6 September 2014


Saturday, 06 September 2014 | Hiranmay Karlekar presence of the Islamic State’s influence in India and Al Qaeda’s decision to have an Indian sub-continent wing, should be seen in the context of the bitter falling-out between the two dreaded terror groups

Al Qaeda’s announcement of a new branch, Quedat al-Jihad, to raise, according to its chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, “the flag of jihad, return [to] the Islamic rule, and empowering the Sharia’h of Allah across the Indian subcontinent”, has understandably caused a stir. Reporting to Mullah Omar, and headed by Asim Umar, the announcement of its formation comes not long after the Islamic State, a reincarnation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, aka Islamic State in Syria and the Levant, announced, also on June 29, the change in its moniker and the formation of a Caliphate straddling contiguous areas of Iraq and Syria. It also comes not-so-long after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, designated Caliph and renamed Caliph Ibrahim by the IS on June 29, said in a 20-minute audio that Muslims’ rights were being violated in India, China, Palestine, Somalia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Caucasus, Sham (the Levant), the Philippines, Ahvaz (a city in Iran), Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco.

He asked Muslims worldwide to join the battle and help build an Islamic State in the newly conquered territory under the caliphate. Also, a map purportedly showing the areas that ISIS plans to control in the next five years, has widely appeared online. Covering the Middle East, North Africa and large areas of Asia, it reveals ISIS' ambition to extend into Europe. Spain, which Muslims rule until the late 15th Century, would form part of the caliphate, as would the Balkan states and Eastern Europe, up to and including Austria. It shows India, as well as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, not by name but a part of a region it calls Khurasan.

Both developments have to be seen in the context of the bitter falling-out between Al Qaeda and the IS, and al-Baghdadi and Zawahiri personally. In fact, Zawahiri had disowned al-Baghdadi after the latter’s refusal to heed his demand that the Islamic State leave Syria. The relations between the two leaders and their organisations had become so bitter that many have interpreted the IS’s announcement of the Caliphate’s formation as a declaration of war against Al Qaeda.

The jihadi world is set to split in two with the younger combatants gravitating to the IS attracted by its dramatic results and millennial fundamentalist rhetoric and the older ones tending to remain with the Al Qaeda, which, considerably weakened by the death of Osama bin Laden, severe attrition of its leadership through repeated US drone strikes, and diminution of financial support, is clearly hard pressed. The last thing it would want now is the Caliphate’s men spreading their tentacles in India, which it has considered a part of its sphere of activity, even before Osama bin Laden had declared jihad against the country in 1998.

Reports about the IS’s propaganda efforts, mainly through emails and videos, in India, indicates that it has been doing precisely what Al Qaeda would not want it to. One of these, with Hindi, Tamil and Urdu subtitles, posted on jihadi forums and YouTube, shows a Canadian jihadi asking other Muslims to join the jihad, besides firing a rocket-propelled grenade and participating in combat before he is killed. Another features the first Friday sermon delivered by the IS Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with flawless Tamil sub-titles. Al Isabah Media Production, which claims on its Twitter account to be the media unit of ‘Ansar ut Tawheed Fi Bilad Al Hind’ (Supporters of Monotheism in the Land of India), says it has posted the videos.

By all indications, Al Qaeda’s planned response to IS’s attempt to steal its thunder in India is resorting to terrorist strikes under an organisation of its own — possibly with the support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, which is apprehensive about the rise of the IS but is apparently averse to taking it on directly. The result is India having to face competitive unconventional warfare by two of the most vicious extremist outfits in the world. As a first step it needs to identity the contours of the dual threat.

Al-Qaeda’s striking arm will be the terror infrastructure built up over decades by the ISI. That the man behind the IS’s digital campaign is almost certainly Indian Mujahideen’s Sultan Abdul Kadir Armar, suggests that the IM is working for the IS. Reports of its recruiting, on the IS’s behalf, in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir, reinforces this conclusion. The hoisting of the IS’s flags in Srinagar on July 11 and during Eid-up-Fiton on July 29, and credible reports of about 100 Indians fighting in the IS’s military, indicate that its efforts have not drawn a blank.

The departure of the youth may indicate the beginning of a trend toward extremism which, if it affects a significant section of Muslims India, can have serious consequences. The community can then become a large reservoir of potential recruits to terrorism. Besides, a committed, well-organised and well-equipped terrorist organisation can pose serious problems for the defence forces through sabotage, disruption of supply lines and revelation to the enemy the exact positions of our forces and critical facilities for missile, during a war with Pakistan.

There is no imminent danger of this happening. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are loyal Indians. A number of them in the Armed Forces have readily died for the country displaying outstanding gallantry. Most mainstream Muslim organisations and clergy in India have roundly condemned the IS’s actions and exhortations and savage ways.SM Hameed Chishti, caretaker of Darga Ajmer Sharif has called them takfiris out to destroy the pristine image of Islam by razing Iraq’s historically and spiritually significant shrines. Most Sunni leaders, including those from Deoband, have also been harshly critical.

There is, however, no place for complacence. There is a need to hone counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations, the most important factors in any unconventional warfare, and improve intelligence collection. This would require an increase in skilled manpower strength of intelligence agencies, an expansion of infrastructural support systems for digital and cyber security and surveillance, and enhancement of the operational capabilities of the police, paramilitary, military special force formations. Simultaneously, coordinated and well-conceived plans, including carefully crafted affirmative action measures, have to be implemented for helping backward sections among the Muslims. Politically-inspired minatory statements and aggressive rhetoric, which alarm and alienate the minorities, will stoke their feelings of insecurity and discrimination and drive them toward extremism.http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/edit/terror-turf-war-that-threatens-india.html

Pakistan’s perennial crisis

September 6, 2014 

Husain Haqqani
The Pakistani military does not realise that its meddling makes Pakistan more unstable, not less, as does its insistence on a narrow definition of the national interest, which civilians are not allowed to alter

Pakistan’s current political turmoil should be seen as the symptom of a deeper malaise. Although most political parties represented in Parliament have rallied to the side of preserving the country’s fragile democratic system, there are still powerful forces that oppose democracy. And the unwillingness of Pakistan’s powerful military to disengage from politics even when it is not ready to assume power in a coup will continue to be a disruptive factor for some time to come.

In any other democracy, protests against the alleged rigging of polls 15 months after the counting of votes would have been pooh-poohed. But Imran Khan was still able to turn his star power into a crowd of a few thousand protesters, arguing that the Parliament to which he was elected did not have an honest mandate. The Canada-based cleric, Tahir-ul-Qadri was also able to return from his exile for a second time in two years to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with a call for a people’s revolution.

Elsewhere, protesters would make their point and go home while their leaders built up support to challenge the government at the next election. But here they camped outside Parliament for several days while the leaders garnered live television coverage from air-conditioned shipping containers. When the leaders incited violence, the Army offered to protect state buildings but neither soldiers nor the police were willing to forcibly end the sit-in.

The Punjab police, which takes orders from Mr. Sharif’s brother, Shehbaz, who is Chief Minister of the province, had botched an earlier attempt to deal with Qadri’s cult-like followers in Lahore; 19 people were killed in that incident. This time, the government wanted to keep the body count down.

Boxed in by Pakistan

India needs to respond, either practically or by signalling. (Source: PTI)
Written by Raja Menon | September 6, 2014 
Five years after the nuclear tests, India published its doctrine, which spoke of “no first use”, minimum credible deterrence and implied a massive retaliatory strike if attacked with nuclear weapons. Although Pakistan’s doctrine is still unwritten, there is no ambiguity in New Delhi that Pakistan intends its nuclear arsenal to deter India’s conventional forces by nuclear first use. Since 1998, there have been three Indo-Pak crises in what might be called a nuclear environment. They are the Kargil conflict, the post-Parliament attack mobilisation and the attack on Mumbai in 2008. It was, however, Operation Parakram after the Parliament attack scenario that led to much theorising on the salience of nuclear weapons. The inability to mobilise the Indian army’s strike corps quickly enough led to talk of a “cold start” as a possible course of punitive action. Although cause and effect can only be speculated upon, Pakistan in 2012 deployed short-range nuclear-tipped missiles that could be used as battlefield nuclear weapons.

Between 2002, when Operation Parakram was executed, and 2012, an argument has been conducted in a shadowboxing kind of manner between India and Pakistan. The Indians have held that Pakistan’s ongoing strategy of abetting terrorism in India will lead to reprisal using India’s conventional superiority, and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will not deter it. Delhi and the three Indian armed forces did nothing, however, to implement any change in strategy or hardware to execute this punitive reprisal, apart from what had already been designed for a regular state-to-state conflict. Words such as “war below the nuclear threshold”, “space for conventional war below the nuclear threshold” and “full spectrum deterrence to close the threshold gap” were used. Normally countries that rely on nuclear deterrence resort to what is called “nuclear signalling” to convey nuclear intentions to the other side. Signalling should, over time, create stability, thereby avoiding nuclear crises. In South Asia, Pakistan has resorted to more and not always measured nuclear signalling, while India has been over-reticent in conveying nuclear intentions. The result is that there is deep nuclear instability in the Indo-Pak relationship, which unfortunately resembles no other bilateral nuclear relationship of the Cold War. There are no precedents to go by, particularly in the use of terrorists by Pakistan as an instrument of state policy, along with nuclear weapons.

The result is that there is a tactical imperative on India to resort to a conventional punitive strike which, in a stable nuclear environment, would be hazardous. A couple of army chiefs who declared that India has the ability to wage a conventional war below the nuclear threshold were silenced by an obstructive defence minister, signalling Indian confusion to the Pakistanis. Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) have been seen by India as a signal that the window for a conventional strike has been closed, thereby boxing India in between terror and TNWs.

Why #RussiaInvadedUkraine matters

Ukraine’s cyberactivists insisted on #RussiaInvadedUkraine to remind Western leaders and journalists who are loath to use such plain terms that our weak words are an unnecessary concession to Putin.
New York Times Written by Chrystia Freeland- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/why-russiainvadedukraine-matters/99/#sthash.e914WFmQ.dpuf
September 6, 2014 

By: Chrystia Freeland

Last week, Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, said he could take Kiev in two weeks. This week, he disavowed a ceasefire, then proposed a peace plan. These zigzags did their job, leaving the West confused about his intentions, just as the European Union and Nato were meeting to figure out how to counter them. Now, in the information war, Ukrainians are striking back. When Russian soldiers openly engaged Ukrainian forces at the end of August, a new hashtag began to trend on Twitter. Invented by a Belorussian and enthusiastically promoted by Ukrainians, #RussiaInvadedUkraine was used nearly a half a million times in the first few days.

In this conflict, technologically driven activism has become characteristic. Ukraine’s Maidan revolution began with a post on Facebook, and a “nerd unit”, staffed by volunteers who are crowdsourcing the funding for their drones, is operating in the contested east. What’s new and important about #RussiaInvadedUkraine is its clear language.

One of the features of Russia’s war against Ukraine has been the reintroduction of Newspeak into public discourse. The Kremlin has used misinformation, propaganda and outright deceit to frame the debate. Ukraine’s cyberactivists insisted on #RussiaInvadedUkraine to remind Western leaders and journalists who are loath to use such plain terms that our weak words are an unnecessary concession to Putin. It may seem precious, when the war has already claimed at least 3,000 lives, to fuss over the proper use of language. It isn’t. George Orwell, in his famous 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language”, argued that the battle against poor English wasn’t frivolous because “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts”.

There is a case for fudging. By calling Russia’s latest aggression against Ukraine an “incursion”, as President Obama did when Russian tanks first drove in, we could be leaving Putin an easier way out. If he never “invaded”, the logic goes, he won’t need to face the humiliation of retreat. That might have been a reasonable theory this summer, after the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Russia had already invaded and annexed part of Ukraine — Crimea — and Russian citizens and Russian weapons were spearheading the insurgency in the Donbass region in the east. But it was just possible that Putin would choose to end a conflict that had already cost Russia billions of dollars. He didn’t. Instead, as the Ukrainian military was making gains in the Donbass, Putin opted for further escalation by directly sending in Russian troops and equipment.

Putin has already muzzled Russia’s once boisterous free press, exiled and imprisoned opposition leaders and assumed direct control of the mass media. If he opts for a compromise over Ukraine — and the best scenario on offer right now seems to be an ugly and destabilising “frozen conflict” in the Donbass — he won’t need the West to help him justify himself at home. He has a powerful domestic propaganda machine to do that.

By adopting Putin’s Newspeak, we aren’t offering him a useful diplomatic fig leaf. We are convincing him of his strength and our weakness. When Russian troops fighting in Ukraine are described on Russian state television as being “on vacation”, the Kremlin is asserting not only that it can send soldiers to Ukraine, but that it can explain their presence with an aggressively transparent excuse that amounts to thuggish mockery. Putin is challenging us with a double bluff, one military and one rhetorical. Reasonable people can differ on how much we should be supporting Ukraine and on how strongly we should be sanctioning Russia. But it is no longer possible to disagree about what is happening. This is not a civil war, nor is it a fascist coup. Eastern Ukrainians are not rising up against an oppressive regime in Kiev. This is partly a fight of freedom of speech against censorship. In the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, moral clarity is essential, but to get there we need linguistic clarity, too: Ukrainians decided to build a democracy at home and to make a trade deal with Europe; Russia invaded. Confronting Putin is a painful prospect, but so is living in a world governed by these new rules. Putin and his propagandists understand this very well, which is why they like to present us with the easier option of obfuscation. That’s the most dangerous choice of all. #RussiaInvadedUkraine. Please retweet.

Freeland is author of ‘Sale of the Century: Russia’s Wild Ride From Communism to Capitalism’ and a Liberal member of the Canadian parliament.
The New York Times

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/why-russiainvadedukraine-matters/99/#sthash.e914WFmQ.dpuf

The pendulum of the Islamic State

Vijay Prashad

Only if the social conditions that produced the IS — the inequality and the despair — are altered could it be truly vanquished

U.S. air strikes halted the columns of Islamic State (IS). Toyota trucks, armoured personnel carriers and howitzers lay flattened on their march toward the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil. Bombardment just north of Baghdad sent the IS fighters back toward the river Tigris. It allowed the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias (Badr and Salaam Brigades) to reclaim Amerli, a largely Shia town. What they did not do was to destroy or even degrade the legions of the IS.

The IS retaliation for these air strikes came in two brutal taped executions of U.S. journalists — first James Foley and then Steven Sotloff. The London-accented IS militant announced to U.S. President Barack Obama, “As your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people. We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone.” Beyond these murders, and more that may follow, it is unlikely that the IS can do any more damage to the U.S. directly.

Swinging into Syria

Like a pendulum, the fighters of the IS swung into Syria. They had no intention to face the U.S. bombers. Instead, their columns rushed through the Great Syrian Desert past their “capital” of Raqqa, across the River Euphrates, to take the Tabqa airbase. A fierce gunfight ended with the retreat of the Syrian government troops. Close to 400 IS fighters died in this battle (they are estimated to have at least 20,000 men in arms). In a grotesque scene, the IS forced marched 150 government troops — young men stripped to their underwear — into the desert and shot them. Based on this massacre and another near Tikrit (Iraq) in June, the United Nations has now accused the IS of crimes against humanity.

ISIS Threat: Dance of Barbarians


IssueNet Edition| Date : 06 Sep , 2014

The fact that Al Qaeda has been bamboozled by the ISIS in the Middle East is no secret. Pressured by US-NATO, Al Qaeda was in the mode of shifting its major base from Pakistan to Africa when opportunity arrived for assisting the rebels in Syria (and in the process the US) plus even helping US directly like destabilizing and destroying Libya.

National Investigation Agency (NIA) reports that more than 300 Indian youth have been recruited by the Pakistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban(TTP) which has joined hands with ISIS…

But as Al Qaeda started establishing in the Middle East, its offshoot the ISIS was trained and armed to counter and gobble up its own mother; Al Qaeda – talk of the snake eating her own eggs. That the ISIS was funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and UAE is well known, as is the fact that British mercenary outfits including former Special Forces officers trained the ISIS.

Had ISIS stopped short of Baghdad and not ventured into the Iraqi Kurds autonomous region, the West would have not interfered. However, as always Frankenstein can hardly be expected to act on predicted lines. If the Al Qaeda in conjunction Taliban were beheading journalists and informers, and shooting Shias in the head after lining them up at point blank range (captured Pakistani military soldiers included), the ISIS has gone a step further; dramatizing beheadings of James Foley, Steven Soltof and showcasing this to the world, along with videos of mass executions of unarmed civilians, headless photos of women and children posted on social media, human blood collection in pans and buckets for whatever purpose, the obvious aim being to instill horror, fear and awe.

More the barbarianism displayed, more the aura and amongst all this macabre dance of death and killings, the distorted and jaundiced teaching of Wahabism promises Jannat (Heaven), where one would have countless Hoors (beautiful celestial women) perpetually at one’s beck and call.


September 4, 2014

Intended or not, Israelis and Palestinians have been talking and shooting at the same time. After 29 days of inconclusive blows of force between opponents and claims by both sides of victory, Israelis and Palestinians gathered in Cairo for Egyptian mediated proximity talks. After an additional 21 days of talks, frequently interrupted by exchanges of rockets and aerial strikes, negotiations came full circle: to a general ceasefire.

These three weeks, the last of the recent flare-up in Gaza, highlight the linkages between armed force and negotiations, as well as the need to better understand them. Examining this conflict in the context of broader negotiation frameworks makes apparent the unique ways in which combat and negotiation overlay on one another.

Politics and Force

The transition to negotiations and near simultaneous, continued engagement in armed action linked the use of force to political objectives in a starkly direct way. More specifically, rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel and return strikes from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) amid the ceasefire breakdown on August 19 illustrated the calculated use of force to directly support respective negotiation delegations.

In contrast to a recent argument by Claire Yorke in War on the Rocks that force is futile, the interplay of negotiations and ceasefire breakdowns reflects that force is just one factor in a conflict. The two sides’ use of force during ongoing talks demonstrates the notion of “utility of force”, to borrow fromRupert Smith’s 2005 work of the same name. In the latter half of the conflict, this utility was directed towards bolstering the ability of each side to negotiate from a position of relative strength. The same utility was present during the first 29 days of armed conflict, but became amplified when the two sides were actually involved in negotiations.

This amplification served to situate the utility at the intersection between political negotiations and the on-and-off again nature of violence that occurs within a protracted social conflict. Similarly, it reminds each negotiation delegation – as well as the watching world – of the direct political and negotiation effects of armed force. Applying key elements of broader negotiation frameworks, including no-deal alternatives, inter- and intra-party dynamics, and the implementation challenges of an agreement, helps us understand this intersection better.

No Deal Reminders

Stop China’s Unlawful “Great Wall” in the South China Sea

September 3, 2014

A careful review of the historical record and law reveals that China’s claims in the South China Sea are unfounded.

The first half of 2014 witnessed a significant increase in aggressive behavior by China as it continues its maritime salami-slicing campaign in the South China Sea. Beijing seeks to change the status quo in the region in order to solidify its sovereignty claims over the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands and their adjacent waters.

In February, China began a large-scale land reclamation project at Johnson South Reef in the Spratly Islands, which could house a new PLA military airfield to control the region’s strategic sea lanes that traverse the South China Sea. The following month, Chinese authorities began enforcing new fishing regulations that require foreign fishing vessels to obtain prior approval to operate in the 2 million-plus square kilometers of ocean space encompassed by China’s notorious “nine-dash line.”

In May, China stationed a deep sea oil rig (HD 981) 120 nautical miles (nm) off the coast of Vietnam and began drilling for oil in Vietnam’s 200-nm exclusive economic zone. PLA Navy warships and other government patrol ships, as well as a large number of civilian fishing vessels, were deployed with the rig to guard its drilling operations. The following week, China Maritime Safety Administration ships prevented the resupply of 10 Filipino marines stationed on board the BRP Sierra Madre at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys, even though contingents on board the grounded warship have been routinely resupplied by the Philippines since 1999.

Finally, in an obvious snub to a U.S. proposal at the ASEAN Regional Forum to freeze all provocative acts in the South China Sea, Beijing announced in August that it would build lighthouses on five features, including two islets in the Paracels, to purportedly enhance safety of navigation. Two weeks later, a Chinese Su-27 fighter conducted a dangerous intercept of a U.S. Navy P-8 patrol aircraft conducting routine surveillance 135 miles east of Hainan Island. Reminiscent of the 2001 EP-3 incident, the Chinese fighter made several passes under and alongside the P-8 before doing a barrel roll over top of the U.S. plane and flying within 20-30 feet of the Poseidon aircraft.

Myanmar’s Controversial Census

By Philip Heijmans
September 02, 2014

Rights groups are outraged that the census has failed to recognize an oppressed minority. 

Provisional results from Myanmar’s first census in 30 years released over the weekend show that the country has nearly 9 million fewer people in it than originally thought, as rights groups decry the absence of data recognizing its oppressed Muslim Rohingya population.

According to the provisional results, Myanmar now has a population of 51.41 million, falling short of the estimated 60 million previously believed to be living in the country that was once all but closed off to the world.

Though rights groups consider the $50 million census largely successful, they have also criticized it for not being in line with international standards, as Rohingya Muslims were not included in the list of 135 official ethnic groups in Myanmar, a sign that the country has no intension of recognizing them as citizens.

“The exclusion of the Rohingya from the census was a betrayal of the very principles and purpose of conducting the census, and the international donors and UN agencies who were involved are complicit in this exclusion,” David Mathieson, senior researcher on Myanmar for Human Rights Watch, told The Diplomat by e-mail.

“The Rohingya have the right to self-identify and should be accorded the rights of citizens. The census [in] refusing to do so doesn’t solve the problem of stateless Rohingya, it exacerbates it and the government shouldn’t be caving to extremists and their racist agendas,” he said. “All the people living in Arakan [Rakhine State] should have been counted, and those people who self-identify as Rohingya and can prove eligibility should be granted citizenship.”

Where the provisional census data gives a sense of Myanmar’s long unknown population, it also omitted key indicators, including the total composition of the ethnic groups that live in it, choosing instead to release such data in May of next year, around the time of the next general elections.

“There are still concerns that ethnicity data being released around the elections could spark communal violence,” said Mathieson.

Myanmar’s Minister of Immigration and Population U Khin Ye said during a press conference announcing the preliminary results on August 30 that the Rohingya were not counted as Rohingya based on a technicality, while an official copy of the provisional results defended the action as a security measure to avoid the possibility of violence due to inter-communal tensions.

Four Questions NATO Must Ask

29 August 2014

As the NATO summit approaches, the alliance must overcome some fundamental issues if it is to prepare itself for the challenges ahead.
A cyclist passes the security fence that has been erected in front of Cardiff Castle ahead of the NATO summit that is being held in South Wales next week 26 August 2014 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

The leaders of the 28 nations which make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are meeting in southern Wales on 4-5 September. The summit arrives at a pivotal moment for the alliance. NATO members are currently grappling with multiple challenges to their own security, including Russian aggression to the east, instability to Europe’s south and new challenges such as cyber security and defence. Any solutions the alliance devises for these problems will have far-reaching implications for both NATO and the international community as a whole. 

At the forthcoming summit the allies are likely to unveil a number of initiatives designed to begin tackling these challenges. These may include: a Readiness Action Plan to help reassure central and eastern European countries, while deterring Russian aggression against NATO allies; deepened partnerships with Sweden and Finland; and a programme to improve Europe’s military capabilities.

While these proposals are a good start, NATO must also wrestle with some more fundamental, conceptual issues if it is to seriously prepare to meet the challenges before it. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

Can NATO evolve to meet the diverse needs of its members? 

It has always been the case that NATO allies have had diverging priorities and have viewed their respective strategic landscapes somewhat differently. During the Cold War, the overwhelming threat that the Soviet Union presented forced NATO Allies to prioritize deterring Soviet expansionism. While Moscow’s recent behavior in Ukraine is menacing, all NATO members do not necessarily perceive Russia as an overwhelming and existential threat in the same manner as during the Cold War. As such, different NATO allies have split priorities, which are largely, although not exclusively, governed by different nations’ geopolitical realities. Rome, for example, is more concerned about the impact that instability in Libya and North Africa will have on Italy itself, rather than Russian aggression. NATO must find ways to manage the diverse priorities of its members in a way that advances allied security as a whole.

Can NATO act quickly and decisively? 

And so the Great British Railway Rake-Off rolls on

Network Rail’s £34bn debt has helped private companies to make huge profits. And now we’re ordered to pick up the bill 
'If the sums don’t work out, an operator can do the business equivalent of binning a runny baked Alaska by walking away – just as GNER did with the east coast main line.' Illustration by Daniel Pudles

Congratulations, dear reader! As of this morning, you have racked up an extra £539 in debt. No, you haven’t just bought a new wardrobe. You haven’t made a deposit on a winter break. And it’s not because of that heavy eBay session where you overbid for a signed Bulgarian copy ofWet Wet Wet’s first LP.

Nor are you alone. I’m another 539 quid in the red too – as are each of the other 63 million Britons. Put all those sums together and the entire country has just lost £34bn. How did we manage that? The short answer is that some statisticians made it so. The Office for National Statistics has decided that, under new accounting rules, Network Rail can no longer be called a private company. It was always borrowing on the state’s behalf, and if anything went wrong with Network Rail, it was always going to be taxpayers who would be on the hook. So as of this week it goes on the public balance sheet, its £34bn of debt now indelibly inked next to our names.

Nor would you be alone if you haven’t heard about these extra tens of billions taken out in your name. It hasn’t come up much in the papers, or on the BBC. You might think that strange, given the huge amount involved and all those vows made by George Osborne about getting public debt down.

Then again, the hush fits perfectly with what that £34bn represents – because it’s hush money. It’s part of the secret subsidy that you, me and everyone else in Britain has handed over to the train operators to keep them in business. For years, Network Rail has been shelling out for new railway lines and stations refurbs using public money. The fruits of our generosity have been enjoyed by the private train businesses.

On this very page last August, Ian Birrell attacked critics of rail privatisation for not seeing the commuting miracles wrought. “When I travel from London to watch my football team, Everton, play at home, the average journey time to Liverpool is now 37 minutes quicker than when rail was privatised.” Well, yes, Ian: that’s because taxpayers paid £9bn for the privilege.

Japan’s white paper on defence: An overview

Naval Jagota
September 01, 2014
Japan released its annual white paper on defence on August 5, 2014. The document attempts to shift Japan's approach from being predominantly China-oriented towards a broader role in enhancing regional stability. The 2014 white paper evaluates Japan's strategic thoughts and takes stock of its military activities in the Asian region along with other military forces, both regional and extra regional. The white paper also highlights Japan's alliance relationship and brings out the internal structural changes to address future challenges in the region.

The security concerns of Japan, as detailed in the paper, "has become increasingly severe, being encompassed by various challenges and destabilizing factors, which are becoming more tangible and acute" as well as "Opaque and uncertain factors such as issues

of territorial rights and reunification remain in the vicinity". The "grey zone", as it is referred to, emphasises on the adverse geopolitical and military developments originating from North Korea and PRC (Peoples Republic of China). The "grey zone" indicates an appreciation of increased challenges in tackling and resolving territory, sovereignty and maritime economic interests in the region with the US as the countervailing force. The white paper acknowledges the emergence of a multipolar world through economic development and political influence of China, Russia, India and some other countries.

The dominant challenges for Japan remain North Korea and PRC. North Korea's shake-up in the military leadership indicates consolidation of power of Chairman Kim Jong-un and a muscular external policy. The white paper expresses concerns on the launching of multiple ballistic missiles in March, June, and July 2014 towards the Sea of Japan along with the possibility, for the first time, that the North Koreans may have "achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and acquired nuclear warheads" since its nuclear test in February 2013. Statements against Japan in March and April 2013 that it is within the range of North Korean missiles find a prominent mention.

The white paper assessment of China highlights Japan's concerns on its increasing defence budget, strengthening its "asymmetrical military capabilities", not clearly stating the purposes and goals of the military build up, transparency concerning its decision making process on military and security matters and rapidly expanding and intensification of its activities in the maritime and aerial domains in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. China's "coercive measures" to change the "status quo" of the disputed islands (Senkaku/Diaoyu islands) and the nine dash line are mentioned with deep concern. The white paper details the number of incidents in the maritime and aerial domain over the preceding year and Japan's response to it, thus indicating an increase in its military response. 

Europe Is on the Brink of Its First War in Decades. Here's What the West Must

In the space of a few days, everything has changed. 

According to NATO sources, a thousand Russian soldiers have been on the move in the vicinity of Lugansk for several days now. 

Several dozen Russian tanks, including a division flown in from Pskov, crossed the border and, since August 25, have been on maneuvers.

With complete impunity Moscow’s aircraft violate Ukraine’s airspace on a daily basis, flying over the now-encircled positions of the forward units of Kiev’s army.

The Russian navy is endeavoring to open a new front against the strategic port city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea, in the southeastern corner of the country and far from the separatist zones, with a view to clasping the Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine in a pincer movement. 

It even appears, according to news reports not yet confirmed, that the Russian army has established a field headquarters in Pobeda, 50 kilometers from Donetsk. 

In short, the separatist pantomime is over, and it is toward a new reality that we may be headed: the reality of the first real war in Europe in decades, the first aggression of one sovereign state against another that the former intends to dismember and reduce to vassal status—the very things that the construction of Europe, its reunification, and the end of the Cold War were supposed to have made impossible. 

In the face of a dizzying escalation that is gathering speed by the hour, what should we do?

Take the full measure of the threat, first of all. 

Use the right words to describe what must indeed be called an aggression—one no longer cold but warming and that may one day, God forbid, become hot—against a European country and therefore against Europe itself. 

Move beyond the carefully metered, diplomatically gradual, and cautiously targeted sanctions at which Russia has scoffed and that have in no way cooled its warlike ardor.

And, above all, heed the appeal of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for three very specific things:

Resumption, this Thursday in Cardiff, of the process of rapprochement with NATO, which would have the virtue of making his country’s borders inviolable.

Delivery of the sophisticated weapons without which, as recognized by a growing number of people (in Europe, by Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite; in the United States, by senators John McCain and Robert Menendez, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), Kiev’s army, despite its courage and determination, cannot hope to hold out for long against the elite commandos infiltrated by the Kremlin. 

And, last but not least, immediate cancellation of the agreements under which France agreed to sell to Russia two Mistral-class warships (one bearing the name “Sebastopol”), which, if delivered, could soon be training their guns on Odessa. 

*** Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault

The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin

A man takes a picture as he stands on a Soviet-style star re-touched with blue paint so that it resembles the Ukrainian flag, Moscow, August 20, 2014. (Maxim Shemetov / Courtesy Reuters)

According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe. In this view, the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 merely provided a pretext for Putin’s decision to order Russian forces to seize part of Ukraine.

But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine -- beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 -- were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president -- which he rightly labeled a “coup” -- was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West. 

Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly. Elites in the United States and Europe have been blindsided by events only because they subscribe to a flawed view of international politics. They tend to believe that the logic of realism holds little relevance in the twenty-first century and that Europe can be kept whole and free on the basis of such liberal principles as the rule of law, economic interdependence, and democracy.

But this grand scheme went awry in Ukraine. The crisis there shows that realpolitik remains relevant -- and states that ignore it do so at their own peril. U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy.

U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border.

A Really Bad Bargain: A U.S.-Iranian "Strategic Relationship"

September 3, 2014

"We could thus lose on two fronts. The Iranians get a green light to pursue their nuclear program while at the same time enjoying U.S. approval for their rising preeminence inside Iraq and the region."

One of the lessons of statecraft is that mistakes tend to compound themselves. Good options disappear and bad ones proliferate. The hole is dug deeper because desperation convinces you to contemplate options that would never have been considered in better times.

This is what I fear may happen next in Iraq. Because we have so few good options, the Obama administration may think it’s time to start thinking about making a “grand bargain” with Iran over Iraq.

The “logic” may seem compelling. Both the United States and Iran consider ISIS a mortal enemy. We both oppose the destruction of the existing government in Baghdad. Indeed, Iran actually helped oust former Iraqi prime minister Maliki. And the Kurds have already indicated they’d be happy if Iran were to help them roll back ISIS in Iraq.

Meanwhile, we have something the Iranians want, namely, consent to their uranium-enrichment program, while they have something we could want—“boots on the ground” in the form of pro-Iranian Shiite militias inside Iraq that have already had a hand in stopping the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s thrust toward Baghdad.

It’s not as if this idea hasn’t been percolating for a while. Earlier this summer, three former top U.S. officials, Ryan Crocker, William Luers and Thomas Pickering, called for a “strategic relationship” between the United States and Iran. They ruled out an outright alliance, but said that “mutually informed parallel action is essential.”

The Iranians floated the idea of cooperation on Iraq back in June as well, prior to the deadline on the Iranian nuclear talks. There were brief and informal discussions between the Americans and the Iranians on linking the nuclear deal to cooperation on Iraq, but nothing official came from them. The Pentagon reportedly hates the idea, but if diplomats as experienced as Crocker and Pickering embrace it, I could see the State Department—and more importantly, the politicos in the White House—warming to it as a way to relieve pressure on sending more forces to Iraq.

ISIL’s Rise Highlights Afghan War’s Shaky Premise

By Patrick Knapp
September 02, 2014

The U.S. ought to reassess what it is building in Afghanistan. 

Two days after the emergence of a video depicting the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by so-called Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called a press conference to warn reporters that ISIL is “beyond anything we’ve ever seen.” The candor and urgency of his remarks contrasted with a four-sentence Department of Defense news release posted only a few hours prior. The release noted that Sergeant 1st Class Matthew Leggett had been killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 20, after being “engaged by the enemy.” Kabul police offered a more vivid account: as Leggett crossed a busy Kabul road to help escort his convoy, a Taliban operative slit his throat.

As the Pentagon explores all options short of “boots on the ground” for Iraq, little attention is being paid to the boots still on the ground in Afghanistan, even as weekly losses continue – including the recent loss of Major General Harold Greene, the highest ranking U.S. officer killed in combat since Vietnam. Hagel vowed in his press conference to “take a cold, steely, hard look” at the ISIL threat, but the strategic assessment for Afghanistan, where the Taliban kills aid workers and journalists on a monthly basis, seems to have concluded last May with a Rose Garden statement by President Barack Obama. “[T]his is how wars end in the 21st century,” he noted, as he stressed a “narrow mission” focused on “the remnants of al Qaeda.”

What remains unfinished, however, is an explanation of not only of why these phantom remnants pose a greater threat to Americans than ISIL does, but of how a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan will help defeat them. Indeed, in the minds of most Taliban-sympathizing Afghans, al Qaeda – which has not claimed responsibility for any attack in Afghanistan since 2009 – is less a varsity jihad team than a CIA concoction for justifying a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Conversely, the ISIL “junior varsity team” has rapidly secured in Mosul a writ more destructive and globally minded than that which existed in Kabul during even the most powerful days of the Taliban regime. Indeed, Iraq is quickly becoming more “Afghan” than Afghanistan itself: one Iraqi journalist recently described how new tastes for an “Afghani look” have Mosul men donning the shalwar kameez of Afghan Taliban fighters, leaving locals to ask themselves if their city has become another Kandahar.

The Common Enemy

The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham controls thirty-five thousand square miles of land, an area the size of Jordan. The self-proclaimed caliphate stretches from the newly conquered towns along the Syrian-Turkish border, through its de-facto capital of Raqqa, in northern Syria, across the obliterated Iraqi border into Mosul, Tikrit, and Falluja, down to the farming towns south of Baghdad—roughly a third of the territory of both countries. It is exploiting almost every oil and gas field in Syria; it has seized Iraq’s largest refinery, in Baiji, and its biggest dam, north of Mosul, which provides water and electricity for much of the country and could, if destroyed, submerge Baghdad.ISIS funds its operations by selling oil and electricity, emptying captured banks, and extorting money through kidnappings and “taxation.” Its highly skilled army fights with billions of dollars’ worth of stolen American- and Russian-made armored vehicles and heavy weapons. According to Janine Davidson, a former Pentagon official, “ISIS now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations.”

Until recently, this astonishing record of conquest failed to win the full attention of the West. The idea of a new Islamic caliphate seemed at the very least far-fetched, and there was a deep American reluctance to know more. Even now, officials can’t agree on its name. ISIS came to power through a civil war in Syria that President Obama had decided to keep out of; as for renewing the American war in Iraq, whose conclusion he regards as one of his main achievements, nothing could be less appealing. There was no clear way to take on these jihadists: targeted drone strikes—the Administration’s preferred tool for countering terrorism—are barely relevant against the Islamic State’s thousands of ground troops. Unlike Al Qaeda—which expelled the ISISfranchise for excessive brutality, last February—the Islamic State hasn’t made its name with spectacular acts of terrorism under the glare of global media. “It’s a state and not a group,” an ISIS press officer named Abu Mosa explained to a documentary filmmaker from Vice News. “We aim to build an Islamic state to cover every aspect of life”—a totalitarian project, but, perhaps, a localized one.

ISIS was easier to ignore than to destroy. As long as it focussed on beheading prisoners of war and imposing its extreme version of Sharia law on subject populations, the threat that it posed seemed limited to anyone who wanted to smoke a cigarette, show her face in public, or worship his chosen god somewhere in the swath of land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Even after the fall of Mosul, in June, and the cleansing of the city’s ancient Christian population, ISIS continued to be underestimated by almost everyone who wasn’t directly in its path. Then, earlier this month, came its assault on the Yazidi religious minority in northwestern Iraq, bearing all the signs of an imminent genocide: the local population driven into the mountains without food or water, captured families divided, men forced to choose between conversion and execution, women taken into slavery. ISIS has done the same to Iraqi Shiites and other supposed infidels, but the plight of the Yazidis was so vivid, so undeniably reminiscent of Srebrenica, that it jolted Washington into action.

“America is coming to help,” the President said on August 7th, four days after the attack. With the consent of the Iraqi government, he ordered U.S. air strikes on ISIS positions besieging Mt. Sinjar and threatening the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, where thousands of Americans work. Within a week, most of the surviving Yazidis in the mountains had escaped and joined the more than one million internally displaced Iraqis who have been driven into Kurdistan. The C.I.A. began funnelling arms to the Kurdish peshmerga, the only ground troops in the area capable of taking on the Islamic State, and two ISIS-held towns east of Mosul were recaptured. Iraqi and Kurdish forces began coördinating operations, an unprecedented alliance, just weeks after the two sides seemed poised to fight each other. In Baghdad, Iraqi politicians from diverse groups, with support from their backers in Tehran and Riyadh, coalesced behind an alternative to the disastrous incumbent Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who was forced to step down. The Saudis wrote a five-hundred-million-dollar check to cover the whole of a United Nations humanitarian appeal. Turkey made noises about sealing its border against fighters and arms infiltrating Islamic State territory. European countries promised aid for the refugees and arms for the Kurds.

Eyes wide shut — Obama in denial on nature of terror threat

September 2, 2014

A resident of Tabqa city touring the streets on a motorcycle waves an Islamist flag in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in nearby Raqqa city August 24.Photo: Reuters

As he raised the terror alert in his country to “severe,” the second-highest level, on Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology.”

True. So what’s needed is coordinated global action, the kind of approach only America can lead.

Instead, Washington’s national-security sophisticates will bore you to death with the nuances separating one jihadi group from another.

President Obama calls the Islamic State “cancer.” Yet, as he told reporters Thursday, “we don’t have a strategy yet” to combat the malignancy.

And it isn’t just IS. We hardly ever talk anymore about core al Qaeda, AQ in the Arab Peninsula, AQ in the Maghreb, al Shabab, Boko Haram, Jabhat al-Nusra and on and on. And those are just Sunnis who dream of a caliphate. Then there’s Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies vying for a Shiite-dominated empire.

But they’re all part of the same cancer.

Last week, Asian jihadi groups in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines swore allegiance to the Islamic State. Why? The dream of a sprawling, Sharia-based caliphate spread by the sword excites fanatics across the globe.

Victories in Syria and Iraq attract IS recruits from all over — Asia and Africa, and also Europe and the Americas.

The jihadi ideology condemns to death, or worse, anyone who doesn’t strictly adhere to its tenets.
U.S. Should Bomb ISIS ... and Assad

Last summer, as President Obama was strolling along the White House grounds with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, contemplating airstrikes on the regime of Bashar al-Assad for its use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta district of Damascus, everyone who until then had professed confusion or ignorance as to the complicated nature of the Syria conflict became an expert on the subject overnight. A special focus was on the anti-Assad rebels’ perceived shortcomings and alleged extremist orientation. If America was to have another war in the Middle East, our media establishment would be damned if it was to be on “slam-dunk” pretenses or in the service of inscrutable beneficiaries. Articles were duly produced attempting to link the nominally US-backed Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to terrorists – no matter if the timeline or the evidence got a bit fudged in the rush to press. Questions both hard- and tender-headed were asked, not least by congressmen with tetchy constituencies. 

If we further armed these proxies, wouldn’t the weapons fall into the hands of terrorists? Why wasn’t the poorly-armed and poorly-trained FSA waging a multi-front effort against Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, now IS), the regime, Hezbollah, the shabiha, Iranian-built National Defense Forces, and Iranian-built Iraqi Shia militias? If we weakened Assad, would the rebels take Damascus – and if so, then what? Could we afford to see “another Benghazi” occur in a country where we no longer had an embassy or consulate? How could we weaken Assad, even in an “unbelievably small” manner and if only once to teach him a lesson, when he had “formidable” air defense systems capable of downing American aircraft?

The very arguments trotted out against the Obama administration’s seemingly imminent intervention were in fact the very inventions of his administration, which had spent two years drumming them in to a more complacent and accommodating press, then eager to justify the standing policy of non-intervention. But as the policy appeared to change, so too did the urgency of the facts – or, at any rate, the information. Luckily, Vladimir Putin came along with a deal to save everyone from themselves. Not a single shot was fired. This is why there have been more chemical attacks, Assad’s chemical production facilities are still intact, and no one really knows for sure if all of his sarin or tabun stockpiles have been destroyed.

Well, summer is once again drawing to a close, Syria’s death toll has about doubled, and Obama is once again strolling the White House grounds in deep, photo-opped thought with McDonough. Only this time, the prospective war on their minds is against the IS, which, in the intervening year, has made a staggering conquest of territory, "slightly larger" than the United Kingdom, running from the Levant to Mesopotamia.

The IS is the most well-financed and successful terrorist organization in history; it operates, according to military experts, more as a terrorist army run by a functioning terrorist state. Its fighters range between 10,000 and 80,000 in number, depending on who’s counting – and everyone is. It commands a corps of foreign volunteers drawn collectively from a host of nations, including the United States, Britain, France and Belgium, the domestic security services of which are said to be stretched trying to monitor them all. Assuming that these foreign-born jihadists have not destroyed their passports, and assuming that Turkey’s border control is as lax as I remember it, there is every expectation that a few will return to their countries of origin and continue their holy war at home. 

In fact, they don’t even have to return from Syria to make the IS’s presence felt in the West: this new, too-extreme-for-al-Qaeda franchise can easily inspire or radicalize “lone wolves” sympathetic to the revolutionary romanticism it claims to espouse. YouTube sermons of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or the latest takfiri hurrahs on Twitter may be all that is needed to have a disaffected teenager, whom everyone will later remember as the pleasant, fun-loving sort, decide to set something off in his native city. Former deputy CIA director Mike Morell said that he “would not be surprised” if an “ISIS member showed up in a mall in the United States tomorrow with an AK-47 and killed a number of Americans.” I would not be surprised if Baghdadi already relishes that idea.

Officials have deemed the IS more of a menace to US national security than al-Qaeda was before 9/11. The threat quotient was upped dramatically last week with the gruesome videoed beheading of James Foley, and the promised sequel performance with another captive US journalist, Steven Sotloff. A female American aid worker is also being held by the group.

Defeating Baghdadi: The War We Don’t Want But Will Have to Fight

August 27, 2014
Defeating Baghdadi: The War We Don’t Want But Will Have to Fight

FRAMING THE PROBLEM. With fires still burning in the Pentagon and a smoking hole in the ground where the World Trade Center once stood in 2001, former President Bush decided to invade al Qaeda's sanctuary in Afghanistan and deny that staging base to that group. Whatever failings one might attribute to the Bush administration, al Qaeda never successfully launched another strike on the US homeland from Afghanistan. The Bush administration realized that the threat could not be eliminated by aerial bombardment alone. Today, a group that even al Qaeda thinks is extreme, has established its own sanctuary in eastern Syria as well as north and western Iraq. The Islamic State of al Bakr Baghdadi makes no secret of its plans to punish infidels in Europe and the United States. Why then, does the current administration think that airpower alone will deal with the threat? The answer is that the American people believe they have had enough of war. Until the Islamic State begins sending its European and American passport holders home to shoot up shopping malls, airport ticket lobbies, and elementary schools; Americans won't know what real war is. The reality is that only American boots on the ground can destroy the conventional military power of the self described caliphate and the sanctuary it gives to those who mean to attack our homeland. If we do not destroy the conventional war making capability of the Islamic state to hold ground and provide terrorist sanctuaries, we will suffer the consequences. 

A Political or Military Solution? It has become fashionable to say that there are no military solutions to insurgencies. That may be true, but the threat posed by the Islamic Sate is not an insurgency in the sense of the word that we have come to understand. Baghdadi's army is a skilled and professional light infantry force that uses infiltration when it can and frontal attack when it thinks the conditions are right. It is capable of using rockets and mortars as fire support, but it also uses information operations in the form of grisly social media images as a supporting arm to terrify and disorient its enemies. When its commanders choose, the army of the Islamic State is capable of blending in with urban and village populations to shield itself from airpower as it is extremely difficult to tell fighters from innocents from thousands of feet in the air.

Center of Gravity. The military force of the Islamic State is a close to being a conventional army as any unconventional force can get. Until that hard core cadre of professional jihadist light infantry is destroyed, it will remain Baghdadi's center of gravity. Without it, the Islamic State cannot hold ground, and it becomes a mere traveling band of terrorists. Until then, it should be treated as a regular army subject to destruction; that will require real war, not counterinsurgency. Its auxiliaries of convenience may be tribal sheiks and Baathist insurgents, but they will soon be eliminated as the jihadists tighten their stranglehold on the areas that they control. These Sunnis who were abused by the Maliki regime are "useful idiots" to be eliminated by the Islamic State once they are no longer needed.

Key Vulnerability. The brutality and absolute adherence to their perverse version of Sharia Law is quickly wearing thin on the occupied Iraqi and Syrian populations that the would-be caliphate holds subject. The population is also the key to pointing out who the foreign jihadists are and where they are located in each city and village they currently occupy. The jihadists failure to win the support of the population will be their critical vulnerability if a viable military force ever comes to eradicate the infestation with infantry on the ground. Therein lies the rub. Who will be the exterminator for the jihadist infestation?

Containment or Destruction? The Obama administration's strategy, if there is one, seems to be containment. The problem with containment is that it implies that we are willing to accept the existence of the enemy until he poses an existential threat. This is why we tolerated the Taliban/al Qaeda alliance until September 11, 2001. Destruction means by the joint military definition, "to render an enemy force unusable unless totally rebuilt". By that definition, we need to destroy the conventional combat power that allows the sanctuary for terrorist activity that Baghdadi has created. Until we do that, no American anywhere is safe. Mr. Foley's recent brutal murder was merely low hanging fruit for the Islamic State; that is what he wants to do to western civilization as we know it.