal with Iran could help revive the country’s energy sector, with serious effects on consumers and producers, especially in the Middle East.

Given its substantial oil and gas resource potential, Iran must be on the radar screen of every major international oil company. Nevertheless, with the exception of Chinese and Russian players who are the only international oil companies currently involved with developing Iranian oil fields, major oil companies have shied away from Iran. 

This is largely explained by a series of sanctions, mainly targeting the banking and energy sectors and imposed in recent years by the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union, that have limited investment in Iran. 

The big oil companies, however, are keen to return to Iran if the international community and the Islamic Republic reach a long-term deal on its nuclear program and the sanctions are lifted accordingly, and if Iran offers more lenient contractual terms. 

For Iran, foreign investment, capital, and technology are all needed to reverse the country’s oil production decline and expand its export capacity. 

The deadline for reaching a deal is November 24, 2014. While the outcome of negotiations between Iran and the six world powers known as P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the United States) remains uncertain, a resolution of the current stalemate would have significant geopolitical implications. But it would also bring important changes to oil and gas markets, with serious effects on major consumers and producers, especially in the Middle East.


Iran holds substantial reserves of hydrocarbons. According to the 2014 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, the Islamic Republic sits on the largest proved gas reserves in the world (1,200 trillion cubic feet, more than 18 percent of the world total) and the fourth-largest proved oil reserves (157 billion barrels, the equivalent of more than 9 percent of the world total), after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.

Al-Qaeda’s Bid for Power in Northwest Syria

Posted by: ARON LUND
NOVEMBER 3, 2014

In the past week, the Nusra Front—a Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda—has attacked rival factions in northwestern Syria, capturing headquarters, bases, and arms stockpiles belonging to both the Syria Revolutionaries’ Front (SRF) and the Hazm Movement. Both groups are considered mainstays of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a nebulous network of Western-, Turkish-, and Gulf-funded factions. And they are among the best-known examples of the moderate rebels that the United States seeks to vet, train, and equip to take on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and anti-Western jihadi factions in the opposition.


The Nusra Front has had a rough year, suffering military setbacks, defections, and an ideological crisis. The main cause is the rise of the extremist jihadi faction known as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Early this year, the Islamic Stateended its previously ambiguous relationship with al-Qaeda and entered into open conflict with the Nusra Front and other Syrian factions.

While it was quickly expelled from the Syrian-Turkish border regions of Latakia, Idlib, and Aleppo, the Islamic State compensated by capturing new territory in both Syria and Iraq. These gains included the city of Mosul—which was taken in June, right before the Islamic State declared itself a caliphate—and since then the power of the Islamic State has grown in Syria and Iraq. During spring and summer 2014, Nusra Front forces were expelled by the Islamic State from their strongholds along the Euphrates River, losing access to oil fields that had been important for funding battles and paying fighters.

This has led to internal problems, with leading members reassigned to new positions and increasing defections to the Islamic State. The Nusra Front still seems uncertain about how to respond to the challenge. But in some areas, notably Idlib, the group has begun asserting itself and seizing territory from rival rebel forces, not unlike the way the Islamic State acted in 2013.

The Unserious Air War Against ISIS

October 15, 2014 

The campaign against Serbia in 1999 averaged 138 strike sorties daily. Against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: seven.

Since U.S. planes first struck targets in Iraq on Aug. 8, a debate has raged over the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s air campaign against Islamic State. The war of words has so far focused on the need to deploy American boots on the ground to provide accurate intelligence and possibly force ISIS fighters to defend key infrastructure they have seized, such as oil facilities. But debate is now beginning to focus on the apparent failure of airstrikes to halt the terror group’s advances in Iraq and Syria—especially Islamic State’s pending seizure of Kobani on the Syrian border with Turkey.

While it is still too early to proclaim the air campaign against Islamic State a failure, it may be instructive to compare it with other campaigns conducted by the U.S. military since the end of the Cold War that were deemed successes. For instance, during the 43-day Desert Storm air campaign against Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1991, coalition fighters and bombers flew 48,224 strike sorties.

This translates to roughly 1,100 sorties a day. Twelve years later, the 31-day air campaign that helped free Iraq from Saddam’s government averaged more than 800 offensive sorties a day. By contrast, over the past two months U.S. aircraft and a small number of partner forces have conducted 412 total strikes in Iraq and Syria—an average of seven strikes a day. With Islamic State in control of an area approaching 50,000 square miles, it is easy to see why this level of effort has not had much impact on its operations.

Of course, air operations during Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom were each supported by a massive coalition force on the ground. Thus it may be more appropriate to compare current operations against Islamic State with the 78-day air campaign against Serbian forces and their proxies in 1999, or the 75-day air campaign in Afghanistan that was instrumental in forcing the Taliban out of power in 2001.

Both campaigns relied heavily on partner forces on the ground augmented by a small but significant number of U.S. troops. These air campaigns averaged 138 and 86 strike sorties a day respectively— orders of magnitude greater than the current tempo of operations against Islamic State.