14 September 2015

Iran's Foreign Minister to Visit China

September 12, 2015

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, will visit China on September 15, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Friday. It will be Zarif’s first visit to China since the successful negotiation of a deal on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) in July.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said Chinese leaders hope to discuss “deepening China-Iran relations and enhancing all-round cooperation under the new circumstances,” a reference to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which calls for the lifting of sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on the country’s nuclear program. Hong also said Zarif and Chinese officials would discuss the implementation of the agreement.

China has been looking forward to a post-sanctions Iran since negotiations first began in 2013. China began upping its imports of Iranian oil in 2014, and received a delegation of Iranian oil officials back in April, before the JCPOA was even finalized. According to Fars News, Iran is currently China’s third largest oil supplier, accounting for around 12 percent of China’s annual consumption.

North Korea's Achilles Heel: Propaganda Broadcasts

By Alexandre Dor
September 12, 2015

When two South Korean soldiers had their legs amputated due to North Korea’s placement of box mines in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the Republic of Korea responded by blasting weather reports, K-pop hits, and Buddhist teachings over the zone via loudspeakers. Infuriated, North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un raised all military and reserve personnel to a “quasi-state of war,” threatened to turn South Korea into a “sea of fire,” and recommenced broadcasts of their own propaganda.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency then asserted that “the resumption of the propaganda loudspeaker campaign is a direct provocation of war against us,” giving Seoul an ultimatum — stop the propaganda broadcast or be held responsible for it as an “open act of war.” Fortunately, the August crisis was deescalated through high-level talks and marathon negotiations.

PLA Transformation: Difficult Military Reforms Begin

September 9, 2015 

President Xi announced a 300,000-personnel reduction at the 70th anniversary military parade (China Military Online, September 3). The reduction represents the most significant element of the current military reforms so far made public. Less contentious elements of the reform plan regarding training, rules and regulations, and military education are already underway, with the major organizational restructuring represented by the establishment of theater joint commands yet to be announced (PLA Daily, August 24; China Military Online, March 25; PLA Daily, January 6). This new round of reforms initially announced in November 2013 will be much more extensive than previous efforts. It is certain that theater joint commands will be formed, probably resulting in some reduction in the number of regional commands, though the lack of announcement on this most significant area could indicate that issues remain unresolved, or was merely delayed for a future announcement. The creation of Chinese theater regional commands would represent a transition to a much more lean and effective military command structure.

New Details Emerge About Chinese Special Operations Forces

September 11, 2015

Special Operations: China Commended Its Competent Commandos

Throughout 2015 China has been, for the first time, publicizing and revealing details of their special operations (commando) forces. This has included confirming that some of these commandos have been sent to troublesome areas like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to protect Chinese diplomats. These commandos were noticed because suddenly the Chinese diplomats seemed to have much more efficient security details. Chinese commando detachments have also been sent along on warships assigned to the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia. Commandos are also believe to have been quietly and unobtrusively included with Chinese peacekeeping forces, especially those sent to really dangerous areas like South Sudan. Other unofficial commando assignments appear to have occurred in parts of Africa where Chinese economic interests require some extra protection. Apparently satisfied that this relatively new (especially for China) type of soldier was performing well the government decided to give the lads some deserved recognition. 

There are more ominous implications to all this. China has made it clear that it intends to use its special operations troops to protect its “maritime Silk Road” trade routes to the Middle East and Africa via the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. This has got all the nations adjacent to this new Silk Road worried. Taiwan is also alarmed at China releasing a video showing special operations commandos training by assaulting a facsimile of rather distinctive Taiwanese government buildings. 

Why we need to rethink political Islam


After decades speculating on what Islamists would do when they came to power, academics and Islamists themselves finally have their answer. And it is confusing. In the Sunni hinterland between Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State established a government by brute force and implemented an extreme interpretation of Islamic law. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tunisia’s Ennahda Party governed in coalition with two secular parties, ratified a liberal constitution, and voluntarily stepped down from power. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood presided over a controversial year in power, alienating most of the country’s major political forces before being overthrown by a military coup.

These dramatic developments, coming in rapid succession, have challenged, and in some cases undermined, the conventional wisdom on political Islam, and forced policymakers to confront the fact that their knowledge of and capacity to engage with such groups remains limited. The 11 working papers which form part of our “Rethinking Political Islam” initiative are an attempt, drawing on the latest field research from top young scholars, to think more systematically about changes in the mainstream Islamist movement and what to do about it. What lessons should academics, policymakers, and mainstream Islamists out of power draw from these divergent examples of Islamists in power?

ISIL Is Winning


Fourteen years after terror struck the U.S., our strategy to defeat terrorism is failing. 

At the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it seemed like we had terrorism on the run; Osama bin Laden was dead, the Taliban was defeated and officials like CIA director Leon Panetta had proclaimed al Qaeda all but finished. But as we mark on Friday the 14th anniversary of the devastating attacks on the United States, it’s time to admit that the terrorists—at least one specific branch of terrorists—are now winning. And it’s time to admit that our response to the so-called Islamic State has been an abject failure.

Last year, fighters belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group once part of the same organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks stormed into Iraq, conquered half that country, declared itself both a state and a Caliphate and set about to slaughter and enslave thousands of Christians, Shi’a, and members of Islamic minority sects. Fifteen months later, ISIL’s influence has spread far beyond the Levant and Mesopotamia. A thousand foreign recruits converge monthly on its operational cynosure. Hailing from some fifty countries they exceed by a factor of ten the average monthly flow of foreign fighters to Iraq at even the height of the war there a decade ago.

Why Oil Price Could Spike Again

Posted by Andy Langenkamp 
September 8, 2015

With financial markets unnerved by an unpredictable Chinese slowdown, and a Chinese economy beset by bubbles liable to burst, we should not forget the critical part that the Middle East and North Africa region has yet to play. If rising tensions in the region push oil prices upward, China - the world's largest oil importer - is bound to be affected. High oil prices could tip the Chinese economy over the edge.

China is not the only vulnerable country. The ongoing Eurozone recovery masks underlying weaknesses, and European countries import most of their energy. An oil price surge could be very painful. The same applies to other major energy importers such as India and Japan.

Blind spot?

Europe Doubles Down on Russian Gas

BY KEITH JOHNSON
SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

Europe Doubles Down on Russian Gas

After years of talking the talk of reducing reliance on Russian energy, why is Europe now seemingly poised to cement its dependence with a huge new pipeline across the Baltic?

Europe Doubles Down on Russian Gas

Europe has spent years trying to wriggle free from its dependence on Russian energy and the whims of its mercurial president, Vladimir Putin. So why is the continent signing up for a new gas pipeline that will keep Europe hostage to Russian energy shenanigans and outright blackmail for decades to come?

Russia’s multibillion-dollar plans to expand the capacity of the existing Nord Stream pipeline across the Baltic Sea to Germany, announced earlier this year, are taking shape faster than most observers expected — and stand in stark contrast to the bevy of other stillborn energy projects Russia keeps announcing.

Indonesia’s New Counter-Terrorism Challenges

September 3, 2015

Detachment 88, Indonesia's counter-terrorism unit, inspects a stall after arresting individuals for allegedly planning a terrorist attack (Source: Kompus).

Following the 2002 Bali bombings, Indonesia confronted a seemingly unmanageable terrorist problem. Over the next decade, however, the country became widely viewed as a counter-terrorism success story as the threat from al-Qaeda-linked or -inspired jihadist groups declined dramatically. Unfortunately, the transnational pull of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the emergence of the Islamic State, risk undermining Indonesia’s counter-terrorism successes.

Background

In the early 2000s, a range of jihadist groups operated across the Indonesian archipelago. These were not initially considered a major security concern by the government, as Indonesia prioritized rebuilding its economy after the Asian Financial Crisis and consolidating its democracy after overcoming a 32-year-long dictatorship. Additionally, most of these groups confined their violence to the islands of Maluku and Sulawesi, where communal conflicts had broken out between Muslims and Christians.

Moscow Ups the Stakes in the Syrian Conflict

September 10, 2015 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (Source: US Department of State)

Reports of the alleged troop buildup in Syria of a “Russian expeditionary force” to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, first appeared last month (August) in Israeli and Ukrainian online publications. The Kremlin denied these accounts, but seemingly halfheartedly (Kommersant, September 8). On September 4, speaking to journalists in Vladivostok after returning from a visit to Beijing, President Vladimir Putin announced he was working to form “an international coalition to fight ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—more recently renamed the Islamic State, IS]” and has been discussing this over the phone with US President Barack Obama and Middle Eastern leaders. According to Putin, the Russian military command was involved in contacts to organize some cooperation “on the battlefield.” The Islamic State is the main enemy and not the al-Assad regime, Putin insisted, though agreeing that “some political changes in Syria are needed, possibly new parliamentary elections.” While the United States and its allies are bombing IS forces with little effect, according to Putin, Russia is “not yet” ready to join such actions. Moscow is sending al-Assad’s forces arms, munitions and equipment as well as providing training, “while considering other options,” but direct military involvement “is not yet on the table.” Putin several times repeated this “yet” and insisted: “We must act jointly to succeed. If we act unilaterally and quarrel about semi-democratic principles and procedures in these territories, we will end up deadlocked” (Kremlin.ru, September 4).

HILLARY CLINTON GOES TO MILITARISTIC, HAWKISH THINK TANK, GIVES MILITARISTIC, HAWKISH SPEECH

Sep. 9 2015

Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this morning delivered a foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington. By itself, the choice of the venue was revealing.

Brookings served as Ground Zero for centrist think tank advocacy of the Iraq War, which Clinton (along with potential rival Joe Biden) notoriously andvehemently advocated. Brookings’ two leading “scholar”-stars — Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon — spent all of 2002 and 2003 insisting thatinvading Iraq was wise and just, and spent the years after that assuring Americans that the “victorious” war and subsequent occupation were going really well (in April 2003, O’Hanlon debated with himself over whether the strategy that led to the “victory” in his beloved war should be deemed “brilliant” or just extremely “clever,” while in June 2003, Pollack assuredNew York Times readers that Saddam’s WMD would be found).

Since then, O’Hanlon in particular has advocated for increased military forcein more countries than one can count. That’s not surprising: Brookings isfunded in part by one of the Democratic Party’s favorite billionaires, Haim Saban, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel and once said of himself: “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” Pollack advocated for the attack on Iraq while he was “Director of Research of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.” Saban became the Democratic Party’s largest fundraiser — even paying $7 million for the new DNC building — and is now a very substantial funder of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In exchange, she’s written a personal letter to him publicly “expressing her strong and unequivocal support for Israel in the face of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement.”

Will American remain a superpower? This graph has the answer.



Summary: Last week’s post looked at China’s rapidly slowing economy, bad news for the world economy. This post looks at the other half of the global power twins: America, and its long-term growth. Continued 2% growth in real GDP might keep us a superpower. Less than 1%, as eminent economist Robert Gordon expects, will not. The story is a bit technical, but important. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Our real problem, then, is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow.”

The graph that will determine if the US remains a superpower

John McAfee: We're facing a cyber war more dangerous than nuclear devastation

By John McAfee
Sep 11, 2015

This is my first article in a foreign publication that I have written since the announcement of my candidacy for US president. I would like to thus take this opportunity to address the vector of my foreign policy.

The United States government, like much of the Western developed world governments, has lost touch with the technology upon which the power, as well as the threats to national security within our government, rests. That technology is the science of cyber engineering, and the cyber-security aspects of this science have been developed into the weapons that will be used as the main offensive means of destruction in the upcoming new age of warfare.

We are on the edge of a precipice and my government is clueless - largely illiterate in the most important science to have ever existed.

The next major war will not be fought with guns, ships and missiles. It will a cyber war with far more devastation than could possibly be achieved by our combined nuclear arsenals. Or if conventional weapons are used, they are likely to be our own turned against ourselves.

Cyber War: a guide to state-sponsored digital assaults

7 September 2015

Not a month goes by without reports of a new cyber attack.

But while it's no secret either that countries across the world are beefing up both their offensive and defensive cyber security capabilities - what often doesn't get documented is how many of the major security breaches around the world are, in fact, the work of governments.

Well, not directly.

State-sponsored hacker groups have the ability to worm into media networks, major corporations, defence departments and - yes - other governments and wreak havoc.

There's even a sense of glamour now attached to the word hacker - popularised by groups like Anonymous, TV shows like Mr Robot and books such as Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy.

This overview is based on known attacks: there will, obviously, be others that governments have kept secret.

The Next Wave of Cyberattacks Won’t Steal Data — They’ll Change It

SEPTEMBER 10, 2015

America’s intelligence chiefs say data that goes missing may become the least of our cyber worries.
The big attacks that have been disclosed so far in 2015 involved the theft of data, and a lot of it. Some 21 million personnel records were taken from the Office of Personnel Management, likely by China, while 4,000 records, some with “sensitive” information, were stolen from the Joint Chiefs civilian email system, a theft blamed on Russia.

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist for nine years. Tucker has written about emerging technology in Slate, The ...Full Bio

But America’s top spies say the attacks that worry them don’t involve the theft of data, but the direct manipulation of it, changing perceptions of what is real and what is not.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spelled out his concerns in written testimony presented to the House Subcommittee on Intelligence today.

NSA wants millennial talent without millennial perks

Amber Corrin
September 10, 2015 

Got talent? The kind of whiz-kid computer skills that could help the government get ahead of hacker adversaries? The National Security Agency wants you.

But you can't bring your smartphone.

This isn't a new policy for NSA, or for any high-security building in the intelligence community or even some military facilities. Whether you work there or are just visiting, when you show up you leave your phone in the glove box of your car. And if you're a millennial, your fingers probably twitch for the duration of your time inside.

The no-phone rule — and its fellow no-activity-trackers, no-tablets, no-Bluetooth-anything edicts — is a sort of emblem of the government's struggle to attract young talent lured elsewhere not only by technology access, but higher salaries and other shiny, interesting perks.

"I think we're all having the same problem. It's not just a government or industry problem — it's a holistic problem in keeping people excited and satisfied in this world," Corin Stone, NSA executive director, said Sept. 9 at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington. "There are obvious downsides we hear all the time, like you can't bring a cell phone in the building. We're trying to get creative about how we emphasize the mission, what we have that others don't have … we can work on things here that you can't work on anywhere else. It's exciting and it's fun and it is, in other cases, illegal — really cool stuff."

DoD's top secret smartphone expected in the fall

Amber Corrin
September 4, 2015
Source Link

Government agencies have made significant strides in incorporating smartphones and tablets into their offices and missions, even at the Defense Department. But the caveat always has been that those devices could only be used for non-classified purposes. That's changing.

A program allowing military officials to use smartphones on classified networks is gaining more momentum, with a top-secret-level option expected this fall, according to DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen.

The top secret classified smartphone comes on the heels of the secret classified smartphone unveiled earlier this year by the Defense Information Systems Agency. A new pilot reportedly will test devices for use within top secret/sensitive compartmented information, or TS/SCI, classification.

DISA this summer announced that their Defense Mobile Classified Capability-Secret (DMCC-S) is fully operational after an expansive pilot program test-driving the offering. Now, the goal is 3,000 users by the second quarter of fiscal 2016, which triples the number of users previously supported.

The Army's new radio acquisition strategy


Adam Stone
September 10, 2015 

In making awards for its Rifleman radio, and issuing a request for proposals for the Manpack, the Army is breaking with the strategy used in its last major radio acquisition.

This time around it will pursue a non-developmental item (NDI) acquisition strategy. This approach puts the burden of development and initial testing on the shoulders of the vendors, prior to the government requesting proposals for a mature system. If products are accepted by the government, the system then goes through government operational testing to ensure system performance, integration and usability.

In a more traditional contracting arrangement, the government would play a greater part in the actual development cycle. By asking vendors to carry more of their weight, “this allows the government to pick the best capability on the market, while also streamlining lengthy government development and test program stages,” said Paul Mehney, Army Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical spokesman.

Addressing NIST and DOD Requirements for Mobile Device Management (MDM)

April 14, 2015 

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) have taken leading roles in exploring requirements for Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems for government agencies. Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, are exceptionally vulnerable to security breaches. They are easily lost, are filled with unknown applications, communicate over untrusted networks, and are often purchased by users without regard to IT standards and security features. MDM products and platforms can help mitigate these vulnerabilities. But managing mobile devices is a complex subject with many sub-topics, including policy management, secure communications, secure storage, device authentication, remediation and auditing.

Download the White Paper to explore: 
What are the special risks for managing mobile devices; 
What are the mobile device management capabilities; 
What are the detailed MDM requirements and how can an MDM platform help. 

Assessing the Cost of Cybersecurity


September 10, 2015

Based on various economic models, the high annual cost of cybersecurity will not interfere with the long-term productivity benefits of IT, according to a new research report. 

Researchers say the cumulative, year-over-year positive impact of information and communications technologies on the economy - or, for that matter, a single business - should in most cases far exceed the expense of investing in defenses against hackers, cybercriminals, cyberterrorists and rogue states in a single year. 

Technology benefits carry over and compound, making the contribution grow exponentially over time, just as economies grew exponentially across the 20th century with the use of electricity and modern fossil fuels, according to the report, Cyber Benefits and Risks: Quantitatively Understanding and Forecasting the Balance, published by the University of Denver's Pardee Center for International Futures. The research was conducted in collaboration with Zurich Insurance and the think tank Atlantic Council. 

Researchers Crack 11 Million Ashley Madison Passwords

September 10, 2015

Breached pro-infidelity online dating service Ashley Madison has earned information security plaudits for storing its passwords securely. Of course, that was of little comfort to the estimated 36 million members whose participation in the site was revealed after hackers breached the firm's systems and leaked customer data, including partial credit card numbers, billing addresses and even GPS coordinates (see Ashley Madison Breach: 6 Essential Lessons).

Unlike so many breached organizations, however, many security experts noted that Ashley Madison at least appeared to have gotten its password security right by selecting the purpose-built bcrypt password hash algorithm. That meant Ashley Madison users who reused the same password on other sites would at least not face the risk that attackers could use stolen passwords to access users' accounts on other sites.

But there's just one problem: The online dating service was also storing some passwords using an insecure implementation of the MD5 cryptographic hash function, says a password-cracking group called CynoSure Prime.

U.S. Spy Chief: Get Ready for Everything to be Hacked All the Time

BY ELIAS GROLL
SEPTEMBER 10, 2015

With U.S. government and business networks being frequently probed by cyberspace operatives, the United States’ top spy said Thursday the greatest online threat isn’t a crippling digital strike against American infrastructure — but the near-constant, lower-grade attacks that are carried out routinely.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also raised eyebrows among House lawmakers when he declined to describe a recent breach of servers belonging to the Office of Personnel Management as an “attack.” Rather, Clapper called the operation, which U.S. officials privately attribute to China, “a passive intelligence collection activity, just as we do.” The breach resulted in the exfiltration of the personal information of some 21.5 million current, past, and prospective federal employees.

In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Clapper described a permissive online environment in which hackers worldwide are able to operate essentially without impunity. That environment has resulted in difficulties for U.S. officials to deter future attacks, Clapper said, and has led American intelligence officials to conclude that cyber threats will probably intensify in the near future.

Cyber Hacking Likely to Grow in Frequency, Sophistication

September 10, 2015


FILE - A magnifying glass is held in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin, Germany.

The lines between cybercrime and espionage are blurring, and unless the United States takes the lead in establishing international norms of online behavior, the frequency and sophistication of cyber hacking attacks will increase, according to leaders of the U.S. intelligence community.

FBI Director Claims Tor and the “Dark Web” Won’t Let Criminals Hide From His Agents

Sep. 11 2015

FBI Director James Comey said on Thursday that criminals who think they can evade law enforcement using the “dark web” and the Tor Network, which is designed to conceal the Internet addresses of the computers being used, are “kidding themselves.”

Comey was asked about criminal use of the so-called dark web — parts of the Internet walled off from ready access — at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on cybersecurity on Thursday. His answer referenced Tor, which was originally known as “the onion router.”

Speaking in particular of people who view child pornography, Comey said: “They’ll use the onion router to hide their communications. They think that if they go to the dark web … that they can hide from us. They’re kidding themselves, because of the effort that’s been put in by all of us in the government over the last five years or so, that they are out of our view. ”

Comey’s statement could be read as an assertion that U.S. law enforcement has found a way to routinely thwart Tor’s system for providing anonymity to users. If that’s Comey’s intended implication, and if it’s true, it would would represent an enormous expansion of the U.S. government’s known abilities, as well as a significant blow to privacy advocates.

But online security experts consulted by The Intercept cast doubt on that possibility. And Comey could simply have been referring to the kind of specifically targeted attacks that have been known to be successful in the past.

The Complexities of Attribution in Cyber Space: An Overview

By James Palazzolo, 25 August 2015

The challenges with attribution and Cyber Space are a study of both social and political aspects that directly relate to the overall technical architecture of the Internet as a whole.

Rid and Buchanan argue that attribution is not a matter of technology but a matter of want; meaning: attribution in Cyber Space is determined by the importance for states to want accurate high confidence attribution with regards to cyber systems. If this want is not realized than little kinetic effort will be spent on the process of attribution.

The challenges of attribution are a well-known argument from a technical studies perspective, but it still does not help to answer: what can organizations do in the short term when looking for high degrees of confidence in attribution? If high degree confidence technical attribution is possible how long will organizations (that utilize cyber systems to conduct business) have to wait until states globally accept levels of concrete identity over the Internet for all systems? From an analogous perspective the wait for an answer to the question is the ‘gorilla in the room’.

There is a good possibility that consistent high confidence attribution of cyber systems will never be achieved. From a covert operations viewpoint the lack of high confidence attribution benefits states’ Intelligence communities.

Four Responses to Military Failure in Washington

11/09/2015

Let's take a moment to consider failure and its options in Washington. The U.S. has been warring with the Islamic State (IS) for more than a year now. The centerpiece of that war has been an ongoing campaign of bombings and air strikes in Syria and Iraq,thousands upon thousands of them. The military claims that these have resulted in death tolls high enough to stagger any movement. In Iraq, the Obama administration has also launched a major effort, involving at least 3,400 military personnel, to retrain the American-created Iraqi army that essentially collapsed in June 2014. Impending offensives to retake key IS-held cities are regularly announced. In addition, in Syria there is an ongoing $500 million Pentagon effort to find and train a force of "moderate" Syrian rebels to battle IS militants. Despite such efforts, reports now suggest that the Islamic State is at least as strong now as it was when the U.S. intervened in August 2014. If anything, from Turkish border areas to al-Anbar Province in Iraq, it has expanded its holdings. Only recently, its fighters even began tomove into the suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

In an era when there has been failure aplenty for the U.S. military, disappointing results like these have become the new norm across the Greater Middle East and Africa, which undoubtedly breeds frustration in Washington. There have been at least four types of responses to such failures. The first -- a more-of-the-same approach -- has involved simply stumbling along in Washington's fog of ignorance when it comes to strange peoples in far off lands. In recent weeks, for instance, an agreement was reached with Turkey to allow U.S. planes access to two key Turkish air bases to attack the Islamic State, while the government of President Recep Erdogan pledged to join the struggle as well. In reality, however, what the Obama administration evidentlygreen-lighted were Turkish air strikes not against IS militants but their own Kurdish rebels with whom they had a fragile truce and who are linked to just about the only effective force the U.S. has found to fight IS, Syrian Kurds. In other words, an additional element of chaos was introduced to the region.

Russia's Armata T-14 Tank vs. America's M-1 Abrams: Who Wins?

September 11, 2015 

With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the spectre of a massive armored Red Army juggernaut smashing its way through the Fulda Gap is long past, but Russia has continued to develop new tanks and armored vehicles. Meanwhile, the United States has continued to rely on upgraded versions of the Cold War–era M1 Abrams and Bradley fighting vehicle.

Russia’s Armata family of armored combat vehicles is a departure from the previous Soviet practice of developing relatively simple, inexpensive but specialized platforms. In fact, the Armata comes in many versions as was envisioned for the U.S. Army’s now-defunct Future Combat System program. There is a tank, infantry-fighting vehicle, a self-propelled artillery piece and a host of other variants. The most prominent of these is the T-14 main battle tank Armata variant.

The T-14 is a complete departure from previous Soviet and Russian tanks, all of which take their design cues from the lessons the Red Army learned fighting the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. Soviet tanks were relatively simple, extremely rugged and produced in mass quantities. Soviet tanks placed less emphasis on matching Western tanks one for one and more on overwhelming the adversary using sheer numbers—crew survivability was a secondary concern. Every Russian tank, including the T-90, followed this basic design philosophy.

America's F-15 Eagle vs. Russia's Su-35 Fighter: Who Wins?

September 10, 2015 

The Boeing F-15C Eagle has been in service with the U.S. Air Force for nearly 40 years and will likely serve for decades to come. Over the years, the mighty F-15 has been upgraded to keep pace with evolving threats, but does the venerable Eagle still have what it takes to dominate the skies?

The answer is yes—absolutely. The Eagle may be old, but it’s still one of the best air superiority fighters flying. The only operational aircraft that is definitively superior to the F-15 in most respects is the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor—other machines have the edge in certain aspects, but the F-15C is still competitive overall despite what the business development departments at various rival contractors might say.

Perhaps the most advanced threat the F-15 is likely to encounter is the Russian-built Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E. While there are more advanced threats in development, those aircraft are likely to be too expensive to ever become commonplace. The Su-35 isn’t the most common potential threat out there, but there is a good chance it will proliferate.Indonesia has reportedly decided to purchase the Su-35, and we know that the Chinese have had discussions about a potential purchase.

13 September 2015

Can India Build Its Own Silicon Valley?

By Mohamed Zeeshan
September 11, 2015

Following up his “Make in India” clarion call last year, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day address this year, called upon the country’s youth to “Start Up India.” The idea was to spur an entrepreneurial revolution in India, aimed at creating jobs and innovation.

This might not seem like the right time for such a slogan. China’s currency devaluation and consequent stock market slide last month sent jitters across the global economy. The Indian rupee lost around 4 percent of its value and GDP growth estimates have been trimmed. But if India wants to build its own Silicon Valley, now is probably the right time. It has the population for it, with two-thirds of its people within the working-age bracket and producing a whopping 1.5 million engineering graduates annually. And with China’s economy slowing, much of the world’s hope for future economic growth now rests on countries like India. Per capita income is still at only $1600, compared to China’s $7600, leaving India with substantial room to grow further.

How not to deal with Pakistan

September 11, 2015

CHANDIGARH: Coming to the city for the first time after becoming the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi will inaugurate the new international terminal of the Chandigarh airport and hand over the keys to selective allottees of the Sector 63 housing scheme of the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB). 

Srinagar: Two militants and two army jawans killed in an ongoing encounter in Rajwar area of Handwara in north Kashmir. 

The Pakistan army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, has undermined Nawaz Sharif’s image. NAWAZ SHARIF seems fated to have an adversarial relationship with his army chiefs. He was first elected to office in 1990, heading an army/ISI-backed alliance of Islamist parties. Sharif was soon at loggerheads with his army chief Gen Asif Nawaz, who died in mysterious circumstances. General Asif’s successor, Gen Waheed Kakar, duly sacked Sharif in 1993. In his second term, Nawaz chose to force his soft-spoken and professionally respected army chief Gen Jehangir Karamat to quit. He then superseded several senior generals and appointed a ‘Muhajir’, Pervez Musharraf, to succeed Karamat. Musharraf was joined by Sharif in leading Pakistan to disaster and diplomatic disgrace, following an ignominious defeat, in the Kargil conflict. In the blame game and melodrama that followed, Musharraf overthrew, incarcerated and exiled Sharif.

Amid Shifting Geopolitical Dynamics, India Plays Hard Ball in Afghanistan

September 10, 2015

The sixth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan was held in Kabul last week. The purpose of this two-day summit was to examine the challenges of rebuilding Afghanistan after years of conflict. Even with representatives from 30 countries and 40 international organizations in attendance, India was conspicuous by its rather low-profile representation. Instead of a ministerial presence, New Delhi decided to send a junior bureaucrat to the conference.

Though India’s ambassador to Afghanistan has rejected suggestions that New Delhi is heading for a strategic shift in relations with Kabul, India’s decision not to revive the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in 2011 is being viewed as a sign of New Delhi’s displeasure over the Afghan unity government’s outreach to Pakistan at the cost of Indian interests.

This shift comes at a time when regional realities in South Asia are becoming stranger by the day. Pakistan continues to insist that it is still ready to facilitate the revival of stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistani National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last week to “restore trust and confidence between the two countries,” but it is unlikely to placate the growing anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan.

Myanmar: Shan Villagers and the Salween Dam Fight

By Dana MacLean
September 11, 2015

The increasing army presence to defend the construction of a controversial Salween river dam in southeastern Myanmar’s Shan state has sparked heightened concerns among rural villagers, who are determined to fight the development that threatens their livelihoods.

“The Burma army tanks are even moving there, but we are not afraid because we have nothing to lose. If the dam goes on, our farms will be underwater and we will lose everything,” said Khur Hseng, a Shan member of the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation, a civil society group that banded together in 2012 to defend the local environment and land rights.

America's F-22 Raptor vs. China's Stealth J-20: Who Wins?

September 10, 2015

Despite its recent economic troubles, the People’s Republic of China is likely to be the only peer level competitor to the United States over the next fifty years. While a conflict is unlikely—a Third World War is in nobody’s interests—the United States must be prepared for such an eventuality. 

As with all modern conventional wars, airpower and air superiority will play a key role. For the United States, the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor will be America’s premier weapon to ensure dominance over the skies until it is eventually replaced by whatever comes out of the U.S. Air Force’s F-X program. 

The most direct Chinese analogue to the Raptor is the Chengdu J-20. How would such a jet fair against America’s best?

Not much is known about the Chinese jet—it might not even be a fighter in the traditional sense of the word. It could be a specialized aircraft that is specifically designed to attack the sinews of U.S. power projection capabilities in the Western Pacific as part of an overall Chinese anti-access/area denial strategy (A2/AD). Basically, the jet might be optimized to hit support assets like tankers, AWACS, JSTARS or even carry long-range cruise missiles to attack scattered U.S. bases and aircraft carriers in the region.

China's Great Balancing Act Unfolds: Enforcing Maritime Rights vs. Stability

September 11, 2015
During a July 2015 television news show, Renmin University professor Shi Yinhong was asked to define China’s strategy in the South China Sea. After first declining to answer the question—“I can’t tell this to outsiders. I can’t tell you.”—the raspy-voiced professor quickly found a compromise between discretion and the academic’s inherent need to expatiate. With fellow guest, naval analyst Li Jie, nodding on, Shi described China’s strategy in four characters: 步步为营 (bubu weiying): “Building fortifications after each new advance.”

Professor Shi’s image of an army on the march, carefully consolidating its position after new territory is gained, is only the latest in a long line of metaphors used to depict China’s recent expansion in maritime East Asia. Most are products of American minds. They range from the sartorial to thesalacious. Some, like “salami slicing,” are standard terms used by political scientists for decades. Many will doubtless serve as fodder for future scholars seeking to understand both the observers and the observed.