31 March 2014

The Arctic: Where the U.S. and Russia Could Square Off Next

A closer look at Moscow's claims in the northern seas
MAR 28 2014

A U.S. Coast Guard crew in the Arctic Ocean. (Reuters/Kathryn Hansen/NASA)

In mid-March, around the same time that Russia annexed Crimea, Russian officials announced another territorial coup: 52,000 square kilometers in the Sea of Okhotsk, a splotch of Pacific Ocean known as the "Peanut Hole" and believed to be rich in oil and gas. A U.N. commission had recognized the maritime territory as part of Russia's continental shelf, Russia's minister of natural resources and environment proudly announced, and the decision would only advance the territorial claims in the Arctic that Russia had pending before the same committee.

After a decade and a half of painstaking petitioning, the Peanut Hole was Russia's.

Wikimedia CommonsRussian officials were getting a bit ahead of themselves. Technically, the UN commission had approved Russia's recommendations on the outer limits of its continental shelf—and only when Russia acts on these suggestions is its control of the Sea of Okhotsk "final and binding."

Still, these technicalities shouldn't obscure the larger point: Russia isn't only pursuing its territorial ambitions in Ukraine and other former Soviet states. It's particularly active in the Arctic Circle, and, until recently, these efforts engendered international cooperation, not conflict.

But the Crimean crisis has complicated matters. Take Hillary Clinton's call last week for Canada and the United States to form a "united front" in response to Russia "aggressively reopening military bases” in the Arctic. Or the difficultiesU.S. officials are having in designing sanctions against Russia that won't harm Western oil companies like Exxon Mobil, which are engaged in oil-and-gas exploration with their Russian counterparts in parts of the Russian Arctic.

In a dispatch from "beneath the Arctic ocean" this week, The Wall Street Journal reported on a U.S. navy exercise, scheduled before the crisis in Ukraine, that included a simulated attack on a Russian submarine. The U.S. has now canceled a joint naval exercise with Russia in the region and put various other partnerships there on hold.

How clarity dawned on Bangladesh

Inder Malhotra | March 31, 2014 

With the Bangladesh crisis at its height, there was alarm in India; the country had to now face a triangular US-China-Pakistan axis. c r sasikumar 

Though it is clear that many institutions have lost their sheen, we must be wary of autocratic leadership. 

In testing circumstances, Indira Gandhi made up her mind to act. 

Although argumentative Indians went on screaming at one another about what was at stake in Bangladesh and what must be done about it, in appropriate circles clarity had begun to dawn by the end of June. The first indication was a highly anguished speech by Indira Gandhi after a visit to refugee camps in northeastern states to meet the victims of the Pakistani army’s unspeakable atrocities that were soon documented thoroughly in the book of a London-based Pakistani journalist, Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangladesh, for which he was brutally thrashed by a group of Pakistani goons. 

On seeing the physical condition of the refugees and hearing their tales of woes, Gandhi was so shaken that on arrival at Raj Bhavan in Calcutta (now Kolkata) she declared grimly and firmly: “The world must know what is happening here and must do something about it. In any case, we cannot allow Pakistan to continue its holocaust, and thus convert its own problem into ours.” She also made it clear that she had absolutely no intention of “absorbing” the luckless refugees in India. “Conditions must be created in their country for them to go back in safety and with dignity.” 

A few days later, Pakistan’s military ruler Yahya Khan responded with a dirty trick. Encouraged presumably by American support and by the lack of any pressure on him from either the people of West Pakistan or the international community, he announced a fraudulent plan to “transfer power to civilians in East Pakistan”. 

He appointed a handpicked Bengali civilian, A.M. Khan, as governor of East Pakistan with a mandate to hold elections to National Assembly seats “vacated” by members of the banned Awami League who had since “disappeared”. Nothing of the kind happened, of course. But arriving in New Delhi a week later, Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor, dismayed his Indian interlocutors by commending Yahya’s move as a “conciliatory gesture”. He had to be told that as a Jew he should have some revulsion against Pakistan’s Nazi-like barbarities on the people of Bangladesh and some sympathy for the 10 million pitiable refugees. 

It was in this atmosphere that a closed-door seminar on Bangladesh, attended by a select group, on July 3 acquired extraordinary importance. For, at it, K. Subrahmanyam, the doyen of the slowly developing Indian strategic community, presented a paper arguing that Pakistan’s military junta would “prefer defeat at India’s hand to a settlement with the Awami League”. The crisis had, therefore, presented India “an opportunity of a lifetime to cut Pakistan to size and liberate the people of Bangladesh”. The paper was strictly confidential but it was leaked and published in full in The Times, London, on July 13. 

Sultan Mohammed Khan, an outstanding Pakistani diplomat who was foreign secretary at that time, has recorded in his memoirs that, along with statements by then Indian foreign minister Swaran Singh and defence minister Jagjivan Ram, he had cited the Subrahmanyam paper to the Soviet foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, in Moscow and to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing to drive home the point that India’s objective was to “destroy Pakistan”. 

On July 16, a Sunday, the Indian ambassador to the United States, L.K. Jha, returned home after a visit to some bookshops. The security guard told him, in Hindi, that “Dr Kishen Singh had telephoned and left his phone number.” The ambassador thought that the security man had erred and that the phone must have come from Kishen Chand, his Delhi-based colleague in the ICS. When he asked his social secretary to connect him to Dr Kishen Chand immediately, she pointed out that the number she was given was that of Kissinger on the west coast. 

Delhi's Urban Paradox: Awful Pollution And Massive Forests

Protecting the 'green lung' of the sprawling, wheezing metropolis is becoming increasingly harder in the face of surging population and hungry real estate developers. 

Aerial view of New Dehli 

DELHI — It’s one of the paradoxes of Delhi: What is one of most polluted metropoli in the world is also one of the greenest. Almost one-fifth of the region is covered by vegetation, a green area that virtually doubled between 2001 and 2011, expanding from 37,000 acres 73,000.

Inside the capital of Delhi alone, 80 square kilometers (19,700 acres) of forest have been miraculously saved. 

There, the happiest inhabitants are not the ministers or the businessmen who can afford villas with gardens — but the antelopes, the foxes and the 300 different bird species. Only they can enjoy a life in silence, far from the roadways and the tailpipes, in the heart of a city of 17 million people.

NGO Toxics Link’s Kush Sethi, an environmental defense group, organizes nocturnal visits in Sanjay Van, one of the four Delhi forests and the only one open to the public. Inside it, noise from the crowded streets vanishes, the air is fresher, and the moonlight takes guides the strollers. Water from a reprocessing plant flows along stream beds leading to a pond, where cranes and ducks have established themselves. Visitors can climb up a tower that was built to watch birds. From there, you can see the monuments in the distance that are reminiscent of Delhi’s old days of splendor.

Delhi’s urban forests are home to one of the richest biodiversities in the world. Migratory birds still stop there twice a year, despite the planes in the sky, and foxes still hunt. But rumor has it that their tranquility could be due to the ghosts. “Many inhabitants are scared of entering Sanjay Van because they believe the place is haunted,” says Sethi. “A woman dressed in a white sari is said to appear there from time to time, and ghost hunters organize expeditions.” 

An Increasingly Unmanned Future

Date : 30 Mar , 2014


The main attraction of military UAVs stems from the fact that their acquisition and training costs are far lower than those of combat jets. They can also be operated or stored at a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft. Neither do drones risk the life of a pilot nor are they subject to physiological limitations. They can remain airborne for prolonged periods – loitering at great height and striking or assisting strikes with devastating accuracy when an opportunity arises. On these and other counts, they are superior to fixed wing aircraft and cruise missiles. They will surely play a key role in most future conflicts.

It is only a question of time before militant groups and non-state actors begin to acquire and operate UAVs…

If there is one item that tops the list of must-haves for any modern military force, it is Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). A handful of countries produce them, most buy them. Some high-end Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) options such as the iconic Heron UAVs manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) can even be rented. UAVs, popularly known as drones, have been around for decades. First used for battlefield reconnaissance, they now encompass practically every military application and a growing number of civilian ones.

Spreading Everywhere

Till about a decade ago, Israel and the United States led the pack when it came to UAV employment. They enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the use of unmanned technology. The US accelerated the production and operational use of UAVs after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Soon, stories of spectacularly successful UAV strikes by US forces in Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre made military decision makers across the world sit up and take notice.

America still dominates the UAV, especially the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) scene to a large extent. One in three US military aircraft is a UAV, and their number is rising. American UAVs now fly more hours than its manned strike aircraft. The US Air Force’s training programmes focus more on UAV pilots than on their manned counterparts. And the deep budget cuts that affect practically every weapons programme of the lone superpower seem to have left UAVs unscathed.

Will Iranian Gas Help Solve India’s Energy Crisis?

MARCH 27, 2014 

On July 31, 2012, India experienced the worst electricity blackout in history, as three of the country's five power grids failed. People traveling on metro systems and railways were stuck for hours, without a hint of when the power would be restored. Miners were trapped underground and hospitals left without power. In total, around 670 million people in 22 states were affected. 

As the summer of 2014 approaches, it appears that India has done little to shore up its energy supply. The country continues to experience a severe energy shortage. Conventional fuels like coal and oil feed 83 percent of the country's primary energy consumption. The price of crude oil imports is increasing exorbitantly, however, and domestic production of natural gas, often seen as the answer to dirty conventional fuels, has fallen due in part to shrinking production in the Krishna Godavari basin

Even so, India is aggressively trying to increase the presence of natural gas in its energy mix. In such documents as the National Action Plan for Climate Change, India has committed to curbing its energy emissions resulting from the extensive use of petroleum and coal in the transportation and power sectors. And on an energy equivalent basis, natural gas is almost 80 percent cheaper than crude oil, which could help India preserve valuable foreign reserves

These factors have prompted the government of India to go all out in exploring various alternatives, from putting more money and resources into exploring and developing shale gas, to securing Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import deals with countries like the United States and aggressively pursuing transnational natural gas pipelines. 

One such measure is an undersea gas pipeline with Iran, which has the world's second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia. 

This project, commonly known as Middle East to India Deepwater Pipeline (MEIDP), would funnel gas from the Middle East to the industrialized state of Gujarat, on the western coast of India. The pipeline would originate in Oman and allow countries like Iran, Qatar, Iraq, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan to also supply natural gas to the ever-growing Indian market. Dismissed as too expensive when it was first proposed in mid-1990s, the Oman-India underseas route now appears financially viable compared with the cost of projects to liquefy, transport, and then gasify LNG. 

The relatively short timeline needed to complete the underwater project, Iran's large volume of surplus gas, and its eagerness to sign an international deal are all arguments in the pipelines' favor. Since the United States and Iran signed the Joint Plan of Action on November 24, 2013 that froze Iran's nuclear program, India and other countries have looked to reestablish energy ties with Iran. Iran, too, seems determined to restore economic and energy linkages with countries such as China, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Russia. 

Perfumes of Arabia

by Priya Ravichandran — March 28, 2014 
India should be wary of the Saudi influence in Pakistan and its deeper impact in the region.

The idea of Pakistan being a secular republic with citizenship rights accorded to all minorities was a brief one that never stood a chance against the more orthodox followers of Jinnah, who at the declaration of the Lahore resolution on March 23rd 1940, “dreamt of a state representing the purity of a pristine Islam”. The country today, torn apart by sectarian strife and minority persecution, stands as a dark shadow of what was once envisioned and created by Jinnah. It took Pakistan only 9 years to convert from Jinnah’s idea of a model republic, where the Muslim majority and other minorities live in peace, into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, with Islam as the official religion and a declaration that no laws offensive to Islam would be passed and a provision to Islamise laws within the Republic.

Pakistan has slowly and steadily been moving towards a purer form of an Islamic Republic with measures and actions that aid in the Islamisation of its laws and by striking strategic alliances that would help fund its many radical Islamist movements.

The constitutional powers accorded to the Council of Islamic Ideology, has pushed the state towards laws and decrees that demand a stricter interpretation of Sharia than the common laws enshrined in the Constitution. Most of the sectarian and radical outfits owe their genesis and funding to the orthodox leaning of General Zia ul Haq, Pakistan’s first military dictator. His embrace of Wahhabi and Deobandi interpretations of Islam brought him closer to Sunni dominated Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and pushed Pakistan further away from the idea of a secular republic. During his decade long rule (1978 – 1988) he imposed stricter Islamic interpretation of laws, Sharia benches, Islamisation of the economy and ordinances that collectively used religion as the basis to dictate life in Pakistan. Coming at a time of upheavals in the region, including the Iranian revolution, Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq conflict, the move towards an Islamic republic was welcomed both by the Sunni majority within its borders, and by the external interests looking to clamp down upon a rising Shia movement. Pakistan’s military alliances with Saudi Arabia during this period, and the patronage that Sunni clerics, orthodox outfits and radical movements received in turn from the kingdom, were just the beginning.

Pakistan and the United States: The Days Ahead

MARCH 27, 2014 

Following the annus horriblis of 2011, U.S.-Pakistan relations are finally looking up. The strategic dialogue between the two countries has resumed with a realistic scope and calibrated expectations. The defense relationship is settling back into polite engagements focused on multi-year assistance planning. The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, is distracted by crises in Syria and Ukraine, and the Pakistani elite are focusing their anxieties on militancy at home and the upcoming elections in Afghanistan and India. 

These apparent signs of normality are just enough to make longtime Pakistan-watchers nervous. There are many changes afoot in the region -- among them, civil-military developments in Pakistan, elections in India and Afghanistan, and the ongoing drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan -- that have the potential to bring about a shift in Pakistan's relationship with the United States. 

Two such changes deserve particular attention. The first is what is bound to be a dynamic political environment in Afghanistan following the presidential elections on April 5, and the new government's eventual decision regarding a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States. The second concerns the prospect of a large-scale Pakistani military operation in North Waziristan, many times rumored and many times deferred. 

Time to Get Tough on Pakistan? 

Regardless of who wins the Afghan elections, the outcome is bound to shape the contours of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, though perhaps not right away. Each of the leading candidates has pledged publicly to sign the BSA with the United States, which would enable an ongoing U.S. military presence in the country and would presumably form the basis of a similar agreement with NATO. 

If the new Afghan president promptly signs the BSA, the United States would likely leave a small residual force focused on security cooperation and counterterrorism -- one that Pakistan expects and in private may even welcome. If, on the other hand, there is an election deadlock or the new Afghan leader delays ratification of the BSA until late summer or beyond, logistical considerations alone could make it difficult for the U.S. military to retain a force of more than a couple thousand soldiers. 

What does the BSA have to do with U.S.-Pakistan relations? Behind closed doors, some close observers of the bilateral relationship have speculated that something approximating a "zero option" in Afghanistan would free the United States from the shackles of its dependence on Pakistan's ground lines of communication, enabling Washington to take a much tougher line with Islamabad. They further imagine that faced with vastly reduced force protection concerns in Afghanistan, the United States could work quietly with the Afghan government -- or unilaterally -- to more aggressively target militants in the troubled Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas. 

Pakistanis Complain That U.S. Not Sharing Counterterrorism Intel

March 29, 2014
No intelligence shared by US on terrorists moving to Syria
Dawn [Karachi]

ISLAMABAD Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam on Thursday said the United States had not provided any intelligence to the government which could establish that militants were travelling from Pakistan and towards Syria, DawnNews reported.

Aslam was responding to questions regarding a report recently published in The New York Times which had cited CIA chief John Brennan as saying that dozens of Al Qaeda militants based in Pakistan were seeking to establish bases in Syria to plan attacks on Europe and the United States.

“We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organisation to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad,” he said, according to the New York Times report.

US intelligence officials say that the Al Qaeda is seeking “a launching pad” in Syria because they have access to hundreds of American and European militants who have gone there to fight against the Syrian government and also because Syria is far away from US drone strikes.

Quoting intelligence assessments, the report also claimed that the senior Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, including chief Ayman Al Zawahiri, was developing a much more organised, long-term plan as opposed to creating specific cells in Syria to identify, recruit and train these westerners.

Citing US intelligence officials, the report also said that Al Qaeda-linked militants were currently focused on attacking Syrian forces.

Why Burma Is Heading Downhill Fast

Rivalries among the political elite are exacerbating divides and allowing urgent problems to fester. Can anyone stop the rot? 

MARCH 28, 2014 

For the past few months, I've been unable to escape an ominous sense that the political situation in Burma is on the wrong track. There are two main reasons for my anxiety. First, Burma is undergoing a leadership crisis. Second, the possibility of large-scale social unrest is increasing. 

Eight months ago, I wrote a post explaining why the deepening divisions within the country's political elites were undermining my previous feeling of cautious optimism. I tried to describe a general state of anxiety caused by rising communal violence, widespread hate speech against religious minorities, worsening poverty, and intensifying political rivalries. Back then, however, the substantive reasons for the disagreements within the troika of President Thein Sein, House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi weren't entirely clear. But now the contenders have taken off their gloves, and their fundamental political differences are starting to come out into the open. 

Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling parties managed to work well together during the initial reform period. In 2011, a historic meeting between the Lady and President Thein Sein paved the way for Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, to run in the 2012 elections. That dramatic development encouraged the countries of the West to lift their sanctions on Burma. But now the two have fallen out, quite publicly, over whether and how to reform the 2008 constitution, which was written by the then-ruling military junta. In 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi made constitutional reform one of her party's priorities, although even then it wasn't entirely clear what changes she wanted to make. In June of last year, she announced that she wanted to run for the presidency in the 2015 elections, noting: "For me to be eligible for the post of the presidency, the constitution will have to be amended." Aung San Suu Kyi was clearly referring to Article 59 (f) of the military-drafted constitution, which states that the president or vice-president cannot have a spouse or children who are foreign nationals. Aung San Suu Kyi had two sons with her late husband Michael Aris, and both are British citizens. 

So far, Thein Sein has not deigned to respond to Aung San Suu Kyi's reform demands. In November 2013, Aung San Suu Kyi made an official demand for a meeting with key political players, including the president, the speaker, and Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to discuss constitutional reform. The president rejected her request, however, and his move seems to have sharpened the sense of lingering antipathy towards him that the Lady has been expressing in her meetings with foreign dignitaries and local political elites ever since late 2012. 

In his latest speech to parliament on March 26, Thein Sein urged parliamentarians to pursue constitutional reform delicately and gently in order to avoid a political deadlock. Though he did not mention any possibility of top-level dialogue, the president noted, "The army still needs to be present at the political roundtable talks where political problems are solved by political means." If by these talks he means something more substantive than the usual parliamentary formality, it could signal that he is, in fact, open to the dialogue Aung San Suu Kyi requested, as long as members of the army are also at the table. Aung San Suu Kyi will need the military's support to get the amendment through parliament, and she believes Thein Sein is the only one who can persuade the military to bring its representatives to the table. In a press conference following the president's speech, the Lady insisted that "only the president can make it [military cooperation] possible." Organizing top-level talks might allow Thein Sein to win public points without having to striking a deal with Aung San Suu Kyi directly. 



Three Uyghur farmers campaigning for compensation for land confiscated in their village in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region were detained and taken away to another city this week after posting a statement outlining their grievances online, farmers said.

The three men are farmers’ representatives from Qaziriq village in Kashgar city’s Nezerbagh township, where residents say their livelihood has been dampened by the seizure of thousands of acres of farmland for an airport and a special development zone since the 1980s.

Township police detained the three—Turghun Mamut, Memettursun Abduwayit, and Abduqeyyum Memet —on Monday, and were believed to have escorted them to Hotan city some 300 miles (500 kilometers) southeast of Kashgar, villagers said.

In a phone call on Wednesday, Mamut told RFA’s Uyghur Service the three were being “taken to Hotan for ‘sight-seeing,’” adding that he was under surveillance and not free to say more about their situation.

“I cannot speak with you any longer because we are being watched and controlled by others right now,” he said before hanging up.

The detention came shortly after the three had posted a statement signed with their names and documenting villagers’ complaints on the popular Uyghur-language Baghdax website.

Official visit

Some residents believed the men had been taken away to prevent them from meeting with high-level officials who were expected to visit the village this week to probe land complaints.

A fellow farmer in the village who gave only her first name Amangul said Tuesday that villagers believed the men had been taken “because some high-level inspectors would be arriving in the village” the next day.

“So the local authorities were intentionally removing them from the sight of the inspectors,” she said.

She said three men’s families had argued with village officials to demand the detainees be allowed to return.

“We heard that the three farmers’ representatives were forced to travel to Hotan, escorted by Nezerbagh township police. They were forced to stay under house arrest at a hotel in Hotan,” she said.

Shortage of farmland

In their online statement, the three farmers said that after thousands of acres of farmland were confiscated in their village, Qaziriq now has 2,400 mu (400 acres) for a population of 4,400.

Amangul said the land was not enough for residents to be able to sustain themselves through agriculture and that villagers were facing a grave land shortage problem.

“We are farmers; we have no property except for our land,” she said.

“Because of the land shortage, we don’t have enough agricultural products to feed our families.”

China's Capital Idea

Is it time to move the seat of government away from Beijing? 
MARCH 19, 2014 

After heading southwest from Beijing for two and half hours on a highway, a traveler might decide to stretch her legs at Baoding, a medium-sized city of under two million people. She would almost certainly not think the dusty town in northern Hebei province, one best known for its donkey meat burgers, looked like a candidate for China's next capital. But that very notion gripped the Chinese Internet on March 19 after Caijing, a reputable state-owned financial magazine, reported that Baoding would become a "secondary political center," writing that certain government offices and education institutions would start moving there from Beijing at an unspecified future date. 

The news soon became one of the hottest topics on Chinese social media. The Baoding local government, not to mention China's powerful National Development and Reform Commission, the state organ responsible for macro-level economic planning in China, both quickly denied the report. But the genie was out of the bottle, and Internet users have continued discussing the possibility of relieving Beijing of its duty as China's capital. 

It's not the first time -- nor, in all likelihood, will it be the last time -- that talk of a capital move has fired the public imagination. In February 2012, an unfounded Internet rumor claimed that a town in central Henan province was one of the top choices for a new seat of government. Compared to that, Baoding seems like a credible choice. It lies about equidistant from Beijing and Tianjin, another large municipality, and since 2004, the central government has sent signals about strategic urban planning that would "integrate" Beijing, Tianjin, and the surrounding areas in Hebei. 

Beijing has been China's capital for most of the past 700 years, but a city originally built to house palaces and to fend off Mongols now groans under the weight of its 21 million inhabitants and 5 million cars. Multiple subway lines have opened since 2008, but the subway only seems to get even more crowded, with single-day ridership reaching 10 million in March 2013. An April 2012 report by the International Monetary Fund showed a 750-square-foot apartment in Beijing costing over 22 times average annual pretax income there in 2011. That makes even apartments around Beijing's peripheral Fifth Ring Road, which lies over 10 miles from the city center, a "pipe dream" for the average white-collar worker. 

Gauging Bloomberg's China 'Rethink'

A conversation about the future of journalism in the world's largest country. 
MARCH 26, 2014 

On March 24, a 13-year veteran of Bloomberg News, Ben Richardson, an editor at large for Asia news, resigned in protest. A few days earlier, company Chairman Peter Grauer had said that the news and financial information services company founded in 1981 by Michael Bloomberg "had" to be in China and "should have rethought" some of its recent stories there. Grauer avoided specifics, but it seemed clear that he was referring to a series of investigative reports on wealth in China produced by Bloomberg journalists over the last year. In that same period, Bloomberg's China reports won awards, its website was blocked in China, and sales there of its core product -- the Bloomberg terminal -- declined. Moreover, tensions grew between editorial staff and management. Richardson told media blogger Jim Romenesko that "a small group of incompetent and self-serving managers" at Bloomberg had "screwed things up for everyone else," confirming earlier reports that Bloomberg had compromised its journalistic principles for fear of losing business in China. 

David Schlesinger, founder of Tripod Advisors and former chairman of Thompson Reuters China: 

Bloomberg's chairman "rethinks," a journalist departs with a bang, and Bloomberg, which had led the way in authoritative investigative reports on the government-business nexus in China, becomes instead the poster child for the ills of the business-pressure nexus in journalism. 

Does this mean that it is impossible to do good journalism in China? Of course not. 

In some ways, this is a golden age for foreign reporting in the People's Republic. Key wire services, newspapers, and magazines have more and better trained reporters in China than ever before, travel is freer, sources are more available and the amount of sheer official data, information, and verbiage that is turned out is unrivaled -- and almost impossible to keep up with. The trick is turning all this raw input into journalism of the highest order. 

Bloomberg and the New York Times showed that weaving publicly available information with source material can yield treasures, but also bring China's wrath (or at least financial penalties). That's a big risk to take, but it is one worth taking and also possible to take, if you have courage and prepare the ground properly. 

First, you have to be clear about what you are and what you stand for, and not let any opportunity go by without repeating it. Just as China repeats its "principled stands" on Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, etc., in word-perfect order year after year, so too I, when I worked for Reuters, would use that company's Trust Principles and fundamental journalistic values as the introduction to any official meeting. If your principles are strong and steadfast, they become something that has to be dealt with. If your principles can be rethought and changed, they become simply a negotiating point. 

Central European Security After Crimea

by Edward Lucas, A. Wess Mitchell, Peter B. Doran, Jakub J. Grygiel, Robert Kron, Octavian Manea, Andrew A. Michta, and Keith C. Smith, Center for European Policy Analysis

In this new analytical study, CEPA experts argue that NATO should move to reinforce the frontline NATO states of Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of the Crimea crisis.

The Crimea crisis has highlighted the military risks facing the frontline NATO states of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Fifteen years after joining the Alliance, U.S. allies in this region continue to lack a significant Allied military presence and remain susceptible to Russian military pressure, intimidation or even invasion. In this new analytical study, CEPA experts argue that NATO should move decisively to address this problem by reinforcing defensive capabilities, bolstering regional security and ensuring that no NATO member state is victim of a Crimea-style land grab.

Report No. 35: Central European Security After Crimea: The Case for Strengthening NATO's Eastern Defenses

March 25, 2014 

In this new analytical study, CEPA experts argue that NATO should move to reinforce the frontline NATO states of Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of the Crimea crisis. 

The Crimea crisis has highlighted the military risks facing the frontline NATO states of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Fifteen years after joining the Alliance, U.S. allies in this region continue to lack a significant Allied military presence and remain susceptible to Russian military pressure, intimidation or even invasion. In this new analytical study, CEPA experts argue that NATO should move decisively to address this problem by reinforcing defensive capabilities, bolstering regional security and ensuring that no NATO member state is victim of a Crimea-style land grab.

Will Crimea Usher in a New Interventionist Order?

by politicalviolenceataglance on March 24, 2014

Maybe Vladimir Putin is onto something. Last week he boldly claimed to a cheering throng of Kremlin supporters, “I cannot remember a single act of intervention without one single shot being fired.” That was before a Ukrainian soldier was gunned down outside Simferopol, but his larger point stands: Are bloodless interventions and annexations a new norm? Russia’s incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula drew worldwide outrage – even China abstained rather than veto a UNSC resolution condemning the incursion – but the intervention may be setting a dubious precedent of sorts. True, the seizure and occupation of territory by force, as many Western policymakers have put it, has an anachronistic 19th century ring to it. Consider that military occupations through the use or threat of force (see Figure 1 below), which peaked in the early 1900s (sorry Kerry, not the 1800s), are increasingly rare events.

Figure 1

Note: All data is from the Correlates of War (COW) Project’s Militarized Interstate Disputes (MID3) v.2 (2004).

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to Boaz Atzili, “no state has acquired territory through force.” (Iraq was thwarted in 1990, and Russia arguably tried to in 2008) Yet, in a world of haphazardly drawn borders that crisscross multiple ethnic groups, there are “Crimeas” scattered throughout the world. The threat of war, or even sanctions, is not what stops countries from annexing its various rump states but rather the powerful international norm against annexation and occupation.

An actuary looks at the Future of War (no. 22) -- and sees a nuclear war looming there

MARCH 27, 2014
By Matt Wilson 

Best Defense future of war entry 

It's been almost 70 years since a great-power war, and war in general is declining. What does this mean concerning the future of war? 

Imagine an area that historically has gotten a large earthquake about every 20 years. However, it hasn't had an earthquake in over 60 years. Should you be worried? 

It turns out the basic processes moving societies into the future and the earth's crust into future are similar. The future heavily builds on the past -- a positive feedback loop process. All positive feedback processes that are stabilized (not allowed to crash) will experience a very large crash at some point in time. And if a very large crash is still suppressed, then the system (society or earth) will get stuck in the middle of a phase change. When the system finally undergoes a phase change, then everything will get wiped out. What happens when you put out every forest fire? Forests follow the same positive feedback loop process too. In the meantime, the system will sit at the edge of a cliff, unable to move forward very well. This explains Japan's economy and now the U.S. economy too. It also explains the future of war: the large crash. 

Time of stability is the biggest factor in determining when a system is nearing a crash state. After a long period of stability, a big problem in one area implies that big problems are lurking elsewhere. The 9/11 shock in 2001 was our first sign of trouble. The 2008 financial crisis pushed the United States into a pre-collapse state that is being suppressed. Like Japan, the United States will not be able to get going again until it allows another great depression. The next shoe to drop could be a great-power nuclear war. Look at the connection between financial crisis and war: 

1. The 1907 U.S. financial crisis was followed by World War I in 1914. 

2. The 1929 U.S. financial crisis was followed by World War II in 1939. 

3. The 2008 U.S. financial crisis was followed by World War III in 2015-2018? 

The same build-up of problems that caused a financial crisis also positioned societies for war. Those problems are a build-up of bad ideas, bad decisions, and corruption. They build up within all sectors of society at about the same rate. So the fact that the financial sector is mostly independent of the military sector is irrelevant. A big crisis in one area just tells us that time is up. 

You and everyone else you know think that a great-power nuclear war is just about impossible. 

In fact, it just might be the future of war. 

Matt Wilson is a retired actuary who blogs on emerging risks. Interested parties can find more information about the concepts discussed in this article: "A System Collapse Framework for Societies." "Controlled instability is your friend." Marinate on that. 

Tom note: OK, we're at number 22, but interesting ideas are still pouring in. Got one? Consider submitting an essay. The contest remains open for at least another week. Try to keep it short -- no more than 750 words, if possible. And please! no footnotes or recycled war college papers.

Should the United Nations Wage War to Keep Peace?

By James Verini

Last year the UN adopted Resolution 2098, allowing its troops to attack armed groups in Congo and leading to the defeat of the vicious M23 militia. The Security Council has voted to renew the resolution, but the battle for Africa's heartland is far from over.

Congolese commandos celebrate as they advance up a mountainous road toward Bunagana, the last remaining stronghold of M23 rebels, in October 2013.

If volcanologists invent an instrument that can measure the interplay of beauty and menace,Nyiragongo, on the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the province of North Kivu, will send its needle into spasms. Twenty thousand years after it formed, Nyiragongo is still terribly Pleistocene in appearance: Its cone curves gently through montane forest and then thrusts two miles into the sky, where its rim is only occasionally visible through the wooly mists aboveGoma, the city it watches over and periodically destroys. The crater's emissions give the mists green, amber, and crimson tones. The people who once lived around the volcano believed the souls of evildoers were cast into the crater. When the souls fought, the Earth shook.

When Nyiragongo erupted in 1894, soon after those people had found themselves working as slaves for the Belgian King Leopold II, they took it as a sign that the arrival of Europeans into the African interior didn't bode well. (Leopold's soul would soon enough find its way into the crater, they imagined.) When it erupted in 1977, during the reign of the tyrant Mobutu Sese Seko, lava exploded from the mountain's sides and raced at 60 miles an hour—still a world record for molten rock—toward Goma. Mobutu was ousted by a rebel leader who was himself assassinated in 2001, and the next year Nyiragongo erupted again, this time sending a river of lava a third of a mile wide through the city. Underground magma veins beneath the streets ruptured, sending up fiery geysers. Homes were suddenly solid black mausoleums. "It looked as if a ten-lane highway had been dropped down the mountain's flanks, right across the city," National Geographic observed.

All that ready-made death comes courtesy of a rare feature, a liquid lava lake inside the mountain. The lake rises and recedes, but it never goes away. After outbursts, its lava cools into mounds of bubbly pumice. Goma's wood-slatted and metal-sheeted shantytowns, its crumbling office blocks, its rambunctious storefronts and mock-tropical hotels are built on and out of the pumice. Its million residents walk and work and die on it. The pumice is especially vivid in the Mugunga refugee camp, on Goma's northwestern edge, where its chalky black is brought out by the white United Nations tarpaulins that stretch over the tents and lean-tos, and by the white eyes, many bloodshot and yellowed with infection, of the people who live in them.

In an excerpt from the feature film This Is Congo, Hakiza Ndaba, 58, a tailor displaced by war, buries his pregnant niece, a victim of the conflict.


On a morning in October, after one of Congo's inundant rain showers, a delegation of UN ambassadors and envoys from the Security Council rolled up a black hill in a convoy of trucks and buses into the camp as dozens and then hundreds of those eyes gathered to watch. Earlier in the day the delegation had stood on a hilltop overlooking Goma while a UN peacekeeping general briefed them on the state of the "conflict," as the litany of insurgencies, skirmishes, massacres, systematized rapes, and refugee crises that make up the central theme of life in eastern Congo is usually called. Now, at Mugunga, created to accommodate refugees who fled over the border during the Rwandan civil war, the delegation was to encounter some of the human costs of the conflict.

The Saudi Problem and the Head of the Snake

Does Obama still have pull over Riyadh, when the king's point man -- Prince Bandar -- is pulling the strings from afar? 
MARCH 28, 2014 

The key figure in U.S.-Saudi relations wasn't present when President Barack Obama met with King Abdullah on Friday, March 28, but his spirit undoubtedly dominated the meeting. Prince Bandar bin Sultan -- the nephew of the Saudi monarch, the head of Saudi intelligence, and a former long-serving ambassador to Washington -- was probably still in Morocco, where he has been recovering from surgery to his shoulder. But despite rumors to the contrary, he remains the key player in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. 

Bandar's disappearance a couple of months ago was spun by U.S. officials as the sidelining of a fading, volatile figure whose views on Iran and the civil war in Syria were irritatingly incompatible with the U.S. perspective. The reality is that Bandar is still the point person for Saudi policy on Syria, even as his cousin, Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, coordinates with the United States. And from Riyadh's point of view, if the man once termed "Bandar Bush" for his closeness to Republican circles of power gives the Obama administration heartburn, that's just too bad. 

Bandar's persistent strength is that he is the enabler of King Abdullah's vision for his kingdom and the Middle East. The monarch wants Syria's Bashar al-Assad overthrown, Iran's Hezbollah surrogates contained, and the "head of the snake" -- Iran, in the king's view -- cut off. While Bandar deals with the specifics, it's the king who sets the broad course of Saudi policy and may even be more hawkish than his intelligence chief. Compared with the king, Bandar is a self-described "pussy cat." 

Previous meetings between Obama and King Abdullah have proved to be a political and diplomatic minefield. Their first meeting, in April 2009, produced the famous video of Obama allegedly bowing to the king, which his critics seized upon as evidence that the president was being overly obsequious to the monarch. Two months later, Obama stopped in Riyadh before making his famous speech in Cairo, which promised a "new beginning" to American relations with the Muslim and Arab worlds after the Bush-era invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. At this meeting, Obama asked King Abdullah to allow overflight rights to Israeli passenger jets heading to Asia, as a gesture to kick-start the Middle East peace process. Annoyed at this request being sprung on him without proper preparation -- an early indication of the naiveté of the Obama team -- Abdullah gave a curt "no." 

ISIS's Rise After al Qaeda’s House of Cards - Part 4 of "Smarter Counterterrorism"

Posted by Clint Watts
March 22, 2014
(This is Part 4 of Smarter Counterterrorism, see Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here)

Ayman al-Zawahiri must have awoke to the news of Bin Laden’s death on May 2, 2011 with the excitement of soon being al Qaeda’s global leader followed shortly by the anxiety of leading an organization and associated jihadi movement in sharp decline. Zawahiri, while often described as an intelligent architect for al Qaeda’s violence and an aggressive influence on Bin Laden, lacked the traits of a charismatic leader able to reinvigorate a vast and varying network of affiliates populated by a younger generation more inspired to kill than pray. Al Qaeda’s internal documents showed Zawahiri to be controlling; seen scolding al Qaeda’s most compelling leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and consistently trying to rein in an organization that by design was meant to be decentralized. Zawahiri’s failures in Egypt always colored his view of al Qaeda’s future direction and where the group might misstep; fearful of excessive violence against innocent civilians eroding popular support and weary of wannabes loosely aligned or unknown to al Qaeda perpetrating bumbling plots of limited value. In communiqués to Bin Laden, Zawahiri’s pushing for more control by al Qaeda’s central leadership appears to have been heard but either ignored or deemed too difficult to implement. Adding to Zawahiri’s problems were his personality and history, which by many expert accounts, made him both difficult to work with and lacking the respect of al Qaeda’s frontline fighters.

By June 2011, al Qaeda’s conclave officially confirmed what was already assumed. Zawahiri became the group’s official emir and began receiving oaths of loyalty (Baya’t) confirming allegiance between al Qaeda affiliate leaders and al Qaeda Central’s new leader in Pakistan; that is with the exception of one affiliate – the Islamic State of Iraq led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – a first sign of the divisive internal politics to emerge in al Qaeda’s ranks post Bin Laden. 

Zawahiri’s Tenure as al Qaeda’s Chief

To understand how al Qaeda has faltered since Bin Laden’s death and to anticipate where jihad will go in the future, we must examine the leadership transition to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Through the summer of 2011, senior al Qaeda leaders and conduits to affiliates were being eliminated every month, Anwar Awlaki in Yemen, Ilyas Kashmiri in Pakistan and strangely the elusive Harun Fazul in Somalia. Fazul, once Bin Laden’s personal secretary, died at a Somali government checkpoint similar to ones he likely passed through easily dozens of times before. In the following months, rumors swirled that al Shabaab’s leader, Ahmed Godane, had arranged for Fazul’s timely death to settle a score with the ‘Old Guard’ al Qaeda leader floating in his turf. The mysterious pattern of al Qaeda foreign fighters being killed in Somalia continued through 2011 and 2012 and rumblings of internal rifts in Shabaab’s ranks grew while a plan for formal membership to al Qaeda was in the works. With Bin Laden gone, al Qaeda princes across many affiliates were making their own plays in a ‘Game of Thrones’ where politics and power became the priority over ideology and al Qaeda’s grand strategy. 

Months if not years in decline forced Zawahiri to act after Bin Laden’s death and his actions led toal Qaeda Central's unraveling. Apparently the message was “Do Something” and the affiliates used their own initiative and some of Bin Laden’s final guidance to push for Islamic states in the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahel and by alliance in the Horn of Africa. First came al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who rebranded a parallel militia, Ansar al Sharia, and began securing turf in Yemen, instituting Sharia law and establishing an Islamic state; only to be met by a flurry of U.S. drone strikes and the remnants of the Yemeni army. By late 2012, AQAP slipped back into the shadows leaving behind their attempts at an Islamic state as a new caliphate emerged in the Sahel. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) with an array of local insurgents stormed northern Mali in a pattern similar to what had recently taken place in Yemen. Through the fall of 2012, AQIM made their run at establishing an Islamic state until the French intervention of January 2013, which quickly dispersed AQIM back into the desert and in pursuit of irregular warfare from the hinterlands as splinter groups led by emerging leaders like Mokhtar Belmokhtar conducted the attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria.