14 January 2016

“I’m The Biggest Victim Of Intolerance”

Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta is National Affairs Editor, Swarajya.
9 Jan, 2016
She is a symbol of free expression, defiance and sheer courage. She is also perhaps the one Asian woman whom Islamist fundamentalists—and cynical vote-seeking politicians—hate the most. She has been abused, vilified, hounded for her writings, and is forced to live incognito under the shadow of fatwas. She is a refugee with no country to call her own.

Surajit Dasgupta ran into exiled Bangaldeshi writer TASLIMA NASRIN at the home of an activist in October. While she readily agreed to an interview, it did not materialize for more than two months, as one appointment after another was cancelled by her at the eleventh hour. Often, she would not take his calls; messages went unanswered. Until eventually she divulged her residential address, while pleading not to share it with anybody. When he finally reached the house where she lives without the knowledge of even her immediate neighbours, he was frisked thoroughly by two police constables, made to fill a register of visitors and then let in.Throughout the interview, Minu, Taslima’s cat, sat by Surajit’s side on the sofa, once climbed up onto his lap and fretted whenever his hands moved while talking. Taslima explained that Minu had to be temporarily kept in the custody of different people she had no option but to trust in the periods when she was either banished from Kolkata or not allowed to stay in India. The author does not know how the cat coped with those durations of putting up in households it was not familiar with. Minu’s call sounds like the wail of a forlorn human baby; it might well be seeing a potential attacker in every visitor. This is not a literal translation of the interview, which was conducted entirely in Bengali, but utmost care has been taken to uphold the spirit of all that Taslima said, at a location we cannot disclose.

The Wikipedia article about you says that you live in the United States these days.
Really? Wow! Terrorists can set sail for America to eliminate me then (laughs).

The threats to your life that you had received in 2007 and 2008 from the likes of Maulana Tauqeer Raza—are they still being issued?
Yes, Rs 5 lakh for my head. Then, the riot-like situation created in Kolkata.

By a certain goon called Idris Ali?
Idris Ali couldn’t have done that on his own. Who are the people who bring forth such characters? Some political parties, politicians. Idris Ali was once in the Congress; he is now with the Trinamool Congress. The people who created that situation, holding the city to a ransom, inconveniencing thousands of law-abiding citizens, were CPI(M) guys. Muslims only from areas ruled by the then ruling party had assembled to create that chaos. Without some organizational backing, a mob of that size cannot be managed and, more importantly, the police wouldn’t reduce to being mute spectators to scenes of buses, trucks, cars etc being set on fire.
This was the CPI(M)’s ploy to deflect Muslim attention from the incidents of Nandigram and Singur, where police action found mostly Muslims at the receiving end, and the murder of Rizwanur Rahman, which had alienated the community. Muslims by and large believed the police had killed Rizwan.
That very night (the then chief of the West Bengal CPI(M) party unit) Biman Bose said, “If they (Muslims) do not want Taslima, Taslima must leave.” This is clearly politics. Who is Idris Ali in this entire scheme of things? Or, who is the Imam of the Tipu Sultan Mosque to issue a fatwa against me? None of these pawns could have, on their own, realized such an elaborate gameplan.

Concerns of the Armed Forces With the Seventh Pay Commission Must be Addressed

By Charan Singh on 12/01/2016

The Pathankot Air Force Base attack is a reminder that India is located in a hostile geopolitical environment. The enlightened diplomatic endeavors of the Government need to be supplemented with high alert, always-in-readiness, defence forces. It is in this context that the defence related recommendations of Seventh Central Pay Commission (SPC), submitted recently to the Government of India needs to be examined. The elite Indian defence forces (EIDF), consisting of Army, Air Force and Navy, explicitly continue to be unsatisfied with SPC recommendations.

An dispassionate perusal show that some recommendations, made with an objective of fiscal consolidation, need a revisit, as these would not yield any substantial saving for the fisc but correcting them can help assuage the sentiments of defence personnel. The EIDF, especially the Indian Army, has been playing a pivotal role in India be it in defending our borders or in times of every national calamity, in the mountains or plains. In fact, EIDF, with hetereogenous composition of its soldiers, and presence in every nook and corner of the country, has played an important role in national integration too, worthy to be emulated by others.

It is important that EIDF enjoys a special status for the yeoman service that they have already done for our citizens, and more importantly, because they have to be on high alert all the time, irrespective of their location on the border or otherwise. Hence, in acknowledgement, as Indian Administrative Service continues to enjoy the supreme status, deservedly, in comparison to other civil services, EIDF deserves a special status in comparison to other para military, border and police forces. Also, if India has to emerge as a global super power, it will need, amongst other things, active assistance and preparedness of its EIDF. The super powers of an earlier era, like the UK, or today, the US, relied heavily on well-furnished defense forces. The aspirants like China and Russia follow the same pattern. Incidentally, USA allocates largest amount of resources to its defence budget, more than 4 percent of GDP.

Pathankot attack: Enduring macros Having the Army taking the lead in the operation could have provoked Pakistan to retaliate. POLITICS | 7-minute read | 12-01-2016 Colonel R HariharanCOLONEL R HARIHARAN @colhari2 909 Total Shares There is a feeling of déjà vu when we look at our response to the Pathankot attack. There was the same confusion in command and control, poor response to warning of a terrorist attack, abysmal physical security measures (even in the airbase close to the Pakistan border where terrorists freely circulate), leadership without responsibility, incoherent public communication and political one-upmanship between the state and the Centre as we saw after Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists carried out the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. There was timely dissemination of intelligence about an impending terrorist attack. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fortunately, kept mum and didn't utter the usual “we will not be intimidated by terrorist attacks” statement, sparing the nation this embarrassing cliché, unlike his predecessors. The Opposition castigated Modi though they knew the prime minister never made a statement when everyone expected him to do so. Modi, in fact, struck to his schedule and spoke about yoga! Also read - Pathankot attack: Pakistan pushing India for war? However, there was a curious difference in the way the Pathankot attack was handled. In a first, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval took charge of strategising and controlling the counter-terror operation from New Delhi in the early stage itself, though the operation was inside an important military airbase! One may call it the Doval gambit as the NSA seems to have used it an opportunity to pin down Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif and make him take follow-up action and bring the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists to book as a tangible proof of his sincerity in mending ties with India. The NSA saved Sharif’s face by not calling in the army to carry out the operation which could have provoked the Pakistani army to retaliate. Hats off to the NSA; apparently he convinced the three service chiefs to be party to his decision; otherwise it is difficult to understand them agreeing to hand over the operation to the National Security Guard (NSG) commandos even before the first shot was fired (NSG arrived at the scene even before the operation started according to Punjab Police). Also read - Pathankot attack: Are India's nuclear sites really safe from Pakistan? The Army was available in the near vicinity of Pathakot and counter-terror operations are its bread and butter. They had been conducting such operations the region for more than four decades. I am confident there exists in the airforce base a standard operative procedure for joint operations with the Army to handle such a threat. So the NSG was flown into the airbase and the results are there to see. What is disturbing is the national mindset that seems to be the driving force in this country in matters military. During the last three decades or so, the services seem to have been trained to say “ji huzur” to politicians and bureaucrats even on matters of national security rather than take decision and act with responsibility in keeping with their professional training. To set the record straight, our service chiefs also seem to have become accustomed to this state of affairs for many years now. They are wise men. They have seen an irrepressible Army chief running the risk of being hauled up had he moved two regiments of armour for training in the national capital region without "permission" from the defence ministry (or informing the then minister Manish Tiwari even though he had nothing to with defence ministry). The chief could have been accused of plotting a coup! Also read: India must weed out and fight the terrorist within The latest demonstration of this mindset is in the sixth pay commission’s draft recommendations. It equates a trained soldier with the lowest rung of untrained civilian staff, well below the policeman, in dishing out largesse. Coming back to Pathankot airbase attack, nobody seems to believe the apologetic defence minister Manohar Parikkar’s claim that the operation was a success. He only saw some “security related gaps that will be cleared after investigation”. It is the understatement of the year so far! But if we go by the minister’s body language, he himself probably did not believe it. His discomfort is understandable. After all, the airbase - a prime airforce installation close to the Pakistan border - had advance warning of a possible terrorist attack; yet the six terrorists managed to not only enter the airbase but strike at a time of their choosing and inflict casualties. They managed to stretch the operation for over three days. Probably that is why Masood Azhar, the Jaish chief, is gloating over the terrorists' success in Pathankot. Moreover, the defence minister, like the service chiefs, seem to have been on the fringes of the decision-making process in the Pathankot operation. The poor man was left to explain minister for home affairs Rajnath Singh's hasty declaration of complete success even before the terrorists fired the last shot in the operation. Where does the home minister come in a terrorist attack in a military establishment will be an enduring mystery, if we ignore the clear pecking order even in case of a counter-terror operation inside a military installation. The other enduring mystery is the security of airbases. In 1963, I found the same weaknesses in Tezpur as in Pathankot – floodlights of the perimeter not working, heavy uncleared underbrush within the airbase that provides hiding space for intruders and poorly maintained border fencing. The Pathankot airbase seems to be only maintaining this tradition of neglect. The problem is that it was Tezpur way back in 1963. Now it is 2015. Pakistan has become the world capital for an alphabet soup of jihadi terrorist outfits. Jihadis regularly infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir to create trouble. They do this also in the south across the India-Pakistan border in Punjab through which drugs, fake currency and humans are also regularly trafficked. And as I grow older, I discover some things never change in this country. There was a lot of lightning and thunder when we made a mess of handling the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. The UPA's man of action P Chidambaram took over as home minister and swore to rework the whole national counter-terror response system. He used to submit progress reports regularly to Parliament. But the whole issue faded from the political discourse, public mind and national mainstream. Now he is only lamenting about things he failed to do. We are back to where we started; cacophony in parliament has overtaken action on national priorities including security threats. So like the child widows of rural West Bengal who loudly voice their woes in village temples in the evenings, we will start our lament all over again when another big bang Pakistani terrorist attack overwhelms us. We can only wish good luck to the NSA in his new gambit; but I am not prepared to bet on his success because some things never change in Pakistan also. It seems to be our mirror image in its laid back attitude towards result-oriented action. Lastly, my heart goes out to the Defence Security Corps personnel - the re-employed defence pensioners who had the thankless task of fighting the terrorists. They were never meant to do this. In the Pathankot operation they showed that grey hair and stooped backs notwithstanding, they are no less than their serving peers. They sacrificed their lives without even collecting their One Rank One Pension (or not true OROP) dues which are yet to be notified, just as many of their fellow pensioners are doing. I hope their widows at least collect their dues in their lifetime. As 19th century poet Arthur Hugh Clough said, “If hopes are dupes fears may be liars.” So servicemen continue to live on hope; what else they have? Enduring macros never change in this country; so we plod on.

Pathankot attack: Enduring macros
Having the Army taking the lead in the operation could have provoked Pakistan to retaliate.
 http://www.dailyo.in/politics/pathankot-terror-attack-pakistan-narendra-modi-ajit-doval-nawaz-sharif-nsa-terrorism-jihad/story/1/8416.html @colhari2

There is a feeling of déjà vu when we look at our response to the Pathankot attack. There was the same confusion in command and control, poor response to warning of a terrorist attack, abysmal physical security measures (even in the airbase close to the Pakistan border where terrorists freely circulate), leadership without responsibility, incoherent public communication and political one-upmanship between the state and the Centre as we saw after Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists carried out the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
There was timely dissemination of intelligence about an impending terrorist attack. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fortunately, kept mum and didn't utter the usual “we will not be intimidated by terrorist attacks” statement, sparing the nation this embarrassing cliché, unlike his predecessors.

The Opposition castigated Modi though they knew the prime minister never made a statement when everyone expected him to do so. Modi, in fact, struck to his schedule and spoke about yoga!
However, there was a curious difference in the way the Pathankot attack was handled. In a first, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval took charge of strategising and controlling the counter-terror operation from New Delhi in the early stage itself, though the operation was inside an important military airbase!

India-Pakistan: Road To Peace Runs Through Kabul – Analysis

By SAAG January 12, 2016
Dr Subhash Kapila*
Writing against the received wisdom of the day, one would like to assert that India-Pakistan road to peace runs through Kabul and not through Kashmir is a contemporaneous strategic truism as Pakistan’s strategic uncertainties arise from Pakistan’s morbid fears that a pro-India friendly regime in Kabul is a deadly threat to Pakistan than an India-integrated democratic Kashmir where Pakistan has not been able to redraw boundaries despite four wars.

Kashmir is an explosive nuclear flashpoint is a myth which the United States and the West have perpetuated over decades to massage the grandiose egos of Pakistan Army’s megalomaniac Generals. The Pakistan Army is conscious that Kashmir even by some magical wand if given to Pakistan would be another Bangladesh in the making for Pakistan. Politically, the Kashmir issue is merely a handy political weapon in Pakistani elections to whip up support from rootless Islamic Jihadis. For Pakistan Army, the Kashmir issue is a convenient scarecrow to scare Western nations into believing that South Asia is sitting on a powder-keg and that they should pressurise India to yield on Pakistan Army-centric demands on Sachin, Sir Creek and Kashmir if possible. Even the Pakistan Army is not serious about Kashmir other than rallying around Islamic Jihadi outfits.
Perpetuation of the “Kashmir Issue” is a handy survival instrument for the Pakistan Army separatist groups in Kashmir Valley like the Hurriyet to gain both political relevance and presumably finances.

Other than the above factors, it is high time that India stops assisting these anti-Indian forces by itself perpetuating the Kashmir issue by agreeing to discuss Kashmir as part of any India-Pakistan peace dialogues.
India would be well advised to project to Pakistan backers like the United States that the India-Pakistan peace road runs through Kabul and not Kashmir. Some years back in a paper on this site I had asserted that if the United States saves Afghanistan from Pakistan Army depredations, the United States stands a good chance to save Pakistan from political disintegration but if United States accords priority to Pakistan Army then the United States would be in danger of losing both Afghanistan and Pakistan also.

Demographic Timebomb In Bengal: Time For Mamata To Wake Up And Smell The Poppy

R Jagannathan, Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
12 Jan, 2016
Malda is another reminder that West Bengal is slipping towards extremism in the name of secularism
The violence in Malda, where a mob torched a police station in Kaliachak, attacked a block development office, ransacked some Hindu homes and set some 35 vehicles on fire, cannot but be communal. A communal incident does not need two communities to battle on the streets to qualify as one; the mere fact that one community did all the attacking and mayhem, allegedly as revenge for one Kamlesh Tiwari’s unsavoury comments about the Prophet, makes it communal. So Mamata Banerjee is clearly running scared of calling a spade a spade by declaring that the Kaliachak attack was not communal.

However, no matter how you label this kind of unacceptable behaviour by misguided Muslim mobs, the implications for the Indian Union and the state of West Bengal are clear: it is an indirect assertion by a so-called minority group that it now has the numbers to call the shots. It is a recognition of the demography of Malda, which is now a clear Muslim majority district after the 2011 census, with two million Muslims to 1.9 million Hindus. Along with Murshidabad and North Dinajpur (two of which have borders with both Bangaldesh and Bihar), this is the new Muslim hub that connects the Muslim parts of Bihar with Muslim Bangladesh. It is the kind of multi-country ethnic corridor that terrorists dream about.
Malda’s is a demography that cannot be wished away, and it is – not surprisingly – also the new crime hub of the east, with everything from illegal opium cultivation to human trafficking to the distribution of fake currency notes now part of the ecosystem.

Why We Need Better Attempts To Understand Warfare In Ancient India

Jaideep A Prabhu
Jaideep A. Prabhu is a specialist in foreign and nuclear policy; he also pokes his nose in energy and defence related matters.
10 Jan, 2016 6
Book Review: Hinduism And The Ethics Of Warfare In South Asia: From Antiquity To The Present
Often led astray by his sources, Kaushik Roy fails to attempt to answer the most important questions that vex military historians of South Asia. Such lapses cannot be afforded in a history project as important as this.
Hinduism, and South Asia more broadly, has been a glaring lacuna in the study of military history and ethics. Kaushik Roy’s Hinduism and the Ethics of Warfare in South Asia: From Antiquity to the Present (henceforth HEWSA) is, unfortunately, a poor attempt to rectify that oversight.
Although HEWSA passes as an introduction to the uninitiated, it leaves most of the important questions that vex military historians of South Asia unanswered. Although the author’s attempt to place warfare and ethics within their cultural moorings rather than posit them as universal axioms is appreciated, the wider ambitions of his work in presenting South Asia to a Western audience takes away from a focussed analysis of military matters.

To be fair to Roy, however, the topic and timeframe present a Herculean project that would require expertise not just in military affairs but also archaeology and several languages to accomplish thoroughly. This explains why a choice was made – wisely – to restrict the study only to ‘elite’ Sanskrit circles that had the greatest influence on policy. It should also be mentioned at the outset that for the purposes of this review – and most of HEWSA, South Asia is synonymous with India and the dharmic systems that abide within.
The question before any study of military ethics is what constitutes a just war and how it should be waged. When it comes to South Asia, scholars would first have to dispel the notion that the region has never known the practice of strategic thinking; second, they would also have to break away from the overpowering Europeanising grand narrative of universal history that places the experiences of the western end of the Eurasian landmass as the normative centrestage.

HEWSA begins by asking basic questions on the nature of war and politics instead of accepting readily available theories from the Western canon. Roy, however, sets up the strategists of India in a conversation with their Western (and Eastern) counterparts rather than in opposition; clearly, he does not wish to settle for the simplistic binary of East vs. West that still colours comparative studies across specialties. This is certainly a strength of the book though also a weakness as I will explain later.

New defence procurement procedure changes dynamics

Jan 11 2016 8:39PM
MoD okays policy changes in equipment acquisition; decision deferred on blacklisting, selecting strategic partners
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 11 Months after the Narendra Modi-led government promised a new procedure for defence equipment acquisition, the Ministry of Defence today okayed major policy changes that will give top-priority to locally produced equipment and fund Indian private companies to do research and development. It, however, deferred addressing key twin issues: One, having a method on blacklisting, or not blacklisting, of firms indulging in wrongdoing and two, on having guidelines to select international strategic partners for producing major equipment in India. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the apex decision making body of the MoD, took the decisions at a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar here this evening. The DAC, at a three-hour meeting, allowed changes to the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)-2013 following the yearlong review. 
A committee of experts headed by former Union home secretary Dhirendra Singh suggested changes to DPP. Under the changes allowed by the DAC today, the DPP will have a new category called the ‘IDDM’ or ‘Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured’ platforms. This will get top priority and will be first to be chosen for tenders. This will have two sub-categories — one, it will be mandatory to have 40 per cent local content in case the design is also indigenous. Two, in case the design is not Indian, 60 per cent local content will be mandatory. The definition to be counted as an ‘Indian company’ is a company that is controlled and operated by Indian nationals. “This way the Intellectual Property Rights remain within the country,” a source said. Notably, the DPP allows certain leverage to foreign companies. It raises the limit of ‘off-sets’ from Rs 300 crore to Rs 2,000 crore. ‘Off-sets’ are a provision that makes foreign companies to mandatorily procure 30 per cent of the supplies from Indian partners, in case of winning a bid of Rs 300 crore or more. This limit has been raised to Rs 2,000 crore, as not many Indian companies are available to absorb so much of technology infusion.

Afghan Army Struggling As Taliban Increase the Number of Their Attacks Inside Afghan Cities

Taliban Step Up Urban Assaults, Testing the Mettle of Afghan Forces
New York Times, January 10, 2016
KABUL, Afghanistan — The urban attacks are suddenly coming at a dizzying pace — five in the first week of January alone. Three were relatively simple even if massive bombings, but in the others, Taliban gunmen entered important cities, seized buildings and hostages when they could, then set off their explosives vests when capture seemed imminent, sometimes after hours of fighting.
As the insurgents have been grabbing stretches of territory in Afghanistan’s border provinces, the quick guerrilla assaults have been nicknamed “complex attacks” here. They have kept residents of Kabul and other major Afghan cities on edge. The Taliban’s intended message is clear: We waited out the Americans, and now can strike at will — even through the so-called “ring of steel” cordon of security around Kabul.

But the attacks are not going unanswered. As the Afghan security forces have struggled elsewhere, the troops tasked with preventing such attacks have had a measure of success in minimizing the damage in recent months.
“They come to die, their death is guaranteed. And we go there hoping to take care of them without casualties,” said an Afghan special forces commander in Kabul who has been involved in repelling dozens of the attacks. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the news media.

“For us, there is no rush in clearing them, because they have achieved what they wanted in that first blast already: They have gotten the headline, they have sent fear through the city,” he said. “We want to do it carefully, making sure there is no collateral damage, no civilian casualties.”
For both sides in the war, the urban attacks have become important symbols. For the Afghan government, rocked by the temporary loss of the provincial capital of Kunduz last year, a good showing by the special forces is vital in trying to fight panic after months of battlefield losses.

Will China's New Passenger Drone Carry Soldiers Into Battle?

A new mode of transport raises unusual questions about the future of war.
Michael Peck, January 12, 2016
Will tomorrow's soldiers be transported into battle by drones?
There was no mention of that amid the hoopla when Chinese manufacturer Ehang unveiled what it called the world's first passenger drone at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. The Ehang 184 is about the size of a golf cart, a 5-foot-tall, 440-pound, all-electric helicopter that sort of resembles a big bicycle trailer with four arms and eight rotors.

The company describes the 184 as capable of carrying a 220-pound passenger for 23 minutes at a speed of 60 miles per hour. The 184 "is a manned drone capable of automatically carrying a passenger through the air, simply by entering a destination into its accompanying smartphone app," the company boasts. "Due to the 184's fully automated navigation, made possible by Ehang's 24/7, real-time flight command center, passengers have no need for a pilot's license—they simply sit back and let the drone take over from there."Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu says his goal is to make flying easier and faster for people, as well as revolutionize commercial flight in areas such as medical care, shipping and retailing. But even with all the media frenzy over an aircraft that George Jetson might have flown, there was no mention of using it as a battlefield transport, yet.

But that is almost certain to happen. Already the Pentagon has experimented with cargo drones in Afghanistan. At the same time, the U.S. military is aggressively pursuing "manned-unmanned teaming," where the pilot of a manned aircraft, such as an Apache helicopter or F-35 fighter, controls multiple drones. In fact, U.S. Army scientists recently noted that as "Army aviation continues to implement increasingly advanced levels of automation, human operators will transition from their current roles actively piloting vehicles to serve instead as Mission Commanders supervising highly intelligent autonomous systems."
The natural convergence of these trends is a transport drone for military personnel. The advantages are obvious: smaller and cheaper aircraft that only need a passenger compartment, without the extra weight and cost of a cockpit and trained pilot.

The Silk Road Economic Belt’s Impacts on Central Asia

Kemel ToktomushevResearch Fellow, University of Central Asia
Exemplifying the old Chinese proverb “A near neighbour is better than a distant cousin,” official Beijing is switching its main foreign policy focus from great power relations to neighbourhood diplomacy. The Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road initiatives demonstrate the willingness of the Chinese leadership to advance its vision of regional integration, which will have significant ramifications for the Chinese neighbours in general and Central Asia in particular.

Beijing has long been using the Silk Road discourse in the context of Central Asia. Yet, only recently this discourse emerged as an official Chinese policy. President of China Xi Jinping presented the Chinese vision of Silk Road Economic Belt in Kazakhstan in 2013. The seriousness of Beijing’s intentions to promote its economic programmes in Central Asia has been underpinned by a series of visits by Xi Jinping to each Central Asian state, where Xi Jinping restated his commitment to invest $40 billion into the region’s infrastructure. The recent unveiling of China-backed $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank further confirmed the determination of China to expand its influence in Asia.

Nonetheless, even prior to these developments, economic engagement of China in Central Asia over the past years has been nothing but impressive. China emerged as the major economic player in Central Asia. If in the early 2000s the International Monetary Fund estimated the Chinese-Central Asian trade to hit $1billion bar, these numbers reached nearly $50 billion last year. During the period of the financial crisis China surpassed Russia as the region’s leading trading partner. For instance, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is nowadays one of the largest contributors to the budget of Turkmenistan. In fact, in addition to breaking Gazprom’s gas monopoly across the region, CNPC is currently well situated to act as a mediator in Central Asia – the China-Central Asia pipeline consists of three separate enterprises with 50% ownership between China and Kazakhstan, China and Uzbekistan and China and Turkmenistan. Moreover, China is continuing to invest significantly into transport and energy infrastructure in Central Asia such as Atyrau-Alashankou crude oil pipeline and Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline.

ISIS in Gaza

Sarah Helm,JANUARY 14, 2016I 
In a house in Rafah, at the southern edge of Gaza, I met Sheikh Omar Hams, fifty-one years old, a slender figure dressed in a simple white robe and seated on a mattress on the floor. Hams is director of the Ibn Baz Islamic Institute, based in Rafah, where it also runs a bakery and charity outlets. His mission, he says, is to spread the word of the Prophet Muhammad and to give bread and other aid to the homeless and the poor.Hams is a Salafist sheikh. “A Salaf means an original ancestor—one of those who lived close to the Prophet and observed his actions intimately, followed his ways and his words literally,” he explains. The sheikh teaches his students how to return to those ways, and they in turn spread the word. Unlike many Salafis, who abhor any rational argument about the literal meaning of the Koran, Hams is open to at least some debate. And though sometimes willing to support violent jihad, he accepts that violence is often not justified, preferring instead to secure a return to original Islam through the use of prayer, study, and preaching.

Pulling his legs underneath him, the sheikh prepares for questions on how the Prophet might have viewed the methods of Daesh (ISIS)—also Salafists—and on the battle to contain its influence across the world, most particularly here in Gaza.
Since 2007 Hamas has been the de facto government of Gaza, albeit under Israeli rule—a rule implemented nowadays by means of a military and naval blockade by air, land, and sea, which is described by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, as “a collective penalty against the people of Gaza.” Hamas is itself an Islamist resistance movement, with a resistance “army” called al-Qassam, but Hamas members are seen as infidels by ISIS since they place the nationalist battle for a Palestinian state before the campaign for a caliphate. Hamas’s willingness to negotiate with Israel and to agree to a cease-fire last summer was seen by ISIS as the latest demonstration of its collaboration.ISIS supporters inside Gaza have shown their opposition and tried to break the cease-fire by firing rockets into Israel, thereby angering Hamas and risking heavy Israeli retaliation.
In recent months, Hamas has tried to crush groups of Salafi jihadists in Gaza, some of whom declare open support for ISIS and are in touch with its networks in Syria. As well as rounding them up Hamas has “persuaded” moderate Salafi sheikhs to help convince jihadists that their interpretation of Muhammad’s wishes is wrong. One of these sheikhs is Omar Hams.

Are Muslim Countries More War-Prone than Others?

11 January 2016
Nils Petter Gleditsch and Ida Rudofson don’t think so. Yes, in the post-Cold War era most conflicts have been civil wars and a disproportionate number of them have occurred in Muslim countries. The lopsided number, however, is merely proportional. It hasn’t grown in absolute terms and here are the reasons why.
By Nils Petter Gleditsch and Ida Rudolfsen for Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
This article was originally published by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) in Conflict Trends 03/2015.

In recent years, most civil wars have taken place in Muslim countries. Are Muslim countries more war-prone? Not necessarily, if we look at data for the whole period after World War II. But in the post- Cold War era, most wars are civil wars. Muslim countries have a disproportionate share of these – not because such conflicts have increased but mainly because other conflicts have declined. We list several hypotheses for why this pat- tern has emerged.

Brief Points

• In recent years most civil wars have taken place in Muslim countries.

• Increasingly, civil wars involve Islamist insurgencies.

• Civil wars in Muslim countries have not increased dramatically in absolute terms, but they make up a larger share of all civil wars.

• Thus, civil wars in Muslim countries have become more visible in the overall pattern of armed conflict.

A Striking Finding
In 2012, there were six wars worldwide, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. All of them took place in Muslim countries. Of the nine rebel groups in these conflicts, seven had an Islamist ideology.
After the end of the Cold War, religion has once again come to occupy a central place in the study of conflict. In this policy brief, we first calculate how many of the internal armed conflicts after World War II have occurred in countries with different dominant religions. We then look at the pattern over time for conflicts in Muslim countries and conflicts involving insurgents with an Islamist orientation. Finally, we discuss a range of possible explanations for the predominance of conflicts involving Muslims countries and Islamists in recent years.

* Saudi Arabia: Palace Intrigue At A Time Of Transition

from STRATFOR -- this post authored by Reva Bhalla

In the past two weeks, Saudi Arabia has outraged the world with the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr and sent investors into a frenzy over the possible sale of shares in the world's largest oil company, the Saudi Arabian Oil Co.
Many observers attribute the country's behavior to the dominant royal personalities of the day. Western media have described Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, the 30-year-old favored son of King Salman, as arrogant, naive and impulsive, and they have credited him with steering the Saudi kingdom into somewhat unpredictable territory.
The young prince recently revealed himself further with a lengthy interview he granted The Economist - a stark departure from the Saudi royal tradition of delivering terse public statements to tightly controlled state-owned media. He spoke relatively freely about his desire to liberalize the economy and defended his country's policies toward Iran. However, the prince downplayed his role in building a more aggressive Saudi policy, stressing that the kingdom is "a country of institutions," where relevant ministries provide information to a king who makes the final decisions.

This is perhaps too generous a description for Saudi politics. After all, Saudi Arabia is better known for its emphasis on family and tribal politics than for its institutional maturity. However, there is certainly more driving the kingdom's actions than a novice prince with an appetite for risk.
An Uneven Playing Field

When you look at a map of the Middle East, three geographic features stand out: the Anatolian land bridge, the Iranian plateau and the Arabian Peninsula. Not coincidentally, these formations constitute the three most active powers in the Middle East today: Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia doesn't have the historical prestige Turkey and Iran do. The Turks and Persians were able to create unique civilizations and vast empires from their well-defined and buffered cores. Access to resources, popular trade routes and heavy migratory traffic gave rise to large populations and a working class. Institutions were created and refined over time to manage its citizens, its national defense and its commercial interests.

The Arabian Peninsula's story is quite different. Until oil was discovered in the 1930s, the harsh and barren landscape forming the core of the peninsula was home to only a small number of desert nomads who would survive off the camel caravan trade and raids on small oasis towns controlled and fought over by competing tribes. It was a simple, independent and rather unambitious life in this forbidding interior.

Decoding The Disorder In West Asia

What makes West Asia unpredictable, in contrast to other regions is the rules of the game are murky, and, the external great powers exude ambiguity about the extent of their strategic commitments.
Zorawar Daulet Singh
Perhaps no region has witnessed more disorder in recent decades than West Asia. Much of the tumult is manmade and a consequence of Western ambitions that sought to remake the region. The dramatic removal of a pivotal Arab state – Iraq – in the heart of the region opened a historical phase whose impact continues to be felt. Like a Shakespearean drama, each subsequent move seems unable to correct the one fatal debacle: a war of choice in 2003. Think about the implications of 2003. It removed a secular Iraqi state that had held three major ethnic communities – Shias, Sunnis and Kurds – under one flag. A regional power able to counteract the ambitions of multiple local pretenders. An oil rich prize that could have financed regional growth and global industrialization for decades. The West Asian order was by no means an ideal one. But it served its purpose. Stability with local powers maintaining equilibrium that merely required external management or deterrence in times of crisis.

Fast forward to the contemporary situation. Local sub-national identities are flourishing. States are more fragile than ever, teetering on failure. A radical Wahabi version of Islam is attaining a pan-regional grip undermining not just Iraq but its entire periphery. And, the predominant external actor – America – has been compelled to deepen its strategic and tactical attention and involvement on a literally daily basis even as its capacity and inclination to play such an onerous role seems uncertain. The leadership vacuum reached such a nadir after the 2011 Arab Spring that regional states began pursuing parochial solutions to regional problems. Some suggest, not without reason, that Washington rode the Arab Spring hoping to undermine uncooperative regimes and shape the power balance in favour of its allies. The gamble failed. The final and most dramatic move came with Russia’s direct military intervention in Syria in September 2015. This event has introduced a variable that is likely to shape West Asian geopolitics for many years. No other great power has the capacity to project power or the will to intervene in an area inhabited by numerous Western-allied states.
Lets look at the key local actors in the West Asian drama. While militarily, Israel is the most capable and sole nuclear armed state in the region, its ability to shape regional politics is nearly non-existent. Neither can Israel intervene beyond limited punitive interventions beyond its periphery, and, with Russia’s presence in Syria, that too is no longer a unilateral decision but one of careful coordination with the bear. Israel’s indirect influence over US regional policy, however, is formidable as anyone who tracks the American national conversation on the Middle East will attest.

The Use of Cyber Power in the War Between Russia and Ukraine

by Guest Blogger, January 11, 2016
Members of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic army collect parts of a destroyed Ukrainian army tank in the town of Vuhlehirsk, about 10 km to the west of Debaltseve on February 16, 2015. (Baz Ratner/Reuters).
Jarno Limnéll is a professor of cybersecurity at Finland’s Aalto University and vice president at Insta Group Plc. You can follow him on Twitter @JarnoLim.
As cyber environment continues to evolve, many cyber experts, government officials and academics are following the conflict in Ukraine, and particularly its cyber dimension, very carefully. Russia is believed to be in the top three most cyber-capable countries (the United States and China being the other two) and its actions in Ukraine may set a precedent of how countries integrate cyber operations into military activity. As many have said before, a “pure cyberwar,” where military conflict occurs only in the digital environment, is unlikely to take place anywhere. A more likely occurrence are wars, crises, and conflicts where the exploitation of the digital environment is an integral part of other military activities. This is exactly what has happened in Ukraine.

Cyber operations are well suited to the vague concept of hybrid warfare, where states use a mix of conventional and unconventional means to achieve their military goals. In cyberspace, the adversary is usually difficult to locate, nations can conduct offensive actions with less political risk, and international law concerning cyber operations is still a grey area. Even though destructive cyberattacks have not been reported in Ukraine, there have been a variety of cyber activities carried out through the digital domain. A number of the cyber incidents that we know of have occurred against civilian targets, not military ones.


Russian President Vladimir Putin gives an interview to Germany's Bild newspaper at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, Russia, January 5, 2016. Picture taken January 5.REUTERS
This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.
As cyber environment continues to evolve, many cyber experts, government officials and academics are following the conflict in Ukraine, and particularly its cyber dimension, very carefully.
Russia is believed to be in the top three most cyber-capable countries (the United States and China being the other two) and its actions in Ukraine may set a precedent of how countries integrate cyber operations into military activity.
As many have said before, a “pure cyberwar,” where military conflict occurs only in the digital environment, is unlikely to take place anywhere. A more likely occurrence are wars, crises and conflicts where the exploitation of the digital environment is an integral part of other military activities. This is exactly what has happened in Ukraine.

Cyber operations are well suited to the vague concept of hybrid warfare, where states use a mix of conventional and unconventional means to achieve their military goals. In cyberspace, the adversary is usually difficult to locate, nations can conduct offensive actions with less political risk and international law concerning cyber operations is still a grey area.
Even though destructive cyberattacks have not been reported in Ukraine, there have been a variety of cyber activities carried out through the digital domain. A number of the cyber incidents that we know of have occurred against civilian targets, not military ones.
The most prominent cyber activities in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict have been cyber espionage and propaganda warfare campaigns, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Ukrainian media and governmental organizations and defacements of several NATO websites, the jamming of Ukrainian policy-makers’ communications, manipulation of information and videos, a campaign to corrupt voting processes in Ukraine, leaking confidential e-mails, phone calls and documents and various disruptions in networks and information systems.

The Business of Russia Is Politics

Posted by Oleg Svet & Samuel Bendett on January 11, 2016

Since the Crimea crisis of February 2014, the Obama administration has tried to use sanctions to persuade Russia to change its course on foreign policy. But for reasons that would seem irrational by Western standards, the Kremlin is increasingly impervious to business or economic considerations. In describing the difference between American and Russians, Putin recently referenced a quote in "Gone with the Wind" where the American heroine states that she cannot imagine starving. Putin went on to say that, "in the concept of a Russian person there are objectives [other than starvation]." In a similar vein, reflecting on international sanctions Russia's deputy prime minister recently told the World Economic Forum that the Russian people will go through any misery -- "tighten our belt, eat less food, suffer any privations" -- in order to defend their president and country against aggression by the West. Economic sticks and carrots have had and will continue to have a limited impact on Russia. For Putin and his advisers politics matters above all else.

Moscow's current approach runs counter to Washington's focus on the economy. Former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge famously stated that "the chief business of the American people is business." In more recent times, when then-governor Bill Clinton ran for president, his campaign advisor James Carville famously coined the phrase "It's the economy, stupid" to divert the electorate's attention from his candidate's perceived weakness in other areas, such as national security and foreign policy; the strategy worked. In every presidential election we rediscover that in the vast majority of instances, the issue that above all else (including national security) dominates the thinking of the American electorate is the economy.

Something Extraordinary Is Happening in the World, And Most People Haven't Noticed

Posted: 17/12/2015
Most of us haven't quite realized there is something extraordinary happening.
A few months ago, I freed myself from standard-procedure society. I broke the chains of fear that kept me locked up into the system. Since then, I see the world from a different perspective: the one that everything is going through change and that most of us are unaware of that.

Why is the world changing? In this post, I'll point out the eight reasons that lead me to believe it.
1. No one can stand the employment model any longer.
We are reaching our limits. People working with big corporations can't stand their jobs. The lack of purpose knocks on your door as if it came from inside you like a yell of despair.
People want out. They want to drop everything. Take a look on how many people are willing to risk entrepreneurship, people leaving on sabbaticals, people with work-related depression, people in burnout.

2. The entrepreneurship model is also changing.
Over the past few years, with the explosion of startups, thousands of entrepreneurs turned their garages into offices to bring their billion-dollar ideas to life. The vortex of entrepreneurship was to find an investor and get funded -- to be funded was like winning the World Cup or the Super Bowl.
But what happens after you get funded?
"Isn't it absurd that we, 7 billion of us living in the same planet, have grown further apart from each other?"
You get back to being an employee. You may have brought in people not sharing your dream, not in agreement with your purpose, and soon it's all about the money. The financial end becomes the main driver of your business.
People are suffering with it. Excellent startups began to tumble because the money-seeking model is endless.
A new way to endeavor is needed. Good people are doing it already.

The End of Modernity

by Charles Hill Thursday, January 7, 2016
The era called “modern” inexorably began to come to its end when, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, a concatenation of foretold events unraveled the so-called modern world order.
As always, the foreordained collapse was generated from internal weakness. We need to look no further than Europe to understand why. It has become evident that the European Union, a contrivance designed to do away with the structural elements of that international order—the state as its basic unit and the sovereign borders of its various nations—created nothing in its place capable of coping with an economic crisis, fending off threats to its security, or absorbing history’s Great Migration.

Long before this, however, the modern international system, which had welcomed into its ranks Muslims in more than a score of delineated “states,” had begun to feel the rise of believers dedicated to overthrowing the military, monarchical, and autocratic regimes of those very state entities formed in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate after the First World War.
The dynamism of this cause would, by the twenty-first century, produce two massive Muslim powers: The Islamic Republic of Iran which, by its 1979 Revolution, won recognition as a state in the modern world order while at the same time vowing to destroy that very system; and, a generation later, the fearsome rise of the Islamic State, which by its title proclaimed the goal of all the faithful: a new world order ruled by one, and only one, Order. Thus eventuated the fulfillment of American speculation that the only serious challenge to the modern international state system could come if events such as the 9/11 attacks were, in the words of Francis Fukuyama, “driven by a systematic idea of political and social justice that claims to supersede liberalism.” Precisely so: Islam claimed to be advancing a political and social model that rivaled and would replace Western modernity.

Opinions Instead of Facts: A Critique of A Lot of Today’s National Security and Intelligence Reporting

Beware spooks stringing along security reporters
Peter Preston, The Guardian, January 10, 2016

When Walter Pincus, one of the most seasoned working journalists of the last 40 years, finally retired from his desk job as national security correspondent at the Washington Post the other day, he left a farewell message behind him. “Facts seem to be taking a back seat to arguments and slogans in what’s written and shown,” he wrote. “And that means the public is left to make up their minds on important subjects by choosing between arguments without knowing much about the facts that may or may not underlie them.”

Consider the threat from terrorism. “The Islamic State, as with al-Qaida, al-Shabab and other current terrorist groups, needs to be put in some perspective. After 9/11, a very wise intelligence officer told me in 2002, ‘We have turned 16 clever al-Qaida terrorists into a worldwide movement, seemingly more dangerous to Americans than the communist Soviet Union with thousands of nuclear missiles.’ Never at the height of the cold war did we institute the security actions at home that have been taken and are being contemplated to meet what’s been described as the current terrorist threat.”

A valedictory verdict to ponder after yet another week of video frenzy of Hunt the Jihadi across TV screens and print front pages as though the identity of a murderous Brit in a mask (plus five-year-old helper) was somehow a story to bite on, rather than what Pincus would call further drift “into a PR society where, sadly, public relations has become a key part of government and our politics”. For what else are the latest tabloid creations – “Jihadi John 2 and Junior” – doing but playing PR?
It’s a question that links, inextricably, to one aspect of journalism itself: the rise of the specialist correspondent.

US, Allies Must ‘Stop Fixating’ On ISIL & Friends; ‘Frankly, We Are Losing’

By BEN ZWEIBELSONon January 11, 2016

Western democracies and their military instruments of power are struggling with what seems to be the novel and dangerous apparition of radical global extremism. This headline-grabbing new threat, whether called the Islamic State, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, Boku Haram or something else, captivates both our military’s and the public’s attention.
Yet for all the emphasis on dissecting and describing our latest adversarial form as if they were new butterflies to be cataloged for our collection, there is little critical inquiry into the much larger problem. Despite the massive economic, informational, technological and professional military advantages in the United States and our allies, we continue to stumble and fail in accomplishing any of our major foreign policy objectives. Our coalitions have racked up impressive kill and capture statistics while hardly stemming the tide of fresh suffering and conflict. Frankly, we are losing, and we may continue to lose as we pursue the new rising star of radical Islam, the Islamic State through our own imposed state of confusion.

The United States is not alone, with Canadians, the UK, Australians and other military apparatuses and intelligence agencies targeting both the terrorist threats as well as our traditional nation-state rivals. But we’re looking at the US military and its political oversight in this piece.
Americans are technical rationalists, and our devotion to this philosophical outlook is part of the reason why we continue to move towards military failure and not success. There are many political, organizational, and cultural layers that obscure and confuse why we have seen military failure in Iraq, the pending failure in Afghanistan, and general failure across the Middle East and Africa.
As ‘technical rationalists’, we think that reality can be objectively and analytically measured and controlled within universal principles and techniques. We use the increasing power of technological development to sweep away the fog and confusion of complexity, always with the implication that today’s problems can be solved by tomorrow’s innovation. Carl von Clausewitz is held in high regard in American military doctrine, yet as technical rationalists we also philosophically expect that the technological advances of today should have easily dispatched the fog and friction from prior wars. Paradoxically, today’s fog and friction will be eliminated once we steer technological investment towards gaining tomorrow’s advantage. It begets a vicious cycle.

Can voice recognition technology really identify a masked jihadi?

When facial recognition isn't possible, it's time to bring in other experts.
Ian McLoughlin, The Conversation ·
The latest video of a masked Islamic State jihadist apparently speaking with a British accent led to him beingtentatively identified as Muslim convert Siddhartha Dhar from East London. Voice recognition experts were reportedly working with UK intelligence services using voice analysis. But how does this technology work and what is it capable of?
Most of us can, when we hear a voice we know well, recognise who is speaking after just a few words, while less familiar voices might take a little longer. If the context and content of the words spoken are familiar, that makes it easier still. Generally, machines face the same constraints when trying to compare recordings and find a match.

Computational systems that aim to establish who people are from their voices – speaker identification – differ in whether they aim to detect: the presence of a single known speaker; to match speech to one of several known speakers; detect what’s recognisable from an unknown recording; or verify that a recording of speech was indeed from the expected speaker.
Modern systems tend to take a big data approach, where machine learning algorithms are trained with large sets of known recordings so they can recognise individual speakers’ vocal features. The idea is that the important features that discriminate between different speakers are learned automatically. In contrast, older methods specified which type of linguistic and phonetic features of speech were thought important in order to compare them between speakers.

While we don’t really know what combination of features is best for voice recognition, we can classify them as either acoustic or linguistic.
Acoustic and linguistic features
Acoustic features are characteristics of how humans produce speech. When we speak, air is expelled from our lungs, travels up the trachea, through the larynx and out of our mouth and nose. As it passes, it vibrates against vocal cords which when relaxed or contracted change the frequency of vibration, and so the pitch of our voices.
The surfaces involved in producing speech. Source: National Cancer Institute

We must know our enemies in the age of cyber

They may be invisible, but the threat posed to our security and defence by hackers is all too real
By Liam Fox,  09 Jan 2016
Whether or not we think about it every day, we live in a rapidly changing world. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of technology. In 1993, a mere two decades ago, there was a total of 130 websites in existence. Only a handful of experts had heard of the world wide web. By the end of last year, however, this had risen to more than 700 million sites; and for billions of people around the world, internet access had become a cornerstone of modern life.

It would be foolish, therefore, to ignore some of the new threats we face as a result of such huge changes. On a security and defence level, it is clear to me that one of the greatest of these new threats is cyber crime – including cyber terrorism and cyber warfare.
The problem is a creeping one. As we have become more dependent on technology to lubricate the wheels of our everyday activities, we have become more vulnerable to either the failures of the technologies themselves or our ability to access them. We are being drawn inexorably into the era of the war of the invisible enemy.

This is not like the Cold War, where individual spies smuggled small pieces of information to their Soviet handlers in London clubs or Viennese cafes. Nowadays we have the unimaginably vast theft of electronic material by Edward Snowden, who immediately jumped on a plane to Hong Kong and Moscow. A small problem – one disloyal junior employee – can thus become a very large one. Likewise, when the Chinese shot down one of their own satellites in space, it was not to show themselves that they were capable of doing so – but to show the rest of us. The naval fleets of the West may be advanced and powerful but they are useless if we cannot link up to them via satellites. Small flaws in our systems can lead to massive problems.
As we have become more dependent on technology to lubricate the wheels of our everyday activities, we have become more vulnerable to either the failures of the technologies themselves or our ability to access them

Juniper Networks to Junk Software Code Written in Part by NSA

Juniper Networks will drop code tied to National Security Agency
Reuters, January 9, 2016
Juniper Networks Inc said late on Friday it would stop using a piece of security code that analysts believe was developed by the National Security Agency in order to eavesdrop through technology products.
The Silicon Valley maker of networking gear said it would ship new versions of security software in the first half of this year to replace those that rely on numbers generated by Dual Elliptic Curve technology.

The statement on a blog post came a day after the presentation at a Stanford University conference of research by a team of cryptographers who found that Juniper’s code had been changed in multiple ways during 2008 to enable eavesdropping on virtual private network sessions by customers.
Last month, Sunnyvale-based Juniper said it had found and replaced two unauthorized pieces of code that allowed “back door” access, which the researchers said had appeared in 2012 and 2014.
The 2014 back door was straightforward, said researcher Hovav Shacham of the University of California, San Diego, allowing anyone with the right password to see everything.

The 2012 code changed a mathematical constant in Juniper’s Netscreen products that should have allowed its author to eavesdrop, according to Shacham and his fellow investigators.
Juniper’s initial patch had gotten rid of that constant in Dual Elliptic Curve and replaced it with the version it had been using since 2008.
But the academics who studied the code said that while Juniper had not disavowed the 2008 code, it had not explained how that constant was picked or why it was using the widely faulted Dual Elliptic Curve at all.
Still another curve constant, quietly provided by the NSA and required for some federal certification, was exposed in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a key to the back door.

America’s New Plan to Fight ISIS Online


The State Department will diversify its one-way approach, while other agencies reach out to Silicon Valley.
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

On Friday, State Department officials announced that they would revamp their efforts to counter ISIS messaging online — among other ways, by opening a new“Global Engagement Center.” That same day, the President and various high-ranking members of the national security establishment met with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other Internet powerhouses to discuss how the United States can fight ISIS messaging via social media.
But recently released documents from the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office show that the government is planning an aggressive and multi-faceted campaign whether or not it has the cooperation of social media companies or telecommunications companies.

The first priority for the State Department’s new Center will be to avoid the mistakes of the past. The “Think Again, Turn Away” campaign, which had but 20 staffers, five or which were from the Defense Department, drew much criticism. Part of the problem: it didn’t engage people in the Muslim world directly. Rather it was a one-way communications channel with all the persuasiveness of a government anti-litter campaign.
State’s new Center aims to have more engagement with third parties and people that can actually engage with humans on social networks, not just post messages at them; and it will use data to tailor messages and campaigns. The Center will also provide “seed funding and other support to NGOs and media startups focused on countering violent extremist messaging,” according to a statement.

UK Creating Its Own Special Operations Organization (Again!)

Special Operations: Britain Returns To Special Forces
stategypage.com, January 11, 2016

Britain has decided to form their own version of the U.S. Army Special Forces. This would be a special operations organization with several hundred troops trained to organize, train and assist locals needing help to deal with Islamic terrorists or any other group of fanatics trying to impose their will with violence. The initial use would be to help people defend themselves from Islamic terrorists but long-term this “Tier 2” force would be prepared to go anywhere in the world and help just about anyone. There is a certain irony in this because the model for this tier 2 force is the American Special Forces which had its origins during World War II when Britain invented the modern commandos and taught Americans how to use this new type of highly skilled soldier for a wide variety of difficult assignments. Instead of commandos, after World War II the United States developed the Special Forces. This was a unique organization in military, and intelligence, history. No other nation had anything like the Special Forces during peacetime. The idea of training thousands of troops to very high standards, then having them study foreign languages and cultures, and specialize in working with people of a specific culture, was unique to the Special Forces. 
But the original idea behind the Special Forces began with the World War II efforts to train and organize resistance fighters during. It was the British who first noted that their newly invented SAS troops were turning into something other than commandos. In fact, the highly skilled and talented SAS (Special Air Service commandos) were also the sort of specialists capable of helping the espionage agencies that were working with the French resistance. Thus, as part of the preparations for the 1944 invasion of Europe, hundreds of British (SOE or Special Operations Executive) and American (OSS, Office of Strategic Services) agents were landed (by boat and aircraft) in France (and other occupied countries) to assist the guerilla organizations that had developed there to fight the Germans. Many of these guerillas were poorly armed, trained, and led and often hard pressed by German secret police, soldiers and local collaborators.