20 July 2014

Gaza Underground Infrastructure Photos

19 July 2014

Like peoples in simplest caves from the beginning and high-technological cities and nations today, Gaza constructs underground infrastructure to evade undercover all-INT full-spectrum attack exhibited in the first pristine safely-bunkered military industrial media photo.

KARGIL WAR 15 YEARS ON Defences stronger, but concerns persist


Many urgent lessons were learnt from the war, but some were forgotten just as quickly. The enthusiastic start to revamp the security and defence apparatus has not been able to keep pace.
by Dinesh Kumar

The last 15 years since the Kargil War ended have been eventful and rapid paced. Barely a year-and-a-half after the intrusions in Kargil were vacated, terrorists conducted a gruesome broad daylight attack on Parliament in December 2001. With evidence pointing to Pakistan, India mobilised its armed forces on the border with its western neighbour. This was the country’s largest military mobilisation since the 1971 Indo-Pak war. On two occasions during the 10-month mobilisation named Operation Parakram, India came close to attacking Pakistan twice. Eventually, in October 2002, India withdrew its forces from the border without it serving much purpose. Pakistan had called India’s bluff. But the mobilisation once again exposed the Army’s lack of preparedness and other deficiencies to fight a war and led to it subsequently adopting the Cold Start Doctrine, a posture once employed by NATO forces during the Cold War.

The purchase of US gun M777 (above) was missed because BAE Systems stopped its production even as never-ending Indian negotiations with the US government went on. India has not bought an artillery gun for the last 30 years.

Terror attacks

Yet two years later, in November 2003, India and Pakistan reached an agreement to cease fire along the J&K border. But ‘peace’ on the LoC did not translate into peace within the country. A series of bomb blasts, some of them suspected to be sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI, rocked several Indian cities over the years that followed. The most horrific of course was the terror attack carried out by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai in November 2008. Once again India was under pressure to teach Pakistan a lesson. Quite characteristically Pakistan has been economical in cooperating with India in bringing the Pakistan-based master planners to justice.

While terror attacks have been fewer since, over the last year-and-a-half not only has the Pakistan Army been randomly violating the cease fire agreement along the LoC and the international border in J&K, but it has also been engaging in barbaric acts such as beheading Indian soldiers.

China, which for many years maintained a quiet profile along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) that divides J&K and Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin, has meantime been engaging in infiltration and aggressive patrolling across the LAC. On occasions, deft diplomacy has helped defuse difficult situations but has not put a halt to China’s ground and aerial intrusions. All in all, India’s internal and external security situation remains far from satisfactory. At the best of times what has been prevailing is negative peace.

GROUND ZERO A war fought and won with an arm tied

When the war began, there was a shocking lack of extreme-weather gear and other supplies and weapons. Yet after the initial setbacks the Indian armed forces acquitted themselves well, even if at a high cost in life and blood.
Raj Chengappa

The war may have officially come to a close on July 26, 1999, but when I went a week later to Kargil the artillery guns were still booming on both sides. As I drove to nearby Dras, the Indian artillery let loose a fusillade of shells to a distant target on the other side of the Line of Control and the sound reverberated across the high mountains like the roll of thunder. The razor sharp and craggy peaks, many of them snow-tipped, provided a deceptively tranquil backdrop to the bloody battle that had been fought both on the heights and in the steep gorges and narrow valleys.

The Bofors guns were also used for sharp-shooting targets, an unconventional trick.

That night as I slept in the bunkers I heard the whistling of Pakistani shells landing not far from our shelters and I did feel fear. Colonel SVE David, Deputy Commander of 56 Brigade that was guarding the heights, though walked around the zone nonchalantly. He told me philosophically: “The splinter that is going to hit you has your name already engraved on it.” The war had already taken a heavy toll with over 500 Indian soldiers killed and another 1,300 wounded, some maimed for life. It was a hard fought victory and David knew that chance and luck also made the difference between the quick and the dead.

There were awe-inspiring tales of bravery as our soldiers repelled the Pakistani intruders on the heights. There were also plenty of clever and unconventional thinking, particularly while retaking Tiger Hill and Tololing, two of the many peaks that had become household names. The Bofors guns had been deployed in full in the valleys and despite the taint over their purchase had performed exceedingly well, providing India with an edge. Apart from lobbing shells to pulverise targets behind enemy lines, the guns were also used in the unusual role of sharp-shooting to dislodge Pakistani soldiers who had occupied the heights and were raining fire at the Indian infantry below.

Brigadier Lakhwinder ‘Lucky’ Singh, commanding the artillery brigade at Dras, showed me just how effective the Bofors guns could be. He asked me to choose any point on one of the surrounding hills that was being used for target practice. I chose a clump of bush through the binoculars. He then turned around to his gunner and told him to fix the coordinates and fire at it. The next thing I saw was the bush take a leap in the air – such was the deadly accuracy with which the guns were being fired with.

Pipeline to Pakistan may revive stalled mega projects

Published: July 19, 2014 2

Atul AnejaMahim Pratap Singh

India’s decision to pipe natural gas and other petroleum products to Pakistan is being seen as a first step that could lead to the revival of two stalled mega undertakings involving Islamabad — the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project.

“We are attempting a pilot project with Pakistan. If it succeeds, and there is a genuine demonstration of goodwill from Pakistan on all fronts, including security, it could lead to the reconsideration of stalled mega projects such as IPI and the TAPI pipeline,” highly placed sources said.

The sources observed that a new gas pipeline and a products pipeline to Pakistan from India was the brainchild of the Manmohan Singh government. The Modi administration has been willing to carry forward the proposal.

Instability in Pakistan’s Baluchistan, through which the proposed IPI would pass, coupled with the policy of the United States so far to seek Iran’s political and economic isolation, have impeded the project. But analysts say that the IPI could revive, should a breakthrough be achieved in the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the six global powers — U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. “There is already a softening of stance towards Iran among international oil majors. A political deal, if it materialises, would cement Tehran’s possible reintegration in the global economy and raise its regional standing in West Asia,” the sources said.

Pakistan has responded positively to the Indian proposal for gas and product pipelines to the country.

“I can assure you both sides are working overtime to hasten the process,” Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said in a conversation with The Hindu on Friday. He stressed that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — a guest during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inaugural — had stated his intention to import 500 megawatts of power from India.Optimistic


Sunday, 20 July 2014 | Swapan Dasgupta |

Those who imagine that the scheduled debate in Parliament on the hostilities in Gaza stemmed from a heartfelt desire of concerned MPs to avert a ‘humanitarian tragedy’ are either being wilfully naïve or plain disingenuous. Under the guise of tear-jerking speeches the debating chambers will echo a narrow, sectarian rhetoric aimed at a purely domestic audience.

It is time to stop skirting the real issue. The 2014 general election was a turning point in more than one way. Apart from the fact that an avowed non-Congress party secured a clear majority, the election verdict indicated the limits of ‘secular’ scare-mongering. The results clearly suggested that no group or community can exercise a permanent veto over which party and which leader has the right to run a government at the Centre. The victory of the BJP-led NDA exposed the popular impatience with a spurious secularism based on manipulating the fears and vulnerabilities of India’s Muslim citizens.

For both the so-called secular parties and the custodians of ghetto politics, the clear mandate for Narendra Modi and the BJP was a monumental setback. The orchestrated furore over India’s alleged insensitivity to what a senior Trinamool Congress MP bizarrely described as Israel’s “genocide” against the Palestinian people is the first serious attempt to get over the post-election demoralisation and reclaim lost ground. It is a calculated attempt to inform the Modi dispensation that while it may have a functioning majority, their veto is still intact.

For understandable reasons the Modi government may be anxious to minimise the confrontation with the opposition, particularly in the Rajya Sabha where it does not have a working majority. However, this is no reason for the government to be unmindful of the political-ideological challenge that has been thrown by parties that are unable to break out of the mould of sectarian politics.

What is interesting is that the challenge is brazen and with little attempt to conceal its real nature. The Israeli retaliation to the 1,200 or so rocket attacks on its citizens was not against some benign, if helpless, Palestinian dispensation. It was directed at an administration controlled by Hamas, an organisation that has consistently shunned all peace initiatives and is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. Inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, the Hamas is a radical Islamist body that invokes revulsion in other parts of West Asia and is both feared and despised by the more legitimate Palestinian Authority operating from the West Bank. Hamas does not merely threaten the security of Israel, it has the potential to destabilise the neighbouring Arab states of the region. To convey any sense of sympathy with its political goals and war aims is reprehensible. Even by the dubious standards of the selective ‘morality’ of the Israel-haters, Hamas is beyond the pale. India must not be seen to have any truck with it.

A BRICS-Centered World Order?

July 17, 2014 

This week’s BRICS summit in Brazil largely has been overshadowed by the violent exchanges between Israel and Hamas, yet the summit’s keynote announcement has managed to make headlines: the agreement to create a global financial institution to rival the IMF and World Bank. Upon inspection, however, even this highly conspicuous and grandiose diplomatic move probably will mean less than its architects intend.

The deal signed in Fortaleza by the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa was to create an international fund (rumored to be titled the New Development Bank) capable of issuing major infrastructure loans to developing countries. Such an institution, of course, would be in direct competition with the World Bank (as well as regional institutions like the U.S. and Japanese-led Asian Development Bank and China’s Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank). 

Reports also suggest that the new bank will engage in financial bailouts, with a $100bn fund being put at its disposal in order to insulate the BRICS—and any other countries which may choose to join the new financial institution—from reliance upon the IMF in times of crisis. All of this has led some to suggest that the BRICS are seeking to replace the western-centered international financial system.

At face value, the creation of a “BRICS bank” does indeed appear like a serious challenge to the U.S.-led order. But there are several reasons for skepticism. First, organizations set up to rival western-led international institutions have a history of failing to meet expectations (or even materializing). In Latin America, the so-called Bank of the South was created in 2009 (at the chief behest of Venezuela) for similar reasons to those touted in Fortaleza this week: to free developing economies from reliance upon the IMF and, by extension, the United States. Yet five years later that institution only exists on paper.

Even attempts to rival the west spearheaded by the BRICS themselves have left much to be desired. Russia’s much vaunted Eurasian Economic Union, for example, which is set to come into being in January 2015, took around 20 years to get off the ground. Even so, analysts doubt whether the Union—argued to be more a political move than a serious plan to integrate national economies—will have much of an impact. In the security realm, too, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes both Russia and China, has failed to grow into a real counterweight any western-led security organization or alliance.

Second, the BRICS bank will be hamstrung by its relatively small initial capitalization ($50bn) and the fact, as Daniel Drezner points out, the bank will be limited to expanding in size only so far as its weakest link (South Africa) can afford because of the BRICS countries’ preoccupation with equality (in this case, in terms of making contributions to the fund) and consensual decision-making.

Pakistan and China: A Precarious Friendship?

By Alessandro Rippa
July 17, 2014

In contrast to the public posturing, the relationship on the ground is more complex and multilayered. 

What do a Communist state and an Islamic Republic have in common? Not much, perhaps, and yet in the fast-changing world of international relations, China and Pakistan have managed to maintain a strong friendship from the 1960s onward. Today, despite its growing isolation on the international stage, Pakistan can still counts on China as its closest ally. Particularly as the country’s troubled relation with the United States seems to deteriorate by the day, China has emerged in the eyes of many Pakistanis to the image of a peaceful, supportive neighbor. As a recent survey has shown, 81 percent of Pakistanis view China favorably, second in this special chart only to China itself. Recurrent protestations of friendship and reciprocal approval seem to reinforce this view, as do public announcements of triumphal development projects such as the China-Pakistan economic corridor, the Gwadar Port, and other initiatives.

On a different note, however, some analysts have pointed out that the waters beneath the surface of this relation might, in fact, be much more agitated than the public displays would suggest. In particular, it has been argued that the alleged presence of Uyghur militants in North Waziristan, which Beijing hold responsible for several terrorist attacks on its soil, might represent a source of tension between the two countries. In this sense Mushahid Hussain, head of the Defense Committee of the Pakistani Senate and chairman of the Pakistan China institute, in a recent interview seemed to imply that Chinese pressure played some kind of role in the ongoing military operation in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, where several ETIM militants are allegedly based. And yet, in this as in other public statements by Pakistani and Chinese officials, always the “convergence of interest” between the two countries, and a mutual appreciation of each other’s efforts, are underlined. The issue of Uyghur militants in Pakistan, moreover, seems of little concern for Pakistan’s general public, rather concerned with an Islamist threat in its own country and with the US’s activities along its borders.

Recently, however, a few stories show a different side to this relationship, one that is not always considered when it comes to the heights and depths of the two countries’ “all-weather” friendship. The first is the story, widely reported and discussed in Pakistan, of the Chinese government banning Xinjiang officials from fasting during Ramadan. The news sparked an array of surprised and angry responses, but also a more interesting debate on the value of Pakistan’s friendship with China. Many, like Rafia Zakaria for Dawn, have called out Pakistan’s hypocrisy in its relations with China, accusing the country of being eager to stand up to injustices committed against Muslims only when those are not perpetrated by its “friends.” In a late – and rather paltry – move, the Pakistani government eventually adopted a public stance, in which it allied itself, once again, with the Chinese government. Asked about the issue, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam was reported as saying that “The Chinese have clarified that there is no such ban on fasting and that they respect the freedom of religion,” adding that these reports were just rumors and factually incorrect. Few, however, seemed convinced by those words.

The other two news items, on the other hand, didn’t attract much attention either within Pakistan or abroad, perhaps because they originated from the remote (geographically and politically) Gilgit-Baltistan region, near the Chinese border. The first was reported by Pamir Times, a small internet blog established in 2006, which has rapidly become the most important online news portal in Gilgit-Baltistan. The article, entitled “Locals in Gojal Valley demand more responsible behavior from Chinese workers” raises an important issue for many inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan, where many Chinese workers are involved in construction projects, such as the realignment of the Karakoram Highway. As I had the chance to hear personally during my fieldwork in the area in 2013, many locals accuse the Chinese workers of not respecting the local cultures, of selling alcohol, causing incidents and, at times, of not bringing anything to the local economy. As I was often told in the region, if the Chinese workers’ attitude was to be taken as an indicator of the quality of China’s friendship, then Pakistan shouldn’t really trust its “all-weather” ally.

The second bit of news, first reported by an even smaller internet blog, Sost Today, was on the other hand centered on the Sost Dry Port “drama,” as Pamir Times defined it. The Dry Port was set up in 2001 in Sost, Pakistan’s border town along the Karakoram Highway, to facilitate and enhance trade relations with the People’s Republic of China. The administration of the Dry Port is for the 60 percent in the hand of the Chinese Sino-Trans Company, and for the 40 percent in the hand of local investors, a situation which had led to numerous scandals in the past. On this most recent occasion the Dry Port was closed by its Chinese administrators demanding protection of the “interests of Chinese” in a note posted on the sealed gates. The note, allegedly, followed a brawl which saw the new Pakistani chairman of the Dry Port assaulted by – or assaulting, it’s still not clear – a Chinese official in his office. The incident, although it remains quite murky, signals a certain tension between the two parties, and seems to point toward well-established mutual accusations and suspicions. The Express Tribune, running the story a few days later, significantly titled it “bad for business,” a concern that seems shared by many in the area.

In the course of my fieldwork along the Karakoram Highway, in both Xinjiang and Pakistan, I was often confronted with similar issues. Some Chinese traders and officials were eager to highlight the laziness and inefficiency of the Pakistanis; while on the other side many Pakistani businessmen despised the Chinese for cheating and for their arrogance. On a more general level, the situation appeared complex and multi-layered. For many Pakistanis, China remained a trustworthy fried. For others: it is another external power that simply aims at using Pakistan for its own advantages. For many, at least in Gilgit-Baltistan, it appeared as a necessary evil, an economic power with the ability to develop infrastructure and trade, yet with the potential to eventually lead the whole region toward unpredictable, and negative, future outcomes.

On the ground, then, the trope of “China-Pakistan friendship” seems more complex than anything revealed by the official statements of the two governments. As these recent news items suggest, Pakistani’s favorable attitude toward the PRC should not be taken for granted. On the other hand, it could be argued that for as long as Pakistanis see the United States as the overarching cause of almost all of the country’s problems, China’s position is not likely to change. And yet, as Germany and the United States have recently demonstrated over the espionage row, even a long-lasting friendship can abruptly take a turn for the bad. Maybe it’s time for somebody to start worrying about the possibility of losing a friend.

Alessandro Rippa is a Ph.D. student in Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. He recently concluded a year of ethnographic research on the Karakoram Highway between Xinjiang and Pakistan. You can follow Alessandro on Twitter @AlessandroRippa.

China is the Major Threat to Asian Security and Stability

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Contemporaneous review of the Asian security landscape would in mid-2014 suggest with clarity that China has emerged as a major threat to Asian security and stability. The China threat palpably raises concerns all over the Indo Pacific.

The China threat to Asian security and stability can only recede if China elects to modulate its aggressive strategies and militarily provocative postures and takes conscious steps to generate “strategic trust” amongst Asian countries as a whole. Then only can it project convincing credentials within Asia that it is a benign stakeholder in Asian security and stability.

Alternatively, the China threat can be diluted if the global major powers and the major Asian powers act in a concerted manner to checkmate China’s unprecedented military rise and military assertiveness all over Asia whether on the land borders or in Asia’s maritime expanses.

United States, Russia and major Asian powers like India need to be strategically honest in highlighting the China threat that has already emerged and created “strategic distrust” all over Asia. Strategic analysts and policy analysts have already started speculating that if the powers named above do not exercise some plain-speaking on China’s aggressive impulses all along its land and maritime borders and now air spaces over international waters, then dangers exist of a Nazi Germany-like danger looming all over Asia with devastating effects.

Nazi Germany too was being appeased and molly-coddled by the existing powers of the day and the same trend is visible today in relation to China. 

From South Asia through South East Asia and on to East Asia there is not one major region of the Indo Pacific in which China is not involved in territorial and sovereignty disputes with its neighbours and where lately China in defiance of international norms not indulged in conflict generation, conflict escalation or aggressive military brinkmanship.

China’s propensity to do so arises from its historical record of seeking resolution of its territorial disputes with its neighbours by the use of military force or the threat to use military force. China does so with immunity, secure in the belief that the powers that could provide counter-vailing power to restrain China would hesitate in doing so because of their own selfish political expediencies.

It is therefore galling for strategic analysts that whether at the global level countries like the United States engage China on the specious pleas that China needs to be engaged to bring it in the global mainstream as a responsible stakeholder in global security. This has not generated any matching positive responses from China.

Similarly, it is galling to witness the spectacle at multilateral summits like the BRICS Summit recently where an unwarranted deference is displayed by countries like India towards China completely oblivious to China’s demonstrated record of the military situation on the India-Tibet border where Chinese troops were committing incursions even while the BRICS Summit was ongoing.

A brief review of the Asian security landscape is in order in relation to what China has demonstrated in each of the Asian regions in terms of its propensity to use force or threat to use force or use regional proxies to further its strategic ends.

Hamas and the New Round of Fighting in Gaza: Both Sides are Escalating to Nowhere

By Anthony H. Cordesman
JUL 17, 2014
The key question in any war – in starting it and throughout the conflict – is how will this war end? Ever since 1967, the answer in the case of Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, has been by pausing and then resuming in a different form with the same result. In the case of the fighting in Gaza, changes in tactics and technology have simply escalated to nowhere. The best outcome has been an unstable ceasefire. The worst has been violence too low in intensity to be labeled another round of conflict.
The initial cause in 2006, 2012, and now in 2014, has been a new attempt by Hamas to change the strategic facts on the ground – increasingly relying on rockets and missiles rather than irregular warfare in the form of ground or naval attacks on Israel. In each case, Israel’s decisive military edge has left Hamas (and the more extreme Palestinian Islamic Jihad) weaker than before, killed and wounded far more Palestinians than Israelis, prolonged the economic isolation that has crippled Gaza and reduced living standards and social mobility, and failed to have any meaningful political impact that benefited Hamas in making even limited strategic gains.
Each round has also been costly and futile to Israel. Israel’s casualties have been far lower, but all too real if it attempted to fight on the ground. The cost of air and ground operations has steadily risen, and so has the cost of the security measures in peacetime that deter and contain Hamas and other threats in the Gaza. Hamas has recovered its ability to pose a threat and slowly developed a capability to use rockets, missiles and mortars to strike into Israeli territory – although without any meaningful strategic benefits to Hamas – or Gaza’s population.
The latest round of fighting can be measured in different ways – which some media reduce to levels approaching the statistics in a sporting event: comparative killed and wounded, and displaced form or lost their homes. Numbers of Hamas rockets and missiles launched, and numbers that were intercepted or had no result. Numbers of Israeli sorties flown, numbers that hit a military target, numbers that hit a Hamas-related home, numbers that produced collateral damage, and numbers that produced civilian casualties. Direct and indirect military and economic costs to each side.

The Sunni-Shia Divide

A CFR InfoGuide Presentation

Sectarian conflict is becoming entrenched in a growing number of Muslim countries and is threatening to fracture Iraq and Syria. Tensions between Sunnis and Shias, exploited by regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, could reshape the future Middle East.


An ancient religious divide is helping fuel a resurgence of conflicts in the Middle East and Muslim countries. Struggles between Sunni and Shia forces have fed a Syrian civil war that threatens to transform the map of the Middle East, spurred violence that is fracturing Iraq, and widened fissures in a number of tense Gulf countries. Growing sectarian clashes have also sparked a revival of transnational jihadi networks that poses a threat beyond the region.

Islam’s schism, simmering for fourteen centuries, doesn’t explain all the political, economic, and geostrategic factors involved in these conflicts, but it has become one prism by which to understand the underlying tensions. Two countries that compete for the leadership of Islam, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, have used the sectarian divide to further their ambitions. How their rivalry is settled will likely shape the political balance between Sunnis and Shias and the future of the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain.

Alongside the proxy battle is the renewed fervor of armed militants, motivated by the goals of cleansing the faith or preparing the way for the return of the messiah. Today there are tens of thousands of organized sectarian militants throughout the region capable of triggering a broader conflict. And despite the efforts of many Sunni and Shia clerics to reduce tensions through dialogue and counterviolence measures, many experts express concern that Islam’s divide will lead to escalating violence and a growing threat to international peace and security.

Sunni and Shia Muslims have lived peacefully together for centuries. In many countries it has become common for members of the two sects to intermarry and pray at the same mosques. They share faith in the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings and perform similar prayers, although they differ in rituals and interpretation of Islamic law.

Shia identity is rooted in victimhood over the killing of Husayn, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, in the seventh century, and a long history of marginalization by the Sunni majority. Islam’s dominant sect, which roughly 85 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims follow, viewed Shia Islam with suspicion, and extremist Sunnis have portrayed Shias as heretics and apostates.



Origins of the Schism

Mohammed unveiled a new faith to the people of Mecca in 610. Known as Islam, or submission to God, the monotheistic religion incorporated some Jewish and Christian traditions and expanded with a set of laws that governed most aspects of life, including political authority. By the time of his death in 632, Mohammed had consolidated power in Arabia. His followers subsequently built an empire that would stretch from Central Asia to Spain less than a century after his death. But a debate over succession split the community, with some arguing that leadership should be awarded to qualified individuals and others insisting that the only legitimate ruler must come through Mohammed’s bloodline.

ISIL and the Lesser Evil of Bashar al-Assad

Dominic Tierney
July 16, 2014

A year ago, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, was reeling from an entrenched insurgency and facing the prospect of war against the United States and its allies. After Syrian government forces used chemical weapons to kill more than 1,000 civilians in August 2013, Barack Obama threatened air strikes against Damascus—before a last-minute deal to destroy Syria’s chemical stockpiles averted a conflict.

Today, Assad is almost an unofficial ally of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a Sunni extremist force that has swept from Syria into neighboring Iraq. The Syrian leader’s tale of political survival offers a brutal lesson about how dictators can use violence to radicalize their opposition and cement their rule.

Embattled tyrants like Assad can’t usually win international allies with a charm offensive. Instead, their best hope for gaining foreign support is to rely on that old adage: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. As Winston Churchill said during World WarII: “If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

Dictators can play the devil’s gambit: winning international sympathy by deliberately radicalizing regime opponents, so that these adversaries look like latter-day Hitlers. This approach is cynical, bloody, and potentially effective. “It’s obvious that Bashar al-Assad’s strategy is to present us with a choice of ISISor him so that eventually we will choose him,” Senator John McCain has observed.

How does the devil’s gambit work? The goal is to make the opposition appear even more threatening than the regime. If you’re a despot like Assad, this is no easy feat. For one thing, Damascus has an appalling human-rights record, and a list of allies that reads like the Axis of Evil, 2014 edition, including Iran and Hezbollah.

Furthermore, back in 2011, the original Syrian resistance won many international friends. The opposition included a large number of moderates who sought democratic change using peaceful mass protests and strikes. These tactics of non-violent resistance can successfully undermine a dictatorship, by boosting mass participation in the resistance, peeling away regime supporters, and winning foreign backing.

The devil’s gambit requires transforming the opposition into something far more radical and dangerous. If non-violent resistance is effective at toppling tyrants, then dictators can incite rebels into using extreme tactics like terrorism. Autocrats want to turn today’s Gandhis into tomorrow’s jihadists. Here, dictators can benefit from the inherently vicious nature of civil war. A cycle of atrocities and revenge is like a centrifugal force that pushes all sides to the extreme. The center cannot hold, as the catalyst of violence hardens attitudes, marginalizes moderates, and forges the opposition into a more militant entity.

In Syria, three years of scorched-earth warfare, which has left 170,000 dead and ruined much of the country, have removed the restraints on war. Over time, the balance of power within the opposition has shifted from relatively moderate groups like the Free Syrian Army to extremists like ISIS.

Ground commanders with cyber skills

Jul. 16, 2014 

Leaders consider adding new offensive tactics to CTC rotations

Army's cyber boss envisions incorporating cyber offensive tactics into brigade rotations at combat training centers. (Capt. Michael Thompson / Army)

By Joe Gould 
Staff writer 

Ground commanders are already learning how to counter cyber threats in the field, but the Army’s cyber boss wants them to start launching their own attacks.

“The way we’re going to have to do this is stand up the capability and start experimenting with it,” said Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, commander of Army Cyber Command. “From that we will develop the commander’s guidance for cyber.”

Cardon said the first step in educating and empowering brigade commanders is to incorporate the offensive capabilities as part of combat training center rotations. It could happen as early as next year, he said.

For more than a year, the Army has employed 1st Information Operations Command’s “World-Class Cyber Opposing Force” to play a red team at combat training centers. The opposition throws a wide range of threats at the brigade, including phishing scams that install network-crashing malware.

The red team’s goal is “crushing that unit that’s trying to operate their networks,” said Maj. Gen. George Franz III, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force at U.S. Cyber Command.

Should commanders fail to stop the threat, they might find themselves struggling to work around the absence of a comms network.

If the CTCs adopt offensive cyber training, it could mean the addition of a blue, or friendly, team, Cardon said.

The plans come as the Defense Department is planning to ramp up to 6,000 cyber warriors across the services by 2016, and as the Army rapidly trains its share.

“We have a lot of capabilities coming on line now, and the question is how do we organize these to give options to combatant commanders?” Cardon said.

For Iraq, Debacle in Tikrit as Forces Walk Into Trap Set by Militants

JULY 16, 2014 

BAGHDAD — Iraqi troops and their militia and volunteer allies were on the verge of declaring victory over Sunni militants holding the strategic town of Tikrit and were about to hoist the Iraqi flag over key government buildings, when, a survivor recalled Wednesday, “the doors of hell opened.”

The Iraqi forces had apparently walked into a trap, and some soldiers — and many more of their untrained volunteer supporters — were either killed or badly wounded when the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria sprung it, according to accounts from two soldiers and volunteer leaders reached by telephone afterward.

The debacle in Tikrit on Tuesday offered a vivid illustration of how badly the Iraqi military needs advisers. For weeks, the Americans had implored Iraqi leaders not to fight for the centers of cities, but to establish control of roads and highways, and thus set their own conditions for battle. But the 300 American military and intelligence advisers now in the country are not, as of now, working directly with troops and commanders at the front.

The ambush in Tikrit, a few miles from the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, was also a piercing reminder of how difficult it will be to roll back the military gains made by ISIS in June when the Sunni militant group, bolstered by other Sunni insurgents, took control of Mosul after the army melted away, then pushed to Tikrit, the provincial capital of Salahuddin. A look at the map of Iraq suggests that the insurgents have opened far more fronts than the Iraqi security forces can possibly deal with at once.

The results have been small gains and losses of villages and towns every day but only a few signs of substantial progress for the Iraqi government. The security forces had, however, some success in securing the road to Tikrit. Military leaders, urged on by politicians, proceeded into the city — clearly eager to boast they had won it back.

After pounding Tikrit with bombs on Tuesday and saying it would be a matter of hours before the Iraqi government reconquered it, the army and its supporters reached the police academy, the hospital and the municipal building, according to soldiers who were fighting there.

With air support and tanks on their side and ISIS fighters seemingly retreating from the city, the security forces appeared to have been lured into thinking that the militants were truly gone. One cohort began clearing bombs and defusing booby traps from the hospital and then received an order to raise the Iraqi flag on the roofs of all the buildings.

That was when “the doors of hell opened,” said Ali, a soldier in a tank division, who was at the hospital. “The bullets rained on our heads from everywhere, the suicide bombers were throwing themselves from the windows and detonated themselves in the air,” he said. It was unclear if the militants were actually jumping into groups of soldiers in vehicles outside the hospital or if, in the mayhem, it merely appeared that the militants were flying at them from all sides.

“The most casualties were among the volunteers who were deeply vulnerable and unable to protect themselves,” he said.

There was hardly time for the soldiers and militias to defend themselves. “Everyone was evacuating his comrade,” he said.

The fighting went on less virulently after an initial retreat and ended on Wednesday morning when the lone helicopter providing air support ran out of fuel and could not be quickly replaced, soldiers said. The military, militia fighters and volunteers retreated to the edge of the city.

It was difficult to say if this loss would have any lasting effect on the ability of the army to take back Tikrit, but it highlighted the lack of preparation and provision for the volunteers and sometimes outright disregard for their lives. That could affect both their morale and the willingness of other young men to join them.

Here’s What the U.S. Has to Do to Deal With the Mad Middle East


The Muslim world’s turned upside down. Washington must forge new alliances to meet the jihadi challenge. One of its partners should be Iran. 

Six hundred years of Mideast history are now fully and finally shredding. The political structures established by the Ottoman Turks in the 1500s, especially in Iraq and Syria, have crumbled. The colonial influences and Western ways that once widely pervaded Muslim societies now reside mainly in individuals. American power that succeeded the colonial constructs is largely sapped by wars and diplomatic failures, and by regional upheavals that bewilder and overwhelm even wise policymakers. 

The Mideast is being dismembered by fanatics who would enslave women and bind men’s minds to a nightmarish code of conduct, by the deeply embedded corruption and inefficiency of rulers and governments historically favored by Washington, and by the ancient battle between Sunni and Shia Muslims. 

There is no brilliant policy that can soon reverse these horrific tides. There is no way to foresee a future that still hides in turmoil. This period of bitter struggle among Muslims will persist for many years, well beyond the capacity of American military, economic, and diplomatic power to influence. Throughout this upheaval, Americans will have concerns about civilian suffering, but overshadowing this humanitarian impulse lies the potent fear that Muslim terrorists will export their jihad to the Western lands they despise almost as much as they do some of their Muslim brethren. 

The beginning of wisdom for Americans is to realize that the Arab world is tumbling through an earthquake, and that no mere policy can stop it, let alone shape it. At this stage, Washington can only prepare for the aftermath. The natural American impulse is to search for solutions, for policies that can prevail against these upheavals. But for years to come, Washington will have to lower its sights from solutions to more limited and defensive measures, in effect toward simply halting the jihadi menace. Even then, Americans should expect further jihadi triumphs. 

Over time, however, Washington can cultivate new cooperative arrangements with the few stable and similarly inclined or threatened nations—Kurdistan, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and, shockingly, Iran. And if the new Egyptian rulers can be encouraged to stabilize and somewhat democratize their ancient land, Egyptians too would be a key to a better future. 

At first and even second glance, this may seem an impossible collection of partners. On its face, Israel surely seems incongruous in this collection, but it could actually fill several important roles. First and foremost, Israel could bolster the Egyptian economy through increased trade and help the government there provide the goods and services demanded by a restive population. It is in Israel’s interest to help stabilize Egypt and make it once again a central anchor in the Arab world. Israel could play a similar role for Jordan. 

A Mistaken Identity: Muslim Radicalism as a Complex Phenomenon

Guest Column By Moorthy S. Muthuswamy Ph.D.(The views expressed are author's own)

If the above premise holds true, the coming years promise a new and potentially fruitful approach to mitigating the threat of ever-growing violent Muslim radicalism.

First, some background.

About a decade ago, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region was the main theatre of violent transnational Islamic radicalism. The phenomenon has spread far and wide, despite the immense efforts of the United States and its allies. First, the AfPak region appears to be all set to revert to its pre-9/11 days; second, militant groups are now operating in vast swaths of territory from the Middle East to North Africa. Moreover, even the Western counties themselves are hardly free from terrorism conducted by resident jihadists. Countries such as India, Israel, China, the Philippines and Thailand that border Muslim nations and have significant Muslim minorities are reeling under increasing attacks by home-grown Muslim radicals.

If these results are any indication, both the experts in the intelligence world who drive policies and in the academia have failed to delineate the dominant causes that drive Muslim radicalism. For instance, terrorism scholar Marc Sageman pointed out in 2013 that “overall, the same stale arguments about ‘how can this [a terrorist incident] happen?’ are debated over and over again—with very little new insight.” This could mean two possibilities: one, that the learned experts have yet to comprehend this phenomenon and two, that the phenomenon itself may be so complex that it is hardly driven by one or two dominant causes.

It appears that most experts in Western intelligence world are being made to focus on short-term projects that put them at a disadvantage in taking a long-view of the phenomenon. Moreover, as Sageman notes, they usually lack a high-end analytical background. However, the experts in academia, typically PhDs in political science, may have a different shortcoming. Recently, questions have been raised about the quality and relevance of academic scholarship, with a well-respected political scientist noting that “[p]olitical science Ph.D.’s often aren’t prepared to do real-world analysis.”

The Underlying Simplicity

While the conventional wisdom holds that the radicalization process is “complex,” I am positing that such a characterization is unwarranted for the following reasons: Violence conduced in the name of Islam is preponderant compared to other religions; almost always, this radicalism invokes sharia and armed jihad; this violence transcends, ethno-cultural, linguistic, geographic and income fault-lines.

The above universality suggests that specific religion based causes or processes are behind the modern phenomenon called Muslim radicalism. The extent of its spread suggests that these processes could not be complex and that they are likely to be simple to the extent that, many Muslims understand and identify with them.


JULY 15, 2014

http://www.unz.com/item/ blowback-in-iraq/

Colin Kahl probably didn’t realize he was playing oracle when he looked at the Sunni fighters once on the American’s payroll and how they were being left out to dry in Iraq at the end of the so-called Surge in 2008 and mused, “it doesn’t take 100,000 of these guys to revert to insurgents to cause big trouble.”

Above that August 2008 Wired story was a photograph of a Sunni “Son of Iraq” getting his retinas scanned by a U.S. soldier. Before he left his post as commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus’s troops oversaw an elaborate program of gathering biometric information including retinal scans and fingerprints from known insurgents, as well as the “Sons” or Sunni “Awakening” fighters the military were arming and paying $300 a day to drive al Qaeda from the Sunni cities. In fact, it was a requirement of their service.

Kahl, then an Obama campaign aide, wryly noted – as did others at the time, to be sure – that the growing databank of Sunni men provided “a useful enemies list to the Government of Iraq, if they chose to use it.” Even more pointedly, U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Velliquette called the information, “a hit list if it gets in the wrong hands.”

Well, it likely got into Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s hands, because after the U.S withdrew, he broke every promise to incorporate those unemployed, pretty much forsaken, Sunnis into his government, and not only that, individual “Sons” were soon snatched off the streets, tortured in jail, persecuted and run out of their homes. This has been well-documented.

Recent punditry has blamed these and other anti-Sunni policies for fueling the Sunni anger that has driven so many Iraqis into the service of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – and rightly so. They have blamed the Obama Administration for not riding herd on Maliki and letting things get as bad as they did. No defense there. But yet the military, specifically Petraeus, and his role in setting up not only the vulnerability and eventual disenfranchisement of some 90,000 Sunni men, empowering Maliki’s ability to persecute them, is never questioned.

That a number of these men have taken up arms, and are now likely killing alongside ISIS insurgents, is not even warranted a footnote.

Not in everyone’s mind, of course. “Absolutely accurate that Petraeus played a key role in setting the stage for this crisis. The Awakening groups, set up along strictly sectarian lines obviously, were seen as a threat by Maliki and thus targeted and disenfranchised by his regime,” said Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist who spent time in Fallujah during the war and has visited since, in an email.

Like others, Jamail has documented the deplorable economic conditions, the detention and torture of Sunnis, as well as the rising protests, which began in places like Mosul and Fallujah around the Arab Spring in 2011. Maliki eventually cracked down on them with force, but they never fully dissipated, and the situation was easily exploited by ISIS radicals, who most recently ran Maliki’s government out of several key Sunni strongholds, including Mosul.

“Given the enormous amounts of U.S. cash that Petraeus used to buy off those we could not kill with airstrikes or ground attacks it’s certain that at least half of the Sunni fighters with ISIL are former Sons of Iraq,” guessed (Ret) Col. Doug Macgregor, an author and war critic, in a recent exchange.

“Certainly (their) abandonment did result in further isolation of Sunni tribes and certainly was a lead up to what is happening now,” added Donna Mulhearn, an Australian peace activist and writer who’s trekked to Iraq, including Fallujah, several times since 2003 and covered the protests last year.

“No Security Without Us” Tribes and Tribalism in Al Anbar Province, Iraq

June 30, 2014

In recent weeks, Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have swept across northern Iraq, pushing aside the beleaguered Iraqi security forces (ISF), many of whom have simply dropped their weapons and fled. These advances have furthered the gains ISIS had made in the western desert province of al Anbar months earlier, and have positioned it to directly threaten Baghdad. While some commentators have downplayed the ability of ISIS to take Baghdad based on the large number of ISF (and Shia militias) in and around the capital, the Obama administration has responded by sending roughly 300 Special Forces advisors to Iraq to bolster the ISF in their attempts to defend Baghdad. However, even if the ISF successfully defend the capital, failure to reverse ISIS’ current momentum in Sunni areas of Iraq could yet plunge the country into another civil war.

Luckily, the ISIS-led insurgency is by no means monolithic. Reminiscent of al Qaeda’s rise in Iraq beginning in 2003, the ISIS campaign is currently supported by a host of actors, ranging from former Baathists to disaffected Sunni tribes at odds with a sectarian Shia government and its exclusionary policies. These alliances are born of convenience and a shared hatred of the current government of Iraq. But given the bloody history between Islamic extremists and al Anbar’s tribes, each must be eyeing the other warily. As was the case during the years of heavy American presence in Iraq, a key to security going forward will be to peel away moderate Sunni tribes from the insurgency, turn them against the terrorists, and begin a legitimate national reconciliation process between Iraq’s Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish populations.

While the path to enduring stability in Iraq involves effective national-level political accommodations, the task at hand is to extirpate ISIS to create space for negotiations among Iraq’s various political and ethnic factions. Doing so will require partnering with local tribal forces in Sunni areas—and, if current news reports are accurate, the Obama administration is already considering ways to do so. If the president decides to take such actions, it will be critical for those implementing such a decision to understand the features of tribalism in Iraq and the role that tribal leaders play both in mobilizing the population and in resolving conflict.

With that in mind, this paper is intended to serve as a primer on the salient aspects of tribalism in Sunni areas of Iraq, with an emphasis on al Anbar province. It provides a brief summary of the nature of modern tribalism, tribal structures and organization, and the role of tribal leadership. It also details important tribal customs designed to inhibit the escalation of violence. The research for this paper was conducted by the author while embedded as a CNA Corporation analyst with the U.S. Marine Corps in al Anbar province in 2007, and some of what follows first appeared in a chapter in Deborah Isser’s Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War Torn Societies. We include this material as part of this occasional paper with permission from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Press Books.

- See more at: http://www.cna.org/research/2014/no-security-without-us#sthash.hDU0bIFQ.dpuf

The ISIS Chronicles: A History

July 17, 2014 

"If the Islamic State’s history is any indication, then one should be concerned about it deepening political polarization and sectarianism in both Lebanon and Jordan..."

On June 10, 2014, Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the capital of Ninawa province, fell to the Salafi-Jihadi organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The fall of Mosul and the subsequent blitz with which ISIS took over other Sunni majority cities shocked Washington and Baghdad. However, the leaderships of the two countries have entertained different visions as to how to deal with this surging threat to regional and international stability. This has only added another layer of misconception about ISIS and its future military and religiopolitical program in the Middle East. ISIS has achieved what Al Qaeda failed to accomplish. A recent statement by ISIS in which it rebranded itself as the “Islamic State,” declaring the establishment of an Islamic Caliphatein Iraq and Syria, led by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as Caliph Ibrahim, shows both the astuteness of its military command and ingenuity of its ideologues. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Islamic State has already replaced Al Qaeda as the paradigm organization of Salafi-Jihadists and stands, if not defeated in its formative stage, not only to change the map of political geography of the Middle East, but also the scope and breadth of Salafi-jihadi threat to the West and Middle East.

The ideological roots of the ISIS can be traced to the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which was established in Iraq in 2004 by the Salafi-jihadi Jordanian Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi soon pledged his allegiance to Al Qaeda’s founder Osama bin Laden, and changed the name of his organization to Tanzim Al Qaeda fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (Al Qaeda Organization in the Country of the Two Rivers). This organization became commonly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi was killed by American troops in 2006 in Iraq. His successors Abu Hamza al-Muhajir and Abu Omr al-Baghdadi were both killed in 2010, whereupon the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq passed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In principle, Al Qaeda in Iraq embraces a Salafi-jihadi ideology, best advocated by Al Qaeda. The ideology underscores first the return to the authentic beliefs and practices of the al-salaf al-salih(pious ancestors), who comprised the companions of Prophet Muhammad (d. 632), the followers of the companions, and the followers of the followers of the companions. Establishing an Islamic state or a caliphate constitutes the means by which these beliefs and practices are applied. Next, the ideology focuses on the concept of tawhid (oneness/unity of God). This concept is divided into three categories: tawhid al-rububiyah (Oneness of Lordship), tawhid al-uluhiyah(Oneness of Godship), and tawhid al-asma’ wal-sifat (Oneness of the Names and Attributes of God). Tawhid al-rububiyah implies that God is the only creator and to attribute any power of creation to other than God constitutes kufr(unbelief). Tawhid al-uluhiyah implies that God only is the object of worship and to worship other than God or to associate worship with God constitutes unbelief. Tawhid al-asma’ wal-sifat implies that God’s depiction is literally limited only to that presented in the revelation. Correspondingly, Salafi-jihadists apply a literalist reading of the texts of the revelation, comprising the Koran and the Sunnah (customs and traditions of Prophet Muhammad), and they uphold ridding Islam of all bida’ (reprehensible/illegitimate innovations) in belief and practice. As such, they enforce their vision of Islam in belief and manifest action, and they endorse waging jihad against idolatrous regimes that do not govern according to God’s rules.

In practice, however, Al Qaeda in Iraq has disagreed with other Salafist organizations, especially Al Qaeda, over how to bring about the caliphate. Initially, Al Qaeda in Iraq had a fallout with Al Qaeda on account of al-Zarqawi’s blood-spattering actions that inflicted heavy damages on both Sunnis and Shi’a irrespective of Iraq’s communal and political situation. At the heart of the dispute was al-Zarqawi’s plan to first and foremost wage a jihad against the Shi’a, for, according to him, they held the key to radical change in Iraq.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al Qaeda and one of its major ideologues, blamed al-Zarqawi for alienating many Iraqis and therefore undermining Al Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is reportedly trained by al-Zarqawi and shares his views about the Shi’a and his zeal for violent actions as the means by which to apply Salafi-jihadi ideology and to bring about a caliphate. His reputation as a fierce commander and military strategist, together with his both higher education as a recipient of a doctorate in Islamic jurisprudence from Baghdad Islamic University and his reported lineage from the Prophet’s tribe of Quraysh, has endeared him to a new generation of Salafi-jihadists growing disillusioned with what they consider the scraggy jihad of al-Zawahiri’s Al Qaeda.