10 August 2014

His Forces Surrounded in Donetsk, Ukrainian Rebel Leader Asks for Cease-fire and Humanitarian Aid

Ukraine Rebel Leader Asks for Aid, Cease-Fire

Associated Press , August 9, 2014

DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukraine’s rebels are surrounded and ready to agree to a cease-fire to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe,” the insurgents’ new leader said Saturday as conditions deteriorated in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, artillery thundering through deserted streets.

There was no immediate government response to the cease-fire statement. Ukrainian troops have made steady advances against the rebels in recent weeks.

"We are prepared to stop firing to bar the spread of the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in Donbass (eastern Ukraine)," Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the so-called prime minister of the Donetsk separatists, said in a statement on a rebel website.

His motive for offering a cease-fire was not clear but his comments could be aimed at increasing the pressure on Ukraine to allow in a Russian aid mission.

Russia, which the Ukrainian government in Kiev and Western countries allege is supporting the rebels, has called repeatedly for a humanitarian mission into eastern Ukraine. But Kiev and the West suggest that could be just a pretext to send Russian forces into the region — and say about 20,000 of them have gathered just across the border.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued a statement late Saturday saying that Ukraine is prepared to accept humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine. But he said the aid must come in without military accompaniment, it must pass through border checkpoints under Ukrainian control and the mission must be international in character.

Poroshenko said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed German participation in such a mission.

In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama and Merkel agreed that any Russian intervention in Ukraine was unacceptable and would violate international law.

Artillery reverberated Saturday across Donetsk, home to nearly 1 million people before 300,000 fled the conflict.

Obama on the World President Obama Talks to Thomas L. Friedman About Iraq, Putin and Israel

AUG. 8, 2014

President Obama explains that the United States military cannot do for the Iraqis what they won’t do for themselves.This is an excerpt of a full video interview coming this weekend. Video CreditBy The New York Times on Publish DateAugust 8, 2014. Image CreditPhotograph by Doug Mills/The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

President Obama’s hair is definitely grayer these days, and no doubt trying to manage foreign policy in a world of increasing disorder accounts for at least half of those gray hairs. (The Tea Party can claim the other half.) But having had a chance to spend an hour touring the horizon with him in the White House Map Room late Friday afternoon, it’s clear that the president has a take on the world, born of many lessons over the last six years, and he has feisty answers for all his foreign policy critics.Continue reading the main story

Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished. The United States is not going to be the air force of Iraqi Shiites or any other faction. Despite Western sanctions, he cautioned, President Vladimir Putin of Russia “could invade” Ukraine at any time, and, if he does, “trying to find our way back to a cooperative functioning relationship with Russia during the remainder of my term will be much more difficult.” Intervening in Libya to prevent a massacre was the right thing to do, Obama argued, but doing it without sufficient follow-up on the ground to manage Libya’s transition to more democratic politics is probably his biggest foreign policy regret.Continue reading the main storyVideo

Barack Obama discusses what he’s learned about foreign policy during his presidency. This is an excerpt of his full video interview with Thomas L. Friedman coming this weekend. Video CreditBy The New York Times on Publish DateAugust 8, 2014. Image CreditPhotograph by Doug Mills/The New York Times


By Sonia Hukil

At the 2014 BRICS summit held in Brazil from 14-16 July, the five member countries agreed to the creation of a New Development Bank (NDB) and Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). Will this move enhance the BRICS’ economic clout by countering the hegemony of Western-run financial systems? Will it be a game-changer?
Significance of the BRICS Bank

The NDB will have an initial subscribed capital of $50 billion, which premises on an equity principle wherein the five signatories will contribute $10 billion each towards the $100 billion bank corpus. The capital base will fund infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the BRICS countries and eventually in the rest of the developing countries. The CRA is a fund pool to aide countries in hedging against short-term liquidity pressures. In contrast to the NDB, the CRA will be unequally funded by the BRICS – with China, contributing 41 per cent, at the helm. These arrangements are expected to have massive economic and political impacts.

The formation of the NDB is proclaimed to be just, inclusive and forward-looking. It provides an equal voting status to the founding members and offers loans for assistance without attached conditions. This is envisioned in order to deepen present and long-term cooperation amongst the BRICS nations and further strengthen South-South economic cooperation.

Clearly, the BRICS’ main motive behind these initiatives is to press for a larger role in the international economic order that is otherwise centered on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB). The NDB intends to supplement, and, perhaps later, supplant these multilateral institutions for a new financial architecture. The BRICS nations are craving for more control over their own resources as well as for greater representation in order to democratise the framework of multilateral funding systems.
A Game-Changer?

Will the BRICS bank succeed in challenging the Western hold on global finance? Or will it have a mere symbolic and rhetorical impact?

In proposition at least, the BRICS hold the financial capacity to counter the hegemony of the WB and IMF given how four of the BRICS founding members – China, India, Brazil and Russia – are the among the world’s top 10 economies. Yet, the reality is riddled with complexities. The NDB’s subscribed capital base and authorised lending is miniscule in comparison to the WB – which is estimated to lend approximately $60 billion this year. Clearly, lending by the NDB will not be sufficient to make a substantial impact on the development process of emerging nations. It will be difficult for the NDB to challenge the reach and expanse of existing development institutions.

4 Dead and 500 Arrested in Clash Between Pakistani Security Forces and Protesters Loyal to Radical Cleric

Pakistani Police and Protesters Clash, Four Dead, 500 Arrested
Reuters, August 9, 2014

LAHORE/MULTAN Pakistan (Reuters) - Violence erupted in several places in Pakistan on Saturday between police and supporters of an anti-government cleric and at least four people were killed and scores injured, police and witnesses said.

The violence, which broke out on Friday, is exacerbating tension ahead of a big protest rally by the activist cleric, Tahir ul-Qadri, in the city of Lahore on Sunday.

Qadri is holding the demonstration to protest against deadly clashes between his supporters and police in June but he has also condemned the government as corrupt and called for the overthrow of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

A separate protest, led by opposition politician Imran Khan, is planned for the capital on Thursday to protest alleged election irregularities. Khan has also called for the government to go.

The planned demonstrations have unnerved Sharif’s fledgling civilian government. The nuclear-armed nation of 180 million has a history of coups and street protests.

Some members of the ruling party fear the protesters may be getting support from elements in the powerful military, which has had a series of disagreements with the government. The military denies meddling in politics.

Security was tight in Lahore on Saturday with police manning checkpoints throughout the eastern city, the home town of both Qadri and the prime minister, and the capital of Punjab, the country’s richest province.

Around 500 Qadri supporters had been arrested, said Nabeela Ghazanfar, the provincial police spokeswoman, and more than 100 police injured.

Rahiq Abbassi, a spokesman for Qadri, said more than a hundred of their supporters were also injured and denied attacking the police.

In several parts of Punjab police tried to block Qadri’s supporters from travelling to Lahore, sparking confrontations and violence, police and witnesses said.

Two men and a woman were killed in the district of Gujranwala, about 220 km (140 miles) southeast of Islamabad, said deputy inspector general of police Saad Bahrwana.

Shopkeeper Muhammad Hussain said those clashes began when police tried to stop Qadri supporters from travelling to Lahore.

Another man was shot dead during clashes between Qadri supporters and police in the town of Bhakkar, 320 km (200 miles) southwest of the capital, said a doctor.

Police said a police station had been burnt down and dozens of weapons seized in the central town of Qaidabad.


In Lahore, Qadri’s supporters on Friday tried to remove barricades that authorities put up around Qadri’s house, sparking clashes.

The supporters brought a crane to move shipping containers blocking off the residence and threw stones at police who tried to stop them by firing teargas. Police withdrew and women activists armed with batons surrounded Qadri’s house.

The clashes continued through Friday night into Saturday.

"The Punjab police have lost all humanity," Qadri said in a televised speech on Friday. "The rulers have become terrorists."

Provincial law minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad told Reuters on Friday that Qadri would be arrested and charged with terrorism offences for inciting violence.

Underscoring the worry about political stability are indications that the military is frustrated with the government.

Some officers are unhappy after former military chief and ex-president Pervez Musharraf was put on trial for treason last year. Musharraf deposed current prime minister Sharif, in a coup in 1999 but was forced to step down in 2008. Sharif returned from exile shortly afterwards and won a landslide victory in last year’s polls.

There was also disagreement between the government and the army on how to handle militants attacking the state with the army favouring military action and the government holding out hope for peace talks. The army eventually won the argument and launched an offensive in June.

The military has ruled Pakistan for about half its history but is generally seen as reluctant to seize power and take on responsibility for a struggling economy and other problems. But excessive violence on the streets could force the military to step in to restore order.

Bhutan and the Great Power Tussle

By Brian Benedictus
August 02, 2014

Both China and India recognize Bhutan’s strategic value, but their approaches are very different. 

At first glance, the Kingdom of Bhutan would not seem to be a country that would factor heavily in the calculus of regional powers. With a land mass smaller than that of the Dominican Republic and with fewer people than Fiji, this landlocked Himalayan country has nonetheless become increasingly important strategically to both New Delhi and Beijing. The reason for this interest is not untapped mineral riches or a large consumer class, but Bhutan’s geographical location. As the Kingdom has only in recent years begun to open itself up to the outside world (only legalizing television and the internet in 1999 ), it finds itself caught up in a discreet but high stakes diplomatic battle being waged between India and China.

The centerpiece of this issue is territory. Between China and Bhutan there are three territorial areas of dispute: The Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys on the Bhutan-Chinese north-central border, and the Doklam plateau in Eastern Bhutan. While the two territories to the north are of interest to China due to their proximity to Tibet, as well as what it perceives as its “historic claims” to the areas, the Doklam Plateau is what it covets most. That claim is of grave concern to New Delhi. India’s Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) aptly describes the strategic value of the region:

“The Doklam Plateau lies immediately east of Indian defences in Sikkim. Chinese occupation of Doklam would turn the flank of Indian defences completely. This piece of dominating ground not only has a commanding view of the Chumbi Valley but also overlooks the Silguri Corridor further to the east.”

The Silguri Corridor (described by some analysts as a “Chicken’s Neck”) is a narrow stretch of land that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of India. If the Chinese were to gain possession of the Doklam plateau, in the event of hostilities it would have the ability to essentially “cut-off” India’s land access to 40 million citizens in its northeast territories. In 1996, China was believed to have come close to acquiring the plateau; as it was willing to renounce 495 square kilometers of territorial claims in the northern valleys in exchange for the 269 square kilometers that constitute much of the Doklam plateau. The likelihood of such an agreement being finalized in the near future is slim, as the area is the constituency of Bhutan’s current Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.

India does maintain an advantage over China in that it has a deep and long-standing relationship with Bhutan, giving it a wide array of diplomatic options. In 1949, The Treaty of Friendship Between India and Bhutan was signed. Article 2 states that ”On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to external relations.” India was Bhutan’s primary force in foreign affairs until 2007, when the treaty was altered during Bhutan’s transition from an absolute monarchy to a parliamentary government, and the clause that provided India’s guidance on external affairs was not retained. Judging by recent visits of Indian officials to Thimpu, however, it would appear that India still expects to play a significant role in shaping Bhutan’s decision-making process in sensitive areas of its foreign affairs. On August 9 last year, it was reported by the media in Bhutan that then Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh came to Bhutan to “congratulate the new Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on assuming the office.” It is also likely that the primary purpose of their visit was to brief the new prime minister on Bhutan’s upcoming talks with China over territorial disputes that were to take place in two weeks later.

Latest Test of Chinese SC-19 Anti-Satellite Weapon Causes Concern in Washington

They Shoot Satellites, Don’t They?

Jeffrey Lewis

Foreign Policy, August 8, 2014

Look, I understand if you missed it, what with all the missiles flying around these days. But China conducted another missile defense test in late July. Even for a terse statement clocking in at a mere 64 words, the official announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Defense is marvelous for how little it says. Let me try to convince you that it is worth about 2,800 words of wonky exegesis. I promise, it’s worth it.

This is the third so-called missile defense test that China has conducted. More importantly, it is at least the fourth test of something called the “SC-19” — China’s direct-ascent interceptor, first tested against a satellite in 2007. There is a big debate about whether the SC-19 is intended to shoot down missiles or satellites.

In fact, it’s supposed to do both. Or neither. The pointy end of the SC-19 — the part known as a “kill vehicle” — is best understood as a technology that can be used for many missions. China’s development of a specific technology — “exoatmospheric kinetic intercept” or, in English, “hit-to-kill” — represents a new, disturbing trend in the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons. Let me walk you through the history of the system. Along the way, it should become clear that China’s so-called missile defense tests represent a big threat to U.S. satellites. While shooting down missiles may be hard, shooting down satellites is easy. And the spread of hit-to-kill technologies is an enormous danger to the use of space.

China’s first test of the SC-19 occurred on Jan. 11, 2007. I was at a space conference at the U.S. Air Force Academy when a disturbance rippled through the room. BlackBerrys on silent buzzed; people slipped out the back. It was pretty quickly an open secret in Washington that China had shot down an aging weather satellite named the FY-1C in the first anti-satellite test since Ronald Reagan’s administration blasted a solar observatory in orbit in 1985.

We would later learn that China had tested the SC-19 several times by aiming at empty spots in space, not physical targets. (SC-19, by the way, is a U.S. designation. This is the 19th type of rocket observed first at the Shuangchengzi Missile Test Center, also known as the Jiuquan Space Launch Center. Confusingly, since 2007, the rocket has been launched from other locations.) Apparently, George W. Bush’s administration knew about the tests in advance and had thought about discouraging the Chinese, but decided that it didn’t feel like sitting down to tea if the Chinese were going to bring up U.S. missile defense programs that use the same technology. Suddenly, cryptic comments to my colleague Gregory Kulacki by worried congressional staffers earlier in the year made more sense.)

Can China Legitimate Its Would-Be Hegemony in Asia?

August 07, 2014

It may dominate the region, but would Chinese hegemony be something more than despotism? 

By now the statistics of China’s rise are well-known. It has the world’s second largest gross domestic product (GDP). It will likely overtake U.S. GDP in the next decade. It is the world’s second largest spender on defense. It aims to build a blue-water navy, including aircraft carriers. It likely already has the missile and drone ability to deny the U.S. Navy the ability to operate inside the “first island chain” (from southern Japan south through Taiwan and the Philippines to the South China Sea) without unacceptable losses. It has the world’s largest population: one in seven persons today is a Chinese national.

As Hugh White has argued, the U.S. has never faced a greater challenger in its history as a world power. The U.S. roughly emerged as a great power in the 1880s. In that time, it has faced four major challengers: German nationalism in WWI, fascism in World War II, communism in the Cold War, and millenarian jihadism in the war on terror. Only the Soviet challenger ever came close to the U.S. in terms of power resources. Hitler and bin Laden were arguably the most terrifying, but Stalinist power was much greater, and even that collapsed. China however exceeds all these in the resources it can muster. It is vastly better governed than the U.S.S.R. was, and far larger economically than Germany, Japan, and various Islamist states and groups. China is catching up, fast.

Chinese hegemony in the western Pacific is not inevitable. For one thing, it has many opponents. But for all sorts of reasons, a full-blown containment line from India east and north to Japan is increasingly unlikely. India is hesitant. Southeast Asia desperately wants to trade with China and be pulled up along with its rise, not balance against it. South Korea is as likely to align with Beijing against Japan as vice versa. That leaves Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. This might be enough to deter Chinese ambition, but Japan has been struggling for decades, and the U.S. is overextended. White’s prediction that some kind of Sino-U.S. compromise is the best shot to avoid a disastrous Sino-U.S. conflict seems ever more likely. Chinese power in East Asia will likely have to be recognized at some point in the next two decades.

The follow-on question then for China is whether it can legitimate its incipient regional hegemony. Can it demonstrate to other local players that Chinese regional dominance does not simply mean tyranny? It is often suggested that China today seeks an updated tribute system. If so, this is not as bad as it sounds (assuming there is no alternative to Chinese hegemony). The tribute system demanded formal hierarchy but permitted informal near-equality. Specifically, it left the tributaries’ domestic politics alone (even in the closest tributary, Korea), and exerted only mild influence over foreign policy. That sounds an awful lot like what the U.S. already does in Latin America and Europe.

But American hegemony is moderated by a reasonably liberal ideology that gives participant states a say in the larger framework. States like Germany or Japan are not subjects of the United States, they are allies, and their exit option is real. If the U.S. is an “empire,” it is rather soft one. When France withdrew from NATO’s military integration in 1966, and when the Philippines voted the Americans out of their bases in 1992, the U.S. did nothing. When Soviet “allies” tried to exit the Warsaw Pact, they were crushed. In turn then, the Eastern European allies-turned-subjects gave up, slacked on their contribution to “socialist fraternity,” and became aburden for the Soviet Empire rather than an asset.

US Airstrikes in Iraq: A Win-Win Situation for China

August 09, 2014

China is pessimistic that airstrikes will help, but stands to benefit if U.S. intervention stabilizes Iraq. 

U.S. President Barack Obama announced late Thursday night that he was authorizing targeted air strikes in Iraq. The decision sparked discussions around the world, including in China. Beijing has major interests in Iraq, and could potentially benefit should the airstrikes help halt or even roll back advances by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). On the other hand, China generally disapproves of U.S. intervention in other countries’ affairs, particularly when such intervention involves the use of military force.

Officially, China’s response has been neutral. According to China Daily, a spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry said that Beijing “takes an open attitude toward any actions that facilitates ensuring security and stability in Iraq on the precondition of putting respect in place for Iraq’s sovereignty.” In other words, China reserves judgment on the airstrikes until it becomes clearer whether the strikes provide a net positive for China’s two main goals: preserving Iraqi sovereignty and improving the general security situation.

Unofficially, state media are extremely doubtful that U.S. airstrikes will be able to achieve those goals. Ananalysis in Xinhua warns that IS may in fact become emboldened by U.S. military involvement, leading to even more violence. Xinhua predicts that Obama will be forced to choose between breaking his promise not to send in U.S. ground forces or watching as IS further destabilizes Iraq.

Chinese media outlets also point out that military attacks cannot address the root problem of the Iraq crisis. Only a political solution, one that unifies Iraq’s government and Iraqi Sunnis, can end the violence, Xinhuawrites. On this point, at least, Chinese media and Obama are in agreement. In his remarks on the Iraq situation, Obama acknowledged that “there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.”

In addition to calling the efficacy of the airstrikes into question, Xinhua placed a special emphasis on Obama’s motives for authorizing the strikes. In his remarks, Obama highlighted the necessity of protecting U.S. personnel in Iraq, particularly in the Kurdish capital of Erbil, which is in danger from IS advances. However, Obama placed even more emphasis on the need for U.S. intervention to prevent IS from carrying out genocide against religious minorities, such as Christians and Yezidis. Obama authorized air strikes to prevent IS advances toward Erbil or Baghdad, but also to help break the siege on Mount Sinjar, where thousands of Yezidis are trapped by IS militants.

Xinhua, however, dismisses humanitarian concerns as a rationale for the strikes. Instead, its analysis argues that recent IS advances (including the seizure of the Mosul Dam and oilfields in northern Iraq) pose a direct threat to U.S. economic interests, providing the major reason for Obama’s decision. Xinhua also posits that Obama acted because he faced a growing amount of domestic criticism from political opponents. Obama’s idea of humanitarian intervention is dismissed as an excuse to gain domestic support and international approval for U.S. military action in Iraq.


By Romi Jain

On the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil in mid-July 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jingping, in their first ever meeting, underscored the imperative of solving the India-China “boundary question.” Mr. Modi said that an amicable solution would set an example for the entire world, on peaceful conflict resolution. But the occasion coincided with the reported incursions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops in Ladakh sector of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Downplaying the incident, which is generally considered a “regular affair”, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh explained that incursions take place due to the difference of perception about boundary or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which is 3,488 km long. He added that Indian forces respond by pushing the PLA forces back. Though a diplomatically measured response, the explanation ran counter to Modi’s election speech in Arunachal Pradesh prior to becoming the prime minister. Clad in a colorful local attire, he had emphatically said:

“Times have changed. The world does not welcome the mindset of expansion in today’s times. China will also have to leave behind its mindset of expansion.”

Understandably, it is not uncommon for leaders to project themselves as die-hard nationalists for election gains by upbraiding their nations’ rivals. This is what President Bill Clinton, rather known for his policy of comprehensive engagement with China, did as a presidential candidate, when he came down heavily on China for its human rights violations. But it is the electors who are confounded by opposite signals from the same leader–before and after the election.

On a different note, there is an opinion that New Delhi’s restraint vis-à-vis provocation has been necessary to prevent a war with its neighbor. But the question is: does China have an incentive to maintain status quo? If it calculates that in future, based on foreign policy priorities, it can occupy a land forcibly by dint of its formidable military power, it is unlikely to relinquish the use of force. Its brinkmanship in the South China Sea is a case in point, which challenges the “peaceful rise” premise. Further, the role of Pakistan in influencing China’s approach to India is an additional irritant. China perhaps sprinkles some salt to avoid sweetening hobnobbing with India that might injure the health of its “all-weather” friendship with Pakistan.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Hence, China’s behavior tends to turn bizarre on the heels of a bilateral dialogue with India. A recent chronicle of events, highlighted below, suggests that the hopes of a long-term peaceful relationship vanish with incursions. In fact, the PLA spectacle appears as an obsessive compulsive disorder syndrome that is activated as a self-assurance exercise, viz., dialogues do not dilute China’s territorial claims, as well as conveying this message to India.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the PLA’s incursion was reported in the Indian side of Lake Pangsong Tsa in eastern Ladakh during Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s visit to Beijing in late June 2014. Importantly, it was the occasion of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the India-China Panchsheel agreement that sets out principles of peaceful coexistence. Moreover, the intrusion preceded the shortly following visit to China by Indian Army Chief, General Bikram Singh.

His visit was aimed at improving military ties between the two countries and strengthening peace and tranquility on borders through implementation of the border defense mechanism. As reported, Mr. Singh held talks with China’s top military brass including General Fang Fenghui, Chief of General Staff of PLA, and General Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of Central Military Commission. In itself, the visit was an important step in establishing a rapport between military leaders of the two countries. Also, Mr.Singh spoke on the subject of strategic military leadership in his address to Chinese cadets, as well as interacting with the latter.

Five Chinese Weapons of War Taiwan Should Fear

August 9, 2014 

If relations between Beijing and Taipei were to enter a crisis, Taiwan would have a lot to worry about.

It has become conventional wisdom when referring to the current state of ties between Taipei and Beijing to offer something similar to the following: “cross-Strait Relations have significantly improved under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou.” While such a, statement is not totally unjustified, security-minded observers would opine that the Taiwan Strait remains highly militarized, and that Ma’s rapprochement has not stopped Beijing from deploying more—and increasingly sophisticated—weapons pointed at Taiwan. And no mid-level-official-branded-high-level meeting is going to change that.

In many ways, Taiwan shares similar challenges currently faced by U.S. forces in the Western Pacific. Therefore, do platforms that you can see on a recent list by Kyle Mizokami, “Five Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear”, apply to Taiwan as well? Not necessarily. The DF-21D, the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile or ASBM, is specifically designed to counter U.S. Navy carrier groups. The PLA and its air and naval branches will have other means at its disposal to deal with the Taiwanese navy in a more symmetrical manner. The J-20, China’s first 5th generation fighter—which is still in development—could hypotheticallybe deployed against Taiwan but it is more likely that Chinese planners would leave J-20s to deal with U.S. F-22s and U.S./Japanese F-35s, should they come to Taipei’s defense. On the other side, offensive cyber operations and new Chinese landing ships are of course very relevant to Taiwan. Bearing all that in mind, the purpose of this piece is to present major combat platforms that would either play a significant part in a full-scale attack on Taiwan or those against which Taipei does not have an adequate counterpart.

So what weapons are at Beijing’s disposal for a possible Taiwan contingency? Now without further ado, the four Chinese weapons of war Taiwan should fear:


The number of missiles pointed at Taiwan has become embedded in the consciousness of the Taiwanese population. In fact, it is fairly likely that if you happen to be involved in a conversation with a street vendor in one of the plentiful night markets, they could very well know an approximation of the number of short- and mid-range ballistic missiles that have been deployed across the Taiwan Strait. Numbers by experts vary, but most estimates place the number of short and mid-range ballistic missiles at around 1,600 or more.

The PLA is also acquiring various types of Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM) and Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCM), which can be launched from various platforms and domains (land, sea and air). This gives China greater ability to attack key infrastructure and military targets from different angles with the added advantage of launching saturation strikes that would stretch Taiwan’s limited missile defense capability beyond its limits.

Will U.S. Airpower Be Enough to Stop the Advance of ISIS in Iraq?

Douglas OllivantCNN
August 8, 2014
Can air power stop ISIS?

Editor’s note: Douglas A. Ollivant, a senior fellow with the New America Foundation, served as director for Iraq at the National Security Council during the Bush and Obama administrations and is now senior vice president of Mantid International, LLC, a strategic consulting firm that has business interests in the south of Iraq, including security, defense and aerospace clients. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) — The new ISIS offensive in the North of Iraq has both shaken the Kurds and threatened the Yazidi minority with not only genocide, but also cultural extinction. In response the United States early Friday morning used airpower against ISIS targets inside Iraq. This is the first use of force against ISIS both since ISIS rebranded from al Qaeda in Iraq and since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011.

So what can U.S. airstrikes accomplish? Airpower is incredibly potent when properly used, but nearly useless in the wrong situations. ISIS will present both these alternatives in Iraq.

Douglas Ollivant

Put very simply, airpower is incredibly effective against an enemy who is on the offense. If an enemy—be it a person or a vehicle or a weapon system—is on the move and/or fighting, they create a “signature” that is easy to spot from the air.

Since there will be no U.S. forces on the ground as target designators or air controllers, being able to see a target from the air will be crucial. So, a column of ISIS trucks or—as seen early Friday morning—a captured artillery piece firing against Kurdish positions, each make easy acquisition. Against these targets, airpower is nearly invincible. One thinks of the devastation released over two decades ago by U.S. airpower on the “Highway of Death” (albeit these forces were not attacking, but retreating—but the signature is the same).

So when President Obama talks about targeted airstrikes to protect American personnel in Baghdad or Irbil, he is, in essence, saying that if ISIS attacks toward these cities, we will use airstrikes on their then-vulnerable forces.

Note that the President did not say that airstrikes would be used to eject ISIS forces from Mosul or Kirkuk or Fallujah. For in densely populated cities like these, airpower has real limitations. An enemy in defensive positions, particularly in urban terrain, is very difficult to engage with airpower. Even if the target can be hit, the possibility for collateral damage that causes civilian casualties is very real. And if the target is missed, the collateral damage can be exponentially higher, even catastrophic.

So while mission creep is always a danger in any war, in this case the chances of it seem rather minimal. The President has chosen one means—airpower—and given it a mission at which it excels; prevent enemy forces from attacking prepared positions, whether in Irbil or Baghdad. This mission is well within the capacity of U.S. airpower. When and if unleashed, U.S. warplanes can absolutely prevent ISIS from moving against these two Iraqi cities.

U.S. Military Personnel in Iraq: Manpower Strength and Locations

A look at US personnel in Iraq

Associated PressAugust 8, 2014

U.S. personnel in Iraq, where the United States launched airstrikes to protect American personnel and assets threatened by Islamic extremists:


—Several hundred employees at a U.S. Consulate.

—35 U.S. military troops at the joint operations center, collecting and analyzing intelligence and advising the Iraqi forces.


—Approximately 5,000 employees at the U.S. Embassy.

—About 100 Marines and other personnel based at the Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy.

—90 U.S. military members at the joint operations center, collecting intelligence and working with Iraqi forces.

—60 U.S. troops providing security and crisis response.

—11 troops conducting other duties.

—504 troops at the airport, including six military assessment teams, Apache helicopter crews, security forces and an anti-terrorism team.


8 AUGUST 2014 

In this Analysis, Lowy Institute International Security Program Director Rory Medcalf and Nonresident Fellow C. Raja Mohan argue that Chinese assertiveness and uncertainties about America’s role in Indo-Pacific Asia are causing middle powers to look for alternative approaches to regional security. The Analysis argues that enhanced security cooperation between Indo-Pacific middle powers should be extended to the creation of “middle-power coalitions” in the region.

Australia-India naval exercise


China’s assertiveness and uncertainties about America’s response are causing middle powers in Indo-Pacific Asia to look beyond traditional approaches to security

Cooperation between Indo-Pacific middle power coalitions would build regional resilience against the vagaries of US-China relations

India and Australia are well placed to form the core of middle power coalition building 


China’s rising assertiveness and uncertainties about America’s response to it are causing middle powers in Indo-Pacific Asia to look beyond traditional approaches to security. India, Australia, Japan and some ASEAN countries are expanding security cooperation with each other. The next step should be the creation of ‘middle power coalitions’: informal arrangements where regional players cooperate with one another on strategic issues, working in self-selecting groups that do not include China or the United States.

Areas of cooperation could include security dialogues, intelligence exchanges, military capacity building, technology sharing, agenda setting for regional forums and coordinated diplomatic initiatives to influence both US and Chinese strategic calculations. This would build regional resilience against the vagaries of US-China relations, including against the extremes either of conflict or collusion. It would also reinforce the multipolar quality of the emerging Indo-Pacific order, encouraging leaders due to meet soon, India and Australia are well placed to form the core of this middle power coalition building.

Until recently it was widely hoped that a combination of economic interdependence and regional institutions would mitigate great power rivalry and all but eliminate the possibility of major interstate conflict in Asia. [1] This hope, however, now seems forlorn. In particular, countries in the region are increasingly concerned about the risky trajectory of US-China relations. This is in turn bringing into question traditional approaches to regional security, whether it be dependence on US alliances, multilateral frameworks or non-alignment. [2]

Asian countries that until just a few years ago were willing to bet on China’s peaceful rise are now preparing to hedge in the face of China’s increasingly coercive behaviour against Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. To insulate themselves from the risks of strategic competition or collusion between China and the United States, Asia’s diverse ‘powers in the middle’ – including India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries – are adopting a range of strategies. Strikingly, these nations are looking beyond formal regional multilateral institutions, alliance with the United States, and traditional postures of non-alignment to cooperate with each other.[3]

What Makes ISIS Deadly Also Makes It Vulnerable to Air Power Militants’ hybrid form of warfare isn’t without its weaknesses

American warplanes now are bombing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militant group. No, those planes are probably not going to liberate northern Iraq from the extremist group nor end the war. But ISIS’s tactical advantages is a weakness against modern air power.

ISIS fights semi-conventionally. This means they’re able to maneuver on an open battlefield using standard military tactics. That’s different from an insurgency, which blends into the civilian population and avoids direct confrontation with a regular military force. ISIS is a hybrid—able to both openly fight and melt away.

ISIS also possesses heavy military hardware including tanks, Type 59–1 field guns and American-made M198 howitzers it captured form the Iraqi army. Shockingly, one Kurdish official told CNN that ISIS has even attacked with an M-1 Abrams tank the militants also seized from Baghdad’s retreating troops.

We haven’t confirmed the tank report. Still, ISIS’s hardware allows the group to hit Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga troops from beyond the defenders’ line of sight.

“Given the rapidness in which it is able to maneuver, given its ability to direct indirect fire attacks followed by direct assaults with heavy weapons, it is a militarily proficient organization,” a senior White House official said of ISIS in a conference call on Aug. 7.

ISIS fighters in Iraq in mid-2014. ISIS propaganda video capture

It was ISIS’s skill at the former that lead to the current conflagration. On Aug. 2, the militant group launched an attack across several hundred miles against Kurdish positions holding the line in Iraq’s north.

Tens of thousands of people from the minority Yazidi religious group were caught in the gap between the advancing ISIS fighters and the retreating Kurds. Fearing a genocide, thousands fled up Mount Sinjar without food or water.

“[ISIS] is so ruthless—quite literally putting people’s heads on spikes as a sign of anyone—the fate of anyone that would resist them,” the administration official said. “In the case of the Yazidis, they were very clear that they were there to enslave the women and to kill all the men in these towns.”

America’s new war in Iraq is a lot different than the aborted plan to strike Syria.

Pres. Barack Obama came close to authorizing air strikes against Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad’s forces last year. But this would have involved a major air campaign beginning with the destruction of Assad’s air defense network.

That attack plan risked dragging the U.S. into an open-ended conflict that likely would have not ended with Al Assad leaving power. For similar reasons, Obama has not jumped to defend Iraq’s sectarian prime minister Nouri Al Maliki.

Refugees Displaced From Recent Fighting in Sinjar

AUGUST 8, 2014

As many as 40,000 people are trapped on Mount Sinjar and some 200,000 have fled to other parts of northern Iraq. American planes have dropped enough food and water for about 8,000 people in the area. Most of the refugees are Yazidis, members of a religious minority group allied with the Kurds, from towns at the foot of the mountain range. 

American jets attacked mobile artillery vehicles that had been shelling Kurdish targets in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region. The city has boomed since the American-led invasion of Iraq. It is home to a growing expatriate community of investment consultants and oil executives, as well as to an American consulate. 


By Kanchi Gupta

As the Islamic State (IS) is rapidly gaining territorial and political control over key territories, oil fields and refineries in Iraq and Syria, domestic, regional and international stakeholders are calling for the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to pave the way for a political resolution to the crisis. Maliki, whose political bloc won the 2014 parliamentary elections by a small margin, asserted his will to stay in power by stating that calls for the formation of a national salvation government “represent a coup against the constitution” and seek to “eliminate the democratic experience”.

Despite his refusal to step down, the parliament elected Sunni Islamist Salim al-Jubouri as the new speaker on July 14, 2014. By Iraqi custom, the speaker is Sunni, the President is Kurdish and the Prime Minister is Shia-Arab.

Prime Minister Maliki has been accused of partisan politics which have played into the hands of Sunni insurgent groups like the IS. His consolidation of power has compromised the legitimacy of Iraq’s political, security and economic institutions. Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq contended in 2011 that Maliki’s “dictatorial power” will lead to a civil war and divide the country. Maliki’s key backer, the US, too is conceding that his divisive policies have contributed to the current crisis.

Nouri al-Maliki was born in 1950 in the village of Janaga in the Karbala province of Iraq. He is believed to have been inspired by his grandfather who represented the Shia clergy in the 1920 armed uprising against the British occupation of Iraq. Maliki joined the ‘underground’ Shia Islamist Dawa Party in the 1970s after the Arab countries’ loss to Israel in 1967. Following a crackdown on party members by Saddam Hussein’s forces, he escaped to Syria in October 1979.

The execution of Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr – one of the founders of the Dawa party — the suppression of Shia uprisings in southern Iraq, the massacre of almost seventy of his relatives and the destruction of Shia villages and shrines radicalised Maliki. He helped set up guerrilla cells in Iraq and facilitated suicide attacks and assassinations targeted at Hussein’s regime. He helped integrate Dawa members across the region from Iran to Lebanon and also oversaw the military training camp in Iran from 1981 onward.

Iran’s efforts to co-opt the Dawa as a proxy in its war with Iraq splintered the party and Maliki was further disillusioned by growing ties between Damascus and Iraq in the 1990s. Thus, following the US-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein, Maliki moved back to his hometown in April 2003. He served as board member of the de-Baathificationcommittee and spokesman for a coalition of Shia parties (United Iraqi Alliance) before being short-listed for the Prime Ministerial post by former US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Maliki assumed the office of the Prime Minister in mid-2006, in an environment of civil war wherein Shia militias were engaged in a sectarian battle with Sunni insurgent forces, including the al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Maliki secured political power by bypassing parliamentary oversight to fill up military and political institutions with Shia loyalists and removed potential rivals from power.

He circumvented the defence and interior ministries by creating institutions like Office of the Commander in Chief, which centralised his control over security forces, the intelligence apparatus, elite security units like the Baghdad Brigade and other counter-insurgency bodies. Post the elections in 2010, he used the delay in forming the new government to appoint himself minister of interior and defence as well as the national security advisor. Following opposition from other political blocs he relinquished the posts, while retaining control over their functions.

Marisa Sullivan of the Institute of War Studies writes, Maliki’s “desire to centralise and maintain power…stems more from political paranoia, distrust and fear than from strong ideological impulses”. However, his internal policies have polarised Iraqi society along sectarian lines as counter-insurgency strategies targeted Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis.

A prime example is the marginalisation of Sunni Awakening Councils Militia (or Sons of Iraq), a paramilitary force cultivated by the US to fight insurgent groups like the AQI. Maliki, initially unreceptive to the idea of arming Sunni fighters, conceded to US pressure and also promised them a role in state-building thereafter. However, many of these fighters were later removed from the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and arrested, pushing them towards radicalisation.

Maliki has been accused of politicising the security forces by awarding senior military positions to Shia loyalists, earning the ISF the label of “Maliki’s militia”.


By Hasan Selim Ozertem

Political uncertainty in Iraq has the potential to adversely affect the country’s territorial integrity and its energy sector. Resultant of the political vacuum, the biggest risk facing Iraq’s expected oil production is the possibility of a delay in much needed decisions regarding the investment for the upcoming period.

After the invasion of Mosul by the Islamic State (formally known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-ISIS), scenarios related to the division of Iraq came to the agenda once again. Presently, the most tangible scenario that could prevent such disintegration of the Iraqi state can be seen in the formation of a triadic entity consisting of Sunni, Shia and Kurdish regions incorporated in a lax federal system. Before ISIS’s assault on Mosul, this formulation was also endorsed by American Vice-President Joe Biden in 2006. However, for the establishment of such an entity it is necessary to restore the political balance which shifted after June 11 and for different groups to reach a consensus on a common roadmap.

Dominated by a chaotic atmosphere, it is still unclear what will result from the country’s efforts to form a government. While Sunni Arabs and the Kurds have uttered on multiple occasions that they do not look positively on a formula in which Nouri al-Maliki will remain the President, they bring about political obstruction by not participating in the work of the parliament. Maliki is insistent on refusing to take a step back in this process. In the meanwhile, he harshly accuses the Kurdish Regional Government of hosting ISIS and Ba’ath forces. Nonetheless, with the Kurds withdrawing their delegates from Baghdad they show a more unreserved attitude regarding their independence in the upcoming period. While Mesut Barzani, the President of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, claimed to be preparing for two referenda regarding the status of Kirkuk and national independence in his speech to the members of parliament at the beginning of July in Erbil, he does not refrain from emphasizing that it is too late to withdraw from Kirkuk.

The Kurdish Peshmerga forces have gained limited control of certain regions like Mosul, Diyala and Tuzhurmatu which were cleared by the central governments’ forces in the process of pursuing ISIS’s movement to Baghdad from the north-west of the country. This development raises two issue. The first issue is that since becoming the primary armed force in their controlled regions, the Kurds are expanding the areas under their control and thus they now have to create a line of defense that is beyond their capacity. The second prominent issue is that even though the Kurds would prefer to remain under the Iraqi flag, the question remains whether they will revert to their old borders and how the energy resources within their newly controlled borders will be used. These two issues are important for both the country’s security dynamics and the political economy of the energy sector in the near future.
Ensuring Security in Iraq

Considering the operations carried out by forces loyal to the Iraqi central government, it is seen that they cannot robustly move on the North. The increase in violent clashes while facing off against resistance in Salahuddin and Diyala show that certain coordination problems have emerged. To illustrate, it is stated that while one civilian lost his life in the July 6 air strike on Tuzhurmatu, 6 Peshmerga died in a helicopter attack on June 14. Meanwhile in Baghdad, news continue to flow in about the new execution teams whose associations still remain murky and the severe weakening of security standards there.

From time to time, the Iraqi security forces, which are supported by American military advisors, try to create a line of defense in coordination with the Peshmerga in order to defend their existing positions, while on the other hand trying to repel ISIS through ground operations. In this environment, with minorities being severely affected, the demographic map of the region has been drawn anew through the mobilization of peoples in and out of ISIS-controlled regions. While 200 Turkmens lost their lives in Ninova and Kirkuk during the clashes, more than the 200,000 others have left their homes to seek refuge in more secure regions.

Why can’t Islamic State be stopped? Analysts say it’s better armed, better organized

August 7, 2014
Source Link

Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 - a photo which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria.

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State’s push toward the Kurdish city of Irbil on Thursday came as unwelcome news to those who’d believed that the Kurdish peshmerga militia would be the force most capable of halting the militant Islamists’ momentum.

The United States had such confidence in the Kurds that, in June, it moved its Joint Operation Center and some embassy staff to Irbil, where roughly 40 U.S. military advisers are now stationed.

Until this week, life in Irbil has been relatively normal despite the Islamic State offensive, which began with the fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in early June. Everyone assumed that the Islamic State was shying away from confronting the peshmerga, with its substantial reputation as a fighting force.

But then the Islamic State moved against cities last week that were defended by the peshmerga, and the peshmerga retreated. On Thursday, the Islamic State captured at least four towns on the highway to Irbil and defeated peshmerga forces attempting to break its siege of the Mosul Dam. A near panic took hold in the Kurdish capital as militia forces rushed to set up a defensive line at Kalak, 25 miles northwest of Irbil.

It was another victory for the Islamic State, which before the peshmerga had defeated Syrian forces throughout much of eastern Syria, including recent seizures of major Syrian bases in Raqqa and Deir el Zour, and had sent Iraqi army forces fleeing almost to the gates of Baghdad.

What has made the Islamic State forces seemingly unstoppable?