27 January 2016

The case for reinvigorating U.S. efforts in Afghanistan

President Obama is right to keep at it in Afghanistan, argues a new policy brief by Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow and director of research for the Brookings Foreign Policy program.

Some have criticized the president’s decision to maintain a significant troop presence there (5,500 troops), instead of following through on the planned military withdrawal. But Afghanistan remains very important to American security, O’Hanlon contends, and the situation in the country is far from hopeless in spite of recent setbacks. We should reinvigorate American efforts in Afghanistan, he argues—not returning to levels seen in previous years, but ramping up somewhat from our current posture.
O’Hanlon calls Obama’s resolve in Afghanistan commendable, but writes that he and his administration are still making mistakes on U.S. policy toward the war-torn country. He advises that Washington make two specific changes to its military strategy in Afghanistan:
Allow U.S. and NATO airpower to target the Islamic State and the Taliban(currently, they can only fight those groups if directly attacked). The narrow rules of engagement constraining foreign forces were intended to push Afghan armed forces to defend their territory themselves. While a worthy goal, O’Hanlon says, these rules often prevent us from attacking ISIS (though the targeting strategy towards the group may be changing) as well as the Taliban. They also impose unrealistically high demands on Afghan forces and make too fine a distinction between an array of aligned extremist groups operating in the country.
Expand U.S. force presence from the current 5,500 troops to around 12,000 for a few years. In O’Hanlon’s opinion, our current numbers are not enough to work with fielded Afghan forces, and skimping on ground forces has contributed to security challenges in places like Helmand, for instance, which experienced new setbacks in 2015. More broadly, leaders in Washington and Brussels should stress the value of a long-term NATO-Afghanistan partnership, rather than emphasizing an exit strategy. This will signal Western resolve to the Taliban and other groups. While the next commander in chief should set the United States on a gradual path toward downsizing American troops in Afghanistan, he believes it would be a mistake for Obama to do so in the short term.
The long haul

O’Hanlon also argues that the United States needs to take a longer-term perspective on key political and economic issues in Afghanistan. On the economic front, there seems to be little thinking about an agricultural development plan for Afghanistan, associated infrastructure support, and land reform, among other challenges. On the political front, conversations often tend to focus on shorter-term issues like organizing parliamentary elections, reforming the Independent Election Commission, or modifying the current power-sharing arrangement. In the process, conversations about foundational political strategy focusing on Afghan institutions and the health of its democracy get short-changed. The parliament is in need of reforms, for instance, as is the political party system (which should encourage Afghans to group around ideas and policy platforms, rather than tribes and patronage networks).

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dragon's Lady

By MIN ZINJAN. 21, 2016
YANGON, Myanmar — When in November Sai Win Myat Oo, a candidate from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, ran for a seat in the Parliament of Shan State, in southern Myanmar, he was confident in his chances of being re-elected. The people of his constituency had consistently voted for the local Shan party in the past.
Yet he lost to a candidate from the National League for Democracy (N.L.D.), the majority-Bamar party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which swept the general election last year, winning some 80 percent of contested seats in the national Parliament. Apparently, it was the ethnic Wa people of Shan State, many of whom resettled there from northern parts of country in the late 1990s, who cast the decisive votes.
Rumor has it they had received instructions to vote for the N.L.D. from the United Wa State Army — at 30,000-strong, the most powerful rebel group in the country — which is headquartered on Myanmar’s border with China. Chinese sources I spoke to in academe and the intelligence services denied that Beijing had anything to do with those directives. But one senior Shan politician and three Myanmar military insiders said they thought it was Chinese influence that had swung the Wa votes in Shan State.
Why would Beijing, which has long backed Myanmar’s military regime and refused to engage with pro-democracy parties, now support the N.L.D.? One reason is that in recent years it saw the political tide turning in Myanmar. Another is that it has come to think of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as a consummate pragmatist, and at a time when the Myanmar army, known as the Tatmadaw, was making political and military overtures to the United States and its allies.
But Beijing’s rapprochement with the N.L.D. now threatens the legitimacy of Myanmar’s generals on issues they have long considered to be within their exclusive purview: foreign policy, border affairs, national security, federalism. So while improved relations between China and the incoming N.L.D. government could help quiet unrest in border areas, they could also upset the uneasy balance of power among Myanmar’s elites in Naypyidaw.
China’s relations with Myanmar have ebbed under President Thein Sein, down to lows not seen since the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, when anti-Chinese riots broke out and Beijing began backing Communist rebels in Myanmar. Ties had then slowly improved because both Deng Xiaoping and the military-led socialist government in Myanmar maintained a neutral foreign policy.

China’s Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Law

A closer look at the contents of China’s first comprehensive anti-terrorism law. 
By Zunyou Zhou, January 23, 2016
China’s first comprehensive anti-terrorism bill, passed at the end of 2015, took effect on the first day of 2016. Prior to its passage, the draft law had attracted harsh criticism from human rights groups, technology companies, and the U.S. government. Despite obvious advances compared to the two previous draft versions, the final law has been denounced as “sweeping” and “tough” by Western media.
In their reporting on the final law, the Western media usually associated it with the execution of a Chinese national by the Islamic State, numerous deadly attacks by Uyghur extremists, the Christmas terrorism alert in the shopping neighborhood of Sanlitun in Beijing, and the expulsion of a French journalist from China for her article blaming government policy for terrorist activities. All these incidents make up the backdrop against which the law emerged and will be implemented.

A Comprehensive Law
According to the legislature, the drafting of this law was guided by President Xi Jinping’s “overall national security outlook.” Judging by the multi-faceted and far-reaching measures it has adopted, the law may be called “comprehensive” in the true sense of the word.
The law consists of 97 articles in 10 chapters. While the first and last chapters involve general and supplementary provisions, the other chapters deal with major issues on counter-terrorism such as terrorism designation (chapter 2), prevention (chapter 3), intelligence gathering (chapter 4), investigation (chapter 5), emergency response (chapter 6), international cooperation (chapter 7), safeguards (chapter 8), and legal liabilities (chapter 9).
This article will highlight four specific aspects of the law: (1) China’s definition of terrorism; (2) obligating technology companies to provide technical support for counter-terrorism purposes; (3) placing restrictions on the reporting of terrorist attacks and government responses; and (4) implementing a “people’s war on terrorism.”

Iraq: Final Victory Will Not Be Easy Or Quick

strategypage.com, January 25, 2016

The government has become less insistent about not needing foreign troops in Iraq. This is because of the increasingly aggressive and autonomous behavior of the Iran-backed Shia militias that are assisting the army in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). The Shia militias are also taking control of territory in urban and rural areas, displacing the police and local government. Now the Iraq government sees the American troops as saviors. At the end of 2015 there were several thousand American troops already in Iraq and more (most of them Special Forces) on the way. The government has apparently made it clear to Iran (which is very hostile to U.S. forces in Iraq) that some American troops are essential. The presence of American troops also makes it less likely that Iran will attempt anything too ambitious (like invading or backing a takeover by Shia militias) and everyone knows that. Most Iraqis are more concerned with Iranian meddling than anything the Americans might do. At the same time Iraqis are wary of the other Gulf Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia. For example the Saudi ambassador to Iraq recently commented that the Iran backed Shia militias in Iraq should stand aside and let the Iraqi Army deal with ISIL. That comment was widely condemned by Iraqi Shia clerics and politicians.

In Iraq over a thousand Western troops, many of them special operations (Special Forces, SEALs and other commandos), are providing training and advisory assistance to Iraqi forces. To get the most out of this, especially when special ops forces are involved, the effort is directed towards the best local troops. Experience has shown the Kurds and Iraqi Arab special operations troops benefit the most from this training and do so more quickly than less trained and experienced troops. This comes with some risks, mainly because this training is often done in a combat zone and the advisory aspect is often done in combat. In both these cases there are many instances where the trainers themselves come under fire. While the trainers are not there to fight they are armed and allowed to defend themselves when necessary. Unofficially the trainers are allowed to get involved in situations where their trainees are in great danger and the intervention of the trainers would be useful, and much appreciated by the trainees. This is allowed unofficially because there is risk of trainers being killed or wounded. This causes political problems back home where politicians have pledged to provide combat trainers but no combat troops. While some trainers have been killed or wounded during front line training there is always the risk of there are too many casualties among the foreign trainers politicians and media back home would make an issue out of it. Same with Iraqi politicians and media, who are insistent that there be no foreign combat troops in Iraq. Armed trainers are tolerated, but not if they regularly engage in combat.

Meanwhile American officials talk of driving ISIL out of Mosul and Raqqa soon, as in by mid-2016, while some senior Iraqi officials openly doubt that Mosul will be liberated this year at all. A lot of Iraqis still doubt the capabilities of their armed forces and are more afraid of the Iran-backed Shia militias that openly call for a religious dictatorship in Iraq. So while the Kurds report that they have surrounded Mosul from the north and are ready for the final battle the Iraqi government forces south of the city are pointing out that they have to keep an eye on ISIL as well as their “allies” the Iran-backed Shia militias.

Egypt's Durable Arab Spring A Third Revolution Haunts President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Today’s anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian revolution—which led in quick succession to the overthrow of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, the election of the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated candidate Mohamed Morsi, and the ouster of Morsi by the Egyptian military—is haunting sitting President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Confronted with another social media campaign urging Egyptians to take to the streets on January 25, the president is worried that the kind of popular uprising that brought him to power may also come to unseat him. He is responding to the challenge with all the tools of repression at his disposal, including (paradoxically for a president determined to expunge the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt) mobilizing religious authorities to prevent demonstrations.

Revolution against the government is enshrined in Egypt’s constitution. The January 25, 2011, uprising against Mubarak is praised as the beginning of Egypt’s first revolution, and July 3, 2013, the day the military deposed Morsi, is proclaimed as the triumph of the second revolution. In both events, the military emerged as the real winner. In 2011, it took advantage of the street chaos to depose Mubarak and keep its own power. In 2013, it went further, using widespread popular discontent with Morsi to orchestrate large demonstrations that provided the political cover for a coup d’état.

Security personnel stand guard at the scene of a bomb blast in a main street in Giza, Egypt, January 21, 2016. A bomb attack killed six people, including three policemen, on Thursday near a road leading to the pyramids in the Cairo suburb of Giza, security sources said.Sisi thus worries that the military, and he personally, will be the target of any public discontent. In that, his fears are well-founded. On January 25 last year, widespread protests led to violence that left 18 dead and at least 52 injured. He is concerned that a lot worse could happen this year, and so, over the past few weeks, his security forces have searched 5,000 homes and apartments in downtown Cairo and warned their residents not to take to the streets on January 25. Late last month, he even publicly asked Egyptians, “Do you wish to destroy your country and the people?” and pledged not to stay in office for a single day “against your will,” a statement that sounded more like a threat than a promise of democracy. By the time he spoke, 45,000 Egyptians had already responded positively to a Facebook call “to drop the tyranny.”
The measures the government has taken to prevent demonstrations are extreme, with new ones added all the time. Even under normal circumstances, Egyptians are already living under the most severe restrictions on their civil and political rights in decades. In December 2014, the government decreed that all demonstrations would require permits, which are rarely granted. Leaders of youth groups that tried to defy the decree by holding illegal protests have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Media freedom is curbed in the name of national security, and any statement that contradicts an official one is considered an act of sedition.
The one group still been able to vent frustrations is that of workers focused narrowly on labor issues. More than 1,100 strikes and protests, none of them authorized by the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions, took place last year. It was apparently too large a number for Sisi to dare to suppress them by force.


The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute conducted an intensive multi-week planning exercise to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to defeat the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. ISW and CTP will publish the findings of this exercise in multiple reports. The first report examined America’s global grand strategic objectives as they relate to the threat from ISIS and al Qaeda.[1] This second report defines American strategic objectives in Iraq and Syria, identify the minimum necessary conditions for ending the conflicts there, and compare U.S. objectives with those of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia in order to understand actual convergences and divergences. The differences mean that the U.S. cannot rely heavily on international partners to achieve its objectives. Subsequent reports will provide a detailed assessment of the situation on the ground in Syria and present the planning group’s evaluation of several courses of action.

The key findings of this second report are:
The U.S. must accomplish four strategic objectives in Iraq and Syria to achieve vital national interests and secure its people: 1) destroy enemy groups; 2) end the communal, sectarian civil wars; 3) set conditions to prevent the reconstitution of enemy groups; and 4) extricate Iraq and Syria from regional and global conflicts.
Any American strategy must take urgent measures to strengthen Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi and prepare contingency efforts for his fall. The collapse of the Abadi government and return of his predecessor Nuri al Maliki would be disastrous for the fight against ISIS.
Ongoing international negotiations within the Vienna Framework are bypassing essential requirements for long-term success in Syria. Re-establishing a stable, unitary Syrian state that secures American interests requires the U.S. and its partners to 1) destroy ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra, and foreign Salafi-jihadi groups in Syria; 2) identify and strengthen interlocutors representing the Syrian opposition; 3) facilitate a negotiated settlement between the Syrian regime and opposition; 4) obtain regional acceptance of that settlement; 5) establish peace-enforcement mechanisms; and 6) reconstruct state institutions.
The Salafi-jihadi militant base in Syria poses a threat to the U.S., but the U.S. must not simply attack it because that would put the U.S. at war with many Sunnis who must be incorporated into a future, post-Assad inclusive government. The U.S. must separate reconcilable from irreconcilable elements. These other Salafi-jihadi groups must meet the following conditions essential for core U.S. security objectives in order to participate: break with Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS; accept the principle of a future pluralistic and unitary Syrian state; reject violent jihad; commit to disarming to a policing and defensive level; and commit to the elimination of the current shari’a court system and the establishment of political institution-based governance.
The superficial convergence of Iranian, Russian, Turkish, and Saudi strategic objectives with those of the U.S. on ISIS as a threat masks significant divergences that will undermine U.S. security requirements. Iran and Russia both seek to reduce and eliminate U.S. influence in the Middle East and are not pursuing strategies that will ultimately defeat al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria or Iraq. Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, some linked to al Qaeda, stem from the ruling party’s intent to reestablish itself as an independent, Muslim, regional power. Finally, Saudi Arabia’s objectives remain shaped by perceived existential threats from Iran and a growing succession crisis, causing key divergences, especially over support to Salafi-jihadi groups. The U.S. must lead efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria and cannot outsource them to partners.

[1] The first report is, “Al Qaeda and ISIS: Existential Threats to the U.S. and Europe.”

- See more at: http://understandingwar.org/report/competing-visions-syria-and-iraq-myth-anti-isis-grand-coalition?utm_source=New+ISW-CTP+series%3A+Latest+media+coverage+of+the+first+reports&utm_campaign=New+ISW-CTP+series%3A+Latest+media+coverage+of+the+first+reports&utm#sthash.pQOrA97L.dpuf

Only Saudi Arabia can defeat Isis Nawaf Obaid

I have often heard claims that my country created Isis. On the contrary – we are leading the fight against it
Tuesday 22 December 2015 
As the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino show, Islamic State has achieved a global reach. No longer satisfied with terrorising large swaths of the Middle East, it is inspiring, recruiting, training and supplying terrorists to carry out murderous acts around the world.
Analysis Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism alliance: a political message sketchy on details
US, Britain and others welcome announcement of 34-member coalition to fight terrorism, but some observers question Saudi motives
Given this new international agenda, analysts are struggling to assess the source of the group in an attempt to improve their understanding of how to stop it. In terms of its source, most point to Saudi Arabia; in terms of stopping it, most point to the United States. However, a closer look at Isis reveals that it is engaged in an entrenched theological war with the Saudi religious establishment to determine who justifiably espouses the purest tenets of Sunni Islam. As the custodian of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina and the host of the world’s Muslims for the pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia leads one and a half billion Muslims in fighting Isis. The kingdom’s leadership of the recently announced Muslim coalition to fight terrorism in all its forms confirms that Saudi Arabia is not only not the source of Isis but it is the terrorist group’s central opponent and the only nation that can fully and legitimately defeat it once and for all. More than 34 countries have joined the coalition.

Three factors clarify Saudi Arabia’s intrinsic and total war on Isis. First, many people claim that Saudi Arabia is the source of Isis because both practise a version of Islam called Salafism (erroneously known in the west as Wahhabism). Salafism is rooted in the word salaf, or “forefathers”, and refers to the way the prophet Muhammad’s followers in the religion’s first three generations practised Islam. And while it is true that the kingdom espouses Salafism, Isis’s claim that it is Salafi has no theological basis, because the group is in fact a continuation of a crude sect known as the Kharijites, or the ones who “defected” from the Muslim community (ummah) during the reign of the fourth caliph Ali (whom the Kharijites assassinated). The Kharijites, like Isis, believe that whoever disagreed with them should be murdered as infidels (takfir), rationalised mass killings against civilians including women and children (isti’rad), and practised an extreme form of inquisition to test their opponents’ faith (imtihan).
Isis’s adherence to the Kharijite ideology is not the only reason it is not a true Salafi movement; it has also committed an act of disobedience that effectively nullifies its Salafi pretenses. In original Islamic scriptures and practice, the highest authority is the “guardian” of the ummah, (wali al amr). All religious, political and military powers are concentrated under this authority, which Saudi Arabia’s system best exemplifies in the modern world. In other words, King Salman’s legitimacy to rule is contingent on him being first and foremost the wali al amr of the people, and in return the people show their acceptance of his rule by proclaiming him as their ruler. This proclamation (bay’ah) is a contract between the ruler and the ruled in which the first swears to promote Islam and the welfare of the second, and the second swears to obey (ta’ah) the tenets of Islam and follow the first’s leadership. Should the first deviate from Islam, the second is obliged to replace him. The joint bay’ah of the ummah to the ruler is fundamental to Salafism and anyone that breaks the bay’ah – as Isis has done – can never again be considered a true Salafi.
Given the importance of the wali al amr to Sunni Islam, Isis and Saudi Arabia are locked in a theological struggle from which only one can emerge victorious.

New Estimates of Iran’s Petroleum Exports and Income after the Nuclear Implementation Day and Reductions in Sanctions

Updated January 25, 2016, By Anthony H. Cordesman
The decades since the first major oil embargo in 1973 have shown all too clearly that no one can predict oil and gas prices and petroleum export revenues. This is particularly true when key exporters like Iraq and Libya are at war, production is partly driven by the tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbors, new sources of production are coming on line, and the world seems be headed for a China-driven collapse of demand.
There are some important new estimates, however, that indicate that Iran is not going to see any kind of windfall from the lifting of sanctions as a result of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement and the lifting of sanctions.
Iran’s Limited Oil Export Capability and Price Pressure From Other Gulf Exporters
The United States Energy Information Agency (EIA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, has just released two important studies covering different aspects of the potential impact of Iran’s future production and exports. One is called Oman is the largest non-OPEC oil producer in the Middle East (01/21/2016). It provides an updated comparison of the current production by key Middle Eastern states that is shown in Figure One.
It is all too clear from Figure One that Iran’s current production levels are limited, and that Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states are the strategic prize in terms of petroleum production, markets, and investment opportunities. Other EIA studies and forecast have also made it clear that Saudi Arabia intended to keep production levels high, maximize its own revenues at a time of low oil prices, and will probably be joined in doing this by other Arab oil exporters.
Figure One: Iran’s Limited Production Compared to Other Middle Eastern States

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration,International Energy Statistics, http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=24632&src=email

Note: Other non-OPEC Middle East includes Bahrain, Syria, Israel, and Jordan.
The high levels of recent Saudi production levels are shown in Figure Two, and Saudi Arabia has made it clear it will not cut them to try to raise prices – especially at a time when it is deeply concerned about Iran’s other actions.

The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir denied any connection between high Saudi production and Iran, made the continued Saudi commitment to high production clear at the highest official level. He told CNN on January 19, 2016 that, “People should go back to Adam Smith and basic economics. It’s about supply and demand ...We let the market determine where the equilibrium should be. What we’re seeing now is the market price… You cannot manipulate the market and be able to do so consistently…If you try to manipulate it one way or the other, eventually you overshoot or undershoot and you pay a tremendous price for it. In the Middle East, the conspiracy theories are about what the great powers are doing. In the West, the conspiracy theories are about what the oil powers are doing.” (http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/19/investing/saudi-arabia-oil-prices-iran/.)

A recent report by SUSRIS notes that Khalid Al-Falih, the Chairman of Aramco stated at a panel at Dafos on January 23, 2016 that, “We are not going to accept to withdraw our production to make space for others…This is the position that we’ve earned...we are not going to leave that position to others…Saudi Arabia has never advocated that it would take the sole role of balancing market against structural imbalance…If there are short-term adjustments that need to be made and if other producers are willing to collaborate, Saudi Arabia will also be willing to collaborate…If the prices continue to be low, we will able to withstand it for a long long time ... obviously we hope it will not happen.” Al-Falih described the current prices are “unreasonable, but are probably not likely to climb much any time soon…Short term, it’s a very bleak picture…(“No production cut to make space for others: Kingdom,” Arab News, January 23, 2016,http://www.arabnews.com/featured/news/869216. )
Figure Two: Saudi Production Trends

The Impact of Lifting Sanctions

The other EIA study is focused on Iran alone. It is entitledIran’s petroleum production expected to increase as sanctions are lifted, and provides both an updated analysis of Iran’s current production and a forecast of the range of near-term increases that Iran may be able to make now sanctions are lifted. These data are summarized in Figure Three.

The key portions of the EIA analysis are:

Sanctions relief will lead to an increase in Iran's oil production and exports, which had been subject to an EU embargo among other sanctions. Iran's crude oil production has been relatively flat over the past three years while sanctions were in place, averaging 2.8 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2015, representing 9% of total crude oil production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). In EIA's January Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), which assumed implementation day to occur this quarter, Iran's annual average crude oil production is forecast at 3.1 million b/d in 2016 (10% of projected total OPEC production), and almost 3.6 million b/d in 2017.

Consistent with these forecasts for average annual production, Iran's crude oil production reaches 3.3 million b/d at the end of 2016 and 3.7 million b/d at the end of 2017. EIA estimates a subjective uncertainty range of +/- 250,000 b/d surrounding these year-end projections, with actual outcomes dependent on Iran's ability to mitigate production decline rates, deal with technical challenges, and bring new oil fields into production.

Most of Iran's forecast production growth comes from Iran's preexisting crude oil production capacity that is currently shut in, while the remainder comes from newly developed fields. Iran has a number of new oil fields that Iranian and Chinese companies have been developing over the past several years, which have the potential to add 100,000 b/d to 200,000 b/d of crude oil production capacity by 2017. The STEO forecast also accounts for production declines at Iran's mature oil fields.

… Beyond crude oil, Iran's condensate and natural gas plant liquids (NGPL) production is currently almost 750,000 b/d, of which 75% is condensate and the remainder NGPL. Iran's non-crude liquids production has grown over the past few years. The main buyers of Iran's non-crude liquids have been in countries in Asia, mainly China, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Iran's non-crude liquids production is expected to grow by 150,000 b/d by the end of 2016 and by an additional 100,000 b/d by the end of 2017, as more project phases at the South Pars natural gas field come online. More than 80% of Iran's condensate production comes from the South Pars field located offshore in the Persian Gulf, which is Iran's largest nonassociated gas field. Lack of foreign investment and insufficient financing, stemming from international sanctions, have slowed the development of South Pars. However, some progress has been made in recent years, and sanctions relief is expected to quicken the pace of development of its remaining phases over the next decade.

With Iran's petroleum and other liquid fuels consumption expected to remain flat over the next two years, crude oil and other liquid fuels from the production increase is likely to be sold in export markets. The pace that Iran will ramp up its exports now that sanctions are lifted is uncertain. Iran has a considerable amount of oil stored offshore in tankers (between 30 and 50 million barrels), most of which is condensate, and crude oil stored at onshore facilities. Initial post-sanction increases in Iranian exports will most likely come from storage, while meaningful production increases will occur after some of the storage is cleared.

The EIA is very careful to note the levels of uncertainty involved, but its forecasts would only mean an increase of some 500,000 barrels of crude oil day by the end of 2016, rising to 900,000 barrels a day at the end of 2017. The total would rise to 600,000 a day in 2016 if natural gas liquids (NGL) and condensate were included and 1,150,000 barrels in 2017.

This would have been a major increase in revenues at a time when oil was a nominal $110 a barrel, particularly if Iran could export most of the increase by limiting domestic demand. Iranian oil and NGL/condensates never had the quality to have captured an average of $110 a barrel, but if one does assume that average price, 600,000 barrels a day equals 219 million barrels a year, and $24.5 billion a year. A total of 1.15 million barrels a day equals 420 million barrels a year, or $46.2 billion at $110 a barrel.

Fast forwarding to today’s prices, the revenues are radically different. If oil sells for a relatively high current estimate of $60 a barrel, the annual revenues from 600,000 more barrels a day at the end of 2016 are only $13.1 billion, and the revenues from 1.15 million more barrels at the end of 2017 are $16.8 billion. Once again, Iran’s actual earning would be shaped by the quality of its exports, and the real-world totals would be lower.

If oil sells for an average of only $40 a barrel after the maximum projected increase in each year, the maximum additional revenue including NGL/condensates would be less than $8.8 billion in 2016 and $11.3 billion in 2017 – and these figures do not take account of any increases in Iranian production and development costs.
Figure Three: Iranian Past and Probable Production: 2011-2017

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2016, andhttp://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=24592&src=email
The Procedural Impacts of Lifting Sanctions

A third EIA report in This Week in Petroleum(https://www.eia.gov/petroleum/weekly/) provides still further perspective. It states that states that,

As EIA has already reported, the sanctions were lifted on January 16, which was implementation day for theJoint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement among the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany), the European Union (EU), and Iran. On that day, the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran had completed the key physical steps required to trigger sanctions relief. With this milestone, the United States, the EU, and the United Nations have lifted nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, which include oil-related sanctions that have limited Iran's ability to sell its oil on the global market since late 2011. With nuclear-related sanctions being lifted:
Some Iranian banks can get back on the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) system to conduct financial transactions electronically on the world market.
Iran can access its foreign reserves held in banks worldwide. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, Iran's Central Bank has $100 billion to $125 billion in foreign exchange assets globally, but Treasury estimates Iran's usable liquid assets to be just slightly more than $50 billion.
Non-U.S. companies can invest in Iran's oil and natural gas industry, including the sale, supply, and transfer of equipment and technology.
Countries within the EU and elsewhere that had ceased imports of energy from Iran can again import Iranian oil, natural gas, and petrochemical products. Countries that are already importing from Iran can increase their purchases.
European protection and indemnity (P&I) clubs can provide Iranian oil tankers with insurance and reinsurance.

Nonetheless, U.S. sanctions related to human rights abuses and terrorism are still in place, and some Iranian individuals and entities that were delisted under nuclear sanctions are still covered under existing sanctions. As a result, non-U.S. companies may be slow to rush back into Iran as they figure out how to resume business with Iran without violating the non-nuclear sanctions that remain in effect.

Ultimately, nuclear-related sanctions relief will lead to an increase in Iran's oil production and exports …Iran's crude oil production has been relatively flat over the past three years while sanctions were in place, averaging 2.8 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2015, representing 9% of total crude oil production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). In EIA's January Short-Term Energy OutlookSTEO, which assumed implementation day to occur this quarter, Iran's annual average crude oil production is forecast at 3.1 million b/d in 2016 (10% of projected total OPEC production), and almost 3.6 million b/d in 2017.

The impact of lifting nuclear sanctions is equally unclear. Press reports also talk about lifting as much as $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets, and some strong opponents of the JCPOA have talked bout as much as $150 billion. The NSC and U.S. Treasury put this money under $52 billion, once existing obligations are subtracted, and note that it may take months or longer for the money to be freed, non-banks to freely deal with Iran, and the structure of Iran’s finances to stabilize.
The Impact of Higher Revenues on Iran’s Economy and Budget

The put Iran’s post-sanctions earnings in perspective, the EIA summarizes the past impact of sanctions is summarized as follows (https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.cfm?iso=IRN):

The sanctions have prompted a number of cancellations and delays of upstream projects. The United States and the European Union (EU) enacted measures at the end of 2011 and during the summer of 2012 that affected the Iranian energy sector more profoundly than any previously enacted sanctions. The sanctions impeded Iran's ability to sell oil, resulting in a near 1.0-million b/d drop in crude oil and condensate exports in 2012 compared with the previous year.

Iran's oil and natural gas export revenue was $118 billion in the 2011/2012 fiscal year (ending March 20, 2012), according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) In the 2012/2013 fiscal year, oil and natural gas export revenue dropped by 47% to $63 billion. The IMF estimates that Iran's oil and natural gas export revenue fell again in the 2013/2014 fiscal year by 10% to $56 billion. The revenue loss is attributed to the sharp decline in the volume of oil exports from 2011 to 2013. Iran's natural gas exports increased slightly over the past few years. However, Iran exports only a small volume of natural gas, because most of its production is domestically consumed.

Nonetheless, international sanctions have also affected Iran's natural gas sector. Iran's natural gas sector has been expanding, but production growth has been lower than expected as a result of the lack of foreign investment and technology. However, in 2014, Iran experienced higher production growth than usual because new phases at the South Pars natural gas field came on line.

The CIA World Factbook estimate of Iran’s exports only goes up to 2014. They totaled $86.47 billion that year and the CIA some 80% -- or $69.2 billion were petroleum. (The rest were largely related exports of chemical and petrochemical products, plus fruits and nuts, carpets, cement, and ore.) (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html)

The EIA estimates that, “Brent crude oil prices averaged $52/b in 2015, down $47/b from the average in 2014… North Sea Brent crude oil prices averaged $38/barrel (b) in December, a $6/b decrease from November, and the lowest monthly average price since June 2004. Its January 12, 2016 Short Term Energy Outlook also estimates that, “Brent crude oil prices average $40/b in 2016 and $50/b in 2017. Forecast West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices average $2/b lower than Brent in 2016 and $3/b lower in 2017. However, the current values of futures and options contracts continue to suggest high uncertainty in the price outlook..” (http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/pdf/steo_full.pdf)

While Iranian petroleum products sell at a variety of different prices, the trends in Brent Crude prices are a good illustration of the pressure recent cuts in all oil prices have put on Iran. They are illustrated in Figure Four, which shows just how sharply prices have dropped since sanctions were imposed on Iran.
Figure Four: End of day Commodity Futures Price Quotes for Brent Crude Oil

As Figure Three has already shown, there are sharply different estimates of how soon Iran can increase exports, it’s sustainable production capacity, and what time, investment, incentives and technology are required to increase that production capacity. The same levels of uncertainty apply to how quickly Iran can export the oil it has stored on tankers and Iranian soil since sanctions were imposed, and the prices it will receive.

Nevertheless, the near term impact of the nuclear agreement and lifting of sanctions seems certain to be far lower than anyone estimated at the time the JCPOA was signed.

What is far more critical in terms of the strategic impact of added production, however, is the massive cut in oil prices relative Iran’s probable oil exports levels. As Figure Two shows, Iran will not be back to its 2011-2012 production levels until the end of 2016 at the earliest and will not have add production capacity until the end of 2017.

Even if oil should average as much as $60 a barrel through 2016 – which may well be a high estimate Iran’s oil and gas export revenues in 2016 will probably not exceed $60-65 billion, and could be substantially lower. At $40 a barrel, they might well be under $40 billion.

If one assumes that Iran can actually export all of the 1.15 million barrels a day in increased production that EIA projects it might be able to reach at the end of 2017, petroleum export revenues would probably still be well under $72-75 billion at $60 a barrel, and under $50 billion at $40 a barrel.
The Strategic Impact of Higher Iranian Oil Export Revenues

None of these figures account for a massive windfall for a country that will then have 83 million to 84 million people, and whose GDP will be around $1.4 trillion to $1.6 trillion. Even with sanctions lifted, the end result is still likely to be that the internal power struggle for money and over military vs. civil needs may become even more serious.

The “hardliners” have a case. Iran has not come close to competing with its Arab Gulf neighbors in arms imports since the fall of the Shah in 1979. A recent CRS report indicates that the Arab GCC states imported arms worth some 24 times more than Iran could afford in 2007-2014. As a result, much of its military inventory is better suited to a museum than creating a hegemon. Its air force and ground based air defenses largely date back to the time or the Shah or Vietnam War era military technology.

The “moderates” – and Iran’s people – have an even better case. Iran now has some 82 million people if one uses the CIA Factbook estimate as a base. It has a very young population and some 42% is 24 years of age or younger. A third of its population is young people depending on others for their livelihood and another 7% of its people are elderly dependents. Youth unemployment or underemployment are at levels of at least 20-25% and career opportunities are poor, and over 715,000 males and 680,000 females reach job age each year.

CIA Factbook data indicate that Iran’s per capita income was under $18,000 in 2014 – before the current crash in oil prices. This is far lower than in any Arab Gulf state other than a war torn Iraq. Iraq’s GDP per capita was around $15,300, Kuwait’s was $70,700, Oman’s was $3,800, Qatar’s was $137,200, Saudi Arabia’s was $53,200, and the UAE’s was $66,300 .

Iran’s income is poorly distributed, and sharply affected by corruptions and the government’s misuse of its resources. The CIA also reports that, “Iran continues to suffer from high unemployment and underemployment. Lack of job opportunities has prompted many educated Iranian youth to seek employment overseas, resulting in a significant ‘brain drain.’"

The World Bank reports that some progress has occurred under President Rouhani and that Iran has real economic potential, but that it faces major problems from state mismanagement, barriers to investment and growth, and particularly in terms of its population and youth (http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/iran/overview):

Following two years of recession, the Iranian economy recovered during the 2014 Iranian calendar year (i.e., March 2014-March 2015) as the new administration led by President Rouhani took office in July 2013 and a partial lifting of sanctions was enacted under the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). This sanctions relief included the partial removal of constraints on Iran’s oil exports, and the supply chain in key sectors of the economy—such as in the automobiles industry—and on international and domestic banks’ international transactions.

The economy expanded by 3 % in 2014, on the heels of annual economic contractions of 6.6 % and 1.9 % in 2012 and 2013, respectively. As of August 2015, the official and parallel market rates were trading at 29,797 Iranian rials per U.S. dollar and 33,400 Iranian rials per U.S. dollar, respectively, thereby representing a difference of about 13%, down from roughly 190% in the second quarter of 2012 when sanctions were tightened. The inflation rate declined from a year-on-year peak of 45.1% in 2012 to 15.6% in June 2015 in line with the lifting of sanctions and the tightening of monetary policy by the Central Bank of Iran.

The unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high and rose slightly in 2014. The unemployment rate reached 11.4% in 2014, up from 10.4% in 2013. The unemployment rate was much more elevated among women (20.3% for women against 8.7% for men), among the population between the ages of 15 and 29 (17.9% for men and 39% for women in this age cohort) and in urban areas (11.7% in urban areas and 7.4% in rural areas). This weak labor market performance took place within a context of a subdued and declining labor force participation rate with only 37.2% of the country’s population being economically active in 2014, down from 37.6% in2013 (62.9% for men and 11.8% for women). The incidence of underemployment has also become more prevalent, with an estimated 9.5% of workers being considered underemployed (10.3% for men and 4.8% for women). Underemployment is largely concentrated among the youth population.

Stimulating private sector growth and job creation is a mounting challenge for the new government considering the number of workers who should enter the labor market in the coming years, including women and youth. Weak labor market conditions are exacerbated by the large number of youth entering the labor market and low female labor force participation rate. This trend is expected to be maintained in line with the evolving socio-economic profile with the demographics of the country characterized by a disproportionately high youth population with over 60% of Iran’s population of 77 million individuals estimated to be under the age of 30 in 2013. The government estimates that 8.5 million jobs should be created in the following two years to reduce the unemployment rate to 7% by 2016. Tackling youth unemployment in particular is a pressing policy issue.

… In 2005, poverty was 1.45% in Iran using a poverty line of US$1.25 per day (PPP). World Bank projections estimate that only 0.7% of the population (half a million people) lived under this poverty line in 2010, although a large proportion of people are living close to it. Indeed, raising the poverty line by US$0.5 (from US$2 to US$2.50 and from US$3 to US$3.50) could put 4%-6% of the population – over 4.5 million people - in poverty. This suggests that many individuals are vulnerable to changes in their personal disposable income and to the persistent rise in the cost of living.

The World Bank’s earlier positive estimate of the impact of lifting sanctions – which assumed that the new money would go to civil rather than military needs and there would be major internal economic reforms, has also been overtaken by events and the massive drop in probable oil and gas export revenues:

The medium-term outlook is positive if the JCPOA is now fully implemented and if the government tackles much needed reforms to unleash growth and private-sector led job creation. This estimate, however, also was made at a time of much higher oil prices and is more optimistic that the EIA in terms of how large an increase Iran can make in petroleum production:

Growth will decelerate from 3% in 2014 to 1.9% in 2015 (March 2015-March 2016) against the backdrop of low oil prices despite a projected increase in oil production by 200,000 barrels per day from 3.1 million barrels per day in 2014. If all sanctions are be lifted by the beginning of the 2016 Iranian calendar year (March-June 2016), real GDP should rise to 5.8 % and 6.7 % in 2016 and 2017, respectively, as oil production reaches 3.6 and 4.2 million barrels per day. Reforms to the business environment to promote competition, rationalize licensing and authorization requirements, reduce the imprint of State-Owned Enterprises in the economy, and improve the health of the financial and banking sector are needed to accelerate growth and private-sector led job creation.

The fact is that neither outsiders nor Iran can predict its near-term economic future, or the course of action its government will take given the competing needs of the military and civil sectors. What they can predict is that the impact of the nuclear agreement on Iran’s future petroleum revenues will be far more limited than many thought when the agreement was signed, and the Iran will face serious internal pressure over how any additional revenue will be used.

Making Peace With Violence: Camus in Algeria by Robert Zaretsky, New York Times

Sixty years ago today, Albert Camus gave the speech of his life. It was a speech, in fact, that nearly cost him his life, as well as one that failed in its goal of saving the lives of countless civilians, Arabs and French alike, caught in the vise of terrorism employed by both sides in Algeria’s war of independence. The reasoning behind the speech, as well as the reasons Camus gave it, cast important light on the “war on terror” now being fought in the West.

By early 1956, the war between Algeria’s nationalist movement, the National Liberation Front (the F.L.N.), and the French military had spiraled into mutual butcheries and bloodbaths — from the slaughter of the French colonist population (the “pied-noir”) of Philippeville, where more than 100 men, women and children were hacked to pieces by their Arab neighbors, to the policy of “collective responsibility,” the indiscriminate killing of Arab men, women and children by French soldiers and civilian militias. It was not just Algerians, but Algeria itself, that, in Camus’s words, was dying…

Russia in the Middle East

By: Genevieve Casagrande and Christopher Kozak
The divergent objectives of the U.S., Russia, and regional powers delayed and ultimately threaten to upend scheduled negotiations to resolve the Syrian Civil War.

UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq warned that negotiations between the regime and its opponents will likely suffer delays, stating that the UN remains unable to issue invitations to the talks until countries within the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) “come to an understanding” on the composition of the opposition delegation. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that the negotiations would only be pushed back by a “day or two” and would not constitute a “fundamental delay” in the talks. Russia nonetheless continues to exacerbate preexisting disagreements regarding who would attend the talks. Russia demanded a broader opposition delegation that includes both pro-Russian elements of the internal political opposition as well as the Syrian Kurds. It also reasserted that prominent Salafist opposition groups Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham constitute “terrorist organizations” and rejected their participation in any future opposition delegation. These proposals met with stiff resistance from Saudi Arabia, a key backer of Jaysh al-Islam and other hardline opposition groups that seek to replace the regime with a Salafist government. The opposition High Committee for Negotiations formed in Saudi Arabia in December 2015 named Jaysh al-Islam’s political head as the chief negotiator for the upcoming talks in a possible further attempt to derail negotiations. Leading opposition representatives asserted that the committee would not attend indirect negotiations if the regime and its allies do not cease airstrikes against civilian populations and lift sieges on opposition-held areas. Russia reportedly threatened to send its own delegation of select opposition groups to negotiate with the regime if the mainstream opposition decides to boycott the talks, further highlighting its intent to use superficial democratic processes to preserve its client regime in Syria. Turkey similarly pushed back against Russian demands to incorporate the Syrian Kurds in the talks. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated that Turkey “will never allow” representatives from the Syrian Kurdish YPG to be included in the official opposition delegation to Geneva. Turkey considers the YPG to be an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization. 

Russia deployed military personnel to Qamishli Airbase in predominantly-Kurdish Northeastern Syria, challenging U.S. leadership of the anti-ISIS campaign and further provoking Turkey. U.S. defense officials and local activists confirmed that approximately one hundred Russian soldiers and engineers deployed to Qamishli Airbase in order to expand the facility to handle Russian military aircraft. Local activists similarly reported the arrival of Russian personnel at Kuweiris Airbase in Aleppo Province. The establishment of an airbase in Qamishli provides Russia with a new platform to stage its aircraft across Eastern Syria and Iraq as well as a lever to reassert regime influence within oil-rich Hasaka Province. Russia could also use the potential deployment of large numbers of Russian personnel or aircraft in order to compete with the U.S. in Eastern Syria. Local activists claimed that U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) finished renovating a small agricultural airstrip in Hasaka Province for use as a forward base of operations and resupply point for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Russia likely aims to undermine the activities of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition as an avenue to reestablish its own claims to great power status and global leadership in the fight against ISIS. Russia is also courting other local actors in Eastern Syria that represent current or potential partners for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. Russian officers reportedly met with both the Syrian Kurdish YPG and a prominent anti-ISIS tribe based in Deir ez-Zour Province in order to discuss prospects for further military cooperation. The direct outreach to the Syrian Kurds marks a significant new development that will place substantial torque on the stability of the international anti-ISIS coalition, heighten Kurdish ambitions, and fuel security concerns within Turkey. Turkish President Recep Erdogan stated that Turkey “will not tolerate” the deployment of Russian forces along its border. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani reopened discussions of an independent Kurdistan in an interview in The Guardian, stating that the Sykes-Picot Agreement had failed and calling for the redrawing of international boundaries according to a new framework.

See: “Russian Airstrikes in Syria: January 12 - 19, 2016,” by Jodi Brignola and Genevieve Casagrande, January 20, 2016; “Russia Security Update: January 5 - 12, 2016,” by Hugo Spaulding, January 12, 2016; “S-400 Missile Radius Map,” by Daniel Urchick, December 21, 2015. Direct press or briefing requests for Russia and Ukraine analyst Hugo Spaulding or Syria analyst Chris Kozak here.

What Donald Rumsfeld Knew We Didn’t Know About Iraq The document reveals gaps of intelligence on WMD. Why didn’t Pentagon chief share it?

By JOHN WALCOTT 1/24/2016
On September 9, 2002, as the George W. Bush administration was launching its campaign to invade Iraq, a classified report landed on the desk of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It came from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and it carried an ominous note.
“Please take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD,” Rumsfeld wrote to Air Force General Richard Myers. “It is big.”
The report was an inventory of what U.S. intelligence knew—or more importantly didn’t know—about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Its assessment was blunt: “We’ve struggled to estimate the unknowns. ... We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program.”
Myers already knew about the report. The Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it, but Rumsfeld’s urgent tone said a great deal about how seriously the head of the Defense Department viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war. But he never shared the eight-page report with key members of the administration such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell or top officials at the CIA, according to multiple sources at the State Department, White House and CIA who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. Instead, the report disappeared, and with it a potentially powerful counter-narrative to the administration’s argument that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons posed a grave threat to the U.S. and its allies, which was beginning to gain traction in major news outlets, led by the New York Times.

While the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iraq was at the heart of the administration's case for war, the JCS report conceded: “Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”
The rationale for the invasion has long since been discredited, but the JCS report, now declassified, which a former Bush administration official forwarded in December, nevertheless has implications for both sides in the 2016 presidential race, in particular the GOP candidates who are relying for foreign policy advice on some of the architects of the war, and the Democratic front-runner, who once again is coming under fire from her primary opponent for supporting the invasion.
Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose military assistant was on the short list of people copied on the JCS report, is one of Jeb Bush’s foreign policy experts. Other supporters of the war, though they do not appear to have been aware of the JCS report, are involved in the various advisory roles in the 2016 campaign. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is advising Ted Cruz; and Elliott Abrams and William Kristol are supporting Marco Rubio, whom Reuters reported is also briefed regularly by former Cheney adviser Eric Edelman.

The rise of ISIL and recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have given Democrat Bernie Sanders the ability to draw a straight line from the current Middle East chaos straight back to Clinton’s vote in favor of what he calls “one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the modern history of the United States,” a conflict that has claimed the lives of 4,500 Americans and some 165,000 Iraqis.
Rumsfeld was not under any legal or administrative obligation to circulate an internal DoD report, but not doing so raises questions about whether the administration withheld key information that could have undermined its case for war. Time and again, in the fall of 2002 and into early 2003, members of the administration spoke forcefully and without qualification about the threats they said Saddam Hussein posed. The JCS report undercut their assertions, and if it had been shared more widely within the administration, the debate would have been very different.

Russia and Ukraine

By: Hugo Spaulding

Russia shows no sign of making peace in Ukraine despite deepening economic crisis at home and diplomatic facelift. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the U.S. could lift sanctions on Russia in the coming months if the Kremlin fully fulfilled its commitments under the February 2015 “Minsk II” ceasefire agreement in Ukraine, which remains almost entirely unimplemented. Secretary Kerry’s comments served to remind Russia that it must make strategic concessions in eastern Ukraine in order to achieve sanctions relief. Russia has used the “Minsk II” agreement as a platform to pressure the Ukrainian government into making political concessions, achieving the Kremlin’s dual objectives to strengthen its leverage inside Ukraine and undermine support for the pro-Western administration in Kyiv. Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Boris Gryzlov - a member of his Security Council and inner circle - as the new senior Russian negotiator at the ceasefire talks in late December, raising the possibility of a shift in his Ukraine policy in 2016. Gryzlov stated that he had been appointed in order to “broaden the horizon” for compromise and claimed that Moscow is ready to “seriously move forward” with the implementation of the ceasefire. Collapsing oil prices and the slide of Russia’s ruble to historic lows have added to speculation that Putin may seek an exit strategy in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow reportedly spends tens of millions of dollars per month on pensions and official salaries. A meeting on January 15 between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Vladislav Surkov, a key architect of the Russian campaign in Ukraine, raised the possibility that Russia and the U.S. could kickstart the implementation of the “Minsk II” agreement. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden discussed the possibility of elections in eastern Ukraine with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on January 21 in a further sign of U.S. intent to push for progress on the ceasefire agreement. There is little indication, however, that Moscow will compromise on its position that Kyiv should make political concessions prior to any action by Russia to withdraw its forward-deployed forces or stop attacks by its proxies along the front line. Russian-backed separatists have made tactical advances near the strategic government-held port city of Mariupol since December, deploying armor and weapons in violation of existing withdrawal agreements. Russia recently blocked an effort to expand the presence of international monitors on its border with separatist territory. Boris Gryzlov maintained consistent Kremlin rhetoric that Ukraine is undermining the ceasefire by not implementing constitutional reforms that acknowledge the “special status” of the separatist-held southeast and failing to reach a direct agreement with the separatists on local elections. Ukrainian negotiator Irina Herashenko stated on January 20 that Kyiv would not implement the constitutional reforms required by the ceasefire until Moscow makes “progress” in fulfilling the agreement. Russia has not yet taken any concrete steps to cede its position of strategic leverage inside Ukraine, making progress on the peace deal a distant prospect.

Russian support to anti-EU and anti-NATO opposition parties threatens stability in Europe. Protestors organized by the pro-Russian opposition broke into the Moldovan Parliament on January 20 calling for snap elections after the government approved a new pro-European prime minister. The pro-Russian opposition had led a no-confidence vote in October 2015 in order to oust a previous pro-European government widely perceived as corrupt. Opposition leaders that maintain political and business contacts with Russia have now threatened “peaceful but long” protests if the new government is not dissolved. The Kremlin reportedly hosted the leaders of the pro-Russian opposition in Moscow in the buildup to the January 20 demonstration,indicating that Russia may be playing an active role in undermining Moldova’s newly-installed pro-European government. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Moldova of committing human rights violations by denying entry to state media journalists in a direct blow to Moscow’s ability to use the continuing protests to spread anti-Western propaganda. Russian President Vladimir Putin later discussed the “escalation of the internal political situation in Moldova” with his inner circle in a Security Council meeting, suggesting that the Kremlin may take new actions to exacerbate the unrest. Putin used superficial tools of democracy in order to disguise his military operations in Ukraine in 2014 - including mass protests and the storming of government buildings - and may leverage similar methods to destabilize the already-weak government of Moldova. As in Ukraine, Putin seeks to prevent the emergence of a stable Moldova integrated into the European Union (EU) in order to reassert Russia as a competing center of power in Europe. Russia seeks to promote its strategic agenda elsewhere in Europe by supporting political organizations opposed to the EU. The U.S. Congress ordered U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to lead an investigation into the full extent of the Russian influence campaign in Europe, where leaders of anti-EU political parties have frequently echoed Russian propaganda about Ukraine. Leading Dutch populist Geert Wilders has even supported a referendum in the Netherlands regarding Ukraine’s unratified EU association agreement, employing another democratic tool that Russia has used to obfuscate its aggression in Ukraine. Russia has similarly stoked tensions in the Balkans as part of its confrontation with NATO. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov met with anti-NATO opposition leaders in Montenegro to discuss efforts to stage a popular referendum on the Western Balkan country’s anticipated accession to NATO. Russia has also discussed new weapons deals with neighboring Serbia since pledging “retaliatory actions” for NATO’s accession invitation to Montenegro on December 2. Russia’s efforts to support and ally with existing opposition movements across Europe demonstrates its strategic intent to establish itself as regional counterweight to a weakened NATO and EU. 

See: “Russian-Backed Separatists Seize Village Near Mariupol,” by Franklin Holcomb, January 14, 2016; “Russia Security Update: January 5 - 12, 2016,” by Hugo Spaulding, January 12, 2016; “Ukraine Crisis Update: December 14, 2015,” by Hugo Spaulding, December 14, 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.

DISA test-driving smartphone encryption

Amber Corrin, Senior Staff Writer, January 22, 2016
Top leaders at the Defense Information Systems Agency know they’re chasing a moving target: Mobile technology is moving quickly, and constant connectivity is expected by any young recruit and most people today.
“We don’t seem to be working at an earth-shattering pace to get to mobile” enablement, Maj Gen Sarah Zabel, DISA vice director, said Jan. 21 at AFCEA DC’s mobile technology summit in Washington, D.C. “To have a mobile-enabled workforce, you need to want it, to demand it and to think mobile in order to bring all the different elements together.”
One piece of that is making mobility less cumbersome—that is, no Common Access Card involved. Instead officials plan on using derived credentials that are stored on the phone and provide multifactor authentication. Zabel said that’s one of the major pieces officials at the agency are working on to push mobility forward.
At the core of that effort are credentials based on public key infrastructure, or PKI, which will provide the encryption technology and governance necessary to handle secure authentication.
Zabel said DISA is partnering with the National Security Agency and other organizations to pilot a Defense Department PKI-enabled direct credentials system. The pilot is slated to go until the spring time frame, after which the direct credentials will roll out to iOS devices, then Android and BlackBerry devices.

26 January 2016

*** India's civil-military dissonance: Road to Perdition?


India's Republic Day on Tuesday (January 26) will be celebrated with traditional pageantry and the citizen gets a panoramic view of the country's military capability. Intelligence inputs warn that it will be yet another test for the national security apparatus. However, it provides an opportune occasion to objectively review how India has dealt with its complex security challenges. Regrettably in India's National Security 'Hall of Shame' we can now add, 'Pathankot 2016' after 'Kandahar 1999', 'Parakram 2002' and 'Mumbai 2008.'
Given that India is a nuclear weapon state, which fields one of the world's largest armed forces and spends upwards of $40 billion annually on defence, one cringes at accounts of our seemingly inept handling of yet another terrorist attack. Equally disheartening is the fact that, eight years after 26/11, we lack the ability to deter the architects of this attack, and the will to punish its perpetrators.
It is a matter of sheer good fortune that the cross-border terrorists who managed to enter the Pathankot air base failed to target aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as the huge bomb-dump and fuel-storage facilities. We overlook the fact that some of our air bases, adjuncts to the nuclear deterrent, may also house nuclear warhead components. So, while cautioning the world about the dangers of Pakistani warheads falling into jihadist hands, we need to ensure that a similar fate does not befall our own.

The calibre of a nation's leadership is tested by a crisis. Whether it is floods, an aircraft hijacking or a terror strike, India's response to any crisis has followed a depressingly familiar sequence. Regardless of intelligence inputs, the onset of a crisis finds multiple agencies pulling in different directions, lacking unitary leadership, coordination and, above all, a cohesive strategy. Ad-hoc and sequential damage-control measures eventually bring the situation under control, with loss of life and national self-esteem. After a free-wheeling blame-game, the state apparatus relapses into its comatose state - till the next disaster.
From the media discourse, it appears that this template was faithfully followed in the Pathankot episode. While the military has due processes for learning from its mistakes and dealing with incompetence, one is not sure about the rest of our security system.
Whether or not India-Pakistan peace talks are resumed, the Pakistani 'deep state' has many more 'Pathankots' in store for India. For Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), cross-border terrorism is an inexpensive method of keeping India off-balance. The strategy of plausible deniability and threat of nuclear 'first-use' assures them of impunity from retribution. Such situations call for all components of India's national security, military, intelligence, bureaucracy, central and state police forces to work in the closest synergy and coordination. Regrettably, civil-military relations have, of late, been deeply vitiated and the resultant dissonance could have adverse consequences for the nation's security.

What is worse; civil-military recriminations, so far, confined within the walls of South Block, seem to be proliferating. Post-Pathankot, the constabulary has jumped into the fray and, if an intemperately-worded newspaper article (Indian Express, January 13) by a serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officer is an indicator, civil-military relations may be entering a downward spiral. This outburst should compel the political leadership to undertake a re-appraisal of the prevailing civil-military equation which contains many anomalies; one of them being the role of the police forces.
Worldwide, an unmistakable distinction is maintained between the appearance and functions of the military and civilian police, the latter being charged with the maintenance of law and order, crime prevention/investigation and traffic regulation et al. India's unique security compulsions have seen the Indian Police Service (IPS) not only retaining the colonial legacy of sporting army rank badges and star plates but also garnering unusual influence in national security matters over the years.
Many of our Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) have blurred the distinction between police and military; terming themselves 'para-militaries', with constables wearing military style combat fatigues and being addressed as 'jawans'. There are only three, duly constituted, para-military forces in India: the Coast Guard, Assam Rifles and the Special Frontier Force; all headed by armed forces officers. The five CAPFs, namely BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF and SSB - cumulatively over a million strong - are headed by IPS officers.
The deployment of CAPFs in border-guarding as well as counter-insurgency roles calls for military (read infantry) skills; for which neither the police constables nor officers receive adequate training. This lack of training and motivation as well as a leadership deficit has manifested itself in: (a) these forces repeatedly suffering heavy casualties (confined only to constables) in Maoist ambushes; and (b) recurring instances of infiltration taking place across borders guarded by CAPFs.
In the case of the anti-terrorist National Security Guard (NSG), its combat capability comes from the army; yet, by government mandate, it is headed by a police officer. The fact that this elite force has seen 28 directors general in 31 years makes one wonder if round holes are being filled by square pegs.
A second anomaly in the civil-military matrix pertains to the fact that the Government of India Rules of Business have designated the civilian secretary heading the defence ministry as the functionary responsible "for the defence of India and for the armed forces". Since no military officer, including the three chiefs, finds mention in the Business Rules, the Service HQs are subaltern to a 100 percent civilian ministry. Every major decision - whether it pertains to finance, acquisition, manpower or organization - requires a ministry nod which can take decades.
A false and dangerous belief prevails on Raisina Hill that civil-military relations constitute a zero-sum game in which 'civilian control' is best retained by boosting the bureaucracy and police at the expense of the military. Post-independence, the civil-military balance has been steadily skewed by pushing the military officer well below his civilian counterparts with the same years of service. This has caused deep resentment in the military, and the resultant hierarchical distortion could lead to a civil-military logjam - the last thing the nation needs at this juncture.
It is high time the Indian politician shed his traditional indifference to national security issues and took tangible measures to ensure a stable and equitable civil-military paradigm - one which ensures a say for the military in matters impinging on the nation's safety and security. Until that happens, the Republic Day parade will remain a vainglorious display of hardware and pageantry - and the nation's security in parlous straits.