5 September 2016

Why Blame Modi For Praising Teresa When We’ve Forsaken Sister Nivedita?

Aravindan Neelakandan - August 31, 2016, 

Given our own omission of indigenous nation-builders rooted in our culture and spirituality, what right do we have to criticise Modi who, by praising Mother Teresa, was just following his political mentors?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come in for severe criticism from his home constituency, the Hindu nationalists. For them, he has committed the unimaginable sin of going out of the way to praise Mother Teresa. In his recent ‘Mann Ki Baat’, he said that she had “dedicated her life for the upliftment of the poor” and, as an Indian, he felt proud and exhorted his countrymen to feel proud of her canonisation.
Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of this country. He cannot be rude and uncivilised like Dravidian racists such as Karunanidhi who, even when occupying the Chief Ministerial chair, refuses to wish Hindus during their festivals. In praising Teresa, the Prime Minister was only following his political mentors. Vajpayee had praised her for giving “selflessly to those whom society had forsaken.” To him “she was a symbol of understanding faith.” To LK Advani, she would continue to inspire millions of people both in her life and death and would “bring joy in the lives of the less fortunate.”
Modi is even more vulnerable, what with old media and New York Times op-eds trying to make India look like it is blatantly discriminating against its Christian and Islamic minorities. Modi’s utterances on the subject are being closely watched in the run up to the canonisation of the Catholic missionary. The same liberal West which would ruthlessly attack and denounce most of Teresa’s stands and actions on issues like birth control etc., would take Hindus to task if their leaders spoke against Teresa. Because then it becomes civilisational.

Nevertheless, one thing is certain.
By praising Teresa, Modi has escaped one trap, but that will not make him dearer to the Church. The empire of evangelical business in the third world knows its enemies. Irrespective of what words of praise Modi utters, they know where he stands when it comes to evangelism. In this, they are far more intelligent than the Internet Hindutva-ites who start attacking Modi for his “praise” of Teresa.
Empirically speaking, one can say that Modi is wrong in his statement about the nun. Teresa was dedicated, all right. But she was dedicated to the Church. She worked not for the upliftment of the poor but for her charities. She wanted the poor in her clinics to suffer physical pain from their illnesses, sometimes depriving them of even basic pain-killers. As a Western textbook ( ‘Max scholar’ book for Level Five on the recipients of the US Presidential Medal) succinctly puts it, that would bring her patients “closer to Christ.”

PM Modi’s Balochistan Remark: Far From Casual, A Calculated Move

Ramananda Sengupta - September 02, 2016, 
It’s a threat.
There is no other way of parsing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks about Balochistan in his Independence Day address to the nation on 15 August 2016.
In his one-and-a-half-hour-long speech at the Red Fort to mark India’s 70th year of independence, the Prime Minister had just one sentence on the troubled regions controlled by Pakistan. But that one sentence was enough to spark off acute heartburn not just in Pakistan but also in China.
After spelling out a long list of things that his government had achieved and had hoped to achieve, Modi spoke of how Indians wept after the killing of children in a Peshawar school in December 2014 while the terrorists exulted.

And then he declared:
Today from the ramparts of Red Fort, I want to greet and express my thanks to some people. In the last few days, people of Balochistan, Gilgit, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have thanked me, have expressed gratitude, and expressed good wishes for me. The people who are living far away, whom I have never seen, never met – such people have expressed appreciation for Prime Minister of India, for 125 crore countrymen. This is an honour for our countrymen.
e didn’t think it necessary to spell out what exactly he was being thanked for. Because the threat was implicit.
A day before, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and High Commissioner in New Delhi, Abdul Basit, had dedicated their country’s 70th Independence Day to “freedom of Kashmir” from Indian rule.arlier, following the uproar over the death of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in a shootout with security forces in Kashmir 8 July 2016, Nawaz Sharif had lauded Wani as a martyr to the Kashmiri cause and pledged to continue supporting the separatists in the Valley.

LEMOA — A most serious strategic mistake, and Consequences

Posted on August 30, 2016 by Bharat Karnad
India has signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the United States, with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter doing the formalities in Washington. It is, perhaps, the most serious strategic mistake made by the country in its nearly seven decades of independent existence.
The text of the accord has not been made public and is unlikely to be at the request of the Narendra Modi government lest public scrutiny raise a political storm at home, providing ready ammunition to the opposition parties. The two countries, courtesy LEMOA, will use each other’s naval and air bases and facilities, it is said. But because the Indian Navy and and the Indian Air Force rarely stretch their reach beyond the Indian Ocean region in the one case and the western border with Pakistan in the other case, it is mostly the US military that will be reaping the benefits. Indian basing will permit deployed American forces to pull longer, more sustained naval and air operations in the extended region to realize US policy goals.
As repeatedly warned in my writings since Manmohan Singh first signed the deal with George W Bush in July 2005 and in my recent book, ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’, there WILL be a heavy foreign and military cost for this loss of strategic autonomy. India’s stepping firmly into a treaty ally role of the US in all but name will mean several things:

1) Russia will necessarily begin distancing itself from India; the military supply relationship will become more attenuated. There will be no incentive for Moscow to treat India and the Indian armed forces as other than a cash-cow. The warmth will be gone but, as likely, so will valued Russian platforms like the Akula-II SSN, which will be withdrawn. Depending upon just how intimate the Indo-US embrace is, it’d be foolish for Moscow to risk Indians handling cutting edge weapons platforms such as the Akula when there’s every likelihood US naval personnel will be able to go over the boat with a fine tooth comb. As it is, Russians have always derated the most advanced Russian equipment before transferring/selling them to India by about 33%. This has been standard Russian practice to minimize the risk of technology theft not so much by Indians as by India’s “friends”.

2) Indian foreign and military policy will have to reorient itself to US policy likes and dislikes. This will strain traditional friendships with Russia and, in the region, Iran, Washington’s current bogey No. 1. So the development of the Chahbahar option as an alternative Indian land route to Central Asia through Afghanistan and to Europe (through Russia’s Northern Distribution Network) will suffer. As will India’s understanding with Tehran about using Chahbahar as naval base and the northeastern Iranian bases for staging IAF attack sorties to augment the Ainee air basing. India’s geostrategic imperatives will thus hit a brick wall. India’s fine balancing act in the Muslim world between the sunnis led by the Saudis and the shia by Tehran will fall down, as the US will insist that New Delhi put its weight on the sunni side of the scale, which will roil domestic politics and internal security.

Why PM Modi Does Not Want To Associate Himself With Lutyens Delhi

Swarajya Staff - September 03, 2016, 
Following Prime Minister Modi’s interview with Rahul Joshi, one can now expect even more op-eds, in the near future, critiquing the Prime Minister from the “Lutyens” group.
Narendra Modi’s victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and his taking over the role of Prime Minister dismayed a small elite group of Indians who have spent more than a decade portraying him in a negative light. This section, often termed as “The Lutyens” group, always presented Modi as an outsider to “national politics” and “Indian Ethos” in their narrative. For long it has been stated that the Prime Minister is not on good terms with “The Lutyens” cluster.

So, unsurprisingly, when Prime Minister Modi sat down with Network 18 Group Editor Rahul Joshi for an expansive interview, his relation with “The Lutyens” group came up:
Question: Mr Prime Minister, it’s being said that Lutyens Delhi did not like you. But have you started liking Delhi?
Narendra Modi: As you know, the position of Prime Minister is such that there’s no question of liking or disliking Lutyens Delhi. But there’s is a need to deliberate on this. In Delhi’s power corridors, there’s an active group of people which is dedicated to only a few. It could be because of their own reasons or personal gains. It’s not a question of Modi.
Look back at history. What happened with Sardar Patel? This group presented Sardar Patel as a simple person from a village with a simple intellect.Look at what happened to Morarji Desai. This same group never talked about his abilities, achievements. It always talked about what he drank. What happened with Deve Gowda? A farmer’s son became the PM, yet they said he only sleeps. And what happened with the supremely talented Ambedkar who they are praising today? They made fun of him. What happened with Chaudhury Charan Singh? They again made fun of him.

So I’m not surprised when they make fun of me. These custodians who are dedicated to a select few will never accept anyone who is linked to the roots of this country. So, I too, do not want to waste my time addressing this group. The welfare of the billion people is my biggest task and I will not lose anything if I do not associate myself with Lutyens Delhi. It’s better if I live with the poor people of this country who are like me.
Following this interview, one can now expect even more op-eds, in the near future, critiquing the Prime Minister from the “Lutyens” group.
You can watch the full interview here.

Why India distrusts China's One Belt One Road initiative

2 September 2016 
Source Link

One of China's most ambitious economic and foreign policy projects is the so-called One Belt One Road initiative. It aims to connect the disparate regions in China's near and distant neighbourhood through a massive program of infrastructure building. It's President Xi Jinping's personal project, and some Chinese analysts have dubbed it as 'the number one project under heaven'.
The initiative has received mixed reactions throughout the region, with division most pronounced in the Indian sub-continent. China's quasi-ally Pakistan regards the initiative (estimated to be worth around US$46 billion for the country alone) as a game changer.

Pakistan's Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal says the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor will turn bilateral 'friendship into a strategic economic partnership'. Indeed, if the scheme was implemented successfully, it would add an important economic dimension to the already close political and military relationship between Islamabad and Beijing. 
However, Indians view Beijing's ambitious program of infrastructure building very differently. It would be a gross understatement to say Delhi is concerned about China's One Belt One Road initiative. Having spent a week in India talking to security analysts, international relations experts and business leaders, opinions I've heard suggest antagonism with Pakistan and strategic distrust with China could be significant impediments to India's involvement.

The Eclipse Of Globalization

Written by Dan Steinbeck, Difference Group
China Must Lead the G-20 to Reverse Globalization Decline
Globalization is in danger. Without continued investment and trade, secular stagnation in advanced economies and growth deceleration in emerging economies will continue to broaden. As China assumes G20 leadership, the prospect of global "protectionism" is on the rise and the stakes could not be higher for cooperation and major structural reforms.

Since 1980, global economic integration accelerated dramatically until the onset of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. After years of secular stagnation in major advanced economies and deceleration of growth in large emerging economies, modest signs of recovery have prompted international observers' hope for the revival of globalization.
In the absence of broad policy acceleration following the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, such hopes may amount to hollow pipe dreams.

Massive monetary stimulus, but no pickup in trade and investment
At the peak of globalization, Baltic Dry Index (BDI) was often used as a broad barometer of international commodity trade and as a leading indicator since it seemed to reflect future economic growth. The index soared to a record high in May 2008 reaching 11,793 points. However, as the financial crisis spread in the advanced West, international trade collapsed in the emerging East. Barely half a year later, the BDI had plunged by 94 percent, to 663 points; lowest since 1986.

As China and other large emerging economies chose to support the ailing advanced economies through the G20 cooperation, major economies in North America and Europe pledged accelerated reforms in global governance, while launching massive fiscal stimulus and monetary easing. These factors caused the BDI to rise to 4,661 in 2009. But as promises of reforms were ignored and stimulus policies expired, the BDI bottomed out at 1043 in early 2011, coinciding with the European sovereign debt crisis.

The Taliban and the Divided Afghan State

Aug. 30, 2016 Those who would fight the Taliban cannot present a united front.
By Kamran Bokhari
Media reports treat the story of the Taliban taking over districts all across Afghanistan as something that should not be happening. The underlying assumption is that the Taliban would not be resurging if mainstream forces were not corrupt and if they behaved democratically. There is a general tendency to overlook the reality that Afghanistan is afflicted by a much deeper problem – there is no mainstream to begin with, at least not one that is coherent. Indeed, the Taliban are fractious, but they are still the single largest coherent force in the country.
For the past several months, there has been no shortage of reports about Taliban fighters going on the offensive in various parts of the country. In the past few weeks, the situation has gotten grim. After surging forces in several districts of southern Helmand province, the Afghan jihadist movement is threatening the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. But the province is in the Taliban’s core turf in the country’s south. 
Afghan security personnel walk near the site of an attack on the elite American University of Afghanistan, in Kabul on Aug. 25. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Even yesterday’s report that Taliban fighters have taken over the Jani Khel district in eastern Paktia province is arguably not such a big deal. After all, Paktia is situated on the eastern border with Pakistan – a country where the Afghan Taliban enjoy sanctuary. What is most striking, is that the Taliban have overrun districts in the northern Kunduz, Takhar and Baghlan provinces and are very active in every single province along the country’s border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Not only have the largely Pashtun Taliban demonstrated the ability to advance into areas dominated by the country’s ethnic minorities (Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Turkmen, etc.) they are doing so while simultaneously operating in their traditional strongholds in the south and east.

Uzbekistan and the Coming Central Asian Storm

Aug. 29, 2016 The authoritarian Uzbek leader’s hospitalization could mean chaos in the region.
By Kamran Bokhari

While the world continues to be captivated by ever-growing crises in the Middle East, the nearby region of Central Asia is headed toward destabilization, as our 2016 forecast suggests. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have been ruled by geriatric strongmen for over a quarter of a century, going back to the days of the Soviet Union. Uzbekistan is at great risk for instability, given that its president has been hospitalized after a reported stroke with no clear succession plan among regional clan rivalries. Since Uzbekistan borders each of the countries in the region, instability there could destabilize in the rest of Central Asia as well.
Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s 78-year-old ruler and the only president the country has had since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been hospitalized, according to reports on Aug. 28. According to official state media outlet UzA, Karimov is receiving in-patient treatment and unnamed medical specialists said that “a full medical examination and subsequent treatment will require a certain period of time.” Uzbekistan is an extremely opaque nation, and thus it is difficult to ascertain the precise status of Karimov’s health. That said, Tashkent has never before released information on the health of the ailing president, which is why it is reasonable to assume that a leadership transition is finally at hand.

Uzbekistan is not your average authoritarian state. Many autocratic regimes, despite the overwhelming influence of the ruling family and friends, develop institutions. In sharp contrast, multiple clans from Uzbekistan’s various regions have long been struggling for power. Karimov was able to rule because he could balance the clans from the country’s three principal regions (Samarkand, Tashkent and Fergana) and four lesser ones (Jizzakh, Kashkadarya, Khorezm and Karakalpak). In addition, Karimov’s family has been at war with itself – as is evident from the publicly acrimonious relationship between his daughters, Gulnara Karimova and Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva. This combination of two pictures shows the elder daughter of Uzbekistan’s president, Gulnara Karimova (L) and her sister and Uzbekistan’s representative to UNESCO, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva. Gulnara has accused her sister of destructive behavior and ties to sorcerers, in a public row that has exposed rifts in the Central Asian ruling family.
This means there is no clear line of succession and great risk of a power struggle. The regional bases of the various top clans in the country increases the risk of civil war, though it is possible that the massive costs of infighting could push the elites to negotiate a power-sharing settlement.

The Sources of Unrest in Ethiopia

Sept. 1, 2016
The instability is rooted in internal divisions that the government has failed to address.
Over the past three months, Ethiopia has experienced violent internal unrest in the Amhara, Oromia and Somali regions, each of which has a different reason for protesting. These protests are a continuation in a pattern of unrest caused by endemic ethnic tension and separatist movements. Potential instability in Ethiopia is concerning because it is a major U.S. ally in the Horn of Africa and one of the largest economies on the continent. 

This week’s Deep Dive is a follow-up on one of the items listed on our recently introduced Mid-Term Taskings related to unrest in Ethiopia. Waves of violent internal unrest throughout the country have swelled over the past three months. Three separate conflicts are currently playing out. However, our assessment is that they do not appear capable of deposing the current government due to a lack of cohesion among the protesting groups and U.S. interests in maintaining stability in Ethiopia, which has led the U.S. to support Ethiopia’s government.
Why Ethiopia Is Significant
Ethiopia is one of the most important countries in Africa in terms of size, military and location. With 99.4 million people, Ethiopia is the second largest African country by population. Its military ranks as the third most powerful, according to the Global Firepower Index, and its GDP is the eighth highest, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country has also enjoyed rapid growth over the past 10 years, averaging an annual growth rate of 10.66 percent, which makes it a leader among emerging economies.
Ethiopia’s location in East Africa is very strategic for several reasons. First, the headwaters of the Nile River, a vital source of freshwater in the region, are located in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa can, in theory, unilaterally control the flow of water through the Nile River. This poses a huge strategic risk to Egypt and Sudan, which depend heavily on the river for freshwater. Currently, Ethiopia is in the process of constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the river, which has stirred controversy in Egypt and Sudan. Negotiations over the dam and its impact will be vital for Egypt’s stability and economy.

The China-Pakistan Chemistry: What Keeps It Going, And For How Long?

Sanjay Dixit - September 02, 2016,
China and Pakistan are cut from different cloths, one from a rich civilisational ethos and the other from none.
It is this oppositional nature of the two countries that glues them solidly together.
India’s strategy of outreach to the US, Japan and Australia without joining the war of words with China is a perfect counterpoint to China’s tactics dressed up as a strategy
“SAHIH BUKHARI, 8,78,618: When a deception advances Islam, it is not a sin.”
“SUN TZU 1,18: All warfare is based upon deception.”

Deception is commanded to the Chinese in war, and to an Islamist in everyday life. (An Islamist is one who seeks to establish the domination of Islam and should be distinguished from a regular Muslim). China is Zhongguo in Mandarin, meaning the Middle Kingdom, or the Central Empire. This centrality is a part of the tradition of China, a civilisational imperative. To understand China, one has to understand its civilisational narrative. Every young officer of the Indian Foreign Service on an assignment to China must do their basic schooling in Confucius and Sun Tzu, yet the lessons of its civilisation are mostly lost on the Indians. It has the following broad characteristics:

1. Unity of the Empire

2. Centrality of China in the scheme of the Universe

3. Emperor as the representative of Heaven on Earth

4. A merit-based bureaucracy (the Mandarins) as the steel frame of the Empire

5. China as the repository of the best in everything, including human endeavour

6. All the best territories are contained within the boundaries of China, the Emperor rules over Tian Xia, or “All Under Heaven”

7. Always keep testing the limits of your power without provoking war ( A Sun Tzu variant)

China, thus, appears through the antiquity as a smug self-sufficient power, which had astonishing geographical diversity under it – from the cold deserts of Siberia and Mongolia to the tropics of the Pearl River Delta, from the ocean in its east to the western trading town of Kashgar and from the below-sea-level Turpan to the forbidding mountains of Tibet, or Xinjiang. Some of these territories broke away from time to time, but for the larger part of the last two millennia and a quarter remained under the Central Chinese authority. Under Mao, the regime was Communist, but the underpinning of even Mao’s ideology was always the Middle Kingdom superiority.

How will China’s success at the G-20 summit be measured?

Cheng Li and Zachary Balin Monday, August 29, 2016

Originally an annual meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors, the G-20 became a forum for world leaders in response to the 2008 financial crisis. With its members’ economies accounting for roughly 85 percent of global GDP, the G-20 is a more representative body than the G-7. But crafting the G-20 into an effective mechanism of global governance—rather than crisis management—remains a work in progress. As the largest economy outside of the G-7, China understandably has a keen interest in elevating the status of this forum.
When China hosts the G-20 leaders’ summit in Hangzhou on September 4 and 5, it will be an important chance for the country to demonstrate that it has convening power on the world stage and that its participation is essential to solving global challenges. Although these goals are intertwined, organizing a well-attended G-20 summit is important primarily as a precursor to leading a productive meeting. It is on this latter metric—China’s ability to mobilize fellow G-20 members into collective action—that the success of the Hangzhou summit will ultimately be measured. 

The Hangzhou summit is an opportunity for China to project to leaders of G-20 countries—and to the world—that it takes global governance seriously and that its organizing and convening capacities are second to none. On the organizational front, China is applying the meticulous formula it used to successfully host the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A series of pre-summit meetings for ministers and sherpas have proceeded smoothly, with China using these events to showcase some of its other preeminent cities—from Xiamen to Guangzhou, and Nanjing to Chengdu.
Meanwhile, the government has worked tirelessly to beautify Hangzhou and refine the city’s infrastructure in the lead-up to September. The preparations are as detailed as they are comprehensive. Reportedly, factories have even been ordered to paint their rooftops gray to appear more attractive in drone footage. And planners have arranged 760,000 volunteers for the summit, dwarfing the 50,000 volunteers registered for the entire Rio Olympics.

* Tibet and China’s 'Belt and Road'


Will Tibet become China’s bridge to South Asia under the Belt and Road Initiative?
By Tshering Chonzom Bhutia
August 30, 2016
By now, China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) is familiar to scholars and officials around the world. It has become the catchphrase for all of China’s international outreach, including conferences, seminars, and delegation visits to and from China. However, China has not completely reassured its neighbors. The various terms and phrases that have been used to refer to this idea embody the contention surrounding it – from the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and Maritime Silk Route (MSR), to One Belt One Road (OBOR), to the current BRI. More broadly, some describe it as “strategy,” others call it a “project” with the Chinese now settling on “initiative.”

Having played an important role in the whole Silk Route trade route historically, India finds China’s attempt to revive it in the modern context without any consultation with Delhi troubling. The best explanation that is now being provided by Chinese officials and scholars when questioned about the nature and intent of the BRI is that the plan is driven by domestic factors, namely the slowdown of the Chinese economy. In this context, how integral are China’s western provinces to the success of the BRI?
For its part, the leadership of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has consistently underscored the importance of the region to the initiative. In January 2015, the third plenary session of the 10th Tibet People’s Congress announced the launch of the so-called “Himalayan Economic Rim project,” though the precise route is not yet known. According to Chinese media reports, the “Himalayan Economic Rim refers to [land] ports in Tibet including Zham, Kyirong, and Purang economically supported by Shigatse and Lhasa.” The report adds that the “Economic Rim will be directed towards markets in the three neighboring countries of Nepal, India and Bhutan… to develop border trade, boost international tourism, and [cooperate] on strengthening industries such as Tibetan medicine and animal husbandry.” The report announcing the project noted that Tibet aimed to connect to OBOR and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM).Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

G20 Summit: Leaving West to Deal With Crises, China Focuses on Positives

By François Godement

This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online on 30 August 2016.

G20 agenda hints at China’s vision for global order with focus on long-term rather than immediate concerns

With the approach of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, there is expectation that China might clarify its position on the contested South China Sea. Contrary to expectations, those Asian neighbors and Western leaders who want to seize the occasion to press China on immediate issues will be disappointed. There will be little space to question publicly China’s drive into the South China and East China Seas, to seek confirmed implementation by China of UN sanctions targeting North Korea, to ask for more direct involvement by China in resolving the most urgent issue of our time – the Middle East in tatters and resulting refugee flows – or even to challenge China’s record-breaking attack on human rights and legal activists at home.

Instead, the summit offers China’s leader Xi Jinping a unique occasion to shine and for China to extoll its complementary – or alternative – vision of the global order.

As host country, China has engineered impeccable rhetoric and goals that are hard to disagree with, if somewhat distant and abstract, for the G20 leaders to focus on. US President Barack Obama is now a lame-duck president with much uncertainty over what follows him. European leaders are weakened by the continent’s inward turn, so powerfully shown by the Brexit. Western leaders are on the defensive much more than their Chinese counterparts. There may be isolated supporters in favor of focusing on issues of the day – Australia, Japan and even Korea spring to mind. Others like Brazil or Indonesia may not fully support China’s professed goals for the G20. Few will take the risk of disowning them. Too much of their economy is now tied to China’s fortune.

U.S. Looks to Beat ISIS Before Obama’s Out

Nancy A. Youssef
Source Link

There are only a few months left in the Obama presidency. Which means the pressure is on to score a major win against ISIS before he leaves the White House.

To hear members of the national security community tell it, ISIS is about to lose its grip on its Iraqi capital.

In the last 10 days alone, the two U.S. generals leading the war effort have promised that the city of Mosul will be out of ISIS hands soon. Telegraphing the military’s next move usually is considered strategically daft, but American commanders now are spelling out the dates of their operation within weeks.

Meanwhile, those with a political bent are pushing for the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi forces to move into Mosul before the end of the Obama administration term so it can end on the cusp of a major battlefield win, one U.S. official told The Daily Beast.

“It is a way to end on a high note,” one U.S. official explained. The White House “would love to see us kick off Mosul” before the administration’s term ends in January.

It makes some sense: What general would want to leave a war to Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump?

The military is adamant that political calculations are not part of their planning. Rather, they want to move on Mosul soon to exploit the war’s momentum—a momentum, they insist, that has swung against the so-called Islamic State, widely known as ISIS.

They point to a depleted ISIS that failed to fight for the Syrian city of Jarabulus last month; its inability to retain control of the city of Dabiq southwest of there; and the repeated failed efforts of the terror group to take back the eastern Syrian city of al-Shaddadi, a key route into Iraq.

When ISIS has tried to fight to retain control of a city, its militants have failed, officials noted. Most recently, despite heavy fighting, ISIS could not hold onto the strategically important city of Manbij in northern Syria and during the three-month battle for Fallujah that ended in June. And since then, the Turks have sought to close off its border beyond the area around Manbij, making it potentially harder for the terror group to move its fighters and supplies into Syria and Iraq.

Why Europe’s Idea Of Multiculturalism Is A Mirage

Leon Hadar - September 03, 2016,
As more Muslims settle in the West, and gain citizenship and the right of vote, the contours of the debate over religion and its place in society are bound to change.
It all started, as it does quite frequently these days, as a debate on Facebook, this one among a group of libertarians discussing the relationship between religion and state.

A friend posted a news story reporting that a halal supermarket— i.e., a supermarket selling only food and drinks that are permissible under Islamic law—in Paris has been ordered by local authorities to sell pork and alcohol (which are not halal) or face closure. Apparently, older residents of the area had complained that they were no longer able to buy the full range of products that had been available under the store’s previous ownership.
“We want a social mix,” said the head of the municipality. “We don’t want any area that is only Muslim or any area where there are no Muslims.” He added that he would have reacted in the same way had a kosher supermarket opened on the site, and indicated that the authority was taking legal action to revoke the shop’s lease, which runs until 2019.
Members of the Facebook group seemed to agree that this was another example of the French tradition embodied in the nation’s constitutional requirement of laïcité, or the strict separation of state and religious activities. This is sometimes contrasted with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution— which guarantees freedom of religion but doesn’t require the government to maintain secularism.

Turkey and Iran’s Problems with Russia as an Ally

By George Friedman
In geopolitics, sometimes distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Turkey sent troops into Syria yesterday. This caused Russia to declare its unhappiness with Turkey. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Turkey yesterday. The atmosphere may not have been loving, but it was cordial, with none of the venom that had been visible since the coup attempt. The Russians have agreed that to halt operations from Iran’s Hamedan air base, but might return at some point. There is some sort of political battle raging in Iran over giving the Russians permission to use Hamedan in the first place. All of these apparently distinct threads tie together into a single, geopolitical story.
Let’s begin with Iran. Iran has kept its independence for centuries, fending off two threats. One was Turkey, in its Ottoman guise. The other was Russia, both the empire and the Soviet phase. As an example, during World War II, Iran remained formally independent, but was occupied in the north by the Soviets and in the south by the British. After the war, the Soviets showed themselves reluctant to leave. It was American pressure on both the Soviets and the British that restored Iranian independence. It wasn’t American goodness. The Americans opposed Soviet expansion and were undermining the British Empire. Iranian and American interests coincided.

The United States increased its power and influence in Iran, until the Islamic Revolution tore the relationship apart. The United States became Iran’s main adversary, but not its only one. Iran remained extremely cautious about Soviet designs, particularly in the early phase of the Islamic Republic. It remembered its long history with Russia. As for Turkey, it was weak in this period and didn’t present a threat. Iran was hostile to the United States and cautious about Russia.
The recent deal on nuclear weapons was forced through in Iran by factions who argued that a policy of complete hostility toward the United States was undermining the Iranian economy and political interests. Another faction (or several) opposed the deal as a betrayal of Iranian interests and as a capitulation to the United States. This faction, rooted in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, fought and lost the fight. But it did not give up.

For those in this faction, hostility toward the United States was the foundation of Iran’s foreign policy. Given the decline in U.S.-Russian relations, they saw Russia as an alternative to the United States. The government, which negotiated the deal, saw Russia as more dangerous to Iran in the long term, simply because the United States was far away and Russia was very near. To force the situation, someone in the Iranian government gave the Russians permission to use Hamedan air base for strikes against Syria. They apparently did not tell a wide range of people in the government that this was going on. There were apparently a number of flights out of Hamedan before the news broke. When the news broke, the flights were stopped cold. Since then, a political battle has raged in Tehran that has multiple dimensions, including a clash over who is actually in charge.

NSA’s Secret Stash of “Digital Holes”

Opinion: The NSA’s stash of digital holes is a threat to everyone online
John Naughton, The Guardian, September 4, 2016
Here’s a phrase to conjure with: “zero-day vulnerability”. If you’re a non-techie, it will sound either like a meaningless piece of jargon or it’ll have a vaguely sinister ring to it. “Year Zero” was the name chosen by the Khmer Rouge for 1975, the year they seized power in Cambodia and embarked on their genocidal rule. Behind the term lay the idea that “all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture must replace it, starting from scratch”.
If you run a computer network, though, especially one that hosts sensitive or confidential data, then zero-day vulnerability evokes nightmares and worse. It means that your system has a security hole that nobody, including you, knew about and that someone is now in a position to exploit. And you have no real defence against it.

In its determination to screw the bad guys, the NSA left all of us vulnerable
All software has bugs and all networked systems have security holes in them. If you wanted to build a model of our online world out of cheese, you’d need emmental to make it realistic. These holes (vulnerabilities) are constantly being discovered and patched, but the process by which this happens is, inevitably, reactive. Someone discovers a vulnerability, reports it either to the software company that wrote the code or to US-CERT, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team. A fix for the vulnerability is then devised and a “patch” is issued by computer security companies such as Kaspersky and/or by software and computer companies. At the receiving end, it is hoped that computer users and network administrators will then install the patch. Some do, but many don’t, alas.
It’s a lousy system, but it’s the only one we’ve got. It has two obvious flaws. The first is that the response always lags behind the threat by days, weeks or months, during which the malicious software that exploits the vulnerability is doing its ghastly work. The second is that it is completely dependent on people reporting the vulnerabilities that they have discovered.

Waze for War: How the Army Can Integrate Artificial Intelligence

Benjamin Jensen and Ryan Kendall
September 2, 2016
It is 2025. Protests in the ethnic Russian enclave in Riga, Latvia have NATO on edge. Russian units in the Western Military District are on alert conducting snap exercises involving autonomous ground and air attack systems.
The Russian president makes a speech promising to protect ethnic Russians wherever they are with military forces if necessary. In response, a U.S. Army brigade combat team bolstered by intelligence, air defense, and aviation support elements from U.S. Army Europe deploys. Their mission is to reassure Latvian forces, deter Russian aggression, and if necessary conduct a mobile defense.

The task force processes petabytes of unclassified social media posts. Machine learning software agents isolate images of potential Russian covert elements agitating protests, cross referencing cell phone pictures posted on social media with police traffic cameras, and more sensitive collection platforms. U.S. forces provide these images to the Latvians along with a projection of likely Russian activities over the next 48 hours.
The Latvians distribute the images on a cellular alert network that lets concerned citizens turn their cell phones and other personal devices into a civil defense sensor network. This civil defense network acts as a cloud, helping cyber defense apps secure critical infrastructure and conducting predictive models of where possible Russian cross-border insertions might occur based on historical data, weather, terrain, and news reports.

Understanding the military buildup of offensive cyberweapons

Over the past few years, offensive cyberweapons have risen in prominence as a part of international military efforts. The full impact of these weapons remains to be seen, however.
By Conner Forrest | September 1, 2016 
"Shall we play a game?"
"Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War?"
True geeks will recognize the above exchange as one of the seminal pieces of dialogue from the 1983 film WarGames, where a young hacker named David Lightman nearly starts World War III after gaining access to a powerful military supercomputer. The film was a critical success, and set the stage for a variety of films that explored the relationship between cybersecurity and the military.
WarGames, and films like it, were meant to be perceived as fictional. As time has gone on, though, the line between what kinds of cyberwarfare are possible, and what are science fiction has begun to blur. Computer programs like the Stuxnet worm, for example, have taken down large portions of government infrastructure, including centrifuges used in Iran's nuclear programme.

But, when and how did this happen? The rise of offensive cyberweapons has changed the landscape of cyberwar, from protecting against data theft to defending against physical destruction. To understand this rise, it's helpful to look at the history of such weapons.
The birth of offensive cyber
There's much confusion around some of the language used when referring to elements of cyberwarfare. According to Ewan Lawson, senior research fellow for military influence at RUSI (Royal United Services Institute), it's important to clarify that offensive cyberweapons don't typically deal with passive activities like data collection or surveillance; rather, a cyberweapon is something that is "deliberately designed to do damage or destruction."
Bob Gourley, co-founder of the cyber security consultancy Cognitio and former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency, echoed that sentiment. According to Gourley, at least in the US, "offensive cyber weapons are not designed to take information, but to degrade, disrupt or destroy systems."

A Cyberattack Has Caused Confirmed Physical Damage for the Second Time Ever

AMID ALL THE noise the Sony hack generated over the holidays, a far more troubling cyber attack was largely lost in the chaos. Unless you follow security news closely, you likely missed it.
I’m referring to the revelation, in a German report released just before Christmas (.pdf), that hackers had struck an unnamed steel mill in Germany. They did so by manipulating and disrupting control systems to such a degree that a blast furnace could not be properly shut down, resulting in “massive”—though unspecified—damage.
This is only the second confirmed case in which a wholly digital attack caused physical destruction of equipment. The first case, of course, was Stuxnet, the sophisticated digital weapon the U.S. and Israel launched against control systems in Iran in late 2007 or early 2008 to sabotage centrifuges at a uranium enrichment plant. That attack was discovered in 2010, and since then experts have warned that it was only a matter of time before other destructive attacks would occur. Industrial control systems have been found to be rife with vulnerabilities, though they manage critical systems in the electric grid, in water treatment plants and chemical facilities and even in hospitals and financial networks. A destructive attack on systems like these could cause even more harm than at a steel plant.

It’s not clear when the attack in Germany took place. The report, issued by Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (or BSI), indicates the attackers gained access to the steel mill through the plant’s business network, then successively worked their way into production networks to access systems controlling plant equipment. The attackers infiltrated the corporate network using a spear-phishing attack—sending targeted email that appears to come from a trusted source in order to trick the recipient into opening a malicious attachment or visiting a malicious web site where malware is downloaded to their computer. Once the attackers got a foothold on one system, they were able to explore the company’s networks, eventually compromising a “multitude” of systems, including industrial components on the production network.
“Failures accumulated in individual control components or entire systems,” the report notes. As a result, the plant was “unable to shut down a blast furnace in a regulated manner” which resulted in “massive damage to the system.”

5 Steps To Make U.S. Elections Less Hackable

By Patrick Tucker
As shadowy actors work to hack U.S. elections, a few simple steps could make electronic voting more secure, says one expert.
Voting machine vulnerabilities go well beyond what most voters know, warns Dan Zimmerman, a computer scientist who specializes in election information technology. There probably is not time to fix all of those vulnerabilities by November. But there are still things election officials could do to reduce the hack-ability of the U.S. presidential election. Here are his five steps for making the U.S. election less hackable.

1. More federal oversight (and not just on Election Day)
This week’s report sophisticated actors in Russia trying to penetrate voter databases sounded alarm bells about the U.S. election being hacked.
Zimmerman, who works with Free & Fair, a company that provides election-related IT services, says that because most electronic voting machines are not connected to the internet, the threat of remote hacking from Russia is small. The machines are far from secure, however.

“I haven’t observed anything in particular that would make me think somebody is developing some new attack against these machines. Some of these machines were so terribly easy to attack in the first place, essentially, my concern is that some of these machines have been designed in way such that somebody with an eighth-grade level of knowledge of computer science and a little bit of time could hack them.”
It’s an issue that’s been around for years, but lawmakers haven’t done much about it. Bottom line, there’s no federal standard for physical security around voting machines and that makes them very vulnerable. “They could be in a broom closet in a city clerk’s office. There is no federal level oversight other than there is something called the Election Assistance Commission, or EAC. The EAC was established in the early 2000s, basically as a response to the 2000 debacle, and has until recently effectively been a joke,” he says.

Are things really as bad as the ABC Four Corners' Cyber War documentary makes out?

August 30, 2016
Author David Glance , Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice, University of Western Australia

We believe in the free flow of information. We use a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives licence, so you can republish our articles for free, online or in print. Republish The Spy Files, released by WikiLeaks, revealed the scale of surveillance going on around the world. WikiLeaks
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners' Cyber War program, aired tonight, highlighted the personal, commercial and national threats posed by hackers and a general preparedness on all things cyber security.
The program started by looking at hackers a this year’s DEF CON hacking conference and highlighted just how vulnerable any piece of technology connected to the internet actually is. They proceeded at rapid pace to move from phones, bank accounts and cyber crime to alleged nation state hacking, including the hack of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, revealed in December of last year.

Road to Skynet update - DARPA will use internet of things and AI to dominate cyberwar and regular war

September 01, 2016

The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency will fund the development of sensors and artificial intelligence systems that could help break into, extract, and analyze information from enemy devices and communication systems.
The components and systems will arm the U.S. with more data to analyze enemy moves and strategy. Information is king in wars, and DARPA wants to develop technology that can break into enemy systems.
"They are talking about going into any situation and extracting information at any time, [with] artificial intelligence systems that can attack and hack any network," said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
DARPA wants to fund the development of sensors and electromagnetic systems that could break into point-to-point wired and wireless communications, even ones that are not linked to the internet. DARPA is making progress to jam resistant communication
DARPA wants intelligent systems that can process and extract only relevant data. The sensors will need edge processing capabilities where they can analyze data immediately and trash irrelevant information. These sensors and systems won't be able to cross-reference larger data repositories on the cloud.

1) controlling and exploiting the electromagnetic spectrum with unprecedented versatility and finesse, 
2) creating new generations of sensors that could keep warfighters informed as they never have been before, and 
3) providing safe, secure, and assured access to an increasingly globalized microelectronics supply chain.

Research: Companies fear mobile devices as massive cybersecurity threat

In a recent poll by Tech Pro Research, 45 percent of respondents chose mobile devices as their company's weakest link, in terms of security
By Amy Talbott | September 1, 2016 

According to an online poll conducted by Tech Pro Research in June, everyday threats like security breaches involving mobile devices are more worrisome than acts of cybercrime. More results from this research are presented in the infographic below:

To learn more, download the full report: Cybersecurity Research: Weak Links, Digital Forensics, and International Concerns. (Tech Pro Research membership required.)

You can also download our full special report on "Cyberwar and the Future of Cybersecurity" as a PDF in magazine format, available for free at registered ZDNet and TechRepublic members.

Microsoft’s Legal Challenge to NSA/FBI Eavesdropping Secrecy Orders Picking Up Steam

Microsoft’s Challenge to Government Secrecy Wins Dozens of Supporters
Nick Wingfield
New York Times
September 3, 2016
SEATTLE — Dozens of allies threw their weight behind Microsoft on Friday in a case that challenges law enforcement’s use of secrecy orders to cloak its pursuit of digital communications in investigations.
Amazon, Google, Snapchat, Salesforce and several others filed a brief on Friday in support of Microsoft in its case against the United States Justice Department, while Apple, Mozilla and others made their own filing. Civil liberties groups and media organizations like Fox News, National Public Radio and The Washington Post submitted their own briefs.
Microsoft was also backed by a collection of law professors and a group of former United States attorneys who worked in the Western district of Washington, where Microsoft filed its federal lawsuit in April.
Microsoft’s effort to rally support is part of a growing resistance by technology companies to government attempts to snoop on the electronic communications of their customers.
Revelations by Edward J. Snowden, the former United States government contractor, about the extent of electronic surveillance by spy agencies have rattled technology companies, which worry that trust in their products is being undermined.

In a statement, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said the company was grateful for the support from what it expected to total 80 signatories on multiple briefs by the end of the day. He noted the diversity of backgrounds of the signatories, saying, “it’s not every day that Fox News and the A.C.L.U. are on the same side of an issue.”
“We believe the constitutional rights at stake in this case are of fundamental importance, and people should know when the government accesses their emails unless secrecy is truly needed,” Mr. Smith added.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment.

To Find Cyber Flaws in Weapon Systems, DoD Will Move Millions

By: Joe Gould, September 1, 2016
WASHINGTON — Amid a growing focus on the Pentagon’s cyber vulnerabilities, it plans to reprogram $100 million toward uncovering such flaws in major weapon systems, according to budget documents posted this week.
Defense Department Comptroller Mike McCord notified Congress Aug. 29 of plans to move the money from a technology analysis account to a research, test and evaluation account—described as classified in the DoD’s 2016 budget justification. The notice was first reported by Inside Defense.
The Defense Department is bound by law to evaluate the cyber vulnerabilities of major weapons systems and report to Congress by the end of 2019, with $200 million authorized for the project. The mandate was the marquee provision in military cybersecurity legislation the president signed last year as part of the 2016 defense policy bill.
Weapons systems developed over the past 20 years are "highly effective on the battlefield and yet also highly vulnerable to network attack," as they are increasingly dependent on "network targeting information, digital satellite communication to GPS networks, and digital command operating pictures/blue force trackers," Jacquelyn Schneider, a scholar at George Washington University warns in a report published this week by the Center for New American Security.

DOT&E: Cyber Vulnerabilities Plague Battlefield Comms The highly networked nature of two key military systems, the the F-35 Lightning II and Distributed Common Ground System-Army, the service's intelligence dissemination system, illustrate how digitally dependent the US military has become.
Indeed, the Pentagon's Director of Operations, Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), Michael Gilmore announced last year he found that nearly all of DoD's major weapons systems were vulnerable to cyber attacks. Forty systems in 2014 needed to fix cyber vulnerabilities, including the Army's Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, the Navy's Joint High Speed Vessel and the Freedom class of Littoral Combat Ship.