7 April 2015

Chinese Takeaway: Yemen evacuation

April 7, 2015 

While India continues to evacuate its citizens from Yemen, China was quick to complete its operation last week. China had barely 600 people in Yemen to rescue. India had nearly 4,000 citizens in Yemen when the evacuation began last week amid the escalation of the conflict. 

For both China and India, which have significant populations living beyond borders, extricating compatriots from zones of conflict or natural disasters has become a recurring challenge. Between 2006 and 2010, Beijing rescued nearly 6,000 citizens from troubled regions. In 2011 alone, China had to evacuate 48,000 citizens, most of them from Libya. 

A greenprint for reform

April 6, 2015 

After many years, there will be a high-level meeting, inaugurated by the prime minister and with invitees from all state governments, to discuss “Green India”. The meeting, which starts today, is a great opportunity to usher in change and reform. After 40 years of serving in this sector, I suggest some critical points for action. 

First, refocus the relevant laws. We have a plethora of laws, some dating back to the middle of the 19th century and a clutch of them passed after 1947. At the moment, dozens of laws contradict each other and the interpretations by our judiciary are complex, to say the least. We need the best minds in this field in India to sit and write one law for forests, wildlife and forest people, and another for the environment. Both must be easy to understand and short. 

My outrage and yours

April 7, 2015

It is a paradox of our times that we seem to have both too much outrage and too little. Internationally, the horrific killing of university students in Garissa by terrorists has once again ignited the debate over selective outrage. The world stood in solidarity with France after Charlie Hebdo. But Kenya seems almost abandoned after an attack that, in scale and ideological framing, seems very significant. Even those who rush to indict terrorism at every turn seem to treat this incident with nonchalant indifference. Why? Is it, as is quite plausible, racism, plain and simple, where African lives simply matter less? Or is it also a reminder that evil is never enough to provoke outrage, and outrage is seldom about sympathy with the victims?

Dragon power on display

April 7, 2015 

With even U.S. allies scrambling to get on board the AIIB, China looks set to lead the global economy.

China appears to be on course to reset the existing global economic order dominated by the West. The setting up of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral financial institution, is a significant step in this direction, challenging the long-held dominance of the Bretton Woods system.

Formed largely with Chinese capital and initiative, AIIB aims to fund infrastructure projects across Asia. Indications are that this new multilateral bank could rival the World Bank and other long-standing international institutions established by the U.S. and its allies.

AIIB will have a subscribed capital of $50 billion, which will eventually rise to $100 billion. In comparison, the subscribed capital of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are $223 billion and $165 billion respectively.

A Persian handshake with promise

April 7, 2015

Signing of ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ closes Iran’s route to nuclear weapons, introduces stringent monitoring, & builds confidence by phasing out sanctions.

The signing of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme” last week, between Iran and P5+1, is the first definitive step on a road that will be long and tortuous but carries profound implications for the West Asian region as a whole. It initiates a thaw in regional political equations that have remained frozen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution when relations between the United States and Iran ruptured. During the last 18 months, it had become clear that within the P5+1, the principal negotiator was the U.S. and it sometimes faced difficulties in keeping its Western partners in line. In 2003-04, the E-3 (the United Kingdom, France and Germany) had come close to a deal that would have constrained Iran’s nuclear programme earlier, but it could not materialise because the U.S. was not at the table.

Lessons to be learnt from history

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Apr 7 2015 

It is imperative for Pakistan to recover genuine historical facts from the controlled manipulations of state ideologues. A serious revision of history is required.

AMIDST talk of the MQM's imminent demise, judicial commissions and the unending fight against “terrorism”, the 75th anniversary of the Lahore Resolution was observed recently. A great deal of effort was expended by officialdom — and our uniformed guardians in particular — to put on a grand “Pakistan Day” parade in Islamabad. Nationalist slogans were raised, tanks and planes were paraded and we were all reminded of just how fortunate we are to be members of the Pakistani “nation”.

Global machismo and dynamics of foreign policy

Bina Shah
Apr 7 2015 

Pakistan must rewrite its social contract, which at the moment serves to only cement the existing hierarchies of its tribal underpinnings. Pakistan’s foreign policy is imbued with machismo, with its need to rattle sabres.

IN Husain Haqqani's recent column in the Dawn, the former ambassador to the US outlined how Pakistan's foreign policy paradigm is now outdated, given the recent American tilt towards India.

“Instead of breeding competition with India in the national psyche, we must focus on addressing institutional weaknesses, eliminating terrorism, improving infrastructure, and modernising the economy.” His succinct phrasing crystallised an opinion I have been formulating for some time: that Pakistan's foreign policy doesn't work because our national psyche is based on pure machismo.

India Is Capable of Developing a 10,000-Kilometer Range ICBM

April 06, 2015

On Sunday, S.K. Salwan, the chairman of the Armament Research Board at India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), confirmed a subject of long-term speculation — that India is capable of developing an ICBM capable of striking targets beyond the 10,000 km range.

The Agni V, India’s has a range of 5,000 km which allows it cover the entirety of Asia, parts of North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Russia.

It is currently India’s longest range ICBM that has been successfully tested and is capable of delivering a 1,000 kg payload.

“India has successfully test fired nuclear capable Agni V missile recently which has a range of 5,000 kms. But we are capable of developing ICBM that can hit targets beyond the range of 10,000 kilometers,” Salwan told a conference in Vadodara, Gujarat.

This US Technology Could Give Indian Aircraft Carriers an Important Edge

April 06, 2015

According to remarks by a senior U.S. Department of Defense official, the United States would not oppose Indian purchases of advanced U.S. aircraft carrier technology. Frank Kendall, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told Reuters that the U.S. government would support an Indian purchase of an electromagnetic launching system for aircraft carriers, specifically San Diego-based General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).

“I’m optimistic about cooperating with them on that,” Kendall told Reuters when asked about supporting a possible Indian EMALS deal. ”They’re going to have to make their own decision about what technology they want, but I don’t see any fundamental obstacles to them acquiring some of our carrier technologies, if they want them,” he added.

India can make major defence equipment

06 Apr , 2015

The Central Govt in India accords very high priority and funds allotment to cater for the equipment requirements of the Armed Forces. Yet the bulk of the major equipment requirements are neither indigenously developed nor produced under the present evolved methodologies and practices. This is quite a paradox as unlike the first three decades after Independence, there is quite a good industrial and technological base as well as a pool of excellent human resources available within the country. It would be appropriate to say that in the top echelons of the Govt, there has been a mismatch in the selection of the type of management techniques to be adopted to run such costly and important programmes in a dedicated and time-bound manner.

India Developing AGNI VI ICBM

Ankit Panda
April 6, 2015

When it comes to long-range missiles, India is setting its sights far beyond itsrecently tested Agni V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

On Sunday, S.K. Salwan, the chairman of the Armament Research Board at India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), confirmed a subject of long-term speculation — that India is capable of developing an ICBM capable of striking targets beyond the 10,000 km range.

The Agni V, India’s has a range of 5,000 km which allows it cover the entirety of Asia, parts of North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Russia.

It is currently India’s longest range ICBM that has been successfully tested and is capable of delivering a 1,000 kg payload.

“India has successfully test fired nuclear capable Agni V missile recently which has a range of 5,000 kms. But we are capable of developing ICBM that can hit targets beyond the range of 10,000 kilometers,” Salwan told a conference in Vadodara, Gujarat.

The battle that rages within the Nation

06 Apr , 2015
Since Independence, the nation has grown up with the knowledge and belief that its armed forces are pillars of strength and symbolize probity and the spirit of sacrifice. This belief is reflected in polls conducted from time to time, and is strengthened when citizens see men and women in uniform risking their lives to save people during natural disasters like the one that struck Uttarakhand in June this year. From this comfort zone to be exposed to the events of the last year culminating in the present must have left them not only disoriented but also hopelessly confused.

To briefly recapitulate, the former army chief, V.K. Singh, completed his tenure at the end of May 2012 on the basis of his age in the record books. His appeal to the defence minister to have the age corrected was turned down. Had it been otherwise, not only would his tenure have been extended, but as claimed by some it would have upset an apparently well-crafted succession plan. The successor reportedly enjoyed high contacts within the civilian leadership and enjoyed its support. In a dubious first in the history of the armed forces, a serving army chief then approached the Supreme Court for relief, but was turned down.

India to the Rescue as Australia Eyes Coal’s Crown

April 05, 2015

Australia will usurp Indonesia to reclaim its title as the world’s biggest coal exporter by 2017, according to government forecasts. In the meantime though, the industry is expected to see tough times as it adjusts to China’s slowdown and a supply overhang from the boom, along with environmental pressures, with India emerging as the new source of demand.

Highlighting sluggish prices, on Friday, Japan’s Tohoku Electric Power reportedly agreed to an annual thermal coal import deal with Rio Tinto at prices 17 percent below a year ago, according to Japan’s Nikkei newspaper. The annual price was settled in the “upper $67 range” per ton for coal from Australia for the Japanese fiscal year beginning April 1, below last year’s price of $81.80 and nearly half the peak price of $130 reached in fiscal 2011.

Silencing the Lone Voice on Balochistan’s Missing Persons

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
April 06, 2015
Abdul Qadeer Baloch, fondly known as Mama Qadeer,made history last year with his 2,800 kilometer march from Quetta to Islamabad, which sought to draw attention to the disturbingly higher number of Baloch missing persons. The surge in the number of missing persons in Pakistan’s largest and least developed province has been linked to the military establishment, which is believed to be trying to silence “anti-state” activities and dissent.

After being disappointed by the federal government and judiciary, Mama Qadeer decided to rely on global organizations like the UN. He wanted to appeal in the International Court of Justice. As part of his efforts to create international awareness about the violations in Balochistan, Qadeer was invited to participate in a human rights conference in New York earlier this month.

Nuclear Fears in South Asia

APRIL 6, 2015

The world’s attention has rightly been riveted on negotiations aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. If and when that deal is made final, America and the other major powers that worked on it — China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — should turn their attention to South Asia, a troubled region with growing nuclear risks of its own.

Pakistan, with the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, is unquestionably the biggest concern, one reinforced by several recent developments. Last week, Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, announced that he had approved a new deal to purchase eight diesel-electric submarines from China, which could be equipped with nuclear missiles, for an estimated $5 billion. Last month, Pakistan test-fired a ballistic missile that appears capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to any part of India. And a senior adviser, Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, reaffirmed Pakistan’s determination to continue developing short-range tactical nuclear weapons whose only purpose is use on the battlefield in a war against India.

1.5 Billion Muslims May Live in Asia in 2050

April 04, 2015

The Pew Research Center released a new report this week that sheds some light on ongoing trends in religious demographics. The report, The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050 is one of the most detailed global studies of the world’s religious future to ever conducted. You can check out findings from the report using their interactive data explorer. Below, I highlight some of the more interesting points the report made about the future of religion in Asia, in particular.

According to the report, the global Muslim population is expected to grow twice as fast as the rest of the world’s population by 2050, mostly due to high fertility rates and a youthful population. By around 2070, Islam, whose numbers are projected to increase by 73 percent, will become the world’s largest religion, surpassing Christianity. Much of this growth will occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, but Islam will grow everywhere. The Middle East and North Africa region will remain the only region of the world where Muslims will be in the solid majority, but the proportion of the world’s Muslims in the Middle East will remain at around 20 percent.

Chinese AWACS Aircraft Now Operational

April 6, 2015

Less than two years after being spotted in the air for the first time the new Chinese KJ-500 AWACS (Air Warning And Control System) aircraft has entered service. The KJ-500 AWACS can track over 60 aircraft at ranges of up to 470 kilometers. The KJ-500 aircraft looks more like the American AWACS (with a round radar dome on top) but is smaller and carried by the Y-9 four engine turboprop aircraft (similar to the U.S. C-130). The KJ-200 designs used the smaller Y-8 aircraft and a long box-like radar array on top of the aircraft. The KJ-500 will supplement and eventually replace the current eleven KJ-200 (also called the KJ-2000) that has been in service since 2005. There are also four of the export model (ZDK-03) in Pakistan. Pakistan paid $300 million each for these KJ-200 variants. 

China has been developing its own AWACS since the 1990s, ever since the U.S. forced Israel to back off selling China the Phalcon AWACS (because it used some American technology). China then bought some AWACS from Russia, while hustling to develop their own. The Chinese Air Force was not happy with its four IL-76 AWACS (A-50s from Russia, converted to use Chinese KJ-200 radar systems) and smaller systems carried in the Chinese made Y-8 aircraft. The Chinese claim that their phased array AWACS is similar to, and superior in some respects, to the Phalcon radar they tried to buy from the Israelis. The Chinese were to pay about the same price for each of the four Phalcon systems they sought to get from Israel that they are charging Pakistan.

The China challenge

By Joseph S. Nye Jr. 
APRIL 03, 2015

SINCE WORLD War II, the United States has been the most powerful state in world politics. Many analysts view a rising China as the most likely contender to end the American century. One recent book is even entitled “When China Rules the World.”

Most projections of Chinese power are based on the rapid growth rate of its GDP, and China may pass the United States in total economic size in the 2020s. But even then, it will be decades before it equals America in per capita income (a measure of the sophistication of an economy). China also has other significant power resources. In terms of basic resources, its territory is equal to that of the United States and its population is four times greater. It has the world’s largest army, more than 250 nuclear weapons, and modern capabilities in space and cyberspace. In soft power (the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than payment or coercion), China still lacks cultural industries able to compete with Hollywood; its universities are not top ranked; and it lacks the many non-governmental organizations that generate much of America’s soft or attractive power.


By Zha Daojiong

What grounds have China broken in its economic diplomacy (defined here as promotion on trade and investment through diplomatic initiatives)? Out of Chinese pronouncements and actions by the new leadership formally installed in 2012, what can be discerned about future possibilities? Addressing these and related questions can be helpful in tackling the larger question of how China relates to the rest of the world economy. Let us begin with a sketch of official Chinese visions about the country in the world today.

When China’s Foreign Ministry inaugurated a new Department of International Economic Affairs in October 2012, the country was one month away from the once-in-a-decade leadership transition. The 18th Party Congress formalised the entry of the fifth generation of Chinese leaders. Amidst expectations of continuity in foreign policy strategy, Xi Jinping, the new party secretary and president of the country, began to indicate innovations in foreign policy thinking, coined in the phrase “Chinese Dream”.

China Evacuates Foreign Nationals from Yemen

April 06, 2015

As Yemen grows increasingly dangerous following the start of Operation Decisive Storm, a Saudi Arabia-led military campaign against the Houthi rebels who have overrun large swathes of the country, several countries have initiated operations to evacuate their citizens from the increasingly unstable state. In an unprecedented move, the Chinese government dispatched a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy frigate to help evacuate 225 nationals from 10 countries. According to a report in Xinhua, citizens from Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen were evacuated aboard the Type 054A Linyi frigate. Chinese military officials confirmed that this was the first time that a Chinese military vessel evacuated non-Chinese citizens in a humanitarian assistance mission.


This map shows four land features in the Spratly Islands that have undergone significant construction or land reclamation work in the past year. They are: Itu Aba, Gaven Reef, Johnson South Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef. Read more details about the features of these projects and use click and drag the slider in the middle to see before and after photographs.

Iran’s grand strategy is become a regional powerhouse

By Michael Morell 
April 3

Michael Morell was acting and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2010 to 2013. 

One of the interesting aspects of international affairs is that states and nonstate actors will occasionally say publicly exactly what they are thinking, doing and planning to do. No need for spies, no need for diplomats — just a need to listen. 

In the mid-1990s, Osama bin Laden said repeatedly that he saw the United States as his most important enemy and therefore as his key target. Bin Laden delivered on these warnings in August 1998 in East Africa, in October 2000 in Yemen and in September 2001 in New York and Washington. 


By Richard Javad Heydarian

A final, comprehensive agreement is yet to be drafted and signed, but by all indications negotiators have finally achieved a breakthrough in the decade-and-a-half-long Iranian nuclear negotiations.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) framework agreement, announced in Lausanne, Switzerland, after days of grueling 11th hour haggling between Tehran and the major world powers led by the United States, is the closest we can get to a “win-win” deal. It paves the way for an end to the Iranian nuclear hysteria and a decisive rollback of punitive Western sanctions, which have collectively punished tens of millions of ordinary Iranian citizens.

The hidden hand behind the Islamic State militants? Saddam Hussein’s.

By Liz Sly 
April 4

SANLIURFA, Turkey — When Abu Hamza, a former Syrian rebel, agreed to join the Islamic State, he did so assuming he would become a part of the group’s promised Islamist utopia, which has lured foreign jihadists from around the globe.

Instead, he found himself being supervised by an Iraqi emir and receiving orders from shadowy Iraqis who moved in and out of the battlefield in Syria. When Abu Hamza disagreed with fellow commanders at an Islamic State meeting last year, he said, he was placed under arrest on the orders of a masked Iraqi man who had sat silently through the proceedings, listening and taking notes.

Rand Paul Slams Saudi Arabia

April 6, 2015 

Senator Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, rode into the Senate chamber in 2010 on a Tea Party movement that took U.S. politics by storm and caused considerable concern among the mainstream Republican rank-and-file. Although he’s only been in the Senate for a little over four years, Rand Paul has acquired a great deal of national recognition. Paul has a number of good attributes as a politician. At fifty-two years old, he’s relatively young as far as Washington goes.

Yet as he prepares for his likely presidential campaign next month, Rand Paul continues to say and do things that won’t help win over Republican voters during the primary season. Nearly a year ago, I wrote that Sen. Paul was a GOP candidate that “sounded presidential” on matters of foreign policy—in particular regarding the nuclear negotiations with Iran, in which he has been far more willing than his fellow Republicans in Congress to support the Obama administration’s strategy. I’m not so sure that label applies anymore.

Smackdown: The Houthis Will Crush Saudi Arabia in Yemen

April 6, 2015

For the better part of its independent history Yemen has been plagued by conflict and turmoil. Since the September 11 Attacks, al-Qaeda’s robust presence there has alarmed Washington policymakers. Today, however, a more conventional conflict threatens its stability and that of the larger Middle East. It has become the epicenter of the Iranian-Saudi Arabian proxy war that has gripped the region. The Yemeni theater is one that the Saudis cannot afford to lose. But unless the Saudis conjure up a heretofore absent genie, the Iranian juggernaut will likely prevail.

The Saudis are backing embattled President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. In January, a rebel group known as the Houthis overthrew him. Drawing on their common Shia roots, the Iranians have come to their aid, setting up the latest Iranian-Saudi showdown.

Blocking an Iranian Bomb

April 5, 2015 

What’s the difference between a “good deal” with Iran over its nuclear program and a “bad deal”? A “good deal” is one that reduces the chance Iran will get a nuclear bomb, more than the available alternatives would. By that standard, the arrangement just announced in Lausanne, with specifics to be completed by June, is a good deal. It would greatly reduce the chance that the United States – or Israel – would ever have to face the danger or an Iranian bomb.

Why? There are both technical and political reasons.

Technically, the deal just announced would substantially reduce Iran’s ability to produce nuclear bomb material at known facilities, make it harder for Iran to build secret facilities, and greatly strengthen inspections.

Arms Control in Asia: Back to the Future?

By Christine M. Leah
April 06, 2015

Nuclear reductions and disarmament are not necessarily smart ideas. Even with the successful elimination of nuclear weapons, the tasks of strategy – deterrence, extended deterrence, and arms control – do not go away. Instead, they become even more difficult to manage. This is especially true for conventional arms control which, throughout history, has received very little attention in Asia. That is disturbing, given that Asia is now the center of global strategic gravity. Whilst nuclear disarmament will not happen any time soon (especially given escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia and China), U.S. President Barack Obama’s initial goals of further reducing the U.S. nuclear stockpile should force us to think very carefully about the desirability of relying on conventional military balances for deterrence, because a world with significantly fewer nuclear weapons would graphically expose conventional imbalances between states, which in many instances have remained partially hidden in the current nuclear age. It is upon these imbalances that any remaining system of deterrence would increasingly rely.

Ukraine and the Russia-China Axis

By James D.J. Brown
April 02, 2015

It is easy to make an emotional case for Western assistance to the Ukrainian government in its confrontation with Russia. In principle, the people of Ukraine should have the liberty to determine their own foreign policy orientation and the international community should support their freedom to make this choice. Such a stance is morally unimpeachable. It is also a perilous basis for policymaking. Pursuing ideals in isolation from assessments of what is achievable and without reference to the broader international context risks unleashing a horror of unintended consequences. This being so, foreign policy makers must restrict themselves to the art of the possible and base their decisions on cold-hearted assessments of long-term security interests.

America: Its Own Worst Nuclear Enemy

April 5, 2015

The Obama Administration has had to overcome several obstacles to reach a framework agreement with Tehran on Iran's nuclear program. One source is the unsubtle attempt of Israel and its neoconservative allies in the United States to sabotage any prospective agreement. Another major impediment, though, is Tehran’s suspicions that Washington would not live up to its commitments if Iran dialed back the scope of its nuclear ambitions. Iranian officials, with good reason, wonder whether the United States has abandoned its policy of forcible regime change when it comes to dealing with adversaries.

President Obama Calls Preliminary Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Our Best Bet’

APRIL 5, 2015 

WASHINGTON — President Obama strongly defended last week’spreliminary agreement with Iran as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in a dangerous region while reassuring critics that he would keep all options available if Tehran ultimately cheated.

As he sought in an interview with The New York Times to sell the tentative deal to skeptics accusing him of giving away too much, Mr. Obama emphasized to Israel that “we’ve got their backs” in the face of Iranian hostility. And he suggested that he could accept some sort of vote in Congress if it did not block his ability to carry out the agreement.

“This is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, an Op-Ed columnist for The Times, published on Sunday. “What we will be doing even as we enter into this deal is sending a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there.”

Can U.S. Slash Military Budget When Russia’s Preparing for War?


The battle over sequestration continues, as Congress mandates that the Pentagon continue to slash the U.S. army down to pre-World War IIlevels. Meanwhile, the Iranian military is resurgent, peace deal or not, with the Islamic Republicincreasing its defense budget by some 33.5 percent. Then, again, being militarily active in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq takes money.

Perhaps President Obama believes he has solved the Iran problem, or is well on his way to doing so. But even if his former Secretary of State Hillary Clintoncontinues to insist her “reset” policy with Russia worked, Russian President Vladimir Putin poses an increasing threat to international security, as anyone in Georgia or Ukraine can attest. Obama may believe the situation has stabilized—after all, press attention has moved on—but it looks like the situation might soon go from bad to worse.


Abdullah Al-Moalami, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, said that Russia’s call for a humanitarian pause in Yemen was aimed at hindering a draft resolution by Gulf states and Jordan that is being negotiated by the UN Security Council.

“We always provided the necessary facilities for humanitarian assistance to be delivered,” Al-Moalami was quoted as saying in an Al Arabiya report.

“We have cooperated fully with all requests for evacuation,” he added, echoing comments made earlier by Brig.-General Ahmad Al-Assiri, a consultant in the defense minister’s office.

Russia’s Stealth Fighter Is in Serious Trouble


Just a short time ago, Russia planned to have 52 advanced T-50 stealth fighters by the end of the decade. At least, that was the plan.

Now the T-50 program appears to be in serious trouble, and Russia may cut back the fighters to a fraction of the planned strength.

The first sign something was very wrong appeared last month. On March 24. Yuri Borisov, Russia’s deputy defense minister for armaments, told theKommersant newspaper that the military is drastically cutting its number of T-50s. Instead of 52 stealth fighters, Russia will build merely 12 of them.

How the U.S. Would Destroy Iran’s Nuclear Program

April 3, 2015

The U.S. military has been getting ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities to smithereens even longer than Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to negotiate them away. And while Thursday’s “framework” between Tehran and the U.S. and five other nations could lead to a peaceful accord this summer, the Pentagon is ready if it doesn’t.

Iran has been conducting much of its suspected nuclear-weapons work for years in underground labs and research facilities thought to be able to survive attacks by earlier generations of U.S. military bunker-busters.

So the Defense Department has spent just as much time procuring a bigger punch.

Grexit: The Moment of Truth Is Nigh

April 6, 2015

Five years ago, Greece became the first member to endanger the survival of the eurozone, and now, once again, the Hellenic nation challenges the fundamental political, economic, institutional, and legal assumptions of the common currency's framework. Yet markets don't seem especially worried about a Grexit (partly because the European Central Bank's quantitative easing program has perverted markets).

Some respected analysts at banks and other research houses, however, are increasingly starting to worry. Barclays' Philippe Gudin wrote: "The risk of an accident is still very high in our view, which could imply a Greek default and even possibly a Greek exit from the single-currency union." Macropolis analyst Wolfgang Piccoli said "Greece's moment of truth is inexorably approaching...It is difficult to see how the situation could improve in the crucial weeks ahead."

The Obama Doctrine and Iran

In September 1996, I visited Iran. One of my most enduring memories of that trip was that in my hotel lobby there was a sign above the doorproclaiming “Down With USA.” But it wasn’t a banner or graffiti. It was tiled and plastered into the wall. I thought to myself: “Wow — that’s tiled in there! That won’t come out easily.” Nearly 20 years later, in the wake of a draft deal between the Obama administration and Iran, we have what may be the best chance to begin to pry that sign loose, to ease the U.S.-Iran cold/hot war that has roiled the region for 36 years. But it is a chance fraught with real risks to America, Israel and our Sunni Arab allies: that Iran could eventually become a nuclear-armed state.

President Obama invited me to the Oval Office Saturday afternoon to lay out exactly how he was trying to balance these risks and opportunities in the framework accord reached with Iran last week in Switzerland. What struck me most was what I’d call an “Obama doctrine” embedded in the president’s remarks. It emerged when I asked if there was a common denominator to his decisions to break free from longstanding United States policies isolating Burma, Cuba and now Iran. Obama said his view was that “engagement,” combined with meeting core strategic needs, could serve American interests vis-à-vis these three countries far better than endless sanctions and isolation. He added that America, with its overwhelming power, needs to have the self-confidence to take some calculated risks to open important new possibilities — like trying to forge a diplomatic deal with Iran that, while permitting it to keep some of its nuclear infrastructure, forestalls its ability to build a nuclear bomb for at least a decade, if not longer.


By Elizabeth Dickinson

On Tuesday, international donors pledged a record US$3.8 billion towards humanitarian relief for the Syrian crisis, now in its fifth year. Here are three key trends from the conference.

1. Political frustration and polarisation

While the amount raised was up significantly on the $2.4billion pledged in 2014, it still falls far short of the $7.4 billion the UN says it needs for relief efforts in 2015. No goal had been set for how much of this the conference was set to fulfil.

There was also growing frustration about a lack of political solution for the crisis at the conference, with states becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Old U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Once Important CIA Spy Center, Now Playground for the Rich

Tim Arango
April 6, 2015

ISTANBUL — For more than a century, the grand Italianate mansion that serves as an anchor of this city’s European quarter was a beehive of American diplomacy and espionage. Spies toiled within and met their agents at the bar across the street, reporters dropped by for after-work drinks, and any Turk could walk in off the street to see the latest art exhibition or browse the library. There seemed to be a celebration every night.

“We were partying all the time,” said Ayse Ozakinci, who was a librarian for four decades in the imposing structure, the American Consulate in Istanbul. “There was a festive mood for everyone.”

And then, a dozen years ago, the party stopped and security walls enclosed the mansion, as the threat of terrorism sent American diplomats to a fortified hillside compound on the city’s outskirts, overlooking the Bosporus.

Shiite Militias Are The Real Winners of the Battle of Tikrit

Nancy A. Youssef

Iranian-backed militias have played a crucial role in rolling back ISIS in Iraq, but their growing influence should concern everyone. 

The self-proclaimed Islamic State’s loss of the Iraqi city of Tikrit this week would not have been possible without thousands of rogue Iraqi Shiite militiamen, U.S. defense officials conceded. 

And that could complicate coming battles, officials said. 

With the first major victory over ISIS in Iraq, those militias, many of whom are backed by neighboring Iran, will now have a greater say in how aggressively and effectively Iraq goes after the ISIS threat. They could determine which cities to attack, how much to lean on the U.S.-led coalition and when to strike. And such a varied group of fighters will likely have differing opinions from the Iraqi government, the U.S.-led coalition, Iran and even among themselves, about what needs to happen next in the battle against ISIS.

F-35 comes with $400K helmet; pilot can ‘see’ through plane

April 2, 2015

The U.S. Air Force’s F-35 Lightning II comes with a $400,000 helmet that allows pilots to “see” through the aircraft.

Lockheed Martin’s single-engine fighter aircraft is outfitted with six cameras and 8 million lines of code, which gives a pilot wearing the helmet 360 degrees of vision. Anywhere the pilot looks, vision is not hindered.

“When the helmet’s tuned correctly to the pilot’s eyes, you almost step into this other world where all this information comes in. You can look through the jet’s eyeballs to see the world as the jet sees the world,” Al Norman, an F-35 test pilot for Lockheed Martin, told The Washington Post on Wednesday.