12 December 2014

The road from Lima

December 12, 2014 

India is in the midst of an interesting moment in climate politics. UN negotiations in Lima are intended to lay the base for a new 2015 agreement, to be signed in Paris next December. As part of this process, all countries, including India, are expected to submit over the next few months their intended national “contributions” to the struggle against climate change. A recent joint announcement by China and the United States on their future actions to limit greenhouse gases, preceded by an EU announcement, has focused attention on what countries can and should do to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps invariably, this places the spotlight on India, with several media comments asking what India can do. How should India react to this questioning?

The simple answer is: we shouldn’t. Slipping into a reactive mode and seeking to meet benchmarks set by others will fail to reflect both India’s realities and the potential for constructive politics in India’s climate stance. Instead, India should seek to lay out its own benchmarks for what counts as effective action, and urge others to match up.

Putin to Visit India With Trade, Energy on Agenda

December 11, 2014 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit India for an annual summit. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit India for a one-day annual summit starting Thursday. The visit will focus primarily on deepening energy and trade ties between Russia and India. 

For Putin, the visit comes at a troubling time for Russia geopolitically. Still isolated by the West for Russia’s support of anti-government rebels in Ukraine in addition to annexing Crimea and reeling economically from the effects of falling oil prices, Russia is looking to reinvigorate its partnership with New Delhi. In an interview with India’s Hindustan Times, Putin notes that “we expect to secure ourselves the role of a reliable energy supplier to Asian markets,” suggesting that he’ll be arriving in New Delhi with one objective superseding others. 

Putin’s trip to New Delhi also comes at a time when the Indian government has grown considerably closer to the United States. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the United States in September 2014, concluding a series of economic and security agreements. Additionally, India has invited U.S. President Barack Obama to New Delhi as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in late January. There is growing anxiety in Moscow that Russia could lose out in the long term to the United States in terms of its defense relationship with India. The United States surpassed Russia as India’s top arms supplier over the past year. Though Russia generally supplied around 75 percent of New Delhi’s defense needs, it is slowly being overtaken by other suppliers including the United States. The shift has led Russia to also approach Pakistan; it recently closed a deal to sell Mi-35 helicopters to Islamabad, upsetting Indian observers. 

The energy angle could prove to work in Putin’s favor. India remains starved for energy and the current government has prioritized both the expansion and diversification of energy suppliers. For Russia, long-term commitments are absolutely necessary. Facing increasing geopolitical isolation and economic uncertainty, Russia is interested in long-term deals in a similar vein to the $400 billion natural gas deal with Chinaconcluded earlier this year. 

While India has generally been closer to Russia than the United States, with a bilateral partnership dating back to the latter years of the Cold War, India’s shift from a Congress-led coalition government fixated on non-alignment and distancing itself from the West to a more pragmatic government under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has somewhat cost Russia diplomatically. Ahead of his trip to India, Putin referred to India as a “reliable and time tested partner.” 

Why does the US always back Pakistan?

December 10, 2014

Among the things that don’t change in this town no matter how high the price is American policy towards Pakistan. There is always a reason to swallow the lies, close your eyes and carry on in the highest bureaucratic tradition of ignoring the past and in the American case, even the present, and continue the pretense.

It’s easier than devising new policies to force behavioural change. So you get not a peep out of the US government against a known terrorist flamboyantly addressing a massive rally protected by Pakistani police to which his followers came in trains specially arranged trains by the government.

What is this if not state sponsorship of terrorism and “mainstreaming” of it?

Both the White House and the State Department failed to condemn Hafiz Saeed’s twoday carnival of extremists at the Minar-e-Pakistan, where Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once stood to profess friendship and give confidence to the ruling elite that India accepts Pakistan’s existence.

That the symbol of the Pakistani nation became the site of a congregation of jihadis speaks volumes on where the country has travelled. And it became the stage for a call for Ghazwa-e-Hind or the final conquest of India by Muslim armies. Incidentally, this concept of a so-called final battle of India is a largely Pakistani creation promoted by a couple of former generals. It has the thinnest of connections to any edict from the Quran, according to those who know their Book.

This concert of militants from a group banned by the US government should have jolted a soul or two into wakefulness in the Washington establishment. American diplomats, who never miss a chance to call out Vladimir Putin for stomping around his neighbourhood or Iran for its nuclear ambitions, somehow go numb on Pakistan. And this is a country complicit in killing US soldiers ‘and’ pocketing billions of dollars in US aid.

Pakistan eighth most dangerous country in the world: Report

WASHINGTON: Pakistan is placed eighth in the list of the most dangerous countries in the world which is led by Iraq, according to a US-based intelligence think tank. 

Afghanistan, the only other South Asian country in the list, is placed fourth in the Country Threat Index (CTI) compiled yesterday by IntelCenter, a Washington-based company working for intelligence agencies. 

The rankings were prepared after examining the volume of terror .. 

Read more at:

American Spy Blimp Now Flies Over the Former Home of Taliban Leader Mullah Omar in Kandahar

Declan Walsh
December 10, 2014

Made Rich by U.S. Presence, Many in Kandahar Now Face an Uncertain Future

A Pakistani laborer on the roof of a villa in the Aino Mino gated community, home to many of the newly prosperous residents of Kandahar, Afghanistan. CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Floating over the tightly clustered homes and streets buzzing with rickshaws is the most visible symbol of the fading Western legacy in this onetime fortress of Taliban rule: a giant white balloon, bristling with photo lenses and listening equipment. The surveillance blimp is tethered to the former home of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, which for the past 13 years has been a base for the C.I.A. and the Afghan paramilitary forces.

Officials say there are no immediate plans to close that complex, the last Western military base inside the city limits. And so, what remains of the Western presence is marked by this all-seeing eye, watching over Afghanistan’s second city as it jolts into an uncertain post-American future.

For years, Kandahar has been a testing ground for Western counterinsurgency ideas. The first American troops arrived in late 2001, seizing control of a city where Mullah Omar had once, in a dramatic flourish, wrapped himself in a sacred cloak and declared himself the “leader of the faithful.”

The Aino Mina area of Kandahar. For now, a fragile peace is holding, with heavily armed police on virtually every corner. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

The Prospects for an Afghan Peace Settlement Are Not Very Good, Despite Pakistani Government Promises

U.S., Pakistan increase cooperation in faint hope of Afghan peace
December 10, 2014

Recent battlefield successes point to renewed willingness by the United States to work with Pakistan on curbing Islamist militancy, but a promise Islamabad made in return – to bring insurgents to the negotiating table – looks a distant prospect.

Closer ties between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States are key to defeating the Taliban and al-Qaeda holed up on the Afghan-Pakistan border, especially as most foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the month.

The three nations are still suspicious of each other, but in the past week, cooperation brought some success.

A former top Pakistani Taliban commander, arrested by U.S. forces inAfghanistan last year, was repatriated to Pakistan. Two al-Qaeda leaders were reportedly killed in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Taliban, meanwhile, said the United States had stepped up attacks on their hideouts in Afghanistan with missile-firing drones, disrupting their attacks in Pakistan.

Afghanistan and Pakistan accuse each other of harboring insurgents and using them as proxy forces. The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban are allied but separate - both are trying to overthrow their government and establish an Islamic state.

In a change of tone following a visit to the United States last month by Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan now says it will drag the Afghan Taliban into talks if the United States helps defeat the Pakistani Taliban, said a Pakistani official privy to discussions with Washington.

"For now, the U.S. is acting on the Pakistani promise that if the Pakistan army’s enemies are eliminated, Pakistan will help reconcile the Afghan Taliban," he told Reuters.

"The spike in attacks against al Qaeda does mean closer U.S.-Pakistan tactics. But it’s tactical moves, not a deeper strategic shift … Overall trust is still low."

Sinophilia and Sinophobia in Afghanistan

By Tamim Asey
December 10, 2014

To win over Afghans, China will need to see their country as more than just a security buffer. 

Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani recently made his first foreign trip to China. During his visit, Ghani signed several economic and security agreements with the Chinese government and held discussions with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Kiqiang, and other Chinese officials. China pledged to provide Afghanistan with $327 million in foreign aid by 2017.

China is already assisting the Afghan border police and has provided an estimated $400 million to the Afghan government over the past decade and a half. How good a partner for Afghanistan is China?

History shows that Afghans have a tendency to either reject foreign interest and occupation completely, or become over-excited at the prospect of foreign economic and military assistance. But as quickly as expectations rise, they soon collide with Afghanistan’s geopolitical and economic complexities. The subsequent disappointment only encourages resistance to foreign occupation and even legitimate interests in the country. In recent decades, Afghans thought that first the Russians and then the Americans would bring peace and prosperity, but those hopes were soon dashed.

As for China and its place within the Afghan political and public landscape – there are two views. The Afghan political and business elite tend to be Sinophiles, whereas the Afghan public are much more cautious and even Sinophobic. Among the Afghan elites, government officials, business community, and the Afghan oligarchs there is growing hope that China could be an alternative to the United States, even though the political, economic and military commitment that Beijing has made over the past decade or so has been questionable, and pales in comparison to the economic aid and military support provided by the U.S. and its allies.

In contrast, the Afghan public look on the Chinese commitment to Afghanistan with skepticism and indifference, a reflection of the enormous cultural, religious and even political differences. The crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province has not helped in this regard.

Geopolitics and Economics

China has yet to prove itself a reliable economic and political partner for Afghanistan. China’s growing interest in Afghanistan is often viewed not in an economic context, but from a geopolitical and security standpoint. But Chinese tolerance of non-Uighur terrorist groups and networks on Pakistani soil raises many questions.

With increasingly frequent attacks in Xinjiang province and several cross-border infiltrations, China has dispatched several high-level military and security officials to Afghanistan to discuss border security. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai revealed in a recent interview with a local TV channel that Afghanistan has made fundamental contributions to the security of China. He did not elaborate, but this does suggest growing security cooperation between the two countries.

Did Waterboarding Make the CIA’s Search for Osama bin Laden More Difficult?

Yochi Dreazen
December 10, 2014

The CIA has insisted for years that Osama bin Laden was tracked and ultimately killed based on information gleaned from the spy agency’s brutal interrogations of al Qaeda operatives detained at black sites around the world. The Senate’s torture report is now bluntly asserting that the CIA lied. The information that led to bin Laden’s death, the report concludes, was obtained from militants long before they were first tortured by the CIA.

The 500-page executive summary of the five-year, $40 million Senate investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program asserts that the spy agency exaggerated its effectiveness, misled the Bush administration and Capitol Hill about the specifics of what was done to detainees by American agents, andused interrogation methods — including placing a whirling power drill close to the body of a detainee — that were far more brutal than has previously been known.

A footnote buried deep in the report, meanwhile, suggests that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s public case for the invasion of Iraq drew on false information that a detainee told his interrogators to end his brutalization at their hands. The report says that a Libyan national named Ibn Shaykh al-Libi was detained in an unnamed country and tortured by its intelligence operatives. While in their custody, Libi reported that “Iraq was supporting al-Qa’ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons,” according to the report. Some of that information made it into the infamous — and entirely incorrect — speech that Powell made at the U.N. to justify the Iraq War. The report says that Libi “recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody … claiming that he had been tortured … and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear.”

Still, the report’s section on the CIA’s public claims about the bin Laden raid is among its most explosive because it directly undercuts the agency’s explanations for how it carried out one of the biggest intelligence coups in its history.

The spy agency has said for years that it found bin Laden by carefully tracking the movements of a trusted bin Laden courier named Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti.

Afghanistan Facing a Difficult Transition

Bottom Line Up Front:

• Taliban militants have stepped up their attacks in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, in an effort to undermine confidence in the new government of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer of the government Abdullah Abdullah

• Ghani and Abdullah are engaging in a show of unity at today’s London Conference of donor countries for Afghanistan, but the unified front masks deep differences that have delayed the naming of a new cabinet

• The recent upsurge in violence in Afghanistan has prompted the Obama Administration to extend the combat role for U.S. troops beyond 2014, and to maintain substantial airpower in the country

• The extended combat authority for U.S. troops provides U.S. and NATO commanders with additional tools to help the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) prevent major Taliban gains as international troops thin out substantially this month.

The multinational, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will transition at the end of this month primarily to a training and advisory role for ANSF, known as the Resolute Support Mission (RSM). Accompanying that transition is a substantial drawdown of international forces in Afghanistan. The largest force in Afghanistan, that of the United States, will decrease from a peak of 100,000 in 2011, to 9,800 as of January 1, 2015. Of those, about 2,000 will be counter-terrorism forces that will continue to combat al-Qaeda and other high value targets that are in Kunar, Nangarhar, and Konduz Province. U.S. forces will also target the Haqqani Network that is active in the eastern provinces as well as in Kabul city, often attacking India’s diplomatic facilities there. The U.S. contingent in the RSM will be joined by about 3,000 partner forces from 13 NATO and other partner countries—primarily Germany, Italy, and Turkey—almost exclusively in a training and advisory capacity.

Taliban and/or Haqqani Network militants have focused on puncturing the security “bubble” in Kabul since President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Office Abdullah Abdullah took office in late September. Insurgents have conducted brazen attacks on Kabul police headquarters, guesthouses for foreign aid workers, and the convoy of prominent women’s activist Shukria Barekzai, among other targets. Attacks on heavily-protected Kabul are not new, but the concentration of attacks there in recent weeks appears to represent an insurgent strategy of directly undermining confidence in the new leadership team. The attacks have largely succeeded in shattering the sense of security in the capital and caused Kabul Police Chief Mohammad Zahir to submit his resignation on November 30, although Ghani turned down the resignation.

A deteriorating Afghanistan needs a revised timetable on U.S. troops

By Editorial Board 
December 10,2014

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel addresses on December 7, 2014 US troops at the Gamberi forward operating base in the eastern Afghan Laghman province. Hagel said on December 6 during a visit to Kabul that an additional 1,000 US troops would remain in Afghanistan next year to meet a temporary shortfall in NATO forces. US President Barack Obama approved the move despite an earlier plan to limit the US force to a maximum of 9,800 troops in 2015. (Mark Wilson/AFP/Getty Images)

NOT MUCH attention was paid in Washington to the formal end Monday of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan. The 13-year-old war is something most Americans, led by their president, are eager to put behind them. That’s unfortunate, because far from fading away, the fighting in Afghanistan is intensifying — and so is the threat it poses to everything that the U.S.-led coalition accomplished. 

Over several months, attacks by the Taliban have steadily escalated,including in the once-relatively secure capital. International aid groups arepulling their staff out of Kabul after a wave of bombings and assaults on foreigners’ compounds, while many educated and affluent Afghans who returned from exile to invest in the country are leaving again. The new government under President Ashraf Ghani promises an improvement on the corruption-plagued and ineffective administration of Hamid Karzai, but it is struggling to overcome its internal divisions and appoint a cabinet. 

The Afghan army built by the United States and its allies at huge expense is under enormous stress. More than 5,000 soldiers and police have been killed this year — more than the total number of U.S. and allied deathssince 2001. Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, who departed the country after overseeing the final year of combat operations, told the New York Timesthat the Afghan casualties, as well as a high desertion rate, are not sustainable. His assessment of the ability of government forces to hold off the Taliban was cautious: “I don’t know if I’m pessimistic or optimistic,” he said. 

The deteriorating situation can only be exacerbated by the rigid timetable imposed by President Obama for ending combat missions and withdrawing the remaining U.S. troops. NATO forces have fallen from 130,000 in 2013 to 12,000, including 10,800 Americans. Mr. Obama has ordered that the U.S. force be cut to 5,500 by the end of 2015 and reduced to a few hundredby the time his administration ends a year later. It’s a political timetable that suits the president’s legacy aspirations but bears no relation to the military situation. 

Not surprisingly, Mr. Ghani is said to be lobbying senior U.S. officials to slow the further drawdown of forces and retain a larger number of forces in 2016. The Wall Street Journal reported that, while the new president hasn’t made a formal request, he may do so when he visits Washington early next year. Mr. Obama has shown a bit of flexibility. The number of U.S. troops was temporarily increased by 1,000 this month to compensate for the slowness of allies in committing forces, and rules of engagement for 2015 were tailored to allow some combat missions against Taliban or al-Qaeda targets as well as air support for Afghan forces. 

Mr. Obama, however, should go further. The instability in Afghanistan, and probably the Taliban’s heightened aggression, is being driven by uncertainty about whether the United States and its allies will continue to stand behind the government and army and prevent their defeat. The president should make clear that he will not allow the state built since 2001 to crumble — even if that means adjusting his timetable. 

China Launches Trio of Ocean Surveillance Satellites Into Orbit

Stephen Clark
December 11, 2014

Trio of ocean surveillance satellites launched by China

A Long March 4C rocket lifts off from the Jiuquan satellite launching center at 1933 GMT (2:33 p.m. EST) on Wednesday. Credit: Xinhua

A package of small satellites that will likely track global naval activity lifted off aboard a Chinese Long March 4C rocket on Wednesday.

Chinese authorities made no announcement of the launch ahead of time except for warnings issued to pilots to steer clear of the rocket’s flight path.

Liftoff of the three-stage, liquid-fueled Long March 4C launcher occurred at 1933 GMT (2:33 p.m. EST) Wednesday from the Jiuquan space base in northwest China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The launcher took off at 3:33 a.m. Beijing time Thursday.

China’s official Xinhua news agency described the Yaogan 25 payload as a single satellite, which state media reported was released into the planned orbit by the Long March 4C rocket.

Tracking data from the U.S. Air Force’s Space Surveillance Network recorded multiple satellites from Wednesday’s launch in an orbit nearly 1,100 kilometers, or about 680 miles, above Earth at an inclination of 63.4 degrees.

The use of the Long March 4C rocket, the Jiuquan launch site, and the detection of multiple spacecraft in orbit follows a pattern established on four previous launches in March 2010, November 2012, September 2013, and August 2014.

After each of the earlier launches, three satellites flew together in orbit in a triplet formation. Satellites operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office flying in similar orbits are believed to monitor worldwide naval activity.

Activities of Chinese Spyplanes in the Western Pacific

Mike Yeo and Martin Streetly 
December 10, 2014 

Chinese special mission aircraft cross Okinawa into West Pacific 

A PLA Navy Y-8J flew through the Okinawa island chain on 6 December. Source: Japan Air Self-Defense Force 

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is conducting an air-and-sea exercise into Pacific waters during the early part of December, with ships and aircraft transiting through international waters south of Japan’s Okinawa. 

A Chinese GX-8 SIGINT aircraft photographed over the East China Sea by Japanese aircraft on 6 December 2014. (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) 

Japan’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement that on 4 December Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ships and Lockheed P-3C Orions had escorted a PLAN flotilla of five ships through the Miyako Strait. 

The PLAN flotilla comprised Type 052 Luhu-class destroyer Harbin (112), Type 051C Luzhou-class destroyer Shijiazhuang (116) and the Type 054A Jiangkai II-class frigates Yantai (538) and Yancheng (546). These were supported by the Type 903 Fuchi-class replenishment ship Taihu (889). All ships are assigned to the PLAN’s North Sea Fleet based at Qingdao. 

Beijing Is Winning the Battle But Losing the War in Hong Kong

By Ling A. Shiao
December 10, 2014

The protesters may be exhausted, but China’s problems with Hong Kong most definitely remain. 
After two long moAnths, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters are exhausted and divided. Their attempt last week to escalate the movement by encircling the government headquarters was foiled by police batons, pepper spray and arrests. Subsequently, the radical student leader Joshua Wong went on a hunger strike (since ended) while the co-founders of the Occupy Central Movement, which initiated the mass protests, renewed their call for the students to retreat. This internal division highlights the fact that the students have run out of viable options. Beijing may soon happily claim a hard-won victory.

Yet in reality, Beijing is losing Hong Kong.

While Beijing promises “one country, two systems,” it struggles to integrate Hong Kong economically with mainland China and to bring Hong Kongers into the fold of a common Chinese identity. The ultimate goal is to unite China and Hong Kong into one country. To this end, Beijing has given the city’s investors and businesses preferential access to the Chinese market. It promotes people-to-people exchanges by lifting tourist restrictions for mainland Chinese to travel to Hong Kong. It has also tried to introduce “patriotic education” into the curriculum of Hong Kong’s schools.

Beijing has been quite successful in bringing Hong Kong closer to China economically. Last year, a staggering 40 million mainland visitors contributed a third of the city’s total retail revenue. Today, roughly half of the city’s commerce is with China. Its goal of winning the loyalty of the people there, however, has become increasingly out of reach. Hong Kong residents complain about rising commodity and housing prices caused by a tsunami of mainland visitors and investors. Young people are increasingly fearful of losing out to mainland Chinese as they compete for top level university slots and employment opportunities. In 2012, massive resistance foiled the Central Government’s “patriotic education” plan.

The city’s bubbling resentment towards China is reflected in the polls. The percentage of Hong Kongers who identify themselves as primarily Chinese is steadily declining and was only 31 percent in the most recent poll. Even more significant, the number of young people between the ages of 18-29 who claim an exclusively Chinese identity has dropped from 20-30 percent a decade ago to a mere 4-8 percent today. Unlike their parents and grandparents, most of whom migrated to Hong Kong from China, the majority of young people were born and raised in the city and therefore have a much stronger desire for a separate local identity. It is these young people who have taken to the streets. Beijing’s uncompromising stand has led to their increasing bitterness and may irrevocably steer them towards completely rejecting China and their Chinese heritage.


Author(s): Sajjan M. Gohel 
December 10, 2014

On October 28, 2013, a new phase of terrorist violence emerged in China. On that day a man drove a jeep packed with explosives and carrying his wife and mother into a crowd in Tiananmen Square, in the country’s capital Beijing. Two civilians were killed in the incident along with the driver and the two other passengers, the latter of whom were all ethnic Uighurs from China’s western province of Xinjiang.[1] Following the attack, Abdullah Mansour, the leader of the Pakistan-based and Uighur-led Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) released a propaganda video praising the plotters and warned of future attacks.[2]

The attack carried enormous symbolic significance as it took place meters from the giant portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong that hangs outside the main entrance to the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing. On the west side of the square stands the Great Hall of the People, where a meeting of the plenary session of the Chinese Communist Party was planned.[3]

Chinese authorities believe that since 1990 there have been “six stages” of terrorism in Xinjiang and that over this time period the TIP’s capabilities, to include its tactics, target selection, geographic reach, and international connections, have evolved and grown, as has the danger it poses in the country.[4] It is the opinion of the author that this Tiananmen Square attack served as the initiation of the “seventh stage” of Uighur-linked terrorism, a stage that will now include attacks outside the traditional area of Xinjiang.

This article explores recent trends in Uighur-linked militancy and terrorism. It specifically assesses the security threats on China’s critical national infrastructure, primarily its railways, that emerged in 2013 and 2014 and how the violence that had previously been contained in Xinjiang has started to spread across the country. The article will also assess the evolution of the TIP and its media, and the role a small number of radicalized Uighurs have played in plotting terror attacks outside China and taking part in global theaters of conflict.

The Uighurs

The term ‘Uighur’ refers to the Turkic, predominantly Muslim people who are concentrated in Xinjiang, which is China’s largest administrative region. Uighurs constitute 45% of the region’s population whereas 40% are Han Chinese.[5]

Under the chairmanship of Mao Zedong, China revived the term ‘Uighur’ as part of a broader initiative to manage ethnic tensions. Under Beijing’s policies, minority ethnicities received special recognition and limited discretion in governing specifically designated autonomous areas. This was intended to encourage them to support the Chinese state in the future.[6]

For the Uighurs, however, China’s minority policy ironically created a sense of shared identity in a historically divided people. Xinjiang has rarely constituted a unified political entity but instead has been a collection of rural oases separated by mountains, clan conflicts, and clashes between farmers and nomadic herders.[7]

Kashgar – A Front Line for Conflict

Will Islamic State wring its hands like us over torture? Not likely

John Kass CHICAGO TRIBUNEjskass​@chicagotribune.com 
John_KassSo what do 2-time losers end up doing, let they become 3-time losers? Great story @jmetr22b How you doin' Marc Z?http://t.co/71uzm6i8fb

American Peter Kassig, shown making a food delivery to refugees in Lebanon in 2013, was recently executed by the Islamic State militant group. (Kassig family photo) 

Kass: U.S. torture report elicits guilt, but the Islamic State isn't squeamish about such things. 

The Islamic State doesn't appear ready to follow our lead, so don't expect it to release its report on the morality of severing American heads any time soon.

Though they call themselves a state, they're actually a mob of terrorists in Iraq and Syria. And when they're not severing the heads of Westerners and Syrian soldiers and putting the hideous acts on video, they're raping women or shooting Christians and others and pushing them into ditches.

But apparently they don't feel guilt, not the way American politicians feel it in Washington. Or at least the Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence feel guilty enough to have released a report condemning the CIA for torturing suspects in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans.

I'm certainly not advocating torture. It's cruel, it's brutalizing — not only to the victims, obviously, but it also brutalizes the culture that supports such acts. But it might be useful to realize that while we might feel queasy about what we did, the Islamic State is immune from hand-wringing after they cut American throats.

The recent murder of Peter Kassig, an American, was particularly brutal. Kidnapped, held hostage for months, he converted to Islam. Later, his head was cut from his body in an act broadcast last month on video. President Barack Obama called it an act of "pure evil."

I don't know how many of you have watched those videos. I haven't. I've seen one, years ago, the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and that was enough. A friend who'd spent time in the special forces told me it was important to watch it, in order to fully comprehend the cruelty of al-Qaida. He was right. There are ways to talk about such things and maintain distance. But seeing it is another matter. There is nothing abstract about the knife and the throat.

Seeking Europe's Future in the Ancient Hanseatic League

A bargain, forged in the fires of 2012's economic emergency, has defined the European Union for the past two years. It was an agreement made between two sides that can be defined in several terms - the center and the periphery, the north and the south, the producers and the consumers - but essentially one side, led by Germany, provided finance, while the other, fronted by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece, promised change. In order to gauge this arrangement's chances of ultimately succeeding, it is important to understand what Germany was hoping to achieve with its conditional financing. The answer to that question lies in Germany's own history.

Last week, the Governing Council of the European Central Bank's monthly meeting left financial markets feeling frustrated. Instead of announcing the beginning of a highly anticipated bond-buying program known as quantitative easing, the European Central Bank, or ECB, only slightly changed the vocabulary it used to describe its plans: "We expect" became "we intend." Pulses did not race with excitement.

In fact, the most interesting news of the day was that seven of the 22 members of the council apparently voted against the change in vocabulary. Those opposed included four governors of national central banks and three of the EU executive board's six members, who, in theory, are responsible for shaping ECB policy. This ongoing debate over finances is deeply important to Europe's future because it touches on a key question at the heart of the European project: Is Germany willing to underwrite the whole venture? Germany gave a partial answer to this question in 2012 when it financed the EU rescues of several member states, but the conditions it attached have since created more problems.

The trouble began with 2008's economic crash and peaked four years later with a sovereign bond crisis. Germany reacted by creating various mechanisms and funds to bail out stricken countries, including Outright Monetary Transactions to safeguard sovereign bond prices. In return, the bailed-out nations had to enact painful changes to increase their competitiveness - at a lifestyle cost to their citizens. The rest of the union had to commit to financial reform by signing the European Fiscal Compact. With these conditions, Berlin hoped to bring the rest of Europe through a process Germany had already undergone.

The Makings of an Economic Miracle

After the Second World War, Germany found itself occupied and split in two. It was positioned in the middle of a continent that feared it, and its economy had been wrecked by 30 years of war and turmoil. Militarism had failed repeatedly and spectacularly. Germany needed a new ethos, so it returned to its roots.

Before the German unification of 1871 set the new nation on a course to its own demise, the great behemoth known as the Holy Roman Empire had stretched across Central Europe for over a thousand years, from 800 to 1806. It was a patchwork of states varying in size. Some were ruled by princes while some were independent cities, but all owed ultimate allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor, whose real power over his vassals was paltry in comparison to that of the French kings or Russian tsars at his flanks. The Holy Roman Empire was a network of Germanic peoples, where no unit was powerful enough to militarily dominate its neighbors or to truly unify the region into a single state. The result was a competitive market where each princedom, duchy and city's survival was largely based on its own efficiency and resources, along with those of any peers with which alliances were formed. Local resources were leveraged, and skilled craftspeople trained through lengthy apprenticeships, forming guilds that created products recognized for their excellence across the Continent.

At Least 300 Pro-Moscow Chechen Troops Fighting With Ukrainian Rebels, Report

December 11, 2014

Chechens loyal to Russia fight alongside east Ukraine rebels

1 of 8. One of the pro-Russian separatist leaders from the Chechen ‘Death’ battalion, identified as his nickname ‘Stinger’, speaks during a training exercise in the territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, December 8, 2014.

(Reuters) - Chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), dozens of armed men in camouflage uniforms from Russia’s republic of Chechnya train in snow in a camp in the rebel-held east Ukraine.

India and Russia: Putin Visit to Boost Ties


The India-Russia Strategic partnership was formed in the year 2000. Russia was the first country with whom India established a strategic partnership and in the year 2010 during the 11th Summit, India and Russia elevated their relationship to a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” status, indicating a mutual desire to emphasize the exceptional closeness of ties. In today’s complicated and fast changing geopolitical situation, both countries have wisely diversified their foreign policy options, yet have been careful not to abandon a mutually beneficial partnership of trust built up over decades between them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forthcoming visit to India on 11th December, 2014, will be an extremely significant event as far as India-Russia relationship is concerned. This will be the first visit of President Putin to New Delhi after formation of the new government in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The bilateral summit between India and Russia takes place every year alternatively in Moscow and in New Delhi. The forthcoming summit will be the 15th annual bilateral summit between the two countries. During the Summit, there will be full-fledged discussion on various issues and concerns related to India-Russia bilateral relationship. The leaders of the two countries are expected to discuss and sign a number of important bilateral agreements, review the entire range of India-Russia bilateral ties and also lay down a broad agenda to be followed for the coming year for strengthening the strategic partnership.

Historical Connections

The deep roots of India-Russia relationship go back to the early 20th century when India was under British rule and the Czars ruled Russia. The Russian Revolution of 1905 inspired Indian freedom fighters. Russia's communist leader V.I. Lenin followed with interest and sympathy the nascent Indian freedom struggle. Following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet leaders understood that their revolution stood better chance of success and encouraged India to become free and independent. Many Indian freedom fighters who were greatly inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution established personal contacts with the Soviet leaders; it was India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who laid the foundation of the policy of closeness towards the Soviet Union. After visiting Soviet Union in 1927, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Nehru came back deeply impressed with the Soviet experiment. He was emphatic that India must develop close and friendly relationship with the Soviet Union. It is noteworthy that even before India became independent, an official announcement was made on 13th April 1947, pertaining to the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and the Soviet Union.

They’re Back: A New Generation of Russian Spies Deluge Europe

Elisabeth Braw
December 10, 2014

Russian Spies Return to Europe in ‘New Cold War’

Caught Red Handed: Two men were arrested by polish authorities on suspicion of spying for the Russian government in October. Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Earlier this month, experts convened in Brussels for a conference titled ‘The Second Cold War: Heating Up?’ Even among the plethora of current ‘New Cold War’ themed events, this one stood out: the organiser, Latvian MEP Tatjana Zdanoka, has been accused of being a Russian agent of influence – a spy.

Zdanoka, who is also chair of the EU Russian-­Speakers Alliance insist there is no truth to the allegations, adding that the accusation was part of a ‘dirty tricks’ operation against her at home by domestic opponents – a tactic familiar from the Cold War days to those who remember them. In any event, the criminal investigation against her has been closed, Latvia’s DP intelligence service says. Yet the allegations point to the new – or revived – espionage game that is now playing out in Europe. Intelligence agencies everywhere are upping their games, with Western agencies putting particular efforts into data collection – “snooping”.

The West’s efforts, though, pale into insignificance compared to those of Russia. Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution reports growing instances of Russian espionage, and a spokesman for Sweden’s Säpo intelligence agency says that Russia has increased its intelligence agencies’ activities in Sweden since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. A senior European intelligence official estimates that intelligence agency employees now account for one third of Russia’s diplomats.

Of course, after the Cold War, espionage never completely ceased. Last month, Heidrun Anschlag, a Russian spy who had arrived in Germany with her husband in 1988, was released from prison after serving a year’s sentence. The two had spied on Germany for more than 20 years, until they were caught two years ago.

Japan needs a real debate about the falling yen

DEC 10, 2014

Nearly two decades after America rolled out its strong-dollar mantra, Japan seems to have adopted the opposite chant. Finance Minister Taro Aso reminded reporters Tuesday about the yen’s vital role in boosting job and wage growth: In the opaque world of currency predictions, that counts as a pretty clear sign that he expects the currency to drop even further than its current rate of 120 to the dollar, down 16 percent since mid-year.

How low might the yen go? Opposition lawmaker Takeshi Fujimaki, a former banker, may be off-base when he warns the currency could eventually hit 200 per dollar. But with growth faltering and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe doing far more talking than restructuring, Japan is depending on a weaker exchange rate to boost export earnings. A rate nearer to 150 is hardly out of the question.

There’s a view in Tokyo — and a certain tolerance in Washington for it — that if a weaker yen helps Japan whip deflation, then the end justifies the means.

But this reasoning suffers from two big flaws. First, while the yen’s plunge has filled the coffers of large exporters and boosted tourism receipts, overall it’s doing more harm than good by making imports much more expensive. Windfall corporate profits are lifting the onus off Japan Inc. to innovate and Abe to deregulate the economy.

The second problem involves the economic and geopolitical fallout of the yen’s swoon. Just as the Federal Reserve needs to think carefully about how raising U.S. interest rates will affect developing nations, Japan must consider the damage caused by a continuing free fall. It’s no coincidence that China’s yuan plunged the most in six years Tuesday, spurring fears of a new currency war in Asia.

“The Bank of Japan’s effort to weaken the yen is a beggar-thy-neighbor approach that is inducing policy reactions throughout Asia and around the world,” Nouriel Roubini warned in a recent op-ed. “Central banks in China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand, fearful of losing competitiveness relative to Japan, are easing their own monetary policies, or will soon ease more.”

Exchange-rate battles are largely a zero-sum game. For one currency to drop, another must rise — just as when one government’s trade balance brightens, another’s darkens. In 1997, a round of competitive devaluations rocked the region. This time around, a regional currency war could encourage Europe to follow suit, complicating America’s recovery as the dollar soars.

U.S. senators will have a hard time demanding that China stick to a stronger yuan while giving ally Japan a free pass. President Barack Obama is sure to hear complaints from key U.S. allies as well. Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju Yeol has already warned, “We will not stand pat” as Japan devalues. If China follows suit, countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam that are competing at the lower end of the manufacturing spectrum will face a rough 2015.

For such an advanced economy, Japan takes an almost developing-nation view of exchange rates. Remember that Washington’s strong-dollar policy, the brainchild of then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, began in 1995 just as deflation was wrapping its tentacles around Japan. Nearly 20 years on, Japan still favors the quick-and-easy fix afforded by a falling currency. Its competitiveness has only suffered.

Bank of America sees $50 oil as Opec dies

09 Dec 2014

"Our biggest worry is the end of the liquidity cycle. The Fed is done. The reach for yield that we have seen since 2009 is going into reverse”, said Bank of America.

The Opec oil cartel no longer exists in any meaningful sense and crude prices will slump to $50 a barrel over the coming months as market forces shake out the weakest producers, Bank of America has warned.

Revolutionary changes sweeping the world’s energy industry will drive down the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG), creating a “multi-year” glut and a much cheaper source of gas for Europe.

Francisco Blanch, the bank’s commodity chief, said Opec is “effectively dissolved” after it failed to stabilize prices at its last meeting. “The consequences are profound and long-lasting,“ he said.

The free market will now set the global cost of oil, leading to a new era of wild price swings and disorderly trading that benefits only the Mid-East petro-states with deepest pockets such as Saudi Arabia. If so, the weaker peripheral members such as Venezuela and Nigeria are being thrown to the wolves.

The bank said in its year-end report that at least 15pc of US shale producers are losing money at current prices, and more than half will be under water if US crude falls below $55. The high-cost producers in the Permian basin will be the first to “feel the pain” and may soon have to cut back on production.

The claims pit Bank of America against its arch-rival Citigroup, which insists that the US shale industry is far more resilent than widely supposed, with marginal costs for existing rigs nearer $40, and much of its output hedged on the futures markets.

Bank of America said the current slump will choke off shale projects in Argentina and Mexico, and will force retrenchment in Canadian oil sands and some of Russia’s remote fields. The major oil companies will have to cut back on projects with a break-even cost below $80 for Brent crude.

It will take six months or so to whittle away the 1m barrels a day of excess oil on the market – with US crude falling to $50 - given that supply and demand are both “inelastic” in the short-run. That will create the beginnings of the next shortage. “We expect a pretty sharp rebound to the high $80s or even $90 in the second half of next year,” said Sabine Schels, the bank’s energy expert.

Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war

By Andrew J. Bacevich 
DECEMBER 09, 2014

Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke with reporters as she walked to the Senate floor. The California Democrat is the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

THE JUST-RELEASED Senate report on CIA interrogation practices since 9/11contains nothing that would have surprised the journalist and critic Randolph Bourne. Back in 1918, in an essay left unfinished at the time of his death later that year, Bourne had warned that “war is the health of the state.”

And so it is. War thrusts power into the hands of those who covet it. Only the perpetuation of war, whether under the guise of “keeping us safe” or “spreading freedom,” can satisfy the appetite of those for whom the exercise of power is its own reward. Only war will perpetuate their prerogatives and shield them from accountability.

What prompted Bourne’s pungent observation was US intervention into the disastrous European war that began a century ago this summer. In 1917, Congress had acceded to President Woodrow Wilson’s request to enter that stalemated conflict, Wilson promising a world made safe for democracy and vowing to end war itself.

Bourne foresaw something quite different. War turned things upside down, he believed. It loosened the bonds of moral and legal restraint. It gave sanction to the otherwise impermissible. By opting for war, Bourne predicted, the United States would “adopt all the most obnoxious and coercive techniques of the enemy,” rivaling “in intimidation and ferocity of punishment the worst government systems of the age.”

Grand Strategy Is Bunk

Theories of global power just excuse U.S. hubris.
Since the 1990s, the teaching and advocacy of “grand strategy” has become something of a cottage industry. Degree programs and courses are on offer at Duke, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the City University of New York, Temple University, Columbia University, Bard College, MIT, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The country’s leading grand-strategy program, Yale University’s, is supported by a $17.5 million endowment and has received generous backing from the legendary financier Roger M. Hertog.

Yale’s program is apparently so well-heeled that in recent years it has been able to recruit such luminaries as retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Henry Kissinger, andNew York Times columnist David Brooks to hold forth on the wisdom and rightness of America’s foreign-policy master plans.

In his unimaginatively titled 2010 book, Grand Strategies, Yale’s Charles Hill, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State George Shultz, sought to subordinate the Western literary canon to the service of an interpretive history of interstate politics. The phenomenon of intellectuals who deploy higher (artistic) means to serve base (political) ends is not a new one. As the Soviet dissident Andrei Sinyavsky noted, “Soviet literature of the twenties and thirties reveals an odd and unusual friendship between writers and Chekists.”

That aside, grand strategy has a pedigree that reaches as far back as the fin de siècle—around the time, not coincidentally, that America emerged as a world power in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. That year, while visiting his friend John Hay—soon to be secretary of state—Henry Adams recalled in his characteristic third-person prose: “listening to any member of the British Cabinet, for all were alike now, discuss the Philippines as a question of balance of power in the East he could see that the family work of a hundred and fifty years fell at once into the grand perspective of true empire-building.”

Was this the first insider account of the nascent art of Anglo-American grand strategizing? Perhaps. But Henry Adams was too wise to give it overmuch thought. The grand-strategy enthusiast in the family was his younger brother, Brooks. In 1900, Brooks Adams released his book America’s Economic Supremacy in eager anticipation of the time—soon, in his telling—when the British would be obliged to pass the torch of world leadership to their former colonial subjects. According to Brooks, in bumptious Teddy Roosevelt-like prose very much the opposite of his older brother’s, “America must fight her own battles whether she wills or no. From the inexorable decree of destiny she cannot escape. … All signs point to the approaching supremacy of the United States.”