16 February 2015

The scramble to bring internet to more Indians

February 15, 2015

Silicon Valley has many of the world’s most innovative and influential Internet companies. India has millions of people untouched by the Internet but nonetheless potentially accessible. Put the two together, and it is inevitable that Internet giants can’t help but think about India’s untapped population.

That’s precisely what was on show last week – Facebook launching its solution to spread Net access in the land of a billion-plus people and Google joining the race with an outline of its own plan.

The Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook got together with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications to launch in India internet.org, a service that offers subscribers free access to a pre-selected bouquet of Websites. Google’s plan, as outlined during the Nasscom India Leadership Forum toward the fag end of the week, is to use helium balloons to connect people to the Net.

Last year, their rival Microsoft announced a ‘white spaces’ project — a plan to use unused TV spectrum to provide connectivity.

That’s quite a high-profile list of companies trying to get Indians connected to the Internet. And it should gladden those who bemoan India’s relatively poor Internet record. The country’s Internet penetration is less than 20 per cent, whereas the likes of China, Russia and Brazil have got close to half their populations connected to the Net. The comparative percentage for developed countries such as the US, the UK and Japan is over 80 per cent.Why India?

ISIS’s dark theatre

Praveen Swami
February 16, 2015 

First, masked men in combat fatigues use their knives to cut away their victim’s testicles, as he hangs by his feet from the ceiling. Then, one of the executioners peels the skin back from the man’s face and head. His head is sawn off, followed by each of his limbs. As the screams die out, pop music playing in the background breaks through. People stand around laughing as the slaughter proceeds, some taking photographs on their cellphone cameras. The seven-minute video unfolds with languid precision; its maker understood cinema verite.

The world has become familiar, these past three months, with this aesthetic, which has flowered in the Islamic State’s execution videos, culminating with the macabre immolation of the Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh. But the slaughter recorded in the seven-minute video took place in Mexico, half a world away from the IS. It was just one of hundreds of narco-execution videos posted online since 2006 by Mexico’s rival drug cartels, who have plunged the country into a war that has claimed over 1,25,000 lives, and displaced over 2,50,000 people, emptying entire towns and cities.

Islam, imperialism or impenetrable tribal blood lusts: none of these causes explain the dark theatre of public torture, a spectacle that plays out in more conflicts across the world than we care to know, or perhaps even dare imagine. In war after war, pain has been much more than a torturer’s tool. It is, instead, the end in itself.

“I would’ve burnt him with my own hands,” a cheerful little child says in the IS’s documentary on the immolation of al-Kasasbeh, a murder which was played on large screens in the terror group’s de-facto capital, Raqqa. But in many parts of the word, al-Kasasbeh’s gruesome death would have been treated with the familiarity of the everyday. Necklacing — that is, execution carried out by setting alight a rubber tyre filled with petrol around a victim’s chest — was widely used by apartheid collaborators and opponents, often delivered as a sentence by popular courts. It has also been used by protestors and criminals alike in Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire and Haiti.

Growth and growing inequality

Jayshree Sengupta
Feb 16 2015 

India's GDP data has been revised recently and the new figures tell a different story-of robust growth rather than of policy paralysis and industrial decline in 2013-14. According to the revised figures, the Indian economy grew at 6.9 per cent in 2013-14 and not at 4.5 per cent. Strangely, it was on the back of a slow economy that the NDA government came to power! People voted for the revival of the economy which was growing at below 5 per cent. 

In arriving at the new GDP growth figures, the base for calculating GDP figures has been changed to 2011-12 from 2004-2005. But strangely even with a much higher rate of growth, the size of the economy remains more or less the same at $1.8 trillion for 2013-14. Both manufacturing growth and agricultural growth, however, have been estimated higher than previously. But real capital formation grew only at 3 per cent. The manufacturing and mining sectors, according to the new series, grew at 5.3 per cent at 5.4 per cent respectively instead of showing negative growth.

The revised GDP has been calculated on the basis of the gross value of production at market prices of goods and services that includes indirect taxes instead of being calculated by factor costs. Various under-represented sectors have been included like the informal sector.

The manufacturing sector's contribution to the GDP is now 18 per cent for 2013-14 instead of 15 per cent, while real estate, hotels, financial and business services now contribute a smaller share of the GDP at 51 per cent instead of 60 per cent. Agriculture's contribution has also increased to 17 per cent from 14 per cent.

Many people have cast doubts on the revised data showing high growth performance comparable to China's. Even the Chief Economic Adviser, Arvind Subramanian, has been puzzled. Because other indicators do not seem to corroborate the high rate of growth, especially when imports actually declined last year and there was an outflow of capital during this period. Why should imports decline when the economy is doing so well? Company profits also did not reflect the high growth in 2013-14. Moreover, private investment and credit offtake remained slack and there were mounting bad assets with banks. Car sales, a good indicator of industrial growth, also remained lacklustre. More evidence is, therefore, needed to make the new figures more convincing. 

Who’s a terrorist? US confused

V. Balachandran
Feb 16, 2015

There has been no universally acceptable definition of terrorism because of Cold War polemics that blurred the differences between freedom fighters, insurgents, guerrillas and terrorists. But this is more apparent in the US, which has three official definitions on terrorism.

For the first time since the beginning of the Afghan Taliban war in 2001, Kabul officially admitted, in March 2014, that 13,700 of its security personnel were killed. Unofficial sources said that 3,420 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces including 2,315 US military personnel were also killed. United Nations statistics revealed that the Afghan Taliban had executed 15,000 civilians since 2007. Yet, the US government surprised everybody recently by stating that they did not treat the Afghan Taliban as a “terrorist outfit” but only as an “armed insurgent group”.

The White House’s response came in the wake of a report that Amman was considering the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a female-jihadi, in exchange for their pilot Maaz al-Kassabeh, captured by the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq. Later reports indicated that Kassabeh was brutally executed while the swap was being considered. A spokesperson said that the US would not negotiate with terrorist groups like the ISIS. American media said that the US had negotiated with the Afghan Taliban since it was an insurgent group. Some Guantanamo Bay prisoners were released in May 2014 in exchange for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was in Taliban custody since 2009.

This would surprise those who had read the bunch of George Washington University’s declassified documents in the National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No: 358 dated October 16, 2001, (released on September 11, 2011) on the Afghan Taliban threats to the US and its allies. This would be all the more surprising as this organisation is the inspiration for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that had indulged in several brutal killings including that of a 100 schoolchildren in Peshawar in December 2014. The TTP was declared a foreign terrorist organisation in January 2010, whereas the Taliban was not.

Profitability without accountability

M. V. RamanaSuvrat Raju
February 16, 2015 

SELL OUT? “The move to perpetually limit supplier liability to a nominal amount defies basic economic principles, and implies that victims will receive a lower compensation, in real terms, for future accidents.” Picture shows the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. Photo: N. Rajesh

With the Indian government acting in favour of the nuclear industry, contrary to the interests of potential victims of a disaster, the question of liability deserves greater attention

In its efforts to promote nuclear commerce with the United States, the Narendra Modi government has run into a dichotomy that lies at the heart of this industry. While multinational nuclear suppliers, such as G.E. and Westinghouse publicly insist that their products are extraordinarily safe, they are adamant that they will not accept any liability should an accident occur at one of their reactors. The joint announcement by Mr. Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama last month raised concerns that the government would move to effectively indemnify suppliers, contrary to the interests of potential victims. The list of “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) on nuclear liability released by the Ministry of External Affairs on February 8 confirms the suspicion that the Modi government is trying to reinterpret India’s liability law by executive fiat in order to protect nuclear vendors.

The government has disingenuously suggested that it achieved the recent “breakthrough” by establishing an insurance pool to support suppliers. However, to focus on this arrangement is to miss the wood for the trees as even a cursory analysis of the economics of nuclear plants shows.

India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group

By Malik Ayub Sumbal
February 14, 2015

President Barack Obama’s visit to India produced progress on a number of fronts, among which the nuclear deals are probably the most significant. The Modi-Barack bonhomie has generated a new fervour in U.S.-India relations and many are already seeing India as a strategic partner of the U.S. in the latter’s much celebrated, if increasingly sidetracked, Asian rebalance. The clamor over the inclusion of India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which drew immediate criticism from China, was definitely the centrepiece of the president’s India visit.

How to view this? Do Indian ambitions now extend to eventually becoming the third superpower, and if so will that aspiration be derailed by its troubled relations with its neighbours – notably Pakistan – and the desire of its right-wing religious parties to pursue the Hindutva agenda. India is desperate to emerge from its developing country niche and become a member of the elite group that settles international issues – in other words, a country that matters. Perhaps inclusion in the NSG represents a step towards this dream. But it also runs the risk of exacerbating the regional nuclear arms race and straining Washington’s relations with Pakistan, given the latter’s natural inclination to respond to Indian gains in defense capabilities.

The NSG is a 48-nation body established to prevent the civilian nuclear trade from being used for military purposes. The body was formed in reaction to India’s clandestine endeavor to divert nuclear material exported by Canada and the U.S. to building nuclear warheads. The group is formed by the signatories to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Though the NSG has been open to admitting new members, it has been stringent in opening its doors only to those countries that are part of the NPT or Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India has signed neither the NPT nor is it a member of CTBT, something that China was quick to note.


By G. Balachandran
FEBRUARY 14, 2015

Seemingly, the highlight of President Obama’s visit was the announcement that India and the United States had come to an understanding on the two major issues that stood in the way of the successful full implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal. While the first issue related to some of the provisions of the Indian Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA), the second concerned a successful negotiation of the administrative arrangements for the implementation of the India-US 123 nuclear agreement. The issues in respect of CLNDA related to: (i) the conformity of CLNDA with the provisions of the Convention on Supplementary Convention (CSC), signed – but not yet ratified – by India; (ii) Sec. 17(b) of CLNDA, which allowed for Right of Recourse against the supplier; and (iii) Sec. 46, which allowed for legal cases against the operator under Acts other than the CLNDA. The administrative arrangements under discussion were with respect to the accounting and tracking of US-supplied nuclear materials and materials produced with the use of US-supplied equipment.

Neither side initially chose to share any further information on the subject. The Indian Foreign secretary merely stated the following:

“Based on three rounds of discussions in the Contact Group, we have reached an understanding on two outstanding issues namely civil nuclear liability and the administrative arrangements for implementing our 123 agreement. Let me underline, we have reached an understanding. The deal is done. Both these understandings are squarely within our law, our international legal obligations, and our practice. Insofar as liability is concerned, during the Contact Group meetings the Indian side presented our position concerning the compatibility of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which we have signed, and responded to questions from the US Members concerning this position.”

The Darker Side of the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal

By Amitai Etzioni
February 13, 2015

The American media is gushing about improvements to the United States-India relationship in the wake of President Barack Obama’s January visit to India. Among the achievements stemming from the visit is what the media had called a “breakthrough” that paved the way for implementing the two nations’ civilian nuclear cooperation deal. However, examining the reasons why this deal was first struck, its components, and its side effects suggests that it is a cause more for concern than for celebration.

The U.S. long considered India to be the leader of the non-aligned camp and held that it was tilting toward the USSR and, later, toward Russia. India purchased most of its weapons from Russia, and it had a pseudo-socialist economic regime. The U.S. tilted toward Pakistan throughout the Cold War and in the years that followed. However, following the rise of China, the George W. Bush administration decided to lure India into the West’s camp and draw on it to help contain China. Bush therefore offered India civil nuclear technology and access to uranium, the fuel it needed for nuclear power reactors. The Indian government agreed to sign a 123 Agreement (or the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement), but the deal ran into considerable opposition within India. Hence the resulting impasse, which Obama has now helped resolve.

Thoughts from Garmser and Kabul

February 14, 2015

Thoughts from Garmser and Kabul

Interview with Carter Malkasian, the author of “War Comes to Garmser. Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier” (Oxford University Press, 2013). He was the political advisor to General Joseph Dunford, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from March 2013 to August 2014. From August 2009 to July 2011, he was a political officer for the Department of State in Afghanistan, leading a district support team (DST) in Garmser district, Helmand province, Afghanistan.

By Octavian Manea

SWJ: Did COIN work in Afghanistan? What does Garmser tell us about COIN in Afghanistan?

Carter Malkasian: To say that counterinsurgency didn’t work is not a fair assessment. If you look at a variety of places in Iraq and Afghanistan you can see that counterinsurgency tactics—particularly the ones related to the use of military force, patrolling, advising, and small projects—worked in pushing insurgents out of a specific area. From a tactical perspective, counterinsurgency worked.

The argument that counterinsurgency didn’t work has more weight from a strategic perspective. The Afghan surge ended with the government in control of more territory than any time since 2005 and in possession of large and competent security forces. As a result, the government may yet succeed. Nevertheless, the Afghan surge did not end with Afghanistan stabilized or the government ready to stand on its own. On top of that, counterinsurgency was expensive and demanded thousands for troops, facts that will always darken its story in Afghanistan.

These are things that American strategists will have to ponder as they debate the future of counterinsurgency and interventions in war-torn states. In my view, counterinsurgency remains the best tactical method for fighting insurgents—preferably by local people or a host country rather than Americans. Yet in any circumstance fighting insurgents is very likely to be a long process. We should keep that in mind whenever we confront a war amongst the people.

SWJ: You talked about the costs associated with waging a COIN campaign. As the history of counterinsurgency shows, it seems that the governance, the administrative, civilian component, building host nation institutional infrastructure matters. Can this costly state-building component be avoided?

Remembering Dr. Abdus Salam – Pakistan’s Greatest Scientist

By Sonya Rehman
February 14, 2015

“I am delighted to know that a documentary is in the works on the life story of the great Pakistani physicist, Dr. Abdus Salam. Dr. Salam has been and continues to be an inspiration for children who have a passion for learning, discovering and inventing. His great contribution to Physics is, what he called, the ‘shared heritage of mankind’, which we all celebrate. In addition, I have the honor of being a Nobel Laureate from Pakistan after him; the whole country is proud of his contributions. The initiative by Zakir Thaver and Omar Vandal of making a film on him is very timely. His story of brilliance needs to be told and amplified. I am greatly looking forward to watching the documentary soon.”

[Malala Yousafzai’s message of support for the team of the Abdus Salam Docufilm]

Pakistan is a deeply troubled country – ravaged by terrorism, bad policies, inconsistent government, and poor security; where children are shot in school under the banner of a “greater war”; and where religious intolerance has reached its bloodied zenith. Pakistan is a nation on the edge, oscillating wildly between hope and madness, reform and ruin.

Yet the heart of the country remains unscathed, thanks to its people, its bright stars: activists, geniuses, artists, reformers, thinkers – those who carry forth the country’s name with pride, attributing their successes to their homeland, putting Pakistan on the map from sports to science, education to art, and more.

One such star was Dr. Abdus Salam, the world-renowned physicist who took home the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. While Salam was celebrated and honored abroad for his contributions to the field of theoretical physics, in Pakistan he remains forgotten, his achievements disregarded, overlooked. Why? His faith. In the early 1970s, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (then prime minister of Pakistan) passed a law that declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, beginning a new chapter in the persecution of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, which continues to this day in the form of suicide attacks, hate speech, and murder.

Dirty Politics in Pristine Maldives

By Vishal Arora
February 15, 2015

Three powerful public figures in the Maldives say they are victims of a murky political witch-hunt by President Abdulla Yameen, who, ironically, wouldn’t have been in office without their support in the controversial ousting of former President Mohamed Nasheed three years ago.

Gasim Ibrahim, resort tycoon and leader of the Jumhooree Party, alleges that he has received death threats and that his business interests are being hurt. Earlier this month, his party severed ties with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.

Mohamed Nazim, meanwhile, was until last month the defence minister, but he was sacked on charges of “treason” after police raided his home. Authorities claimed he was in possession of a 9mm pistol, bullets, and improvised explosive device. Nazim’s lawyers say he was framed, implying that the firearms were planted by police.

Earlier, in December, Ahmed Faiz Hussain was removed as chief justice of the Supreme Court on the grounds of “incompetence,” although that allegation was never substantiated. “Today will be written down as a black day in the constitutional history of the Maldives. I state this is a black day for the constitution,” he said after his removal.

Until recently, all three were seen as on Yameen’s side in the country’s political divide. That divide is fed by an ideological clash between pro-democracy, moderate Muslims, represented mostly by Nasheed, and those in the camp of former authoritarian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – like his half-brother Yameen – who call forconservative Islam to dominate politics and society.

Three years ago, Gasim was among the three powerful figures who were seen as the main actors in the overthrowing of Nasheed, who became president in 2008 after three decades of rule by Gayoom.

Asian Cities Pay Hidden Price for Global Status

By Kris Hartley
February 15, 2015

With a new year comes a fresh round of global city rankings. How will Asia perform amidst a stubbornly anaemic economic recovery in the West? The usual suspects figure to maintain their standing. In the 2014Global Cities Index, Tokyo (4), Hong Kong (5), Beijing (8), Singapore (9) and Seoul (12) affirmed Asia’s relative economic health. In the Mori Foundation’s Global Power City Index, released in January, Asian cities occupied four of the top nine spots, and performed similarly well in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global City Competitiveness Index. Jakarta and Manila topped A.T. Kearney’s 2014 Emerging Cities Outlook index.

While useful, such indices can also be misleading. The term global city – notwithstanding its definitional ambiguity – is now synonymous with financial capital. This partially explains the high rankings of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. However, the term global is best ascribed to cities with importance in the dominant global industry of the time (currently finance, and previously trade, manufacturing, and resources). Because of their manufacturing prowess in bygone industrial epochs, London and New York have long been considered global by both casual and formal measures, and are still the only two “Alpha++” cities as designated by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. More notable, however, is the adaptability that allowed both cities to restructure for emerging industries and thereby consistently maintain global status.

ASEAN Eyes Closer Military Ties in 2015

February 12, 2015

As I have written before, Malaysia’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year will be a busy one. In particular, 2015 is a critical year for regional-community building and economic integration because of the formation of the ASEAN Community as well as the expected completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

That doesn’t mean we won’t see progress on the defense side of things in 2015. We are still in the early stages of things in this realm as a flurry of meetings take place in the first quarter that culminate with the ninth ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) in Langkawi in March, followed by other critical engagements in the rest of the year. But there are already signs of what we might expect.

A good preview came earlier this week at the 12th ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) in Kuala Lumpur. Jane’s Defense Weekly, along with other regional news outlets, reported that Malaysian CDF general Zulkifeli Mohammed Zin, speaking as host of the meeting, said that he and his counterparts were mulling several proposals to deepen defense collaboration. These included formalizing the ACDFIM, integrating CDFs from the broader ASEAN Defense Ministers Plus (ADMM-Plus) umbrella into dialogues, and expanding current bilateral exercises into multilateral ASEAN ones.

While these measures are not entirely new and will require formal approval, they are promising for those who follow ASEAN closely. Formalizing ACDFIM after over a decade is not just a formality if it means equipping it with a secretariat and facilitating an expansion of its role to include information sharing as well as perhaps even building a database of sorts, as preliminary reports are suggesting.

Fading Embers in China’s Coal Industry

By Sara Hsu
February 14, 2015

Of all the indicators released about China’s 2014 economic performance, some of which are surprisingly positive, China’s coal mining industry stands out as one of the worst performing sectors of the year, with a decline in industrial profits of 46.2 percent. The coal mining industry faced falling prices and excess capacity in 2014, after a four-year run, from 2009 to 2012, of above-average prices. The industry’s malaise became highly visible in the media last year as several shadow banking loans to coal mining companies faced potential default in 2014. A large part of the drop-off in coal industry profits can be attributed to increased reliance on cleaner sources of energy and decreased dependence on coal around the world and even in China itself.

For one, improved environmental standards around the world have reduced orders for this heavily polluting resource, and China has forced smaller mines to close or be purchased by state-owned companies. About 1,000 small coal mining companies were shut down in 2014. In the past four years, 5,920 coal mines have been closed. Most Chinese mining companies, about 70 percent, incurred losses in the first 11 months of 2014, as national governments have adopted climate change policies that attempt to transfer the reliance on polluting fuels to renewable and cleaner energy.

Second, China is also very slowly decreasing its demand for coal as part of its five-year energy strategy for the 2016-2020 period, from 64.2 percent of total energy consumption to below 62 percent by 2020. Use of some highly polluting types of coal have been banned. As the world’s largest coal consumer, China’s declining demand for this natural resource bodes well for the environment and for the health of its population, as coal plant emissions alone result in hundreds of thousands of premature deaths due to particulate and heavy metal pollution. Coal miners themselves frequently suffer from pneumonoconiosis, or black lung disease, due to inhalation of coal matter.

How America's New Secretary of Defense Will Deal With China

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 14, 2015

Time for your weekly round-up of China stories:

Ashton Carter was officially confirmed as the new U.S. secretary of defense on Thursday. To mark the occasion, The Diplomat offers a collection of links hinting at what approach Carter might take to military relations between the U.S. and China.

A December 2014 article from Defense One pointed out that Carter was an advocate for “the pivot to Asia” before the term existed. Adam Tiffen writes that Carter “knows Asia. He has been an advocate for the prioritization of Asia since the late 1990s. He wrote a proposal with former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, under President Clinton, that advocated the United States develop strategic military relationships in places like Asia to prevent future regional conflicts.”

Back in 2007, Carter (along with Jennifer C. Bulkeley) wrote a short piece outlining how the U.S. should respond to China’s military modernization efforts. Carter’s suggested approach then bears many similarities to the Obama administration’s current efforts. To preserve its interests vis-à-vis a more militarily capable China, Carter wrote, the U.S. should “invest in transformational U.S. military capabilities”; “maintain and expand U.S. alliances in Asia” (including “pursuing deeper military partnerships with … India and possibly Vietnam”); “ensure that [the U.S.] military has the capability to defend Taiwan”; and “expand military-to-military cooperation” with China.

For a more recent take, Roll Call outlines Carter’s view on China’s cyber espionage (and a number of other subjects) as expressed during his Senate confirmation hearing. Carter recommended that the Pentagon “should continue to take strong actions to address China’s use of cyber theft to steal U.S. companies’ confidential business information and proprietary technology.” Carter added that “military involvement in such theft raises additional concerns that misunderstandings about China’s intentions could result in unintended escalation between our countries.”

Brunei Cracks Down on Chinese New Year

By Prashanth Parameswaran
February 14, 2015

Brunei has imposed strict restrictions on Chinese New Year performances as part of an incremental crackdown against non-Muslim cultural and religious events in the country, Brunei news media outlets confirmed earlier this week.

A letter widely circulated around social media says that lion dances – a traditional Chinese dance where performers imitate a lion’s movements in a lion costume to commemorate various festivals and occasions including Chinese New Year – can only be performed for a limited number of hours on just three days –February 19 to 21 – and only on three premises – the temple, school halls, and Chinese homes. Performances at all commercial establishments and public areas are strictly prohibited.

The dances must also be temporarily halted a half hour before and after designated Muslim prayers, and they must only involve Chinese students or community members. They may not be accompanied by firecrackers and fireworks.

The Ministry of Home Affairs subsequently confirmed that the contents of the letter are accurate.

Since Chinese New Year celebrations, including lion dances, usually go on for an extended period and are often public and festive, these regulations have been read to be extremely restrictive. Neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia for instance – both also Muslim-majority countries with Chinese minorities – are much more moderate on this score and no such curbs are in place.

Japan: From ‘Proactive Pacifism’ to ‘Proactive Diplomacy’

By Joseph A. Bosco
February 15, 2015

Americans and Asians should applaud Prime Minister Shinto Abe’s impassioned speech before the Japanese Diet urging its support for “the most drastic reforms since the end of World War II.” The intended reform that most impacts regional security is a change to Article 9 of the Constitution which restricts Japan’s military capabilities.

Removing some of the limitations on Japan’s national defense posture would enable America’s key Asian ally to play an even more positive and proactive role in regional and international security. An economically and militarily strong Japan harnessed to democratic principles is an inherently good thing for the region and the world.

Abe was attempting to assuage concerns about a resurgent Japan when he assured all that Japan has learned the painful lessons of its experiences in the last century. “Japan has earnestly built up a free and democratic nation based on feelings of deep remorse regarding WWII and contributed to peace and prosperity in the world. Taking pride in this, we must be a nation that contributes even more to peace and stability in the world.”

Japanese officials have made similar statements in the past but this time Japan’s neighbors have good reason finally and unconditionally accept Abe’s words as an official apology and put the past to rest, particularly as Abe expressed it in the context of Japan’s emergence as a democratic nation. (The one remaining unresolved issue is compensation for the “comfort women.”

Declaring War on Islamic Terrorism is Not the Answer, Says LeBaron

FEBRUARY 14, 2015

A White House conference on countering violent extremism will “reinforce international will to take on the difficult issues posed by radicalization,” according to the Atlantic Council’s Richard LeBaron.

The White House will host a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism on February 18 against a backdrop of recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Sydney, and Ottawa.

The summit also takes place at a time when the US and Europe are grappling with concerns that radicalized citizens returning from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq will carry out terrorist acts in the West. The terrorist attack in Paris in January, where the attackers had links to al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, sharpened these concerns.

The conference in Washington will “highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence,” the White House said.

Participants at the conference will include a broad range of foreign government officials and representatives from civil society and the private sector. They will identify ways to more effectively counter the violent extremism and explore the factors that drive such extremism with the goal of developing effective interventions to address these root causes.

The main goal is to “better understand, identify and prevent the cycle of radicalization to violence at home in the United States and abroad,” the White House said in a statement.

The conference should “encourage the somewhat prosaic task of simply cataloging what we know and what we don’t know about the process of countering violent extremism. In my experience, there are a lot of bad ideas about how to deal with radicalization, and precious few techniques that apply equally across different groups or locales,” said LeBaron, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Islamic State Sprouting Limbs Beyond Its Base

FEB. 14, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State is expanding beyond its base in Syria and Iraq to establish militant affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt and Libya, American intelligence officials assert, raising the prospect of a new global war on terror.

Intelligence officials estimate that the group’s fighters number 20,000 to 31,500 in Syria and Iraq. There are less formal pledges of support from “probably at least a couple hundred extremists” in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen, according to an American counterterrorism official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information about the group.

Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in an assessment this month that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, was “beginning to assemble a growing international footprint.” Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, echoed General Stewart’s analysis in testimony before Congress last week.Photo

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, to which a broad array of fighters are swearing allegiance.CreditAssociated Press

But it is unclear how effective these affiliates are, or to what extent this is an opportunistic rebranding by some jihadist upstarts hoping to draft new members by playing off the notoriety of the Islamic State.

Critics fear such assessments will once again enmesh the United States in a protracted, hydra-headed conflict as President Obamaappeals to Congress for new war powers to fight the Islamic State. “I’m loath to write another blank check justifying the use of American troops just about anywhere,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

The sudden proliferation of Islamic State affiliates and loyalist fighters motivated the White House’s push to give Mr. Obama and his successor new authority to pursue the group wherever its followers emerge — just as he and President George W. Bush hunted Qaeda franchises outside the group’s headquarters, first in Afghanistan and then in Pakistan, for the past decade.

A Bunch of Iranian Drones Have Crashed in Iraq


But who actually owns these robots?

Twitter accounts associated with the militant group Islamic State are tweeting out pics of another wrecked Iranian-made drone in Iraq.

We know Iranian drones have been flying over Iraq for some time now. But the markings on this latest piece of wreckage raise questions about just who owns the flying robots.

The tweets, which first appeared early Saturday morning, claim that Islamic State fighters shot down a drone near the city of Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad. The pictures show an Iranian Ababil-3 unmanned aerial vehicle in pieces, with what appear to be stickers of an Iraqi flag on its tail.

The implication is that the drone actually belongs to Iraq, even if Iran manufactured it.

Shortly after Mosul fell to Islamic State forces in June 2014, Iran began flying Ababil-3 UAVs out of Baghdad’s Al Rasheed air base in order to track the jihadists, according to The New York Times.

But the flags on the downed Ababil’s tail could indicate that Baghdad owns and operates the drones. Alternatively, the markings could be a cover—albeit a rather thin one—for Iranian forces deployed in Iraq to help Baghdad battle the militants.

Look, there’s no doubt that the UAV in the recent tweet is Iranian in origin. It bears all the hallmarks of an the Ababil-3, a product of Tehran’s Ghods Aviation Industry.

The twin tail boom and tricycle landing gear are distinctive, as is the serial number 3–2-R 148, which matches the format we’ve seen on other Ababil-3s.

Ukraine's Other War: Parliament Advances Anti-Corruption Fight

FEBRUARY 13, 2015

Members of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, overwhelmingly passed a bill to end their own legal immunity from prosecution, one of the main laws that for years helped Ukraine to the top of Europe’s corruption charts. Article 80 of Ukraine’s constitution protects all Rada members from prosecution for any crimes, and “opinion surveys consistently show that 90 percent of Ukrainians favor cancellation” of the law, writes the Atlantic Council’s Kyiv-based senior fellow, Brian Mefford.

The bill now goes to the Constitutional Court for review. While the Rada will have to confirm its vote twice (winning a minimum of 301 votes—two thirds of the parliament deputies—each time) “to finally eliminate the hated provision from the Constitution, it is an important first step,” Mefford writes in his blog on Ukraine politics.

“Following the 2007 parliamentary campaign, in which the Our Ukraine bloc [of former President Viktor Yushchenko] campaigned almost entirely on the issue but failed to get anywhere near the 301 votes necessary to make it law, this is a welcome sign,” Mefford writes. If the bill passes the Constitutional Court’s review, the final vote may be taken in September.

Anti-Corruption Bureau Still Waiting

Ukraine’s nascent Anti-Corruption Bureau, appointed in December as the main government body to combat graft, still has no director. “With nearly 100 applicants, the new Anti-Corruption Bureau is sifting through the candidates,” Mefford writes. President Petro Poroshenko has urged that a foreigner be appointed to head the bureau, and one name that has been discussed repeatedly is that of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who is in Kyiv this week, Mefford note. The current Georgian government of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili would be angered at seeing its main political rival named to a prominent post in Kyiv.

Weekly Ukraine Situation Summary February 14, 2015 Ukraine Situation Report Institute for the Study of War February 13, 2015

Key Takeaway:

Ukrainian and separatist forces launched surprise offensives to gain new terrain and optimize their negotiating positions ahead of peace talks in Minsk, Belarus on February 11. On the eve of the talks, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) launched long-range strikes on a forward Ukrainian military headquarters in Kramatorsk in northern Donetsk demonstrating to Kyiv that the entire Donetsk Oblast lies in range of its “Smerch” multiple launch rocket launcher systems (MLRSs). The same day, the “Azov” Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard launched offensive maneuvers in southern Donetsk Oblast, regaining territory that separatists might have used to launch attacks on the key port city of Mariupol. Both the DNR rocket barrage and the “Azov” Regiment’s offensive exposed their respective weaknesses in areas under their control. Both sides may have timed the surprise operations to put their opponents in conciliatory negotiating positions ahead of peace talks.

The separatist maneuver to encircle Debaltseve likely played a major role in driving Kyiv to agree a new ceasefire deal in the early hours of February 12, possibly to avoid heavy casualties. As President Vladimir Putin pointed out, the separatists want the Ukrainian forces to surrender the surrounded city but Kyiv refuses to acknowledge the city’s encirclement much less abandon it. While a successful Ukrainian operation drove separatists forces off the last standing supply route, fighting on the highway continues and neither side is likely to cede its strategic positions around the key city, which links the separatist-held capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. The February 13 indirect fire attack on the city of Artemivsk, the launching point of Ukrainian operations to reinforce Debaltseve and evacuate civilians, demonstrates the separatists’ intent to capture terrain even in the aftermath of the ceasefire agreement. Reports from the Ukrainian Anti-Terror Operation (ATO) headquarters that a column of around 100 Russian tanks and MLRSs crossed into Ukraine on the night of the ceasefire negotiations may indicate that Moscow wants to set the conditions for a Ukrainian surrender at Debaltseve. The fate of Debaltseve is unlikely to be decided by the ceasefire agreement but rather by force.


February 14, 2015

Ukraine is a victim of both the Russian System’s struggle for survival and the West’s inability to protect the international legal space. For the West, ending this confrontation may prove to be even more agonizing than ending the Cold War, because:

the West is refusing to recognize that this is not a regional crisis, but a clash of opposing systems;

the West has lost the ability to contain a civilizational adversary; the Kremlin has created self-protection mechanisms within Western societies; the liberal democracies don’t see any need to fight for norms in their foreign policies; they believe the Russian ruling elite is less risk-averse than the aged and decrepit Soviet leadership, but they’re still not sure how risk-averse; the system of global governance, which was based on the outcome of World War II, no longer fits today’s world; Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has blossomed into a crisis of Ukrainian statehood; Francois Hollande’s and Angela Merkel’s urgent mission to broker a deal in east Ukraine points to Western fears (quite justified) that the war in Ukraine will dismantle European and global stability, as well as bringing about the collapse of the international governance system (already in an advanced state of paralysis). However these peace overtures end, we should focus on the set of beliefs that contributed to the emergence of this crisis, complicate its resolution, and distort the real picture of the challenges facing the world. Let’s examine some of the currently popular myths about the standoff between Russia and the West in Ukraine.

1. Is it Putin or the System?

Many believe that Putin and his recklessness are to blame for everything. The Russian President probably enjoys reading essays that purport to analyze his psyche and his demonic traits. It’s certainly true that Putin flipped over the global chessboard without fully appreciating or anticipating the consequences. But how much control does he really have over the Kremlin and Russian developments more broadly? Guillermo O’Donnell coined the term “impotent omnipotence” to describe personalized regimes. I think the term applies to the rule of Russia as well. Despite his vast powers, the Russian leader is increasingly dependent on his team’s loyalty and his approval ratings. Both of these factors are treacherous. Putin is already having trouble maintaining stability in Russia. The war in Ukraine has become a trap that he has no idea how to extract himself from. If Putin is forced to turn Russia into a fortress in order to consolidate the people around the Kremlin, what does this say about his power and his freedom of action?

Putin’s diminished administrative capabilities will prompt him to take extreme steps to preserve his power. But he will no longer be able to bottle the genies that escaped as a result of his actions. If we persist in believing that Putin is the key problem, we will neglect the logic of the Russian System of which he is the mere personification. Regime change will become the System’s most likely response to crisis. Many Putinologists would welcome this outcome because they fail to realize what lies ahead. The truth is that any Putin successor will continue on the course of suicidal statecraft, as long as the decaying personalized power system remains in place. There is, however, a dramatic dilemma: the longer Putin stays in the Kremlin, the deeper the abyss becomes into which he is pushing Russia.

5 Ways the U.S. and China Could Stumble Into War

Harry J. Kazianis
February 15, 2015

Over the last few years, I have undertaken what most would consider a depressing assignment: debating and thinking through the possibility of a great-power war in today’s chaotic international environment. And for good reason. As Washington attempts to transition away from counterinsurgency operations and the nightmare that has become the Middle East, new challenges—many from revisionist great powers—seem to be popping up around the globe. The crisis in Ukraine—with many now openly calling the state of U.S.-Russian relations “Cold War 2.0”—serves as perhaps the best example of such a chilling possibility.

Yet, despite whatever the crisis of the day is, when it comes to challenges Washington must face in the years to come, none is as important as the challenge presented by the People’s Republic of China. Beijing—now empowered by an economy and military that is only second to America—seems bent on remaking the international order in the Asia-Pacific and possibly the wider Indo-Pacific at least partly in its own image. From the East China Sea to the wide expanses of the Indian Ocean, China has clearly made its intentions known that the current international order is open to at least some revision on its terms. Over the last several years, various clashes over the very meaning of the maritime commons, natural resources below the sea bed, air-defense identification zones and various near collisions in the near seas and in the sky have set off alarm bells in capitals around Asia. While Washington has declared its own “pivot” or “rebalance” towards Asia, destabilizing and what some have called “coercive actions” by China have continued unabated.

So where does all of this end up? Is open war in Asia a possibility? Would the United States be sucked in?

European Security After Ukraine

By Jan Techau
February 14, 2015

The war in eastern Ukraine is about more than the future of the European geopolitical order. It is about the role of the United States in Europe.
Is there really a strategic rift between the United States and Europe? Yes, if you believe the media echo that reverberated in unison after the February 6-8 Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of leaders and defense experts. The question of whether the West should deliver arms to the Ukrainian government to support its defensive battle against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine was all the craze in Munich and elsewhere.

In fact, the answer to whether there is a transatlantic schism is both more complicated and more unsettling. Because the real issue is not Ukraine. It is something a lot bigger.

The crisis over Ukraine in Ukraine is indeed, as many commentators suggest, about the future of the political and security order in Europe. But contrary to what many analysts say, it is much less about rules, architecture, and all the other abstractions that fill much of the commentary. It is more about who is willing to put military might on the line to defend Western and Central Europe. In other words, the Ukraine crisis is about the role of the United States in Europe.

In essence, Europeans and Americans are in the midst of negotiating who should be in charge of security in Europe at a time of strategic scarcity. The United States must and wants to shift its geopolitical focus to the Pacific, where a formidable rival is emerging and where the future of the global balance of power will be decided over the next few generations.

The European theater, by comparison, is thought to demand less attention. There, the rich countries of the old continent should, in theory, be perfectly capable of taking care of most of their own security. This is especially true since the biggest threat to Europe comes from Russia, a declining Eastern behemoth barely capable of assuring its own economic survival and controlling its auto-aggressive behavior.

Return to the Cold War: Russian Spy Ship Once Again Operating Near US Strategic Sub Base in Georgia

Bill Gertz
February 14, 2015

A Russian intelligence-gathering ship is again plying the waters off the southern United States in operations aimed at spying on U.S. ballistic missile submarines based in the area, defense officials said.

The intelligence collection ship, Viktor Leonov, has been closely watched by U.S. Navy ships and aircraft for the past several days near Jacksonville, Fla., close to the Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Ga. The ship also conducted operations there in April.

The spying comes amid heightened U.S.-Russia tensions over the crisis in Ukraine, where Russian forces annexed the Crimea last year and are continuing to arm pro-Moscow rebels in the eastern part of the country.

The Kings Bay base is homeport for the Navy’s Submarine Group 10, with six nuclear-armed missile submarines and two conventionally armed missile submarines.

“It’s been all in international waters and all perfectly legal,” said a defense official familiar with efforts to monitor the ship. “But it’s interesting that it is operating, collecting on us where it is.”

This week, the Leonov was spotted anchored about 22 miles off the Florida coast, southeast of Kings Bay.

It reportedly left Cuba on Jan. 22, and its movements since then have not been made public.

The ship, known as an AGI in military parlance, is equipped with high technology gear designed to pick up electronic communications and underwater signals. It is also armed with 30-millimeter cannon and anti-aircraft guns.

The Leonov recently made headlines by making a port visit to Havana, Cuba, in late January that coincided with the Obama administration’s initiative to normalize relations with the communist regime in Cuba.

The spy ship’s presence also comes as Russia is increasing the number of strategic bomber flights near U.S. and allied coasts. One recent air defense zone incursion took place near eastern Canada that U.S. officials said simulated a nuclear cruise missile attack on the United States.

The Tu-95 flights appear to have subsided in recent weeks, defense officials said.

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, told Congress last week that Russia is building up nuclear forces and increasing out-of-area operations, including in the Caribbean.