13 August 2014

Pakistan can’t wage war, kills by proxy: PM

 by Mir Ehsan 
August 13, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Kargil, J&K. (Source: PIB)

Modi said the Indian armed forces were suffering more casualties from terrorism than from war.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday came out strongly against Pakistan for continuing its proxy war of terrorism against India, saying it has lost the strength to fight a conventional war.

Addressing troops of Army and the Indian Air Force on his maiden trip to Leh and Ladakh, Modi condemned the continuing proxy war by Pakistan.

“The neighbouring country has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the Indian armed forces were suffering more casualties from terrorism than from war.

Addressing Army and Air Force personnel drawn from various formations at Leh, the Prime Minister said, “It is unfortunate that our neighbour’s attitude… they have lost the power to fight a war but they use proxy war. There has been a process of killing innocent people through this proxy war. How many innocents are being killed? The number of people getting killed through the bullets of cowards is more than those killed in conventional wars.”

“The Indian armed forces are suffering more casualties from terrorism than from war,” he said. Terming terrorism as a global problem, he said all “humanitarian forces of the world should unite to fight it”. “India is committed to strengthening and uniting these humanitarian forces,” Modi said.

The sharp attack on Pakistan came two months after Modi assumed office and came in the midst of his peace initiatives. He had invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders for his swearing-in on May 26.
Flanked by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Governor N N Vohra, Army Chief Dalbir Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Modi also spoke of modernisation of the Army. He said India is committed to strong armed forces, well-equipped with modern arms and technology.

Boosting the morale of the forces, he said the entire country supports the soldiers who remain focused in spite of the many struggles their families face in day-to-day life. “This energy and sense of duty inspires me and therefore, I keep on visiting jawans on the border to seek inspiration,” he said.

From Leh, Modi went to the Muslim-dominated Kargil, where he addressed an impressive rally at Thi Sultan Cho stadium, the first by a Prime Minister after the Kargil war. Modi recalled the days when he visited the place during the Kargil war, but he did not mention Pakistan.

“I had come to this place earlier also. Today I am hearing cheers from the crowd, but when I came to this place as a BJP worker, guns were booming from across the border and we only could hear the blasts of guns and shells. I have seen the generosity of the people of Kargil. They offered everything to me free of cost and never charged a single penny. They told me that they are doing it as a service towards the nation,” Modi said amid applause from the crowd.

Modi told the gathering that during the Kargil war the help provided by the local population to soldiers raised their morale. “I have seen how civilians celebrated the victory of Tiger hill and Tololing and the patriotism of the people of Kargil inspires the people of India,” he said.

UN calls for global response in Ebola fight

August 13, 2014 

APUN Chief Ban Ki-Moon

A total of 1,848 cases have been reported, including 1,013 deaths, according to the latest WHO figures

UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon on Tuesday called for a coordinated international response to the Ebola outbreak and appointed Britain’s David Nabarro as the UN coordinator in its fight against the deadly disease.

Mr. Ban spoke about urgent steps in combating the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which its specialised agency, World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern, Xinhua reported.

Wars of Frustration: The Results of Israel’s Third Invasion of the Gaza Strip

Israel: The Dead End Strategy

strategypage.com, August 11, 2014

The fighting in Gaza has left nearly 2,000 dead, over 96 percent of them Palestinian. Hamas says it won’t stop fighting until the Israeli-Egyptian blockade is lifted. Israel and Egypt refuse to do that until Hamas drops its support for terrorism and disarms. Since Israeli troops left Gaza (and Hamas took control in 2007) Gaza has become a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists. Most seek the destruction of Israel but a growing number seek to establish a religious dictatorship in Egypt. Hamas does not expect to get the blockade lifted but does see itself gaining respect (and cash donations along with more diplomatic support) in the Moslem world. At the moment Hamas is still designated an international terrorist organization by the UN, most Western nations and even some Moslem ones.

Israel has plenty of electronic and video evidence of Hamas using ceasefires to move weapons and personnel and prepare to continue firing on Israel. Broadcasting this evidence is opposed by Israeli intelligence officials because putting the evidence out there enables Hamas to see where and how they are vulnerable to detection. With this knowledge Hamas can better hide its activities in the future.

Hamas has fired over 3,300 rockets since July 9th. Some 70 percent landed in Israel but less than four percent hit populated areas (killing three and wounding 85 civilians) . Iron Dome intercepted about a quarter of the rockets fired at Israel as the Iron Dome computers predicted these would land in or near a populated area. About 20 percent of the rockets fired towards Israel were defective and landed inside Gaza or were aimed at targets in Gaza. This included some of the 11 percent of all rockets were fired at Israeli troops inside or near Gaza. Some 69 percent of the rockets were fired from northern Gaza (where most of the Israeli counterstrikes have been) while 13 percent were launched from central Gaza and the rest from southern Gaza. Over 80 percent of the rockets were fired from unpopulated areas but at least 18 percent were fired from locations that were clearly civilian (including schools, Mosques and medical facilities.) Hamas was believed to have had about 10,000 rockets in early July. Since then over 3,000 have been fired and over 4,000 destroyed before they could be fired. Israeli aircraft, helicopters, ships, armored vehicles and ground troops have attacked nearly 5,000 targets in Gaza since July 9th and about a third of those attacks were against rocket launching sites, often while rockets were being prepared for launch. Hamas rockets have killed three Israeli civilians and 64 military personnel (and 670 wounded) so far. Some 82,000 Israeli reservists have been mobilized and most have been sent to the Gaza border. Hamas considers each Israeli they kill a victory and plays that up in their media. The Israeli military casualty rate is about the same as the U.S. suffered at the height of the fighting in Iraq. In other words; historically quite low.

Some Israeli leaders want the ground troops to go back in and shut down Hamas once and for all. But that would involve a lot of combat and if Gaza were to be completely cleared of Islamic terrorists hundreds of Israeli troops would die and thousands wounded. Most Israeli politicians do not believe Israelis in general are willing to pay that high a price. Instead Israel will continue using its intelligence capabilities to find Hamas personnel and weapons and attack them with smart bombs and missiles. Other Islamic terrorist groups in Gaza are also being hit. But the Islamic terrorists are hiding among the 1.8 million civilians in Gaza. There are several hundred thousand buildings and hundreds of tunnels and bunkers. Less than one percent of these structures holds terrorist weapons or personnel and the Israelis already know that they cannot watch all of Gaza in great detail all the time. Israeli military leaders point out that there would be a lot of Palestinian civilian casualties because Hamas deliberately surrounds its weapons and key personnel with civilians. While some Palestinians answer the Hamas propaganda and volunteer for this duty, most do not and will flee if given a chance. For Hamas victory is simply surviving and still being able to issue victory statements. Israeli victory is suppressing terrorist capabilities. Ultimate victory is eliminating the terrorist threat but given the massive support for destroying Israel in the Arab world, ultimate victory remains a long term goal, not one that can be won right now in Gaza. Right now most media in the Arab (and Moslem) world portray Hamas as misguided but valiant fighters for a cause (the destruction of Israel) that still has a lot of popular support in the Moslem world. Most Westerners, especially journalists, don’t grasp that aspect of the situation and try to portray Gaza as a humanitarian disaster that only Israel can fix. Most Israelis are exasperated at the attitude of so many non-Moslems overseas and attributes it to ignorance, greed (oil-rich Arab states have spent billions to push the Arab point of view towards Israel) or anti-Semitism.

The Plight of Nepal’s Migrant Workers

By Kamal Dev Bhattarai
August 11, 2014
Often cheated and frequently facing atrocious working conditions, young Nepalese are still flocking abroad for work. 
Confronted with a lack of employment opportunities at home, every day 1,500 or more young Nepalese go aboard seeking employment opportunities, according to official data. In fact, the number is likely to be even higher, as government records do not include illegal migrant workers.

Prolonged political transition, economic depression, and the closure of industries are the main reasons for the alarming level of unemployment (with a youth unemployment rate of 38 percent in 2012) that prevails in the Himalayan country. The failure of Nepal’s political parties to adopt a new constitution has further hindered economic development. Young Nepalese are losing hope that they will find jobs at home.

The rate of growth of Nepal’s manufacturing sector is projected to fall to a five-year low of 1.86 percent this year, hit by energy shortages, labor issues, and political instability. This further limits job opportunities, creating a palpable sense of frustration among youths.

The government of Nepal has opened up 109 countries for work opportunities. The major destinations for Nepalese migrant workers are Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Afghanistan and Japan. At present, 3.5 million young Nepalese are working abroad.

The majority of Nepalese migrant workers employed in these countries are unskilled or semi-skilled laborers, and mostly work in construction, manufacturing or domestic capacities. The number of Nepalese who have gone India for work is not recorded given the open border between the two countries, but officials believe the figure is in the millions.

Last year, the South Korean government announced that it would select 8,000 people for employment. Some 70,000 Nepalese sought to be selected, underscoring the grim conditions at home. In 2012, around 3,800 Nepalese traveled to South Korea for work. South Korea is a lucrative destination for migrant workers: one can earn around $1,000 dollars a month.

On any given day, a visitor to Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu can see crowds of youths lined up at waiting for flights abroad. The remittances they back home are among the highest in the world as a percentage of GDP, at around 25 percent. These remittances play a significant role in attenuating local poverty.

Yet policymakers and economist worry that if the current trend of young Nepalese going abroad continues it will impede the country’s long-term economic development. They argue that while remittances might be a temporary boon to the country’s sick economy, the exodus would stymie the growth of domestic industries and agriculture, to the detriment of the country’s overall economic policy.

With its youth leaving to work abroad, Nepal is finding itself short of labor for the agricultural sector, and thousands of hectares of fertile land are being left untilled. Nepal was once known for its agricultural sector, yet it is now in the position of having to import grains, rice and other staples from its neighbors. As rural villages are denuded of their younger people, the government has to date offered little in the way of policy solutions.

Artillery Modernisation

Artillery Modernisation
11 Aug , 2014

Artillery modernisation in India implies the largest modernisation of this arm and needs to be given as much, if not more, importance commensurate with the manoeuvre arms it supports. The relevance is more in the Indian context because of the mountainous terrain where it needs to support infantry operations plus in counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations. Unquestionably, artillery units will continue to be used to support the infantry to the benefit of all. It is precisely in these sorts of operation that the new precision of artillery will become more telling and relevant. India has a long way to go in modernising its artillery. Presently, the artillery modernisation plan appears to be stymied. There is an urgent need to provide it an impetus considering the enhanced threat posed to us along a two and a half front.

In Kargil conflict where 100 Bofors guns broke the back of well-entrenched Pakistani forces on high mountain peaks.

The importance of artillery in battle needs no emphasis. What the artillery can achieve in contact battle has been highlighted in the two world wars and more recently, nearer home during the Kargil conflict where 100 Bofors guns broke the back of well-entrenched Pakistani forces on high mountain peaks. But the latter also highlighted woes of the crying need for modernisation of our artillery. Fortunately, India had imported 400 pieces of this excellent gun before the firm was banned. Despite the Rs 60 crore Bofors scam and the freeze on spare parts, India’s holdings could be cannibalised to give the enemy a bloody nose.

No worthwhile modernisation has taken place since then though the artillery is in the process of procuring and developing gun systems, ammunition (including propellants and fuzes), support systems and networking systems in terms of software and hardware which incorporate state-of-the-art technology. Ironically, though Transfer of Technology (ToT) for the Bofors gun had taken place right at the beginning, the indigenous version is being developed now after a gap of two decades.

Concept of Firepower

Pakistani Taliban Increasingly Targeting Pakistani Police Officers in City of Karachi

Killings Rise in Karachi as Taliban Target Police

Zia ur-Rehman and Declan Walsh

New York Times, August 12, 2014

KARACHI, Pakistan — Karachi’s embattled police force recently passed a grim milestone — the killing of its 100th police officer this year, putting the force on track to exceed the 2013 toll of 166 police deaths, which was itself a record.

Some killings stemmed from the factors that have roiled Karachi, a restless megalopolis of 20 million people, for decades: ethnic politics, sectarian militancy and old-fashioned criminal gangs. But much of the toll came from the city’s newest force for violent chaos, the Pakistani Taliban.

The Taliban have been steadily expanding in Karachi for two years, running extortion rackets, killing political rivals and carrying out audacious attacks on prominent targets, including the city airport in June.

Now they have trained their sights on the city police. In the sprawling Pashtun slums on the city’s eastern and northern flanks, Taliban militants have gunned down police officers, assaulted poorly defended police stations and sent suicide bombers to assassinate top police commanders.

Main theaters of conflict in northwestern Pakistan.

The killings offer new proof, officials say, that the guerrilla war that was once confined to the tribal belt in northwestern Pakistan, the Taliban’s stamping ground, has spread to its biggest city.

The Foreign Policy Essay: Afghan Lessons Learned

August 10, 2014

Editor’s Note: The United States is supporting the Afghan government with troops and other military assistance in the fight against Islamist radicals based in Pakistan. As the United States ponders its policy options, it would do well to heed lessons from a time when the situation was reversed. In one of America’s biggest Cold War successes, the Carter and Reagan administrations supported the anti-Soviet mujahedin in Afghanistan and helped them defeat the Soviet Union. Bruce Riedel, author of the newly released What We Won: America’s Secret War in Afghanistan, identifies lessons from the anti-Soviet struggle and contends that the United States risks repeating some of Moscow’s many mistakes.

Twenty five years ago, after 3,331 days of war, the Soviet 40th Red Army retreated in defeat from Afghanistan. An American-led coalition had orchestrated support for the Afghan mujahedin that shattered the myth of Red Army invincibility. The CIA had won the last and decisive battle of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall fell within months of the Soviets’ defeat in Afghanistan and the Warsaw Pact disintegrated. The danger of nuclear war between the two super powers, which had terrorized the world for generations, vanished overnight.

This secret war a quarter century ago holds many lessons for Americans considering how to react to crises in 2014. At a cost of roughly $3 billion and without a single American casualty, the secret American war in Afghanistan may have been the most successful covert action in our nation’s history. It was a bipartisan victory. President Jimmy Carter created the coalition of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Britain and others that secretly backed the mujahedin in just a few weeks after the Russian invasion in early 1980. President Ronald Reagan continued the covert campaign and then escalated it in 1986 to victory. The Congress was not only kept fully informed on the war, it was an enthusiastic supporter.
Covert actions can produce significant policy successes if they are well planned, have achievable goals, are supported by robust coalitions, and exploit enemy weaknesses. But they inevitably have unforeseen consequences which must be understood in real time, not after the fact.

Days after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Eve 1979, Carter told the CIA to turn Afghanistan into Russia’s Vietnam, a quagmire that would bog Moscow down in an endless insurgency. The goal was simple and clear cut. The Afghans were eager to fight the Russians; all they needed was weapons. In 1986, at the prompting of Pakistan’s dictator, Zia-ul-Haq, Reagan gave the mujahedin Stinger surface-to-air missiles. In less than six months, both the Russians and Iranians had captured Stingers, but Reagan did not stop supplying them. He was not paralyzed by fear of weapons falling into the wrong hands; it was a price worth paying for victory.

Global success stories

In this file photograph taken on July 22, 2014, Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo gestures following his victory address in Jakarta's port district of Sunda Kelapa after the General Elections Commission declared him as winner in the presidential race against opponent Prabowo Subianto. (Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

Wherever you look these days, the world seems on fire. New hot spots like Russia-Ukraine are competing with old ones like Gaza. Festering conflicts like those in Syria and Iraq are getting worse. Even Afghanistan, which seemed in better shape than the other places, had a setback this week. Is there any good news out there? 

In fact, some of the most important countries in the world are making remarkable progress, affecting at least 1.5 billion people. Let me give you the good news. 

Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and editor at large of Time magazine.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. It has more Muslims than Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states put together. It is also crucially located, in East Asia where great power politics and rivalries are heating up. Only 10 years ago, the fear was that Islamic militants were taking over the country and that it was an economic mess and an unreliable crisis spot in the region. The country has defied all skeptics and last month it took a big step forward. 

The election of Joko Widodo marks the consolidation of Indonesia’s democracy. Jokowi, as he is always referred to at home, defeated an iconic member of Indonesia’s old guard, Prabowo Subianto, a former general and former son-in-law of President Suharto who is thoroughly enmeshed in the ways of the past. (Prabowo is contesting the result.) In his campaign, Prabowo used demagogic appeals to nationalism, populism and Islam. Jokowi, by contrast, is a businessman-turned-politician, with a reputation as a competent and honest governor and mayor. He ran on a platform of economic development with virtually no reference to religion. His first steps have been promising, tackling a taboo right at the start — the country’s huge fuel subsidies, which are inefficient, distort the market and are a crippling burden on the national budget. 

The other encouraging election this year has been in the second most populous country on the planet, India. First, there was the election, which is often taken for granted but should be marveled at. In one of the poorest countries in the world, 834 million registered voters got a chance to exercise their democratic rights (and 66.4 percent of them did). The elections were held without violence or controversy, using electronic voting that produced a result within hours. Compare that to the United States, which will again go to the polls this year with dozens of different kinds of ballots, many using paper, and with inefficiencies and inevitable controversies. 

India’s elections could mark a turning point. The country has been mired in deadlock and paralysis for years because of a weak coalition government, ineffectual leadership and an obstructionist opposition. So people voted for a single party to take power (the first time in 30 years) and gave the new prime minister, Narendra Modi, a mandate. Modi campaigned brilliantly and effectively, and his message was unrelenting — development, development, development. Despite his party’s roots in Hindu fundamentalism, he chose to appeal to the country’s hunger for economic growth. If Modi can maintain that focus, eschew the Hindu nationalist agenda and make difficult decisions on cutting subsidies and encouraging economic competition, he will likely return India to a path of high growth, thus lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. 

Halfway around the world, Mexico took a big, bold step this week. The Mexican Congress passed the ambitious energy reform proposals of President Enrique Peña Nieto, ending 75 years of state control of the energy sector. They have the potential to be a game changer, bringing investment, new technology and hundreds of thousands of jobs to Mexico. Since his inauguration in December 2012, Peña Nieto has pressed for educational and telecommunications reforms that have also mostly been enacted. These reforms have not been popular and have not produced quick growth. This is understandable because most structural reforms have a negative effect on the economy in the short term — they end subsidies, reduce inefficiencies and allow competition for protected companies. In the long run, however, they boost productivity and growth. 

If Peña Nieto continues to have the courage to enact major reforms, Mexico will slowly but surely be transformed into a middle-class country. And the result of that will be a sea change in its relations with the United States, which will finally see Mexico not as a problem but as a partner. It is already happening on the ground. Between 2005 and 2010, there was no net migration from Mexico into the United States. But perceptions take a while to change — especially in Washington. But once they do, North America — the United States, Mexico and Canada — will become the world’s most important, vibrant and interdependent economic unit. 

That’s what’s been happening in the world while the news about rockets, bombs, assassinations and terrorism takes up the front pages.

Why Is China Nationalizing Christianity?

August 12, 2014

Last week China announced it was nationalizing Christianity. What are the motives behind this? 

China will redouble its efforts to nationalize Christianity, a senior Chinese official announced on last Thursday.

“The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture,” Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said at a Shanghai forum on the “Sinicization of Christianity,” according to Chinese state media.

Gu Mengfei, deputy secretary-general of the the Three-Self Patriotic Movement — a state-sanctioned umbrella organization for Protestant churches — elaborated on the initiative. “This will encourage more believers to make contributions to the country’s harmonious social progress, cultural prosperity and economic development,” Gu said.

It’s not clear from the report exactly what changes the government plans to make to its policy on Christianity. A crackdown of some sort on Christianity is almost certain, however. The Chinese government already places a number of restrictions on religion. All churches, for example, are required to register with the government. They operate under close government scrutiny, with all legal Protestant churches belonging to the state-sanctioned umbrella organizations, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council, and the Catholic churches belonging to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Through these organizations, both Protestant and Catholic churches in China are already required to practice Christianity with Chinese characteristics, to some degree. For example, Catholics are not allowed to recognize the authority of the Vatican. Meanwhile, as the name implies, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement — which long predates the establishment of the People’s Republic of China — has Chinese nationalism at its core. The Three-Selfs are the three principles of self-support (financial independence from foreigners), self-leadership/governance and self-propagation (indigenous missionary work).

Nonetheless, the officials’ comments last week indicate that the Chinese Communist Party intends to further tighten its grip over Christianity. There are a number of possible targets and motivations for the crackdown.

First, Christianity in general, and Protestantism in particular, has exploded in China in recent years. As The Diplomat has previously noted, China is already estimated to have 58 million Protestants and some believe it will be home to the largest Christian population by 2030. Roughly one half of China’s current Protestants are estimated to belong to underground, illegal churches.

The officials who spoke at the Shanghai forum indicated that this rapid growth was the rationale behind the crackdown. For example, Gao Feng, the president of the China Christian Council, told the audience: “Over the past years, China’s Protestantism has become one of the fastest growing universal churches.” Wang himself noted: “Over the past decades, the Protestant churches in China have developed very quickly with the implementation of the country’s religious policy. In the future, we will continue to boost the development of Christianity in China.”

The growth of religion in China is to be expected given the government’s relaxation of restrictions on it (compared to the Mao era) and the profound socio-economic changes China has undergone since the reform and opening up period began. However, its growth also gives it the potential to act as a unifying force for political opposition to the CCP’s authority. Crucially, Christianity could potentially cut across regional divides in China.

The rapid growth in religion is particularly troubling for the CCP given that its own abandonment of Marxism has created an ideological vacuum. In its place, the CCP has increasingly turned to Chinese nationalism as the ideational complement to economic growth and prosperity. The “Sinicization of Christianity” would be consistent with its drive to push Chinese nationalism.

On the other hand, the campaign could be merely an attempt to crack down on the large network of underground churches in China. As noted above, roughly one half of China’s Protestants are believed to attend these churches. These operate outside CCP control and are therefore of particular concern for the Party. Sinicization could simply mean trying to force underground Christians into the state-sanctioned organizations that already put a Chinese bent on Christianity.

China’s Political Spectrum under Xi Jinping

By Sebastian Veg
August 11, 2014

China’s president has been positioning himself with respect to competing political ideologies. 

When, in November 2012, Xi Jinping took up his position as secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), his political ideas and positioning inside the Party remained largely a mystery. The CCP is a huge bureaucratic machine mainly devoted to its own survival, within which various interests and priorities unceasingly compete at every level. The personal convictions of supreme leaders are at best diffuse and changing, and none of them can lastingly avoid going through the system of decision by consensus. For this reason it is somewhat futile to try to identify perennial political factions.

Nonetheless, to canalize personal conflicts and court intrigues, the regime uses two kinds of tools. First, it constantly produces new institutions and more or less stable rules. And second, by building up clientelistic ties, it tries to ensure the support of certain groups inside and outside the Party that participate in political debates in the media and more largely in the Sinophone public sphere. Eighteen months after Xi’s ascension, news of a formal investigation of Zhou Yongkang wraps up the president’s first political cycle of power consolidation. That makes it a good time to attempt to sketch out the contours of the political synthesis represented by Xi Jinping, based on the public debates and institutional innovations that have been announced during the first third of his first term.

As political positions continue to shift after the 18th Congress (at which time I presented a six-force model), the spectrum can be grossly divided into four main families: advocates of the “China Model,” who dominate within the Party and the army, among “princelings” (children of former leaders) and State administrations; the “left,” which is made up of both nostalgics of the Mao era (the old left) and academics, often trained in Western universities, critical of capitalism and proponents of a strong state (the New Left); social democrats, usually academics and former inner-Party reformers who, reaching old age, can speak out more freely (the journalYanhuang Chunqiu is a case in point); and the liberals, overrepresented among the “metropolitan” (semi-private) media, lawyers, and more largely the urban population and private economy.

Since coming to power, Xi Jinping has, implicitly or explicitly, positioned himself with respect to these four groups. The idea of the “China model,” which gained currency in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, reflects a growing indifference among Chinese elites to Western political systems and economic liberalization, and their renewed interest in a “Chinese path” to development, underpinned by State intervention. This mix of populist nationalism and statist authoritarianism continues to form the core of the ideas expressed by Xi Jinping who,already in 2009, mocked “well-fed foreigners who have nothing better to do than to lecture us.” Upon taking up his position, Xi immediately coined a new name for this ideological composite: “the China dream,” a dream of “wealth and power” (fuqiang), heralding the “great renaissance of the Chinese nation,” a phrase first coined by Jiang Zemin and regularly used by Hu Jintao. By visiting the National Museum of China shortly afterwards, where he inspected the exhibition on 20th century history, precisely titled “The Road to Renaissance,” Xi endorsed this nationalist program, as also attested by his unilateral decisions in the area of foreign policy. However, whereas at the end of Hu Jintao’s mandate Chinese exceptionalism and authoritarianism were often legitimated by Confucian rhetoric (the “harmonious society”), under Xi neo-traditionalists seem to have been absorbed within the general discourse on the China dream.


China’s Foreign Ministry on July 18 said it had appointed a special envoy for Afghanistan, underscoring Beijing’s concerns over developments in that country which could turn into a hotbed of militancy at its doorstep.

Sun Yuxi, a former ambassador to both Afghanistan (between 2002 and 2004) and India, has been named as the special envoy and will have “close communication” with Afghanistan and other relevant parties to help “ensure lasting peace, stability and development for Afghanistan and the region”, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

To that end, Sun Yuxi’s appointment not only signals Chinese concerns regarding possible threats emanating from the region, but also an intent to firm up some of its geo-economic initiatives in the wake of the US drawdown from Afghanistan.

One of China’s chief worries is that Uighur militants, who are fighting for a separate state called East Turkestan in China’s Xinjiang region, will step up their activities by exploiting the security vacuum in Afghanistan after most of the NATO forces withdraw by the end of the year. China believes hundreds of Uighur militants of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are holed up in the tribal areas straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is a good cause for the Chinese worry; despite employing a wide range of measures it has failed to get a grip on the insurgency in Xinjiang.

Early on July 28, the last day of Ramadan, 215 Uighurs armed with knives and axes attacked a police station and government offices in Elixku and Huangdi towns in Shache County in Xinjiang. Chinese police shot dead 59 of the attackers while 37 civilians also died in the incident. A total of 13 armed Chinese personnel were killed and about 67 people were arrested in this connection.

In early July, China banned civil servants, students and teachers in Xinjiang region from taking part in fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

On July 30, Jume Tahir, the imam of China’s largest mosque in the westernmost city of Kashgar, was attacked as he was leaving the Id Kah mosque and stabbed to death. The 74-year-old Imam, who was also a former deputy to the official National People’s Congress (NPC), was reportedly supporting the Chinese Communist Party by publicly speaking out against the wave of violence in Xinjiang and accusing the separatist Muslims for halting progress and social and ethnic cohesion.

According to China’s special envoy for the Middle East, Wu Sike, Muslim extremists from Xinjiang have gone to the Middle East for training, and some may have crossed into Iraq to participate in the upsurge of violence there.

Appropriately, Sun Yuxi commenced his charge with a visit to Kabul; and on July 23 he had talks with President Hamid Karzai and presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani on separate occasions. During his stay in Afghanistan, Sun also met with US and European Union ambassadors to the country as well as the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission.

Sun reaffirmed China’s support for the ongoing political and reconciliation process in Afghanistan and said if groups in Afghanistan, including Taliban, reach an agreement on national reconciliation then nobody will make trouble. “So far we have not directly got involved with Afghan groups including Taliban and we place our hope on the new government.” He said he will visit US, Russia, India and Iran to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Pentagon: Effectiveness of U.S. Airstrikes Against ISIS in Northern Iraq Have Been Limited So Far

Andrew Tilgman 
Military Times, August 11, 2014 

A U.S. F/A-18 fighter jet takes off for Iraq on Aug. 11 from the flight deck of the Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. U.S. military officials say American fighter aircraft struck and destroyed several vehicles Aug. 10 that were part of an Islamic State group convoy moving to attack Kurdish forces defending the northeastern Iraqi city of Irbil. Hasan Jamali/AP 

An F/A-18C Hornet coming from Iraq lands on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on Aug. 10in the Persian Gulf. (Hasan Jamali / AP) 

U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets take off Aug. 11 for missions in Iraq from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. (Hasan Jamali / AP)The Pentagon’s top war planner said the military campaign’s impact remains limited after four days of airstrikes in northern Iraq, and the Islamic militants continue to be a powerful force capable of terrorizing Iraqi civilians and seizing territory. 

“I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained, or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” said Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, the director of operations, or “J-3” for the Joint Staff, told reporters Monday. 

“They are very well organized. They are very well equipped. They coordinate their operations and they have thus far showed the ability to attack on multiple axis. This is not insignificant,” Mayville said at a Pentagon briefing. 

Since President Obama authorized the airstrikes on Aug. 7, U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft have dropped bombs 14 times, targeting ISIS artillery positions, armored vehicles and convoys. 

Nouri al-Maliki: The History of America’s Frustrating and Unconstructive Ally in Iraq

For 2 U.S. Presidents, Iraqi Leader Proved a Source of Frustration

Peter Baker

New York Timies, 

August 12, 2014

WASHINGTON — One day in the fall of 2007, President George W. Bush joined Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in a video conference to sign a “declaration of principles” on the future of the Iraqi-American relations. As Mr. Bush scrawled his name, Mr. Maliki in Baghdad just passed his pen over his copy, pretending to sign.

At the last minute, Mr. Maliki had decided not to sign because he said he had not read the document’s final wording, but he did not mention this to Mr. Bush, who had no idea his counterpart’s pen had not actually touched paper. An American official in the room noticed, however, and as soon as Mr. Bush’s image vanished from the screen, accosted a Maliki aide, saying, “Don’t screw with the president of the United States.”

The incident that day nearly seven years ago typified the vexing and volatile relationship between the Iraqi prime minister and his American sponsors. Events were often not what they seemed, nor did they work out as they were supposed to. Mr. Maliki rose from obscurity to power in part with American help, but first Mr. Bush and then President Obama found him to be a mercurial and often unconstructive ally who caused as many headaches as he solved.

Now as Mr. Maliki reaches a moment of truth, either stepping down or trying to preserve power, Mr. Obama and the American government are trying to maneuver the Iraqi leader one last time in hopes of replacing him with a more reliable figure who can pull that fractious country together and work more collaboratively with Washington.

For weeks, the president and his aides have said it was not their role to tell Iraqwho its leader should be, but they made eminently clear on Monday that it was time for Mr. Maliki to step aside in favor of Haider al-Abadi, a fellow member of the same Shiite party nominated by President Fuad Masum to be the next prime minister.

Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. each called Mr. Abadi to congratulate him, and when the president went before cameras on Martha’s Vineyard to repeat that publicly, he pointedly did not mention Mr. Maliki’s name. When a reporter asked if he had a message for Mr. Maliki, the president walked away. That was the message.

“He’s stubborn and he’s a fighter and he’s going to be resisting this,” said James F. Jeffrey, who watched both presidents deal with Mr. Maliki, first as Mr. Bush’s deputy national security adviser and then as Mr. Obama’s ambassador to Baghdad. “Everybody’s pulled his hair out with him.”

In the end, Mr. Jeffrey said, it will fall to the Americans or someone else to convince Mr. Maliki to go. “I think he will step down if he has to rather than have a coup,” Mr. Jeffrey said. “He’ll try everything under the sun to block it, including arresting people, but at some point someone has to talk with him.”

Mr. Maliki, a relatively little-known Shiite politician who spent much of Saddam Hussein’s reign outside of Iraq, was a surprise choice for prime minister in 2006 after months of deadlock. Mr. Bush was eager for the Iraqis to finally pick a prime minister who would be more decisive than Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and Mr. Bush’s ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, encouraged Mr. Maliki to run.

A Spit-and Paste Force, The Ukrainian Army Is Winning in the Eastern Ukraine Despite Lack of Equipment and Supplies

Ukraine’s Army Slogs Through the Merciless Donbass: Blood, borscht and BTRs

Robert Bechusen

War Is Boring, August 10, 2014

The Ukrainian military is close to defeating the rebels that have caused so much trouble in the country’s east during the past two months. The rebels are now surrounded and Kiev’s army is pummeling them with artillery.

But it’s been a slog for the troops tasked with sweeping the towns and cities of the heavily-armed, Russian-backed separatists.

It’s tough to grasp how hard the fight is. Ukrainian news Website Gordonuainterviewed an anonymous 20-something national guard trooper who fought for two months in brutal conditions. While he’s a patriot, the incognito nature of the interview gives a critical look at an impoverished, post-Soviet military scrapped together to fight a determined enemy.

There’s terrible, stomach-churning food. Poor or nonexistent equipment. Friendly fire. The Ukrainian forces also are suffering much higher casualties than the brass is admitting, according to the soldier.

Russian-backed separatists developed a canny but low-fi intelligence network which stands in contrast to the poor intelligence the Ukrainian military is working with. As the trooper’s unit traveled in their armored vehicles, taxi drivers doubling as spies tailed them, relaying information via phone to rebels waiting in ambush.
Ukrainian troops in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine on Aug. 9, 2014. AP photo

‘Mud, dust and superglue’

The soldier speaks highly of an instructor at the national guard’s training center. The coach taught his unit how to seize buildings, deploy checkpoints and how to protect their vehicles from mortar fire. “It turned out that we did not know anything,” he tells Gordonua. “Generally not a damn thing!”

Flash Point: Russian Army Now Has 45,000 Troops on Ukrainian Border; Russian “Humanitarian Aid” Convoy of 280 Trucks Has Left Moscow Bound for the Ukraine

Huge Russian Convoy Leaves Moscow for Ukraine, Bearing Aid


New York Times, 

August 12, 2014

MOSCOW — An enormous Russian convoy of about 280 trucks carrying humanitarian aid has left Moscow for southeastern Ukraine, Russian television and news agencies reported Tuesday.

The Russian aid has been an object of suspicion for Ukraine and its Western allies, who accuse the Kremlin of trying to use it as a stealth method to invade its smaller neighbor with armed forces to support the besieged separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk.

But President Vladimir V. Putin and other senior Russian officials all insisted on Monday that it was a peaceful convoy coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Television pictures showed a long line of tractor-trailers stretched along a road. A Russian Orthodox priest was shown sprinkling the trucks with holy water before their departure. Many of the vehicles were draped in huge banners reading “humanitarian aid” in Russian, along with the double-headed eagle of Russia and its white, blue and red flag.

The NTV channel quoted drivers as saying it would take a few days for the entire column to reach the intended crossing point on the Russian-Ukrainian border, which is roughly 600 miles south of Moscow.

The convoy was carrying 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid, according to the Itar-Tass news agency. It included 400 tons of cereals, 100 tons of sugar, 62 tons of baby food, 54 tons of medical equipment and medicine, 12,000 sleeping bags and 69 generators of various sizes, the agency reported.

In talking about the convoy on Monday, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said he hoped the humanitarian effort by Russia would not be blocked by Kiev or its Western allies.

The Russian government began a concerted effort to get the convoy accepted on Monday, setting off alarm bells in the West despite the Kremlin’s insistance that it was coordinating its efforts with the Red Cross.

Isis Consolidates

 By Patrick Cockburn
9 August, 2014

August 07, 2014 "ICH" - "LRB" - As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. In a few weeks of fighting in Syria Isis has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, routing the official al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor and executing its local commander as he tried to flee. In northern Syria some five thousand Isis fighters are using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul to besiege half a million Kurds in their enclave at Kobani on the Turkish border. In central Syria, near Palmyra, Isis fought the Syrian army as it overran the al-Shaer gasfield, one of the largest in the country, in a surprise assault that left an estimated three hundred soldiers and civilians dead. Repeated government counter-attacks finally retook the gasfield but Isis still controls most of Syria's oil and gas production. The Caliphate may be poor and isolated but its oil wells and control of crucial roads provide a steady income in addition to the plunder of war.

The birth of the new state is the most radical change to the political geography of the Middle East since the Sykes-Picot Agreement was implemented in the aftermath of the First World War. Yet this explosive transformation has created surprisingly little alarm internationally or even among those in Iraq and Syria not yet under the rule of Isis. Politicians and diplomats tend to treat Isis as if it is a Bedouin raiding party that appears dramatically from the desert, wins spectacular victories and then retreats to its strongholds leaving the status quo little changed. Such a scenario is conceivable but is getting less and less likely as Isis consolidates its hold on its new conquests in an area that may soon stretch from Iran to the Mediterranean.

The very speed and unexpectedness of its rise make it easy for Western and regional leaders to hope that the fall of Isis and the implosion of the Caliphate might be equally sudden and swift. But all the evidence is that this is wishful thinking and the trend is in the other direction, with the opponents of Isis becoming weaker and less capable of resistance: in Iraq the army shows no signs of recovering from its earlier defeats and has failed to launch a single successful counter-attack; in Syria the other opposition groups, including the battle-hardened fighters of al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, are demoralised and disintegrating as they are squeezed between Isis and the Assad government. Karen Koning Abuzayd, a member of the UN's Commission of Inquiry in Syria, says that more and more Syrian rebels are defecting to Isis: 'They see it's better, these guys are strong, these guys are winning battles, they were taking territory, they have money, they can train us.' This is bad news for the government, which barely held off an assault in 2012 and 2013 by rebels less well trained, organised and armed than Isis; it will have real difficulties stopping the forces of the Caliphate advancing west.

In Baghdad there was shock and terror on 10 June at the fall of Mosul and as people realised that trucks packed with Isis gunmen were only an hour's drive away. But instead of assaulting Baghdad, Isis took most of Anbar, the vast Sunni province that sprawls across western Iraq on either side of the Euphrates. In Baghdad, with its mostly Shia population of seven million, people know what to expect if the murderously anti-Shia Isis forces capture the city, but they take heart from the fact that the calamity has not happened yet. 'We were frightened by the military disaster at first but we Baghdadis have got used to crises over the last 35 years,' one woman said. Even with Isis at the gates, Iraqi politicians have gone on playing political games as they move ponderously towards replacing the discredited prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

'It is truly surreal,' a former Iraqi minister said. 'When you speak to any political leader in Baghdad they talk as if they had not just lost half the country.' Volunteers had gone to the front after a fatwa from the grand ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shia cleric. But these militiamen are now streaming back to their homes, complaining that they were half-starved and forced to use their own weapons and buy their own ammunition. The only large-scale counter-attack launched by the regular army and the newly raised Shia militia was a disastrous foray into Tikrit on 15 July that was ambushed and defeated with heavy losses. There is no sign that the dysfunctional nature of the Iraqi army has changed. 'They were using just one helicopter in support of the troops in Tikrit,' the former minister said, 'so I wonder what on earth happened to the 140 helicopters the Iraqi state has bought in recent years?'

Probably the money for the missing 139 helicopters was simply stolen. There are other wholly corrupt states in the world but few of them have oil revenues of $100 billion a year to steal from. The sole aim of many officials has long been to get the largest kickback possible and they did not much care if jihadi groups did the same. I met a Turkish businessman in Baghdad who said he had had a large construction contract in Mosul over the last few years. The local emir or leader of Isis, then known as al-Qaida in Iraq, demanded $500,000 a month in protection money from the company. 'I complained again and again about this to the government in Baghdad,' the businessman said, 'but they would do nothing about it except to say that I could add the money I paid al-Qaida to the contract price.' The emir was soon killed and his successor demanded that the protection money be increased to $1 million a month. The businessman refused to pay and one of his Iraqi employees was killed; he withdrew his Turkish staff and his equipment to Turkey. 'Later I got a message from al-Qaida saying that the price was back down to $500,000 and I could come back,' he said. This was some time before Isis captured the city.

Oil and Erbil

AUGUST 10, 2014 


To the defense of Erbil: this was the main cause that drew President Obama back to combat in Iraq last week, two and a half years after he fulfilled a campaign pledge and pulled the last troops out.

After Mazar-i-Sharif, Nasiriyah, Kandahar, Mosul, Benghazi, and a score of other sites of American military intervention—cities whose names would have stumped most American “Jeopardy!” contestants before 2001—we come now to Erbil. One can forgive the isolationist: Where?

Erbil has an ancient history, but, in political-economic terms, the city is best understood these days as a Kurdish sort of Deadwood, as depicted in David Milch’s HBO series about a gold-rush town whose antihero, Al Swearengen, conjures up a local government to create a veneer of legitimacy for statehood, all to advance his rackets. Erbil is an oil-rush town where the local powers that be similarly manipulate their ambiguous sovereignty for financial gain—their own, and that of any pioneer wild and wily enough to invest money without having it stolen.

Erbil is the capital of the oil-endowed Kurdish Regional Government, in northern Iraq. There the United States built political alliances and equipped Kurdish peshmerga militias long before the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, in 2003. Since 2003, it has been the most stable place in an unstable country. But last week, well-armed guerrillas loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, threatened Erbil’s outskirts, forcing Obama’s momentous choice. (The President also ordered air operations to deliver humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Yazidis and other non-Muslim minorities stranded on remote Mount Sinjar. A secure Kurdistan could provide sanctuary for those survivors.)

“The Kurdish region is functional in the way we would like to see,” Obama explained during a fascinating interview with Thomas Friedman published on Friday. “It is tolerant of other sects and other religions in a way that we would like to see elsewhere. So we do think it is important to make sure that that space is protected.”

All true and convincing, as far as it goes. Kurdistan is indeed one of a handful of reliable allies of the United States in the Middle East these days. Its economy has boomed in recent years, attracting investors from all over and yielding a shiny new international airport and other glistening facilities. Of course, in comparison to, say, Jordan or the United Arab Emirates, Kurdistan has one notable deficit as a staunch American ally: it is not a state. Nor is it a contented partner in the construction of Iraqi national unity, which remains the principal project of the Obama Administration in Iraq. In that light, Obama’s explanation of his casus belli seemed a little incomplete.

Obama’s advisers explained to reporters that Erbil holds an American consulate, and that “thousands” of Americans live there. The city has to be defended, they continued, lest ISIS overrun it and threaten American lives. Fair enough, but why are thousands of Americans in Erbil these days? It is not to take in clean mountain air.

ExxonMobil and Chevron are among the many oil and gas firms large and small drilling in Kurdistan under contracts that compensate the companies for their political risk-taking with unusually favorable terms. (Chevron said last week that it is pulling some expatriates out of Kurdistan; ExxonMobil declined to comment.) With those oil giants have come the usual contractors, the oilfield service companies, the accountants, the construction firms, the trucking firms, and, at the bottom of the economic chain, diverse entrepreneurs digging for a score.

Scroll the online roster of Erbil’s Chamber of Commerce for the askew poetry of a boom town’s small businesses: Dream Kitchen, Live Dream, Pure Gold, Events Gala, Emotion, and where I, personally, might consider a last meal if trapped in an ISIS onslaught, “Famous Cheeses Teak.”

It’s not about oil. After you’ve written that on the blackboard five hundred times, watch Rachel Maddow’s documentary “Why We Did It” for a highly sophisticated yet pointed journalistic take on how the world oil economy has figured from the start as a silent partner in the Iraq fiasco.

Hillary Clinton: 'Failure' to Help Syrian Rebels Led to the Rise of ISIS

AUG 10 2014

The former secretary of state, and probable candidate for president, outlines her foreign-policy doctrine. She says this about President Obama's: "Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle."

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Obama has long ridiculed the idea that the U.S., early in the Syrian civil war, could have shaped the forces fighting the Assad regime, thereby stopping al Qaeda-inspired groups—like the one rampaging across Syria and Iraq today—from seizing control of the rebellion. In an interview in February, the president told me that “when you have a professional army ... fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict—the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

Well, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, isn’t buying it. In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the "failure" that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.

As she writes in her memoir of her State Department years, Hard Choices, she was an inside-the-administration advocate of doing more to help the Syrian rebellion. Now, her supporters argue, her position has been vindicated by recent events.

Hillary Clinton: Chinese System Is Doomed, Leaders on a 'Fool's Errand' Professional Clinton-watchers (and there are battalions of them) have told me that it is only a matter of time before she makes a more forceful attempt to highlight her differences with the (unpopular) president she ran against, and then went on to serve. On a number of occasions during my interview with her, I got the sense that this effort is already underway. (And for what it's worth, I also think she may have told me that she’s running for president—see below for her not-entirely-ambiguous nod in that direction.)

Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good. At one point, I mentioned the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid shit” (an expression often rendered as “Don’t do stupid stuff” in less-than-private encounters).