22 July 2015

Aide to China's Former President Expelled From Party, to Face Trial

July 20, 2015
A former aide to Chinese President Hu Jintao has been officially expelled from the Communist Party,Xinhua reported on Monday. Ling Jihua, who served as head of the Central Committee’s General Office during Hu’s tenure, was announced to be under an internal Party graft investigation last December. Now his case will be turned over to the courts for prosecution.

“Ling Jihua’s actions completely deviated from the characteristics and goals of the Party,” Xinhua said, citing an official report from the Politburo. “He seriously violated Party discipline, did enormous damage to the Party’s image, and had an extremely negative influence on society.”

That announcement followed two years of rumors that Ling was in the Party’s cross-hairs. In March 2012, Ling’s son was killed in a car crash, the lurid details of which (Ling was driving a Ferrari whose passengers included two half-naked women) served to embarrass the Party as it prepared for its delicate, once-in-a-decade leadership transition. In addition to that incident, which led to Ling being suspected of corruption, the Chinese rumor mill has since linked Ling with former high-ranking officials Bo Xilai, Xu Caihou, and Zhou Yongkang aspart of a plot to at best undermine – and at worst overthrow – current President Xi Jinping.

Mixed Verdict on Chinese Environmental Public Interest Lawsuits

By Scott Wilson
July 20, 2015
The year began with high hopes for citizen participation in China’s environmental protection. On January 1, 2015, China’s revised Environmental Protection Law (EPL), which authorized civil society groups to sue polluters to protect the public interest, went into force. Three days later, a court in Fujian Province accepted an environmental public interest lawsuit filed by Friends of Nature and Fujian Green Home, two grassroots environmental civil society organizations. Since that time, the courts accepted just ten more filings of environmental public interest cases (one of which was withdrawn). Of the eleven cases, three were filed by grassroots civil society groups, one by private citizens, and the remainder by state-backed organizations or local procuratorates. During the period of 2014 when the EPL had been revised but not yet gone into effect, courts accepted thirteen cases, but only one was filed by a grassroots organization; in the other cases, the plaintiffs were state-backed organizations or procuratorates. There are several explanations for the small number of lawsuits this year, but equally important and less often discussed is the Chinese state’s attempt to maintain control over environmental public interest litigation.

Has the Philippines Forgotten its South China Sea Strategy?

After more than 15 years, the Philippines has finallydecided to repair its ragtag outpost on the Second Thomas Shoal, located about 100 nautical miles away from the Philippines’ westernmost province of Palawan. The Sierra Madre ship – a 100-meter-long tank landing vessel, operated by the U.S. Navy back in the Second World War – has served as a tenuous expression of Manila’s sovereignty claim over the contested feature in the South China Sea.

For long, it has also served as an embarrassing reminder of how little the Philippines has invested in concretely defending its claims in a heavily-contested area. To paraphrase a Western journalist who visited the site in recent years, the Philippine outpost from afar is an abominable site amid a beautiful maritime wilderness; surrounded by reefs and a vast blue ocean, Sierra Madre looks even more awful up close.

Since 1999, the rusty, grounded vessel has hosted – on a rotational basis – a handful of marooned and resilient troops, who have repeatedly resisted siege and other forms of intimidation tactics deployed by the far better equipped Chinese coast guard forces, which sometimes are even better armed than the Philippine Navy.

China’s New Normal: The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

By Robert A. Rogowsky
July 20, 2015
China’s troublesome stock market volatility brings to mind Dickens’ characterization of France just before the revolution: the best of times and the worst of times. China’s booming real economy over the past three decades has been the best of times. The worst of times may lie ahead, struggling with the financial economy. The question is which will prevail, and ultimately, will the French example prove ominously foreshadowing.

China’s rise has and continues to depend on progressively unleashing the real economy. The new normal is a shift from high speed to a more reasonable and sustainable growth path. China claimed more than 10 million urban jobs created in 2104. An aggressive program of reforms is expanding the foundation for continued growth. Years of reform and market opening have spurred local governments to harness entrepreneurial energy and foreign investment in special customs supervision areas, export processing zones, and cross-border industrial parks. The new Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone is a major experiment in reform that has led to three new free trade zones, in Guangdong and Fujian and Tianjin.

ISIS Leadership Taking Steps to Keep Organization Going If Top Commanders Killed

Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard
July 21, 2015

ISIS Leader Takes Steps to Ensure Group’s Survival

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State’s reclusive leader has empowered his inner circle of deputies as well as regional commanders in Syria and Iraq with wide-ranging authority, a plan to ensure that if he or other top figures are killed, the organization will quickly adapt and continue fighting, American and Iraqi intelligence officials say.

The officials say the leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delegates authority to his cabinet, or shura council, which includes ministers of war, finance, religious affairs and others.

The Islamic State’s leadership under Mr. Baghdadi has drawn mainly from two pools: veterans of Al Qaeda in Iraq who survived the insurgency against American forces with battle-tested militant skills, and former Baathist officers under Saddam Hussein with expertise in organization, intelligence and internal security. It is the merger of these two skill sets that has made the organization such a potent force, the officials say.

But equally important to the group’s flexibility has been the power given to Islamic State military commanders, who receive general operating guidelines but have significant autonomy to run their own operations in Iraq and Syria, according to American and Kurdish officials. This means that fighters have limited information about the inner workings of the Islamic State to give up if captured, and that local commanders can be killed and replaced without disrupting the wider organization. Within this hierarchy, Iraqis still hold the top positions, while Tunisians and Saudis hold many religious posts. 

ISIS Cracks Down on Internet Use in Territory They Control in Syria

July 21, 2015

Islamic State cracks down on Internet use in Syrian stronghold - monitor

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State militants raided Internet cafes in their Syrian stronghold city of Raqqa after ordering a ban on wireless networks that can be used by private homes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Monday.

In order to implement a news blackout of the group’s activities, Islamic State had given cafe owners four days from Sunday to disconnect wireless Internet networks used by residents, the Observatory said, citing an IS leaflet circulated in Raqqa.

The United States said earlier this month it had intensified an aerial campaign against Islamic State in Syria with a wave of strikes in and around Raqqa, de facto capital of the militants’ self-declared caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.

Citing a network of sources on the ground, the Britain-based Observatory said Islamic State members had already started an Internet crackdown that included shutting down networks that could be used by its own fighters at home.

Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group at Fort Meade Looking for Unconventional Ways to Defeat ISIS

Ian Duncan
July 20, 2015

Elite Army unit at Fort Meade searching for ways to fight ISIS

An elite Army unit based at Fort Meade is sending battle-hardened soldiers to Iraq to get a close look at the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria so they can develop ways to fight America’s newest adversary.

Lt. Col. Justin Sapp, a commander in the Asymmetric Warfare Group, describes ISIS militaries as a new kind of challenge: a force of fighters informed by a decade of war in Iraq and beyond, with legions of recruits, high-end weaponry and stable funding sources, that has proved adept at changing its strategy and tactics as it draws more attention from the United States and its allies.

“They have the benefit of years of experience and at the same time they have a lot of recruits — angry young people,” Sapp said. “I don’t look at them as an army, but they’re certainly a serious and adaptable threat.”

The Asymmetric Warfare Group stationed at Fort Meade is tasked with studying ISIS and its tactics.


July 21, 2015

Thirteen months have passed since the city of Mosul and one-third of Iraq fell to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The U.S.-led coalition, however, still has no comprehensive strategy for dealing with the grave threat ISIL continues to represent. While the Iraqi military is back on the offensive following the fall of Ramadi in May, it is clear that without resolving the conflict between the Assad regime and various rebel groups within Syria, ISIL will retain the strategic depth that prevents its defeat in Iraq.

Multiple rounds of attempted UN-backed peace talks have failed, but the regional environment may now be more conducive to shaping a peace effort in Syria. Regionally, two important developments could catalyze a breakthrough.

Yet Another Offensive Launched Against Al-Shabaab Fighters in Southern Somalia

July 20, 2015

AU troops announce new offensive against Shebab

African Union troops said Sunday they had launched a new offensive against Al-Qaeda-affilated Shebab rebels in southern Somalia, vowing to flush the insurgents out of rural areas.

The African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, said “Operation Jubba Corridor” was launched on Friday in the Bay and Gedo regions south of the capital Mogadishu along with Somali government troops.

“The operation will ensure that all the remaining areas in Somalia will be liberated and peace restored,” AMISOM said in a statement.

The offensive was launched days after Kenyan government reports that a US drone strike in the region killed at least 30 Shebab rebels, among them several commanders.

It also comes several weeks after last month’s Shebab assault on a AMISOM base which left dozens of Burundian soldier dead in one of the single deadliest incidents since AMISOM soldiers arrived in Somalia eight years ago.

Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group at Fort Meade Looking for Unconventional Ways to Defeat ISIS

Ian Duncan
July 20, 2015

Elite Army unit at Fort Meade searching for ways to fight ISIS

An elite Army unit based at Fort Meade is sending battle-hardened soldiers to Iraq to get a close look at the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria so they can develop ways to fight America’s newest adversary.

Lt. Col. Justin Sapp, a commander in the Asymmetric Warfare Group, describes ISIS militaries as a new kind of challenge: a force of fighters informed by a decade of war in Iraq and beyond, with legions of recruits, high-end weaponry and stable funding sources, that has proved adept at changing its strategy and tactics as it draws more attention from the United States and its allies.

“They have the benefit of years of experience and at the same time they have a lot of recruits — angry young people,” Sapp said. “I don’t look at them as an army, but they’re certainly a serious and adaptable threat.”

The Asymmetric Warfare Group stationed at Fort Meade is tasked with studying ISIS and its tactics.

Taking the Iran Deal Disaster Seriously

The best approach to Iran in the wake of President Obama’s deal is to recognize the complex nature of the problem, and the absolute need for a well-considered and comprehensive approach. The agreement cannot and should not be simply repudiated on the next president’s first day in office, as some Republican presidential contenders have suggested. The agreement is terrible, but once concluded, the national interest requires that it be undone only with care, patience, and masterful diplomacy—an approach championed by Gov. Jeb Bush and Senator Lindsey Graham. Indeed, to suggest otherwise, is to fail to appreciate the full extent of the damage done by the deal and the difficult foreign-policy legacy President Obama is leaving for his successor.

First and foremost, simply abrogating the deal—which already has been enshrined in a Chapter VII UN Security Council Resolution binding on the United States and all members of the United Nations—would actually put the United States in violation of its international obligations and will hand tremendous strategic benefits to Tehran. This may be inevitable, since Russia and China will certainly take advantage of any American action against Iran to score diplomatic and strategic points against us. But, we do not have to make it easy for them, and we should not.

Hezbollah's Growing Domestic Woes

"Even as the organization expands its regional influence, at home there is an increasing sense of anxiety among Hezbollah’s constituents."

The nuclear agreement with Iran may represent a dramatic shift in geopolitics in favor of the Shiite theocracy, but for Lebanese Shiites, domestic concerns prevail. Lebanon’s 1.6 million Shiites are worried about the Islamic State and Jebhat al Nusra. And for good reason. Over the past four years, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah has been fighting in Syria, helping the Assad regime kill nearly 300,000 mostly Sunni Muslims. In response, these Sunni jihadis are targeting Shiites in Lebanon. Yet according to recent polling conducted by the Lebanese NGO Hayya Bina, 80 percent of Lebanese Shiites believe Hezbollah’s deployment in Syria is making the community safer. Indeed, the “Party of God’s” mission in Syria is regarded as so critical that 47 percent of Lebanese Shiites now believe that “liberating” Israeli occupied Shebaa Farms should no longer be the militia’s priority.

Europe’s Impossible Dream

JULY 20, 2015

There’s a bit of a lull in the news from Europe, but the underlying situation is as terrible as ever. Greece is experiencing a slump worse than the Great Depression, and nothing happening now offers hope of recovery. Spain has been hailed as a success story, because its economy is finally growing — but it still has 22 percent unemployment. And there is an arc of stagnationacross the continent’s top: Finland is experiencing a depression comparable to that in southern Europe, and Denmark and the Netherlands are also doing very badly.

How did things go so wrong? The answer is that this is what happens when self-indulgent politicians ignore arithmetic and the lessons of history. And no, I’m not talking about leftists in Greece or elsewhere; I’m talking about ultra-respectable men in Berlin, Paris, and Brussels, who have spent a quarter-century trying to run Europe on the basis of fantasy economics.

To someone who didn’t know much economics, or chose to ignore awkward questions, establishing a unified European currency sounded like a great idea. It would make doing business across national borders easier, while serving as a powerful symbol of unity. Who could have foreseen the huge problems the euro would eventually cause?

The future of the City - A chance of showers

Financiers in London are always predicting their industry’s demise. This time, they may be on to somethingJul 18th 2015 

UPON joining a panel mulling new regulations for London’s financial industry in 2010, Martin Taylor was confronted with “an operatic chorus” of bankers threatening to move elsewhere if oversight became too strict. Moneymen from all sorts of firms told the former boss of Barclays, a big British bank, that they were on the verge of decamping to Switzerland, apparently a paradise of low taxes and sympathetic regulators, safely beyond the reach of the European Union’s banker-bashing. “The City”, for centuries a mainstay of the British economy, risked losing its status as the centre of global finance, and with it hundreds of thousands of jobs. It wasn’t until Mr Taylor learned that the financiers of Zurich and Geneva were simultaneously threatening to relocate to London that his concerns eased somewhat.

Russian Army Takes Over Large Blocks of Land Along Ukrainian Border

Andrew E. Kramer
July 20, 2015

Russian Town Near Ukraine, Once Quiet, Now Buzzes With Military Activity

GOLOVINKA, Russia — The southern Russian steppe in summertime typically offers a soul-lifting panorama of wheat fields and sunflowers, swaying in the breezes, and vast empty spaces. It is Russia’s big sky country, rural and calm.

Normally, that is. One morning this spring, the serenity in this village deep in the Russian countryside near the Ukrainian border was broken by a loud, rumbling explosion intense enough to send out window-shattering shock waves. Soon, residents said, Russian soldiers appeared running through the wheat fields, some in their underwear, waving their arms wildly and yelling, “Save yourselves however you can!”

The panicked soldiers were not under attack, as it turns out, but were fleeing a fire in a well-stocked ammunition depot at a nearby Russian military base, recalled a local dairy farmer who, worried about harassment, offered only his first name, Anatoli. By that point, he said, artillery shells had begun whistling away from the base and into the fields.

Russian Hackers Are Now Going After Pentagon Computer Systems Using Sophisticated Stealth Phishing Campaign

Shane Harris
July 20, 2015

Russian Hackers Target The Pentagon

A sophisticated group of hackers, who earlier targeted the White House and State Department, have launched a stealth phishing campaign on the Pentagon.

Hackers linked to Russia who penetrated the computer networks of the White House and the State Department have turned their sights on the Pentagon, The Daily Beast has learned. And this time the hackers are using more sophisticated technologies that make them exceptionally hard to detect and that allow them to cover their tracks.

The Daily Beast obtained an email notice that the Defense Department sent Friday warning “at least five” DOD computer users have been targeted in the latest campaign. The notice linked these attacks to penetrations of unclassified networks at the White House and State Department that began last year and were reported in April. The notice doesn’t specify whether any information has been stolen, nor does it indicate which agencies the targeted victims work in.

Donald Trump and the American Attitude Toward National Service

July 20, 2015

The sheer outrageousness of some of Donald Trump's public utterances invites condemnation that is so justifiably quick and unqualified that it leads us to overlook respects in which what Trump says or stands for reflects larger patterns that many Americans do not condemn and may even support. There is a reason that Trump moved to the top of the polls of Republican primary voters, and the reason isn't his hair. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post addressed this phenomenon the other day in a column in which he noted how, when Trump briefly ran for the presidential nomination of the Reform Party in 2000, he distinguished himself from Pat Buchanan by taking relatively progressive positions on immigration and social issues. That's quite a contrast with how Trump, now running for the Republican nomination, has called Mexicans a bunch of rapists. Milbank's persuasive explanation is that what we have heard each time is much less any sincere convictions of Trump but instead the kind of red meat that he has calculated will most excite the constituency to which he happens to be appealing.

Trump's most recent outrageous comment—his disparaging of John McCain's military service—leads naturally and appropriately to comparing what those two individuals were doing as young men during the years in question. Michael Miller and Fred Barbash do a good job in the Post of relating how, while McCain was stoically enduring suffering in captivity in North Vietnam and heroically resisting his captors' demands for a “confession” in return for his release, Trump was enjoying a life of privilege, partying, and pecuniary pursuits. Student deferments and the luck of a high draft lottery number kept Trump out of the military.

Russia's Rising Military: Should the U.S. Send More Nuclear Weapons to Europe?

July 21, 2015

NATO needs to pay attention to territorial defense and its own military capabilities. But deploying more U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe is not a good response.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine, its military modernization program, and its more bellicose stance toward the West in general have raised concerns in NATO. The alliance needs to pay attention to territorial defense and its own military capabilities. But deploying more U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe is not a good response.

Russia’s More Aggressive Posture

Relations between Moscow and the West have crashed to a post-Cold War low over the past two years. Russia’s military seizure of Crimea violated the cardinal rule of the European security order dating back to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act: states should not use force to change borders. Since then, the Kremlin has supported armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where it has provided heavy weapons, leadership and Russian soldiers—despite agreements calling for withdrawal of all foreign forces.

Peace in the Middle East: America's New Post–Iran Deal Challenge

"All of this regional displeasure with the deal and with Iran’s broader role in the region will require tough and active management by the United States."

That the final Iran nuclear deal was met with opposition in Israel and Saudi Arabia is no surprise. As we argued over a year ago, neither neighbor was likely to welcome a deal with Iran, even if the official Saudi response has been more muted. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu again declared the deal a “historic mistake,” while the Saudis have left more strident rejection of the deal to former officials like Prince Bandar, who said it’s worse than the agreement with North Korea.

Learning more details about the final agreement is not likely to change views, because for these regional states, the threat of Iran has always been about much more than the nuclear issue. For all the talk about whether or not this is a good deal, negotiating with Iran was the original sin from the perspective of Iran’s neighbors, legitimizing the Islamic Republic and its nefarious activities in the region.

Strategy Games, War, and Asia’s New Map

I noticed a slight change in focus before leaving the Pentagon last year. When the Obama administration introduced new initiatives as part of its policy of “rebalancing to Asia,” it increasingly involved the South China Sea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Myanmar. India was becoming a larger strategic priority. And people began a discursive shift from Asia as a “Pacific theater” to Asia as a “maritime theater.”

Since leaving government, I’ve seen the change become more acute, accentuated by ritualism and entrenched positions in Northeast Asia. China and Japan are in a kind of stalemate in the East China Sea, while China and Taiwan are, for now, both vested in preserving the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. Relations between North and South Korea remain frozen in time, and, 50 years after normalization, Japan-South Korea relations show no signs of sustainable improvement.

Northeast Asia is a garden that needs continuous tending. It remains crucial to the global economy and U.S. interests, and a conflict there could be civilization-ending. But policymakers on all sides have been largely boxed in by the strategic choices of their predecessors. The lines of competition are clear and heavily militarized, and the stakes unmistakably high.

Meet Russia's New Killer Robot

Today, the Russian military showcased its killer robot, codenamed Platform-M, in Sevastopol, Ukraine according to RT. In the video, the remotely controlled Platform-M combat robot is armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and four grenade launchers.

RBTH reported that an unknown number of robots for the first time participated in a military exercise of the Baltic Fleet alongside Russian ground forces in June 2014 near Kaliningrad where the “the military robots were assigned to eliminate provisional illegal armed formations in urban conditions and striking stationary and mobile targets,” according to the press office of Russia’s Western military district.

The Platform-M combat robot is equipped with “a differentiated defensive chassis and a firing platform and can carry out combative tasks during the night without unmasking instruments,” the Russian military told RBTH.


U.S. Government Computer Networks Still Highly Vulnerable to Hackers and Cyberspies

Michael D. Shear and Nicole Perlroth
July 19, 2015

U.S. vs. Hackers: Still Lopsided Despite Years of Warnings and a Recent Push

WASHINGTON — In the month since a devastating computer systems breach at the Office of Personnel Management, digital Swat teams have been racing to plug the most glaring security holes in government computer networks and prevent another embarrassing theft of personal information, financial data and national security secrets.

But senior cybersecurity officials, lawmakers and technology experts said in interviews that the 30-day “cybersprint” ordered by President Obama after the attacks is little more than digital triage on federal computer networks that are cobbled together with out-of-date equipment and defended with the software equivalent of Bubble Wrap.

In an effort to highlight its corrective actions, the White House will announce shortly that teams of federal employees and volunteer hackers have made progress over the last month. At some agencies, 100 percent of users are, for the first time, logging in with two-factor authentication, a basic security feature, officials said. Security holes that have lingered for years despite obvious fixes are being patched. And thousands of low-level employees and contractors with access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets have been cut off.


America has been abuzz about the new revelations aboutOPM’s incredible loss of personal data — it’s being called a “hack,” the “biggest cyberattack in U.S. history.” Though the number of personnel compromised is said to reach 21.5 million, that total will increase exponentially due to the information about friends, family, and associates contained in each of those investigations. It is an incredible defeat for America.

Yet despite calls for retaliation and questions about whether this is a new high-water mark in “cyberwar,” the “OPM Hack” seems to have not been a real hack — let alone a cyberattack. Rather, the OPM “heist” was completely the fault of a blundering, incompetent bureaucracy that quite literally handed the secrets of our security-cleared citizens to a strategic adversary. We can hardly blame the Chinese for gratefully receiving such an intelligence treasure trove.

Own Goal

NSA Spied on German Officials During Their Talks on CIA Torture

Andrew Blake
July 21, 2015

WikiLeaks: NSA monitored Germany’s discussions on CIA torture

Secret-spilling organization WikiLeaks has published new evidence of what the group says shows the extent of the National Security Agency’s longstanding surveillance of top German officials.

The latest release from the anti-secrecy group, published Monday on its website, includes a list of 20 targets, all pertaining to German politicians, who had been supposedly singled out by the NSA for the purpose of gathering intelligence on behalf of the U.S. government.

Among the targets of the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, WikiLeaks said, were the cellphone of then-Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and phone numbers registered to other top officials.

“The list indicates that NSA spying on the Foreign Ministry extends back to the pre-9/11 era, including numbers for offices in Bonn and targeting Joschka Fischer, Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2005,” WikiLeakssaid.

U.S. Getting More Aggressive About Protecting Spy and Communications Satellites in Space

Brian Weeden
July 20, 2015

The End of Sanctuary in Space

The U.S. national security space community is implementing its 2011 strategy for protecting space capabilities as a result of the perceived increase in threat posed by the development of counterspace capabilities among potential adversaries.

The strategy includes multiple elements for developing international norms of behavior, enhancing commercial and allied cooperation, increasing resilience and deterring and defeating attacks.

New evidence suggests that the implementation effort may be focusing primarily on deterring and defeating attacks, and may include the development of “active defenses” and new offensive counterspace systems.

Greece Debt Deal: Toward a More Perfect (and United) European Union?

The latest Greek debt deal suggests that the EU leadership is proceeding under the assumption that the EU will eventually be unified financially, even if such an evolution is politically impossible today.

The first line of the Preamble to the Constitution reads in part: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union….” When those words were penned by America’s founders, the nation was anything but united, a collection of loosely affiliated states. The sole significant source of revenue for the federal government was custom levies, a situation that did not change for more than a century. Each state had its own banks, currency and finances separate and apart from one another.

Today in Greece, we have a very different situation. The European Union (EU), whose ancestor was formed in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome as a means of preventing the great continental nations from waging war upon each other ever again, has created an inherently unfair economic relationship between the member states. The EU states share a common market and currency, but still manage their own finances and have economies with different levels of inflation and productivity. Today the nations of southern Europe led by Greece and including Italy, Spain and Portugal are slowly falling behind their wealthier and more productive northern neighbors.

Did Tajikistan Just Monopolize the News?

Screenshot of the Khovar Tajik homepage as of July 20, 2015.
Tajikistan’s small number of independent news sites are raising the warning flag with regard to a new government decree which directs all government departments to release information only to the state news agency, Khovar. Though far from having a free press, the Central Asian country does have a handful of independent news sites and private press agencies, in addition to journalists residing in the country. Central Asia is consistently placed at the bottom of international rankings for press freedom. The head of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan, Nuriddin Karshiboev, says the new decree violates the country’s constitution, which provides for freedom of the press and equal right to information.


July 21, 2015 

Recently, I had the good fortune to attend a number of conferences related to the upcoming British Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). The publication of the latest SDSR this fall will mark the first time a defense review has been conducted on a five-year timetable, hopefully allowing the United Kingdom to re-appraise its strategic situation more rapidly than the previous, more ad hoc nature of reviews. As a result, even though it feels as though the dust has barely settled on the 2010 SDSR, the debate about the future of British defense among military, business, and academic circles has been reinvigorated. In only the past two weeks, the University of Bath and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) hosted a workshop on the future of the British Army, the Army itself held a joint brainstorming session on future logistics as part of Exercise Agile Warrior, and the former heads of the three British services outlined their views on the forthcoming SDSR at the Global Strategy Forum. But to my mind at least, for all the “horizon scanning” at these events, there was relatively little analysis of internal adaptions that could be made to better position British defense for the future.

21 Secrets Of Success I Learned From Working With The Military’s Best General

July 20, 2015
A former military aide-de-camp shares the 21 habits his bosses exhibited that led them to success.
I was privileged in my 23-year Army career to work directly with four very successful general officers. The lessons I learned from them can be applied to both military and civilian leadership at every level and I promised my peers that one day I would write down what I saw.

As an aide-de-camp, or executive assistant-plus, a few too many times, I discovered the Army left the job rather ill-defined. Every general gets to set the parameters of the job. Some generals treat their aide-de-camps like slaves and use them to take care of the little stuff they don’t have time for or don’t want to do, while others use them as confidants and advisors and even bring them to high-level meetings to take notes or contribute to the discussion — on top of all the little stuff they don’t have time to do.

Syrian Army and Rebels Battle Near Port City of Latakia

July 20, 2015

Syria’s Army Says Battles Rebels Near President’s Homeland

BEIRUT — Syria’s army said on Sunday it had stepped up air strikes and retaken villages in a new offensive on Islamist insurgents in areas close to President Bashar al Assad’s ancestral homeland in the coastal province of Latakia.

Aerial bombardment had intensified over the past 48 hours in a bid to cut rebel supply lines in rugged territory close to Turkey’s border, an army source was quoted as saying on state media.

Latakia province - home to Syria’s biggest port and a stronghold of Assad’s Alawite sect - has been a key battleground of the conflict, which is now in its fifth year.

Sunni Muslim jihadists, including al Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot the Nusra Front, control many villages in the borderlands north of the government-held Mediterranean port city of Latakia and other areas dominated by Alawites, who follow an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

US Commander Joins South China Sea Surveillance Flight During Philippines Trip

The new U.S. commander of the Pacific Fleet participated in a surveillance flight over the disputed South China Sea in an American spy plane as part of his inaugural trip to the Asia-Pacific.

Admiral Scott Swift, who assumed command of the Fleet in May, joined a seven-hour maritime surveillance mission on board a P-8A Poseidon plane this weekend. According to the U.S. Pacific Command, he took part “to witness firsthand the full range of the Poseidon’s capabilities.”

The P-8A Poseidon is designed for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions as well as long-range anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. It is capable of broad-area maritime and littoral operations, and can fly as high as 41,000 feet and travel up to 490 knots.

Swift’s participation in the operation is part of a firmer U.S. public campaign over the past few months to demonstrate that Chinese activities in the South China Sea will not undermine freedom of navigation and overflight (See: “The Case for a Bolder US South China Sea Policy”). As U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter put it in a speech addressing the South China Sea in Hawaii on May 27, “The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.”

Myanmar Military Chief Vows Non-Interference in Elections

Myanmar’s military will accept the outcome of the country’s upcoming elections in November, its military chief said in an interview released Monday.

The country is set to hold polls following an historic opening in 2011, after half a century of military rule. Still, there are still concerns about potential violence and military intervention (See: “Myanmar Announces Date for Historic 2015 Elections”). In 1990, when Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept the country’s election, the military refused to recognize the results and placed her under house arrest.

But Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the powerful commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, said that the military would respect the election outcome this year, as it is part of the democratic process.

“Whoever wins I will respect the result if they win fairly,” Gen Min Aung Hlaing said in an interview with BBC, a rare media appearance with a Western news outlet.

Japanese Company Apologizes for Forced Labor During World War II

July 21, 2015
Mitsubishi formally apologizes to U.S. POWs forced to work for the company during World War II.
In an unusual ceremony on Sunday, American prisoners of war (POWs) received an apology for their treatment during World War II – not from the Japanese government, but from Mitsubishi, a Japanese firm that used POWs for forced labor during the war. As the Associated Press reported, a senior executive from Mitsubishi apologized to POWs and their families, including to 94-year-old veteran James Murphy, the only actual victim of Mitsubishi’s forced labor who was able to make the trip.

The ceremony took place on Sunday at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Senior Mitsubishi executive Hikaru Kimura apologized in person to Murphy and, by extension, to all the American POWs forced to work for Japanese firms during the war. “Being one of the few surviving workers of that time, I find it to be my duty and responsibility to accept Mr. Kimura’s apology,” Murphy said in a statement.

21 July 2015

An agreement that was called a deal

July 21, 2015 

It is only in the last year that there has been some course correction in Washington and New Delhi over the historic nuclear deal. If in 2005 it was the nuclear deal that opened the door to a strategic partnership, in 2015 it is the strategic partnership that has enabled a closure on the deal

Ten years ago, on the morning of July 19, 2005, the readers of The Hindu would have seen a boxed news item next to the front page lead story with an innocuous headline that read “Manmohan expresses satisfaction over talks”. It was not just the byline of the writer (N. Ravi, the newspaper’s former Editor-in-Chief) that justified the placement of that report, but its stunning opening line: “In a significant development after the meeting that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with American President George Bush at the White House, the United States, acknowledging that India is a nuclear weapons power, agreed to cooperate with it in the area of civilian nuclear energy.”

Resettling Soldiers: A Nation’s Social Responsibility

Resettling veterans is indeed a ‘Nation’s Social Responsibility’. A concerted and collective effort is needed for absorbing veterans. The priority should be to help soldiers obtain jobs in the government sector by exploiting reservations. This is to be followed by mapping the industrial needs, talking to them (Industry) and training individuals as per the requirement of the industry. The DGR will well utilise their funds in this manner than conduct courses which are cosmetic in nature and results, and used as a paid break by most. This can best be done by integral placement organisations in respective services.

We need to learn from the past and see that all armies care for their veterans. The trainees and disciplined manpower is to be taken as an asset on which a lot can be built upon.

Iraninan Breakthrough A Win Win Situation For India

By Brigadier Arun Bajpai
Issue: Net Edition | Date : 18 Jul , 2015

Let there be no doubt that Tuesday the 14 July will go down in the world history as one of the most epoch making day on which the Axis of Evil as Iran is termed by America and the Great Satan which Iran call America shed their decades old animosity to come closer, a happen ace which will have far reaching effect on the world affairs including India. On this day the five permanent members of the Security Council led by America as also Germany signed the nuclear deal with Iran after almost 24 months of continues negotiations. This eases sanctions against Iran allowing it to play its rightful role in the world arena as against remaining a pariah. World now takes a sigh of relief that Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been put to rest for long time in future.

The entry of Iranian oil in the international market will further bring down oil prices benefitting Indian economy in a big way since it is 80% dependent on its energy imports.