10 April 2017

** All Signals Point Once Again to War in Gaza

Daniel Shapiro

The next war in Gaza is coming.

In over five years as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, I found no issue more impervious to solutions than Gaza. We were constantly preventing, managing or responding to crises -- trying to head off terror attacks by Hamas and others, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, negotiating ceasefires and working to alleviate human suffering. 

I also learned that Gaza wars follow a kind of routine. Hamas upgrades its attack capabilities, and tensions build. Both sides prefer to avoid an escalation, but some incident, perhaps unintended, leads Hamas to increase the rate of rockets fired into Israel. Eventually, Israel deems the provocations intolerable, and launches a heavier response, such as when it conducted a targeted strike on Hamas military wing chief Ahmed Jabari at the start of Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. A full-on conflict ensues, with ceasefire negotiations competing with Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, Israeli airstrikes, and calls from the Israeli public for a ground invasion to “finish the job.”

Unhappily, there are growing signs that this cycle is about to start anew. Rockets are fired by Salafist groups (hardliners such as those affiliated with Islamic State) into Israel, actions that Hamas either permits or fails to prevent, and Israel responds with carefully placed airstrikes. Few casualties have resulted on either side so far, but the exchanges are now coming every few days. Hamas itself sends test launches of upgraded rockets out to sea. In plain sight from the Israeli side of the border, Hamas brazenly digs new tunnels. At least 15 of them, according to Israeli estimates, now extend under Israeli territory. Israeli patrols periodically encounter explosives placed along the border fence.

** We Want It, What Is It?


The nomination of James Mattis as Secretary of Defense briefly brought the often overlooked concept of civilian control of the military to public attention. Commentators debated whether Mattis’ qualifications, personality, and presumed influence on the administration justified an exception to the law prohibiting recently retired generals from serving in that post. Reassuringly, in that discussion as well as in the larger conversation about the unusual number of retired and acting general officers now serving in traditionally civilian posts, there has been no discernible challenge to the notion of civilian control of the military. Yet underneath this consensus as to the desirability of civilian control, hide differences in understanding about what it actually entails. In short, we want civilian control but do not precisely know what it is.

That haziness in understanding is partly due to semantic imprecision: civilian control denotes a singular entity but there are actually several different strands. This sets the trap for the unwary, who might mistakenly believe that because they understand one element they have grasped the entirety of the subject.

...THE ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN UNDERSTANDING OF CIVILIAN CONTROL RESIDE IN THE EARLY REPUBLIC...

The other major difficulty is that the origins of the American understanding of civilian control reside in the Early Republic. There are some today who regard everything from that time as inviolate and enduring. Originalism might be justified in some areas, but because the size, composition, capabilities, and purposes of the defense establishment are so radically different now than then, the Founders’ vision of civilian control is only a starting point. We must think for ourselves.

* How Norway is Transforming its Armed Forces

SIGURD NEUBAUER

At a time of increasing global uncertainty, the Norwegian government is in the process of upgrading its Armed Forces – across the various services – as outlined in a Ministry of Defense white paper, The Long Term Plan, or LTP, which was released in June 2016.

The LTP builds on the recognition that NATO and the transatlantic security community remain the cornerstone of Norwegian security and defense policy. As part of that effort, Norway is in the process of making significant military upgrades. By purchasing mostly U.S. state-of-the-art military technologies for its across-the-board defense upgrades, Oslo intends to use its enhanced capacities to remain relevant for NATO, as it seeks to provide cutting edge intelligence and situational awareness of the North Atlantic region.

The white paper also serves as a necessary correction that reverses decades of underfunding of the Armed Forces. It represents a historic increase in defense spending. In total, the government recommended increased funding over the course of the coming 20 years of $18.7 billion.

While the government implemented the LTP, it reached an historic agreement in October 2016 with Washington to host 330 U.S. Marines at the Værnes Air Station in central Norway. Under the agreement, the Marines arrived in January 2017 as part of the Marine Rotational Force-Europe, a program that temporarily bases U.S. troops with NATO partners in order to improve joint interoperability and boost the alliance’s ability to respond quickly to crises. Their arrival is not linked to the LTP, but the Marines will inevitably provide symbolic protection against any security gaps that may arise while Norway carries out the ambitious transformation of its Armed Forces.

Somalia Pirates: Indian Ship Grabbed


Somali pirates have hijacked an Indian cargo ship off the coast of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, officials there say. One source said the vessel was heading towards Somali shores. There were no details of the crew or destination. 

"We understand Somali pirates hijacked a commercial Indian ship and [it is heading] towards Somalia shores," Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, a former director of Puntland's anti-piracy agency, told Reuters news agency.

The privately-owned Daynile website said that attack happened some 50km (30 miles) south of the port town of Hobyo.

Area around Hobyo marked in the oval on the adjacent map.


There were 11 people on board the vessel, which was taken on 1 April, Indian media report.

Pirates have hijacked an Indian commercial ship off the coast of Somalia, the second attack in weeks after years of inactivity, industry and security sources said on Monday.

An epic journey: The day the Dalai Lama came to India


The Tibetan spiritual leader's upcoming visit to Tawang, the district through which he first entered India, is probably behind China's new desire to claim the area.

Claude Arpi recalls the Dalai Lama's arrival in Tawang in March 1959 and explains why His Holiness will once again receive a grand welcome, whether Beijing likes it or not. 

China often double-speaks.

At a press conference, a day before the opening of the National People's Congress, Fu Ying, the articulate spokesperson of the Chinese legislature, said that China and India, which have over the past decades witnessed rapid development of bilateral trade, should focus on enhancing mutual understanding and boosting cooperation rather than dwelling on disputes.

She forgot that just a few days earlier, Beijing planted a controversy in the Indian media. One newspaper wrote, 'China ready to cede land for part of Arunachal Pradesh?'

China wanted Tawang back.

'This could pave the way for a settlement of the India-China boundary dispute,' said Dai Bingguo, one of the senior-most Chinese diplomats under then president Hu Jintao.

The article does not mention that it is the same Dai, who drafted the agreement between India and China 'On the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question' in 2005.

Is Modi’s Technocracy India’s Future?

Parag Khanna

Indian elites can surely recall the 1990s and 2000s when the country’s international brand rested on the twin pillars of being ‘the world’s largest democracy’ and the ‘India Shining’ campaign. The former was animated by post-Cold War American triumphalism and the Clinton administration’s efforts to assemble a ‘Community of Democracies’ with India as a crucial anchor. The latter simply equated India’s long overdue economic liberalisation with the promise of a billion consumers. 

But back then, neither the marketplace of ideas nor the economic marketplace took the bait. India was big, but not yet important. Even membership in the so-called ‘BRICS’ club failed to garner India any specific foreign policy objectives such as a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. 

The difference today, of course, is that India has broken decisively from dynastic democracy and is moving as quickly as one could expect towards effective technocracy. Technocracy is a system of government that combines democracy and data, where public consultation (through elections, surveys, social media analysis, and other means) feeds expert decision-making by leaders who are meritocratically selected and utilitarian in mindset. Simply put: Technocracy marries good ideas with efficient execution. 

Real Steel: Jamshedpur’s unknown war history


by redscarab

From steel rails, armaments to a tank called Tatanagar, Jamshedpur played a small but crucial role in the two World Wars. ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY uncover the war history of India’s first steel city 

Jamshedpur is renowned as India’s Steel City, but few know of its significant contributions to the world. Decades ago this pretty little town with tree-lined avenues was a war zone, when fumes emanating from its chimneys mingled with smokescreens, factory hooters merged with air raid sirens and anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies. While the world celebrates the centenary of World War I and the end of World War II, Jamshedpur’s history lies forgotten.

It was a lecture by philosopher Thomas Carlyle in Manchester that inspired JN Tata to establish India’s first steel plant. Motivated by Carlyle’s words “The nation which gains control of iron soon acquires the control of gold”; Tata roped in top American geologists and engineers to give shape to his vision. In 1907, the Tata Iron and Steel Company or TISCO (now Tata Steel) was established. The first ingot rolled out on Feb 16, 1912, ushering in an era of industrial revolution and the eight-hour work schedule in India. However, it took a global event to give the town its name…

Analysis of "Insider Attacks" in Afghanistan

By Javid Ahmad

Insider attacks—attacks by insurgents posing as Afghan police or military personnel against local or international forces—have become an important threat to the American and NATO personnel in Afghanistan. “We’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign. But we are not willing to be murdered for it,” as Gen. John R. Allen, then commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, put it in 2012. Since 2007, insider attacks have resulted in the death of at least 157 NATO personnel and 557 members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The attacks have affected the public narrative of the Afghan war in the United States and partner countries and have sown a degree of distrust between NATO troops and ANDSF as they struggle to fight a common enemy. Despite the last sixteen years of engagement in Afghanistan, the United States and its NATO partners still fumble when trying to communicate with Afghans.

This report explains the scope of the insider threat and its underlying causes. It finds that “green-on-blue” attacks are often the product of cultural friction—a perceived insult, a cultural gaffe, or a small misstep that in the minds of certain Afghan forces take on much greater significance. It also demonstrates that increasingly after 2011, insider attacks became the preferred warfighting tactic of the Taliban, an organization that understood well how to apply limited resources for maximum effect. In fact, despite a reputation for cultural myopia, the Taliban’s use of insider attacks reveals that the group understood US military and political culture and domestic sensitivities far better than some imagined. Finally, the report examines the impact of insider attacks on the Afghan mission strategy and the implications for future US engagement in Afghanistan.

Russia’s Unprincipled Rebound to Afghanistan 2017

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Russia’s unprincipled rebound to Afghanistan clearly visible in 2017 in the company of Pakistan and the Taliban who jointly spearheaded the Soviet exit from Afghanistan reflects the Russian depravity of political expediency.

Russia would be sorely disappointed if it has concluded that its renewed rebound to Afghanistan by an unholy coalition with Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban groups would result in the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan.

On the contrary, noting the above developments ending with Russia’s reachout to the Afghan Taliban, Russian arms supplies to the Taliban and Russian increasing military and political contacts with Pakistan, there is a growing call within United States policy circles that the United States must resort to a US Military Surge in Afghanistan. The US Defense Secretary has publicly commented on the United States observing growing inter-action between Russia and the Afghan Taliban.

United States hackles would be further raised after last week’s visit of the Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff to North Waziristan and South Waziristan where they were much feted by Pakistan Army 12 Corps Commander. Surely, this is not an innocuous visit by a Russian senior officer and his team to some ordinary border area of Pakistan. North Waziristan is the region from where the Pakistan proxy war against Afghanistan is incessantly being launched through the Haqqani brothers and Afghan Taliban groups. Why the sudden Russian interest in Afghanistan?

How China could benefit from Pakistan's 'dream corridor'


For Pakistan, it was a dream come true.

When President Xi Jinping visited Islamabad in April 2015, he pledged an eye-popping 46 billion dollars for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). While for Beijing the mega project was a vital element of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), it was a ‘game-changer’ for Pakistan which would bring prosperity to the entire region.

It is true that Xi brought with him munificent gifts for Pakistan: the Chinese billions would boost Pakistan’s flagging economy with massive energy and infrastructure projects. This included an additional 12,000 megawatts to Pakistan’s national grid through coal, hydro and renewable energy projects.

The Corridor would have railways, roads, optical fiber cables, dams, pipelines, you name it! Observers the marveled at Beijing generosity (and wealth), but lately, the ‘beneficiaries’ have started realizing that the project may first and foremost benefit Beijing!

The architects of CPEC plan to build a 2,700-kilometre corridor stretching from Kashgar to Gwadar, which will link Central Asia (via Xinjiang) to Europe and Africa (via the maritime route).

Is it a boon for Islamabad?

China's Century of Humilation


It is important to understand the history of a rising power, especially one seeking its "proper" place in the world - a place denied it for over 100 years - when its long history indicated it was the central focus of all human endeavor - the "Middle Kingdom."

Nice presentation here on China's "Century of Humiliation" and the role that plays in China's "national narrative" which really ought to be read in toto:

 First, the “Century of Humiliation” – a period between 1839 and 1949 when China‟s government lost control over large portions of its territory at the hands of foreigners – is a key element of modern China‟s founding narrative.

 Second, the Century of Humiliation is thought by many Chinese today to provide historical lessons that are taken as indicative of how strong Western powers tend to behave toward China.

 Third, the intellectual debates about the nature of international relations that took place during the Century of Humiliation underpin similar elite debates that are taking place in China today. Concerns with the nature of interstate competition, with the possibility for equality among nation-states, and with the question of whether the international system might evolve into something more peaceable in the future, remain salient topics of discussion and debate in China today.

Why China is banning beards and veils in Xinjiang

By Katie Hunt, Chieu Luu and Steven Jiang

China is intensifying its crackdown against what it deems religious extremism in the far-west province of Xinjiang, which is home to 10 million Muslims.

The latest measures -- outlined in a sweeping new anti-extremism legislation -- take effect Saturday and come on the heels of a series of steps to increase surveillance in the region that include the surrender of passports and mandatory GPS trackers in cars.

"They're doubling down on security in Xinjiang," said James Leibold, an associate professor at Australia's Le Trobe University, whose research focuses on China's Uyghur minority.

What are the latest measures?

The new legislation, which was published on a regional news portal run by the provincial government, appears to standardize, and expand across the whole province, piecemeal rules and regulations that have been enacted in individual towns and cities.

Trouble brews for China in Xinjiang


Last week, Xinhua announced that the XUAR will train 1.2 million rural residents by 2020 as part of a new wave of infrastructure spending.

In August 2016, at the end of the annual closed-door meeting held at the beach resort of Beidaihe, an official statement announced that Zhang Chunxian would be replaced by Chen Quanguo as party secretary of the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Mr Chen was then serving as party boss in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), where he had shown his skills to “pacify” the restive Tibetans.

Six months after his appointment, it appears that Mr Chen is ready to use the “Tibetan” recipe, a good dose of repression mixed with an opening to “tourism”.

But what is happening in Xinjiang? In January, the Chinese media reported that eight people were killed in a violent attack in Pishan County of Hotan Prefecture in southern Xinjiang. According to the local government, three knife-wielding men attacked and stabbed several people. Subsequently, the police shot dead the three attackers and 10 others were injured. The Chinese media asserted: “Order has been restored and an investigation is ongoing. The identity of the attackers was not disclosed,” but they were obviously Uyghurs.

Russia’s Nuclear Diplomacy

By Sagatom Saha

For signs of Russia’s geopolitical resurgence, look no further than Hungary. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2015 visit there was a quiet affair. At the time, Putin was coming under intense international pressure for his annexation of Crimea. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the first European leader to host Putin after the invasion. In an effort to deepen energy cooperation, Moscow extended a ten billion euro ($10.7 billion) loan to Budapest to finance the Russian state firm Rosatom’s expansion of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant in central Hungary, which supplies 40 percent of Hungary’s electricity.

When Putin travelled to Hungary again this February, it was under more triumphal circumstances. Standing next to the Russian president, Orbán spoke about a world “in the process of substantial realignment.” Before he left, Putin had agreed to finance the entire Paks project.

Moscow’s offer to Budapest was not a one-off deal; it was a material display of Russia’s emerging nuclear diplomacy. The Kremlin appears to be pressing its formidable nuclear market power to influence and bind countries around the world to its irredentist and revanchist aims. Unless the United States restores its leadership in the global nuclear economy, this scene could play out repeatedly for decades.

How Russia Became the Jihadists’ No. 1 Target


By COLIN P. CLARKE 

It’s still too soon to say who is responsible for the bombing on Monday of the subway in St. Petersburg, Russia—but it wouldn’t be surprising if international terrorists were responsible. Russia is fast replacing the United States as the No. 1 enemy of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other Sunni jihadist groups motivated by violent and puritanical Salafist ideology.

This shift is rooted in recent Russian actions in the Middle East—including its escalating intervention in Syria and its moves toward intervention in Libya with the recent deployment of special forces to an air base in Egypt—that have drawn the ire of militant Sunnis worldwide and elevated Russia as the jihadists’ top target. And if the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria collapses and foreign fighters, an estimated 2,400 of whom are from Russia, attempt to return home and fix their sights on the Kremlin, the situation could dramatically worsen for Moscow.

Terrorist groups have made their changing priorities clear. In an ISIS video titled “Soon Very Soon Blood Will Spill Like an Ocean,” an ISIS fighter threatens Russian leader Vladimir Putin directly, citing the country’s intervention in Syria and its growing alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Iran and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah as proof that Moscow is the chief proponent of a growing Shiite axis throughout the Middle East. Forty other Syrian rebel groups have concurred, pointedly saying that “any occupation force to our beloved country is a legitimate target.”

Is Russia America's Enemy?

By Brandon Valeriano

The constant stream of revelations that members of President Donald Trump’s administration and his surrogates had direct contact with Russia during and after the 2016 presidential election provokes a series of questions: Does it matter? And is Russia really our enemy? The answer might surprise you.

To call Russia our enemy right now is not exactly accurate. It would be rather more fitting to call Russia our rival. This might seem like a minute distinction, and yet it is a telling one. A rival is a strategic competitor -- an equal who competes for superiority and who strives for the same goal. An enemy, on the other hand, is the hostile opposition -- an antagonist that seeks the destruction of its opponent. 

It is basically incontestable that Moscow’s interests and strategic goals directly counter Western and democratic values, and more importantly, the liberal world order. Much of what Russia does or hopes to achieve directly clashes with the international system America helped set up to manage conflict and promote cooperation.

So why then is Russia merely a rival to the United States, rather than an unequivocal enemy to the order that America traditionally upholds? As it happens, this distinction stems from a change in the value America places on its own traditional ideals.

Venezuela’s Breaking Point

By Allison Fedirka

Geopolitical Futures’ 2017 forecast for Venezuela has begun to accelerate over the past five days. Our forecast stated that the administration of President Nicolás Maduro in its current form would not survive this year. The gridlock that characterized 2016 will reach a breaking point, forcing the transformation of Venezuela’s government in 2017. Such a transformation would mark the end of populist, anti-American rule in the country since 1999. In addition to leading the regional populist movement that swept through South America in the decade after that, the country is also home to valuable oil reserves strategically positioned to influence control of maritime routes – including a portion related to the Panama Canal – entering and leaving the Caribbean Sea. A previous Reality Check on Venezuela explained in detail why the status quo is not sustainable. Recent events now offer the opportunity to discuss the different ways this transformation could occur.

Between March 28 and 29, Venezuela’s Supreme Court published rulings 155 and 156, which removed legislators’ immunity, suspended the National Assembly’s powers, usurped functions normally belonging to the National Assembly, and increased the president’s unilateral powers in certain areas. The court rulings outraged members of the local opposition, drew criticism from regional organizations, and prompted foreign governments throughout the Americas to publicly condemn the actions. On the morning of March 31, Venezuelan Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz said the Supreme Court rulings violated constitutional order. Later that night, Maduro met with the National Defense Council and the president of the Supreme Court, who then jointly called for a revision of rulings 155 and 156. On the morning of April 1, the Supreme Court said it had reversed the controversial rulings.

Tripura: Residual Friction

Giriraj Bhattacharjee

In their “eviction notice” sent on January 2, 2017, to media, the Biswamohan Debbarma faction of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT-BM), along with Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and the People’s Democratic Council of Karbi-Longri (PDCK), set March 31, 2017, as their deadline for Bengalis and Hindi speakers to quit Tripura, parts of Assam and West Bengal. The notice declared, “We strongly oppose heinous killings by Indian Army and rehabilitation programme for Bangladeshi Bengalis…. We hereby would like to notify Indian citizens (Bengali and Hindi speaking people) to quit Kamatapur (consisting parts of Assam and West Bengal), Karbi-Longri (Karbi Anglong Hill District in Assam), and Tripura.” The notice was signed by KLO ‘chairman’ Jiban Singh Koch, NLFT-BM ‘organising secretary’ Sengphul Borok and PDCK ‘chairman’ J.K. Lijang. The trio is reported to be associated with the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWESEA), a consortium of Northeast militant groups mentored by the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) and the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I).

These threats notwithstanding, Tripura (along with Mizoram) remained the most peaceful State in the entire Northeastern region of India, in terms of insurgency-related fatalities. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), there were no such fatalities in 2016, a trend largely consistent since 2013; though 2014 was an exception with four fatalities [two civilians and two Security Force (SF) personnel]. At peak, 514 such fatalities were recorded in 2000, including 453 civilians, 16 SF personnel and 45 militants. The Northeast region as a whole registered 160 fatalities, including 61 civilians, 17 SF personals and 82 militants, in 2016.

Why You Can’t Shoot Terrorists With Lasers, Yet

By Patrick Tucker

The coalition airstrike that recently killed more than 100 civilians in Mosul underscores a familiar challenge of dense, urban warfare: how can the military more precisely hit targets from the air? Lasers represent the apogee of precision and the Pentagon has several ongoing programs that will reach readiness in the coming years. The head of Air Force Special Operations Command recently said that lasers should absolutely be “part of the discussion” about how to hit terrorists — but so should the significant legal and practical obstacles that remain.

The military already uses low-power lasers to guide its weapons, from missiles to small arms. But recent advances in solid-state fiber lasers have renewed Pentagon interest in high-energy weapons that might do the damage by themselves, firing from everything from trucks to experimental helicopter drones

When commanders and military leaders talk about how they will use such lasers, they are careful to describe them as primarily defensive, useful for disabling enemy drones, missiles and even vehicles. Yet there is also considerable discussion about how, when, and why they might be used against enemy troops as well.

MDC2: Lockheed’s Very Eager To Play; C2BMC May Be Starting Point

By COLIN CLARK

WASHINGTON: Aerospace titan Lockheed Martin is watching with intense interest as the Air Force births Multi Domain Command and Control. MDC2 is an infant initiative meant to develop a new global data system to share information from all sources, analyze it and offer commanders predictive information.

Some 52 companies came to the Air Force last month to offer technologies they think can help create a system that can take data from everything from cellphones, satellites, aircraft, submarines and land systems. Lockheed Martin, unsurprisingly, was one of them. Expect multi-domain warfare to be a major topic of conversation at this week’s Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. (I’ll be covering the conference all week.)

One of their executives, Rob Smith, contacted me to chat about his company’s interests in MDC2. “We are big supporters of the multi-domain concept. We think it has significant advantages to the warfighter, We are investing heavily in it to build technologies to make the transition to a multi-domain system lower risk,” Smith told me. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t say how much the company is investing, but he offered some examples.