31 January 2015

Nuclear deal no cause for celebration

Suvrat Raju, M. V. Ramana
January 31, 2015

APOVERSIGHT: “Although the design defects in reactor GE Mark I was first noted about 40 years ago, the nuclear industry resisted regulatory changes that could have ameliorated the Fukushima disaster.” Picture shows tanks containing radioactive water in Okuma, Fukushima, where the disaster occurred.

Any understanding between Narendra Modi and Barack Obama on circumventing the Indian nuclear liability law to protect American reactor suppliers should be a matter of concern

At their recent meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama discussed methods of circumventing the Indian nuclear liability law to protect American reactor suppliers from the consequences of accidents caused by design defects. Although public details are scarce, if they have indeed reached an understanding on the issue, then this is not a cause for celebration; it should be a matter of deep concern.

The importance of supplier liability is illustrated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. When the reactors were hit by the tsunami that year, the weakness of the General Electric (GE) Mark I design was cruelly exposed. The reactors’ inadequate containment was unable to prevent the spread of radioactivity when the cooling systems failed and pressure built up inside the reactors. Although this design defect was first noted about 40 years ago, just as the Fukushima reactors were commissioned, the industry resisted regulatory changes that could have ameliorated the disaster.Framework of impunity

India successfully test-fires intercontinental missile Agni-5

Jan 31 2015 

India on Saturday successfully test-fired its indigenously developed, intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile ‘Agni-5', which has a strike range of over 5,000 km and can carry a nuclear warhead of over one tonne, from Wheeler's Island off Odisha coast.

The three-stage, solid-propellant "missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher from the launch complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at about 8.06 hours," ITR Director M V K V Prasad said.

Prasad told PTI that the canister version of Agni-5 missile was successfully test launched on Saturday.
"The missile, witnessed a flawless 'auto launch' and detailed results will be known after all data retrieved from different radars and network systems."

An eye-witness said, "The sleek missile, just within a few seconds of its blast-off from the Island launchpad roared majestically into a clear sunny sky leaving behind in its trajectory a trail of thin orange and white column of smoke and within seconds it pierced the sky".

The launch was the third developmental trial of the long-range missile. The first test was conducted on 19 April, 2012 and the second test on 15 September, 2013 from the same base.

The indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile Agni-5 is capable of striking a range more than 5,000 km. It is about 17 meters long, 2 metres wide and has a launch weight of around 50 tonnes. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne.

Climate change deniers

January 31, 2015 

The passage of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, the first priority of the new U.S. Senate controlled by Republicans, hit a roadblock on January 27 when the Senate managed to muster just 53 votes in its favour, seven shy of the 60-vote threshold to limit debate. The nearly 1,900-km-long proposed pipeline, which will transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s (Canada) vast oil sands to Nebraska, is a highly controversial project. Unlike conventional crude, mining and turning tar sands into oil is highly carbon-intensive and hence has far worse consequences for global warming. It is for this reason that President Barack Obama had threatened to veto the bill. But the bill produced some interesting results before it reached the stage when the Senate voted on it. For the first time, the Republicans’ slowly but surely shifting position on climate change became evident. When the first measure — climate change is real and not a hoax — offered as an amendment to the legislation that will pave the way for the Keystone XL pipeline project was put to vote on January 21, except for one Republican the entire Senate agreed that climate change is for real. Interestingly, Republican Jim Inhofe, the veteran climate change denier in the Senate, was one of those who voted for the amendment. For him, the hoax was that “some people think… they can change climate”.

Though a majority of the Senators also agreed that humans are singularly responsible for climate change, two crucial amendments that pointed a finger at humans failed to cross the 60-vote threshold. While an amendment affirming that humans contributed to climate change was just one short of 60, the third amendment, that “human activity ‘significantly’ contributes to climate change”, got only 50 votes; just five Republicans voted for it. Apparently, the emphasis on human contribution turned out to be the sticking point. The Senate has till date refused to widely agree that man-made climate change is real. Despite a body of evidence unequivocally proving that human activity has been the causal factor for climate change, the deniers are in no mood to change their stand. So long as policymakers fail to acknowledge the havoc created by human activity, there is little possibility that anything substantial will be done to address it. The consequences will be terrible and irreversible if ideology continues to stand up to science. With reckless emission of greenhouse gases continuing, the Earth is already on “track to warm by 3.6° Celsius”, as the International Energy Agency estimated last year. This is way beyond the goal of limiting the increase in global average surface temperature to 2°C above the pre-industrial level.

Nuclear ironies and the perils of populism

Jan 31, 2015

It would have been ideal if the Opposition and public had been taken into greater confidence over the ‘insurance pool’ solution crafted by the government. The government must develop a consensus on such public-sensitive issues.

US President Barack Obama’s visit to India may be over, but controversies swirl ranging from the cost of the pinstripe button-up suit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to what exactly has been the solution found to the civil nuclear cooperation conundrum over India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010, which US suppliers found excessively onerous. During his and Mr Obama’s joint press conference after delegation-level talks at Hyderabad House, Mr Modi cryptically said that a solution has been found consistent with “our law, our international obligations and tactical and commercial viability”.

In a press conference that foreign secretary Sujatha Singh (since then ejected from office) had, details were shared grudgingly by a panoply of aides on her two flanks. Considering that the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Opposition had led the charge to tighten liability, particularly by extending constructive blame to the suppliers, the reticence can only be read as embarrassment at executing what Mr Modi termed as “tactical” manoeuvre. It needs to be recalled that Arun Jaitley, the current finance minister and brains-trust of the BJP, in a signed article in Outlook magazine, as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had argued for the “principle of strict liability”, adding that the suppliers were in any case subject to the Law of Torts. He also explained logically that while the government could assume liability for damages to be paid by a public sector company, were the same done for private operators, “the compensation would be paid by the Indian taxpayers”.

The rise of religious rage

January 31, 2015

A self-flagellating but double-edged anti-blasphemy rage has Pakistan in its grip once again. Frontally, it is aimed at the West, but in actual fact it is the clerics’ reaction to the Pakistan army’s recent anti-Taliban drive.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, a weak expiatory regret in the Islamic world has been superseded by familiar paroxysms over blasphemy by the magazine. France was becoming isolated over the application of its “universalist” doctrine on immigrant communities in the face of “multiculturalist” abstention by its neighbours from reprinting the offending cartoons, when the Muslim world jolted the West into its old groove of fear.

The big cities in Pakistan are being subjected to expressions of extreme latent violence. In Lahore, lawyers shouted “death to blasphemers” and cursed the government for not taking action against France. Semi-literate lawyers recommend going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), if the “impotent” Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) won’t listen. No one recalled what happened last time we went to the court against India. The ICJ is a remnant of the League of Nations, and its “optional clause” scuttles its jurisdiction.

Obama’s Visit: A Paradigm Shift in Strategic Partnership

30 Jan , 2015

President Obama and the First Lady came to India this week on a state visit from 25 to 27 Jan 2015. This visit underscored the importance of the fact that the USA and India are true global partners in an effort of strengthening economies and strong democracies. This shared global vision made this US President to be a first to have visited India twice while in office.

Today it is in the common interest of India and the US to ensure a stable balance of power in Asia…
In essence the visit was well summarised when Prime Minister Modi said, “This is a natural global partnership. It has become even more relevant in the digital age. It is needed even more in our world for far-reaching changes and widespread turmoil. The success of this partnership is important for our progress and for advancing peace, stability and prosperity around the world.”

Going back to the days when USA’s 7th Fleet came threateningly close in Bay of Bengal during the 1971 war between India and Pakistan in support of the later. Towards providing perspective and defining strategic partnership between the two countries, Jan 2015 Obama’s visit should not be seen any less than a miracle.

Five major take away from this visit that defines the future of our strategic partnership are as follows:

Pomp and Circumstance: The Challenge and Complexity of Engaging India

Sven-Eric Fikenscher
January 30, 2015

Pundits, scholars and even decision makers following President Obama’s visit to India might have gotten the impression that the president’s trip was a little short on substance. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, had invited Barack Obama to attend the colorful Republic Day Parade, which celebrates the adoption of India’s constitution. Prior to attending the parade, which was enough of a show in itself, President Obama also paid a visit to the shrine that holds Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes. A stop-over at the Taj Mahal, India’s renowned monument, was cancelled because the president wanted to attend King Abdullah’s funeral. In light of this schedule, one inevitably has to wonder whether symbolism was valued over substance.

It would, however, be a mistake to belittle the gathering as just another attempt of two statesmen to do photo ops. Yes, it is true that Obama and Modi were eager to prove to the world that they have formed a bond, and the countless political gestures were taking up a lot of their time. It is also true that there are a lot of substantive issues on the plates of both leaders, such as trade and climate change, that warrant urgent attention.

In India’s political culture, symbolism and substance are, however, intertwined to a much greater extent than most observers assume. Political gestures that indicate India’s importance and the international recognition thereof influence the perceptions, priorities and decisions of New Delhi’s policy makers. Sky-high status ambitions have been a constant element of India’s foreign policy. The country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, even claimed a superpower status akin to the roles of the United States and the Soviet Union before India became independent. Atal Bihari Vajpayee––Mr. Modi’s pre-predecessor and a fellow member of the Hindu-nationalist BJP––promised “to regain India’s lost pride” by building up a nuclear deterrent. New Delhi’s self-image poses a real challenge to India’s negotiating partners, since statements, actions and decisions that seem to undermine India’s status ambitions are easily seen as offensive.

United States and India Embark on an Epochal Strategic Journey: Analysis

By Dr Subhash Kapila

US President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed to have put United States and India on an epochal strategic journey going by both the symbolism and their substantive declarations this January 26 2015 weekend.

United States and India presently have relatively young, bold and visionary leaders who have expansive visions on the future course of United States-India relations. They have spelt out their respective visions and the strategic, political and economic blueprint that they have in mind and India would now expectantly await the unfolding of their joint vision of the US-India strategic trajectory.

Sitting through a number of TV panel discussions this week-end the point repeatedly emphasised by me and that was not picked up by both the Indian print and electronic media was the more realistic connotation given by President Obama to describe US-India relations. Unlike Prime Minister Vajpayee who termed US-India relations during former President Clinton’s visit as one of “natural allies”, President Obama throughout his recently concluded India-visit described US-India relations as a “natural partners”

In my opinion the terms “allies” connotes a military alliance relationship in which is implicit also that there could be a hierarchical order and high strategic expectations. On the other hand “Natural Partners” somehow connotes a more equal relationship of shared endeavours and without overly high strategic expectations.

Strategic, military, political and economic aspects of the envisioned US-India relationship stood substantially covered by both the leaders in their pronouncements as well as the official statements.

Veterans and Social Change

29 Jan , 2015

We, the veterans take pride in the fact that we belong to the noblest profession in the world – the profession of arms that ensures security of our country. ‘Once a soldier always a soldier’ is an old adage. Shedding of uniform does not severe our umbilical links with the military. We continue to act as ambassadors of the services.

When in service, we are admired for our dedication to the cause of national security. Similarly, after retirement we should earn respect of the countrymen by contributing to the betterment of the society. People should look up to the veterans as the conscience-keeper of the values that our nation cherishes.

Two areas in which we can contribute effectively are ‘eye donation’ and ‘body donation’. We can kick-start a social revolution and bring about a change in the thinking of our countrymen.

Most social scientists consider the military to be a major modernizing force. Soldiers possess necessary education, experience and maturity to be an agent of social change. They do not get carried away by rhetoric; they are doers and achievers.

Unfortunately, veterans in India have come to be associated with OROP, ECHS and canteen facilities. It is time we step out of our self-interest issues and prove ourselves to be worthy of the nation’s admiration that we yearn for.


January 29, 2015

Earlier this week, President Obama attended India’s Republic Day celebrations as the chief guest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This was the first time that an American president visited India twice while in office, and President Obama was the first American president to attend India’s Republic Day in this honored capacity. These facts alone speak to the importance both governments place on building the bilateral relationship.

India probably merits more attention and flexibility from U.S. officials, at least in the defense space, than most countries not in crisis. Keeping India high on the priority list, which entails devoting precious time and resources to nurturing the relationship, is no easy feat. It is nevertheless critical, since Washington views India as a possible net security provider in South Asia and the wider Indian Ocean Region, a potential balance against China, an attractive market for defense products, and a natural partner given that it is the world’s largest democracy.

The visit itself was an important deliverable, and the optics were important. Prime Minister Modi’s readiness to reiterate his stern language on the South China Sea was clearly music to U.S. officials’ ears. Personal relationships matter in geopolitics, and that is especially true with Modi, who by most accounts keeps his own counsel on many issues and consults a small coterie of advisors. His declaration that the two countries would hold more regular summits was a positive sign, as was the agreement on establishing two hotlines: one between the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office, and a second between the two countries’ National Security Advisors. In addition to creating a mechanism to increase the ease and frequency of communications, this action suggests the two leaders are building credibility with one another. That’s a good thing in general, and could be critical for de-escalating a crisis in South Asia, such as another major terrorist attack against India like the one that occurred in Mumbai in 2008.

US President’s Visit to India and Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorist Policy Initiatives

By Harjit Hansi
January 30, 2015

Abstract: President Obama, having placed Pakistan on a subtle warning, against terror attacks, further snubbed it by not raising the Kashmir issue during his visit to India. Pakistan may toe the US line for a while lest its multi-billion dollar aid from the US is threatened, but its commitment to fighting terror is suspect.

President Barack Obama became the first US president to visit India twice. Besides being the chief guest at Republic Day Parade, Mr Obama's three-day visit was aimed at elevating and strengthening the ties between the world's two largest democracies. It was heralded by several billion dollar deals, defence contracts and breakthrough in civil nuclear agreement.

President Obama using his executive powers resolved the seven year-old impasse on the civil nuclear deal, ensuring its successful operationlisation. Besides, number of defence deals including identification of key “pathfinder projects” for joint development and production were signed. Slew of initiatives that included $ 4 billion in loans, $2 billion in financing for renewable energy projects and additional $1 billion for project financing were approved. 

During the complete course of the visit including farewell speech by Mr Obama at Siri Fort Auditorium, the mention of US’s long term ally Pakistan or its much propagated agenda of ‘Kashmir’ was conspicuous by its absence. On the contrary, Pakistan was placed under watch with a subtle warning by the US of dire ‘consequences’, if any terrorist attack was traced to it during President Obama’s visit to India. Pakistan historically had always hiked terrorist activities in India whenever a US leader was visiting New Delhi, apparently to highlight / internationalise the Kashmir issue. The snub by the US and fizzling hype of Kashmir may prove a bit sobering for Pakistan and hard to swallow.

We No Longer Know What is Happening With the War in Afghanistan

Franz-Stefan Gady
January 30, 2015

Today, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its 26th Quarterly Report to Congress (I wrote about a previous SIGAR report here). The most striking revelation is that after six years of being publicly reported, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) data is now classified. This decision leaves the government watchdog SIGAR unable to publicly report on most of the $65 billion U.S.-taxpayer-funded efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF. This includes Afghan troop numbers, salaries, training, equipment (including planes and helicopters), and infrastructure projects. Henceforth, this data will be in a classified appendix only available to officials with top-secret security clearances.

The report notes that over 140 SIGAR questions received classified or otherwise restricted responses. Here are some of the sample questions:

Please provide a broad definition of the terms “unavailable” and “present for duty” of ANSF.

How has the $25 million authorized by Congress for women in the Afghan army been used?

Please provide the total amount of funding that the United States has expended on Afghan National Police salaries for the current year.

U.S. Suddenly Goes Quiet on Effort to Bolster Afghan Forces

JAN. 29, 2015 

WASHINGTON — The United States has spent about $65 billion to build Afghanistan’s army and police forces, and until this month the American-led coalition regularly shared details on how the money was being put to use and on the Afghan forces’ progress.

But as of this month, ask a question as seemingly straightforward as the number of Afghan soldiers and police officers in uniform, and the military coalition offers a singularly unrevealing answer: The information is now considered classified.

The American outlay for weapons and gear for Afghan forces? Classified. The cost of teaching Afghan soldiers to read and write? Even that is now a secret.

The military command’s explanation for making the change is that such information could endanger American and Afghan lives, even though the data had been released every quarter over the past six years, and Afghan officials do not consider the information secret.

But as the Obama administration is seeking to declare the long war in Afghanistan officially over, at least from an American standpoint, the move to classify data about the Afghan forces removes one of the most crucial measures for assessing the accomplishments of the international coalition there. And it raises stark questions about the state of the fight against the Taliban, coming after a year in which the Afghan forces took record-high casualties as they battled heavy militant offensives.

Punjab: Nucleus of Terror

Ambreen Agha

On January 16, 2015, at least three Shia Muslims were shot dead in Rawalpindi District while they were returning home from a religious gathering. The victims were identified as lawyer Fayyaz Hussain Shah (40), and his two nephews Mir Ghazi Shah (20) and Mir Hamza Shah (22). The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 'spokesperson' Muhammad Khorasani claimed responsibility for the attack saying that lawyer Fayyaz Hussain Shah was active in his Shia community and was also a local leader of the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

On January 9, 2015, at least eight people were killed and another 25 were wounded in a bomb blast targeting the Aun Muhammad Rizvi Imambargah (Shia place of commemoration) located at Chittian Hattian in Rawalpindi District. Ehsanullah Ehsan, 'spokesperson' for TTP's Jama'at-ul-Ahrar (JuA) faction, claimed responsibility for the attack and vowed “to continue such attacks".

In the first 26-days of 2015, the Punjab Province has recorded 13 terrorism-related fatalities. 

Significantly, reversing the declining trend in such fatalities since 2010, overall fatalities in 2014 increased by a whopping 122.22 per cent, as compared to the preceding year. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (STAP), Punjab recorded a total of 180 fatalities, including 132 civilians, 20 Security Force (SF) personnel and 28 terrorists in 2014, as against 81 such fatalities, including 64 civilians, seven SF personnel and 10 terrorists in 2013.

Jordan Holds Key to Fate of Japanese Hostage

By Shannon Tiezzi
January 30, 2015

As The Diplomat reported previously, Islamic State appears to have murdered one of two Japanese hostages after initially demanding $200 million in ransom for the men’s lives. IS then changed its demands, and said it would spare the remaining hostage, Kenji Goto, in exchange for Sajida al-Rishawi, a female prisoner being held on death row in Jordan for her involvement in deadly terrorist attacks in 2005.

The new demand placed Japan in an awkward position. Japanese citizens (including Goto’s mother and wife) are urging Tokyo to do more to ensure Goto is returned home safely, particularly after another hostage, Haruna Yukawa, was apparently murdered by IS. “I beg the Jordanian and Japanese government(s) to understand that the fates of both men are in their hands,” Goto’s wife, Rinko, said in a statement. Yet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government must ultimately defer to Jordan for its decision on how to proceed.

Complicating matters, IS has also threatened the life of a Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who was involved in anti-IS coalition military operations when his plane crashed over Syria. Jordan has indicated it is willing to exchange al-Rishawi for al-Kasasbeh, but demands proof that the pilot is still alive. Statements from Jordan have made no mention of Goto, however.

According to a new audio recording, said to feature Goto’s voice, IS threatened to kill al-Kasasbeh if al-Rishawi was not released by sundown on Thursday. The recording did not explicitly say if either or both men would be released in exchange for al-Rishawi; the Jordanian government accused IS of harboring “bad intentions” and “using the pilot in sideline negotiations.” The New York Times reported that negotiations between Jordan and IS “appeared to have collapsed.” With the Thursday deadline past, the fate of both hostages was still unclear as of this writing.

3 Goals of China's Military Diplomacy

By Shannon Tiezzi
January 30, 2015

On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping (who is also the chairman of China’s Central Military Commission) said that China will place a greater emphasis on military diplomacy as a part of its overall foreign policy strategy. Xi made the comments at a meeting of military attaches and other military officials in charge of diplomatic work. Officers in attendance included Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission; Xu Qiliang, another vice chairman as well as the head of China’s air force; Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan; Chief of PLA General Staff Fang Fenghui; and Wu Shengli, China’s naval chief.

Xi exhorted the military officers in attendance to “start a new phase of military diplomacy.” Xi noted that the CCP has always viewed military diplomacy as an important tool for advancing China’s overall diplomatic goals, safeguarding national security, and promoting the construction of China’s military. Today, military diplomacy is even more prominent in China’s national diplomacy and security strategy, Xi said.

China’s emphasis on military diplomacy was evidenced last year, as China stepped up military exchanges, visits, and joint drills. A spokesman from the Defense Ministry recapped China’s 2014 military diplomacy in the finalpress conference of the year. According to the spokesman, Yang Yujun, China participated in 31 bilateral or multilateral joint exercises. Notably, Yang said, the focus of the exercises “expanded from non-traditional security to traditional security.” Exercises in 2014 were “more real combat oriented” than in the past, Yang added.

China's Worst Nightmare? Japan May Sell India Six Stealth Submarines

January 29, 2015 

For years China has excelled at antagonizing Japan. Now Tokyo may have the chance to extract some revenge.

According to Indian news outlets, the Narendra Modi government has approached Japan about building it six stealth submarines.

“New Delhi has forwarded ‘a proposal’ to Tokyo to ‘consider the possibility’ of making its latest diesel-electric Soryu-class submarines in India,” Times of Indiareported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

New Delhi’s Project-75-India to acquire six advanced diesel-electric submarines will be worth more than Rs 50,000 crore ($8 billion), and likely much more. France’s DCNS, Germany’s HDW, Russia’s Rosoboronexport and Spain’s Navantia are all expected to compete for the contract. Since the submarines will be built in India, foreign companies that wish to compete for the contract are expected to form a joint venture with an Indian shipyard.

India’s proposal comes at a time when New Delhi and Tokyo have been steadily strengthening ties under the leadership of Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Modi and Abe, both nationalistic leaders seeking to expand their respective countries’ regional profiles, are seen as enjoying a close relationship, which could help Tokyo’s chances in the competition. That being said, France, Germany and Russia have all built submarines for India in the past, TOI noted.

VPNs: The China-US Proxy War

January 29, 2015

For as long as China’s “Great Firewall” has existed, people have been using virtual private networks (VPNs) to “scale the wall” — to avoid Chinese web censorship that blocks certain websites (from Twitter and Facebook to the New York Times). The use of VPNs was an open secret, apparently tolerated (if grudgingly) by Beijing. Certain posh hotels in expat centers like Beijing and Shanghai even offered VPN internet services to their guests.

Something has shifted, and Beijing is now cracking down on the use of VPNs within China. As Reuters reports, three major VPN providers (Astrill, StrongVPN and Golden Frog) have said their services are being disrupted in an attack described as “more sophisticated” than previous ones.

Percy Alpha of GreatFire.org tied the VPN crackdown to a recent push for government control over Chinese cyberspace. “Gmail has never been completely blocked until the end of last year. Google has never been completely blocked until June last year. Large scale MITM [man-in-the-middle] attacks has never been used on so many services (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Apple) until October last year… Top commercial VPNs have never been blocked until Jan this year,” Alpha told Business Insider in an email.

China: Embracing Africa, But Not Africans

By Paul R. Burgman Jr.
January 29, 2015

From January 10-17, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a five-nation African tour to promote friendly relations between Africa and China, and to continue a Chinese government tradition of making the African continent the first overseas visit of the new year. While in Kenya, Wang defended China’s role in Africa, asserting, “We will not take the old path of Western colonists, and we absolutely will not sacrifice Africa’s ecological and long-term interests.” Wang’s statement alluding to the idea of a “neo-colonial China” in Africa is evidence that Beijing is becoming increasingly aware of Africans who question China’s role on the continent, and whether Chinese investments actually benefit local populations.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the Chinese government has made better country to country relations with various African countries a top economic and political priority. In 2013, China’s trade with the African continent topped an estimated $166 billion and in a 2014 speech at the World Economic Forum in Nigeria, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang discussed his dream of one day connecting Africa’s major cities by Chinese built high-speed railways “with no strings attached.” Analysts and academics have showered consistent praise on Beijing’s improved relations with the African continent, while the Obama Administration’s 2014 U.S./Africa Leader’s Summit was widely seen as a reaction to the inroads that Beijing had been making on the African continent.

AFRICOM Commander Wants Full Counterinsurgency Plan for Boko Haram

Kevin Baron and Molly O'Toole
January 27, 2015

The top commander of U.S. troops in Africa said he would like the U.S. military to do more to fight the terrorist group Boko Haram, but that it’s up to Nigerian and U.S. policy officials to decide how much they’re willing to change the trajectory of that group’s violent stronghold on the region.

U.S. Africa Command’s Gen. David Rodriguez, who previously served as the No. 2-ranking commander of the Afghanistan war, said he believes to turn the tide against Boko Haram would require a full-scale counterinsurgency plan across four countries.

The group now controls a vast territory of northeast Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Two weeks ago, Boko Haram fighters killed roughly 2,000 people in one attack in the region. The episode drew delayed Western media attention and relatively muted responses from Western leaders. Critics at the time complained that Washington and allied leaders paid disproportionate attention to the terrorist attack in Paris against the satirical periodical Charlie Hebdo, which occurred the same week.

Video shows Hezbollah Brigades convoy transporting American M1 tank

January 28, 2015

American-made M1 Abrams shown flying the Hezbollah Brigades' flag while being transported by the group.

A video uploaded to YouTube appears to show a large Hezbollah Brigades convoy transporting weapons, troops, and armored vehicles to the front to fight the Islamic State.

Several American-made military vehicles, including an M1 Abrams tank, M113 armored personnel carriers, Humvees, and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP), as well as Iranian-made Safir 4x4s and technicals (armed pickup trucks) are in the convoy.

The Hezbollah Brigades is US-designated foreign terrorist organization that has been involved in killing American soldiers in Iraq.

At one point in the video, a transport truck is shown carrying an M1 Abrams tank. The Hezbollah Brigades' flag is flying over the tank and other US-made vehicles. The M1, which is the main battle tank of the US Army, has been sold to and utilized by the Iraqi Army.

The screen shot above marks the first evidence of Iranian-backed militias having M1 tanks at their disposal. It is unclear if the Hezbollah Brigades seized the M1 from an Iraqi Army unit that dissolved in the face of the Islamic State's onslaught, or if the Iraqi military gave the militia the tank. Several Iraqi M1s have been photographed after being destroyed by the Islamic State.

ISIS To Obama: 'We Will Cut Off Your Head In The White House'

JAN 29, 2015

ISIS militants have threatened to behead Obama in the White House in a video released on Jan. 26.

The video shows ISIS militants standing in the streets of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, following an artillery barrage on the city by Kurdish Peshmerga forces. In front of the militants is seated a Kurdish soldier who is executed at the end of the video.

Prior to the Kurdish soldiers execution, the ISIS executioner delivered a message in Kurdish which was subtitled into Arabic in the video.

"Know, oh Obama, that we will reach America. Know also that we will cut off your head in the White House and transform America into a Muslim province," the militant says according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

The militant then continues his threat against other Western nations, saying "And this is my message to France and its sister, Belgium. We advise you that we will come to you with car bombs and explosive charges and we will cut off your heads."

Does Globalization Cause War?

Scott Malcomson

The argument that globalization does not necessarily lead to peace is a pretty easy one to make, the usual example being that German-British trade was going brilliantly right up to World War I. Arguing that globalization leads to war is an altogether different enterprise. In his new book, When Globalization Fails: The End of Pax Americana, James Macdonald comes daringly close to showing that globalization, as a system of interdependence among major states, is an inherently unstable system that breeds insecurity among great powers. The interdependence feeds the insecurity.

"Interdependence feeds the insecurity."

Macdonald squeezes a lot into a book of some 250 pages. He traces, from the 1820s to the present, the pendulum swings between open economies at one end and closed, protected ones at the other. Because mainstream economics today -- with its central tenet of the pursuit of comparative advantage by economic actors such as states -- favors free trade, and because the benefits of free trade over the past 25 years seem so obvious, we see relatively little discussion of the benefits of autarky or of protectionism. Macdonald corrects this. He is by no means against trade or globalization, nor is he arguing for protection. He approaches the topic as a historian, with a dispassion that probably served him well over a long career as an investment banker. (He is the author also of A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy, from 2006, which despite its title is about empowerment.) He's simply trying to see the world as it is and to describe it with clarity.

Ukraine Exposed: Kiev's Authoritarianism

January 30, 2015

From the very start of the Ukraine crisis, Washington’s neoconservative lobby has sought to downplay the less appealing aspects of the government that came to power in Kiev in February. In May, a conventicle of Western intellectuals took place in Kiev under the auspices of the New Republic. They attended a five-day conference called “Ukraine: Thinking Together.” There Leon Wieseltier, then literary editor of TNR, channeled his inner Miniver Cheevy to state that one motive for convening the conference was his “somewhat facile but nonetheless sincere regret at having been born too late to participate in the struggle of Western intellectuals...against the Stalinist assault on democracy in Europe.” 

One of the conference’s co-organizers, Yale historian Timothy Snyder, declaredthat “Ukraine is the European present. We have now reached a point where Ukrainian history and European history are very much the same thing, for good or for evil.” 

But examples of the new authoritarianism gripping Kiev have become tougher to miss in recent months, so much so that there are signs that perhaps even the Washington establishment is begin to feel some discomfiture at the actions of its new Ukrainian clients. In September, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported that the Ukrainian Defense Ministry was creating a “Special Service” to, among other things, “get rid of the Russian 5th column in the Ukrainian armed forces.” The Ukrainian defense minister, Valeriy Heletry, said the new service would be based on the Stalin-era SMERSH; it would “expose and dispose of enemy agents.” By some estimates, SMERSH, the Russian-language acronym for “Special Methods of Detecting Spies” sent upwards of 600,000 former Soviet POWs to the Gulag after the war. 

The Pressing Need to Define U.S. Arctic Interests

David N. Biette, Anita Parlow
January 30, 2015

President Obama’s weekend proposal for new wilderness protections in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, his proposed limits on offshore leasing and new production in the National Petroleum Reserve, along with his recent Executive Order, “Enhancing Coordination of National Efforts in the Arctic,” suggests that the White House has begun to move quickly on developing and trying to coordinate its Arctic policy.

The Arctic is not empty, and its environment, ecosystems, and peoples are facing abrupt changes. Warming waters and retreating sea ice are forcing adaptation to a “new normal,” a “normal” that is likely to see considerable growth of commercial activity in the long term. Technological advances will enable us to operate safely, sustainably, and accountably in what has been, and will remain, a rugged, remote, and fragile region. Such commerce will require informed, competent, and coordinated policy to deal with current and increasing human activity in a harsh yet delicate environment.

Recent events do suggest that we may not be quite Arctic ready.

In early December, a South Korean fishing trawler sank in the frigid watersof the Bering Sea, 15 miles inside Russian waters. U.S., South Korean, and Russian coast guard aircraft and rescue ships managed to come from extreme distances on a futile search for 52 missing crew members.

RIP Air-Sea Battle?

January 29, 2015

Last week, the defense media broke the news that the Pentagon’s “Air-Sea Battle” concept is being renamed and absorbed into a broader multiservice effort to develop a “Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons” or JAM-GC. Individual news reports have used a variety of verbs to describe what is happening to Air Sea Battle, but the headline of the first article was also the most blunt. “DoD Kills Air-Sea Battle,” it said—and I fear it might be right. Maybe it is just a name change, but I am concerned that incorporating “the concept formerly known as Air-Sea Battle” into the highly bureaucratic joint concept development process could stifle innovation and dilute the concept’s focus.

If Air-Sea Battle has indeed been killed, it would seem appropriate to mark its passing by reflecting on the life and death of ASB: what it accomplished, what remains to be done, and what we should learn from its fate. Such a eulogy may well be premature. I hope it is, and that the concept’s development will continue and benefit, like Tom Sawyer, from the discussion and debate resulting from the news of its demise. With that objective in mind, I offer my personal thoughts on the concept below.

It is difficult to eulogize Air-Sea Battle because if there is one thing that most observers can agree upon regarding Air-Sea Battle, it is that “the concept” has always been poorly understood. But one thing that most versions of ASB have had in common is an explicit focus on overcoming anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) challenges, and an implicit focus on the pacing threat posed by China’s rapid development of extensive A2/AD capabilities. In my view, Air-Sea Battle’s first and most significant accomplishment was in calling attention to these A2/AD challenges and, in particular, the increasingly dire need to offset the remarkable growth in China’s military power and stabilize the deteriorating military balance in Asia.

How GCHQ Intercepts and Processes Data Intercepted Pqassing Through Communications Satellites

Peter Koop
January 29, 2015

Most of the Snowden-revelations are about spying on the internet, but NSA and GCHQ are also conducting the more traditional collection of telephone communications that go through satellite links.

What needs to be done before phone calls can be collected, can be learned from two highly detailed technical reports from the GCHQ listening station near Bude in the UK.

These reports were published on August 31 last year by the German magazineDer Spiegel and the website The Intercept as part of a story about how Turkey is both a partner and a target for US intelligence.

Here we will analyse what’s in these reports, which give an interesting impression of the techniques used to transmit telephone communications over satellite links.

Officially, such technical reports are called “informal reports”, as opposed to the “serialized reports” that contain finished intelligence information for end users outside the SIGINT community.

Use of Drones by Criminals and Terrorists on the Rise

Jack Nicas
January 29, 2015

Police in Tijuana, Mexico, last week discovered a DJI drone that apparently crashed while attempting to carry a load of drugs to the U.S. Photo: Secretaria de Seguridad Pública Municipal de Tijuana/Associated Press

Drones are becoming a tool for criminals and terrorists, worrying authorities who say the small unmanned aircraft are difficult to detect and stop, a concern heightened this week by the accidental crash of a drone at the White House.

Law-enforcement officials have discovered criminals smuggling drugs and other contraband across the U.S. border and into prisons using the types of consumer drones increasingly popular with entrepreneurs and hobbyists. And authorities in the U.S., Germany, Spain and Egypt have foiled at least six potential terrorist attacks with drones since 2011.

U.S. authorities are worried that the problem is growing and that drones could be modified to mount attacks with explosives or chemical weapons, according to a presentation this month by federal intelligence and security officials to their counterparts in law enforcement and people who oversee critical infrastructure. Several attendees disclosed details of the summit to The Wall Street Journal, which also reviewed images of slides from the presentation.

US ups stakes in cyberwarfare

Daniel Stuckey
January 29, 2015 

America combats digital enemies offensively and defensively as military builds virtual readiness 

In the wake of the network intrusion that embarrassed Sony and put corporations across the nation on alert, it’s clearer than ever that the U.S. is embroiled, willingly or not, in cyberwar.

But aside from having imposed economic sanctions on North Korea, Washington has not declared any further official response to the Sony Pictures hack.

While President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address this month proposed an update to cybersecurity laws to strengthen protections, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has been building and training one of the most formidable state-sanctioned hacking groups in the world: its Cyber Command. Since 2009 the Pentagon has been role-playing what cyberattacks against U.S. systems could look like and how to respond.

“We train units using realistic scenarios, including force-on-force exercises against a simulated adversary on a closed, virtual exercise network,” said DOD spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson.

She said Cyber Command is “working to improve the quality and capacity of individual and unit training as we build out the 133 teams [with more than 6,000 people] of the Cyber Mission Force over the next two years.” The commander is Michael S. Rogers, who is also the director of the National Security Agency.

Located in Fort Meade, Maryland, Cyber Command is the hub for military cyberwar, synchronizing operations and resources with other agencies. According to Henderson, the command is “complementary to the authorities and capabilities of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community.”

But the president and the DOD face questions from lawmakers who want to know how the U.S. will launch cyberoffensives and what actions by hackers or other nations would provoke those offensives.

Computer Security Experts Thinked They Can Prove REGIN Spyware System Originated at NSA

Der Spiegel 
January 28, 2015 

A comparison of malware codes: Regin is on the left; QWERTY, published by SPIEGEL, is on the right. 

Earlier this month, SPIEGEL International published an article based on the trove of documents made available by whistleblower Edward Snowden describing theincreasingly complex digital weapons being developed by intelligence services in the US and elsewhere. Concurrently, several documents were published as well as the source code of a sample malware program called QWERTY found in the Snowden archive.

For most readers, that source code was little more than 11 pages of impenetrable columns of seemingly random characters. But experts with the Russian IT security company Kaspersky compared the code with malware programs they have on file. What they found were clear similarities with an elaborate cyber-weapon that has been making international headlines since November of last year.