8 December 2015

New Wrinkles in Maritime Warfare


The advent of precision capabilities for the antiship mine is revolutionary. 

By Col Michael W. “Starbaby” Pietrucha
December 03, 2015

Last year, the Air Force achieved a little-noticed aviation milestone: the first-ever drop of a winged, precision guided aerial mine. Almost fifty years after Texas Instruments slapped a laser guidance kit on a M117 dumb bomb, the Air Force added a guidance kit to a dumb mine, and greatly expanded the potential for aerial mining. The late arrival of precision capabilities to the antiship mine is no less revolutionary than it was for the advent of precision bombs in the first place, allowing precise placement of mines and improving the survivability of the employing platform. This development has the potential to revitalize aerial mining and add immeasurably to joint countermaritime operations.
The Mines

Since Vietnam, the standard naval bottom mine has been a variation of the 500-lb. Mk-82 or 1000-lb. Mk-83 General Purpose bomb. The same bomb bodies are used for Laser Guided Bombs (GBU-12 and GBU-16) or JDAMs (GBU-38 and GBU-32). The change that turns a bomb into a mine is the replacement of the fuze (which detonates the bomb on or just after impact) with a target detection device (TDD), which detonates the mine when a ship passes within lethal range. Mine assembly is completed with the addition of a safe/arm device in the nose and a parachute-retarder tailkit in the back (see Fig. 2), turning a 500-lb. Mk-82 into the Mk-62 Quickstrike and the 1000-lb. Mk-83 into a Mk-63 Quickstrike. All Quickstrike mines are air-delivered.

The Future of Special Operations Beyond Kill and Capture


Over the past decade, the United States' military and the country's national security strategy have come to rely on special operations to an unprecedented degree. As identifying and neutralizing terrorists and insurgents has become one of the Pentagon's most crucial tasks, special operations forces have honed their ability to conduct manhunts, adopting a new targeting system known as "find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, and disseminate." They have adopted a flatter organizational structure and collaborated more closely with intelligence agencies, allowing special operations to move at "the speed of war," in the words of the retired army general Stanley McChrystal, the chief architect of the contemporary U.S. approach to counterterrorism.

Implementing McChrystal's vision has been costly. Spending on sophisticated communications, stealth helicopters, and intelligence technology; building several high-tech special operations headquarters; and transforming a C-130 cargo plane into a state-of-the-art flying hospital have consumed a large (and classified) portion of the total special operations budget, which has increased from $2.3 billion in 2001 to $10.5 billion in 2012. The investment has paid clear dividends, however, most dramatically in May 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALs, operating in coordination with the CIA, raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden.

The target and location of that raid made it exceptional. But similar operations, which in earlier eras would have been considered extraordinary, have become commonplace: during the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. special operations units sometimes conducted as many as 14 raids a night, with each successive raid made possible by intelligence scooped up during the previous one and then rapidly processed. When decision-makers deem raids too risky or politically untenable, they sometimes opt for strikes by armed drones, another form of what special operators refer to as "the direct approach." (The CIA conducts the majority of drone strikes, but special operations forces are also authorized to employ them in specific cases, including on the battlefields of Afghanistan.)

7 December 2015

The Thai Monarchy and Its Money



BANGKOK — The Crown Property Bureau, which manages the Thai royal family’s properties and investments, controls assets that may amount to as much as 1.9 trillion baht, about $53 billion. It is the biggest corporate group in the country and one of the biggest landholders in the capital. It is also one of the more mysterious arms of the Thai government.
The agency was created in 1936 and remained under civilian supervision until 1948, a period of ascendancy for royalists, when control was handed to the crown. Little is known about how it spends its money. It does not make its financial statements public. Six of its seven managers are appointed by the king. Although the finance minister chairs its board, the government exercises no oversight over its operations.

The Crown Property Bureau’s annual returns today probably near $840 million (assuming its portfolio is managed according to best investment practices, with one-third held in low-risk assets such as cash, bank deposits, bonds and government securities). It holds more than 21 percent in Siam Commercial Bank, Thailand’s oldest and most influential bank, and 30 percent in Siam Cement Group, the country’s biggest industrial conglomerate. Its equity wing has a controlling stake in the luxury hotel group Kempinski and minority stakes in the Thailand-based subsidiaries of Honda and other Japanese manufacturers, as well as in domestic firms that run shopping malls, hotels, insurance businesses and fast-food chains.
By law, the Crown Property Bureau’s annual income may be disposed of “at the king’s pleasure.” Its returns are tax-exempt.

Learning to channel a force multiplier

Posted at: Dec 7 2015 Raghu Raman


The impasse in the ongoing one rank one pay protest can be broken by innovative thinking. Stakeholders must explore out-of-the-box options. The data made available by the armed forces can help the State to cut the Gordian knot.

THE one rank one pension (OROP) stir has reached a stage most soldiers, bureaucrats and politicians are familiar with. In military parlance, this situation is called an impasse where neither side seems to be making much headway. Now it's a question of who has more stamina to last out the war of attrition. Despite posturing by veterans, eventually the state (with its infinite capacity to linger endlessly) is more likely to win. But leaving a demoralised armed forces in its wake, this will be a pyrrhic victory indeed. It need not be. 
The Indian Armed Forces have always more than earned their keep. Here are some thoughts on how they can continue to do so if only stakeholders were willing to look at imaginative options instead of taking trite intractable positions. 

The Indian Army is the world's largest demographic experiment whose invaluable results can be monetised in countless ways. This 1.3-million strong standing force is mostly organised by regiments based on demographics. Gurkhas, Rajputs, Madras, Jat, Maratha and so on for over 32 Infantry Regiments, 62 Armoured regiments and several hundred battalions. In other words, we possess the data base of millions of soldiers with their annual medical records over several decades. 

This includes their exact place of birth and nurturing. Add retired soldiers and this database multiples manifold. These millions of records are an incredible control group. Though the soldiers come from different districts and villages of India, their state of physical fitness, the calorific value of their diet and their physical exertions are exactly the same. 

In the hands of data scientists this is veritable gold. Analytics can yield genetic strengths and weaknesses of specific locations. Medicinal effects and side- effects on different populace. Bone density, calcium, mineral, iodine deficiencies, water-related problems and hundreds of other data points that can assist in medical and pharmacological research are just waiting to be tapped. The entire pharmaceutical industry will be an eager customer for these insights and that's just one of the uses. These insights can be used to steer health programmes, create custom drugs for specific regions, and study the effects of pollution or contamination of food and water sources. The possibilities and potential are limited only by imagination. And for a government that advocates technology in every breath, technical imagination should not be a problem.

What India Can Teach the World About Fighting ISIS


India’s experience combating terrorism within its region bears lessons for those fighting the Islamic State.
By Neelam Dao, December 04, 2015

The global reach of terrorism in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been on devastating display in three continents in just three weeks – from the downing of a Russian passenger aircraft over Mount Sinai in Egypt on October 31 to the attacks in Paris on November 13.

The threat of ISIS now looms so large that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has characterized the organization as “the gravest extremist threat faced by our generation and the embodiment of evil in our time.” To tackle this threat, U.S. President Barack Obama told the press on November 22, 2015 at the ASEAN summit in Malaysia that a broad global coalition of 65 nations to fight ISIS has emerged. However, rhetoric and bombings by Western powers aside, numerous other choices will determine the fate of ISIS and similar organizations. Crucial among them would be the willingness of western allies to contribute troops on the ground, the alignment of opposing objectives being pursued by different countries, the ability and willingness of the international community to curb the propagation of toxic religious creeds, and finally, choking off funds to terrorist organizations.

While the U.S.-led West seeks to forge a coalition to fight ISIS and simultaneously topple the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria, it is not eager to put its own troops on the ground. Therefore, it has encouraged countries in the region to engage ISIS. But the realities on the ground are complicated. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran have divergent objectives, particularly regarding the continuation of the Assad regime in Syria.

Month of remembrance - Britain and World War II's Indian casualties

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

November was Britain's month of nostalgic remembrance. It meant poppies, Queen Elizabeth in black at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, and smaller but no less moving services all over the country, including St Mary Abbots Church down the road in Kensington High Street. The Whitehall ceremony was slightly abbreviated this year in deference to Her Majesty's age. But remembrance was generally more inclusive with references to the Second World War's 89,000 Indian casualties. Highlighting racial unity, attention focussed on the friendship that binds the descendants of a British officer and the Sikh batman who saved his life on the Western Front.

It was in that context that a senior public servant wondered at a dinner party in St John's Wood why there should be a separate memorial for "non-white countries". He meant the Memorial Gates the Queen unveiled on Constitution Hill in November 2002. This is not what Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck - the Auk as many called him - had in mind when he wrote to Clement Attlee in June 1949 that a monument marking the Indian army's role in the Second World War would be "a mark of gratitude from the British people to those soldiers who served Britain and the Empire for 200 years". These were men, he said, who "putting their trust in us, fought and fell in our wars all over the Old World". Auchinleck wanted the monument in Green Park. Others suggested the South Bank. Whitehall consulted India and Pakistan whose governments wanted some say in the design. Nothing happened. The file was closed and put away. Britain had other priorities then, according to Yasmin Khan's excellent new book, The Raj at War, subtitled somewhat enigmatically A People's History of India's Second World War.

What intrigues me is the motivation of the soldiers Auchinleck sought to honour. No doubt he sincerely believed in the sepoy's faith in Britain's cause and identification with it. But was this true of all those who enlisted? It was different during the First World War when leaders like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi urged Indians to enlist as a national duty in return for dominion status when peace was established. But all such illusions had gone by September 3, 1939, when the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, announced that India was at war. Convinced Britain's "moral case (was) so strong" it ought "to make an appeal to anyone who is prepared to approach it with an open mind," Linlithgow had no interest in knowing whether Indians agreed. "Heavy of body and slow of mind, solid as a rock and with almost a rock's lack of awareness", according to Jawaharlal Nehru, he had declared war without even telling any Indian.

Stopping dangers from the sea


Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Times do change. Till now, it is navyversus navy, army vs army and fighter plane vs fighter plane. Yet the conventional scenario faces challenges from technology, new ideas and the concept of minimizing the loss of trained men in war. Not that what has been referred to above was a fixed formula, as ever since the arrival of the air force on the combat scene, the increased synergy of the land and air warriors ensured the capture of land and the subjugation of enemy forces more easily than ever before. Although the navy was perceived to be a silent service, yet the reality is that it may be silent but it is most effective. History shows that it has done it all: "Attack, capture, hold." The navy conquered the world and built empires.

However, with changing times, naval ship design and deployment are also changing, along with their future role in war. A cursory glance around the geography of South Asia and naval forces operating in the vicinity would give a picture of the emerging geopolitical-cum-geostrategic scenario.

Of the three conventional naval war tactics, 'fleet-in-being', 'blockade' and 'decisive battle', one is interested to try analyse what is in store for the future of the three main navies, east of Aden - Iran, Pakistan and India, which together constitute a long, continuous and virtually contiguous arch of land of 5700 nautical miles (approximately) with a shoreline along the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and through to the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and then to the upper stretch of the Bay of Bengal, overseeing the critical sea route and the oil supply line of the world.


December 6, 2015 
I can’t think of many other targets of high-value that need to be obliterated. This qualifies as one of them. 
Latest pictures show Isil training camp in Afghanistan The images show masked terrorists training near Afghanistan’s mountainous border with Pakistan

One of the pictures released by the terrorist organsiation Photo: www.longwarjournal.com
By Foreign StaffT 05 Dec 2015
Hooded terrorists pose with handguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. They wear camouflage print and the black flag of jihad flies in the background.
The latest pictures of terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) are familiar except for one twist. They were taken not in the deserts of Syria or Iraq, but in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, where Isil’s latest “province” spans the border with Pakistan.
Isil has declared the birth of “Wilayat Khorasan” – or Khorasan province – in the area of Afghanistan that was once al-Qaeda’s heartland.
Islamic State recruits at the so-called “Sheikh Jalaluddin training camp.” Photo:www.longwarjournal.com
Existing radical groups, including the Haqqani network and factions of the Taliban, have declared allegiance to Isil. One training camp is named after “Sheikh Jalaluddin” – or Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the extremist network that carries his surname, who died last year.

Mystery Surrounds What Has Become of the Wounded Chief of Afghan Taliban

Agence France-Presse, December 4, 2015

Confusion surrounded the fate of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was shot in a firefight during an argument with commanders of the divided movement, after an Afghan government spokesman tweeted Friday that he has died. 
The Islamist group has vehemently rejected claims by militant sources and intelligence officials that Mansour was critically wounded in a shootout at an insurgent gathering near the Pakistani city of Quetta.

A government spokesman on Friday went further, claiming that Mansour did not survive the clash, which threatens to derail a fresh regional push to jump-start Taliban peace talks.
“Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour died of injuries,” Sultan Faizi, the spokesman for the Afghan first vice president, wrote on Twitter without citing any evidence.

He did not immediately respond to AFP requests for more information.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the claim as “baseless”, telling AFP that Mansour was alive and well. The group kept longtime chief Mullah Omar’s death secret for two years.
The reported clash, which exposes dissent within the Taliban’s top ranks, comes just four months after Mansour was appointed leader in an acrimonious leadership succession.

If confirmed, his death could intensify the power struggle within the fractious group and increase the risk of internecine clashes.
“If Mansour has died, the Taliban will do everything in its power to keep that a secret for as long as possible,” Kabul-based military analyst Atiqullah Amarkhil told AFP.

The curse of the law Victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy law are mostly the poor and the helpless


Written by Khaled Ahmed,  updated: Dec 5, 2015, 
Only one death sentence was overturned in 2013-14. Today, 17 innocent citizens are waiting for their trial to end while 20 others are consoled that they have to serve life sentences.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered a historic “observation” on October 27 when it decided that asking for “improvements” in the country’s blasphemy law was not objectionable. Imagine, it took a court verdict to enable a citizen to criticise what is the most draconian law in Pakistan, snagging innocent citizens to death.
The court actually stated: “Any call for reforming the blasphemy law (Section 295-C Pakistan Penal Code) ought not to be mistaken as a call for doing away with that law; and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or use of that law by motivated persons.”

The court was hearing the case of a murderer who can’t be hanged despite a conviction because he had killed a man after blaming him for blasphemy in 2011 — then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. There is the street power of conservative lawyers and religious sects favouring him. In the background, there are more powerful elements with outreach, which protect them and scare normal citizens, including the judges — the terrorist organisations Pakistan first gave birth to and now fears.

5 Myths About Chinese Investment in Africa


XiJinping just announced announced billions of dollars worth of aid and financing for Africa. Here’s why the Chinese president is sure to be misunderstood.
DECEMBER 4, 2015

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Santa Claus arrived early in South Africa — on a Chinese jet. This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed multiple business deals and brought offers of billions in new grants, loans, export credits, and investment funds as African leaders met for the sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, a triennial extravaganza that showcases development and security issues of concern to Chinese and African leaders.

Not surprisingly, Xi’s second presidential visit to Africa, which also included a stop in Zimbabwe, has refocused attention on China’s expanded role on the continent. The story has dominated the airwaves and has been splashed across broadsheets around the world. But as is so often the case with China-in-Africa coverage, much of it should come with a warning label: Consume with a grain of salt. Here are five of the most dangerous — and persistent — myths about Chinese engagement in Africa that are reliably recycled by the press.

The first — and most damaging — myth is that China is in Africa only to extract natural resources. There is no question that the continent’s vast natural resource endowments are a big draw for Chinese firms — just as they are for Western oil and minerals giants like Shell, ExxonMobil, and Glencore. Yet even in oil-rich countries like Nigeria, this is far from the whole story. In 2014 alone, Chinese companies signed over $70 billion in construction contracts in Africa that will yield vital infrastructure, provide jobs, and boost the skill set of the local workforce.

THE FIRST GLOBAL CIVILIZATION The Big China Story Nobody’s Really Covering


The Chinese Discovery of the World is one of major stories of our age: For the first time in China’s 2,500 years of history, millions of its citizens are venturing beyond their home towns and cities and out beyond the boundaries of the Middle Kingdom itself. According to theWall Street Journal, economic troubles mean that fewer Chinese have been traveling abroad this year. Yet despite the tourist slowdown, a large number of Chinese citizens are still going abroad:
Spending on travel abroad fell to $19 billion in October, a chunky drop from the $25 billion spent in September, according to services trade data published Monday. The level is still above the $16 billion spent a year ago in October, but the year-over-year growth rate is ebbing to around 20% from more than 60% in the first half.

The least adventurous of these travelers go with tour companies of the “if today is Tuesday, this must be Belgium” variety. But more and more are coming for longer stays, getting an appreciation for cultures and civilizations very different from their own.
This matters. China has always been the most insular of the world’s great civilizations. At one end of the Silk Road, and cut off by geography from the other great centers of civilization, China never experienced the constant interplay between high civilizations and great empires that characterized, for example, both European and Middle Eastern history from ancient times. China never lived in the presence of the Other, sometimes admired, sometimes feared, in the formative way that German, Latin, Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Iranian, and Indian civilizations did.

When the outside world burst into Chinese awareness in the 19th century, it came as a horror show. Weakened by isolation and introspection, China struggled for 150 years to adapt and to maintain its independence and dignity. Now, thanks to China’s economic development and the technological progress that allows human beings to travel the world, millions of Chinese people are immersing themselves in other cultures and civilizations.

China Seeks Wider Global Reach With African Loans, Naval Presence: Analysts


China on Friday announced it would extend $60 billion in debt facilities to African countries as well as writing off existing loans in a three-year plan to extend its influence in the region.
President Xi Jinping unveiled the plan in conference with leaders at a meeting of the African Union, while pledging at the same time not to “interfere in the internal affairs” of sovereign African nations.

But analysts said Beijing is now engaged in a long-term strategy to expand its political and military influence around the world.
Xi’s announcement comes after China said last week it was in talks with the Horn of Africa country Djibouti to build a permanent military logistics base to support Chinese peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions.

Beijing has repeatedly said it does not want military bases abroad, nor does it seek political interference in the “internal affairs” of other countries.
African critics of China’s already extensive presence in the continent say Beijing favors Chinese companies for major infrastructure projects, and imports Chinese workers rather than creating jobs for Africans.

But Xi told the two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in South Africa that Beijing wants to “address issues holding back Africa’s development.”
“[These are]: inadequate infrastructure, lack of professional and skilled personnel, and funding shortages,” according to Xi, who addressed the conference following a visit to Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe’s government signed 10 economic accords with Beijing.
Long-term strategy

On security, Britain and France can be leaders of Europe

With Germany playing just a supporting role, and the continent facing multiple crises, the war on Isis could define how Europe rebuilds itself

Friday 4 December 2015 

It’s no surprise that Britain’s decision to extend its military efforts against Islamic State with airstrikes in Syria has been met with a sigh of relief in France. It was appreciated both as a vindication of François Hollande’s strategy of reaching out to allies after the Paris attacks, and as a welcome break from what had been perceived in recent years as a worrying British strategic withdrawal from European security issues.
From a French perspective, that was starkly illustrated by Britain’s refusal to join airstrikes in Syria in 2013, at a time when the chances of getting President Assad to the negotiating table were possibly at their highest. However, where to go from here is now the key question.

There is no escaping the fact that the UK and France are two medium-sized powers with constrained resources. On their own, the influence they can bring to bear on the Middle East has its limits. As the US vice-president, Joe Biden, said recently to reporters: “We [the US] have been doing it all, basically.” How the two European nations manage to frame the campaign against Isis – a danger that is international and domestic – will go a long way to defining whether the continent can pull out of its doldrums and build itself up as a global force.

The backdrop to this is that America’s commitment to European security has altered as it focuses on other, mostly Asian, issues. Asking how Britain’s decision to strike in Syria can affect the overall picture in fact raises the question of what Europe’s impact can be. Breaking out of nationally focused debates on strategy, however passionate, appears urgent. Europe’s crises are all interconnected: the violence and radicalisation spewing out of the Middle East, the rise of populist movements, the difficulties in addressing the refugee crisis, and the growing assertiveness of Russia. For a while now, Germany has come across as the natural leader on many issues. But European security is an area where France and Britain could have greater influence.

Analysis of Expanding ISIS Terror Operations in Europe

ISIS’s Campaign for Europe

Institute for the Study of War, December 4, 2015
ISIS is executing a campaign to terrorize and polarize Europe. The organization has inspired, resourced, and directed attempted and successful attacks in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Turkey since January 2014. ISIS aims to punish countries acting against it in Iraq and Syria. It also seeks to polarize the West by inspiring state and social backlash against European Muslim communities. ISIS believes increased cultural strife will destabilize Europe and encourage Muslims to join it in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS maintains an extensive support network across Europe to advance this polarization campaign. ISIS benefits from historic recruitment and attack cells developed by al-Qaeda (AQ) and by ISIS’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). ISIS has also developed its own network of recruiters who have helped thousands of Europeans travel to fight with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Finally, ISIS has inspired a widespread base of digital support through its media outreach. ISIS frequently releases recruitment videos targeted at specific European nationalities. The foreign fighters in these videos echo the September 2014 call of ISIS’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani to “kill any disbeliever, whether he be French, American, or from any of their allies.” ISIS’s supporters have attempted or executed at least nineteen inspired attacks since January 2014 as a result of this encouragement.

The graphic below depicts all attacks inspired or coordinated by ISIS in Europe from January 2014 to December 4, 2015. It also marks locations where ISIS-linked individuals have been arrested between those dates. Locations with more than two arrest events are marked with a number and a single icon. The graphic additionally reflects which countries have increased national threat levels in the wake of the Paris attacks, and shows where ISIS has directed public threats or recruitment calls. Individuals inspired by and responsive to ISIS are active across Europe, particularly in Western countries with high populations of foreign fighters. This activity contrasts with ISIS-linked arrests and attacks in Turkey, which reflect spillover from ISIS’s campaigns in Iraq and Syria rather than ISIS’s campaign to attack the West.

Russia and Ukraine

By: Hugo Spaulding

Russia’s standoff with NATO in Europe escalated as the alliance moved to include Montenegro. NATO extended an invitation to the western Balkan state of Montenegro to begin formal accession talks to become the alliance’s 29th member-state on December 2. Russia termed the invitation a “confrontational step” and promised “retaliatory actions” aiming at restoring “parity” between Russia and NATO. The accession process may take several months, opening the opportunity for political destabilization in a country which only gained independence from Russian ally Serbia in 2006. Montenegro’s pro-Russian political opposition has played a leading role in weeks of intermittently-violent anti-government demonstrations that have included condemnations of possible NATO accession. Russia may respond to NATO’s planned expansion by stoking political instability in Montenegro and moving forward with previous plans to bolster security ties with neighboring Serbia. Russia may also expand its destabilization operations in the former Soviet Union, including eastern Ukraine.

This geostrategic escalation between NATO and Russia in Europe comes as Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet that had crossed into its airspace, the first such incident in over sixty years. Continued Russian posturing against NATO, including a recent violation of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, has prompted the U.S. to increase its own investment in advanced drones, long-cruise missiles, and strategic bombers, according to a senior U.S. defense official. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford also spoke with his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov in the first top-level military-to-military communications between the two countries since 2014. Escalating tensions have nevertheless driven splits among European NATO allies. Germany in particular has sought to smooth relations with Moscow. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that Russian has played a definite “constructive” role in reaching a political settlement to the Syrian Civil War and later called upon NATO to revive a special communication channel with Russia that had been suspended following the annexation of Crimea in March 2014. The Russian military interventions in Ukraine and Syria have further widened the rift between eastern member-states in the former Soviet sphere and Western Europe, ensuring that closer dialogue between NATO and Moscow will support the Kremlin’s grand strategic objective of weakening the alliance.

See: “Russian Security Update: November 25 - December 1, 2015,” by Hugo Spaulding, December 1, 2015;“Russian Security Update: November 18 - 25, 2015,” by Hugo Spaulding, November 25, 2015; “Russia Security Update: November 11 - 18, 2015,” by Hugo Spaulding, November 18, 2015; Putin’s Information Warfare in Ukraine: Soviet Origins of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare, by Maria Snegovaya, September 21, 2015. Direct press or briefing requests for Russia and Ukraine analyst Hugo Spaulding here.


To Defeat ISIS, Focus on Its Real Sources of Strength


Metastasizing abroad may help ISIS revitalize its campaign for recruits and money in Iraq and Syria.

December 4, 2015 

In the past several weeks, ISIS poured out its violence on three of the group’s main enemies across the globe. First, Russian authorities concluded that a terrorist attack brought down a civilian airliner in late October, likely an ISIS response to the country’s recent major intervention in Syria. Then ISIS claimed responsibility for a major attack against a Hezbollah-controlled area in Lebanon, demonstrating strategic depth and capability against its regional rivals. One day later, it conducted a series of horrific coordinated attacks in Paris.

But ISIS’s recent turn to international terrorism comes against a broader backdrop of stagnation and military losses in Iraq and Syria. In the past six months, the anti-ISIS coalition, the Iraqi government, and U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have enjoyed some significant successes against the group. Recent ground operations have expanded Kurdish control in northern Syria and in western Iraq. Furthermore, over a third of the group’s leadership has been eliminated over the past year. ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was injured in an airstrike and was reportedly incapacitated. His heir apparent was killed in a separate airstrike. Earlier this month, so-called “Jihadi John,” ISIS’s British executioner, and ISIS’s leader in Libya were both killed in U.S. airstrikes.

Despite these successes, the swath of territory ISIS controls in its self-proclaimed caliphate is more than sufficient to provide a sanctuary for terrorist attacks in the region and overseas. Moreover, ISIS’s succession scheme and extensive bureaucracies limit the impact of the coalition killing or capturing its senior leaders.

Islamist terror, security and the Hobbesian question of order


Liberals often worry about the need to protect citizens from the state. Yet in the age of global terror, the risk posed by failed states is by far the greater danger. 

Among the consequences of the atrocities in Paris – many of them impossible to foresee so soon after the terrible events – one seems reasonably clear. The state is returning to its primary function, which is the provision of security. If the SAS has been on the streets of London and Brussels under lockdown, these are more than responses to the prospect that further attacks may occur. What we are witnessing is the rediscovery of an essential truth: our freedoms are not free-standing absolutes but fragile constructions that remain intact only under the shelter of state power. The ideal liberal order that was supposedly emerging in Europe is history. The task of defending public safety has devolved to national governments – the only institutions with the ability to protect their citizens.

The progressive narrative in which freedom is advancing throughout the world has left liberal societies unaware of their fragility. Overthrowing despots in the name of freedom, we have ended up facing a situation in which our own freedom is at stake. According to the liberal catechism, freedom is a sacred value, indivisible and overriding, which cannot be compromised. Grandiose theories of human rights have asserted that stringent limitations on state power are a universal requirement of justice. That endemic anarchy can be a more intractable obstacle to civilised existence than many kinds of despotism has been disregarded and passed over as too disturbing to dwell on.

But one modern thinker understood that a strong state was the precondition of any civilised social order. With his long life spanning the English Civil War, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was convinced that only government could provide security against sectarian strife. Anyone who wanted the amenities of “commodious living” had to submit to a sovereign power, authorised to do whatever was necessary to keep the peace. Otherwise, as Hobbes put it in a celebrated passage in his masterwork Leviathan (1651), there would be “no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Muslims Say They Know How To Reform Islam And Now Is Time To Actually Do It


Islam needs a “reformation” that can only be achieved by Muslims speaking out against extremism and promoting human rights, said a panel of Muslim public figures on Thursday.
“If Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries are to be protected, we must demand the protection of non-Muslims within Muslim-majority countries,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, former member of the Pakistani Parliament, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

Ispahani was part of a panel of Muslims speaking out against ISIS and Islamist extremism. The panel agreed that Muslims and Western democratic countries must not deny that Islamist extremism is behind acts of terrorism and human rights abuses worldwide, but rather work to counter that ideology.
“As Islamic extremists gain power and rule, human rights abuses including oppression of women, homosexuals, and religious minorities, as well as governmental tyranny, sectarian warfare, and bigotry inherent in Sharia law come to the fore,” Ispahani said.

Muslims should promote “modern pluralistic values” and “human rights” as established by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, she added.

“Right now there is no clear ideological campaign to fight ISIS and to fight Islamism.”

“We have all heard ‘Where are the Muslim voices?’” that are speaking out against ISIS, she noted, adding that “here we are, and we have others like us.”

Kurdish Intelligence Chief Talks About the War Against ISIS on the Frontlines in Iraq

On the Front Line Against Islamic State

Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal, December 4, 2015

Dohuk Province, Iraq
Kurdish intelligence chief Masrour Barzani’s forward base on the Iraqi-Syrian border isn’t easy to reach. On a bright Sunday morning, two members of his staff drive me there from Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. We race four hours around Kurdistan’s barren hills, passing numerous checkpoints, a circuitous route that avoids the tentacular territory that Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has carved out of Iraq and Syria.

It is late November, and the Kurds have just severed one of those ISIS tentacles by capturing Sinjar, 15 months after the jihadist army overran the Iraqi city and forced Kurdish Peshmerga forces to beat a hasty retreat. The Kurds’ comeback at Sinjar means the main highway linking ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq, and the so-called caliphate’s capital in Raqqa, Syria, is now cut off.

Security is tight at the base. Mr. Barzani, who heads the Security Council of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, is dressed in fatigues, with a pistol at his waist. We sit in a trailer that serves as a conference room. A portrait of Kurdish-nationalist hero Mustafa Barzani—Mr. Barzani’s grandfather; his father is KRG President Masoud Barzani—hangs above opulent furniture with golden, rococo details that look oddly out of place. Liberated Sinjar lies 40 miles southwest. A little beyond it is an ISIS front that stretches for 650 miles.

“The Kurds have broken the myth of ISIS,” says Mr. Barzani, who speaks English fluently. Including Sinjar, Peshmerga forces have retaken 7,700 square miles of territory and nearly double that if you count the successes of Syrian Kurds across the border. The Kurds’ front-line efforts combined with coalition airstrikes, Mr. Barzani says, have removed about 20,000 ISIS fighters from the battlefield.