4 December 2014

What Modi could learn from Deng

December 4, 2014 

The most important and obvious factor in New Delhi’s favour is its strategic role as a regional counterweight to China.

Even the most casual observer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hectic schedule will be impressed by the renewed vigour he has brought to India’s diplomacy. Since taking office at the end of May, Modi has paid state visits to five countries (Nepal, Japan, the US, Australia and Fiji) and attended four summits (BRICS East Asia, G-20 and Saarc). While some may reasonably question whether Modi should be spending so much time jetting around the world while his bold economic reform plan needs his laser-like focus, the undeniable fact remains that Modi apparently is aware that India has much catching-up to do in competing with China for diplomatic influence in the Asia-Pacific.

By all accounts, China continues to enjoy a huge lead, despite its more recent setbacks in the region. Beijing began its diplomatic charm offensive in the late 1990s, taking advantage of the East Asian financial crisis and leveraging its growing economic muscle to strengthen trade links with its neighbours. Beijing’s efforts were generally considered clever and successful until 2010, when, for reasons that continue to puzzle China watchers, Chinese leaders opted for a far more confrontational regional diplomatic strategy, asserting territorial claims and taking unprecedented aggressive measures to intimidate neighbours (such as by declaring an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea).

Such muscle-flexing has boomeranged on Beijing. Most of its neighbours grew alarmed and, contrary to Beijing’s wishes, moved closer to Washington, which seized the opportunity to announce a “pivot” — the redeployment of US military capabilities and refocusing of American diplomatic attention to Asia.

Facing a concerted push-back by the US and its regional allies, China seems to be readjusting its Asian strategy. At the recent Apec summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a hardline nationalist leader vilified by China for the last two years. Although the meeting was awkward, it likely signified the beginning of a process of repairing badly damaged Sino-Japanese ties.
What is even more noticeable is Xi’s own energetic diplomatic offensive in Asia. Like Modi, Xi has also been burning a prodigious amount of aviation fuel. Indeed, he happened to be in the same neighbourhood this month as Modi — the south Pacific.

Judging by the trade and investment deals struck by Xi during his visit to Fiji and Australia two countries (China signed a free trade agreement with the latter), one may get the impression that it will be really difficult, if not impossible, for India to match Chinese influence in the region.

Anatomy of a diplomatic handshake


Reuters“Thawing the cold India-Pakistan relations became paramount at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu.” Picture shows the leaders of the two countries at the summit.

Contrary to reports, the hugely publicised handshake between Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi at the SAARC summit was preceded by other exchanges of pleasantries

On November 27, the second day of the SAARC summit, Kathmandu newspapers showed a grim looking Nawaz Sharif and a grumpy looking Narendra Modi on their front pages. Both were sitting on the dais, seemingly oblivious to each other, with the Kathmandu Post headline reading: “So close yet so far.” Tensions between India and Pakistan had clouded the SAARC summit with the Kathmandu Declaration also in trouble due to Islamabad expressing reservations over three proposed regional agreements for connectivity and integration: motor vehicles, rail and energy cooperation. Regionalism, bilateralism and sub-regionalism are all enmeshed in a SAARC hostage to the perennial coldness between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Thawing the cold relations became paramount. Contrary to visuals and reports, the hugely publicised long handshake between Mr. Sharif and Mr. Modi at the end of the concluding session of the summit was actually preceded by at least two other exchanges of pleasantries: the first was in the holding half prior to the inaugural session where leaders arrive in country-alphabetical order. Mr. Modi, having reached before Mr. Sharif, shook his hand the second time after his own inaugural in New Delhi in May this year. At the Dhulikhel retreat they shook hands a second time around, and went unaccompanied by aides for a walk in the woods around Dwarika Shangri La. After that they sat around the same table at lunch. They also met during Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and President Ram Baran Yadav’s banquets. The display of bonhomie was aplenty, but without any public ‘evidence’ other than the November 27 handshake where an animated conversation could be deciphered through lip reading. Elsewhere, cloak and dagger stories were doing the rounds: like for example, miffed by India’s refusal to resume the composite dialogue, Mr. Sharif was prepared to wreck the summit.

Breaking the deadlock

A day before, on November 26, Foreign Ministers hit a cul-de-sac. The Kathmandu Declaration was deadlocked. While India wanted all the three agreements or none, Pakistan blocked all three saying it had to take its four provinces along. The Declaration document was sent to Mr. Koirala who had to do some back-channelling in order to create a level-playing field at Dhulikhel. He told Mr. Modi that he was the regional leader and must act appropriately; otherwise there would be no worthwhile Kathmandu Declaration. The Modi-Sharif walk in the woods broke the ice as did the charmed yellow scarf of Goddess Baglamukhi in Patan that the leaders wore at the retreat. Before the sun set over the majestic Mount Everest visible from Dhulikhel, a compromise had been cobbled together. Both Mr. Sharif and Mr. Modi had agreed to the electricity cooperation agreement, and with gentle persuasion, Mr. Sharif also agreed to SAARC transport Ministers hammering out an agreement on motor and rail connectivity within three months.

“The takeaways from Kathmandu were images of Mr. Sharif and Mr. Modi, transformed from being grim and grumpy at the inaugural session to beaming and blushing at the concluding ceremony”


04 December 2014

Chen Quanguo, Tibet's party secretary, warned the cadres not to be trapped in ‘Dalai Lama's illusions'. By doing this, the Communist Party simultaneously promoted Buddhism on a large scale in Eastern Tibet

The Xinhua news agency recently reported that the People’s Liberation Army was getting tougher on corruption, “reflecting the Party’s resolution to ‘purify’ the Army,” it says. The communist mouthpiece added: “With great power comes great corruption risk. Too many temptations and traps surround official posts in China, which become high risks if officials don’t have self-discipline.”

It’s difficult to say if this is a sign that the Middle Kingdom is entering Kalyug. Another interesting development is the sudden appeal for religion in China, particularly the Buddha’s teachings.

But despite this newly-found love for Dharma, practice is something strictly forbidden for the party cadres. In an Op-ed in the Global Times, Zhu Weiqun, the chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and a former interlocutor of the Dalai Lama’s envoy, refuses to link the lack of religious belief and corruption; atheism “can’t be blamed for widespread corruption among cadres or any moral decay in Chinese society,” says Mr Zhu, who admonished his colleagues: “Communist Party members must not follow any religion; it is an ‘unshakeable’ principle of the party … Communist Party members cannot follow any religion — this is the important ideological and organisational principle.”

A few weeks ago, the all-powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection criticised some party cadres for secretly taking part in religious activities in Tibet.

Chen Quanguo, Tibet’s party secretary told the cadres in Lhasa: “One should not believe in the 14th Dalai group’s illusions, or follow the Dalai group; one should beware of infiltration and sabotage activities in which are involved separatist party cadres.” While warning the cadres not to be trapped in the ‘Dalai Lama’s illusions’, the Party is simultaneously promoting Buddhism on a large scale in Eastern Tibet.

An article in China Tibet Online, an affiliate of Xinhua, praises ‘Larung Gar Five Sciences Buddhist Academy, a Buddhist University in Eastern Tibet, pointing out that a previous incarnation of Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, Larung Gar’s founder was a teacher of His Holiness (sic) the 13th Dalai Lama (of course, it is not mentioned that the same Khenpo Phuntsok once visited Dharamsala to share teachings with the present Dalai Lama).

The article explains that: “Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche established the Larung Gar Five Sciences Buddhist Academy in Larung Valley near Serthar, Sichuan Province in 1980, with the aim to revitalise Dharma and benefit all sentient beings.”

An over-reliance on fencing

Written by Thomas L Friedman
December 4, 2014

The focus on terrorism, combined with our gotcha politics, has ‘killed creative thinking’ in Washington, let alone anything ‘aspirational’ in our foreign policy. (Source: Reuters photo/file)

Flying into New York the other day, I got my first good look at the Freedom Tower, now known as 1 World Trade Centre, the skyscraper that sits atop 9/11’s ground zero. It does, indeed, scrape the sky, topping out at a patriotic 1,776 feet. Thirteen years after 9/11, I appreciate the nationalist pride that, while terrorists can knock down our buildings, we can just build them right back up. Take that, Osama bin Laden.

If only the story ended there. Alas, bin Laden really did mess us up, and continues to do so. We’ve erased the ruins of the World Trade Centre, but the foreign policy of fear that 9/11 instilled is still very much inside us — too much so. It remains the subtext of so much that we do in the world today, which is why it’s the subtitle of a new book by David Rothkopf, National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear.

Much of the book is an inside look at how foreign policy was made under the two presidents since 9/11. But, in many ways, the real star of the book, the ubershaper of everything, is this “age of fear” that has so warped our institutions and policy priorities. Will it ever go away or will bin Laden be forever that gift that keeps on giving? This is the question I emailed to Rothkopf, the editor of Foreign Policy magazine.

Deconstructing the Modi foreign policy


Deconstructing the Modi foreign policy

The Modi foreign policy appears geared to reinvent India as a more competitive, confident and secure country. A robust foreign policy, however, can sustain itself only on the foundation of a strong domestic policy

India — home to more than a sixth of the human race — punches far below its weight. Internationally, it is a rule-taker, not a rule-maker. A 2013 essay in the journal Foreign Affairs, titled “India’s Feeble Foreign Policy,” focussed on how India is resisting its own rise, as if political drift had turned the country into its own worst enemy.

Since the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, the world has witnessed the most profound technological, economic and geopolitical change in the most compressed time frame in history. Unfortunately for India, despite its impressive economic growth overall, much of its last 25 years has been characterised by political weakness and drift. For example, between 1989 and 1998, India had a succession of weak governments. It is not an exaggeration to call Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s two terms “the lost decade” for India strategically.

Waning regional influence

The result of the prolonged leadership crisis has been a sharp erosion in India’s regional and extra-regional clout. The gap in power and stature between China and India has widened significantly. After all, this was the quarter-century in which China took off.

MIT-Oxford physicist to tango with IIT engineer in US-India defense ties

Dec 4, 2014

When the defence chiefs of India and the United States meet next, it could well be an IIT engineer engaging an Oxford-MIT physicist.

WASHINGTON: When the defence chiefs of India and the United States meet next, it could well be an IIT engineer engaging an Oxford-MIT physicist. 

President Barack Obama intends to nominate former Pentagon #2 Ashton Carter as the new US Defense Secretary to replace Chuck Hagel, it was widely reported on Tuesday, amid broad acclaim in Washington DC and relief in New Delhi. The veteran defense maven, a Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D in theoretical physics, is highly respected in Washington, and more pertinently for India, has been hands-on in accelerating U.S-India defense cooperation. 

In his previous avatar as Pentagon deputy secretary of defense, Carter headed a task force to expedite sale of sensitive military equipment to India. He and India's then National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon helmed the India-US Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) envisaging technology transfer and co-production and co-development of defense equipment, an enterprise that has made substantial progress but is still incomplete. 

A strong votary of US-India military ties who believes the two countries are "destined to be strategic partners," he will now have an IIT-engineer in India's new defense minister Manohar Panikkar to pick up the threads. Carter is also part of the team behind the United States' Asia pivot. 

The White House has not officially confirmed the nomination pending a vetting process, but press secretary Josh Earnest suggested it was a formality. "He is somebody who deserves and has demonstrated strong bipartisan support for his previous service in government," Earnest said. "He has a detailed understanding of the way the Department of Defence works." 

Weakest part of Russia’s relations with India

December 1, 2014

Russia needs to use every opportunity to inform the Indian Government and public about Moscow’s priorities in regional and global politics and about its views on all issues which are relevant to Indians.
 It Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu's visit to Pakistan raised many eyebrows in India. Source: Igor Russak / RIA Novosti

The visit to Pakistan by a large delegation from the Russian Ministry of Defence, led by Sergey Shoygu last month once again showed a particular weakness in Russia-India relations, and in particular, government and public relations.

There are at least two reasons that should make the Russian authorities pay careful attention to government and public relations. The first reason is the complicated relationship between India and Pakistan. In the context of this relationship any news about the development of Russian-Pakistan relations can be negatively interpreted in India. The second reason is the existence in political, business and media circles of Indian groups largely focused on countries other than Russia. For this group the above mentioned weakness in Russia-India relations is a gift which they will use to criticise Russia and promote the interests of other countries.

For these reasons, Russia (and its representatives in India) should use every opportunity to inform the Indian Government and public about Moscow’s priorities in regional and global politics and about its views on all issues which are of relevant to Indians.

As it is, Russia often misses the opportunity to effectively use public and government relations. This year there have been plenty of cases showing the weakness of Russian-Indian relations in the area of government and public relations. One of the most notable cases was the July 2 announcement by Rostec Chief Executive Sergey Chemezov about the so called lifting of a Russian embargo on the supply of arms and military equipment to Pakistan. There never was such an embargo in the first place. The issue was about including Pakistan on a list of countries to which Russia could deliver weapons and military equipment. If Chemezov had not made this announcement, the inclusion of Pakistan on this list would have remained an internal department matter, and Russia would have had sufficient time to carry out outreach work in India at political, business and media levels. However, this conspicuous announcement was made and the negative response in India was not slow in coming.

Chinese Takeaway: Modi’s Buddhism

Written by C Raja Mohan 
December 3, 2014

In his outreach to leaders in the subcontinent and Asia, from Nepal to Japan and China to Myanmar, Modi has projected Buddhism as one of India’s bridges to these nations.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi winds down an intensive phase of foreign policy activism, one surprising feature of his diplomacy has been the frequent evocation of Buddhism. In his outreach to leaders in the subcontinent and Asia, from Nepal to Japan and China to Myanmar, Modi has projected Buddhism as one of India’s bridges to these nations. The PM’s overt expression of his Hindu religiosity has been controversial, but not surprising.

But Buddhism?

Some have seen it as an effort to compete with China for leadership in Buddhist Asia. Others have viewed it as a fond hope of finding a spiritual connection to China. Some point to Modi’s personal interest in Buddhism and cite his commitment to restoring the rich Buddhist heritage of Gujarat when he was chief minister there.

It does not really matter if none of the above can explain Modi’s emphasis on Buddhism. What does matter is the fact that the PM has put Buddhism at the heart of India’s vigorous new diplomacy. The Buddha has long figured prominently in India’s international engagement. As the land from where Buddhism was born and spread around Eurasia, India did not have to work too hard to make it part of its cultural interaction with the rest of the world. One out of six tourists to India visits Bodh Gaya. Buddhism has long been an integral part of India’s relations with many countries in Asia. Buddhism brought a few problems as well. By hosting the Dalai Lama since 1959 amidst continuing restiveness in Tibet, India has created an enduring source of tension with China.

Beijing Rivalry?


By Vijay Sakhuja

Six years ago, in November 2008, a group of Pakistan-based terrorists landed at unsecured waterfronts in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, and attacked public places such as hotels, restaurants, and a railway station. Although the Indian security forces were quick to respond, the attack, popularly referred to as 26/11, exposed three significant gaps in India’s maritime security apparatus: a. the porous nature of India’s coastline; b. the poor surveillance of the maritime domain; and c. the lack of inter-agency coordination.

Post the 26/11 attacks, the Indian government undertook a number of proactive measures to restructure coastal security and push the defensive perimeter further away from the coast into the seas. The focus was on building national maritime domain awareness (NMDA) grid via a number of organisational, operational and technological changes. The Indian Navy has now set up the National Command Control Communication Intelligence (NC3I) network that hosts the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC).

It connects 41 radar stations (20 Indian Navy and 31 Coast Guard) located along the coast and on the island territories, and helps collate, fuse and disseminate critical intelligence and information about ‘unusual or suspicious movements and activities at sea’. There are plans for additional coastal radar stations to cover gap/shadow zones in the second phase; these are currently addressed through deployment of ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard.

The IMAC receives vital operational data from multiple sources such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the long-range identification and tracking (LRIT), a satellite-based, real-time reporting mechanism for reporting the position of ships. This information is further supplemented by shore based electro-optical systems and high definition radars. Significantly, maritime domain awareness is also received through satellite data.


December 1, 2014

Pakistan Eyes Chinese Jets To Counter Indian Air Force Dominance

Pakistan eyes Chinese jets to counter IAF dominance Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter.

The Pakistani military authorities are determined to acquire 30 to 40 fourth generation stealth fighter (FC-31) aircraft from China with a view to pre-empting the rapidly increasing aerial dominance of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the region.

Conceding that senior Pakistani defense officials were already holding talks with their Chinese counterparts to acquire the fourth generation stealth aircraft (also called Shenyang FC31 Multi-Purpose Medium Fighter Jets), informed sources in the security establishment said that Pakistan has been made to approach China and Russia to fulfill its defense procurements as the Pak-US ties continue to chill, despite General Raheel Shareef’s recent visit to the United States.

The Pakistani defense officials are already in the process of signing an agreement with Russia to purchase 20 Mi-35 gunship helicopters which can be operated in the mountainous terrain of the Waziristan region where a military operation is in full swing against the Taliban militants.

The sources said Pakistan wants to procure the Chinese FC31 aircraft as part of its ongoing efforts to boost the air combat capabilities of the PAF and offset the growing strength of the Indian Air Force in the region.

International media reports say China is offering its 18 tonne J-31 stealth fighter to export customers as the FC-31.

The FC-31 stealth fighter jet reportedly matches a strong need for fifth generation fighters by the Pakistan Air Force, which is already struggling to find an aircraft to go up against the Russian-made T-50 fifth-generation fighter, being acquired by India.

The twin-engine FC-31 fighter jet resembles the American Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, being produced by Lockheed Martin Corporation. FC-31 is the export version of the Shenyang J-31 which is already flying since 2012 and is powered by two Russian-made engines.

Designed to fly close air support, air interdiction and other missions, the Pakistan Air Force intends to buy FC-31 to replace the American-made F-16s, although it is to employ tactical rather than stealth aircraft in actual missions to support ground troops.

Being produced by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, China’s Shenyang FC-31 Fighter Jet is intended to be a rival to the American F-35 and Russian Sukhoi Su-35. The Chinese fighter jet was displayed at the recently held air show in China’s Zhuhai city in Guangdong Province.


As U.S. forces withdraw from parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban is making gains in several areas of the country. The Afghan police and army are slowly giving way, despite the United States spending 13 years and tens of billions of dollars training those forces. When the United States completes its withdrawal from ground combat at the end of this year, this unfavorable trend will undoubtedly accelerate—that is, if the Afghan security forces don’t collapse altogether, as did similarly U.S. trained Iraqi forces in that country. Thus, in the longest war in American history, the U.S. military has failed to pacify Afghanistan—as had the mighty British Empire three times in the 19th and early 20th centuries and the Soviet superpower more recently in the 1980s. In fact, an outside force has not pacified Afghanistan since Cyrus the Great of Persia did it in ancient times.

Why did the United States have the hubris to think it could succeed in taming Afghanistan, when all of these other strenuous efforts had failed? Because many in the American foreign policy elite, media, and citizenry believe in “American exceptionalism.” As propounded by politicians of both parties—for example, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright in the Democratic Party and people such as John McCain and his sidekick Lindsay Graham in the Republican Party—America is the “indispensable nation” to a world that cannot do without its solving most major problems using military power. Yet despite the current public fawning over military personnel and veterans of American wars, the U.S. military has been fairly incompetent in most major engagements since World War II that required significant ground forces—with only Desert Storm in 1991 being an unvarnished success in recent years. The U.S. armed forces are probably more powerful than any other military in world history, both absolutely and relative to other countries, yet their battlefield performance has not been that great, especially against irregular guerrilla forces in the developing world.

In the post-World War II era, the U.S. military managed to fight the then-poor nation of China to only a draw in the Korean War (1950-1953); lost the Vietnam War (1965-1973) to ragtag Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese; and made the same mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq and Afghanistan—initially using excessive firepower and alienating the population, the allegiance of which is key to fighting guerrillas.

A Clash of Strykers and Taliban

Armored vehicles versus guerrillas in Afghanistan’s Arghandab Valley

The 10 Strykers charged toward the Taliban-held village. It was an armored counterattack—a response to an insurgent ambush that previously had driven off American troops under heavy fire.

The time was August 2009 in Afghanistan’s Arghandab Valley, an insurgent stronghold.

The Taliban were surprised by the sudden assault. Earlier, they had cheered and fired their weapons into the air while watching the Americans retreat. Now the soldiers in their vehicles swept forward in a V formation, a tactical move that balances flexibility with firepower.

Then one Stryker broke its axle on a rock.

To be sure, the Americans won the battle. The remaining Strykers blasted their way into village, firing high-explosive grenades from the vehicles’ automatic launchers while mounted soldiers fired their rifles from their hatches.

The arrival of air support in the form of Kiowa Warrior helicopters finally compelled the Taliban to retreat.

It was a small, little-known firefight. But the battle and others like it are at the heart of the new book Strykers in Afghanistan: 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment in Kandahar Province 2009. Kevin Hymel published the book with the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The book is available for free.
It’s a detailed account of the Army’s 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment’s time in Afghanistan. The unit took heavy losses during several months of pitched fighting with trained Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Arghandab Valley.

1–17 lost 22 soldiers in Afghanistan. Some soldiers criticized the battalionfor sending fellow troops unprepared into the thick brush of the Arghandab.

The book is also a look at how the Stryker combat vehicle performed in battle—in difficult terrain against a guerilla enemy.

In the 1990s, the Army envisioned the eight-wheel, medium armored trucks filling a gap between heavy tanks and light vehicles such as Humvees. The Strykers would be powerful like tanks, but without the large logistical footprint. They would be able to deploy quickly, unlike tanks. And they’d be better for the smaller-scale battles the United States could expect to fight in the future.

But the Strykers weren’t designed to fight in the Arghandab.

At top—a 1–17 Stryker in Kandahar province, Afghanistan on Nov. 28, 2009. Above—Strykers from 1–17 in Kandahar on the same date. Army photos

Alibaba, Tencent cyber war intensifies


A cyber war, between China’s two rival social media heavyweights, Sina Weibo and Tencent, has escalated sharply signalling sharpening competition for the country’s surging web-based commerce. On Tuesday, Sina Weiba, a micro-blogging platform owned by the Alibaba group, the e-commerce giant, began to ban users promoting WeChat, run by rival Tencent, on its service.

Chinese state media report the move came after WeChat shut down on its site, the promotion channel of Kuaidi Dache, a taxi-hailing service, in which Alibaba has a stake.

Alibaba and Tencent compete fiercely on several fronts, including internet finance and online commerce.

Though the two platforms are not head-to-head competitors — Sina Weiba is more like a Twitter adaptation and WeChat, a Chinese style Facebook with a difference -- they do vie for time and mindshare of China’s social media.

That could impact the market share of e-commerce, which is surging in China. On November 11, over $9 billion of sales were transacted over Taobao, Alibaba online shopping platform. The shopping binge over the internet was in celebration of “Singles Day,” conceived in China as a riposte to Valentine’s Day in the West. On Tuesday, Sina Weibo did not directly name WeChat as the target, but said users who aggressively spread QR code and other commercial information would be banned. WeChat, which uses QR code scanning as its main promotion tool, was hit hardest by the decision.

Analysts say the rivalry has intensified after Sina Weibo’s user base dropped by nine per cent to 281 million in 2013. On the other hand, the user friendly WeChat is attracting more eyeballs than ever before.

Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, reports that last year, Taobao blocked visits from WeChat. Alibaba's online payment platform Alipay also banned WeChatters.


By Michael Lelyveld

China’s pledge to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 has raised questions about when it will cut its consumption of coal.

On Nov. 12 in Beijing, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping issued a landmark joint statement, setting new goals for the United States and China to fight climate change.

Under the agreement, U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would drop 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

The goal would require the United States to double the pace of average annual CO2 reductions from its previous projections for 2020, made in 2009, the White House said.

For its part, China agreed to hit a peak in CO2 emissions “around 2030,” making “best efforts” to reach a plateau before then.

China would also raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to “around 20 percent” by 2030, the presidents said.

In 2013, the country derived 9.8 percent of its energy from “zero-emission” sources, including solar, wind, nuclear and hydroelectric power, The New York Times estimated.

China’s earlier goal set in 2009 called for cutting 40-45 percent of CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, but that reduction was to be measured per unit of gross domestic product (GDP).

The standard was widely criticized because total volumes of emissions were still allowed to grow as China’s economy expanded at high annual rates.

Last week, Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) planning agency, said China’s per-unit carbon emissions had dropped 28.56 percent as of 2013, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Tough targets

Russia Is Militarizing The Arctic



Russia's new military command center in the Arctic became operational Monday, as the country increasingly militarizes the polar region.

Moscow's new Northern Command will subsume the Russian Northern Fleet and form a unified military network of ground troops, aircraft, and naval vessels in an attempt to leverage Russia's strength in the great north.

Mark Galeotti, an NYU professor specializing in global affairs and Russian and Slavic studies, has published details in the Moscow Times:

Russia's icebreaker fleet is a particular "ice-power" asset: It is the world's largest and includes the massive nuclear-powered vessel 50 Years of Victory. Beyond that, Russia is constructing a chain of 10 Arctic search-and-rescue stations that, along with its 16 deepwater ports, are intended to consolidate Russia's authority over the Northern Sea Route, which Putin has said may prove even more important than the Suez Canal in shaping global shipping flows.

Here's a look at the Northern Sea Route:

In addition to Russia's port construction blitz across the Arctic, Moscow is also drastically upgrading its other military capabilities in the region. Galeotti notes that a commando detachment is being trained specifically for the Arctic warfare, and a second Arctic-warfare brigade will be trained by 2017.

Former DIA Director: ISIS Is a Learning Organization That Adapts Rapidly

Felicia Schwartz
December 3, 2014

Michael Flynn: Islamic State Adapts to U.S. Strategy Targeting Its Leaders

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn speaks at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council on Tuesday.Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal

Islamic State has organized itself to adapt to the U.S. strategy of targeting the group’s leaders, a former defense intelligence chief said Tuesday.

Speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council meeting, Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who stepped down from his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in August, said Islamic State is “a learning organization” that pays close attention to its failures and successes.

“We’ve always sort of gone after the leaders, and they knew that right out front,” Mr. Flynn said. In response, the group has nurtured smaller leadership teams and has created “a very good infrastructure.”

Mr. Flynn was joined by Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former U.S. Commander in Afghanistan who was fired in 2010 after he and his aides made disparaging comments about Obama administration officials in a Rolling Stone article.

Looking back on the U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. McChrystal said, “we didn’t do due diligence before we went in,” and failed to nurture experts to aid the U.S. effort there. He said during World War II the military trained thousands of service members to speak Japanese, while the number of military personnel who speak Pashtun could be assembled on the stage he was speaking from.

With Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel set to resign once his successor is confirmed, Mr. McChrystal urged President Barack Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to focus on interpersonal relationships on the National Security Council as the group continues to build strategies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I’d tell them to get three cases of beer and go white water rafting,” he said, adding that teambuilding activities could help senior leaders make cohesive decisions. Mr. Hagel’s predecessors have criticized the White House for micromanaging the Pentagon.

Now that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is winding down and the U.S. troop presence is set to draw down to 10,000, Mr. Flynn said the next couple of years there are probably going to be “a bit status quo…It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is going to “step up a little bit,” but the effort will also require confidence on the part of the international community.

Profiling the Islamic State

Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper, December 1, 2014 

Intense turmoil in Syria and Iraq has created socio-political vacuums in which jihadi groups have been able to thrive. The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had proven to be the strongest and most dynamic of these groups, seizing large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. Shortly after routing Iraqi forces and conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS boldly announced the establishment of a caliphate and renamed itself the Islamic State (IS). How did IS become such a powerful force? What are its goals and characteristics? What are the best options for containing and defeating the group? 

In a new Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper, Charles Lister traces IS’s roots from Jordan to Afghanistan, and finally to Iraq and Syria. He describes its evolution from a small terrorist group into a bureaucratic organization that currently controls thousands of square miles and is attempting to govern millions of people. Lister assesses the group’s capabilities, explains its various tactics, and identifies its likely trajectory. 

According to Lister, the key to undermining IS’s long-term sustainability is to address the socio-political failures of Syria and Iraq. Accordingly, he warns that effectively countering IS will be a long process that must be led by local actors. Specifically, Lister argues that local actors, regional states, and the international community should work to counter IS’s financial strength, neutralize its military mobility, target its leadership, and restrict its use of social media for recruitment and information operations. 

1999-2003: From Jordan to Afghanistan 
2003-04: Initiating Iraq insurgency 
2004-06: Iraq consolidation, Al-Qaeda tensions 
2007-09: Governance failure & the Sahwa 
2009-2011: Restructuring & Recovery 
2011-present: Syria, Iraq, Al-Qaeda & a Caliphate 
Military Strategy 
Internal Policy 
Objectives: Syria & Iraq 
Regional Objectives 
Foreign Fighter Blowback? 
Policy Recommendations 

See below a map of Syria and Iraq, showing both countries’ governorates and principal cities, as well as rivers and main road networks. IS's area of operations currently stretch from Al-Bab in northwest Syria to Baqubah and Baghdad in central Iraq. 

In both Syria and Iraq, a broad strategy should be built, developed and implemented that explicitly aims to weaken IS’ most significant strengths, without which the organization would quickly weaken: 

Iran Bombing Islamic State In Iraq, U.S. Official Confirms


WASHINGTON -- The list of countries bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq has thus far featured a host of classic United States partners -- Canada, the U.K., France. Now, it looks like the U.S. has a new quasi-partner in the air: Iran.

The U.S. is aware of Iranian bombing activity in the same national airspace where planes aligned with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State are operating, a defense official told The Huffington Post Monday evening.

The official said he believes the Iranian bombing is unlikely to end as long as the Shiite-dominated nation feels threatened by the Sunni extremist group, also called ISIS. The bombing will not require a U.S. response unless Iran presents an immediate threat to U.S. forces in the air, he said.

"We are aware of that. I wouldn't say we're necessarily concerned with it -- we kind of have our eyes on it," the official said. He noted that the Iranian bombing has been taking place near the Iranian border, in a different part of Iraq than most U.S. and coalition activity. The official said he could only confirm reports of the bombing on the condition of anonymity.

While previous reports have said that Iran has provided weapons and equipment to the Iraqi government, the official's comments represent the first confirmation that Iran's own air force is involved in the fight in Iraq against the Islamic State.

The fact that the U.S. is not challenging this level of Iranian involvement is the strongest evidence yet that the Obama administration sees the Iranian government as a tactical partner in the Middle East. The stance is controversial, given that U.S. allies -- including Israel and Arab states helping tackle the Islamic State, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- feel threatened by Iran.

The defense official's comments offered evidence for recent claims about an Iranian jet in Iraqi skies made by IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, a British defense analysis firm, andHaaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper. The plane, both outlets said, was spotted in Al Jazeera video footage from late November. They said it was assisting the Iraqi military -- a key U.S. on-the-ground ally -- in its biggest campaign against the Islamic State since the summer.

Neither outlet could verify whether the jet was Iranian: Both noted that only Iran and Turkey, a member of the U.S.-led coalition that has yet to militarily target the Islamic State, fly the kind of jet seen in the video. The outlets also differed slightly on their timelines for the sighting, with IHS Jane's dating the footage to Nov. 30 and Haaretz saying on Dec. 1 that it was from "a few days ago."

The official said the U.S. became aware of Iranian bombing in Iraq "earlier than" the recent claims, and that the U.S. military is aware that the planes are part of Iran's air force.


December 1, 2014

al Qaeda Planning Christmas Terrorist ‘Spectacular’ – 5 European Passenger Planes Targeted; 400 British Soldiers Now Deployed At London’s Heathrow Airport In Enhanced Security Role

Perhaps feeling overshadowed by their upstart sibling — the Islamic State — numerous news outlets this morning (Dec. 1, 2014) report that the terrorist group al Qaeda is planning a Christmas ‘Spectacular,’ and are targeting at least five European passenger planes — “in a high profile hit” during the Christmas holiday. European security officials reportedly have known about the plot since September; and, British officials are said to believe that some kind of high-profile terrorist attack during the Christmas season “is almost inevitable.” The plan reportedly involves al Qaeda militants hope to smuggle bombs/devices onto various passenger planes en route to various destinations across Europe. Four hundred British soldiers have been deployed to London’s Heathrow Airport in a move to provide additional security during the Christmas timeframe.

Donal Macintyre, writing on the November 30, 2014 website – TheExpress.com – says that European officials consider the threat credible; and, reportedly considered an outright ban on all hand luggage – before boarding passenger aircraft. A ban on mobile phones and electronic devices is also reportedly under serious consideration. The Express, quoting an unnamed high-level security official, said, “there is paralysis because of the difficulty of banning hand luggage, which is one of the strongest weapons we have against the new threats.” “All electronics may be banned from hand luggage and placed in the hold — that has been considered — an official told the Express; and, airport personnel in various locations in Europe are currently being trained to spot unusual or potentially threatening behavior. “Everyone is expecting something catastrophic very soon,” the official added.

On a better note, the Express reports that “David Drugeon, a 24yr. old Frenchman, and one of al Qaeda’s most trusted bomb-makers was killed by a cruise missile strike earlier this month in western Syria. Although now dead, his work remains a huge threat — as his skill-set is likely to have been spread among a number of terror ‘apprentices,’ including an unidentified Saudi bomb-maker. V/R, RCP


December 1, 2014

To prevent firms­­­ in Kurdish Iraq from selling trucks to ISIS or helping refine oil, the West could do more to ensure that the government in Baghdad pays good prices for the oil that it is obtaining from Kurdish Iraq and shares its revenues with the region. The failure of the central government to do so means that businesses will seek alternative customers-even bad ones.

The effort to counter ISIS should also involve Western businesses. The cigarette industry follows the ebb and flow of the illicit cigarette trade. Energy and pharmaceutical companies monitor the movement of their commodities in the region. Transport companies have insights into the dynamics of illicit trade, and insurance companies have insights into kidnapping. That is why public-private partnerships are key. Corporations can share the information they already collect on illicit trade routes, smuggling shipments, and key facilitators. They can also warn consumers not to purchase the counterfeit and smuggled commodities that fund terrorism.

For now, the government response to ISIS has not taken the business community enough into account. But without such cooperation, Washington cannot hope to successfully counter the nimble ISIS.

LOUISE SHELLEY is University Professor at George Mason University and Director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center (TraCCC). She is the author of Dirty Entanglements: Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism.

A key element of U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has been striking at the oil fields seized by the group to undermine its finances. But ISIS is a diversified criminal business, and oil is only one of its several revenue streams. U.S. officials ignore that fact at their own peril.

It is true that oil is ISIS’ key source of funding right now. The terrorist group has become the world’s richest precisely because it has seized some of the world’s most profitable oil fields in Iraq and Syria. Even with those fields operating below capacity due to a lack of technology and personnel, ISIS is estimated to be producing about 44,000 barrels a day in Syria and 4,000 barrels a day in Iraq. ISIS sells crude at a discount (around $20-$35 per barrel) to either truckers or middlemen. The crude gets to refiners at around $60 per barrel, which is still under market price. Smugglers pay about $5,000 in bribes at checkpoints to move the crude oil out of ISIS controlled territory. Even selling the oil at a discount via pre-invasion smuggling routes out of Iraq, ISIS can still expect over a million dollars in revenue each day.

And ISIS’ enemies are getting richer from the trade, too: Kurdish part-time smugglers who facilitate ISIS’ oil sales can earn up to $300,000 each month. A Kurdish newspaper recently published a list of people involved with ISIS, especially its oil operations. The list includes individuals with the last names of several Kurdish ruling families; a Toyota branch in Erbil, which sells ISIS trucks; a Politburo member and military leader; and oil refineries, among others. Some of those on the list were associated with oil smuggling under Saddam Hussein. Kurdish facilitators also provide goods to ISIS, including trucks, gas cylinders (for cooking and heating), gasoline, and other necessary commodities.


December 1, 2014 

FBI Says ISIS Threat To U.S. Military Personnel Here At Home; Warns Terrorists May Attempt To Track Through Use Of Social Media — Concern Over Potential Copycat (Canada) Attacks

ABC News’s Brian Ross and James Gordon Meek are reporting this morning (Dec. 1, 2014) that the FBI “issued its strongest warning to date about possible attacks by ISIS against U.S. military personnel here at home.” The network says that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “issued a joint intelligence bulletin overnight, strongly urging those who serve in uniform — to scrub their social media accounts of anything that might bring unwanted attention from “violent extremists,” or would help the extremists learn individual service members’ identities.”

“The FBI and DHS recommend that current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIS and its supporters,” the bulletin said. NBC News noted that U.S. officials “fear [potential] copycat attacks based on what happened in Canada last month, when two uniformed Canadian soldiers were killed in two separate incidents by young men who claimed they were ISIS followers.”

“The FBI received reporting indicating that individuals overseas are spotting and assessing like-minded individuals who are willing and capable of conducting attacks against current and former U.S-based members of the U.S. military,” the bulletin said. “Attacks such as those in Canada — which were apparently carried out without direct contact between ISIS and the perpetrators — may “embolden” and “motivate” those who support ISIS,” the FBI and DHS warned.

ABC News adds that “the day before the U.S. launched its biggest air blitz against the terror group in Iraq and Syria in late September, ISIS spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani called upon Muslims in the U.S. and Europe to attack members of the military. Do not ask for anyone’s advice, and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling. Both of them are disbelievers. Both of them are considered to be waging war,” Adnani said in an audio speech recorded online on September 21, 2014. V/R, RCP

What Should the World Fear: The Rise or Decline of Illiberal Powers?

Published on: December 2, 2014

How the West answers this question will determine its relations not just with Russia, but with China as well.

Let’s ask ourselves what current challenges can affect the global order, international and European security, and the worldwide march of progress. The Ebola virus? The war in the Middle East? ISIS? Quite a few Western observers consider the rise of China to be such a challenge, but we shouldn’t be in a hurry to agree with them. Let me quote Minxin Pei, who highlighted the analytical problem: U.S. policy toward China, he says, “is premised on the continuing rise of China,” but “China’s declining fortunes have not registered with the U.S. elites.” Meanwhile, a lot of respected China “hands”—among them Francis Fukuyama, Andrew Scobell, Andrew Nathan, and Pei himself—would agree that “the resilience of the authoritarian regime in…China is approaching its limits,” or that “China’s apparently good record today contains many time bombs that will go off in the future.” If the Chinese model is losing its sustainability, then Beijing’s increased foreign policy activity and its more aggressive stance with respect to its neighbors could be viewed as components of an attempt to use the Kremlin’s formula of “compensation” for growing domestic problems by consolidating society around the quest for international status and ambition.

If this assumption is true, then we need to reflect on the risks that the decay of the world’s illiberal powers will pose to the international community. Indeed these risks could be even greater for the world than the risks of their rise. In any event, we already find that we have fallen into an analytical trap here: Our understanding of modern political processes doesn’t just lag behind developments; quite often it distorts our picture of them, complicating the formulation of an adequate political course. All too frequently in the past few decades, expert analysis and predictions have missed the mark. This is exactly what happened to Sovietology, which had maintained that the Soviet Union was stable right up to the moment of its collapse. Seymour Martin Lipset’s and Gyorgy Bence’s “Anticipations of the Failure of Communism” explained the Sovietologists’ error in the following way: “The scholars…looked for institutions and values that stabilized the polity and society.” They should have also emphasized “dysfunctional aspects, structures, and behaviors, which might cause a crisis.” This approach, perhaps, would allow us to look at China through a different lens.

Russian vs. Ukrainian Militaries: How Do They Stack Up Against One Another Today?

Robert Beckhusen
December 3, 2014

How Ukraine’s arsenal matches up against the Russian-backed separatists’

On Nov. 18, several rockets fired from a separatist Grad launcher slammed into an apartment building in the eastern Ukrainian town of Toshkovka. It was another shelling in what’s become an almost daily event — as both sides in Ukraine’s civil war turn to heavier weaponry to shift the battle in their favor.

But no soldiers were harmed in this shelling. Instead, three civilians died and four others — including two children — were wounded. It was more than four miles behind the front line, which formed after pro-Russian militants threw Ukrainian troops back during a heavy August counteroffensive.

The separatists now control a 200-mile stretch of territory from the Black Sea to the Russian border. This includes the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, two of the three largest cities in eastern Ukraine. Still, it’s a precarious situation for the militants seeking to create a state-within-a-state.

Ukrainian troops hold an important crossroads at the center of militant territory. They also control the Donetsk airport, an essential facility if the separatist enclave is to survive outside of Kiev’s control. Several cease-fire agreements have yet to stop the fighting.

The war looks a lot different than it did a few months ago, however. It’s settling along a single front line, with fewer of the advances and retreats that marked this summer’s fighting.