31 October 2016

NATO Nouvelle: Everything Old Is New Again – Analysis

By G. Alexander Crowther* 
OCTOBER 29, 2016

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is heralded as the world’s most successful military alliance. However, it finds itself under pressure from within and without. Some people in NATO countries do not understand the importance of its goal: to safeguard its members’ freedom and security by political and military means. This goal is executed through three mission sets: collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security.1 Other people outside NATO countries understand those missions well—and seek to destroy the Alliance.

Recent comments that NATO Allies are free-riders and calls for the United States to leave the Alliance are rooted in ignorance and do not take into account the reforms that NATO has sought, nor the importance of the Alliance in the 21st century. The end of the Cold War found 15 Allies in a defensive crouch in Western Europe. Since that time, NATO expanded its mission set to include crisis management, and its area of operations to include Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, and Central Asia. NATO has become the center of the global coalition of the willing. The Alliance now has 28 members and another 41 partner nations through four different partnership programs. It has also reorganized several times, changing structure to account for changing mission sets. NATO today is an alliance that operates globally but is returning to its original mission of collective defense. This article describes how the Alliance has changed since the end of the Cold War and where it is today. NATO has passed through the crisis management era and has returned to another era of collective defense.
After the Cold War

Climate Change And The Cost Of Inaction – Analysis

By Ric Colacito, Bridget Hoffmann and Toan Phan*
OCTOBER 29, 2016

Policy proposals to offset the effects of global warming would be strengthened if we knew more about the net economic benefits of climate action relative to business-as-usual. This column argues that estimates may understate the future costs of business as usual because of heterogeneous seasonal effects, and because more business sectors than previously assumed suffer a negative impact from increased summer temperatures. The cost of inaction may be equal to one-third of the growth rate of US GDP over the next 100 years.

On Earth Day, 22 April 2016, 191 countries signed the historic Paris Climate Agreement (United Nations 2015). The primary objective is to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and to pursue efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C. If implemented, this landmark agreement will have far-reaching economic effects. The success of the agreement depends on its popular support, especially in developed countries like the US, in which there is political and legal opposition. This policy debate will be strengthened if we focus on the net economic benefits of climate action relative to business as usual.

To date, much of the research on the impact of rising temperature on economic activity concerns only developed, rather than developing countries (Dell et al. 2012). Also, it has examined the small fraction of economic activities that are naturally exposed to outdoor weather conditions, such as agriculture (Nordhaus 2014). Our research provides direct evidence of a strong negative effect from rising summer temperatures on a wider range of US economic activity (Colacito et al. 2016).

We combined our estimated impact coefficient with projections of the expected temperature increases under different emissions scenarios provided by climatologists. Our analysis ignores the potential effects of new technologies to cope with rising temperatures, but it measures the cost of inaction.

US, Russian Media Waging Virtual Nuclear War – Analysis

By Benjamin Baird 
OCTOBER 28, 2016

A number of incidental moves by Russian and US authorities have sent media sources in both countries scurrying to report on doomsday scenarios. A recommendation by the Kremlin for state employees and their families living abroad to return home is being received by some as a sign of impending nuclear war.

Meanwhile, alternative news sites and bloggers across the Internet are reporting that US officials have raised the nuclear threat level as a result of perceived Russian hostility.

The Russian report, detailing the recall of public officials and students studying abroad, was published by multiple outlets across the world, including Fox News, Daily Mail, the New York Post, and many other major and fringe news organizations. However, press reporting has grossly exaggerated and sensationalized the potential for a nuclear conflict.

A Russian website based in the Urals, znak.com, originally broke the story detailing how Russians were asked to leave foreign capitals around the world. According to the report, five anonymous Russian officials recounted how they were “unofficially recommended” to ask relatives living abroad to return to Russia.

Dmitry Peskov, public affairs spokesperson for the Kremlin, denies knowledge of the claim.

This informal recommendation quickly and erroneously became a direct order from Putin for news organizations around the world.

Daily Star reported that, “Workers were reportedly told to pull their children out of school immediately.”

What would an “interim” Brexit deal look like?

October 26, 2016 

We will leave the EU without a long-term trade deal in placeby Simon Tilford / 

Theresa May and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker ©Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images

Once Theresa May triggers Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, the UK will have two years to negotiate its exit from the EU. But it will take much longer than this to broker a trade deal between Britain and the EU to replace Single Market membership. As a result, there will be several years between Britain leaving the EU and a free trade agreement, or a Swiss-type bundle of sectoral agreements, coming into effect. For example, the EU-Canada trade agreement took seven years to negotiate and could take many more years to ratify in national parliaments—if the Belgian region of Wallonia has not completely torpedoed the deal this week by refusing to ratify it. And the obstacles in the path of a Swiss-type deal are, if anything, even bigger.

This gap could be covered by an interim deal. The alternative would be for Britain to leave the EU without any deal in place, and trade with the EU under WTO rules. Notwithstanding the bravado of some UK ministers, who argue that such an outcome would not be so bad, the British government wants to avoid this outcome. After all, it would mean tariffs on UK goods exports as well as of a loss of access to the EU services markets.

What would an interim deal look like? It would closely resemble membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). Members of the EEA are basically like non-voting members of the EU: they are in the EU single market but cannot vote on EU rules, must comply with free movement of labour and pay into the EU budget.

Urban world: Meeting the demographic challenge in cities

By Jonathan Woetzel, Jaana Remes, Kevin Coles, and Mekala Krishnan 

The days of easy growth in the world’s cities are over, and how they respond to demographic shifts will influence their prosperity.

Cities have powered the world economy for centuries. Large cities generate about 75 percent of global GDP today and will generate 86 percent of worldwide GDP growth between 2015 and 2030. Population growth has been the crucial driver of cities’ GDP growth, accounting for 58 percent of it among large cities between 2000 and 2012. Rising per capita income contributed the other 42 percent.

However, the world’s cities are facing more challenging demographics, and the days of easy growth are over. In the past, city economies expanded largely because their populations were increasing due to high birthrates and mass migration from rural areas. Both of those sources of population growth are now diminishing. Global population growth is slowing because of declining fertility rates and aging. At the same time, rural-to-urban migration is running its course and plateauing in many regions. How cities adjust to the new reality is important not only for their prospects but also for those of nations that will continue to rely on thriving cities for rising prosperity.

The double hit of slowing population growth and plateauing urbanization caused population to decline in 6 percent of the world’s largest cities—with the largest share in developed economies—between 2000 and 2015. From 2015 to 2025, we expect population to decline in 17 percent of large cities in developed regions and in 8 percent of all large cities. In the developed world, the urban population in Canada and the United States grew at a compound annual rate of 2.2 percent between 1950 and 1970 but dropped to only 1.0 percent from 2010 to 2015. That rate is expected to persist until 2025 and then to decline even further, to 0.8 percent from 2025 to 2035. Although the demographic shift is more advanced in developed regions, it also affects emerging regions.

Grow fast or die slow: Why unicorns are staying private

Technology companies worth more than $1 billion—and many worth $10 billion—have fewer reasons to go public than they did in the past. Here’s what that means for them and their investors. 

Since 2013, an increasing number of technology companies have achieved “unicorn” status: valuations upward of $1 billion in private markets. As of the end of last year, 146 private tech companies were valued at that level, according to CB Insights—more than twice the number a year earlier. In addition, 14 private companies were “decacorns,” with valuations exceeding $10 billion.

Yet public tech markets haven’t matched this exuberance. In fact, many tech companies that undertook initial public offerings (IPOs) in the past three to four years have performed poorly. More than 40 percent of the unicorns that went public since 2011 are flat or below their final private-market valuations, according to a November 2015 study by Battery Ventures. (For more on the disconnect between private- and public-market valuations, see “The ‘tech bubble’ puzzle,” May 2016.) And for late-stage investments, we’re even seeing signs of a cooling in private markets as some asset managers mark down their stakes in unicorns by anywhere from 10 to 50 percent.

So what’s going on? New dynamics may be in play, given the significant uptick in the number of high-valuation private software companies, combined with down rounds—new funding that values these businesses at lower levels than previous rounds did—and post-IPO losses. Our research, drawing on 35 years of financial data covering around 3,400 software companies across the globe, led us to three conclusions: 
Software companies are indeed staying private longer. 
This new dynamic calls for different investment models for early- and late-stage investors, as well as different funding approaches for companies. 
IPOs can and should be used as a strategic lever to accelerate growth. 
Companies are staying private longer

Warning Orders: Strategic Reasons for Publicizing Military Offensives

Carrie Lee,  October 28, 2016
Does publicly announcing an impending military offensive expose assaulting troops to dangers that could be avoided if plans to invade were kept quiet? During all three presidential debates, Republican nominee Donald Trump has asserted that the Obama administration was “stupid” for publicly discussing the impeding joint U.S/Iraqi offensive against ISIL in Mosul, claiming that Hillary Clinton was “telling the enemy everything [she] want[s] to do” and asking “why not a sneak attack?” A week ago, he tweeted:

With the recent slate of successful high-profile covert operations against terrorists and the widespread use of drone strikes to eliminate non-state actors around the globe, on the surface Trump’s critique seems a reasonable question. However, the idea that the United States could conduct a sneak attack against an entrenched ISIL in a city the size of Mosul does not take into account either the logistical realities of major battlefield offensives or the strategic benefits of advertising such an operation beforehand. With the high-profile assault underway against an estimated 5,000 jihadist fighters, it is worth examining in depth the reasons why advertising a major military offensive on an urban target would be in the interest of the assaulting forces. History is instructive here: A review of the battles for Fallujah in 2004 reveals that taking the time to publicly announce and prepare for an assault of this nature can play a critical role in ensuring success on the battlefield.

Captured battlefield cellphones, computers are helping the U.S. target and kill Islamic State’s leaders

W.J. Hennigan
Los Angeles Times
October 26, 2016

U .S. military officers watched grainy video feeds at a small operations center in Baghdad on Tuesday as Predator drones tracked and killed three reputed Islamic State leaders — one after another — in the offensive on Mosul.
The targeted air strikes were due in large part to intelligence extracted from cellphones, computer hard drives, memory cards and hand-written ledgers recovered from battlefields and towns taken from Islamic State fighters.

Recently captured intelligence also has proved useful in providing clues to detecting potential terrorist plots, tracking foreign fighters and identifying Islamic State supporters around the globe, U.S. officials said.
The largest data trove was recovered when U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces recaptured Manbij, an Islamic State stronghold in northern Syria, in mid-August. Intelligence agencies recovered more than 120,000 documents, nearly 1,200 devices and more than 20 terabytes of digital information, officials said.
Islamic State militants came early in the morning, riding atop trucks that lumbered into this northern Iraqi oil town.
Masked and bristling with weapons, they were inghimasis, fighters instructed to “immerse” themselves in the enemy’s ranks, shoot till the last bullet and then detonate an explosives

DARPA develops digital copilot for military aircraft

By Allison Barrie 
October 27, 2016 
Source Link

ALIAS can fly a military helicopter and then move into another aircraft and fly that too— and ALIAS is not human.

Driverless cars may have been making headlines of late, but DARPA’s ALIAS program has also been making great strides in the development of “digital pilot” technology.

The brainchild of the legendary institution DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), ALIAS easily drops into an aircraft and becomes an invisible, automated co-pilot for a human pilot.

And ALIAS is so good that it has the potential to eventually fly all sorts of military aircraft on its own— and it could even fly commercial jets like the ones Americans take to visit family or go on vacation.

Two teams are currently joining forces with DARPA to make ALIAS a reality: Aurora Flight Sciences and Lockheed Martin Sikorsky. One company will go on to win the ultimate ALIAS contract.

What is it?

Is Turkey’s Insistence On Military Role In Mosul A Strategic Miscalculation? – Analysis

By Md. Muddassir Quamar
OCTOBER 29, 2016

Turkey’s insistence on a role for itself in the ongoing joint offensive of Iraqi armed forces and Kurdish Peshmarga supported by limited US ground forces and air strikes to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State’s control has created rifts between Ankara and Baghdad. In the run up to the operation, named Qadimun ya Naynawa (We are coming Nineveh), on 11 October, while addressing a press meet in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to “know his place” in response to Abadi’s call for Turkey to withdraw its troops from Bashiqa. Iraq is wary of a role for Turkey as it fears that the latter can undermine the Abadi government’s ability to control Mosul after liberation from the Islamic State. For its part, Turkey insists on a role to protect its interests (see below). Attempts by the US to mediate and coax Turkey into working under the US-led coalition have not yielded results.

Turkey has multiple reasons for insisting upon a role for itself. Firstly, it argues that Turkish forces are based in Bashiqa to provide training for the Kurdish Peshmarga and that its forces have been invited by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). It also argues that Baghdad had been informed of these plans and that Turkey is cooperating with the Masoud Barzai government in the fight against the Islamic State. Secondly, Turkey has interests in northern Iraq because of the domestic Kurdish question and the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Since the breakdown of Turkey-PKK peace talks in mid-2015, Turkey has intensified military action against the PKK and does not want the latter to maintain military bases in northern Iraq. The Kurdish insurgency in Turkey is a major domestic challenge and numerous peace talks have failed to resolve the issue. Moreover, Turkey has been worried about growing Kurdish autonomy in Iraq and Syria and the chances of a transnational Kurdish movement for autonomy which can provide impetus to Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

30 October 2016

Is India Losing Russia?

October 27, 2016

With the international system in a state of flux, we are witnessing significant political changes between nations. U.S.-China relations have come under great strain, as evidenced by their adversarial stand with regard to the South China Sea. Russia is ceding space to China with regard to East Asia. There seems to be a return to Cold War–like dynamics between Russia and the United States. It is being reported that Russia has placed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania. The missiles are capable of hitting targets as far away as Berlin. Their differing positions with regard to the crisis in Syria and ISIS underline the tension between the two.

To the surprise of many observers, India-Russia relations, which have stood the test of time, also appear to have been affected by this trend, with Russia apparently upping its security ties with Pakistan, India’s traditional rival. For many in India, Russia’s decision to go ahead with its Druzhba (Friendship) 2016 military exercises with Pakistan immediately after the Uri terrorist incident, and its reticence in fully backing India on terrorism emanating from Pakistan at the recently concluded eighth BRICS Summit in Goa, are seen as worrying developments. From the perspective of a stakeholder in this bilateral relationship, the questions that come to one’s mind are: How worried should one be about these developments in India-Russia relations? Also, what should be done to ensure that there is no fundamental realignment in the relations between the two nations?

If one disregards the almost seventy-year history of relations between the two nations, it would appear that theobservation of Rajan Menon, a close follower of India-Russia relations, is being proven wrong: “The two countries have established substantial trust and understanding, a convergent worldview, and a stake in preserving a relationship that few countries can claim to have.” A perusal of the bilateral relation will show that is all not particularly well. On the security front, the Russians have been stepping up joint military exercises with Pakistan since 2014. The two naval exercises, Arabian Monsoon 2014 and Arabian Monsoon 2015, were followed up by Druzhba 2016, which was a two-week long military exercise conducted in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province involving seventy Russian service personnel.

BRICS Summit In Goa Brought Terrorism To Fore, But Blunted By China – Analysis

By Bhaskar Roy* 
OCTOBER 27, 2016
At the 8th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit held (October 15 to 16) in Goa, India revealed that the world was far from reaching a consensus on international terrorism, including cross-border terrorism. But there were take away which could grow in the future within the BRICS and outside it, concerning the world’s biggest threat.

BRICS was founded on the premise of economic and financial development among the member states and to challenge the stranglehold of Brettan Woods financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank on developing and less developed countries (LDCs). At the Goa summit, the BRICS agenda moved a little forward by leaders agreeing to establish the BRICS Agricultural Research platform, Railway Research Network, Sports Council and fast tracking the BRICS Rating Agency based on market-oriented principles among other things. The IMF, especially, requires urgent reform to properly accommodate the poorest of its members.

The BRICS New Developments Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) has been operationalised. It was also decided to hold an outreach summit of BRICS and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical Cooperation) countries which comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

How far has BRICS advanced in its foundational agenda? There are questions about that. An economic/financial organisation like this would have smooth movement if there was a strategic coherence between all its five members including some economic balance. But Brazil and South Africa are in difficult economic states. China, Russia and India are the three who have economic stability but they also have to address difficult challenges. China has huge forex reserves but just sitting on all that money is no help. It is trying to invest abroad but cautiously as it, as always, ties in political gains. India has a comfortable foreign exchange cushion, but is dwarfed by China. Russia has suffered with the drop in oil and gas prices and growing or looming western sanctions making it dependent on China (even near subservient to China) as the Goa summit revealed regarding India’s push on cross-border terrorism and Pakistan based and backed terrorist groups.

Taliban Overrun Afghan Military Base in Uruzgan Province

Bill Roggio
October 27, 2016

Taliban overruns military base in Uruzgan

The Taliban took control of a military base in the embattled southern province of Uruzgan, where the group has recently laid siege to the capital of Tarin Kot.

The jihadist group claimed it took control of the “strategic military base in Khushdeer” and two others in Chora district after Afghan troops were surrounded and then subsequently “fled towards the district center.”

In a statement released on its website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban showed a picture of the base with the Taliban’s flag flying over it.

On Twitter, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid then released a video of an interview of fighters from the base (video is below). Like the recent ambush in Helmand’s capital, the Taliban fighters clearly are not concerned about either an Afghan Army counterattack or airstrikes. The interview takes place in broad daylight, hours after the base was overrun (the Taliban claimed the Afghan troops fled during the nighttime).

Uruzgan has been hotly contested for more than a year. Of the province’s six districts, one, Char Chino, is under Taliban control, and the remaining five are heavily contested. The Taliban seized Char Chino in June 2016 after Afghan forces conducted a tactical retreat.

The Taliban considers Uruzgan to be a strategic province, and has previously said that it controls all areas of the province except for the district centers.

Messed-Up Trial Of The Century: Lawdragon’s Exhaustive Report On 9/11 Pre-Trial Hearings At Guantánamo – OpEd

OCTOBER 27, 2016

The military commissions at Guantánamo, as I have been reporting for ten years, are a shamefully deficient excuse for justice, a system dreamt up in the heat of America’s post-9/11 sorrow, when hysteria and vengeance trumped common sense and a respect for the law, and it was decided, by senior Bush administration officials and their lawyers, that prisoners seized in the “war on terror” and subjected to torture should be tried in a system that allowed the use of information derived through the use of torture, and swiftly found guilty and executed.

Military prosecutors, however, soon turned against the system and pointedly resigned, and in 2006 the Supreme Court ruled the whole system illegal. Nevertheless, the Bush administration, with the enthusiastic support of Congress, revived the commissions in the fall of 2006, followed by further resignations (see here and here), and a third version of the commissions ill-advisedly emerged under President Obama in his first year in office (seehere and here). The commissions have been tweaked to be less unjust, but they are still a Frankenstein’s Monster facsimile of a working trial system, full of so many holes that it is difficult for them to function at all, and at their heart is the specter of torture, which the government endlessly tries to hide, while the prisoners’ defence teams, of course, try constantly to expose it, as no fair trial can take place without it being discussed.

In recent years, my coverage of the commissions has been less thorough than it was between 2007 and the summer of 2014, largely because it seemed to me that the commissions were so broken and were going round and round in circles so pointlessly that it was no longer even worth trying to follow what was — or, more often, what wasn’t — happening. In one way, this was a fair reflection of the futility of the commissions’ efforts to secure anything resembling justice, but the more fundamental reality was that, however broken the proceedings may have been, pre-trial hearings were still taking place, however little they were being reported, which, one day, would constitute a damning indictment of America’s post-9/11 flight from justice and the law, and its embrace of torture and indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial. As a result, the commissions really ought not to be allowed to drop off the radar.

Last month, Lawdragon Magazine, in the US, published a major report on the military commissions, based on a year of its reporter, John Ryan, attending pre-trial hearings for the five menaccused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa al-Hawsawi and Ammar al-Baluchi, who were all held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for several years before their arrival at Guantánamo in September 2006.

What Does China Actually Want in the South China Sea?

October 27, 2016

The complex disputes over islands, rocks and reefs in the South China Sea involve six countries: China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. They have a long history, with their origins in the interruption of traditional practices by European and Japanese colonialism, and compounded by the post-WWII conflicts in Southeast Asia. These disputes are among the most vexing issues in the region.

Despite this backstory the tensions associated with contestation have waxed and waned. The current spike in geopolitical temperature dates back to 2009, and in particular to China’s issuing of the decidedly ambiguous “dashed line” map. This map can now be found in passports, on inflight magazines and in every school book in the country. Since then, China has begun to take steps to defend what it portrays as its rights in the sea. Disputed features have been built upon and now boast 3 km runways and deep water ports. Sansha island in the Paracels, population 1200, has city status. And while Beijing is not the only country occupying or building on disputed features, its activities are the most widespread and destabilizing.

Yet in spite of its many activities, it is not clear precisely what it is that China wants. We can see plainly its methods of advancing its interests on a daily basis, but just what its larger strategic objective may be is uncertain. This is perhaps most obvious in the case of the dashed line map - it was presented accompanying a note in which China asserted its “indisputable” sovereignty over the islands and the adjacent waters of the Sea. But it lacked specificity about what the dashes meant, where, precisely on the map the lines are located or indeed what meaning they held.

Chinese Could Become Second Largest Nationality In Russia – OpEd

OCTOBER 28, 2016

If current trends continue, with ever fewer immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus coming to Russia and with birthrates among Russia’s larger non-Russian nationalities remaining low, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya says, the Chinese will be the second largest nationality in Russia by mid-century.

The senior scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Economic Predictions said that Russia has no choice but to rely on immigrant workers and that it has no other source except for China on which it is likely to be able to rely in the next several decades (newizv.ru/society/2016-10-26/248390-cherez-35-let-kitajcy-mogut-stat-vtorym-po-chislennosti-narodom-v-rossii.html andtass.ru/obschestvo/3735857).

Zayanchkovskaya added that Russia will not be able to do without massive immigration even if it raises the pension age. Doing that, she said, “will not level out the demographic waves or the problems of having a sufficient number of working age people. It will solve the problems of the pension fund, but the demographic situation will remain just as complex.”

There are three reasons why her remarks are likely to be especially disturbing to many Russians:

First, Russians have long been accustomed to believe that the second largest nationality in the Russian Federation are the Tatars, a group which Russians generally view as integrated or at least Russian speaking, qualities not found among immigrants from Central Asia, the Caucasus or China.

Second, Zayanchkovsky’s words also suggest that one or more of the Central Asian or Caucasian country migration flows into Russia is larger than the six million Tatars, a conclusion that if true means immigration into the Russian Federation is far larger than any Moscow official has ever acknowledged.

Captured battlefield cellphones, computers are helping the U.S. target and kill Islamic State’s leaders

W.J. Hennigan
October 27, 2016

Captured battlefield cellphones, computers are helping the U.S. target and kill Islamic State’s leaders

U .S. military officers watched grainy video feeds at a small operations center in Baghdad on Tuesday as Predator drones tracked and killed three reputed Islamic State leaders — one after another — in the offensive on Mosul.

The targeted air strikes were due in large part to intelligence extracted from cellphones, computer hard drives, memory cards and hand-written ledgers recovered from battlefields and towns taken from Islamic State fighters. 

Recently captured intelligence also has proved useful in providing clues to detecting potential terrorist plots, tracking foreign fighters and identifying Islamic State supporters around the globe, U.S. officials said.

The largest data trove was recovered when U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces recaptured Manbij, an Islamic State stronghold in northern Syria, in mid-August. Intelligence agencies recovered more than 120,000 documents, nearly 1,200 devices and more than 20 terabytes of digital information, officials said.

Islamic State militants came early in the morning, riding atop trucks that lumbered into this northern Iraqi oil town.

Masked and bristling with weapons, they were inghimasis, fighters instructed to “immerse” themselves in the enemy’s ranks, shoot till the last bullet and then detonate an explosives…

Islamic State militants came early in the morning, riding atop trucks that lumbered into this northern Iraqi oil town.

Report from Mosul: How the Epic Battle for the ISIS Stronghold Will End

October 27, 2016

Akram Suleiman introduced himself as the head of the Kurdistan journalists’ syndicate in Mosul. But he’s not in Mosul today. Along with hundreds of thousands of others from what was once Iraq’s second largest city, he lives in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. They fled the advance of Islamic State in the summer of 2014. Even before 2014 he says it was dangerous to go back and forth to Mosul if you were Kurdish or a member of a minority group. People used to pretend to be Sunni Arabs so as not be targeted by extremists after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Along with a news crew from Kurdistan TV, Suleiman was preparing to go with Kurdish peshmerga into the thick of the fighting on October 20. On day four of the massive offensive to liberate Mosul from Islamic State, the Kurds were hoping to liberate several villages east of the city. Airstrikes and artillery were pounding ISIS positions; gunfire was sporadic in the distance. In pickup trucks, SUVs, Humvees, bulldozers and an assortment of other equipment, Kurdish fighters poured into the battle via a frontline called Nawaran. Today those Kurdish peshmerga have advanced several kilometers toward the city and liberated the villages that were their objective. But it’s a difficult and time-consuming task to reduce ISIS. The extremists have dug tunnels beneath these villages on Nineveh plains. They have planted improvised-explosive devices everywhere. And they are proficient with mortars and snipers. Col. John Dorrian of the U.S.-led coalition says that as the offensive enters the dense urban area the coalition will have to adjust its air campaign to suit the difficult circumstances.

ISIS is no longer the force it was in June of 2014 when it rolled into Iraq’s Sunni cities. It’s been reduced to less than 10,000 fighters, many of whom, when they are captured or killed, look emaciated, blackened from soot, their long hair and beards caked in dust. This is the death knell of the extremist “caliphate” that they proclaimed, but how ISIS dies in Iraq will determine much.

How To Begin Well-Established Relation Between EU And Iran – OpEd

By Behzad Khoshandam*
OCTOBER 26, 2016

Following the implementation of Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and Brexit, the European Union (EU) and Iran have taken certain steps toward realization of strategic and structured relations. On Thursday, October 6, 2016, the European Parliament voted for a roadmap on EU’s relations with Iran through a report submitted by Richard Howitt, which has come to be known as EU’s strategy or roadmap toward Iran following the JCPOA.

Iranian officials have considered the contents of this document with their own hopes and fears. It seems that realization of any possible strategic and structured relations between Iran and the EU depends on many variables and most of all on the two sides’ commitment to showing committed political will without any precondition. In addition to committed political will, it seems that there are five variables, which are required for the realization of strategic and structured relations between these two actors. Those variables include international structure, balance and norms; meeting the two sides’ needs and demands on a global scale; establishment of international security and order; attention to the role played by these two actors in forming coalitions and alliances in the world; and also commitment to an identity-based and issue-based agenda.

When it comes to meeting the two sides’ needs and demands in the world, the EU needs Iran in many areas in order to form a multilateral order while Iran, on the other hand, needs the EU’s economic, technological and strategic potentialities in order to expand relations with the world countries beyond its own region.

Report From ‘The Jungle’ Refugee Camp In Calais, France – OpEd

OCTOBER 26, 2016

“I was in jail with a Libyan man, his friends came and broke into the jail and let us go, too. There was fighting everywhere. You pray to be in jail with Libyans, because they do not recognize the current government, they will do what they want.” (spoken by a refugee in “the Jungle”)

Forty-two percent of the people who came to the Jungle are from warring parts of Sudan and South Sudan; thirty-two percent are from Afghanistan. Others are from Syria, Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, and more; they have crossed between 6 and 13 countries to arrive in Calais, with their final goal to reach the U.K. In Calais, it seems they are facing the hardest border to cross.

There are many who have died or been seriously injured in their attempts to cross the border to the U.K. One couple was trying to cross by train. Her boyfriend made it on; she leapt, wrapped her arms around him, but did not get her bottom half onto the train. She was cut in half. He was deeply traumatized by her tragic death. In another case, a brother and sister tried to cross to the U.K. by truck. They were both hit on the road; he died and she is in the hospital. Most people from the Jungle Camp who are in the hospital were wounded in accidents while trying to get into the U.K. Broken bones and deep cuts on arms, legs, and fingers are the most commonly suffered injuries. Volunteer teams have been visiting refugees; we have had as many as sixteen to visit each time, and during a normal week we visit twice a week. We take food and toiletries and, for those we have come to know, we try and bring a small gift. Last week we spent time in the Jungle relaying information to each community. First, the Calais government won the right to shut down any place of business in the Jungle: restaurants, barber shops, vegetable stalls, and cigarette shops. Second, anyone continuing to work in the businesses can and will be arrested. With the help of others from over twenty organizations, including L’Auberge des Immigrants, Secour Catholique, Refugee Youth Center and The Migrants’ Law Project, we shared pamphlets containing information about the legal rights each person has in case they do get arrested and or harassed. The legal rights information was translated and printed into Arabic, English, Amharic, Farsi and Pashtu.