23 February 2015

Going slow on defence


Gurmeet Kanwal

Military modernisation necessary to meet emerging threats and challenges
A gradual shift in the defence acquisition policy to manufacturing in India will provide huge economic benefits

While inaugurating the biennial air show Aero-India 2015 at Bengaluru on February 18, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he did not like the fact that India is the world's largest importer of weapon systems. With the NDA government's second budget approaching, the Prime Minister said in the era of shrinking defence budgets India could become a global manufacturing and export hub for arms and defence equipment. 

The Prime Minister invited defence MNCs to join hands with Indian public and private sector companies to "make in India" and reiterated the government's willingness to allow FDI in defence beyond the stipulated 49 per cent for projects involving the transfer of cutting-edge technologies. He pointed out that the reduction in dependence on defence imports from 70 to 40 per cent in five years would create 100,000 to 120,000 highly skilled jobs, boost investment, reduce costs and upgrade India's manufacturing and system integration skills. In short, a gradual shift in the defence acquisition policy to manufacturing in India will provide huge economic benefits.

In the budget for 2014-15 presented in July 2014, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had increased the allocation for defence by 12.5 per cent over the amount allotted for 2013-14. The minister had hiked the defence outlay from Rs 2,03,672 crore (Revised Estimates - RE) in 2013-14 to Rs 2,29,000 crore (Budgetary Estimates - BE) for 2014-15. The defence budget now stands at a low 1.74 per cent of India's projected GDP for 2014-15 and accounts for 12.75 per cent of the country's total government expenditure.

A climate of bilateralism


But the irony of Obama seeking curbs on India’s GHG emissions is inescapable.
Written by Swati Madan , Shreekant Gupta | February 23, 2015 8:46 am

Nothing substantial was concluded on trade and climate change during US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to India, despite expectations that agreements in those areas would be key outcomes of the summit. On the latter, before the visit, senior White House officials had stated they were hoping to ink a deal along the lines of the agreement Obama signed with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November last year. But the fact that no such deal was concluded does not mean Obama or the US establishment will stop treating climate change as a bilateral issue, or that they will not try to cajole India into taking on targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

It is not surprising that Obama, in the last two years of his presidency, should do so. There is limited scope for him to push his domestic agenda on climate change. Thus, bilateral deals on climate, as with China, have taken on importance. But the irony of Obama seeking curbs on India’s GHG emissions is inescapable. The US Senate twice rejected that humans are causing climate change as recently as January, even as their own scientific bodies unequivocally concluded that 2014 was the warmest year on record. Thwarted as he is on the domestic front, Obama seeks bilateral accords with China and, now, India. Parenthetically, the Obama-Xi accord to reduce US GHG emissions by 26-28 per cent in 2025 compared to 2005 means little. Without the force of a globally binding treaty agreed under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), bilateral deals mean little. It is also evident that many American politicians and the public have little appetite for deep and rapid cuts in their own emissions. At the same time, they are beating up on India for using coal to eliminate the energy poverty of its people.

Turkish troops enter Syria to relocate historic tomb

Feb 23, 2015

File photo of Turkish troops marching during a military parade.

ANKARA: Almost 600 Turkish troops pushed deep into Syria in an unprecedented incursion on Sunday, relocating a historic tomb and evacuating the soldiers guarding the monument after it was surrounded by Islamic State (IS) jihadists. 

The Damascus government, which no longer controls the area in Aleppo province but is at loggerheads with Ankara over the Syria conflict, lashed out at what it described as a "flagrant aggression" on Syrian territory. 

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the mission had succeeded, with the soldiers returning safely home and also salvaging the tomb containing the remains of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman empire's founder, Osman I. 

A Turkish government official confirmed to AFP that the mission was the first incursion Turkish troops had launched inside Syria since the civil war began in 2011. 

Turkish tanks had driven through the ruined streets of the Syrian town of Kobane — controlled by Kurdish fighters after a months long battle with jihadists — on their way to the tomb at the start of Operation Shah Firat (Shah Euphrates) late on Saturday. 

In a hugely symbolic move, the troops also seized control of a new area of raised ground inside Syria easily visible from the Turkish border to rebury the remains of Suleyman Shah and raised the Turkish flag over the area. 

Images taken from the border indicated that the remains of Suleyman Shah had been reburied in their new location on the top of a mound during the day in the Syrian district of Eshme, just 200 metres (650 feet) from the Turkish border. 

There were reportedly 40 Turkish soldiers guarding the mausoleum complex of Suleyman Shah on the Euphrates River, which under a 1920s treaty is considered sovereign Turkish territory and carries huge symbolic importance to Turks as a link to their pre-Ottoman past. 

After taking everything of historical value, the Turkish troops detonated the building that housed the tomb so it was not misused afterwards by jihadists, Turkish media said. 

A soldier was killed in an accident during the operation to evacuate the guards at the tomb, which is some 37 kilometres (23 miles) inside Syrian territory, the Turkish army said in a separate statement. 

It said the soldier lost his life in the "initial stage" of the operation but emphasised there were no clashes during the mission. 

Davutoglu said the operation had posed "considerable potential risks" but in the end Turkey had left nothing behind. 

"It was a highly successful operation to the last degree," he said after watching the operation in real time from Ankara along with military chiefs. 

He said that 572 Turkish soldiers using 39 tanks, 57 armoured vehicles and 100 other military vehicles took part in the operation. 

Somalia extremists urge attacks on US shopping malls

Feb 23, 2015

Photo shows the exterior of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. (AP photo)

JOHANNESBURG: A video purported to be by Somalia's al-Qaida-linked rebel group al-Shabab urged Muslims to attack shopping malls in the US, Canada, Britain and other Western countries. 
The threat came in the final minutes of a more than hourlong video in which the extremists also warned Kenya of more attacks like the September 2013 assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in which 67 people were killed. The video included footage from major news organizations showing the assault on the mall and said it was in reprisal for alleged abuses by Kenyan troops against Muslims in Somalia. 

The masked narrator concluded by calling on Muslims to attack shopping malls, specifically naming the Mall of America in Minnesota, as well as the West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the Westfield mall in Stratford, England. 

The authenticity of the video could not be immediately verified by The Associated Press. 

The narrator, his face wrapped in a black-and-white kaffiyeh-type scarf and wearing a camouflage jacket, spoke with a British accent and appeared to be of Somali origin. 

"What if such an attack were to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota? Or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada? Or in London's Oxford Street?" the man said, then called for Britain's Westfield mall to be targeted. 

Speaking on morning talk shows in the US, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called the video "the new phase" of the global terrorist threat and warned the public to be vigilant. 

"These groups are relying more and more on independent actors to become inspired, drawn to the cause and they'll attack on their own," Johnson said, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union." 

"I am very concerned about serious potential threats of independent actors here in the United States. We've seen this now in Europe, we've seen this in Canada." 

Asked about the specific threat against the Mall of America, Johnson said: "Any time a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place we've got to take that seriously. What we're telling the public is you've got to be vigilant. ... There will be enhanced security there that will be apparent, but public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important. It's the environment we're in." 

The Mall of America, one of the nation's largest, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, said in a statement that it was "aware of a threatening video which includes a mention and images of the mall," and said extra security had been put in place 

Indian Prime Minister Visits Arunachal Pradesh, Drawing Chinese Criticism

February 21, 2015

Plus, ISIS, public opinion in Myanmar, the Chinese military’s weaknesses, aircraft carriers, and more. Weekend links. 

As is custom, a wrap-up of some pieces worth reading on security and defense from across the web:
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh on Friday, assuring the state’s residents that the central government would direct more resources toward its development over the next five years. Arunachal Pradesh is disputed, almost in its entirety, by China, which claims it as part of South Tibet. The Chinese government condemned Modi’s visit to the state, noting that it “runs counter” to a settlement of the India-China border dispute. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying added, “We urge the Indian side to take China’s solemn concerns seriously.” Arunachal Pradesh, in part owing to its sensitivity as a disputed territory, has traditionally been a low development priority for the Indian government. After coming to power last year, Modi’s government, particularly under the guidance of Home Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju, an Arunachal native, has made the state’s development a priority.

Graeme Wood’s piece on ISIS, Islam, and strategy over at The Atlantic made a major splash on social media earlier this week. The piece certainly warrants a thorough read if you missed it — it helps fill an important gap in our current liberal discourse on ISIS, addressing the extent to which the group is actually Islamic. Wood’s piece is especially pertinent following the White House’s recently concluded Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (see President Barack Obama’s closing remarks here).

The Asia Foundation released the results of its first nationwide survey of public opinion in Myanmar. Their research offers a valuable insight into what the general public in Myanmar thinks about the country’s ongoing political reforms. In general, the public are optimistic about the country’s political future but care primarily about positive economic outcomes. The study, however, reveals considerable nuances on other issues, including democracy and gender issues.

Over at War on the Rocks, Dennis J. Blasko outlines 10 reasons why China “will have trouble fighting a modern war.” This piece is a must-read for anyone interested in getting a run-down of the outstanding weaknesses in the People’s Liberation Army. It touches on everything from chain of command shortcomings to institutional issues. As Diplomat authors, including Greg Austin and Franz-Stefan Gady, have highlighted, taking the Chinese military as a threat without considering its weaknesses is unwise. Any prudent analysis of China’s military evolution must take into account the large blind spots and capability gaps that continue to plague the PLA.

The seven homegrown firms fighting over India’s $620 billion defence market

February 21, 2015

From first timers such as motorcycle maker Hero Group to established players such as the Tata’s, India’s private firms now wants a slice of the country’s defence sector pie.Much of that has to do with prime minister Narendra Modi’s plans to transform India—from its current position as the world’s largest importer of military equipment—into a manufacturing powerhouse as the country’s defence spending is expected to swell to $620 billion (Rs38 lakh crore) by 2022.

And with foreign direct investment in the defence industry revised to 49%, the Indian private sector is also scouting for foreign partners with $130 billion of military contracts up for grabs in the next few years.These seven firms are emerging as the frontrunners, as India finally looks to build it domestic defence manufacturing prowess.
TATA Group

The Tata’s have partnered with India’s armed forces for over half a century. And after building everything from army vehicles to missile components in group companies like Tata Motors and Tata Advanced Systems, the conglomerate is now out looking for new partners to execute new projects.

In September 2014, Tata Power SED tied up with Honeywell International to build defence navigators. A month later, Tata Advanced Systems announced a partnership with Airbus to build 56 aircrafts forthe Indian Air Force.Tata group companies in defence and aerospace businesses currently have an order book of Rs10,000 crore ($1.6 billion).
Mahindra Group

The group’s ride in the automotive sector began with a license to assemble the Willys jeep, a rugged vehicle that became a legend of sorts during the Second World War. That later turned into a long-term relationship with the Indian army as a supplier of trucks, armoured vehicles and other equipment.

Pakistan’s New Plutonium Separation Plant Possibly Now Operational

February 20, 2015
Pakistan’s Chashma Plutonium Separation Plant: Possibly Operational

David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini

Pakistan has built four reactors at Khushab to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons. However, to use this plutonium in nuclear weapons, Pakistan must chemically separate it from the irradiated reactor fuel, a difficult process done in special buildings called plutonium separation or “reprocessing” plants. Faced with a lack of technical capability, Pakistan sought to buy a reprocessing plant from France in the mid-1970s. Because of concerns about the plant’s potential use to make nuclear weapons, France cancelled its contract to provide a reprocessing plant to Pakistan. 

Several years later, Pakistan finished a small one near Rawalpindi on its own. This small plant became the location for separating plutonium for nuclear weapons after Pakistan brought into operation its first Khushab reactor in 1998. During the last several years, it has started three more Khushab reactors and the Rawalpindi separation plant may not be large enough to process all the irradiated fuel. 

As a result, Pakistan is believed to have secretly finished the Chashma plutonium separation plant in order to separate the relatively large amount of plutonium produced in all four reactors. The original reprocessing site is believed to be adjacent to the Chashma Nuclear Power Complex, located 270 kilometers south-west of Islamabad. The operational status of this reprocessing plant is unknown, although satellite imagery signatures suggest it may have recently become operational. Bringing into operation this reprocessing facility would significantly increase Pakistan’s plutonium separation capability and ability to make nuclear weapons. 

The Great Divide

FEB. 18, 2015 

A soldier standing guard at the school where gunmen from the Pakistani Taliban opened fire, killing 150 people, including 134 schoolchildren. Credit B. K. Bangash/Associated Press 

In Lahore, Pakistan, the city where I was born and where I once again live after two decades abroad, my experience of picking up my children from school has recently changed. As of this term, I can no longer enter my daughter’s kindergarten. I must show an ID card with her photograph at the fortified gate, a rectangular aperture in a high wall, and she is then brought out to me, emerging like a blue-clad fairy from some strange castle.

My son is younger, not yet 3, and he goes to a play group in an old converted house. But its boundary walls, too, have just been raised. Guards frisk me when I approach, and as I walk down the driveway, with toddlers awaiting their mothers and fathers staring up at me from below, I am also watched from on high by someone new: a sniper in uniform. I know I am meant to feel reassured. But I don’t.

The most proximate cause for these ­changes was the massacre by the Pakistani Taliban of 150 people, including 134 children, at a school in Peshawar in December. Its targeting of the young, and its shocking bloodthirstiness, created a widespread sense of horror. The provincial government of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital, shut schools and universities early for the winter holidays and forbade them to reopen until enhanced security protocols were put in place. The price of razor wire is rumored to have quadrupled; a friend who works in education tells me that hand-held metal detectors have sold out.

Seeking China’s Help in Taliban Negotiations, Afghanistan Cracks Down on Uyghur Militants

February 21, 2015

Former Taliban fighters hand over their weapons to the Afghan government.

Before we hit the weekend, check out the China news you may have missed this week:
There’s been a lot of talk lately about China possibly acting as a mediator between the Afghan government and the Talban. Now Reuters adds an interesting twist to the story, reporting that Kabul arrested and repatriated Uyghur militants originally from China in an attempt to cajole Beijing into taking a more active role in the negotiation process. The Afghan government under new President Ashraf Ghani has been quite vocal about its hope that China will use its close relationship in Pakistan to get Islamabad on board – and Pakistan in turn is believed to be able to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

In a play to win China’s goodwill, Reuters reports, Kabul specifically targeted Uyghur militants. One security officials told Reuters that Afghanistan security forces arrested a total of 15 Uyghurs and transferred the prisoners to Beijing. An Afghan security official who helped arrange the transfer told Reuters, “We offered our hand in cooperation with China and in return we asked them to pressure Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban or at least bring them to the negotiating table.” Other Afghan sources also pointed out that the militants, though arrested in Afghanistan, were believed to have trained in Pakistan.

In case you missed it, The Diplomat’s own Ankit Panda sorts out the conflicting reports regarding Afghan-Taliban negotiations (or the lack thereof) over at our Pulse blog.

In other news, Cheng Guoping, vice minister of foreign affairs, confirmed this week that Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will attend each other’s celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II. Thereport from Xinhua [Chinese] said Cheng made the remarks in a new conference hosted by Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is also expected to attend Russia’s ceremonies commemorating the end of the World War II. Cheng also noted that this year China will seek to push forward its “strategic partnership” with Russia in the fields of aviation and space flight, energy (including nuclear energy), and high-speed railways. RT has an English-language summary of Cheng’s press conference.

Collision Course: The Looming U.S.-China Showdown Over Taiwan

February 21, 2015 

Chinese coercion against democratic Taiwan would challenge the basic principles of the liberal regional order, as well as U.S. reliability.

A new crisis in relations between China and Taiwan is likely in the coming months, one that will pose more acute difficulties than in the past for Taiwan’s benefactor, the United States. China is relatively stronger than Taiwan, less inhibited from behaving assertively, and more insistent on attaining its objectives—which include ruling Taiwan. The people of Taiwan, however, are showing signs of evolving toward permanent opposition to political unification with China. Reaffirming U.S. willingness to protect Taiwan from forced unification would put at risk America’s relationship with the world’s second most important country. Abandoning Taiwan to involuntary absorption, however, would signal to the region the end of Pax Americana.

The rapid increase in Cross-Strait economic ties following Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s election in 2008 initially had a pacifying effect on China-Taiwan relations because it gave Beijing confidence in a natural, peaceful progression toward unification. It now appears possible, however, that the pacification returns from economic integration might diminish rather than grow over time. On the Taiwanese side, deeper economic dependence on China is leading to proportionately stronger opposition from the Taiwan public towards China. On the Chinese side, stronger economic ties increase the disparity between economic ties on the one hand, and demands for political integration on the other. This raises the temperature of simmering Chinese frustration.

China vs. the US: Who Blinked?

February 20, 2015

Is China caving to the U.S., or is it that Xi has figured out how to handle Obama? 

Recently I had a visit from a friend of mine who works at a U.S. embassy. I hadn’t heard from him for a while – he said that he had been inspired to catch up with his old friend after reading my piece “Why Read Xi Jinping’s Book?” on The Diplomat. He said his department had printed out that article and passed it around. Many people had already bought Xi’s book (the English-language edition) but most had not yet started to reading it – my article made them decide to start immediately. I jokingly told him that I didn’t get any money for this “advertisement.”

At the beginning of our chat, we discussed some of the opinions in my recent blog posts as well as some global hot spots. His comments were sincere and on point. As our conversation was winding down, he nonchalantly raised a question: “Why has China started caving in to the U.S.?” Upon hearing this question, I immediately realized this was the reason that he had come to find me. I feigned surprise, and answered with my own question: “Is China caving in?”

As expected, he started with the example of Vice Premier Wang Yang using the analogy of “husband and wife” to describe China-U.S. economic relations during the the fifth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July 2013. Then he pointed out that in December 2014, at the 25th U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, Wang remarked that the United States is the leader of the world and “China has neither the intention nor the capability to challenge America’s leading status.” Finally my friend pointed to Premier Li Keqiang’s most recent speech.

I told him, “I can see that not only have you not read Xi’s book, but you haven’t read those of my blog posts that have been translated into English by The Diplomat. If you had read these, you would realize that China has never had any intention of challenging the United States or replacing its dominant position in the world.” He seemed like he only half believed me. I then asked him, “Since you work for the U.S. State Department, here is a question for you: How has Xi Jinping bested the United States?”

Does China Really Know How to Wage Cyber War?

February 20, 2015

China’s cyber war capabilities are a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. 
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s (USCC) assessment of the weaknesses of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) offered little new analysis on the PLA’s cyberwarfare capabilities. This is largely due to the impossibility of finding a comprehensive assessment of China’s military cyber capabilities — in comparison to Chinese cyber espionage capabilities — on the public record. Considering the alleged importance and centrality of cyberwar and informatization in the PLA’s thinking, this is analytical gap is worth looking into in some detail.

The report, entitled “China’s Incomplete Military Transformation,” notes that “The PLA sees space, cyber, and EW [electronic warfare] capabilities as increasingly vital aspects of its ability to deter or, if necessary, defeat a technologically advanced adversary in a future informatized local war, whether over Taiwan or the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, or elsewhere.” The white paper further points out the PLA’s perception of Chinese cybersecurity weaknesses (including in cyber reconnaissance, cyberattack and defense, and cyber deterrence capabilities) as well as the view in China that the country’s critical information infrastructure is extremely vulnerable to enemy cyber attacks.

The report also quotes a Chinese analyst deliberating on how cyber, while being its own domain, also permeates all other aspects of modern war: “If a country pays attention to building up its kinetic strike capabilities, but neglects computer network attack and EW capabilities, it will be unable to build a modern strategic air force.” Another interesting facet is added toward the end of the section when the authors note that “China sees offense as much easier than defense in the network domain, as is the case in space.” The report also emphasized the absence of discussion within PLA circles on the possible unintended consequences of launching offensive cyberattacks and the danger of inadvertent escalation.

Chinese Media Accuses US of Being ‘Terrorist Breeder’

February 20, 2015

As DC hosts a summit on countering violent extremism, China blasts the U.S. role in creating havens for terrorists. 

As the Obama administration hosts a summit on “countering violent extremism,” China is taking the opportunity to turn a critical eye on the U.S. “war on terror” thus far. With the White House looking to bolster international unity in the fight against terrorism, Chinese media made it clear that Beijing does not completely buy into Washington’s strategy.

According to the White House, the summit aims “to bring together local, federal, and international leaders … to discuss concrete steps the United States and its partners can take to develop community-oriented approaches to counter hateful extremist ideologies that radicalize, recruit or incite to violence.” Aside from more standard counterterrorism, the White House envisions this summit as way to “address the root causes of extremism through community engagement.”

This would seem to be an area where China and the U.S. could cooperate. Beijing is seeking greater counterterrorism cooperation with many of its neighbors, and also seeks to deal with the problem at the root by targeting those who spread extremist propaganda (a fact made clear by China’s new draft terrorism law). As Obama put it in a recent op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, “We also have to confront the violent extremists — the propagandists, recruiters and enablers — who may not directly engage in terrorist acts themselves, but who radicalize, recruit and incite others to do so.” That seems to be perfectly in line with China’s own goals.

And yet Chinese media is having none of it. One op-ed in Xinhua noted that “observers” from the U.S. and around the world “believed that the U.S. administration has no efficient security policy against terrorist groups” — despite the fact that Washington “would like to consider itself as the leader of the anti-terrorism alliance.” As evidence, Xinhua cites public opinion surveys that show most Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling the rise of Islamic State (IS). Xinhua also quotes Andrey V. Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, as saying that U.S. military actions “destroy states” and “unleash radical forces.”

The End of Funeral Politics in China

February 19, 2015

Funerals of high-ranking CCP officials are no longer useful as a window into CCP politics. 

Funeral politics, at least in their familiar form, apparently ended on February 17, 2015 when Deng Liqun’s funeral was held. As a matter of fact, they may have ended sooner, at Zhang Wannian’s funeral on January 22, 2015.

First, at both funerals, all members of the Politburo Standing Committee were present, with one exception. Li Keqiang was absent from Zhang Wannian’s funeral because he was attending the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland but all seven were present at Deng Liqun’s funeral. In a sense, funerals for former Politburo members or Secretariat members have become major political occasions with the highest rank. Only incumbent Politburo Standing Committee members are allowed to attend and to be mentioned by name. Even Politburo members could not have the honor of being mentioned in the official report, though some of them were possibly physically present.

Even retired leaders, especially Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, were allowed to be “present” in name only. Among the retired leaders, only Jiang and Hu were mentioned in name in the official reports about the funerals. Neither of them was actually present physically. This is a very important departure from the past, when retired leaders were allowed to attend the funerals of former high-ranking officials/officers in person. This change a bit harsh for these elderly comrades because they have lost their right to bid farewell to their former colleagues and subordinates. But the new practice has avoided the thorny protocol issue of who comes before whom, putting an end to the funeral politics by retirees.

All other high-ranking officials/officers in attendance are classified as “party leaders, state leaders and military leaders.” They were not individually acknowledged in the report even if they were physically present. This means funerals are no longer a convenient way for the media to get a glimpse of who might be in political troubles and who might be okay for the moment. Political information is not available any more.

This is Japan’s Best Strategy to Defeat China at Sea

February 20, 2015

In order to win, Japan should give China a dose of its own medicine. 

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is a highly capable navy, although it is the smallest of Japan’s military branches. It is technologically more advanced, more experienced, and more highly trained than its main competitor – the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Yet, in the long-run, the JMSDF and the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) – Tokyo’s principle enforcer of maritime law – are at a relative disadvantage if one looks at the bourgeoning naval rearmament program of China, which is gradually shifting the regional maritime balance in Beijing’s favor.

“From a military perspective, Tokyo is becoming the weaker party in the Sino-Japanese rivalry,” argues Naval War College professor Toshi Yoshihara, in a 2014 report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). “Japan (…) finds itself squeezed between China’s latent military prowess that backs up Chinese coercion over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute and China’s ability to disrupt access to the global commons should conventional deterrence fail,” he further notes.

According to the Institute of International Strategic Studies, China’s share of regional military expenditure rose from 28 percent in 2010 to 38 percent in 2014 totaling $129.4 billion. In contrast, in Japan, despite fears of resurgent militarism under Shinzo Abe, regional share of expenditure fell from 20 percent in 2010 to less than 14 percent in 2014, leaving Tokyo’s defense budget at $47.7 billion.

Given Tokyo’s apparent relative decline in military strengths what is the JMSDF’s best strategy for confronting China in the years ahead?

According to Toshi Yoshihara, it is an anti-access operational concept with Japanese characteristics. In short, Japan should give China a dose of its own medicine and emulate the PLAN’s alleged anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy (although there is little actual evidence that the Chinese Navy is placing a high priority on such a strategy. See: “The One Article to Read on Chinese Naval Strategy in 2015”). An A2/AD operational concept with Japanese characteristics would take into account Japan’s role as a gatekeeper to the open waters of the Pacific and would center around exploiting Japan’s maritime geographical advantage over China by skillfully deploying the JMSDF along the Ryukyu Islands chain, bottling up the PLAN in the East China Sea until the U.S. Navy and other allied navies can deploy in full-strength.

Revealed: Why China Would Lose a War against America

February 20, 2015 

Chinese military might has grown considerably. However, Beijing's weaknesses abound. 

Let’s not mince words: a U.S.-China war would be hell on earth. It would likely start World War III. Millions— maybe billions— of people would die if nuclear weapons were ever used in such a conflict. The global economy would likely face ruin— that’s what happens when the world’s biggest economic powers start shooting at each other. Thankfully the chances are remote it will ever happen. Yet, the threat of such a conflict remains thanks to the many different pressure points in the U.S.-China relationship. Forget the challenge of ISIS, Ukraine, Syria or whatever the flavor of the moment is. The U.S.-China relationship— and whether it remains peaceful or not— is the most important challenge of our time. Period.

Several days ago I examined in a short piece on these digital pages how China could do great damage to U.S. and allied military forces in a war. Thanks to over twenty years of large scale investments, the PRC has gone from being a third-rate military that could project very little offensive punch to arguably the second most powerful military machine on the planet. And with an emphasis on weapons systems that embrace anti-access/area-denial military doctrine (A2/AD), China seems to be developing the tools it needs if war with America did ever come to pass. Beijing’s motto these days: be prepared.

Are China’s THAAD Fears Justified?

By Sukjoon Yoon
February 20, 2015

There is speculation that the U.S. will deploy its THAAD batteries to South Korea. Should China be worried? 
The U.S. has been giving out ambiguous signals on whether it intends to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries to South Korea. For its part, China has repeatedly expressed serious concerns and deep unhappiness about the prospect. From a South Korean perspective, this is regarded as a political rather than a military matter. Would China’s strategic security really be compromised by such a deployment?

On February 4, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan delivered China’s first official response to ongoing speculation about the prospective deployment of the U.S.-developed THAAD to South Korea, during the bilateral “cooperative” defense ministers meeting. General Han Min-koo, his South Korean counterpart, attempted to allay Chinese concerns by reiterating that there has been no agreement between South Korea and the U.S. on this issue. Nevertheless, Beijing is exerting heavy pressure on Seoul to speak out against any such deployment, claiming that it would endanger their bilateral relationship and threaten regional peace and stability. Why is China so sensitive?

China’s Concerns

Whenever a state places defensive weapons and systems at forward bases to protect forward forces from a specific adversary, this can easily give rise to political misunderstandings by neighboring states, resulting in unintended military escalation. For China, the deployment of THAAD to South Korea is just such an apparent provocation.

The deployment would imply that South Korea is part of the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) led by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. South Korea is also developing an indigenous missile defense system against North Korean threats, the Korea Air Missile Defense (KAMD) system, which is less likely to antagonize China than THAAD, since it will not be integrated into the wider BMD system designed to counter Iran in Europe and China in the Asia-Pacific.

Islam Is Not a Religion of the Book

By Razib Khan 
February 19, 2015

Many people have read Graeme Wood’s cover story in The Atlantic, What ISIS Really Wants, by now. I have, and I recommend you do so as well. You’ll learn a lot. And there’s much within it that I can assent to without hesitation. It overlaps in key ways with my post from last August, The Islamic State Is Right About Some Things. It does not trade in trite but satisfying demonology (politically correct liberal, or jingoistic conservative) or vulgar Marxist analysis. Rather than fitting ISIS into a fashionable Western ideology or filtering it through an emotional reaction, Wood attempts to sketch the movement out as a phenomenon informed by its own self conception. Before you can grapple with this new beast of our age, you have to take ISIS seriously in regards to the sincerity of its beliefs, and attempt to understand them. Wood does just this. Because of the dangers of going to ISIS territory he interviews those living in Western countries sympathetic to the movement, as well as engaging with scholars who specialize in topics which might shed light upon it. In particular, I think Wood conveys the “camelpunk” aspect of ISIS, a violent version of what you can see across the Gulf monarchies. Like steampunk camelpunk is a mash-up of mores, aesthetics, and technologies, across disparate eras. Anyone who reads science fiction won’t be entirely surprised by the juxtapositions of social media and slavery. Many less creative and historically conscious people live under the delusion that the world that is is the only world that could have been, or that it is the only world that will ever be. ISIS’ vision and reality offer up a window into a startlingly different, and radically objectionable, alternative world.

As a descriptive matter the piece in The Atlantic is a tour de force. But there is one aspect where I think it is misleading. Wood seems to imply that ISIS is profoundly anti-modern and neo-medieval. This is certainly their own self image, and superficially their fixations on conquest and slaving seem more fit for the 7th century than the 21st. But like fascism, another ostensibly anti-modern movement, it does not strike me that ISIS actually can be understood except as a reaction against modernity, engaging, assimilating, and co-opting. In a similar vein the attempts of the Amish and some Hasidic Jews to stop time and battle back modern innovation is a deep acknowledgment of the seductive power of modernity. Elements of the program of ISIS may seem medieval and traditional, but as a whole it is a radical movement, which is tearing a fabric in the organic development of modern Islamic tradition across its meany streams, which issue out of the evolution of the thousand year old madhhabs.

CENTCOM Says It Is Planning Spring Offensive to Retake Iraqi City of Mosul From ISIS

David Lerman
February 20, 2015

US said to plan Mosul offensive with 20,000 Iraqi troops

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Iraq are planning a spring offensive to retake the city of Mosul that will require 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi troops to defeat 1,000 to 2,000 Islamic State fighters, according to an official from U.S. Central Command.

The main attack force of five Iraqi army brigades will need to be trained first by U.S. advisers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity at a briefing Thursday to discuss military operations. The U.S. hasn’t ruled out delaying the offensive from a planned start in April or May if more time is required for training, most of which has yet to begin, the official said.

While the spring timing had been previously discussed, the official offered new details on the size of the force required to recapture Iraq’s second-largest city from Islamic State, which seized Mosul in June.

The battle for Mosul will mark the first major test for Iraqi forces since many fled as Islamic State extremists swept across northern Iraq last year to create their self-styled caliphate, or religious state. While some Iraqi officials pushed for an earlier offensive in Mosul, the U.S. has resisted such pleas, saying more time was needed for training.

Iraq has identified the units needed for a Mosul offensive, said the official from Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

The force will include five Iraqi army brigades, three smaller brigades serving as a reserve force, three brigades from the Kurdish Peshmerga military, a local force of police and tribal fighters, and some counterterrorism forces, the official said.

House-to-house fighting may be required to oust Islamic State fighters from Mosul, reducing or negating the advantage that U.S. and allied airstrikes have provided in more open country.

ISIS In Danger of Losing Its Main Supply Route in Northern Iraq to Kurdish Forces

Erin Cunningham
February 19, 2015

The Islamic State ‘caliphate’ is in danger of losing its main supply route

BAGHDAD — For weeks, U.S.-backed forces have been fighting to oust the Islamic State from key areas of northern Iraq in a series of small-scale battles that could have an enormous impact on the group’s “caliphate.”

A major prize in the clashes is a highway that serves as a lifeline for the Islamic State. It runs from the group’s Iraq stronghold in Mosul to its enclaves in northeastern Syria, including its self-styled capital, Raqqa, 300 miles away.

The battles are occurring as Islamic State is causing growing alarm internationally over its brutal actions, which have included the murder of a captured Jordanian pilot and the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by Libya-based adherents of the extremist group.

In late January, however, Islamic State fighters suffered a setback as Iraqi Kurdish forces seized a stretch of the key highway at the town of Kiske, west of Mosul.

The Islamic State is still using the highway, detouring onto back roads to get around Kiske. But if the Iraqi Kurdish fighters can maintain and expand their hold on the road, the Islamist extremists “will be under a kind of siege in the area. It will be very hard for them” logistically, said Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi researcher who is an expert on the radical group.

Blocking the highway would pressure the Sunni fighters to rely on lengthier and potentially riskier routes to transport people, cash and weapons, analysts say.

The road has been controlled by the jihadists since last summer. The peshmerga fighters from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq launched the series of battles in December. The operation initially targeted Sinjar — an Iraqi town bisected by the crucial highway. But after fighting there stalled, Kurdish forces broadened their offensive.

Can We Stop the Islamist Army of Terror?

February 20, 2015

On Nov. 16, 2014, the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State released a graphic video depicting a masked jihadist standing over the severed head of U.S. citizen Peter Kassig. The filmed execution of Kassig, who had been captured the previous year in Syria, was just the latest in a growing collection of horrific videos uploaded and disseminated around the Internet by the group.

His Islamic State captors cared little that Kassig had dedicated the final years of his life to humanitarian work in Lebanon and Syria, or that he had converted to Islam during his time in captivity. What mattered most to his killers was that Kassig had served as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq, and thus his death not only represented a blow to the "infidel" army of the West, but a step toward the fulfillment of a prophecy.

Beheadings, burnings, and systematic executions have become commonplace since this jihadist organization seized control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in the summer of 2014. The rapidity of its advance and the savagery of its practices have left many outside observers aghast and grasping at any available explanation for why such barbarity exists in the 21st Century. But to stop the Islamic State, it is important first to understand and explain the method to its unconscionable madness.

New partners in struggle against terrorism

Yohanan Plesner

Op-ed: We in Israel join our Danish friends as they mourn terrible incident, but we also call on them to join us in helping to lead Europe and West in an uncompromising war on terrorism.

If there is anything we should avoid saying right now, when the Danish people are grieving over the terrorist attack and mourning its victims, it is remarks of the sort that have often been typical of us Israelis: “Now you’ll finally understand what we have been going through all these years, what we are experiencing, and why we must combat terrorism.”

At such a time, Israel's leadership should be transmitting a different message, one that is less confrontational and more inclusive: a message of partnership among democracies battling terrorism without sacrificing their democratic values. Such a campaign requires striking a balance between competing values, and steps that will minimize the violation of fundamental rights while guarding national security.

Op-ed: What else has to happen before the free world's leaders realize that they must use the heaviest and deadliest tools available in order to save their countries and democracy? 

Denmark has already shown that it knows how to take drastic measures to safeguard its security. During the last decade, under its previous two prime ministers, Lars Løkke Rasmussen and his predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark's immigration regulations have been amended and made more stringent several times over. Cameras and inspectors have been stationed at its borders, restricting the free movement of migrants who do not have a residency permit.

During his tenure, Lars Løkke Rasmussen was assailed for this by other members of the European Union, on the grounds that he is harming the vision of a “Europe without borders.” But he has remained firm, justifying his actions on national security grounds.

The Danish people must now serve as an example to Europe in another way: Denmark must encourage all the countries of the EU, and in fact the entire Western world, to establish a set of clear cut rules for democratic countries involved in the war on terror. In Israel we have been doing this for years, because we understand that military operations alone will never defeat terrorism.

Provoking the Pharaoh

ISIS wants to draw Egypt into a wider war. Did President Sisi just take the bait? 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Paris, on Nov. 27, 2014.

On Monday, Egypt carried out its first large-scale military operation in years, targeting an ISIS training camp in eastern Libya to avenge the group’s murder of 21 Egyptian Christians. Is one of Washington’s key allies in the Arab world, a military that considers itself a bulwark against a regional Islamist threat, preparing to go on the offensive beyond its borders?

Probably not—if it can help it. As ruthless as it can be in cracking down on opponents at home, Egypt's military regime has traditionally been reluctant to project force abroad. A painful intervention in Yemen in the 1960s and 30 years of economically ruinous conflict with Israel ending in the 1970s have left the army leery of all but the most limited, short-term engagements. Egypt's last major deployment was during the 1991 Gulf War, when it received massive debt relief in compensation. Although militants with ties to Sudan, Gaza, and most recently Libya have targeted Egypt during the last two decades , the army has for the most part resisted the temptation to respond directly. Often Cairo prefers to provide intelligence support on its side of the border to partners such as Israel or anti-Islamist Libyan general Khalifa Haftar to help contain groups it considers a threat.

Monday's strikes against Derna, the east Libyan town where an ISIS affiliate has recently established an enclave, mark a significant break from this strategy. The attacks, retaliation against the slaughter of 21 Coptic Christians in another ISIS-held enclave, may not have been the first Egyptian incursion into Libya—Egypt backs Haftar, and reportedly assisted the United Arab Emirates in striking his Islamist opponents during a battle for control of the capital Tripoli last summer. But they are the first open attacks, and risk committing Egypt to a new level of involvement in Libya's ongoing multisided conflict.

Strategically, ISIS’s real target is almost certainly President Sisi. 

Defeating Lone-Wolf Terrorism

February 21, 2015 

"The best response is returning to the fundamental principles of inclusion, freedom and tolerance."

After the shooting in Copenhagen, police found a recording that made its way to the BBC. The recording tells the story of our times. In it, a woman is talking about the virtues of free speech, even unpopular or impolite speech that challenges strict forms of Islam, when she is interrupted (cinematically) by the sound of gun shots. The last sound we hear is the clatter of chairs and shoes, the din of the free speech crowd fleeing for the exits.

The attack may have been the handiwork of a “lone wolf,” but it is part of larger, more frightening pattern. Last month in Paris, a different set of “lone wolves”attacked the same symbolic targets: vocal defenders of free speech and the Jewish community. That’s what the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks in Paris have in common with the free-speech conference and Jewish community center in Copenhagen. This is frightening because nearly every major city in the world contains these symbolic targets, and because it suggests that “lone wolves” can be inspired by a contagious ideology that moves through the Internet.

Yes, we must balance our efforts to fight back with the values of freedom and privacy. But European and Arab nations should freely share information about airline passengers. Terrorism is transnational and threatens all countries, without exception. Absent such cooperation, which is largely lacking today, more innocents will die. It is time to be honest about the alleged violations of privacy involved. Why should airlines and government not share information that passengers freely provide to travel agents and online booking services?

The Only Thing Nigeria Fears More Than Boko Haram

February 20, 2015 

One of Nigeria's neighbors is helping it fight off a deadly insurgency...but that assistance may come at a price.

Five years into Boko Haram’s pernicious insurgency in northeast Nigeria, the casualties continue to mount. Though exact figures are difficult to pinpoint,estimates suggest fighting between the radical Islamic group and Nigerian forces killed upwards of 6,000 civilians in 2014. A January massacre in the town of Baga took the lives of hundreds more. Boko Haram’s latest casualty, the widely anticipated Nigerian election originally slated for February 14, has been postponed until March 28 for “security” reasons. Nigeria’s demonstrably ill-equipped army, having failed for five years to contain the rebellion, is now expected to do so in six weeks.

At the same time, novel efforts to combat Boko Haram from a different angle show signs of promise. In January, Chad—Nigeria’s battle-tested neighbor—deployed troops to the Nigerian frontier with Cameroon, forming a defense against militants who have taken refuge there. In early February, the Chadian military launched two cross-border incursions into Nigeria itself, reclaiming the border town of Gamboru Ngala from extremists. Niger, too, coordinated with the Chadian air force to thwart an assault by Boko Haram on its southern periphery.