17 June 2014

Hard choices at Copenhagen

Published: June 17, 2014
Jairam Ramesh

During the Climate Change Conference in 2009, the Obama-BASIC meeting was a watershed, saving Copenhagen from a complete collapse and also marking the emergence of the BASIC quartet as a major force in international climate policy diplomacy

Hillary Clinton’s recent memoirs reveal how during the fortnight-long Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, on December 18, 2009, United States President Barack Obama and she barged into a room in which President Lula of Brazil, President Zuma of South Africa, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China and Dr. Manmohan Singh were meeting along with their respective delegations and started tough negotiations.

The much-touted Copenhagen Conference was heading nowhere. Presidents and Prime Ministers from across the world had been unable to agree to a global agreement to combat climate change. Finally, it was the Chinese Premier who convened a meeting of the BASIC group comprising Brazil, South Africa, India and China. The quartet’s ministers had been working closely together both in the run-up to and at Copenhagen itself.Holding up an outcome

The two Presidents and two Prime Ministers started their confabulations at around 6p.m. All four had immediately agreed that the BASIC group should not be seen to have been responsible for the failure at Copenhagen. Just about 15 minutes into the meeting, President Obama, accompanied by Secretary Clinton and a large retinue of officials, walked into the room unannounced saying that he was actually looking for Premier Wen and then adding that he was lucky not only to have found him but also find him in the company of his BASIC colleagues. He then got down to business right away and said that according to his impressions, there were three contentious issues holding up a successful outcome at Copenhagen: (i) a global goal for reduction of emissions by 2050; (ii) measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of each country’s actions; and (iii) the need for a legally-binding global treaty.

After he had spoken, Premier Wen, after welcoming President Obama, turned to Dr. Singh. Dr. Singh, who had been greeted effusively by President Obama earlier, spoke of the complexities in the three issues raised and underscored the determination of the BASIC quartet to contribute constructively to a solution that is effective and equitable. He then asked me to elaborate.

Naga Identity - Ideals, Parallels, and Reality

Namrata Goswami

The Naga Hoho, the apex civil society body of the Nagas, while striving for a unified Naga identity, has been fighting a losing battle to bring about reconciliation among the several factions of Naga militias divided along tribal lines or factional loyalties that override ethnicity. The major challenge towards building a cohesive political unit is a fragmented identity engaged in internecine strife with bloodied consequences, which is in opposition to the larger Naga identity, says Namrata Goswami.

For Naga ethnic groups inhabiting the Naga Hills in the Indo-Myanmar trans-borders, the road to peace and prosperity lies in forging a common political Naga identity. There are several models the world over, both old and new, that could serve as examples on a comparable scale for political solidarity amongst geographically neighbouring people with similar but subtly varied cultures. Most of these cultures also are in disadvantageous juxtaposition due to external impositions of State administrations and territorial demarcations, with serious implications for the traditional homeland setup of these ethnic groups. In the past the formation of the Six Nations in North America, more recently the multinational struggle of the Kurds in the Middle East, nearer to home the evolution of the modern nation of Bhutan and currently the campaign for autonomy of Kachin neighbours of the Nagas are good instances of affiliated ethnic groups and tribal clans seeking common ground for collective political goals. The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) of the Kachins has a civilian-run extra-legal bureaucracy providing public services in Kachin State. Bhutan has several ethnic groups with one dominant group-controlled absolute monarchy. The country has recently made a successful transition from monarchy to a constitutional democracy. The Kurds of Kurdistan are currently a nation in the making in a trans-border conflict zone contiguous with Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. In early American history, the Six Nations, also called the Iroquois, was a confederacy of different Native American ethnic groups. Today, this powerful super group has unified independent governance, and lives both in the United States and Canada.

As a historical illustration, in contrast to the success of the Iroquois was the Great Sioux Nation made up of several ethnic groups whose traditional homeland once spanned across thousands of square kilometres in the Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada. The Sioux being formidable warriors, but divided along group loyalties, lost a major chunk of their territories to the invading U.S. military, including the Black Hills, which are sacred grounds since ancient times for the Sioux and remains lost to them even today. The once proud peoples have been reduced to living in scattered reservations in the land of their ancestors. In 2007, a group of Sioux travelled to Washington DC to reassert their independence and sovereignty.

Naga Identity: Ideal versus Reality

The Naga Hoho, while being the apex civil society body of the Nagas striving for a unified Naga identity, has been fighting a losing battle bringing reconciliation to the several factions of Naga militias divided along tribal lines or factional loyalties, which override ethnicity.

Naga tribes in their ancestral homeland face the divisive international boundary between India and Myanmar as well as national administrative boundaries in both countries. However, much more than man-made lines on maps, the major challenge towards building a cohesive political unit is a fragmented identity engaged in internecine strife with bloodied consequences, which is in opposition to the larger Naga identity. As an illustration, the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) is an armed ethnic militia of the Zeliangrong Naga group consisting of the smaller Zeme, Liangmei and the Rongmei ethnic groups. Zeliangrong groups are spread over contiguous territories in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur States of India. The Zeliangrong territory is also the domain of other Naga faction rivals of the ZUF fighting for the Naga cause. There have been several incidents of encounters between these competing Naga militias vying to dominate the same geographical space inhabited by the Zeliangrong people, especially between the ZUF and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak- Muivah faction [NSCN (I-M)].
Major Naga Ethnic Groups' Areas

On the other end of the Naga identity spectrum is the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang faction NSCN (K) headed by S. S. Khaplang, who is a Heimi Naga. The Heimi ethnic group belongs to the larger Tangsang Naga group including the Pangmi, Khaklak and Tangan ethnic groups spread over contiguous territories in Sagaing and Kachin States of Myanmar. In India, the Tangsang group consists of the Tangsa, Muklom and Tutsa in Arunachal Pradesh. The NSCN (K), with its headquarters in Myanmar, signed a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government in 2012. This faction holds sway over Nanyun and Lahe Townships in the Naga Self-Administered Zone, with a liaison office at Khampti town in Sagaing Region of Myanmar.


Russia and the EU must work together to provide Ukraine with a long-term solution, write Krishnan Srinivasan and Hari Vasudevan 
Promising peace, the Ukrainian plutocrat, Petro Poroshenko was elected president. He restated these assurances at his inauguration although he had already reneged on his commitments, undertaking military operations against separatists in the east within hours of his election although close to half his country refused to vote. His actions led to coal miners’ anti-Kiev strikes, intensifying the social base of the regional divide. Washington predictably stood by him while Brussels seems destined to pay the price of a potential Ukraine-Russia gas war. Both the United States and the European Union portray the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as the villain because of his support to militant regionalism in eastern Ukraine.

After the Crimean annexation, the restive east increasingly displayed non-compliance with the pro-EU political process in Kiev. Presidential elections were held with thin polling in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, where the minimum environment for the ballot was absent. Militants had a free run, voting papers were not delivered to polling stations, and turn-out was almost non-existent. In the neighbouring provinces also, where there was no militant activity, turnout was well under one half.

Until recently, the anti-Kiev movement in the east comprised militant groups centred on youth associations, the Communist Party and entities like the Don Cossacks who straddle the Russia-Ukraine border. Russian veterans smuggled light artillery across the border and organized skirmishes, occupations of government premises and demonstrations. Other civil resistance was sporadic and unplanned, and marches never drew more than a few thousand people. There was no mass action similar to Kiev’s Maidan movement last winter, and the leading political force, the Party of the Regions, disintegrated after the February coup. Pro-Russian slogans were intended to encourage help from Russia for autonomy, but not annexation.

Five Ways a Nuclear War Could Still Happen

Tom Nichols
June 2014
Source Link

"A nuclear war could take place in more ways than you might think, sparked by any number of occurrences from a pure accident to an intentional strike."

Nuclear war, the exchange of nuclear weapons between two or more states in open conflict. It’s unthinkable. It can’t happen.

Of course, nuclear war is extremely unlikely. Although the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has placed the hands of its famous clock at five minutes to midnight, that doesn’t mean very much and never has. The fact of the matter is that world nuclear inventories, led by reductions in the United States and Russia, have never been lower, and none of the major powers expects a nuclear conflict in the way they did during the Cold War. To crib a line from Captain Jack Sparrow, however, nuclear war is notimpossible, it’s improbable, and a nuclear war could take place in more ways than you might think, sparked by any number of occurrences from a pure accident to an intentional strike.

I’m going to focus here on a war that could involve the United States and its allies on one side, and Russia or China on the other. Nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, or between a future nuclear-armed Iran and Israel, is unlikely but far easier to imagine than a global nuclear conflict. Indeed, this is one reason Americans don’t think about nuclear war very much anymore: they think it will happen somewhere else. (If a regional limited war takes place, however, you’ll know it: even a small exchange of nuclear weapons will create a global environmental catastrophe that will dwarf Chernobyl or Fukushima.)

A small regional war, awful as it would be, would not destroy the United States nor threaten the end of the human race. A nuclear conflict of any serious size in the Northern Hemisphere, however, would effectively mean the end of the modern era. Further human progress would be subordinated to the basic needs of survival for years, if not decades, to come. A war between India and Pakistan would kill millions and pollute the earth for an eternity. But it would not threaten to bring the entire global system to a halt, or potentially lead to the release of thousands of warheads against of hundreds of cities across the globe, the “unthinkable” war for which Americans spent decades preparing, and for which we still maintain an arsenal of strategic weapons deliverable by air, land, and sea.

So how do we begin each of the nightmare scenarios?

1. Mechanical Accident:

The classic war-by-accident novel is Fail-Safe, in which a computer blows a fuse and the Air Force melts Moscow. Most people don’t read Fail-Safe anymore (which is why I make my students read it now), but almost everyone has seenWarGames and The Terminator, both of which are part of an entire genre of science fiction in which military computers decide not to take orders from pesky humans about who gets to fire nuclear missiles. That’s what makes them fiction, of course. Nuclear weapons are not sentient beings; Skynet is not self-aware and never will be. They’re just machines, and machines can fail on their own, with little human involvement.

India Unleashed

William T. Wilson
June 2014

The Indian economy faces many challenges. Can Prime Minister Modi deliver needed reforms?

Only a decade ago, India seemed destined to rival China. Annual growth had averaged almost 9 percent over a seven-year stretch; domestic investment was booming; domestic companies were building global brands, and its military power was growing. India seemed confident; almost cocky.

Unfortunately, all that confidence has largely dissipated. Economic growth has dropped to the 4-5 percent range. Inflation has risen between 9-11 percent annually for the last five years. Public finances are a mess, and economic reforms have been shut down for the last decade.

Enter Narendra Modi, whose BJP surprised the world with its landslide victory in last month’s elections. Mr. Modi was elected mainly on promises to significantly accelerate economic development and root out corruption. His philosophy was formed while running the business-friendly state of Gujarat for the past twelve years. His success in leading his party to victory should give him significant power to make deep, structural economic reforms. And there is much to be done.

In his first year, Modi must stabilize India’s poor banks and tame inflation. Recapitalizing India’s state-run lenders will cost the nation up to 5 percent of GDP, an expensive affair for sure. He will also have to improve government finances. The true budget deficit, including the states’, is higher than the official figures of 7-8 percent of GDP. (India has not run a budget surplus since independence in 1947.) With only 3 percent of Indians paying income taxes, the tax base will have to be broadened.

The business climate will have to be radically improved, and fast. In the World Bank’s 2014 Ease of Doing Business, India ranks 134 out of 189 countries, placing lower than Bangladesh and Pakistan. In India, you still need government approval to lay off employees in firms with more than 100 workers. That law greatly discourages large-scale enterprises. Physical infrastructure is decades behind China’s.

India is believed to have ideal demographics. Almost half the population is under 24 years of age, while only 5 percent are over 65. Even by 2025, almost 40 percent of the population will be young (under 18) while only 10 percent will be older (over 65). Moreover, a rapidly dropping fertility rate means that more women will be available to work in the coming years and decades.

India’s working-age population of 750 million is expected to increase by 230 million by 2030. People tend to save more during their working years, and a rise in the savings rate typically leads to increases in domestic investment and economic growth. All this bodes well for India.

Yet closer inspection reveals potential flaws in this prospective demographic dividend. Where are the jobs going to come from for the 10 million new working-age Indians every year? Most of the net job creation is likely to be in the dominant service sector, which requires high literacy rates and skills. India may have a reputation of having a huge pool of highly educated, tech-savvy workers, but nothing could be further from the truth. India has a 63 percentliteracy rate (compared to 91 percent in China). Only 10 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds are enrolled in higher education.


Adam Elkus
June 16, 2014

One of the most fundamental questions lurking beneath the surface of 21st century security discussions is the question of what constitutes a state. Does the prominence of powerful sub-state actors with state-like functions show that the state is declining?

Recent events in Iraq suggest that our confusion is a function of substantial definitional problems. Is the Islamic State in Iraq really a state? An armed movement that has a state? None of the above?

While I cannot improve on the analysis of ISIS offered by Middle East specialists Douglas Ollivant and Brian Fishman, I at least can offer a few general observations derived from the literature about the problem of analyzing ISIS as a state.

In his book on state change and the contemporary state system, Hendrik Spruyt argues that the contemporary state is simply the last entity standing. There were once serious competitors to what we understand today as the sovereign state. Leagues, city-states, and other entities were once considered common forms of human organization.

Further muddying the waters is the distinction between the “state” as political scientists consider it and what an anthropologist or archaeologist might consider a state. For many international relations scholars, state systems are dated to Westphalia. But if a state is simply anything above the chiefdom level, then states and polity systems are far older.

ISIS, as evidenced by Ollivant and Fishman’s analysis, seems to pass the “looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck” test. ISIS boasts capabilities for both the administration of services and the control and direction of political violence. Additionally, ISIS controls a vast amount of territory. Indeed, as Ollivant and Fishman note, “[t]he group does not have safe haven within a state. It is a de facto state that is a safe haven.” It might be objected that ISIS, as per its original founding documents, is simply a patchwork of pseudo-feudal alliances that manifest themselves in a political-military organization. However, very few real-life states completely fit textbook definitions.

William Gibson once said that the future is already here, but is unevenly distributed. Similarly, new state-like forms often are unruly patchworks of relationships, groups, and systems that acquire a dignified polish with time, assuming the state lasts. Nationalism and civic religion serve as a means of sweeping this ugly and contingent process under the rug. Mature and established states conduct themselves with the pomp and circumstance of old money. New states appear as crass, vulgar, and chaotic as F. Scott Fitzgerald portrayed Jay Gatsby. But the difference between the two is often just time. Everything else depends on the degree to which the new state can expand its writ.

Getting Fooled by Iran in Iraq

Max Boot

Back in January, Michael Doran and I had an op-ed in the New York Timesarguing that the Obama administration was pursuing a grand realignment of Middle East politics which would turn Iran from an enemy into “a cooperative partner in regional security.” I am reminded of that argument when I now hear the State Department spokesman claim that the U.S. and Iran have a “shared interest” in pushing back against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and when I read Tom Friedman claim it’s actually in our interest to let Iran dominate substantial chunks of the region: “Iran wanted to be the regional hegemon. Well, Suleimani: ‘This Bud’s for you.’ Now your forces are overextended in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and ours are back home. Have a nice day.”

Is it really necessary to point out that letting Iranian forces dominate Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq is a win for Iran–not for the United States? It is possible to turn this Iranian commitment from an advantage to a disadvantage, but to do so the U.S. would have to wage active proxy warfare against Iran as it once did against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan (or as Iran did against us in Iraq and Lebanon). This would involve dramatically ramping up aid (including possibly air strikes) to support the non-jihadist opposition in Syria, which is eager to fight both the Iranian-backed and the al-Qaeda-backed extremists, and to possible partners in Iraq such as the Sunni tribes (if we can still find any left who are stupid enough to trust American assurances of support). But President Obama shows no sign of doing that. Absent a much more active American role to oppose Iranian designs, the mullahs will be able to live out their dreams of regional hegemony at relatively small cost.


by Fortuna's Corner 
June 2014

Middle East Tension Could Send Oil To $120-$140 Per Barrel, Send Stocks Sharply Lower

Happy father’s day out there to all you fathers. Hope you had a good one. Barron’s had a feature article on what the second half of 2014 might bring for U.S. equities. More on that later. First, let’s examine what happened last week; and, where we sit halfway through 2014.

Middle East Violence Could Send Oil Prices Sharply Higher

As Avi Salzman wrote in this weekend’s Barron’s, “news of violence and political upheaval dominated headlines last week, causing stocks tumble after a three-week winning streak. Sunni militias — inspired by al Qaeda captured two cities in Iraq, as the Iraqi government scrambled to defend Baghdad — with help from Iran. The sudden strife caused oil prices to spike, with Nymex Crude futures rising 4.1 percent to $106.91 per barrel. their highest level since September of 2013.” Meanwhile, Brent Crude climbed to $114 early Friday, before dipping down to $112.47.

As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote in this weekend’s “The Daily Telegraph,” “as the self-described Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL) raced down the Tigris Valley towards Baghdad, with sophisticated weaponry, and seizing on its momentum after capturing Mosul, — Iraq is turning into a nightmare. There are real risks that this extremist Islamic movement will metastasize, as jihadist flock to Iraq and Syria — envisioning their holy war “Woodstock.” That could send oil prices a lot higher. “Our economies are too weak to pay for oil at $120; and, they can’t stand $140 if it spikes that high,” said Chris Skrebowski, a veteran oil analyst and former editor of The Petroleum Review. Fadel Gheit, an analyst with Oppenheimer and Company said, “my prediction is that for every million barrels of Iraqi oil we lose — oil prices will go up $10 per barrel.”

ISIL, Iraq and Securing India’s Interests

Adil RasheedIndependent Security Analyst, New Delhi
 The rabbit hole of Iraq springs up bizarre and devastatingly new challenges for the US even a decade after its invasion of the country. The embarrassment does not end there. The US is now forced to re-enter the quagmire and may fight alongside its arch-enemy Iran, much to the chagrin of its most ardent allies in the region – the Arab Gulf states and Israel.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a new virulent strain of Wahhabi militancy, recently took control over the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit and according to some regional commentators threatens to rejig the region’s entire post-Ottoman shebang. Strangely, a large part of the ISIL’s forces comprises remnants of Saddam’s so-called secular regime – particularly the Naqshbandi Army operating under the command of the fugitive Ba’ath Party leader Izzat al-Douri. In response, Shiite militants have answered the call to arms by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in their thousands, raising fears that Iraq might soon disintegrate on sectarian lines.

These unforeseen events in Iraq follow other extraordinary developments that are fast transforming the geopolitical landscape of the region. Signs of a possible détente in relations between the US and Iran have taken the world by surprise. The six oil-rich Gulf monarchies that constitute the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been particularly outraged by the so-called US ‘double-cross’, with Saudi Arabia being so incensed that it refused to take the UN Security Council seat to which it was elected. The country has even warned of a major shift away from the US and is seeking to build an Asian pivot for a new security architecture.

A Review of Abubakar Siddique’s The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan

By: Brian Glyn Williams 
June 2014
For decades, works on the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan were limited to an aging generation of Western academicians tucked away in ivory towers. These scholars carried out their field research in the region prior to the 1979 Soviet invasion. Few of this generation of deskbound researchers took the time to learn an Afghan language, nor did they bother to renew their links to Afghanistan due to the perceived risks of traveling to this country.

Against this tradition stands The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan by Abubakar Siddique. Siddique is a Pashtun who grew up in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands speaking Pashtun and personally experiencing the conflicts that convulsed his homeland from the 1980s through to today’s wars against the Taliban. As a Westernized Pashtun journalist who has worked for Radio Free Europe, Siddique is uniquely positioned to straddle the tribal world he grew up in and the modern Western world. The fact that he is able to critically analyze his own society using the skilled prose of a journalist (as opposed to the impenetrable “academese” of a scholar) makes his volume all the more useful. In fact the Pashtun Question is probably the most important work on the Pashtuns since Sir Olaf Caroe’s classic 1954 field study on the subject, The Pathans.

Among the issues Siddique carefully addresses is the question of what makes the Pashtuns so inclined toward militant Islamism (the Taliban are almost exclusively ethnic Pashtuns). In my own time among the Pashtuns in both Afghanistan’s southeast and the tribal zones of Pakistan’s northwest, I found this people quick to blame external sources for this tendency. Most Pashtuns (especially those in Afghanistan) blamed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency for their propensity to wage costly holy wars.

Before reading Siddique’s analysis of this topic, I found this typical Pashtun response to be a reflexive dodge by a people that refused to take responsibility for a trait that was seemingly intrinsic to their society. Their deflective responses failed to address what it was about the Pashtuns (as opposed to the neighboring Turkmen, Aimaqs, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Chitralis, Punjabis, Sindhis, etc.) that uniquely made them fight bloody holy wars against local “infidels.” The Pashtuns, it will be recalled, waged jihads against such peoples as the pagan mountain Kafirs (i.e. the Nuristanis who were forced at sword point to convert to Islam in the late 19th century by the Pashtuns), the Hazaras (Shi’ite Mongols whose homeland was devastated in by the Sunni Pashtuns in a 19th century “jihad”) and the British from 1839 to 1947. I felt that the Pashtuns I talked with were not honestly looking themselves in the mirror and addressing the endogenous, uniquely Pashtun roots of the Islamist militancy that has plagued their people since a young Winston Churchill wrote of this people, “Their superstition exposes them to the rapacity and tyranny of a numerous priesthood – ‘Mullahs,’ ‘Sahibzadas,’ ‘Akhundzadas,’ ‘Fakirs,’ – and a host of wandering Talib-ul-ilms.” [1]

Why Iraq War III is Headed Into a Long, Bloody Stalemate

Source Link

This war could persist for years
When a small force of around 800 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria overran the city of Mosul last week, the worst-case scenario for the Iraqi government appeared to be coming true.

Half the country is now in the hands of extremists too extreme for even Al Qaida. What would happen to Baghdad? Would it fall? But the nature of sectarian war means that stalemate is the most likely option.

It didn’t appear this way mid-last week. On June 10, two Iraqi divisions of around 30,000 soldiers evaporated in the face of a lightning advance by more experienced and well-armed ISIS forces. Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit also fell to ISIS and its Sunni militia allies.

But this had the effect of galvanizing Shias into volunteering by the thousands into ad-hoc militias to defend Baghdad. Bolstered by these forces, the Iraqi government appears to have retaken several towns north of the capital.

The United States and Iran are somewhat awkwardly coming together to rescue the Iraqi government. The Quds Force—the expeditionary wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps—is on the ground with its veteran commander, Qassem Suleimani.

This is while the American carrier USS George H.W. Bush, its air wing, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and destroyer USS Truxton are heading into the Persian Gulf. Pres. Barack Obama is considering the possibility of air strikes.

But it’s the Shia militias backed by Iranian advisers who are likely the biggest obstacle in the way of further gains by ISIS. The Quds Force is not a front-line unit, but functions as a special operations group whose presence and leadership improves indigenous forces on the battlefield.

“The most likely outcome of that fighting will be a vicious stalemate at or north of Baghdad, basically along Iraq’s ethno-sectarian divide,” the Brookings Institution’s Kenneth Pollack wrote. “That is also not surprising because it conforms to the pattern of many similar intercommunal civil wars.”
ISIS technicals in northern Iraq. Photo released by ISIS Salahaddin Division
Sectarian standoff
To understand why, it’s worth remembering the Shia militias have something to fight for.

*** China’s Information Warfare Campaign and the South China Sea: Bring It On!

As its dispute with Vietnam continues, China is trying to have it both ways at the United Nations.

The maritime confrontation between China and Vietnam over the placement of oil rig HYSY 981 in disputed waters in the South China Sea that began in early May is now entering its seventh week.
On June 9 China unexpectedly opened a new front when Wang Min, Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, presented Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a formal position paper on the dispute with a request that he circulate it to all 193 UN members.

China’s action in internationalizing its dispute with Vietnam does not represent a change in its long-standing policy that maritime disputes can only be settled bilaterally through direct consultations and negotiation of the parties directly concerned. A day after China submitted its position paper, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that China rejected United Nations arbitration of its dispute with Vietnam.
Why then did China take its dispute with Vietnam to the United Nations?
In 2003 the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and Central Military Commission formally adopted the doctrine of “three warfares” (san zhong zhanfa). The three warfares doctrine is an essential element of information warfare.

According to “China’s Three Warfares,” a 2012 study written by Timothy A. Walton for Delex Consulting, Studies and Analysis, China’s “three warfares” comprises three components: psychological warfare, media warfare, and legal warfare. It is the latter two components that shaped China’s position paper.

** Turmoil Blurring Mideast Borders

By Lee Keath & Ryan Lucas
Source Link

CAIRO (AP) -- Working in secret, European diplomats drew up the borders that have defined the Middle East's nations for nearly a century - but now civil war, sectarian bloodshed and leadership failures threaten to rip that map apart.

In the decades since independence, Arab governments have held these constructs together, in part by imposing an autocratic hand, despite the sometimes combustible mix of peoples within their borders. But recent history - particularly the three years of Arab Spring turmoil, has unleashed old allegiances and hatreds that run deep and cross borders. The animosity between Shiites and Sunnis, the rival branches of Islam, may be deepest of all.

The unrest is redefining Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Libya - nations born after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Already quasi-states are forming.

For the al-Qaida breakaway group that overran parts of Iraq this week, the border between that country and Syria, where it is also fighting, may as well not even be there. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, wants to establish a Shariah-ruled mini-state bridging both countries, in effect uniting a Sunni heartland across the center of the Mideast.

Other potential de facto states are easy to see on the horizon. A Kurdish one in northern Iraq - and perhaps another in northeast Syria. A rump Syrian state based around Damascus, neighboring cities and the Mediterranean coast, the heartland of President Bashar Assad's minority Alawite sect. A Shiite-dominated Iraq truncated to Baghdad and points south.

Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics, sees an ongoing, violent process to reshape government systems that have been unable to address sectarian and ethnic differences and provide for their publics.

"The current order is in tatters," he said. "More and more and more people are coming to realize that the system as it is organized, as it is structured, is imploding."

The new frontiers, backed solely by force of arms, may never be formally recognized - it's not easy to actually create a new country - but given the weakness of central authority that may not make much of a difference.

The Islamic State's campaign is helped by Sunni discontent with Assad's Alawite-dominated Syrian government and the Shiite-led government in Iraq, two states whose borders were drawn by Britain and France after World War I.

The militants' capture of Iraq's cities of Mosul and Tikrit makes their dream of a new Islamic state look more realistic. It already controlled a swath of eastern Syria along the Euphrates River, with a spottier presence extending further west nearly to Aleppo, Syria's largest city. In Raqqa, the biggest city it holds in Syria, it imposes taxes, rebuilds bridges and enforces the law - its strict version of Shariah.

Rise of Eurasian Heartland, Is Coming Together of Russia and China a Wake Up Call to India?

Narender Kumar
E-Mail- narry13@gmail.com


Conclusion of USD 400 billion gas deal between Russia and China and lifting of the arms embargo by Russia against Pakistan are two significant events that may alter the future trajectory of geopolitics. Ukraine crisis is pushing Russia towards China and quagmire in South China Sea and confrontation with the US and its allies in Asia Pacific is pushing China towards Russia. Can coming together of Russia and China be called the rise and the resurgence of “Eurasian power”? Mackinder had said, “Whoever rules East Europe commands the Heartland; whoever rules the heartland commands the World-Island; whoever rules the World-Island commands the World[1]”. Has the US pushed China and Russia too hard to make Mackinder’s philosophy a reality? Difficult to say, but what is significant is that these two events will certainly impact India in the years ahead.

There is a case to examine how India is likely to get impacted by these turn of events. In the first instance, China and Russia are compelled to be strategic partners because of the geostrategic turn of events. Ukraine crisis was an outcome of Russian encirclement by US led allies. Russia had the option to allow Ukraine to spiral out of its influence or to make Ukraine pay the cost of allowing US to come closer to Russian borders. Perhaps the best option for Russia was to flex its muscle and re-unite Crimea with Russia, thereby retaining control over the Black Sea and denying access to US into Russian vital strategic space. US has Ukraine as leverage and Russia has Crimea, and oil and gas supply to European nations as leverage. The calibrated response of Russia was not expected by the US and its allies. US has not been able enforce complete economic sanctions against Russia, since Europe, especially Germany and France cannot afford to say no to Russian gas in the absence of reliable and cheap availability of gas. However, US and its allies are in the process of exploring alternative energy supply to Western Europe. Sooner or later oil and gas import from Russia may be restricted and in that eventuality Russia will find it hard to find buyers for its gas. To ensure that the Russian economy is not derailed by this sudden turn of event, Russia and China seized this opportunity and clinched the deal. Shi Yinhong, an international relations expert at the People's University of China said “Good news for both countries”[2]. It will serve both nations and will turn out to be a perfect marriage of convenience. Even if the economic sanctions are imposed, it is unlikely to cripple the Russian economy in totality. At the same time Russia and China have sent a message that the world is multipolar and US cannot arm twist either Russia or China. It also suggests that first round between Russia and US has been a draw. Russia got Crimea and US got Ukraine. But Crimea without Ukraine is like a body without life, since Crimea is dependent upon Ukraine for water, energy resources and electricity. Similarly, Ukraine without Russian oil and gas is an empty vessel. No matter what happens in Ukraine, Russia has managed to regain control over the Crimea and Black Sea but had to part ways with Ukraine.

What is the fallout of Russia and China gas deal for India? Russia now has a big stake in China and vice versa. The biggest gainer in this standoff has been China; it has got an ally and abundance of gas at an affordable price for a prolonged period. As a result, Russia is unlikely to act as leverage for India in future, should there be a strategic standoff between India and China. Indo-Russian relations will now have less of the earlier historical commitment and ideology as all-weather friends.

Time for India-China Nuclear-speak

By Manpreet SethiI 
June 2014  
Manpreet SethiICSSR Senior Fellow affiliated with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) 
It is significant that the first international call that Narendra Modi received soon after taking oath as Prime Minister was from Premier Li Keqiang of China. This has been quickly followed up with the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, within weeks of the new government assuming charge in New Delhi. While there is no denying that such visits are planned well ahead and would have taken place irrespective of the government in power, the tone and tenor of the meeting has been distinct. The nuclear issue did not come up for discussion, but the implications of how India-China relations develop under the new Indian government will be felt in the nuclear domain too.

The installation of every new government provides an opportunity for a productive new beginning in inter-State relations. Of course, India has since independence largely followed a broadly pre-set foreign policy that has never seen major swings or deviations. Changes have largely been confined to shifts in focus and priorities. But, as Mr Wang Yi said during his visit to India, China wanted to "cement our existing friendship and explore further cooperation."

The exploration of this further cooperation must include the nuclear dimension too. Until now China has been closed to this idea on the ground that India is an illegitimate nuclear weapons power. However, over the last sixteen years, now that India has consolidated and operationalised its nuclear strategy, its 'legal' status is really a non-issue. Slowly, India will have to 'chip away' at traditional Chinese objections on this front and convince it of the benefits of starting a nuclear dialogue that can gradually explore the possibilities of nuclear confidence-building measures and even arms control at a later date.

What is China’s strategy?

By Graeme Dobell
16Jun 2014
Source Link
A simple question about what China has been doing to its neighbours keeps recurring: How is that smart?

The question came up in dozens of conversations at the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific roundtable in Kuala Lumpur. The puzzle of China’s behaviour has shaped the previous columns on Shinzo Abe’s ‘we’re back in Asia security’ speech, the differing security doctrinescoming from China and the United States, the Australian Defence Minister’s musings on Asia’s potentially catastrophic situation, the loss of regional confidence, and the impact of all this on the nascent Asian security system that has served China so well.

Consider the responses China has produced or helped validate:
Japan’s asserting its right to a bigger security role in Asia in ways not heard in 70 years—and this is being warmly welcomed by Australia and Southeast Asia. In a few weeks, Shinzo Abe will come to address the Australian Parliament just as President Obama did in November 2011. That was Obama’s pivot speech, announcing that as president he’d ‘made a deliberate and strategic decision—as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with allies and friends’. Abe will use the same stage—Australia’s House of Representatives—to offer his own version of that strategic decision.
The US President went to Japan in April and stated that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the US security treaty with Japan. China has pushed so hard over some barren islands occupied by goats that it has produced a specific promise from Obama that the US is ready to go to war with China to ensure that the goats remain Japanese.
Traditional fence-sitters such as Malaysia and Vietnam are doing exactly what theory says they must do—balance against China by nestling closer to the US. America now proclaims ‘comprehensive partnerships’ with Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur. Vietnam’s Defence Minister is happily ruminating about the American Navy coming back to use Cam Ranh Bay.
The rusty US alliance with the Philippines has a fresh coat of paint and Manila is desperate to add muscle to the rebalance. ​

ISIS Posts Graphic Video Online to Support Its Claim to Have Executed 1,700 Iraqi Soldiers

Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin
June 2014

BAGHDAD — Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria boasted on Twitter that they had executed 1,700 Iraqi government soldiers, posting gruesome photos to support their claim.

The authenticity of the photographs and the insurgents’ claim could not be verified, and Iraqi government officials initially cast doubt on whether such a mass execution took place. There were also no reports of large numbers of funerals in the Salahuddin Province area, where the executions were said to have been conducted.

If the claim is true, it would be the worst mass atrocity in either Syria or Iraq in recent years, surpassing even the chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian suburbs of Damascus last year, which killed 1,400 people and were attributed to the Syrian government.

The latest attack, if proved, would also raise the specter of the war in Iraq turning genocidal, particularly because the insurgents boasted that their victims were all Shiites. There were also fears that it could usher in a series of reprisal killings of Shiites and Sunnis, like those seen in the Iraq war in 2005-7.

OPEN Graphic

The office of the Shiites’ supreme spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Saturday night issued what amounted to a revision of the ayatollah’s call to arms on Friday, apparently out of concern that it was misinterpreted by many as a call for sectarian warfare.

The statement, billed as “clarifying the position on taking up arms,” implored Iraqis, “especially those living in mixed areas, to exert the highest level of self-restraint during this tumultuous period.”

The claim of the mass execution appeared on a Twitter feed previously used for ISIS announcements, so whether or not the executions were genuine, the organization certainly intended to boast of them.

“We’re trying to verify the pics, and I am not convinced they are authentic,” said Erin Evers, the Human Rights Watch researcher in Iraq. “As far as ISIS claiming it has killed 1,700 people and publishing horrific photos to support that claim, it is unfortunately in keeping with their pattern of commission of atrocities, and obviously intended to further fuel sectarian war.”

Will There be a Siege of Baghdad?

Bill Roggio
June 2014

The Long War Journal

The lightning advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham and its allies from Mosul to the outskirts of Samarra, as well as its capture of several towns in eastern Diyala, all over the course of several days, appears to be part of a greater strategy to surround the capital of Baghdad before laying siege to it. This plan, to take over the “belt” region outside of Baghdad and cut off the capital, appears to be the same strategy used by the ISIS’ predecessor back in 2006.

The 2006 plan, which was drawn up by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the forerunner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), was discovered after the US found a crude map on the body of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al Qaeda in Iraq’s leader who was killed by US forces in Baqubah in June 2006. The “Baghdad belts” map was released by Multinational Forces-Iraq during its offensive to liberate vast areas under al Qaeda/ISI control in 2007 and 2008.

Zarqawi’s plan was to seize control of the outer provinces and Baghdad’s belts, or key areas surrounding the capital. The ISI would then use its bases in the belts to control access to Baghdad and funnel money, weapons, car bombs, and fighters into the city. The ISI also planned to strangle the US helicopter air lanes by emplacing anti-aircraft cells along known routes in the belts areas around Baghdad.
Al Qaeda in Iraq’s map of the Baghdad belts, found by US forces on Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s body in June 2006.
In the ISI’s 2006 plan, the Baghdad belts were divided into five regions: the “Southern Belt,” which included northern Babil and southern Diyala provinces; the “Western belt,” which included eastern Anbar province and the Thar Thar area; the “Northern belt,” which included southern Salahaddin province and cities such as Taji; the “Diyala belt,” which included Baqubah and Khalis; and the “Eastern belt,” which included the rural areas east of Baghdad.

Watching the ISIS’ operations today, it appears the group is attempting to implement a strategy which is very similar, if not identical, to the previous one. This should come as no surprise; Nasser al Din Allah Abu Suleiman, ISIS’ current war minister, was a leader in al Qaeda in Iraq/ISI when the Baghdad belt strategy was implemented. Suleiman was appointed by al Qaeda in May 2010 to serve as the terror group’s top military commander after his predecessor, Abu Ayyub al Masri, was killed in a raid by Iraqi and US forces in April 2010.

The Foreign Policy Essay: Turkey—How to Manage the Endless Syrian War

June 2014 

Editor’s Note: The carnage in Syria is a nightmare for the country’s neighbors, saddling them with huge numbers of refugees, riling up public opinion, and creating a risk of terrorism. Turkey, one of America’s most important allies, is at the center of this storm, and the Erdoğan government—buffeted by crises and scandals at home—is feeling the pressure. Henri Barkey, a professor at Lehigh University, assesses the Syrian crisis from Ankara’s perspective and contends that Turkey’s ability to weather the spillover from the Syria conflict is not likely to last.

From whichever angle one looks, the Syrian crisis is a nightmare come true for Turkey. By quickly deciding to side with the rebels and insisting on Asad’s overthrow, Ankara transformed itself into an unwavering belligerent in this conflict. As negative as the consequences of the stalemate have been so far, they could have been a great deal worse. Paradoxically, the Turkish government that has had unending troubles at home with its varied opposition has managed the negative fallout from Syria rather well. The question is how long can it continue to do so?

Three years into the civil war, there is no end in sight. The Turkish government’s predicament is acute. The Syrian conflict has upended many of Turkey’s relationships with allies and with regional countries. Syria had been the most emblematic success story of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s new “zero problems with the neighbors” foreign policy. Erdoğan and Syrian president Bashar al-Asad wanted to demonstrate that they could overcome past differences that had pitted the two countries against each other over issues of support for terrorism and use of common water resources. Not only did the two leaders succeed in getting close to each other, the two governments even began to hold regular joint cabinet meetings. For Erdoğan, this also represented the first concrete step in his foray into the Middle East not just as a neighbor but also as a player.
Now, however, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are completely invested in Bashar al-Asad’s downfall. At the start of the conflict, Erdoğan presumed that by putting his weight behind the rebels he would be speeding up regime change in Damascus; in fact, he and many others were confident that change would occur within six months. Obviously, they were wrong. The costs to Turkey range from the ever-increasing numbers of refugees severely taxing the social fabric in certain locations—not to mention the financial burden—to the loss of face for Erdoğan at home and in the region to fragmenting relations with regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. According to a recent Brookings report, there are a million Syrian refugees, most of whom have blended into Turkey and do not reside in camps. The cost to the Turkish treasury has already exceeded $2.5 billion.

Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”

June 14, 2014
Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”
This article first published by GR in November 2006 is of particular relevance to an understanding of the ongoing process of destabilization and political fragmentation of Iraq.
“Hegemony is as old as Mankind…” -Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor
The term “New Middle East” was introduced to the world in June 2006 in Tel Aviv by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was credited by the Western media for coining the term) in replacement of the older and more imposing term, the “Greater Middle East.”
This shift in foreign policy phraseology coincided with the inauguration of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Oil Terminal in the Eastern Mediterranean. The term and conceptualization of the “New Middle East,” was subsequently heralded by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Israeli Prime Minister at the height of the Anglo-American sponsored Israeli siege of Lebanon. Prime Minister Olmert and Secretary Rice had informed the international media that a project for a “New Middle East” was being launched from Lebanon.

This announcement was a confirmation of an Anglo-American-Israeli “military roadmap” in the Middle East. This project, which has been in the planning stages for several years, consists in creating an arc of instability, chaos, and violence extending from Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria to Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and the borders of NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan.

The “New Middle East” project was introduced publicly by Washington and Tel Aviv with the expectation that Lebanon would be the pressure point for realigning the whole Middle East and thereby unleashing the forces of “constructive chaos.” This “constructive chaos” –which generates conditions of violence and warfare throughout the region– would in turn be used so that the United States, Britain, and Israel could redraw the map of the Middle East in accordance with their geo-strategic needs and objectives.

New Middle East Map

Secretary Condoleezza Rice stated during a press conference that “[w]hat we’re seeing here [in regards to the destruction of Lebanon and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon], in a sense, is the growing—the ‘birth pangs’—of a ‘New Middle East’ and whatever we do we [meaning the United States] have to be certain that we’re pushing forward to the New Middle East [and] not going back to the old one.”1Secretary Rice was immediately criticized for her statements both within Lebanon and internationally for expressing indifference to the suffering of an entire nation, which was being bombed indiscriminately by the Israeli Air Force.

The Anglo-American Military Roadmap in the Middle East and Central Asia 

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech on the “New Middle East” had set the stage. The Israeli attacks on Lebanon –which had been fully endorsed by Washington and London– have further compromised and validated the existence of the geo-strategic objectives of the United States, Britain, and Israel. According to Professor Mark Levine the “neo-liberal globalizers and neo-conservatives, and ultimately the Bush Administration, would latch on to creative destruction as a way of describing the process by which they hoped to create their new world orders,” and that “creative destruction [in] the United States was, in the words of neo-conservative philosopher and Bush adviser Michael Ledeen, ‘an awesome revolutionary force’ for (…) creative destruction…”2

Why Iraq War III is Headed Into a Long, Bloody Stalemate This war could persist for years

Source Link

When a small force of around 800 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria overran the city of Mosul last week, the worst-case scenario for the Iraqi government appeared to be coming true.

Half the country is now in the hands of extremists too extreme for even Al Qaida. What would happen to Baghdad? Would it fall? But the nature of sectarian war means that stalemate is the most likely option.

It didn’t appear this way mid-last week. On June 10, two Iraqi divisions of around 30,000 soldiers evaporated in the face of a lightning advance by more experienced and well-armed ISIS forces. Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit also fell to ISIS and its Sunni militia allies.

But this had the effect of galvanizing Shias into volunteering by the thousands into ad-hoc militias to defend Baghdad. Bolstered by these forces, the Iraqi government appears to have retaken several towns north of the capital.

The United States and Iran are somewhat awkwardly coming together to rescue the Iraqi government. The Quds Force—the expeditionary wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps—is on the ground with its veteran commander, Qassem Suleimani.

This is while the American carrier USS George H.W. Bush, its air wing, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and destroyer USS Truxton are heading into the Persian Gulf. Pres. Barack Obama is considering the possibility of air strikes.

But it’s the Shia militias backed by Iranian advisers who are likely the biggest obstacle in the way of further gains by ISIS. The Quds Force is not a front-line unit, but functions as a special operations group whose presence and leadership improves indigenous forces on the battlefield.

“The most likely outcome of that fighting will be a vicious stalemate at or north of Baghdad, basically along Iraq’s ethno-sectarian divide,” the Brookings Institution’s Kenneth Pollack wrote. “That is also not surprising because it conforms to the pattern of many similar intercommunal civil wars.”

ISIS technicals in northern Iraq. Photo released by ISIS Salahaddin Division

Sectarian standoff

The Merger of the Civil Wars in Syria and Iraq Points to a Wider and Bloodier War to Come

Dexter Filkins
June 16, 2014
Wider War

The New Yorker, June 23, 2014 
The day after Islamic militants swept into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and several other enclaves along the Tigris River, the conquering army, called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, posted a photograph on Twitter. It showed one of its fighters—a Chechen volunteer, the group said—opening the door of an American-made Humvee that it had seized from the Iraqi Army. The Humvee and the militant, the group said, had just arrived at an ISIS base in Syria, where, presumably, they were ready to be dispatched in the war there.

The border between Iraq and Syria may have effectively disappeared, but the dynamics driving the civil wars in those nations are not identical. In Syria, an oppressed majority is rising up; in Iraq, an oppressed minority. (The opposition fighters in both wars are mostly members of the Sunni sect.) Both countries just held elections: in Syria, the dictator, Bashar al-Assad, won in a display of empty theatre; in Iraq, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is expected to form a government for a third term, the elections were for the most part free. In Iraq, the dynamics driving the strife are largely Iraqi, and in Syria they are largely Syrian.

Even so, the events unfolding in Iraq point toward a much wider war, reaching from the Iranian frontier to the Mediterranean coast. The long open border between Iraq and Syria, and the big stretches of ungoverned space, has allowed extremists on each side to grow and to support one another. ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, two of the strongest groups fighting in Syria, were created by militant leaders from Iraq, many of whom had fought with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia against the United States. The vast swath of territory between the Euphrates and the Tigris—from Aleppo, in Syria, to Mosul, in Iraq—threatens to become a sanctuary for the most virulent Islamist pathologies, not unlike what flourished in Afghanistan in the years before 9/11. Among those fighting with ISIS and Al Nusra are hundreds of Westerners, from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. At some point, the survivors will want to go home; they will be well trained and battle-hardened.

The extremist groups dominating the fighting are beginning to take their war beyond the two countries that they now freely traverse. In January, ISIS carried out a car-bomb attack in Beirut near the offices of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group that has been fighting on behalf of Assad. The Nusra front has also carried out attacks in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the number of Syrian refugees who have fled to that nation exceeds twenty per cent of its population, which is not something that a state as weak and as fractious as Lebanon can be expected to sustain. In Jordan, the presence of half a million Syrian refugees is putting an enormous strain on the fragile monarchy.

5 Principles for Iraq

Thomas L. Friedman
JUNE 14, 2014

THE disintegration of Iraq and Syria is upending an order that has defined the Middle East for a century. It is a huge event, and we as a country need to think very carefully about how to respond. Having just returned from Iraq two weeks ago, my own thinking is guided by five principles, and the first is that, in Iraq today, my enemy’s enemy is my enemy. Other than the Kurds, we have no friends in this fight. Neither Sunni nor Shiite leaders spearheading the war in Iraq today share our values.

The Sunni jihadists, Baathists and tribal militiamen who have led the takeover of Mosul from the Iraqi government are not supporters of a democratic, pluralistic Iraq, the only Iraq we have any interest in abetting. And Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has proved himself not to be a friend of a democratic, pluralistic Iraq either. From Day 1, he has used his office to install Shiites in key security posts, drive out Sunni politicians and generals and direct money to Shiite communities. In a word, Maliki has been a total jerk. Besides being prime minister, he made himself acting minister of defense, minister of the interior and national security adviser, and his cronies also control the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry.

Maliki had a choice — to rule in a sectarian way or in an inclusive way — and he chose sectarianism. We owe himnothing.

The second principle for me derives from the most important question we need to answer from the Arab Spring. Why is it that the two states doing the best are those that America has had the least to do with: Tunisia and the semiautonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq?

Answer: Believe it or not, it’s not all about what we do and the choices we make. Arabs and Kurds have agency, too. And the reason that both Tunisia and Kurdistan have built islands of decency, still frail to be sure, is because the major contending political forces in each place eventually opted for the principle of “no victor, no vanquished.”

The two major rival parties in Kurdistan not only buried the hatchet between them but paved the way for democratic elections that recently brought a fast-rising opposition party, that ran on an anti-corruption platform, into government for the first time. And Tunisia, after much internal struggle and bloodshed, found a way to balance the aspirations of secularists and Islamists and agree on the most progressive Constitution in the history of the Arab world.