3 March 2014

Time ripe for action against militants in Pakistan

Nasim Zehra

Militant violence has increasingly alienated their supporters and even the fence-sitters. When militants kill polio workers and declare polio drops un-Islamic, sympathy for them starts waning.

"YOU hit us once and we will hit you twice. That’s what people like in my area. They say Nawaz Sharif is doing the right thing now," explains Adil, the man who lives in Bhara Khau on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Adil had been in awe of Lal Masjid’s prayer leader Abdul Aziz Sahib, who is now in the Taliban team nominated for negotiations with the government. Adil had rejoiced the return of Lal Masjid to Aziz and helped them repaint the mosque. He would also bring the weekly Taliban supported newspaper from Rawalpindi. Adil vocally supported its editorial thrust on how Pakistani society must be "cleansed of all evil". Often he would recall its stories about Taliban providing prompt justice to the corrupt and the immoral in society. When all else did not work the way Adil — from the less advantaged segment of Pakistani society — wanted, the Taliban panacea was attractive.

Supporters are turning away from militants.

And so a narrative was born. The killing machines of the militants found greater resonance in the hearts of the poor than the state machinery’s constitutionally approved killing machines. It began some decades ago with the Afghan jihad in the ’80s bankrolled by global powers.

But in recent weeks much appears to have changed. Millions of Pakistan’s Adils are now watching with shock the videos of beheaded soldiers, paramilitary and the police. Deadly bomb blasts are routine and so are the militants’ messages taking responsibility. Their justification for turning Pakistan into an expanding killing field ranges from wanting to impose "real Sharia", extricating Pakistan from a US war, to asking for an end to drones.

*** Sindhuratna and beyond

Published: March 2, 2014
 Raja Menon

Submarining has always been a dangerous profession, meant only for volunteers drawn from serving navy personnel. It is also a relatively young man’s profession, with commanding officers of conventional submarines going “over the top” in their late thirties, into staff jobs. The selection is strict and the training rigorous. New entrants are carefully screened in psychological tests to survive in close proximity, under difficult conditions, with other human beings, for long periods of time. Not surprisingly, the camaraderie is close and submariners make friends for life.

The Indian submarine service commissioned its first submarine in 1967 and the pioneers realised the imperative of laying down the strictest standards of safety right at the beginning. The explosion on Sindhurakshak occurred in 2013, after years of accident-free service. The Sindhuratna fire, close on the heels of the earlier explosion, poses a huge leadership challenge to senior naval officers in assuring serving submarine personnel that their weapon platforms are reliable weapons to fight with. The “Kilo,” as these submarines are referred to in the West, and “Project 877” in Russia, are formidable weapon platforms, but have a reputation for being difficult to operate. They were the first submarines to be acquired, covered fully by anechoic rubber tiles and had a reputation for running silently in combat.Cry of despair

The Indian Navy never fielded a “Kilo” in joint naval exercises with other navies for precisely that reason and their reputation remains an undisclosed secret. Their role in war in South Asia is all the more formidable being armed with supersonic land attack missiles that can be used punitively or to influence the course of events on land.

If submarining is a demanding profession, it is partly because a submarine emergency is truly a terrible event, particularly when it occurs in a submerged submarine. The Sindhuratna faced such an event a hundred miles west of Mumbai, and put into practice the hours of drilling that submarine crews undergo, while dealing with emergencies. The “Kilo” has a high resistance to flooding and fire as it is divided into watertight compartments. A damage control drill requires a damaged compartment to be “isolated” and the unspoken anxiety is, of course, the fate of the crew who are isolated. In Sindhuratna’s case, all the events are yet to be clarified, but it seems that two officers, both with brilliant service records, pushed the sailors out of the stricken compartment, and shut the compartment on themselves to fight the fire. Both succumbed to the fumes in an act of cold-blooded gallantry. The Sindhuratnasurvived the fire and will be back in service in a few months, but the Navy’s front line strength of submarines will be depleted.

How Indira Gandhi initially misunderstood the crisis in East Pakistan.

There was no bond between the two wings of Pakistan except religion. And more important, all concerned realised that the newly born country was a geographical monstrosity. c r sasikumarThere was no bond between the two wings of Pakistan except religion. And more important, all concerned realised that the newly born country was a geographical monstrosity. c r sasikumar
 Inder Malhotra

How Indira Gandhi initially misunderstood the crisis in East Pakistan.

It was on March 17, 1971 that Indira Gandhi became prime minister for the third consecutive time, which was also the first to occur without even a whiff of dissent. Exactly eight days later, a humongous crisis that had been developing over long years erupted with elemental force in what was then East Pakistan and just nine months later became the republic of Bangladesh.

On March 25, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, generally called Sheikh Mujib, the tallest leader of the Awami League as well as of East Pakistan, made a unilateral declaration of Bangladesh’s independence. This was the culmination of the struggle of the Bengali-speaking East Pakistani people, who constituted a majority of Pakistan’s overall population but were treated by the overwhelmingly Punjabi-dominated military leadership as “second-class” citizens.

The irony of ironies was that the final parting of ways came when the incredibly crude military ruler, General Yahya Khan, who had succeeded the first military dictator Field Marshal Ayub Khan (1958-69), denied Sheikh Mujib the office of prime minister that was duly his. For, Mujib had won a staggering victory in Pakistan’s first elections in December 1970. He had secured a clear majority in the National Assembly, even though his party hadn’t contested a single parliamentary seat in West Pakistan. In the provincial assembly of East Pakistan, he had won 160 seats out of 162.

Yahya’s civilian collaborator in this vicious venture was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, President Ayub’s foreign minister and protégé, who had later taken a leading part in the movement to overthrow his mentor. His own appetite for power was insatiable. He and Yahya believed that they could intimidate Mujib into agreeing to rule only his native land and leave West Pakistan, as well as the federal government, alone. Bhutto summed up the message in four words: “Idhar hum, udhar tum (We will rule here, and you there)”. The notorious Nixon-Kissinger “tilt” towards Yahya and Pakistan had greatly encouraged the dubious duo.

The Mudgal Report: Beating the IPL Haze

27 Feb 2014

File: The HinduThe Indian Premier League, which has drawn capacity crowds, is under the scanner for allegations of betting and match fixing, with the use of insider information The Justice Mudgal Committee appointed by the Supreme Court has made meaningful recommendations that can go some distance in restoring popular trust in cricket.

File: The HinduState-of-the-art equipment and cash seized from an IPL betting gang in Hyderabad in 2013.

These are times when the controversies surrounding cricket are more in the headlines than the score. Last year’s Indian Premier League was dogged by a betting and match fixing scandal, prompting the Supreme Court to set up a probe committee. The Justice Mudgal Committee recently submitted its report to the Supreme Court, but one of its members differed with the majority view. The Hindu Centre’s Abhishek Mukherjee analyses the two reports that bring out the dark secrets of the gentleman’s game.

The Indian Premier League (IPL), which raised hopes of ushering in a new and exciting format of cricket, continues to be mired in mistrust. Suspicion and confusion, which hasn’t stopped surrounding the IPL, is now spread even more by those who should be reducing it.

Unanimity has eluded members of the Justice Mudgal IPL Probe Committee, constituted by the Supreme Court to investigate allegations of betting and spot fixing in last year’s edition of the tournament.

Justice Mukul Mudgal, retired Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court — who chaired the Committee — and L. Nageswar Rao, Additional Solicitor General of India, found that there was adequate evidence to substantiate charges of betting and the use of insider information, but not so in the case of spot fixing. [Click here for the report by Justice Mudgal.]

Asia’s New Security Trifecta

FEBRUARY 27, 2014
By Jaswant Singh

Source Link

NEW DELHI – Winter is India’s diplomatic high season, with the cool, sunny weather forming an ideal backdrop for pageantry, photo ops at the Taj Mahal or Delhi’s Red Fort, and bilateral deal-making. But this winter has been particularly impressive, with leaders from Japan and South Korea visiting to advance the cause of security cooperation in Asia.

The first to arrive was South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Despite a strong economic foundation, the bilateral relationship has long lacked a meaningful security dimension. But China’s recent assertiveness – including its unilateral declaration last November of a new Air Defense Identification Zone, which overlaps about 3,000 square kilometers of South Korea’s own ADIZ, in the Sea of Japan – has encouraged Park to shore up her country’s security ties with India.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s unpredictable and often provocative policies represent an additional impetus for improved ties – as do China’s increasingly visible plans to weaken South Korea’s alliance with the United States. Not surprisingly, the discussions during Park’s four-day visit focused on grand strategy, and included detailed talks on maritime security and naval shipbuilding.

Nuclear energy also featured prominently on the agenda, owing to both countries’ dependence on energy imported through dangerous sea-lanes. In 2008, South Korea, as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, supported the waiver granting India access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries – both of which it had been denied since becoming a nuclear-weapons power in 1974. Indeed, India’s nuclear tests are what initially spurred the NSG’s formation. South Korea’s support of India’s civilian nuclear ambitions earned it high praise in India and helped to advance bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation.

Plugging heroin smuggling in Punjab

FEBRUARY 27, 2014

Since 2005, there has been a shift in the ISI strategy. It wants to push more and more heroin into India through Punjab to generate funds for its covert operations. With its corrosive effect on the youth, heroin is the new weapon to wound India.
Rohit Choudhary

Heroin from the opium fields of Afghanistan accounts for 83 per cent of the global production (left) and Drugs are regularly intercepted at the Indo-Pak border in Amritsar

IN 2012, of the total 1,110 kg heroin seized in South Asia, 1,029 kg was seized in India. Out of this haul, 278 kg was seized in Punjab alone. Over the last few years smuggling of heroin in the state has shown an alarmingly phenomenal increase. Last year, the recovery in Punjab touched 416 kg, up from less than 50 kg till 2005. Though the Indo-Pak border manned by the BSF is more than 2,300 km, out of which only 550 km falls in Punjab — the remaining being in J&K, Rajasthan and Gujarat — the recoveries in Punjab are far beyond their share of the border. Last year, only about 20 kg heroin was recovered in Rajasthan and about 40 kg in Gujarat and J&K as against 400 kg in Punjab.

The phenomenon needs a deeper analysis and countermeasures to check the resulting threat to Indian security and damage to society.

Disturbed past

Punjab has lived through an era of terrorism aided and coordinated by Pakistan. Smugglers and couriers from across the border actively participated under the aegis of the ISI in supplying weapons to terrorists. It was with the objective of preventing unchecked movement of terrorists and weapons across the border, which was proving to be major impediment in controlling terrorism in Punjab, that border fencing was erected by India. It was a highly successful measure, but given the topography, the smuggling of weapons could not be prevented entirely. The weapons recovered in Punjab from 1990 to 1994 are a testimony to that. During this period, about 2,000 AK 47/56/74 rifles, 1,200 other rifles, 4,250 small arms, 1,150 hand grenades, 870 bombs, 5,400 kg explosive material and 3 lakh cartridges were recovered in Punjab. The supply of arms and explosives dwindled with the arrival of heroin on the scene.

Pakistan strains Iran's patience

By Shireen T Hunter

On February 6, five border guards in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan were abducted by the terrorist group Jaish al-Adl (the Army of Justice). This seemingly new group is most likely a renamed and repackaged version of the Jund ul-Allah (The Army of God) terror group, operating from Pakistani territory. Before tensions over the abduction of the border guards subsided, the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest
province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was attacked by a suicide bomber.

Terrorist activities against Iran, conducted by groups operating from Pakistan and to some extent Afghanistan, are nothing new. In 2009, for example, Jund ul-Allah and its leader, Abdul Malek Rigi, were involved in terrorist attacks in Iran's Sistan and Baluchistan province and in killing and abducting Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Even as early as in the 1990s, several terrorist attacks were launched against Iran's diplomatic representatives and offices in Pakistan. Throughout this period and despite Iran's protests, Pakistan has done little to stop these attacks.

The latest incidents have once again raised tensions in Iran's relations with Pakistan over the latter's lax approach towards terrorist acts against Iran, conducted from or on Pakistani territory. Tensions over the abduction of border guards have reached such a point that some Iranian politicians have called on the government to go inside Pakistan to rescue its guards if the Pakistani government refuses to do so. In response, the Pakistani government warned Iran that it will not tolerate any Iranian incursion into its territory. However, in order to placate the Iranian government, the Pakistanis agreed to form a joint committee with Iran to pursue the fate of the Iranian guards. It was also reported that the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif will soon visit Iran.

As has been its stance in the face of earlier Pakistani provocations, this time, too, Iran will not risk a military confrontation with Pakistan or other serious retaliatory action. However, if these latest tensions are not satisfactorily resolved, the downward trend in Iranian-Pakistan relations is bound to continue.

Even before the abduction of the border guards, Iran had been upset by the decision of Nawaz Sharif's government to withdraw from its agreement regarding the export of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan, which was signed under the administration of Asef Ali Zardari. The pretext was that Pakistan did not have the resources to build its part of the pipeline (the Iranian side of the pipeline is already finished or very near to completion). Tehran also was not thrilled by the news of even-closer military cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which clearly was aimed at Iran and could even have a nuclear dimension.

From Delhi to Kabul, Via Moscow

From Delhi to Kabul, Via Moscow
Image Credit: isafmedia via Flickr

India may enlist Russia to provide Afghan government forces with needed weapons.
By Kabir Taneja
March 01, 2014

Debate over the security of Afghanistan after NATO forces pull out later this year is gathering momentum in New Delhi. During one of his trips to India last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai provided the government with a military wish list, posing a challenge for the Indian leadership as to how to address the request.

One of the many strategies that New Delhi seems to be working on to make sure Afghanistan does not fall back into the hands of Islamists is to provide its government with military aid via Moscow. Even though the Afghan police and other security institutions have received training from their Indian counterparts, New Delhi has been apprehensive about directly providing Kabul with lethal military equipment because it fears they may end up in the wrong hands, which could damage its local reputation as predominantly a provider of developmental aid.

However, India is thinking of fulfilling at least some of Kabul’s wishes in order to maintain its strategic upper hand in Afghanistan, by providing military aid routed through Russia. Under the plan being considered, Moscow will provide Kabul with equipment such as helicopters, mobile bridges, trucks and possibly ammunition and certain artillery, while India foots the bill. This would not be the first suggestion that Moscow send its own military hardware to Afghanistan on behalf of a third party. Last year the U.S. was set to pay $1 billion for new Russian Mi-17 helicopters to be delivered to Afghanistan. However, the deal fell through after pressure on Washington mounted following allegations that the Russian firm manufacturing the aircraft, Rosoboronexport, was also providing weapons to Syria. The collapse of this deal was seen as a major setback for Afghan government forces.

Using Russia to provide much needed military assistance to Kabul seems to be one of the best options available to the Indian government at present. It means that no “Made in India” weapons will surface on the ground in Afghanistan. Russia is India’s largest weapons provider, making the transaction easier to orchestrate.

The Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) also have mostly Russian weaponry in their inventories. Many of their soldiers have had previous military experience with Russian weapons; hence, providing military aid via Russia makes operational sense due to familiarity of equipment. However, the ANA and ANSF face their own set of challenges with desertions, radical elements and fratricide (although attacks have been falling), among other problems.

Even as India may be preparing to enlist Russia in getting weapons to Kabul, the Ministry of External Affairs maintains that it is going to wait and see what kind of deal Afghanistan and the U.S. achieve over the latter’s troop presence beyond 2014 in the form of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), if any. The fact that U.S. President Barack Obama has now told the Pentagon to prepare for a complete withdrawal, leaving no troops in Afghanistan, certainly raises the stakes for countries such as India.

A good example of why India is worried about the security future of Afghanistan was highlighted in a recent charge sheet drawn up by the India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA). The document reportedly highlights the fact that senior members of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) terror group have joined Al Qaeda, and are fighting on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and in other areas of Afghanistan. Excerpts from the charge sheet published by an Indian daily also suggests that, according to intelligence available, some IM members have decided to go to Afghanistan every month on a rotation basis.

The NIA charge sheet offers a glimpse into New Delhi’s thinking—and its fears—when it comes to Afghanistan’s possible decent back into chaos, in which it is run by Islamists and terror groups with the possibility of Pakistan’s growing clout over such elements as in the past. On the strength of its intel, India has made known its serious apprehensions concerning a complete military pull-out to Washington.

New Delhi has also discussed the issue of Afghanistan’s future with its counterparts in the larger West Asian region. Diplomatic traffic between India and the Gulf region has been heavy, with high-level exchanges of diplomats and India actively participating in forums such as the Geneva II negotiations on Syria.

Two important visits to India this month where the issue of Afghanistan is expected to be a focal point are those of Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Tehran has shown equal concern about the security situation in Afghanistan, while New Delhi and Riyadh now actively exchange intelligence.

The need to maintain stability in Afghanistan calls for a pragmatic and workable BSA between Kabul and Washington. This agreement could give Afghanistan the military assistance it needs via NATO itself, as it builds up its defences to challenge the threats it will inevitably face.

In the meantime, both Delhi and Moscow can join hands and constructively, under strict terms and conditions, provide the ANA and ANSF with the much needed weaponry. Without this support, and even with a minimal NATO presence, concerns will mount about the security of both Afghanistan and South Asia.

Kabir Taneja is a journalist covering Indian foreign affairs and energy sector for The Sunday Guardian, The New York Times (India Ink), Tehelka, The Indian Republic and others. He is also a Scholar at The Takshashila Institution.

Burden of development

Anu Muhammad

ON February 17, 2014, Bangladesh signed two production sharing contracts (PSC) with Indian public sector oil and gas company ONGC Videsh to explore oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation, known as Petrobangla, awarded shallow water blocks SS-04 and SS-09 in the Bay of Bengal to this company. Under the revised PSC-2012, ONGC Videsh will spend $103.2 million during the initial exploration of the two blocks in 8 years. These two blocks cover nearly 14,000 square kilometers in the Bangladesh Sea.

Earlier, on June 16, 2011, Petrobangla signed production sharing contract with the US company ConocoPhillips for two deepwater gas blocks -- DS-10 and DS-11 -- in the Bay of Bengal under PSC-2008. This contract gave ConocoPhillips the right to explore for oil and gas in these two blocks with investment of $111 million in 5 years. The two blocks cover an area of 5,158 square kilometers and have a water depth of 1,000-1,500 meters.

ConocoPhillips had later expressed its willingness to expand its gas exploration activities in Bangladesh and 'requested' the government to give it preference in the following round of international bidding for offshore gas blocks. “ConocoPhillips officials have conveyed their claim of preference in the next round of gas block bidding ... they want to expand their operation in the country,” the finance minister told journalists after a meeting with the major US oil officials (Financial Express, July 24, 2012).

That wish was fulfilled. They along with ONGC, Santos, got the preference in the bidding under PSC 2012, after ONGC the rest are waiting for signing other contracts soon. It seems that the government is in a hurry to sign the PSCs with foreign companies for offshore blocks.
Many of us -- academics, experts, activists -- had expressed our concern about the earlier PSC deal of June 16, 2011with ConocoPhillips. Our main points of concern were as follows:

China's maritime 'silk road' proposals are not as peaceful as they seem


PUBLISHED:  24 February 2014 |
China's proposition of a maritime silk route connecting the Pacific and Indian oceans is part of its propaganda drive to convince the world about its peaceful rise.

Its actions do not match its protestations, but that does not deter China from proclaiming that its rise will be free from clashes, unlike in the past when rising powers challenged existing hegemonies.

Symbolic: The silk road symbolised China's connectivity with the outside world. Connectivity is the focus of China's current economic and trade strategy. China uses the silk route memory to serve its interests, ambitions and image in several ways.

The historical silk route recalls China's role in world trade and the prize attached to its products by the rest of the world, in past generations. The silk road represented China's economic superiority then, one that it seeks to regain in today's context when it has become the world's second-largest economy and its biggest exporter.


The silk road symbolised China's connectivity with the outside world. Connectivity, indeed, is the focus of China's current economic and trade strategy. It is building east-west relationships, with oil and gas pipelines linking it to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. It is building north-south connections to South East Asia, Myanmar and Pakistan.

Through the latter two it is building connectivity to the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, partially resolving its Malacca dilemma. Yunnan and Sinkiang will draw the adjoining regions to which they are being connected into the Chinese economic orbit given their less developed state, China's economic dynamism, its tremendous export capacities and hunger for natural resources.

Rising from the Syrian ashes

Published: March 1, 2014 00:55 IST |

Vijay Prashad

APEXHAUSTED BY WAR: For months, the people of Yarmouk survived on animal feed and burnt furniture. Here, they throng the streets to receive supplies from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Damascus, Syria.

APFilippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of UNRWA. File photo

Local truces might send a message that Syrians no longer wish to destroy their lives for the agenda of others, finds Filippo Grandi, Commissioner General of UNRWA

In late February, Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of UNRWA, the United Nations agency tasked with the welfare of the Palestinians, visited Yarmouk, a neighbourhood in Damascus, Syria. When he entered Yarmouk, the people came to greet him and to collect much-needed supplies. They emerged, he said, “like ghosts from the depths of Yarmouk, as if from a medieval siege.” For months, the residents of this neighbourhood had eaten animal feed and burnt furniture to survive. The “stark greyness of the people” reminded Mr. Grandi, who has worked at UNRWA for a decade, of “black and white archival pictures of the 1948 expulsion of the Palestinians from their land.”

Will Israel Be the Next Energy Superpower?


03.01.14 - Arthur Herman

They will feast on the abundance of the seas, and on the treasures of the sands.

—Deuteronomy 33:19

Tamar sits 56 miles off the coast of Israel, an offshore gas platform rising up from the Mediterranean like a white steel beacon whose roots reach down 1,000 feet to the seabed. Named for the natural-gas field beneath the sea floor, Tamar is the symbol of a bright future for Israel if Israel is ready for it: as the newest energy producer and exporter in the Middle East, and potentially the most important.

A classic quip since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 has been that Moses brought his people out of Egypt to the one spot in the Middle East that didn’t have oil. “We proved that joke to be wrong,” says Gideon Tadmor, chairman of the Delek Group, one of a consortium of companies that built the Tamar platform. Delek and its partners began extracting gas from Tamar in March 2013 and has been doing so with the natural gas from three other fields as well. Ten years ago, Israel was a country 80 percent powered by coal, with the remaining 20 percent from oil—all of which had to be imported. Now, natural gas supplies half those energy needs. The known fields could contain more than 900 billion cubic meters of natural gas. In global terms, that’s not much—roughly the amount the United States consumes in a year. But for a country of only 8 million people, it’s an energy bonanza. And, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Levant basin in which Israel’s fields sit may contain a total of 3.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—about half the reserves in the United States with a fraction of the demand.

Nor is that all. Even before the first discoveries of natural gas in 1999, geologists had determined there were huge oil-shale fields stretching along Israel’s coastal plain. Those fields contained recoverable reserves, according to the latest estimate, of up to 250 billion barrels—almost equal to Saudi Arabia’s.

In short, Israel is poised not only for future energy independence, but for becoming a major regional energy player—maybe even, if it uses its resources wisely, the next energy superpower. The looming question, however, is not whether the world is ready for Israel to be the next Texas. It’s whether the Israelis are ready.

I got my introduction to the Tamar platform, and to Israel’s adventure in becoming an energy player, even before my wife, Beth, and I arrived in Israel, on the plane from Newark bound for Tel Aviv. The passenger sitting next to us looked as if he was headed for a country-music festival. He wore a baseball cap with the logo of Noble Energy—one of the key players in the natural-gas revolution. We learned he had spent 30 years in the oil and gas business as a platform operator, including in West Africa and Thailand, before Noble had sent him out to Israel. Now he works on the Tamar platform. After 28 days there, he’ll head home to Louisiana for four weeks to see his family and kids; they will be able to afford college thanks to the money he’s earned working for Noble in Israel.

Attacking America: Al-Qaida’s Grand Strategy in its War with the World

Mary Habeck [4]
February 2014

Defining what precisely is meant by grand strategy and how al Qaeda, in particular, views grand strategy is vital for our national security. In fact, grand strategy is intertwined with every policy debate over al Qaeda that is currently ongoing in Washington, D.C.

The questions of what is al Qaeda, and who is al Qaeda have been debated since 2001. More recently, questions have arisen about affiliates and what is their relationship with al Qaeda. Is there any command and control between al Qaeda and its affiliates? What is the proper way to deal with these groups? And can we actually win against them? This talk will seek to add to this debate by offering answers to the questions of what al Qaeda is and what the group hopes to achieve.


We must begin by defining “grand strategy” and by defending the existence of this concept. Grand strategy is the highest level strategy that an organization or country possesses for dealing with a specific problem. Given this definition, grand strategy is related to policy, but policy often is simply a set of objectives. For instance, under the George W. Bush Administration, a policy objective was to spread democracy or democratization around the Middle East. Yet, stating this objective does not detail how the country would go about achieving it. A grand strategy has much more to it than just an objective. Rather, it sets a variety of ways and means—the plans that one might use to achieve those policy objectives. Specific strategies are then subordinate to, and seek to support and fulfill, this top-level plan. These strategies would encompass military, political, economic, and diplomatic aspects, among others that are necessary to achieve the over-all grand strategy. Under the specific strategies would be operational art and tactics as well—working out the plans, ways, and means in far greater detail, theoretically all the way down to specific groups, units, or even individuals, perhaps on a particular battlefield or in one embassy and what each is supposed to do on a daily or weekly basis in order to achieve the grand strategy.

Given this level of detail, some observers are skeptical about whether grand strategy can even exist. Can an entire nation really have bold ideas about what they are going to achieve, work out a finely detailed plan and then implement it in any serious way? Yet, if one looks at the United States, it is possible to tease out the existence of several grand strategies. There was Manifest Destiny, which was the grand strategy for expansion of the country. During the Cold War there was a grand strategy that included deterrence and containment. But other experts and scholars contend that these were simply pieces of a real grand strategy; they did not include a fully worked out concept about economics, scientific knowledge, industry, and other important concerns, nor did they include the finely worked-out details for operational art or tactics that were actually followed by the United States as a whole. Others would argue that the United States has at times developed a grand strategy but it has been implemented very poorly.

Festering Wounds in Little India

Paper No. 5656 Dated 28-Feb-2014

Guest Column by Prof. V. Suryanarayan

In a turbulent region, characterized by xenophobia, the Republic of Singapore was considered to be an oasis of stability and orderly progress.

The Republic’s rapid economic strides made it an object of envy and admiration. But this image suffered serious setback following the unprecedented violent clashes in “Little India” between Indian migrants and security forces in December 2013. The spark was provided by the killing of an Indian worker by a bus. Angry spectators took the law into their own hands, went on a rampage and destroyed public property. The police soon arrived on the scene and brought the situation under control.

The immediate response of the Singapore Government was to detain large number of Indian workers who had congregated in Little India to spend the Sunday evening. 53 migrant workers were to be deported and 28 workers will face prosecution and, if convicted, will have to undergo imprisonment, in addition to caning, which is universally considered to be inhuman and barbarous.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long downplayed the seriousness of the incident and characterized it as an “isolated incident caused by an unruly mob”. But perceptive observers of Singapore scene are of the view that frustration, disenchantment and anger have been developing among migrant workers. A closer look at Singapore’s political evolution from 1963, when Singapore got its independence with the formation of Malaysia, provides illustrations of ethnic discontent among all three major ethnic groups - Malays, Chinese and Indians.

The End of the ‘Developing World’



BILL GATES, in his foundation’s annual letter, declared that “the terms ‘developing countries’ and ‘developed countries’ have outlived their usefulness.” He’s right. If we want to understand the modern global economy, we need a better vocabulary.

Mr. Gates was making a point about improvements in income and gross domestic product; unfortunately, these formal measures generate categories that tend to obscure obvious distinctions. Only when employing a crude “development” binary could anyone lump Mozambique and Mexico together.

It’s tough to pick a satisfying replacement. Talk of first, second and third worlds is passé, and it’s hard to bear the Dickensian awkwardness of “industrialized nations.” Forget, too, the more recent jargon about the “global south” and “global north.” It makes little sense to counterpose poor countries with “the West” when many of the biggest economic success stories in the past few decades have come from the East.

All of these antiquated terms imply that any given country is “developing” toward something, and that there is only one way to get there.

It’s time that we start describing the world as “fat” or “lean.”

“Lean” societies approach consumption and production with scarcity in mind. In the so-called least developed nations of sub-Saharan Africa, where the gross national income averages just $2,232 per capita, populations are young and hungry — at times for food, but mostly for opportunity. Nothing can be taken for granted or wasted. But resource constraints have provoked an astonishing bounty of homegrown solutions to the problems philanthropists like Mr. Gates address with charity. If necessity is the mother of invention, lean economies have a distinct advantage.

Energy challenges test water-stressed Asia

Posted on February 27, 2014
Nikkie Asian Review, February 27, 2014

Asia is attracting more attention than ever before, in large part because of its re-emergence after a two-century decline. Amid the world’s ever-growing energy focus, Asia’s serious energy challenges have driven sharpening oil-and-gas competition there, spurring maritime tensions, territorial disputes, and resource and environmental stresses. There has been, however, insufficient discussion of such challenges in Asia.

In coming years, energy demand is likely to accelerate because the continent’s per capita energy consumption levels remain low by Western standards. The largest increase in global energy demand is in Asia. This demand is likely to only accelerate.

Over the next 20 years, Asia’s share of global energy consumption is projected to almost double, to about 54% for oil and 22% for natural gas. The densely populated subregions of Asia — East, Southeast and South — with their heavy dependence on oil and gas imports, will remain particularly vulnerable to sudden supply shortages or disruptions.

Asia’s growing energy consumption — much of it from fossil fuels, especially coal — militates against the gathering international push to combat global warming. Coal use, for example, has helped China lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, with the rising coal demand there not expected to plateau until at least 2025.

Yet the environmental and public-health costs of China’s coal use (it burns nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined) are already high. Smog and soot periodically force citywide shutdowns, while the life expectancy of the people living in the northern parts of the country, according to a recent scientific study, has declined by more than five years on average.

Stress nexus

The energy-water-food nexus is at the core of Asia’s sustainable-development challenges. This stress nexus is behind the continent’s three interlinked crises: A resource crisis has spurred an environmental crisis, which in turn is contributing to regional climate change.

The reason for such stresses is that food production is reliant on water and energy, and energy and water are directly connected with each other. Energy is vital to extract, treat, distribute and supply water. Water is essential for energy extraction, processing and production. It takes, on average, up to 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food.

America's Defense Death Spiral

Dakota Wood |
March 2, 2014
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s speech previewing the FY15 defense budget certainly provided a target-rich environment for critics from both political parties and a broad range of interest groups. And the criticism has flowed freely since that Monday press conference.

From invective-laden commentary about the near-fatal compromise of America’s security, to those fearful of how reduced defense spending will affect local economic conditions, to those who feel not enough was cut, the Secretary has taken flak from all sides. Frankly, you have to feel some measure of sympathy for a man who is dutifully carrying out the unenviable task of reporting to Congress—and to his boss, the Commander in Chief—the logical consequences of their institutional irresponsibility in failing to provide for the security of our nation.

Much can be said for the Secretary’s thoughtful description of the various challenges confronting the Department of Defense. But what was truly fascinating about his presentation was its mixture of Orwellian doublespeak, dire warning, and blunt realism—all bookended by notes of assurance.

The Secretary was quite candid when speaking about the growing uncertainty in world affairs, the worsening of the threat to U.S. security interests, and the increased levels of risk the U.S. will need to accept as our military forces are reduced. He pointedly noted that "the abrupt spending cuts...imposed on DOD" were so severe in scope, scale, and timeline that we would reap a force "not capable of fulfilling assigned missions." For example, we will be left with an Army capable of addressing only a single major contingency at a time.

But the Secretary also ladled out large doses of happy-talk. A much smaller force facing an uglier world would somehow be a “more capable force.” The cuts, delays, and terminations "will help bring our military into balance." And, although our military "will continue to experience gaps in training and maintenance" while facing a "dynamic and increasingly dangerous security environment," it would still be able to "protect our country and fulfill the President's defense strategy."

Russia Loves Its Small Wars Moscow’s long history of short border conflicts

David Axe & Matthew Gault in War is Boring

Ukraine is on the brink of war. On Feb. 22, pro-European protesters toppled the government of Pres. Viktor Yanukovych, forcing the pro-Russian Yanukovych to flee to Rostov-on-Don. Parliament announced it would hold fresh elections in May, but Ukraine’s ethnic Russians and their allies could have other ideas.

Gunmen seized airports in the Crimea region, which is heavily Russian and where Moscow leases a naval base. Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin called for a return to “normalcy”—whatever that means—and the Kremlin proceeded with a major military exercise on Russia’s border with Ukraine.

Crimea is now more or less under military occupation, and it’s unclear what happens next. But Russia’s warlike history along its vast periphery is not in doubt. Since the Soviet Union’s break-up in the early 1990s, Moscow has fought a chain of short, nasty, little wars in border areas that many Russians view as their own, even if some do happen to lie outside Russia’s boundary.A Georgian sniper during Georgian-Ossetian fighting. Wikipedia photo
South Ossetia, 1991

Georgia split from Russia following the Soviet collapse—and the new country’s Ossetian ethnic minority wasn’t exactly thrilled. Long allied with the Russians, the Ossetians wanted to govern themselves separately from the Georgians. But the new regime in Tbilisi refused. Both sides armed themselves.

Fighting between Georgian and Ossetian militias was the worst in the disputed city of Tskhinvali, but both armies also ethnically cleansed surrounding villages. Around a thousand people died in fighting that peaked in the spring of 1991 and ended with a Russian-brokered peace deal in June 1992.

The Georgians accused the Russians of secretly sending troops to aid the Ossetians. Regardless, Moscow clearly favored the Ossetians and, in the aftermath of the conflict, deployed “peacekeepers” to South Ossetia to help enforce the armistice.Pro-Russian Transnistrian motorized infantry in 2005. Wikipedia photo
Transnistria, 1992

Ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in the Transnistria region of Moldova opposed Moldovan rule and sought their own independence from the newly independent former Soviet state. It was the early 1990s and the former Soviet Union was becoming a confusing and dangerous place.

Spying on DIRNSA: What Sort of Telephones Does NSA Director Keith Alexander Use?

March 1, 2014

NSA director Alexander’s phones

Peter Koop


After a range of articles about how NSA intercepts foreign communications, we now take a look at the equipment that NSA uses to secure their own telecommunications, more specific those of its director.

We can do this because last December, the CBS program 60 Minutes offered some unprecedented insights into the NSA headquarters. Of course very limited, but still interesting for those with a sharp eye. Perhaps the most revealing was that for the first time ever it was shown how the office of the director of NSA looks like:

The office of NSA director Alexander, December 2013
(click to enlarge)

The office of the director is at a corner on the eighth floor of the OPS 2B building, which is the wider and lower one of the two black mirrored glass structures of the NSA headquarters at Fort George G. Meade. Contrary to what many people would probably expect, the director’s office is far from high tech. We see a rather traditional interior with a classic wooden desk, shelfs with books, picture frames and lots of memorabilia, a conference table and a group of old-fashioned seatings with a large plant in a shiny copper pot.

Most interesting for us is the telecommunications equipment used by the current director, Keith B. Alexander, which can be seen in the following screenshot:

NSA director Alexander working at his desk, December 2013
Behind him we see his secure telephone equipment
(click to enlarge)

ReMastering the US Army’s Narrative

Soon to be(?) Lt Gen H.R. McMaster has a well-earned reputation as one of the best and brightest of the U.S. military’s ‘warrior scholars.’ His commentary on the contemporary defense climate is generally speaking both cogent and astute. However, some of his recent comments reflect a chasm that exists between what the US Army is trying to sell as its master narrative, and what it is actually doing.
At a recent event at the Brooking’s Institute McMaster outlined what he saw as the ‘four fallacies’ currently permeating in the discussions of future wars. They are (according to the linked article):

“The return of the revolution in military affairs,” a theory thought discredited in Iraq — “it’s like a vampire,” he said — with its promise that long-range sensors and precision strikes will let air and sea forces win wars cleanly and bloodlessly (for us) on their own.
The Zero Dark Thirty fallacy” that we can solve our problems almost bloodlessly with Special Operations raids, “something akin to a global swat team to go after enemy leaders.”
What might be called the Mali Fallacy (my words, not his) that we can rely on allies and local surrogates to do the fighting on the ground while the US provides advisors and high-tech support.

All three fallacies, he said, begin with a core of truth: Air Force, Navy, Special Operations, advisors, and allies are all impressive and essential capabilities, but we can’t count on them to prevail alone.

The fourth fallacy, by contrast, McMaster considers just plain “narcissistic.” The idea that the US can “opt out” of certain kinds of conflict — say, counterinsurgency, or ground warfare in general — without giving our adversaries credit for what they may be able to force us to do. Invading Afghanistan seemed ludicrous on September 10, 2001, after all, and inescapable on September 12th.

While McMaster and others at the conference are right to point out that there are very significant political currents permeating these precepts in the ether of the Washington policy establishment, he’s not 100% correct in calling them fallacies either. Nor does the Army’s narrative fit squarely within a clear counter argument to combat these fallacies.