13 April 2016

India and Maldives: A make or break visit

By N Sathiya Moorthy
12 Apr , 2016

Following up on unprecedented high-level exchange-visits over the past months, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen is set to visit New Delhi on a two-day official visit, when he would call on his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee, and hold luncheon discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both on April, 11. On Friday, when the two governments announced the visit, the Maldivian Correctional Service also rejected the plea of the jailed former President Mohammed Nasheed for an extension of his ‘medical leave’ in the UK, reiterating that the supporting documents were defective and incomplete. 

Yameen’s India visit comes at the end of a couple of weeks of global silence on the Nasheed front for most parts. This is the third India visit for Yameen since becoming President in a judicially controversial and politically-contested election in November 2013. On New Year Day 2014, he visited New Delhi on his maiden state visit after assuming office. Later in the year, he attended PM Modi’s Inauguration in May-end, when ‘new India’ quickly re-visited neighbourhood policy and invited all SAARC heads of government to the public function on the occasion.

U.S. defense secretary visits India on mission to draw militaries closer

Apr 11, 2016 

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter gestures at a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington February 29, 2016. 

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter began a three-day visit to India on Sunday, seeking to advance a relatively new defense relationship with a country Washington sees as a counterweight to the growing power of China.In a sign of the importance Carter places on improving defense ties with India, the visit is his second in less than a year, and it kicks off in Goa, the west coast home state of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. 

For India, closer U.S. defense ties would bring greater access to American technology, and it too has been alarmed by China's naval forays in the Indian Ocean. But India has been historically wary of drawing too near to any one country.

"India's very reluctant to be seen as too close to the United States, but the Pentagon is very bullish on this relationship," said Shane Mason, a research associate at the Stimson Center in Washington.

It is also a favored initiative of Carter, who established a special cell within the Pentagon last year to promote cooperation with India.

India in talks to buy U.S. Predator drones, has eye on China, Pakistan

India is in talks with the United States to purchase 40 Predator surveillance drones, officials said, a possible first step towards acquiring the armed version of the aircraft and a development likely to annoy Pakistan.India is trying to equip the military with more unmanned technologies to gather intelligence as well as boost its firepower along the vast land borders with Pakistan and China. It also wants a closer eye on the Indian Ocean.

New Delhi has already acquired surveillance drones from Israel to monitor the mountains of Kashmir, a region disputed by the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals and the cause of two of their three wars.

As defense ties deepen with the United States, which sees India as a counterweight to China in the region, New Delhi has asked Washington for the Predator series of unmanned planes built by privately-held General Atomics, military officials said.

"We are aware of Predator interest from the Indian Navy. However, it is a government-to-government discussion," Vivek Lall, chief executive of U.S. and International Strategic Development at San Diego-based General Atomics, told Reuters.

The U.S. government late last year cleared General Atomics' proposal to market the unarmed Predator XP in India. It was not clear when the delivery of the drones would take place.

The navy wants them for surveillance in the Indian Ocean, where the pilotless aircraft can remain airborne for 35 hours at a stretch, at a time when the Chinese navy is expanding ship and submarine patrols in the region.

How to Setup A Modern Defence Industry in India?

By Bharat Verma
10 Apr , 2016

Sixty-seven years of Independence and not a single combat aircraft has been produced by India!
Despite the word ‘indigenisation’ featuring repeatedly in political rhetoric, one of the reasons is because of the vested interests within the government of the huge kickbacks associated with imports of military hardware. The perception that in every armament deal massive amounts of taxpayers’ money is siphoned off is largely correct. Blacklisting vendors is merely theatrics to divert public attention from this crass truth. The long, convoluted and tedious process of procurement of military hardware has been created deliberately by the politico-bureaucratic red-tape to extract larger kickbacks which eventually is the taxpayers’ liability!

Worse, it appears that the primary national objective is not to add military capabilities to ensure the nation’s security but to find ways to guarantee maximum kickbacks.

Worse, it appears that the primary national objective is not to add military capabilities to ensure the nation’s security but to find ways to guarantee maximum kickbacks. Frankly, nobody involved in the decision-making process is really concerned about the MMRCA being inducted on time to shore up the rapidly declining firepower of the Indian Air Force; or about the Indian Navy receiving submarines in time; or with the tremendous collateral damage the nation suffers on its borders with Pakistan because the infantry is ill-equipped. Despite similar levels of corruption, China never overlooks the primary objective of building military muscle. Frankly, no other country does except India!

A Road to the Border in Arunachal

By Claude Arpi
Date : 12 Apr , 2016

It is regrettable that the national media hardly reported an event has the most crucial strategic implications for India.

On April 6, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) opened a new road to one of India’s most remote villages, near the frontier with China (Tibet).

The BRO explains: “The area is located in an extremely remote area with rugged terrains, thick vegetation and inhospitable weather. The place has remained inaccessible since 2009.”

The Army’s engineers have managed to connect Tame Chung Chung, a remote tiny village in Upper Subanisiri district of Arunachal Pradesh to the rest of the country.

A few weeks ago, on this blog, I mentioned the Tsari pilgrimage.

The new road follows the old pilgrimage route.

The inhabitants of Tame Chung Chung village, locally known as the ‘Land of Snakes’, had dreamed of this road for decades, but like for many other ‘normal’ things, for the border populations it remained a Dream.

The BRO explains: “The area is located in an extremely remote area with rugged terrains, thick vegetation and inhospitable weather. The place has remained inaccessible since 2009.”

India’s great power aspirations Narendra Modi seeks to transform* India into an entity whose weight and preferences define international politics

Less than a year after he took office in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi challenged his senior diplomats “to help India position itself in a leading role, rather than [as] just a balancing force, globally”. Elaborating on this idea, foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar later noted that Modi’s dramatic international initiatives reflected India’s growing self-confidence, declaring that the country now “aspire[s] to be a leading power, rather than just a balancing power”.

When this ambition is realized, it will mark the third and most decisive shift in independent India’s foreign policy, one that could have significant consequences for the future international order. It will take concerted effort, however, to reach this pinnacle in the years ahead: India will have to reform its economy, strengthen its state capacity and elevate the levels of rationalization across state and society writ large so that it may be able to effectively produce those military instruments that increase its security and influence in international politics.

Saudi Arabia tilts toward India

Author Bruce Riedel
April 6, 2016
Source Link

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on April 3, 2016, shows Saudi Interior Minister Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (L) meeting with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Riyadh. (photo by STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud gave Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a very warm welcome last weekend in a public tilt of Saudi policy toward New Delhi and away from its traditional ally Pakistan. Economic interests are part of the tilt, but so too is Saudi pique at Pakistan's refusal to back its military adventure in Yemen.
Summary⎙ Print Pakistan, after refusing to supply troops for Saudi Arabia's war against Yemen, finds the Gulf kingdom improving relations with Pakistani archenemy India.

Modi and the Saudis signed five new bilateral agreements to improve relations, covering intelligence sharing on terrorism financing, increasing private investment and enhancing defense cooperation. Salman bestowed the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit medal on the prime minister; it is the kingdom's highest honor and has never been given to a purely civilian Pakistani leader (although it was given in 2007 to President Pervez Musharraf, a general who ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a 1999 coup). Modi in turn gave the king a gold replica of the Cheraman Juma Masjid mosque in Kerala, the first mosque in India, dating from the seventh century, and a symbol of trade between Arabia and the Indian subcontinent.

Pakistan being killed by its military

By RSN Singh
11 Apr , 2016

The Pakistan military has abundantly demonstrated that it cannot abandon the jihadi outfits till it amalgamates India’s J&K and till it imposes its own regime in Kabul in perpetuity. Hence the Pakistan government may have no status or influence in country’s foreign policy but for the Pakistan military the jihadi tanzims are an important strategic component.

We have provided the proof on Pathankot attack. It is clinching. The US and the NATO countries seem to be more than convinced. Call records, DNA samples, voice samples have been given to the Pakistan team. But how does DNA sample matter to a country without any DNA. Pakistan probably believes that there is no proof unless you catch a Pakistani jihadi alive and it is no proof even if you catch someone alive like Ajmal Kasab.

…the Pakistan government may have no status or influence in country’s foreign policy but for the Pakistan military the jihadi tanzims are an important strategic component.

We know the wont of Pakistan. The world knows the wont of Pakistan. We delude ourselves not with any hope but because we live in a damn international system, which boasts of functioning under rules and parameters, but certainly not on merit and justice. The prevailing world order thrives on hypocrisy. India has no choice but to navigate through it.

Baloch Liberation Charter: A contract for freedom from a repressive Pakistan

By Sobdar Baloch
11 Apr , 2016

Balochistan is situated in Central Asia and is considered to be the gateway of world’s economy due to its poignant geostrategic location. It has approximately 1000km long coastline which includes the most important port of Gwadar where Pakistan and China trying build one end of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor at the cost of the many poor residents of Gwadar. 

A rough estimate suggests that as many as 50,000 Baloch were martyred during these assaults, with thousands other having disappeared with no trace to this date.

Since the illegal occupation of Balochistan by Pakistan in 1948, the Baloch people have made five attempts to regain their freedom. The latest phase of Baloch liberation struggle started in early 2000 when the Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf came to power through a military coup. While the suppression of the Baloch nationalist aspirations through violent means is a matter of great concern in itself, but what is perhaps more tragic is the silence that the world has assumed on the same issue despite knowing the many violations that are being perpetrated against the hapless Baloch.

The first four attempts of Baloch to regain their independence were not as widespread as the current one is, and perhaps it was because of their very limited reach that the Pakistani governments could manage to quell all the voices of dissent that challenged the iron-fisted rule of this alien regime in Balochistan.

The strongest push for the independence of Balochistan was made in the 1970s, when the Baloch freedom fighters almost brought the Pakistan army to their knees, with Iran stepping-in to rescue Pakistan and provided gunship helicopters which bombarded on Baloch population massively. A rough estimate suggests that as many as 50,000 Baloch were martyred during these assaults, with thousands other having disappeared with no trace to this date.

Afghan Army Desertions on the Rise As the Taliban Gain Ground in Helmand Province

Nick Paton Walsh
April 11, 2016

Afghan soldiers desert as Taliban threatens key Helmand capital

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)Sometimes you know a war’s going badly when your enemy is right in front of you.
About three miles outside the southern city of Lashkar Gah, Afghan soldiers can see a white flag. It’s not one of surrender – quite the opposite.

The flag belongs to the Taliban, and shows exactly how close the militant group is to the capital of Helmand Province.
Despite Afghan government assurances that the army can hold and retake ground, the strategic province that hundreds of NATO troops– who have been in the country for the last 15 years – died fighting for is closer than ever to falling to the Taliban.

Those inside Lashkar Gah are understandably nervous.

A Helmand police official, who did not want to be named for his own safety, told CNN on Sunday that the army had not made any recent advances, and at least five full districts in the province were already under full Taliban control.

The official said this included the towns of Musa Qala and Nawzad, and that an army offensive to retake the town of Khanisheen was recently repelled by the Taliban.

Lashkar Gah is currently under threat from two directions by the militant group, the official said.

Great Firewall Necessary to Keep Out Western Propaganda, Chinese Newspaper Says

Apr 11, 2016 

Men look at computers in an Internet cafe in Beijing. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images 
China’s Great Firewall isn’t a barrier to trade – it’s only a bulwark against Western propaganda, a Chinese state-run newspaper wants to remind citizens.

The Global Times came to the defense of the country’s Internet censors on Monday as they face renewed criticism from the United States. “History will positively assess the key role of the (Great Firewall) system,” said the paper in an editorial that ran in both Chinese and English.

The U.S. Trade Representative warned last week in an annual trade report that China’s Internet crackdown is worsening and that it is a growing trade obstacle. Eight of the top 25 highest-traffic global websites are now blocked in China, and “much of the blocking appears arbitrary,” the U.S. report said.

China also blocked the websites of Time and The Economist this month after both magazines ran cover articles that compared President Xi Jinping’s governing style to Mao Zedong’s cult of personality.

As one of China’s most strident state-run publications, the Global Times is often on the front lines of defense against foreign criticism. The Global Times argued in its editorial on Monday that the Great Firewall is necessary to keep out “harmful or unsafe information” and to fend off “Western intentions to penetrate China ideologically.”

China unmasks its Connivance in Pakistan’s State-Sponsored Terrorism

By Dr Subhash Kapila
11 Apr , 2016

China once again unmasks its connivance in Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism when last month it vetoed in the United Nations a resolution supported by all other Security Council and other members designating JEM Chief Azhar Masood as an international terrorist, notwithstanding the fact that the Pak ISI-supported JEM stands designated as an international terrorist organisation.

China in effect has provided protection to Pakistan Army’s terrorist organisation affiliates and further encouraging them to continue with their terrorist bombings in India and Afghanistan.

China’s rebuttal of widespread criticism on its connivance with Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorists like Azar Masood that this individual does not qualify to be labelled as an international terrorist on “technical grounds” is preposterous in that the terrorist organisation that Azhar Masood heads, the JEM has stood designated since 2001 by the United Nations as an international terrorist organisation. China in effect has provided protection to Pakistan Army’s terrorist organisation affiliates and further encouraging them to continue with their terrorist bombings in India and Afghanistan. Is the United States listening?

China’s specious plea of vetoing the UN Resolution on “technical grounds” does not provide China with even a fig-leaf to hide its nakedness of travesty of justice. It amounts to nothing more than reinforcing and rewarding Pakistan Army Generals for their concubinage relationship with China.

This Is China's Master Plan to Destroy America, Japan and Taiwan in Battle

On most days, China’s high-speed rail network is for hauling millions — yes, millions — of commuters, vacationers and tourists around the country.

But on May 14, 2015, one section of the growing network served a very different purpose. A People’s Liberation Army brigade from the Lanzhou military regionboarded a high-speed train and set off for Xinjiang — 300 miles to the west.

The exercise was a rapid and clever way to move troops around the huge country, something which Beijing is struggling to handle. China has the largest ground army and the longest land border in the world, which abuts 14 nations … more than any other country except Russia.

One of these countries — India — is one of Beijing’s rivals and the two countries have two ongoing border disputes. Myanmar to the south — and Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to the west — are potentially unstable. Then there’s the border with North Korea.

It all adds up to lots of potential crises along the border. The result is that Beijing wants its army to have the ability to respond to lots of varied and potential crises. Hence high-speed trains.

China’s army is starting to move fast.

China launches new attack on the Dalai Lama

Jayadeva Ranade
April 08, 2016 
Source Link

'The first time that China alleged the Dalai Lama was 'anti-national' and 'unpatriotic' was after he affirmed that Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang are part of India,' points out former RA&W official Jayadeva Ranade.

Weeks before the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC -- where human rights and Tibet were among the issues on the agenda -- Beijing signalled a definitive, more critical, shift in its stance towards the Dalai Lama.

This was discernible from remarks by senior leaders attending the 4th plenary session of the 12th National People's Congress, China's version of a parliament, that concluded in Beijing on March 15.

China also utilised the sessions of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference and NPC -- popularly called the 'Big Two' -- to continue efforts to subtly drive a wedge between the Dalai Lama and the various Tibetan Buddhist sects, so as to isolate him and undermine his influence.

Meanwhile, delegates from the Tibet Autonomous Region attending the 'Big Two' sessions made clear there would be no relaxation in the tough policies enforced in Tibet.

Indication of the important shift in the Chinese government's stance towards the Dalai Lama was given by Padma Choling (Baima Chilin), the Chinese Communist Party's deputy party secretary for the Tibet Autonomous Region. Choling categorically told journalists on the sidelines of the NPC session on March 7, that the Dalai Lama was 'no longer a religious leader after he defected his country and betrayed its people.'

'If the Dalai Lama wants to return to China, he must give up 'Tibet independence,' and must publicly acknowledge Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China and that the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government,' Choling declared.

Choling's remarks are significant and, as observed by Zhang Yun, a researcher at Beijing's Research Centre on Tibetology, show that 'the legitimacy of the Dalai Lama's status as a religious leader was no longer acknowledged by the central government as he has failed to fulfill his obligation to inherit and spread Buddhism and continued his separatist activities.'

'The reconsideration came about after the central government realised the Dalai Lama's commitment to oppose the Chinese government, and his support of separatism was unlikely to change,' Zhang Yun added.

Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic studies at China's Minzu University reiterated to the State-run Global Times, that 'Baima Chilin's remarks show the central government's attitude towards the Dalai Lama's identity, who had long been considered a religious leader.'

Earlier, on June 30, 2015, the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee decided at a week-long closed-door 'conclave' that final authority for recognition of the Dalai Lama rests with Beijing.

The authoritative official news agency, Xinhua, asserted that 'all confirmations of the Dalai Lama have required approval by the central Chinese government, which has deemed the process an important issue concerning sovereignty and national security.'

An anonymous source cited by AsiaNews quoted Chinese leader Xi Jinping as saying at the meeting that the Communist {arty would pick 'the next Dalai Lama, period! If things do not go well, we are ready to take corrective action.'

Pertinent are the accusations that the Dalai Lama 'defected' and 'betrayed' the Chinese people. The first time that China alleged the Dalai Lama was 'anti-national' and 'unpatriotic' was after he affirmed that Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang are part of India.

It made the accusation during the sixth round of talks between Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama's representatives from June 29 to July 5, 2007, which was also the first occasion they raised the India-China border issue in these talks.

Notable also was the deliberate effort to use the sessions to single out the Dalai Lama for criticism. While a Chinese singer and two actors visited Bodh Gaya in India on February 14, 2016, for an event to commemorate the 92nd birth anniversary of the late predecessor of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, the deputy party secretary of TAR, Wu Yingjie, chose to raise the issue only during the NPC session on March 7.

Talking to reporters in Beijing, he criticised renowned Chinese singer Faye Wong, actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai and actor Hu Jun for attending the event.

'As celebrities, especially superstars, they are public figures that bear certain social responsibilities. We hope the celebrities to take the responsibility for their own deeds. We firmly oppose all celebrities, however influential they are, and whatever purpose they have, to make any contact with the 14th Dalai clique, or even help him spread his ideas,' Wu said. China's official media similarly criticised the celebrities.

Pointedly, while the Dalai Lama and his 'clique' were singled out for criticism and visitors warned to avoid contact with them, any critical reference to the Gyalwa Karmapa, who heads the Karma Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was carefully avoided.

By doing so, Beijing has persisted in making a distinction between the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders and groups.

Beijing, meanwhile, continues to try and restrict the Dalai Lama's 'international space.' An article in the Global Times on April 5 quoted Wang Xiaobin, a scholar at the Beijing-based China Tibetology Research Centre, as saying the international community had seen through the Dalai Lama's actions and were 'making his so-called visits more difficult to conduct.'

Only 12 religious lectures are scheduled for 2016, the newspaper pointed out, while between 2010 and 2014 the Dalai Lama visited 10 countries and delivered over 100 lectures.

Separately, Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference's ethnic and religious committee, significantly suggested that the Dalai Lama's advanced age was causing anxiety to his followers, implying thereby that Beijing was equally concerned about its consequences.

Jayadev Ranade, former Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, is President of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.

China’s Exodus of Capital

April 7, 2016

China’s Exodus of Capital

As the economy slips, individuals and companies have been
pulling money out of the country en masse, although there
are signs the government has started to staunch the flood. 

How Bad Is It?

Over the last year and a half, individuals and companies have moved about $1 trillion out of China as the economy weakens. Those outflows have been partly offset by money coming in from the trade surplus.

There are various methods, legal and otherwise, to move capital out of China.

Finding “Smurfs”

Chinese citizens who want to send more than $50,000 — the allowable limit — out of the country can arrange for relatives or friends to exchange money for them.

Buying overseas businesses

Outside of Syria and Iraq, the threat of IS is most potent in Saudi Arabia.

By Jacob L. Shapiro 
April 6, 2016 

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics. 

The Old Islamic State Versus the New 

Summary Recent attacks in Saudi Arabia show an expansion of IS strategy in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State share foundational similarities, and IS may take advantage of Riyadh’s financial troubles and overextended military to punish the royal family for its religious hypocrisy.

Much has been made of the tactical defeats the Islamic State has suffered on its periphery recently. The most serious of these was the retreat from Palmyra on March 28, but U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are also operating against IS in Hīt in the south near Ramadi and al-Nasr, a small village on the road to Mosul. While we track these developments closely, none have yet caused us to change our forecast for 2016, which predicts that IS will continue to be the single largest force in the Syrian-Iraqi theater. Further, recent events in Saudi Arabia could indicate our expectation that IS would expand its activities into the kingdom is coming to fruition.

On April 2, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off in a police station in Ad Dilam, a small town about 100 km (62 miles) south of Riyadh, according to the Saudi Interior Ministry. One person was killed and three police cars were damaged in the explosion, which was claimed by Wilayat Najd, a self-proclaimed province of the Islamic State. Then on April 5, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya reported that a Saudi security officer and colonel was assassinated in the area of al-Quwayiyah, about 171 km west of the capital. IS also claimed this assault.

The Democracy Activist Who Became a Suicide Bomber

Robert F. Worth 
April 7, 2016 

An idealistic young Egyptian who helped lead the Tahrir Square protests died three years later in Iraq as an Islamic State jihadist

Five years ago, Ahmad Darrawi was one of the idealistic young Egyptians whose bravery stirred world-wide admiration. In 2011, he stood among the protest vanguard in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and in the months afterward he often appeared on TV, outlining reforms for Egypt’s brutal and corrupt police. In the fall of 2011, he ran for parliament as an independent. His campaign ads showed a smiling, clean-shaven man in a gray suit under the slogan “Dignity and Security.” He was 32.

Three years later, Darrawi blew himself up on the battlefields of Iraq, where he was fighting as a loyal soldier of Islamic State, according to the terrorist group. 

How did it happen? How did a hopeful, principled young man from a middle-class family turn into a coldblooded suicide bomber? It is hard to separate that question from the Arab world’s broader descent over the past five years: from nonviolence to mass murder, from proclamations of tolerance and civic idealism to the savagery of Islamic State.

Iraqi Troops Capture City of Hit in Al-Anbar Province From ISIS

Mustafa Salim and Erin Cunningham
April 11, 2016

Iraqi forces push Islamic State out of key city in Anbar province

BAGHDAD — Iraqi security forces pushed Islamic State fighters from the western city of Hit on Monday, raising the Iraqi flag over the local municipal building and dealing another blow to the group’s weakening self-proclaimed caliphate, authorities here said.

Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service and Joint Operations Command confirmed that the government was in control of the center of the city, which is located on the Euphrates River in Anbar province, about 100 miles west of Baghdad.

“I am now inside the government [headquarters] in Hit,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, commander of Iraq’s counterterrorism forces, said by telephone. “We defused the booby traps and raised the Iraqi flag. Now I can say, after we’ve taken this building, that Hit is completely liberated.”

He said his forces still needed to clear at least a few neighborhoods where fighting had flared, but he insisted that the occupiers were fleeing.

Pro-government forces had been fighting since March to retake Hit, which was overrun by Islamic State militants in October 2014.

Why U.S. Oil Exports Make Middle East War More Likely

April 7, 2016
Source Link

There is no telling how many years it may take, but the U.S. decision to lift its ban on crude-oil exports could increase the likelihood of a major war between regional Mideast powers that the U.S. will be either unable or (more likely) unwilling to stop.

How is this even possible? To appreciate the argument, one should consider the second- and third-order economic and political effects that have been associated with U.S. oil exports in the past, as well as the totally new market dynamics that are the result of the ban's demise. These effects, when married with current trends in American politics, make it less likely that the U.S. will intervene in a major military conflict in the Middle East in the next 10 years -- even as the potential for such a conflict continues to grow.

Refinery economics: Many observers underplay just how useful a safety valve exporting U.S. crude to foreign refiners is becoming for global oil markets. In the short space of three months since the ban was lifted, and at a time when the arbitrage -- or profit margin -- for U.S. exports has been quite low, U.S. crude has left the Gulf Coast to refiners in France, Italy, Germany, Israel, and Venezuela. The first test shipment of crude to China from the Gulf Coast is already under sail, and the enlargement of the Panama Canal scheduled for later this year will make it even cheaper to send shipments to East Asian refineries.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s departure unlikely to end Ukraine turmoil


The prime minister’s announced resignation sets the stage for a new government to take over in Kiev as soon as Tuesday. By 

KIEV — Ukraine’s political turmoil claimed deeply unpopular Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who announced Sunday he is resigning, but the country’s volatility likely won’t end soon.

Yatsenyuk said he would submit his resignation for parliament’s approval Tuesday. Other sources said the formation of a new coalition could be announced at the same time, and deputies might vote Volodymyr Groysman, the current parliament speaker, as the successor.

It’s not clear what will transpire in parliament it’s time to vote. Until now, Yatsenyuk has managed to hold onto his position thanks in part to the backing of MPs associated with some of the country’s richest men, including steel baron Rinat Akhmetov.

The oligarchs may have decided that it’s best to have him to step down, but its unclear what, if any, arrangement they have reached with President Petro Poroshenko.

“I don’t know what’s being discussed. These conversations are taking place in a very small circle,” said Svitlana Zalishchuk, an MP with Porosheko’s parliamentary bloc. “But from what I understand, they have the necessary number of votes, otherwise the prime minister wouldn’t submit his resignation.”


Authors Maks Czuperski 

Strategic Communications Advisor, Europe & Special Assistant To The President, Atlantic Council Eliot Higgins 

Senior Fellow New Information Frontiers, Atlantic Council & Founder, Bellingcat Frederic Hof 

Senior Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center On The Middle East& Former Us Ambassador To Syria Ben Nimmo 

Information Defense Fellow, New Information Frontiers, Atlantic Council John E. Herbst 

Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council 

Foreword Russian President Vladimir Putin has jumped from one foreign policy adventure to the next. In 2014, he ordered the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. Throughout that year,and on into 2015,he over saw a clandestine war in eastern Ukraine, backing Russian proxies there with weapons, fighters, and entire army units. As that war ground down into stalemate,Putin turned his eyes to Syria, and after a rapid diplomatic campaign and an equally rapid military buildup, he launched air strikes in the war-torn country.

The four building blocks of change

By Tessa Basford and Bill Schaninger 

Four key actions influence employee mind-sets and behavior. Here’s why they matter. Large-scale organizational change has always been difficult, and there’s no shortage of research showing that a majority of transformations continue to fail. Today’s dynamic environment adds an extra level of urgency and complexity. Companies must increasingly react to sudden shifts in the marketplace, to other external shocks, and to the imperatives of new business models. The stakes are higher than ever.

So what’s to be done? In both research and practice, we find that transformations stand the best chance of success when they focus on four key actions to change mind-sets and behavior: fostering understanding and conviction, reinforcing changes through formal mechanisms, developing talent and skills, and role modeling. Collectively labeled the “influence model,” these ideas were introduced more than a dozen years ago in a McKinsey Quarterly article, “The psychology of change management.” They were based on academic research and practical experience—what we saw worked and what didn’t.

Digital technologies and the changing nature of the workforce have created new opportunities and challenges for the influence model (for more on the relationship between those trends and the model, see this article’s companion, “Winning hearts and minds in the 21st century”). But it still works overall, a decade and a half later (exhibit). In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, we examined successful transformations and found that they were nearly eight times more likely to use all four actions as opposed to just one.1 Building both on classic and new academic research, the present article supplies a primer on the model and its four building blocks: what they are, how they work, and why they matter.

European cities lead on refugee resettlement

Bruce Katz and Alex C. Jones 
April 5, 2016
Source Link

While Angela Merkel deserves credit for her October 2015 commitment to accept upwards of 1 million refugees into Germany, so too do the mayors of Hamburg and Berlin—Olaf Scholz and Michael Muller, respectively—who bear the responsibility for integrating these new arrivals into their local economies and communities. 
The full scale of city-level responsibility for Europe’s refugee crisis is made clearer in a just-released Eurocities report, Refugee Reception and Integration in Cities, based in part on a survey of the group’s members from 34 cities in 18 European countries. 

The prescription for these cities, as is often the case, comes down to two issues: money and power. 

As the initial May 2015 Eurocities statement on asylum asserted: “A better balance of European and national funding is needed between border protection and security and structural support for reception, and integration at the local level.” In the year since then, the needs have grown. While fiscal arrangements across countries differ, respondents in all 18 countries reported significant budgetary impacts above and beyond the help provided by regional, national, and supra-national governments. 

Trust Among European Intel Agencies Is Hard to Find Because of German Spying on Its European Friends

Maik Baumgärtner, Martin Knobbe and Jörg Schindler
April 6, 2016

Spying on Friends? Atmosphere of Distrust Hinders EU Anti-Terror Cooperation

A senior BND official at the time, he prefers to keep his name a secret. He recounts the episode to explain why an intelligence service sometimes finds it necessary to spy on one of its partners – and how it could happen that the BND spied on so many institutions in Europe. The intelligence business, he says, is based primarily on suspicion.

It took only a few hours after three bombs had exploded in Brussels and 35 people had been killed for politicians and experts to begin calling for better cooperation among intelligence services in Europe.

Hoarding Data

There was talk of a community of values, of solidarity and of trust. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), mentioned various “pots of data” and the need to finally link them together. Federal Prosecutor General Peter Frank and the domestic policy spokesman of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) parliamentary group, Burkhard Lischka, called for a European counterterrorism center.

Politicians and others have been singing the same tune for months, just as always happens when there has been an attack. It happened in November, after the attacks on the Stade de France stadium and the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, and before that, in January, on the editorial officials of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The Soviet Union Is Falling Apart Again

Armenia and Azerbaijan have announced a truce after three days of fierce fighting in the secessionist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, but the flare-up is proof that the post-Soviet frozen conflicts are not really frozen. At any moment, they can be ignited by the realignment of international alliances and loyalties, and people will start dying again.

There are four post-Soviet frozen conflicts. Three smolder around the Black Sea: Transnistria, a separatist region of Moldova, the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and, since last year, eastern Ukraine. The first two started in the early 1990s, the third one in 2014, as Russia attempted to destabilize an anti-Moscow government in Kiev. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a territory disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, is the oldest.

In 1988, the legislature of this region of Azerbaijan, populated mostly by ethnic Armenians, voted to secede and join Armenia. That country's current president, Serzh Sargsyan, was among the local activists pushing for such a move. Azerbaijan objected and fought a bloody war against Armenia, marked by massacres as both sides attempted ethnic cleansing, the interference of Soviet troops on the Azeri side and the participation of ferocious volunteers from the Russian part of the Caucasus. Armenia won the war, and by the time an internationally brokered cease-fire came into effect in 1994, Nagorno-Karabakh had an almost exclusively Armenian population and was run by a pro-Yerevan government. About 1 million people were displaced.

U.S. Civil Rights Coalition Opposes Controversial NSA Data Sharing Plan

Joshua Eaton
April 11, 2016

NSA data-sharing plan opens door to mass surveillance, say rights groups

A coalition of more than 30 civil liberty groups says that a potential change in how the National Security Agency shares data with other US agencies could jeopardize millions of Americans’ privacy.

The group that includes the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation is urging the NSA not to pursue efforts to more widely distribute intelligence information it gathered for fear it would give law enforcement agencies access to warrantless domestic surveillance.

“Sharing such information with US law enforcement agencies would allow them to circumvent the strict, constitutionally mandated rules of evidence gathering that govern ordinary criminal investigations,” according to a letter sent Thursday to NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The open letter addresses pending rule changes that came to light in February. According a New York Times story, those changes could potentially allow the FBI to search the raw NSA data in criminal cases.
Intelligence officials, however, say making changes to how US intelligence agencies share day is key to removing barriers between federal agencies that were widely criticized after the 9/11 attacks.

The heart of the debate is whether and how federal intelligence agencies should be allowed to share raw data — including data belonging to or concerning US citizens — that the NSA collects abroad.

Rogers reignites CYBERCOM combatant command discussion

Amber Corrin 
April 5, 2016
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The chief of U.S. Cyber Command understands that policies and official strategies are important to the governance of the military’s cyber arm, but administrative activities are taking a back seat to operational needs.

In an April 5 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Mike Rogers, CYBERCOM commander and director of the National Security Agency, told lawmakers that his focus is on boosting the military’s capacity to ward off threats, partnering with the right allies and potentially empowering the cyber agency by elevating it to a combatant command.

Currently, CYBERCOM is subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command. The debate over whether to launch CYBERCOM as a combatant command – which would give it additional powers in decision-making, weapons-buying and more – has been ongoing since the agency’s genesis in 2009.

Sanders Over the Edge

APRIL 8, 2016

From the beginning, many and probably most liberal policy wonks were skeptical about Bernie Sanders. On many major issues — including the signature issues of his campaign, especially financial reform — he seemed to go for easy slogans over hard thinking. And his political theory of change, his waving away of limits, seemed utterly unrealistic.

Some Sanders supporters responded angrily when these concerns were raised, immediately accusing anyone expressing doubts about their hero of being corrupt if not actually criminal. But intolerance and cultishness from some of a candidate’s supporters are one thing; what about the candidate himself?

Unfortunately, in the past few days the answer has become all too clear: Mr. Sanders is starting to sound like his worst followers. Bernie is becoming a Bernie Bro.

Let me illustrate the point about issues by talking about bank reform.

The easy slogan here is “Break up the big banks.” It’s obvious why this slogan is appealing from a political point of view: Wall Street supplies an excellent cast of villains. But were big banks really at the heart of the financial crisis, and would breaking them up protect us from future crises?

Many analysts concluded years ago that the answers to both questions were no. Predatory lending was largely carried out by smaller, non-Wall Street institutions like Countrywide Financial; the crisis itself was centered not on big banks but on “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers that weren’t necessarily that big. And the financial reform that President Obama signed in 2010 made a real effort to address these problems. It could and should be made stronger, but pounding the table about big banks misses the point.

Tactical Cloudlets: Mobile Computing Readies for Battle

During 14 years of war in the Middle East, Marines and soldiers came to rely on having ready access to computers. And the more capability they had, the more they wanted.

“What that evolved into was a tremendous demand for power and cooling that drove a need for fuel for generators,” said Kenneth Bible, the Marine Corps deputy director of C4 [command, control, communications and computers] and deputy chief information officer.

Fuel trucks became targets for insurgents, and defending them became an extra burden for troops. Clearly, a more efficient solution was needed.

Meet the “tactical cloudlet.” It brings the same concepts of distributed cloud computing to a remote and mobile battlefield scenario. The Marine Corps, Army, and university researchers are all working on the concept.

“We started to look at how we can start to lighten that load, particularly recognizing that the Marine Corps is heading back to more traditional roles” now that the heavy ground combat of Iraq and Afghanistan have come to an end. The Marines anticipate operating lighter expeditionary units that can respond to crises – from embassy evacuations to earthquake relief – in a matter of hours, Bible said.