28 July 2015

1971 War: The Sinking of the Ghazi

By Vice Adm (Retd) GM Hiranandani
27 Jul , 2015

The Pakistan Navy’s Deployment of Ghazi in the 1971 Indo Pakistan War

In his book, “Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership”, written in 1972 soon after the war, Maj General Fazal Muqeem Khan states: (Page 153)

“The submarine GHAZI was despatched to the Visakhapatnam Naval Base in the Bay of Bengal. The GHAZI’s task was to carry out offensive mine laying against Visakhapatnam.

“GHAZI which had sailed towards Visakhapatnam with special instructions, had to reach its destination on 26 Nov 71. She was to report on arrival but no word was heard from her. Efforts were made to contact her but to no avail. The fate of the GHAZI was in jeopardy before 3 Dec. The Indians made preposterous claims about the sinking of the GHAZI. However, being loaded with mines, it seems to have met an accident on her passage and exploded. A few foreign papers at that time also reported that some flotsam had been picked up by Indian fishermen and handed over to the Indian Navy, which made up stories about its sinking”.

The Story of the Pakistan Navy’ published twenty years later in 1991, gives a slightly different account:

GHAZI’s deployment to the Bay of Bengal must be regarded as a measure taken to rectify a strategic posture that was getting increasingly out of step with military realities.

“The Navy ordered the submarines to slip out of harbour quietly on various dates between 14 and 22 November. They were allocated patrol areas covering the west coast of India, while GHAZI was despatched to the Bay of Bengal with the primary objective of locating the Indian aircraft carrier, INS VIKRANT, which was reported to be operating in the area.

India’s Foreign Policy 2004-2014 Dismally Failed: Challenges Ahead

By Dr Subhash Kapila
Paper No. 5973 Dated 22-Jul-2015

India’s foreign policy 2004-2014 dismally failed under the stewardship of Congress Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his selected National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon , (earlier his Foreign Secretary), with its signature note of appeasement of the China-Pakistan strategic duo grossly adversarial against India.

India’s foreign policy 2004-2014 was also a dismal failure when it came to India’s strategic partnership with the United States and Russia, two nations which greatly mattered to India’s security needs in terms of enlisting some semblance of countervailing power against the India-destabilisation strategies of the China-Pakistan Axis, reminiscent of the Germany-Italy Axis of the Second World War.

India’s ‘Neighbourhood Policy’ during 2004-2014 was more than disastrous as India served Nepal and Sri Lanka on a platter to Chinese influence and sway. India was insensitive to Bangladesh’s strategic significance for India. In fact all these three countries matter significantly for Indian security along with Bhutan.

Looking back at this period of complete divorce of India’s national security imperatives as determinants of India’s foreign policy, one wonders what factors or foreign policy ends played on the minds of India’s Congress Prime Minister and his chosen National Security Adviser, otherwise reputed to be an ace diplomat.

Sorry, the United Kingdom Does Not Owe India Reparations

Indian diplomat and politician Shashi Tharoor (from the opposition Congress Party) has recently called for Great Britain to pay reparations to India and its former colonies in a debate at the Oxford Union (that went viral online). This argument has been met with widespread praise in India where nationalism – for both the left and right – is often cast in anti-British and anti-colonial terms, influenced by the the narratives of the anti-imperialist 20th century in vogue throughout the world. These ideas have had elements of truth and exaggeration in them. Despite the appeal of these ideas, it does not make sense for Britain to pay reparations to India for reasons I outline below.

First, I disagree with the characterization of colonialism that lends itself to such calls in the first place. History, is among other things, the story of the rise and fall of states and empires. And by their nature, politics and state-building always help and hurt certain groups. In an empire or after conquest by an empire, there are always privileged elites, collaborators, people whose lives don’t change at all, and groups that have the worst of it.

Taliban Overrun Afghan Military Base in Northern Afghanistan, Capture 100 Personnel

Bill Roggio
July 26, 2015

Taliban overrun base, capture and release 100 Afghan security personnel

The Taliban overran a military base in the remote northern Afghan province of Badakhshan this weekend, capturing more than 100 police and tribal fighters before disarming and freeing them.

Taliban fighters began their assault on the Qala base in the embattled district of Warduj beginning on July 24, according to the jihadist group and Afghan press reports. The base was overrun by July 25, but the Afghan government and the Taliban differ on the reasons why.

Afghan officials claimed that a police commander known as Amanullah and his officers defected to the Taliban, TOLONews reported.

“Amanullah head of the border police in the military base made a deal with the Taliban insurgents because the military base did not have any problems and they had all the equipment,” a spokesman for the provincial chief of police said.

The Taliban claimed credit for the assault in a statement that was released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, but did not give any indication that the police defected. Instead the Taliban said the assault force detained “110 hireling ANA [Afghan soldiers], police and Arbaki militiamen.” Additionally the Taliban said it seized “10 PKM machine guns, 10 RPG launchers, 90 rifles, 3 Dshk heavy machine guns, 2 mortar tubes, an artillery piece as well as a large amount of ammunition and other military gear.”

The Enduring Power of Bad Ideas: ‘Cold Start’ and Battlefield Nuclear Weapons in South Asia

In April 2011, Pakistan declared that it had tested a short-range battlefield nuclear missile, the Nasr.1 Since then, prominent purveyors of Pakistani nuclear doctrine, including Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai and former diplomat Maleeha Lodhi, have portrayed the Nasr missile as a counter to India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine.2 

That doctrine supposedly aims at rapid but limited retaliatory incursions into Pakistan by the Indian army to seize and hold narrow slices of territory in response to a terrorism event in India involving Pakistanis. The rationale is that the seized territory would be returned in exchange for Pakistani extradition of extremists inflicting terrorism onto India. The doctrine is based on the assumption that Pakistan would not resort to the use of nuclear weapons in response to a limited Indian incursion, thereby offering space for conventional conflict even in a nuclearized environment.

Pointing to this Indian war doctrine, Pakistani decision-makers now argue that the deterrent value of their current arsenal operates only at the strategic level. According to this line of reasoning, the gap at the tactical level gives India the freedom to successfully engage in limited Cold Start-style military operations without fear of nuclear escalation. Development of the low-yield, tactical battlefield nuclear weapon, the Nasr missile, is seen as the solution providing “flexible deterrence options”3 for an appropriate response to Cold Start, rather than massive nuclear retaliation against India. Nasr proponents argue that by maintaining “a credible linkage between limited conventional war and nuclear escalation,” the missile will deter India from carrying out its plan.4

How Hamid Karzai Continues to Rule Afghanistan From Beyond the (Political) Grave

By Kambaiz Rafi
July 25, 2015
The former Afghan president is leveraging a personal network to exercise influence beyond his term.
Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan since the 2001 Bonn agreement up until a year ago, never truly had his heart in building state institutions, at least not in the same way his Western partners had in mind. Coming from a tribal background, he was ideologically opposed to a strong state bureaucracy and rekindled tribal patronage at the highest levels of government, a trend that had hardly been seen in Afghanistan for at least a century before him, barring the 1990s Civil Warand the ensuing Taliban regime. Turning into a vocal critic of the current president, he continues to wieldinfluence among the tribal communities to challenge the government’s authority.

It was in late 19th century, under the reign of Amir Abur Rahman, that Afghanistan showed signs of statehood with a centralized bureaucracy and emphasis on rule of law. In his memoir, Amir, who had previously lived in exile for a decade in Central Asia, constantly derides the old ways of tribal loyalties and the prevalent backwardness among his subjects, cracking down on a number of tribal rebellions during his reign.

Revealed: How China and Russia Could Destroy America's F-35 in Battle

July 26, 2015

After the leaking of a report about the recent failure of an F-35 to win in a dogfight against an F-16D, debate has intensified about the future nature of air to air combat. In a recent Strategist post, Andrew Davies identifies the importance of combining long-range air-to-air engagement using ‘Beyond-Visual Range Air to Air Missiles’ (BVRAAMs), with the advantage bestowed by stealth technology to reduce detectability of the aircraft, as well as exploiting superior sensors, information processing and electronic warfare capability.

Davies also notes that it is yet to be demonstrated how effective these capabilities will be in a future operational environment, stating “…there are reasons to wonder how effective the F-35’s bag of tricks will be into the future, especially as counter-stealth systems evolve, and I’d like to see it carry more and longer-ranged weapons…” Clearly the F-35 was designed to undertake a particular approach to air-to-air combat in mind (long-range attacks) rather than close-in dogfighting. This highlights a key question that is now generating significant debate: “Are our current assumptions about future air combat—that BVR engagement will dominate and ‘dogfights’ have had their day

Chinese Outward Investment and Host Country Corruption

By Jean-Marc F. Blanchard and Juliette Devillard
July 26, 2015
The effect of Chinese outward investment (COI) on host country corruption levels, government accountability, and transparency has been a topic of considerable interest among activists and scholars as well as businesspeople and policymakers who fret Chinese malfeasance is putting their firms at a competitive disadvantage. This makes sense given billions of dollars of Chinese investment in countries such as Angola, Sudan, and Venezuela, which fare quite poorly in the pertinent international rankings. Moreover, there are numerous reports of Chinese companies paying bribes to secure a major port deal in Sri Lanka, to try to obtain a major broadband telecommunications deal in the Philippines, and to secure lucrative oil and gas opportunities in Kazakhstan. Beyond this, Transparency International’s 2011 Bribe Payer Index ranks Chinese companies second out of a list of 28 countries in terms of their willingness to pay bribes. Indeed, one set of writers from Pacific Forum CSIS has accused China of hypocrisy, waging a vigorous fight against corruption at home, but “turning a blind eye to the dangers that could result from massive infusions of Chinese money.” Simply put, China is ignoring how its investment and associated financial aid and loans can “nurture corruption and distort good governance.”

'This Will Make the Country a Chinese Colony'

A constitutional amendment in the Maldives has India worried about Chinese influence.

The Maldives’ recent constitutional amendment was perhaps the fastest to clear the parliament in recent history. With no debate, no consultation, and no time for legislators to study the draft, the Majlis, the Maldivian parliament, passed a landmark amendment authorizing foreign ownership of land thereby raising questions regarding the intents of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM). It took the parliament under 24 hours to effect a major change in the constitution, allowing foreigners to acquire land on a freehold basis on any of the 1,200 islands that comprise the Maldives.

“There has been no public debate, no consultation and the amendment passed so quickly that everyone is still in shock. It was an unprecedented move and people are still confused,” says Zaheena Rasheed, editor of Minivan News, a prominent news portal in the Maldives.

The amendment, in a radical departure from the past, allows foreign nationals to buy land on a freehold basis. Many legislators critical of the amendment says that it is aimed at giving China a foothold in the Indian ocean, disturbing the balance of power between New Delhi and Beijing in the region.

ISIS Is a a “Fast-Moving and Confounding Enemy,“ U.S. Officials

Damian Paletta, Wall Street Journal
July 26, 2015
ASPEN, Colo.—Top U.S. national security officials at a multiday mountain summit described Islamic State militants as a fast-moving and confounding enemy, immune to some of the counterterrorism methods that appeared to work more effectively against al Qaeda.

Some suggested that efforts to counter Islamic State advances were yielding success, but others painted a picture of a militant group that—particularly on social media—operates with stealth and speed that the U.S. government wasn’t prepared to match.
“We didn’t perfect the process of sharing information and sharing intelligence until this emergency really exploded in our faces,” said retired Marine Gen. John Allen, now a top State Department official who leads the government’s effort to combat Islamic State.

The three days of panels at the Aspen Security Forum demonstrated the extent of the challenge facing Gen. Allen and other law enforcement, security, intelligence, military, and foreign policy leaders as they continue to re-evaluate their approach to the militant group.
U.S. officials described two glaring challenges. First, the places where Islamic State thrives-northern Iraq, Syria, and Libya—are major U.S. intelligence blind spots. The U.S. government has no military or diplomatic presence in these areas and it is difficult to monitor activity.

Second is the challenge posed by Islamic State’s use of social media to recruit supporters and inspire followers to carry out attacks in the U.S. Against al Qaeda, U.S. officials had successfully tracked and disrupted networks often made up of trusted allies with long-standing relationships. Islamic State militants, however, often have much looser bonds, and have motivated attacks with people who militants never meet in person.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said these militants connect with possible sympathizers by using the social media network Twitter, then they hold conversations by using encrypted technology that the U.S. government has a hard time monitoring.

The Lost Pilgrims of the Islamic State


Like past pilgrimages to China and the Soviet Union, the migration of Westerners to the Islamic State group points to the tragic intersection of estrangement and utopian hope. 

In Political Pilgrims, the sociologist Paul Hollander exposes and excoriates the mentality of a certain kind of Western intellectual, who, such is the depth of his estrangement or alienation from his own society, is predisposed to extend sympathy to virtually any opposing political system.
Simon Cottee is a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam.Full Bio

The book is about the travels of 20th-century Western intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, and how these political travelers were able to find in such repressive countries a model of “the good society” in which they could invest their brightest hopes. Hollander documents in relentless and mortifying detail how this utopian impulse, driven by a deep discontent with their own societies, led them to deny or excuse the myriad moral defects of the places they visited.

But the significance of Political Pilgrims extends far beyond its immediate subject matter, and its insights may help to illuminate the mentality of that most recent and disconcerting set of pilgrims: namely, the Western migrants to the Islamic State, whose estrangement from their own societies can prime them to idealize the so-called Islamic State and overlook or justify its terrible human-rights abuses.

The ISIS flag on a hilltop after a battle in Kobani, Syria

JUL 24, 2015

In Political Pilgrims, the sociologist Paul Hollander exposes and excoriates the mentality of a certain kind of Western intellectual, who, such is the depth of his estrangement or alienation from his own society, is predisposed to extend sympathy to virtually any opposing political system.

The book is about the travels of 20th-century Western intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, and how these political travelers were able to find in such repressive countries a model of “the good society” in which they could invest their brightest hopes. Hollander documents in relentless and mortifying detail how this utopian impulse, driven by a deep discontent with their own societies, led them to deny or excuse the myriad moral defects of the places they visited.

But the significance of Political Pilgrims extends far beyond its immediate subject matter, and its insights may help to illuminate the mentality of that most recent and disconcerting set of pilgrims: namely, the Western migrants to the Islamic State, whose estrangement from their own societies can prime them to idealize the so-called Islamic State and overlook or justify its terrible human-rights abuses.

Shelling reported in southern Yemen despite truce called by Saudi coalition

Houthi rebels refuse to adopt position on ceasefire
Shelling was reported in southern Yemen on Sunday despite a truce being called by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Shia Houthi rebels in the country. Witnesses said that the rebels had shelled residential areas near the city of Taiz. Clashes between the rebels and Yemeni government forces at an air base near the city of Aden were also reported hours before the ceasefire was supposed to take effect. A spokesperson for the Houthis said that they would not adopt a position on the ceasefire until they were officially informed about it. Other reports suggested that rebel leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi had pledged to continue fighting government forces. While the coalition on Saturday said that it would suspend bombarding Houthi positions for five days, it also reserved its right to respond to any provocation by the rebels.

Turkey calls for NATO talks on Islamic State, PKK

Turkey has called for a special meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to discuss military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Kurdish separatist outfit the Kurdistan Workers Party. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Turkey’s request was based on Article 4 of the NATO Treaty, which allows member-nations to request a special meeting if their territorial security is being threatened. “I think it’s very right and timely to have a meeting where we address the turmoil and the instability,” Stoltenberg said. He also commended Turkey over their increased operations against the Islamic State and their efforts to “increase control over their borders and to stem the flow of foreign fighters”. Turkey’s call for a special session came a day after it bombed Islamic State positions in Syria and PKK camps in northern Iraq.

All Roads Lead to Syria

July 24, 2015

So far, the “historic” Iran deal hasn’t shifted much. If it’s going to stick, the Obama Administration has to think bigger.

The United States got down on its knees last week to kiss the frog on the lips and sign the nuclear deal with Iran; the frog, however, does not show much sign of turning into a prince. It is early days, but the Iranian nuclear dealseems not to have changed very much on the ground. Instead of a handsome prince professing undying love, we have the same old ayatollah croaking dismally that U.S. policies were diametrically opposed to those of Iran, in a speech punctuated by chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” The top Revolutionary Guards commander came out in opposition to the heavily caveated provisions which grant access to Iran’s secret military sites, saying that the deal crossed “red lines.” “We will never accept it.”This doesn’t seem to be what our diplomats expected. “I don’t know how to interpret it at this point in time, except to take it at face value, that that’s his policy,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview on Al-Arabiya. “But I do know that often comments are made publicly and things can evolve that are different. If it is the policy, it’s very disturbing, it’s very troubling.” The Princification Process still has a ways to run.

Assuming that the Iran deal is here to stay, and that one or both houses of Congress don’t get the two-thirds majorities needed to override a presidential veto, the question now is what next. What does the deal with Iran really mean? Did we take the nuclear issue off the table, sort of, in order to clear the decks for a tougher regional strategy to counter Iran’s rush for hegemony across the Middle East? Or is the nuclear deal just the first act in a longer drama of retreat, retrenchment, and accommodation as the U.S. hands the keys of the Persian Gulf to our new Shi’a friends?

Turkey’s double trouble: ISIS and the PKK

26 July 2015

The past several days in southeastern Turkey have seen significant bloodshed followed by high tensions and widespread unrest that has spilled over into Istanbul and Ankara. On 20 July, a 20 year old Turkish national, identified as Abdurrahman Alagözand suspected of having ties to ISIS, detonated his explosives-laden body at a cultural center in southeastern Turkey’s Suruc province. The explosion ripped through a gathering of Socialist Youth Association (SGDF) members, who were discussing how to rebuild the war-torn Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane. The blast killed at least 32 people and injured another 104.

Following the deadly attack, demonstrations and unrest broke out across the southeast as well as Ankara and Istanbul. As protesters condemned the perceived failure of the Turkish government to prevent the attack, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) began plotting. 

During evening hours local time on 21 July, PKK cadres killed at least one man they alleged was an ISIS fighter in Istanbulwhile another man accused of supporting the militant group was shot dead in his house in Adana province the following day. 

Later on 22 July, two days days after the suspected ISIS bombing, PKK cadres fatally shot two Turkish police officers inside the men’s shared private residence in Şanlıurfa province. The militant group quickly claimed responsibility for the revenge attack, noting that, "A punitive action was carried out... in revenge for the massacre in Suruç.” Deadly PKK ambushes continued on 23 July with two masked gunmen shooting one policeman dead and injuring another inDiyarbakır province.

Post deal, can Rouhani deliver on promises of reform?

Author Alireza Nader
July 24, 2015

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaves after delivering a speech at the plenary session of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, April 22, 2015.

The next few months will see President Hassan Rouhani enjoy a peak in popularity. The nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany) boosts Rouhani among the public and even the political elite. The mild-mannered president will have much more political capital in his hand. But what will he spend it on? The economy will no doubt be a big focus. Rouhani’s government has already indicated a desire to liberalize and privatize Iran’s moribund economy and possibly loosen the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) chokehold on business. But Rouhani has been relatively reticent on political and social reforms, both of which matter a great deal to Iranians; after all, what is economic prosperity if there is no accompanying personal freedom?
Summary⎙ Print Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must tread lightly to ensure economic prosperity after sanctions relief.

Iran can buy a lot of terror with $100 billion

 JULY 26, 2015

AS A CANDIDATE for president in 2004, John Kerry couldn’t bring himself to worry overmuch about Islamic terrorism. Today, as a secretary of state trying to sell a nuclear accord that would lift economic sanctions from the world’s leading state sponsor of Islamic terrorism, he still can’t.

During his run for the White House, Kerry insisted the danger from global jihadists should be viewed as primarily an “intelligence gathering, law enforcement, public diplomacy effort,” not a military conflict. “We have to get back to the place we were,” he told an interviewer — back to regarding suicide bombings and planes flying into skyscrapers as a manageable annoyance, not an existential threat. He likened terror attacks to prostitution and illegal gambling: “a nuisance” that “we’re never going to end . . . but we’re going to reduce.”

Ten years later, jihadist violence remains a deadly global reality, much of it fueled and financed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. That is why one of the gravest concerns about the proposed Iran deal is the massive financial windfall Tehran will reap as international sanctions come off. With well over $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets poised to be released, plus some $20 billion a year in new oil revenues, the Iranian regime will be awash with cash — cash it will be free to invest in its lethal proxies.

Battle Raging for Al-Anad Air Base in Southern Yemen

July 26, 2015

Houthis, Saudi-Led Forces Battle for Yemen’s Biggest Air Base

ADEN/SANAA — Yemeni forces allied with a Saudi-led coalition fought Houthi militia for control of the country’s largest air base north of Aden on Sunday, hours before a humanitarian truce declared by the coalition was meant to start, residents said.

The al-Anad base, 50 km (30 miles) from the southern port city, has been held by the Iranian-allied Houthi movement for much of a fourth-month-old civil war and commands the approaches to Aden.

The Arab coalition on Saturday announced a ceasefire to take effect at 11.59 p.m. (2059 GMT) on Sunday evening for five days to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The head of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said in comments carried by the Saba news agency that the group was not notified by the United Nations about the ceasefire and would not form a position towards it until then.

“There is no positive or negative stance until the United Nations formally addresses us concerning the matter,” he said.

The Iranian-allied Houthi movement accuses its Saudi-supported foes of being in cahoots with Islamist militants such as al Qaeda, something the coalition denies.

Despite More Losses, Somali Terror Group Al-Shabaab Has Rebounded Once Again

Ty McCormick
July 26, 2015

Al-Shabab’s Resilient Insurgency

TOROTOROW, Somalia — African Union troops, draped in shimmering belts of ammunition and sweating under the weight of their body armor, kept an uneasy watch as their commander addressed a group of Somali elders in the half-shade of a baobab tree.

“We call on you to cooperate with our soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Samuel Kavuma, who leads the Ugandan contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the multination peace-enforcement mission that has battled the militant group al-Shabab here since 2007. “Don’t fear AMISOM soldiers. AMISOM soldiers are different from al-Shabab,” he told them. “We don’t kill people, so work close with them. Give them any information … so that we are able to fight the enemy together and defeat them.”

The elders sat cross-legged in silence, the dry, cracked earth baking around them. It was a sweltering afternoon in late June, and Kavuma was in Torotorow visiting residents of Somalia’s most recently liberated town. When AMISOM pushed al-Shabab out of Mogadishu in 2011, the al Qaeda-linked group came here to this arid and sparsely populated region southwest of the capital and established a new command center. The militants taxed the local population and implemented their strict version of Islamic law. They also trained foot soldiers before launching attacks on government and African Union targets in the capital.

Its a Secret Why British Terror Suspect Was Found Not Guilty By UK Court

Stephen Castle
July 26, 2015

A Terrorism Case in Britain Ends in Acquittal, but No One Can Say Why

LONDON — Ian Cobain, a reporter with The Guardian, is one of very few people who know why a student arrested by armed British police officers in 2013 was finally acquitted this year of terrorism charges.

Problem is, he cannot report what he knows. He was allowed to observe much of the trial, but only under strict conditions intended to keep classified material secret. His notebooks are being held by Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. And if he writes — or even talks — about the reason that the student, Erol Incedal, 27, was acquitted, Mr. Cobain faces prosecution and possibly jail.

“I know the essence of what was happening,” Mr. Cobain said, “but I can’t tell, I can’t even talk to my editor about this.”

Having initially gone along reluctantly with the reporting restrictions, a number of British news organizations are now challenging them in court. And yes, the challenge itself is being heard under secrecy rules that leave the public mostly excluded. Were Mr. Cobain to break the law and disclose what he knows publicly, his prosecution would also take place in secret.

“Not even the Russians do that to journalists,” Mr. Cobain said, speaking recently in the cafe of the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

ISIS Returns to Diyala Province in Iraq

July 25, 2015

The Resurgence of ISIS in Diyala and its Implications for Iranian Proxies

Key Takeaway:

ISIS is re-establishing its former strength in Diyala province, and security in the province is deteriorating. This resurgence is likely the result of security gaps left by the forward deployment of Diyala-based Iranian proxy groups, mostly the Badr Organization, and forces from the 5th Iraqi Army division to areas in Salah ad-Din and Anbar. ISIS is likely exploiting this gap in order to compromise ISF and militia operations in Anbar province, diverting attention to Diyala and threats near the Iranian border. If the ISF and Shi'a militias cannot secure Diyala while maintaining their operations in Anbar, Iran may become more involved in Iraq to secure its own border.

ISIS has re-established itself in Diyala province causing a rapid deterioration in security and an increase in sectarian tension in the highly mixed province. The resurgence of ISIS in Diyala sheds light on security gaps caused by the deployment of Diyala-based Iraqi Security Force (ISF) units and Iranian proxy groups to Salah ad-Din and Anbar, other flashpoints along the frontline in the war against ISIS in Iraq. Recent calls from Diyala officials for the redeployment of Diyala’s security elements back to their home stations underscore competing requirements for the ISF across multiple fronts. It may additionally reveal inconsistencies in the campaign priorities of Iranian proxy groups and those of the ISF. Diyala province borders Iran, and a resurgence of ISIS in Diyala may cause Iranian proxy groups like the Badr Organization to shift resources back to Diyala from Anbar, the current campaign objective of both anti-ISIS contingents. The leader of the Badr Organization, Hadi al-Ameri, is publically recognized by the Diyala Provincial Council as the head of Diyala’s overall security, even though the Dijla Operations Command of the ISF is also based there. Diyala’s provincial government is also led by a Badr Organization member, increasing the likelihood that recent attacks by ISIS in Diyala will shift Badr’s attention to Diyala and away from Iraq’s national anti-ISIS campaign.


After two years of intense negotiations, the P5+1 reached an agreement with Iran that would limit its ability to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting a set of international sanctions. With this landmark deal, South Korean politicians were optimistic that it would compel Kim Jong-Un of North Korea to consider denuclearization as a viable option, should the right incentives be offered. But this is a pipe dream. The Iranian nuclear deal will have limited or no impact on North Korea’s nuclear programs.

Why would something like the Iran deal be a “no go” for North Korea?

Nothing like the Iran deal would be conceivable for the Kim family regime. The deal’s comprehensive inspections in return for lifting sanctions would be counter to the logic of the North Korea’s nuclear program. Indeed, the Kim family regime survived over the past several decades in part because the details of North Korea’s nuclear program remained so unclear and clandestine, beyond what Iran was ever able to achieve. The difficulty of authenticating accurate information regarding the reclusive nation has always been a critical factor in the regime’s survival. Earlier this year, for instance, it was reported that Chinese intelligence sources briefed American officials that the Kim family regime now conceivably has as many as 20 nuclear warheads, 14 of which are uranium weapons. They also claim that North Korea may be capable of possessing enough weapons-grade plutonium to detonate at least six nuclear bombs.

Will Republicans Fall for the Iran Trap?

The Republican Party is walking into a trap, and there doesn’t seem to be anything on the horizon that can save it from the disaster. In Congress, they will vote to a person, or nearly so, in opposing President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Meanwhile, it appears that every one of the current sixteen GOP presidential candidates will campaign against the agreement. What’s more, at least three GOP candidates—Florida’s Marco Rubio, Wisconsin’s Scott Walkerand Texas’s Ted Cruz—say they will rescind the deal if they become president. No doubt others will soon echo that threat.

All this will be thoroughly debated—first, during the congressional drama that now will unfold regarding GOP efforts to deny presidential authority to lift U.S. sanctions against Iran; and, then, during the forthcoming presidential election. And through those debates the GOP position will collapse of its own weight. The underlying logic is so flimsy and riddled with inconsistencies that ultimately the American people will reject it.

Begin with the GOP response to Obama’s argument that the choice facing the United States now is the current agreement, which is imperfect but sound, and a likely war as the only remaining option for halting or delaying Iran’s nuclear-arms program. Opponents argue that that is a false dichotomy in that another option would be further sanctions to force upon Iran a better agreement. There are two problems with that response.

The Sources of Opposition to the Iran Agreement

July 25, 2015

An air of unreality pervades much of the debate on the agreement to restrict Iran's nuclear program. Opponents of the agreement raise issue after issue on which the agreement is clearly superior to the alternative that would exist if the opponents succeed in getting the U.S. Congress to kill the deal, but the opponents keep raising such issues anyway. There is, for example, long discussion of the details of inspection arrangements and exactly how many days will elapse between when an accusation is made and when international inspectors could enter a facility. But to the extent any of this is intended as criticism of the agreement it is beside the point because if the agreement is disapproved there would not be any such extraordinary inspections, with 24 days or 240 days or anything else in the way of an adjudication period. Indeed, if the agreement is killed the universe of possible Iranian “violations” of its obligations would be greatly shrunk because Iran would be under no restrictions at all regarding its nuclear program other than the basic commitment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty not to build weapons. Similarly, complaints about the number of years certain limits on the Iranian program will be in effect are beside the point because if the agreement is killed there will be zero years of limits.

Everything that has been gained under this agreement in the way of restrictions on, and monitoring of, the Iranian nuclear program is a net, as well as a gross, gain over the situation that prevailed before the negotiations began and over the situation that would prevail if the agreement is killed. To get these gains, neither the United States nor its negotiating partners nor Iran's regional rivals have had to give up anything that involves any significant risks to themselves. As former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Hans Blix has put it, in return for all the far-reaching commitments Iran has made, the only commitment our side has had to make is to “drop punishment”.

Will Iran Become America's New Saudi Arabia?

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Ian Bremmer conducted byTNI Assistant Managing Editor Rebecca M. Miller. Mr. Bremmer serves as president of the Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, and a Global Research Professor at New York University. He is the author of the new bookSuperpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World.

Miller: As you recently stated during a Bloomberg interview, the deal itself might be bad, but the geopolitics of the deal are good. What sorts of advantages or benefits do you think future U.S. administrations down the line could reasonably gain (geopolitically) from the current deal?

Bremmer: The main benefit has to do with the price of oil. As sanctions on Iran are lifted, more Iranian crude will hit the market. We expect 500,000-600,000 extra barrels per day by next spring and one million by the end of 2016. The extra supply means oil prices will be lower for longer.

Russia, which draws half its government revenue from energy exports, will be weakened by the lower price. Venezuela, which is more deeply dependent on oil revenue than any major exporter in the world, will also be weakened. In both cases, that’s useful for the United States.

Putin Is Down With Polygamy

JULY 24, 2015

In assenting to coerced, teenage marriages in Chechnya, Russia’s Christian warrior has made a devil’s bargain with an Islamist thug.

It’s not news that Vladimir Putin has become a hero for the European right wing. Far-right activists and party leaders from Britain to Hungary see the Russian president as a bulwark against American hegemony, a centralized European project, and the erosion of what they see as traditional Christian values.

Putin’s prohibition of “gay propaganda” at home and pronouncements that gay marriage deepens Europe’s demographic crisis fell on fertile soil among the right wing in France, which bitterly fought the legalization of gay marriage. (Russia returned the favor by nicking the flag of a French anti-gay marriage organization and refurbishing it as a “straight pride” flag, and Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Front party has infamously even taken a 9 million euro loan from Moscow.) The message also plays well in Eastern Europe, where people like Krasimir Karakachanov of Bulgaria’s ultranationalist VMRO say that “the symbol of Europe must be Joan of Arc and not Conchita Wurst,” the “bearded lady” who won last year’s Eurovision.

No Time to Wait: Why Reconciliation in Ukraine Must (And Can) Happen Now

July 27, 2015

On a recent trip to Ukraine in May-June 2015, during the worst escalation of violence since the Minsk II agreement, I was glued to the TV, concerned about one thing: When would the fighting stop? Yet, at the same time, I had to wonder how any long-term reconciliation might work when the fighting actually did stop. Thus, while in Ukraine, I tried to get a sense of how people on both sides conceived of reconciliation, and its possibility.

My first encounter was a classic kitchen talk, over tea and pastries. As my brother, who currently lives in rebel-occupied territory, and my Kyiv friends argued over who had started the war and which side had killed more people, emotions flared, and it soon became clear that the two sides did not merely believe in different things—they operated with different facts. Finally, as she rose to leave, a Kyiv friend said, “The Donbas people brought this tragedy upon themselves and deserve their suffering.” Visibly hurt, my brother quietly surrendered the argument and offered to wrap some leftover pastry for her.

Obama’s Russia Recalibration

July 27, 2015

U.S.-Russian cooperation on the Iran deal could signal a change in the wind...
With all the controversy surrounding the recently negotiated Iran nuclear deal, speculation has run rampant about the future of the U.S. relationship with Iran. For all the talk of potential long-term détente between the United States and the Islamic Republic, however, commentators have largely ignored a more immediate diplomatic opening: namely, with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Speaking to the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman in the wake of the Iran negotiations, President Obama struck a surprisingly positive tone about Russia’s role in the Vienna talks. “Russia was a help on this. I’ll be honest with you,” Obama told Friedman. “Putin and the Russian government compartmentalized on this in a way that surprised me, and we would have not achieved this agreement had it not been for Russia’s willingness to stick with us and the other P5-plus members in insisting on a strong deal.”

Such measured praise does not in itself indicate a sea change in American policy toward Russia. Ukraine remains a source of fundamental disagreement, and just last month the Obama administration successfully convinced the EU to extend sanctions on Russia through January.

Call to Action: The Iraq Strategy America Really Needs

Twenty-five years ago this August, Saddam Hussein’s army rumbled into Kuwait, initiating an era of U.S. military engagement with Iraq that continues to this day. What to do about Iraq has dominated the American foreign-policy debate for a quarter-century, and will again be a central issue in the 2016 presidential election. The chairman of the joint chiefs just visited Iraq toreview our military operations and assistance there, and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter just visited the country as well.

Unfortunately, Washington’s emphasis on the military repeats a past mistake: focusing on a strategy defined by troop numbers, targets and what it would take for “us” to win. The headlines hide the real issue: whether Iraq's Shia, Kurds and Sunni Arabs are prepared to share power in a united Iraq, even a decentralized one.

Want to Save Ukraine? Forget Europe, Look to China

By Jakub Piasecki and Matt Olchawa
July 26, 2015

What if the American pivot to Asia had taken place in the 1940s?
Imagine that during World War II, American forces did not land in Normandy. Imagine that there was no Operation Overlord, no Operation Market Garden, and no Battle of the Bulge. VE-Day eventually comes but Americans have no part in it. Instead, the Red Army “liberates” all of Europe, not just the central and eastern parts. Soviet tanks go beyond Berlin, into Brussels, Paris, Rome, and eventually even Madrid, overtaking Franco’s Spain. There is no Marshall Plan for Western Europe. Under state-planned, centralized economies and collectivization, all of Europe – from the Atlantic to the Urals – is poor and underdeveloped. Scary, isn’t it?

One immediate concern arising from this historical “what if” exercise is this: If Western Europe was not free and democratic and there was no Marshall Plan to rebuild it, how would the American economy grow and prosper? Who would the U.S. trade with? But let’s assume that instead of liberating Europe, the U.S. had shifted its entire military and economic focus to the Pacific, and China especially. In other words, imagine that the American pivot to Asia took place some seven decades ago.

Is Russia Behind the U.S.-Kyrgyzstan Diplomatic Row?

The little-known mountainous nation of Kyrgyzstancanceled a cooperation treaty with the U.S. last week after a diplomatic row with Washington over the granting of a human rights award to imprisoned activist Azimjon Askarov. The Kyrgyz move wouldn’t have come without an obvious push from the Kremlin. Ethnic Uzbek human rights defender Askarov’s name has been in the headlines worldwide since his arrest in 2010, and eventual imprisonment on fabricated criminal charges. Since his incarceration, the activist has received a number of international awards from renowned watchdog organizations in the U.S. and EU. In 2011, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticized Kyrgyz authorities for mishandling the jailed activist’s case. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has stayed in close contact with the Kyrgyz government regarding the status of Askarov’s proceedings. For this reason, Kyrgyzstan is no newcomer to widespread condemnation from abroad.

The Double Sting

The line for lawyers and family members to get into Lefortovo prison starts to form around five in the morning. The building, on a quiet street just east of Moscow’s Third Ring Road, now officially belongs to the Ministry of Justice, but it’s still informally known as the prison of the F.S.B., a successor agency to the K.G.B. Early on June 16, 2014, one of the prisoners awaiting visitors was Boris Kolesnikov, a general who had been the deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s anticorruption department. Along with nearly a dozen other officers from his unit, he had been charged with entrapment and abuse of authority, running an “organized criminal organization” that illegally ensnared state bureaucrats in artificially provoked corruption schemes.

Kolesnikov’s lawyer, Sergei Chizhikov, arrived around dawn and stood in line for several hours. At 9 A.M., guards began letting in a few people at a time. By eleven, Chizhikov was still waiting. Eventually, a guard told him that his client had been taken to another site, the headquarters of the Investigative Committee—the Russian equivalent of the F.B.I.—for questioning. “Look for him there,” the guard said.

When Chizhikov finally made it to an interrogation room on the Investigative Committee’s sixth floor, he found Kolesnikov seated at a table with an investigator and two guards. Kolesnikov, who was thirty-six, was clean-shaven and dressed in a blue tracksuit. He had the muscular frame of a cop, but a smooth, youthful face and puffy cheeks.

Greece, the Sacrificial Lamb

JULY 25, 2015

ATHENS — AS the Greek crisis proceeds to its next stage, Germany, Greeceand the triumvirate of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission (now better known as the troika) have all faced serious criticism. While there is plenty of blame to share, we shouldn’t lose sight of what is really going on. I’ve been watching this Greek tragedy closely for five years, engaged with those on all sides. Having spent the last week in Athens talking to ordinary citizens, young and old, as well as current and past officials, I’ve come to the view that this is about far more than just Greece and the euro.

Some of the basic laws demanded by the troika deal with taxes and expenditures and the balance between the two, and some deal with the rules and regulations affecting specific markets. What is striking about the new program (called “the third memorandum”) is that on both scores it makes no sense either for Greece or for its creditors.

As I read the details, I had a sense of déjà vu. As chief economist of the World Bank in the late 1990s, I saw firsthand in East Asia the devastating effects of the programs imposed on the countries that had turned to the I.M.F. for help. This resulted not just from austerity but also from so-called structural reforms, where too often the I.M.F. was duped into imposing demands that favored one special interest relative to others. There were hundreds of conditions, some little, some big, many irrelevant, some good, some outright wrong, and most missing the big changes that were really required.