22 September 2014

The return of the Eagle in West Asia

September 22, 2014

ReutersCOMPLEX: Closing down IS’s network requires significant international and regional cooperation, which poses another challenge. Picture shows a Kurdish fighter at a spot overlooking Baretle village on the edge of Mosul, and which is controlled by IS.

Bridging the trust deficit in West Asia is among the major challenges to the U.S. President’s new strategy against the Islamic State

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama outlined a new strategy to meet the challenge of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. In reality, the four-pronged approach would mean the return of the U.S. to the Middle East.

At the outset, it is a brave decision for which Mr. Obama deserves to be congratulated. Only a few weeks ago did he accept that the U.S. lacked a policy to deal with IS. Given the larger global implications and fallout of IS’ successes, it is imperative that there is coherent action taken to neutralise it. Will Mr. Obama succeed in his objective? There are at least five major challenges to the U.S. President’s new strategy.

Relying on air support

There is little doubt that this will be a long-drawn war. Though public opinion has turned around after the brutal killing of two journalists by IS, it may take yet another turn. Also, Mr. Obama, who is now being provided the necessary support of the U.S. Congress to arm the Syrian opposition to fight IS would need this to continue. But there is a larger debate taking place with the U.S. on the nature and extent of an American military presence.

There are already differences between Mr. Obama and his military on the use of ground forces in Iraq. Mr. Obama wants to rely only on “tightly controlled” air strikes whereas the military leadership would like to keep the option of engaging U.S. ground troops open. Military officials who have served under him have been quoted as saying in an Intelligence Committee of the House that “half-hearted or tentative efforts, or air strikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes.”

Second, Mr. Obama aims to weaken IS through “a systematic campaign of air strikes.” He has cautiously avoided deploying U.S. ground troops in Iraq, though he has also announced that American non-combat service members to “support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment” would be increased.

On energy, it can no more be business as usual

By R.K. Pachauri

The problem of India’s energy security is that it 
will become progressively acute over time. The writer calls for a slew of unconventional options, including greater reliance on natural gas, faster development of renewable energy and an innovative transport policy.

TWO major aspects of energy policy in India have not received the kind of attention that they merit. The first relates to energy access and the second to the issue of security of energy supply. As far as energy access is concerned, it is sad that around 300 million people in the country still do not have access to electricity, and perhaps an even larger number is subjected to erratic, irregular and unreliable supply in their households. What is even more serious is the use of poor-quality biomass for cooking in over 160 million households in the country.

FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE: Tapping renewable sources of energy like solar energy is a safer and sustainable option to bank on rather than fossil fuels.

The use of kerosene and other combustion-based lighting, prevalent in rural parts of India, leads to harmful pollution, essentially affecting women and children. But what is even more serious is the health impact of cooking using poor quality biomass such as twigs, cow dung and agricultural residue, which leads to high levels of indoor pollution, extremely harmful to the health of those who are exposed. Some efforts are now in hand to address these problems. The programme on “Lighting a Billion Lives,” launched by TERI has covered almost 3,000 villages in the country and has brought solar-based lanterns, which use LED systems, to homes in the villages which have been covered. The introduction of improved cookstoves is also moving ahead with designs that essentially provide a flame as clean as that of LPG or natural gas stoves, even with wood as a fuel. The big benefit of these improved cookstoves is a substantial reduction in the use of firewood and, of course, cleanliness in homes which is the result of smokeless combustion and cooking. The Government of India and several state governments are also now focusing on this widespread problem of traditional lighting and cooking, which not only has harmful health and environmental impacts, but is also wasteful in the use of fuels.

Fossil fuels

The problem of energy security is one that is likely to become progressively more acute with time. Fossil fuels account for about 70 per cent of the primary energy supply in India. Import dependence in the case of oil was 76 per cent in 2011-12 and even coal is now being imported in substantial quantities. If the country continues on the path of energy consumption that represents business as usual, then oil imports alone would be around 10 million barrels per day by 2031-32, rising from around 2.5 million barrels per day in 2011-12. That would make India a major consumer of oil in the world, and with this substantial demand, India would also have an impact on the global price of oil in that year.

Coal imports

Coalition of the unwilling

September 22, 2014 

By any metric of credibility and effectiveness, the US strategy looks as though it will exacerbate the dangers rather than provide a resolution to the crisis. ( Source: Reuters )

At last week’s Paris conference on Iraq — attended by Russia, China, Japan, the European Union and the Arab League, among others — the US managed to cobble together diplomatic support for its plan for military (read aerial) action against the Islamic State (IS). But no mention was made of such action in IS havens in Syria, which US President Barack Obama’s strategy emphasises.

Even the coalition it has built is dodgy. Iran and Syria were kept out at the behest of the US. But Russia has made it clear that it considers military action without Iran’s cooperation and coordination with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria to be illegal and dangerous. The British House of Commons opposes military action. Further, Turkey, a Nato member, has refused to close its borders, allowing money and supplies to reach Syrian opposition groups. Turkish border towns like Antakya, Kisil and Antalya have become hubs for foreign fighters. The largely Sunni Arab potentates prevaricate, believing that military action will weaken their IS tafkiri proxies and inevitably strengthen Syria.

The military action against the IS in Iraq is the latest of the US’s flawed strategies since the Iraq invasion in 2003. The advent of a democratic leadership there has seemingly made no difference. After the crises in Afghanistan and Libya, we now have Syria and the IS. After dithering on military action, Obama will authorise air strikes against the IS in its safe havens in Syria. That is a major change from keeping the IS in play to build pressure on the then Iraq prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to quit, a delay that ended up strengthening the IS with major field victories in Iraq and Syria.

By any metric of credibility and effectiveness, the US strategy looks as though it will exacerbate the dangerous situation in the Middle East rather than provide a resolution to the crisis. It is flawed in its goal, manner of execution, choice of partners, targets and outcome. At its root, the IS represents a fanatical and violent dimension of a major religion. It is not possible to “degrade and ultimately destroy” a stream of thought by military means; indeed, it might be granted a fresh lease of life. The persistence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ruthlessly hunted by Arab autocrats three decades ago, is a case in point.

Iran seeks give and take on militants, nuclear programme

Sep 22, 2014

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said recently that he vetoed a US overture to the Islamic Republic to work together on defeating IS, but US officials said there was no such offer. 

Iran is ready to work with the United States and its allies to stop Islamic State militants, but would like to see more flexibility on Iran's uranium enrichment programme, senior Iranian officials told Reuters. 

The comments from the officials, who asked not to be named, highlight how difficult it may be for the Western powers to keep the nuclear negotiations separate from other regional conflicts. Iran wields influence in the Syrian civil war and on the Iraqi government, which is fighting the advance of Islamic State fighters. 

Iran has sent mixed signals about its willingness to cooperate on defeating Islamic State (IS), a hardline Sunni Islamist group that has seized large swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq and is blamed for a wave of sectarian violence, beheadings and massacres of civilians. 

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said recently that he vetoed a US overture to the Islamic Republic to work together on defeating IS, but US officials said there was no such offer. In public, both Washington and Tehran have ruled out cooperating militarily in tackling the IS threat. 

But in private, Iranian officials have voiced a willingness to work with the United States on IS, though not necessarily on the battlefield. US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that Iran has a role to play in defeating Islamic State, indicating the US position may also be shifting. 

"Iran is a very influential country in the region and can help in the fight against the ISIL (IS) terrorists ... but it is a two-way street. You give something, you take something," said a senior Iranian official on condition of anonymity. 

"ISIL is a threat to world security, not our (nuclear) programme, which is a peaceful programme," the official added. 

Tehran rejects Western allegations that it is amassing the capability to produce atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy programme. 

Another Iranian official echoed the remarks. Both officials said they would like the United States and its Western allies to show flexibility on the number of atomic centrifuges Tehran could keep under any long-term deal that would lift sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear programme. 

"Both sides can show flexibility that will lead to an acceptable number for everyone," another Iranian official said. 


Western officials told Reuters that Iran has not raised this idea in nuclear negotiations with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China that resumed in New York on Friday. Diplomats close to the talks say they are unlikely to settle in New York on a long-term accord that would lift sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iranian nuclear work. 

The Western officials said it would be difficult for them to even discuss the point in the atomic negotiations as the United States and its allies are determined to keep the nuclear negotiations focused exclusively on atomic issues as the Nov. 24 deadline for a deal nears. 

Free Henning, wife pleads with ISIS

Sep 22, 2014

Alan was considering converting to Islam before he was kidnapped, according to a friend quoted by the Sunday Times.

LONDON: The wife of the British taxi driver being held hostage by the ISIS has issued a plea for his release. Alan Henning from Eccles in Salford was seized while on an aid mission to Syria last December while driving an ambulance.

In a statement released via Britain's foreign office, she said, "I am Barbara Henning the wife of Alan Henning. Alan was taken prisoner last December and is being held by the ISIS. Alan is a peaceful, selfless man who left his family and his job as a taxi driver in the UK to drive in a convoy all the way to Syria with his Muslim colleagues and friends to help those most in need. When he was taken he was driving an ambulance full of food and water to be handed out to anyone in need." 

Barbara added, "His purpose for being there was no more and no less. This was an act of sheer compassion. I cannot see how it could assist any state's cause to allow the world to see a man like Alan dying. I have been trying to communicate with the ISIS and the people holding Alan. I have sent some really important messages but they have not been responded to." 

The militants had issued their threat to kill the 47-year-old in a video released last Saturday which showed the killing of another British man David Haines. Alan was considering converting to Islam before he was kidnapped, according to a friend quoted by the Sunday Times.

Pakistan developing sea-based nuclear-arms

Sep 22, 2014

In a sign of that ambition, Pakistan in 2012 created the Naval Strategic Force command, which is similar to the air force and army commands that oversee nuclear weapons. 

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: Pakistan is developing sea-based missiles and expanding its interest in tactical nuclear warheads to give it a "second-strike" capability if a catastrophic nuclear attack destroyed all its land-based weapons, according to a media report on Sunday. 

The next step of Pakistan's strategy includes an effort to develop nuclear warheads suitable for deployment from the Indian Ocean, either from warships or from one of the country's five diesel-powered navy submarines, The Washington Post reported quoting Pakistani and Western analysts.

In a sign of that ambition, Pakistan in 2012 created the Naval Strategic Force command, which is similar to the air force and army commands that oversee nuclear weapons. "We are on our way, and my own hunch is within a year or so, we should be developing our second-strike capability," the paper quoted Shireen M Mazari, a nuclear expert and the former director of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, a Pakistani government-funded thinktank. 

Instead of working to enhance the range of its missiles, Pakistan is developing shorter-range cruise missiles that fly lower to the ground and can evade ballistic missile defences, analysts said. Pakistan has repeatedly tested its indigenously produced, nuclear-capable, Babur cruise missile, which has a range of 640km and can strike targets at land and sea, military officials said. 

In 2011 and last year, Pakistan also tested a new tactical, nuclear-capable, battlefield missile that has a range of just 60km. "This is the miniaturization of warheads," said Mansoor Ahmed, a strategic studies and nuclear expert at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. 

Pakistan's nuclear push comes amid heightened tension with US intelligence and congressional officials over the security of the country's nuclear weapons and materials, the Post said. The paper reported in September 2013 that US intelligence officials had increased surveillance of Pakistan in part because of concerns that nuclear materials could fall into the hands of terrorists.

ISIS closes in on Syria border town

Sep 22, 2014 
Kurdish people clash with Turkish soldiers near the Syrian border after Turkish authorities temporarily closed the border. AFP

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) closed in on Syria’s third-largest Kurdish town on Sunday as tens of thousands fled in terror across the border into Turkey. The UN refugee agency said as many as 70,000 Syrian Kurds had poured into Turkey since guards cut barbed wire to open the border on Friday.

Kurdish fighters in the area, backed by reinforcements from Turkey, are battling to hold off the jihadists’ advance on the strategic border town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds.

Turkish security forces used tear gas and water cannon Sunday to disperse a Kurdish demonstration of support for fellow Kurds who fled a jihadist offensive across the border in Syria. Hundreds of young demonstrators fought back by hurling rocks and setting up barricades on the road leading to a nearby border crossing.

“We’ve come to support our brothers in Syria under attack by Daesh (ISIS),” Turkish Kurdish demonstrator Mehmet Eminakma said.

The ISIS, now known as the Islamic State, has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring a “caliphate”, imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic law and committing widespread atrocities including beheadings and crucifixions.

Local officials have warned of potential massacres should ISIS extremists take control of further territory in Kurdish parts of Syria, and have pleaded for an international intervention.

But despite promises by Washington to expand its air campaign against ISIS in Iraq to Syria, there were no signs yet of US strikes in the country.

For an Indian pivot in the Ebola fight


UNICEFTAP THIS RESERVOIR: India’s large cadre of epidemiologists, laboratory scientists and medical practitioners can help support diagnosis, the training of health workers, or clinical services in Ebola treatment units. Picture shows health workers preparing for work outside an isolation unit in Foya district, Lofa County in Liberia in July.

UNICEFIn August 2014 in Sierra Leone, an outreach worker speaks with residents about the symptoms of Ebola virus disease (EVD) and best practices to help prevent its spread, in Freetown, the capital.

UNICEFIn July 2014 in Sierra Leone, a health worker, wearing head-to-toe protective gear, offers water to a woman with Ebola virus disease (EVD), at a treatment centre for infected persons in Kenema Government Hospital, in the city of Kenema, Eastern Province. A young boy stands nearby.

UNICEFIn July 2014 in Liberia, health workers, wearing head-to-toe protective gear, prepare for work, outside an isolation unit in Foya District, Lofa County.

With better connectivity changing the way emerging infectious diseases are spreading, India needs to be ready especially with decisive action in support of affected countries 

***** How ISIS Works

The jihadist group has oil revenues, arms and organization, controls vast stretches of Syria and Iraq and aspires to statehood. UPDATED September 16, 2014


The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has a detailed structure that encompasses many functions and jurisdictions, according to ISIS documents seized by Iraqi forces and seen by American officials and Hashim Alhashimi, an Iraqi researcher. Many of its leaders are former officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army who augmented their military training with terrorist techniques during years of fighting American troops. RELATED ARTICLE »

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS, has two deputies. One is responsible for Syria and the other for Iraq.

Leadership council

Mr. Baghdadi relies on a number of advisers with direct access to him. Members of this council help handle religious differences, order executions and ensure that policies conform to ISIS doctrine.


Managers oversee departments like finance, security, media, prisoners and recruitment.

Local leaders

At least a dozen deputies across Iraq and Syria report to the deputy of each country. Many of these officials were military officers during Saddam Hussein’s rule.

Sources: Jasmine Opperman, Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium; Hisham Alhashimi. Photograph by The Associated Press.


ISIS has rapidly expanded its control over Iraq and Syria by seizing towns and cities near major supply routes, critical infrastructure and border crossings.



ISIS-controlled places

Areas under full control

Areas of recurring attacks

Sparsely populated areas

Sources: Caerus Associates; IHS Jane’s; Institute for the Study of War; Soufan Group; (control areas as of Sept. 9)

India's lost generation: A systemic risk?

By Neerja Jetley
September 17, 2014 

Singaporean Thomas Ong, a director at a local private equity firm, recently got invited as a guest lecturer at a private college in Jaipur, India. "I had heard stories about India's young people with 'excellent academic and English speaking skills' but what I encountered was the complete opposite," he said.

Not one student in a class of 100 has ever heard of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Most students could not understand, let alone speak fluent English. "The only question they had at the end the lecture was how to find a job at home or abroad," Ong said.

His account is anecdotal evidence of what human resource experts, corporate leaders and countless surveys have been highlighting over the past few years - that despite India's huge talent pool of graduates, few are equipped with skills to be gainfully employed.

According to a survey conducted by Aspiring Minds, an entrepreneurial initiative in preparing youth for employability, as many as 83 percent of graduating engineers in 2013 could not find jobs, given their poor English language and cognitive skills.

In fact, only 2.6 percent of graduates in India were recruited in functional roles like accounting, 15.9 percent in sales-related roles and 21.3 percent in the business process outsourcing sector. "Nearly 47 percent of Indian graduates are unemployable in any sector, irrespective of their academic degrees," noted Varun Aggarwal, co-founder and COO of Aspiring Minds.

The statistics run counter to the perception that India's relatively youthful population could help reap demographic dividends for the country down the line.

Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar named new ISI chief

RAWALPINDI: Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar, considered a close ally of Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, has been promoted to the post of Director General Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) on Monday among other promotions within the army ranks.

The announcement was made by Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major Asim Bajwa on Twitter:

The announcement comes as current ISI chief Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam and five lieutenant generals are scheduled to retire from service in the first week of October.

The military officers retiring in October include ISI chief Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, Mangla corps commander Lt-Gen Tariq Khan, Gujranwala corps commander Lt-Gen Saleem Nawaz, Peshawar corps commander Lt-Gen Khalid Rabbani and Karachi corps commander Lt-Gen Sajjad Ghani.

All five positions are of paramount importance in the military but the chief of the ISI is regarded as the army's most important official after the army chief himself. The ISI chief is appointed by the prime minister, traditionally on the advice of the army chief.

General Rizwan and Maj Gen Naveed Mukhtar were close contenders due to their experience of intelligence.

Bajwa also announced the names of Major Generals who will be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant:

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave approval of these postings on the recommendations of General Raheel Sharif.

Starting from the extreme left, Gen Rizwan Akhar, General Hidayat ur Rehman, Gen Ghayur Mahmood, Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Gen Nazir Butt and Gen Hilal Hussain.

Profile of incoming ISI chief

Considered a close aide of the COAS, General Rizwan Akhtar is a graduate of the Command and Staff College in Quetta, National Defense University and the Army War College, USA, a military official told Dawn.

Rizwan was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in Frontier Force Regiment in September 1982.

He is from the Frontier Force Regiment and commanded the infantry brigade and infantry division in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

Previously as Sindh DG Rangers, Major General Rizwan Akhtar had been assigned with the task to lead the Karachi operation.


By Ivana Jovanovic

The recent decision by Russia to cut gas exports to Poland reignited concerns about gas supply and prices in southeastern Europe, as well as about tension between Moscow and the West.

According to Polish state energy group PGNIG, gas volumes have been slashed by up to 24 percent. The country has been exporting gas to Ukraine to make up for Russian shortfalls there.

Ukraine depends on these “reverse flows” to supply homes and businesses with gas since it is cut off from Russian supplies.

Experts in the region expect negative consequences from the Russian decision.

According to Romania Energy Minister Razvan Nicolescu, Russia will cut gas supplies to Romania by 10 percent.

“We are talking about absolutely insignificant quantities. I don’t think there will be any risk for the country’s and population’s supplies, not even if the supplies are entirely cut and resumed in spring,” he said Monday (September 15th) after the announcement.

Although Romanian officials say the country has enough gas reserves to avoid a short-term problem, analysts say these measures do not suffice and this should launch a wake-up call.

“We need to find long-term solutions and not confine to mere short-term answers. There is a risk this crisis between Russia and Ukraine will last longer than we expect and then new response measures will take longer to implement,” Otilia Nutu, an energy specialist with the Expert Forum think tank, told SETimes.

Jelena Milic, director at the Belgrade-based Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies, said the halt of gas supplies to Ukraine by Russia is going to aggravate the supply and increase prices for Serbia.

The Long Game in Eastern Europe

September 17, 2014

Two weeks ago commentators were hyperventilating about a return to the 1930s in Europe, following a Russian invasion-of-sorts into eastern Ukraine. Then President Barack Obama announced that the United States was on a war footing against the Islamic State. Ukraine - and the Russian threat to Europe, for that matter - was promptly if temporarily sidelined. So much for the half-life of stories in an incoherent media age.

Because of that very incoherence, the latest media obsession, if it lasts, will be good news for Russia and China. A renewed American involvement with the Middle East can only ease China's path to dominance in the Western Pacific and Russia's path to increasing influence in Central and Eastern Europe. The decade following 9/11 is instructive in this regard. While the United States was preoccupied with Afghanistan and Iraq, Chinese naval forces emerged as a major geopolitical factor in East Asia, threatening American allies from Japan to the Philippines: 9/11 was literally a godsend to Chinese military planners. Will the videos of the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker be of continued benefit to the Chinese, and a godsend now to the Russians?

That depends upon how much discipline the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon can muster. Power is partially defined by the amount of attention the executive branch can devote to a given problem, and if the executive branch is permanently distracted by one problem to the detriment of other important ones, that constitutes a diminution of American power. For the reality of geopolitics in the early 21st century is simultaneity: many different conflicts occurring in various theaters that all, to greater and lesser extents, have to be dealt with. And Russian aggression in Europe as well as China's military rise in Asia may be in the long run of comparable importance to the Islamic State in the Middle East.

So back to the so-called 1930s in Europe, as the current decade was characterized two weeks ago. Actually, the assertion contains a measure of truth. Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be comparable to Adolf Hitler, but he will, nevertheless, keep pushing westwards until he is stopped. Putin's goal, as has been said, is not the recreation of the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact, because it was both too time consuming and too expensive for Moscow to maintain, did not work. No, Putin desires instead a more traditional and softer zone of influence in Europe, given that Russia over the course of the centuries has been invaded from the west not only by the French and Germans, but also by the Swedes, Lithuanians and Poles.

For years already, Stratfor has written and argued that the Russians, taking advantage of Europe's fiscal woes, were attempting to buy banks and electricity grids, oil refineries, and natural gas transportation networks, in addition to other infrastructure, even as they extended their energy pipeline network throughout the former satellite states. Meanwhile, a financially weakened Europe has had less political capital to draw countries like Moldova, Serbia, Bulgaria and Ukraine closer into its fold, in exchange for social and economic reforms. This is how Russian influence had been gaining ground in Central and Eastern Europe prior to the 2014 Ukrainian crisis, which was when the Western media finally started paying attention.

The Air War Gets Harder, and Harder

David Wood ,Senior Military Correspondent, The Huffington Post 

I once watched U.S. F-16s in Afghanistan try to kill an SUV scurrying down a dirt road, carrying suspected terrorist leaders. It was the first months of the war and in the U.S. operations center, where I was an embedded journalist, it was believed that one of the eight men in the truck -- a tall guy in white robes and a long beard -- might be Osama bin Laden himself.

It was daylight and there were no Special Forces on the ground to laser-target the truck for the pilots. Just that single white Toyota, and when it stopped in a wadi, the men got out to stretch and smoke. As we watched on a live Predator feed, the F-16s struck.

The first pass was a clean miss; the 500-pound, precision-guided bomb detonated harmlessly some distance away. But it did cause the robed ones to sprint for cover. Minutes later, the second 500-pounder produced another fireball and roiling gray smoke and dust. Then, visible through the murk, dozens of tiny bright flashes -- anti-personnel bomblets detonating in secondary explosions. This time, the strike left a partially wrecked truck and four bodies. A third strike was called, this time a B-1 bomber. In several passes, it fired sixteen 2,000-pound laser-guided bombs, a fury of destruction that significantly rearranged the topography. The wadi and the truck were obliterated. The fate of the others was unknown, but OBL, we know now, surfaced later in Pakistan.

It's worth remembering these days -- as President Obama declares that air power will be the primary and perhaps only U.S. effort against ISIS in Iraq and Syria -- that the impressive Pentagon videos of missile warheads exploding in the crosshairs obscure the difficulty that air power has in achieving positive, lasting effects on the ground.

And that the effects of air campaigns diminish over time, as the Germans discovered when their intense bombing of London in 1940 failed to break Britain's will. Shock and awe are short-lived.

For one thing, it's difficult to get the right airplanes in the right place at the right time. In air operations over Iraq, for instance, as of last Friday the Air Force had flown 2,818 sorties, or missions, since August 8. Of those, fully one-third -- 958 -- were flown by tanker aircraft, needed to refuel jets flying from Persian Gulf bases in Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Another 727 missions were flown by intelligence and surveillance aircraft. Actual strike missions: 1,133 -- fewer than half.

Israelis Beefing Up Their Defenses Along the Lebanese Border to Guard Against Hezbollah Offensive

Yaakov Lappin
September 19, 2014
IDF preparing to defend against Hizbullah ground offensive

A reconnaissance unit with the 7th Israeli Armoured Brigade trains to fight Hizbullah in Lachisch, Israel, on 23 January. The IDF is now preparing for the possibility of Hizbullah mounting a ground offensive into Israel. (PA)

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are restructuring their defences along the Lebanese border after recent intelligence evaluations indicated that the militant Shia group Hizbullah is planning to send hundreds of well-armed fighters into northern Israel in any future conflict.

The central pillar of Hizbullah’s strategy still rests on firing large quantities of rockets and missiles into Israel. The group is believed by Israel to have more than 100,000 projectiles in its arsenal and is able to get new weapons custom-designed and mass-produced in arms factories in Syria or Iran, according to a senior Israeli intelligence officer.

However, having gained considerable experience in co-ordinating ground assaults during its intervention in Syria, Hizbullah has added offensive cross-border capabilities to its war plans, according to senior Israeli military officials.

The group has sent large numbers of fighters into Syria to support the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. These fighters have been integrated into the chain of command of the Syrian military and loyalist militias and have been involved in capturing and holding rebel-held territory. This has allowed Hizbullah to gain valuable new combat experience from an attacking perspective.

US Intelligence Chiefs Reveal That Spy Agencies Did an Excellent Job Tracking the Movements and Activities of Russian Forces During the Ukraine War; But Information on Putin’s Intentions Was Lacking

Colin Clark
September 18, 2014
NSA Director Implies ISIL Intel Estimates Could Have Been Better

WASHINGTON: How well did the American Intelligence Community do in its most fundamental job: providing strategic warning of war and major strategic events to the president when it came to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ISIL’s invasion of Iraq?

The heads of the Central Intelligence, Defense Intelligence, National Geospatial Intelligence and National Security agencies claimed today that they got Ukraine right, tracking the buildup of Russian forces and advising the president of the possibilities the movements and compositions of those forces offered Vladimir Putin. What they did not know, they conceded unabashedly, was what Putin intended to do with those forces.

“We did give very good strategic warning,” NGA Director Letitia Long, said pointing to estimates of Russian capabilities and movement of forces. “We do our best to lay out the options lay out the possibilities. Unambiguous warning would equal clairvoyance and that’s not what we do.”

But their estimates of ISIL’s actions came in for some questioning by no less than the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Mike Rogers.

“If I’m honest with myself,” an obviously regretful Rogers told the Intelligence and National Security Summit here, said he wished they “had a little stronger understanding” into “the transition of ISIL from an insurgency to an organization that was now also focused on holding ground and territory, the mechanisms of governance.” The NSA director told his fellow panelists that it was “an area we talked about, but in hindsight…”

NGA’s Long said the rapid dissolution of Iraqi forces in the face of ISIL’s invasion “came down to will,” something the Iraqi polity clearly lacked.

In the longer term, the US cannot tackle groups like ISIL simply by wiping them out because they feed on local conditions. “We cannot kill our way out of this. We have to find ways to address some of these conditions that are allowing and abetting these movements to grow,” CIA Director John Brennan said.

How Israeli Intelligence Recruits Informants in the Gaza Strip

Joseph Fitsanakis
September 19, 2014
Analysis: How does Israel recruit Palestinian informants in Gaza?

According to human-rights organizations, the Palestinian group Hamas has executed over 50 alleged Israeli informants in the Gaza Strip. Nearly two dozen Gaza residents were accused of collaborating with Israel and summarily shot in the weeks following the recent war between Israel and Hamas. There are serious concerns over the absence of appropriate legal processes in these executions. The issue of legal standards aside, however, there is little question that Israeli intelligence agencies have for decades relied on Palestinian informants to gather information on Arab communities in Israel and the Occupied Territories. These individuals provide the Israeli intelligence establishment with human intelligence or plant technical surveillance equipment as instructed by their handlers. But how do Israeli intelligence agencies, including the Mossad and Shin Bet, recruit Palestinian informants in difficult-to-penetrate places such as the Gaza Strip?

Palestinians who have been personally wronged by Hamas, or who oppose the militant group’s seven-year rule in the Gaza Strip, constitute low-hanging fruit for Israeli recruiters. Other informants, such as petty-thieves and other small-time criminals, are recruited through traditional intelligence techniques that include entrapment or blackmail. But it would be reasonable to assume that most recruits are lured by direct cash payments. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip is currently estimated at 40 percent, which makes offers of cash extremely enticing for a significant segment of the Gazan population. One officer in the Shin Bet —Israel’s domestic intelligence agency— said recently in respect to the recruitment of informants that “everything starts and ends with money”.

Along with offers of cash, many Palestinians are lured into working for Israeli intelligence agencies by being offered highly-sought-after travel permits to Israel or to Egypt. On occasion, the Shin Bet has been known to use the Erez border crossing, which connects Israel with the Gaza Strip, to apply pressure on Palestinian men to work as collaborators. This is especially applicable during times when the Rafah border crossing, which connects the Gaza Strip with Egypt is closed by the authorities, thus forcing Palestinian guest workers and other travelers to commute via Erez.

A wife of a former Palestinian informant from Gaza told Al Jazeera this week that Israeli intelligence recruiters targeted her husband for recruitment ten years ago, precisely because they knew that he was facing significant financial hardship. The Israelis offered him cash payments and a lucrative travel permit that allowed him to work in Israel. Not long afterwards, her husband’s Israeli handlers convinced her to work for them as well, in exchange for allowing her to take one of her many children to an Israeli hospital for free medical treatment.

Palestinian officials accuse Israel of exploiting the humanitarian needs of Palestinians, including their often desperate need for medical treatment, in order to coerce them into working as collaborators. Some even claim that the Shin Bet and the Mossad will often threaten the families of collaborators who are considering quitting from working for them, or who seem to be hesitant to continue to provide information to the Israelis. In one case, Israeli intelligence allegedly approached a Palestinian worker in 1995 and threatened to revoke his travel permit unless he agreed to collect information on the whereabouts and activities of leading members of Hamas.

According to one report, Palestinian collaborators are often asked to provide information that may at first be considered harmless, such as reporting on the types of clothes that are hanging to dry outside specific apartments or houses. But these are often crucial pieces of intelligence that can lead to targeted assassination operations by Israeli forces. The types of clothes hanging at a balcony are often indicators of whether a male member of the household, who is being sought by the Israelis, has returned and is living at a given location. In other cases, Palestinian collaborators are asked to transfer cash funds into Gaza and distribute them at different drop points as payments to other informants.

Hamas has refused to address the absence of legal processes when it comes to executing alleged collaborators. Its spokesmen claim that those executed confessed to being Israeli informants during brief periods of imprisonment, or under interrogation. One Gaza judge told Al Jazeera that “Palestinian resistance groups should be fair and comply with laws. It is enough that Israel kills scores of us on a daily basis”.

The Lexicon of the Contemporary Middle East Expert

Long before the latest convulsions in the Middle East, but certainly encouraged by them, that unendangered species of think tank fellow or academic known simply as the "Middle East Expert" perfected a new lexicon for the English language. Everything that has occurred in a troubled region, from the auto-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor to the barrel bombing of Aleppo, has been made intelligible, if not inevitable, by this carefully constructed lexicon of the elite opinion-makers and policy-formulators of our day. And while it is true that other fields of intellectual pursuit - literary criticism, evolutionary psychology - have minted their own select jargons, rarely have words that are devoid of any meaning or forensic value become so instantly imbued with definition and importance by their mere usage as those deployed by the Middle East Expert.

You're on pretty solid footing to know that you're about to learn everything there is to know about political or social or economic upheavals in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq or Palestine based on the casual dropping of key terms and phrases - terms and phrases which instantly announce the dropper's bona fides and the demand to be taken seriously. The Middle East Expert who uses this vocabulary, particularly he who uses two or more examples from it in the same sentence, is to be consulted as closely and often as possible. Herewith a dictionary:

Narrative: This word is highly valued by the Middle East Expert because it beautifully reduces the empirically verifiable to the category of a hotly contested theory or abstract construct. E.g., "The narrative that Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy is totally simplistic." Genetically developed in the amino acids of philosophical relativism, moral equivalence and comparative literature doctoral programs, narrative also conflates reality with idle opinion: one man's is no better or more provable than anyone else's. E.g., "The narrative that ISIS is doing anything worse than what the US has done in Guantanamo Bay and Bagram is bullshit."

Political solution: Whenever war in Arabia looms, this phrase is to be invoked to pretend that it isn't, or that it can be stopped by non-war. Somewhat complementarily, its usage ensures that one will never be confused with a neocon (see below). Lately, political solution has also served as a prerequisite for Middle East Experts applying for jobs in the Obama administration through the unusual channels of newspaper or magazine op-eds.

India-Pakistan: ISIL Comes To Stay

September 18, 2014

In Pakistan the three month long offensive in North Waziristan has done more than just cause a lot of damage to Islamic terrorist groups there. So far the operations have left (nearly a thousand killed, hundreds captured, several thousand driven from the area and dozens of bases and stockpiles captured and destroyed). This offensive has also caused the Pakistani Taliban to fall apart. In the last month the Pakistani Taliban has split into factions and one new faction (the Punjabi one) has declared it is laying down its arms and will from now on work peacefully for its goal of religious rule in Pakistan. Meanwhile the Taliban that are still fighting have lost about half their strength as a new faction, composed of Mehsud and Wazir tribesmen (the largest tribes in North Waziristan) renounced allegiance to Pakistani Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah and formed a new group called Jamaatul Ahrar. One reason for this is the fact that Fazlullah is based across the border in Afghanistan (Kunar province) and calls for continued terror attacks inside Pakistan. Jamaatul Ahrar pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, who continue to be protected by the Pakistani military. This is a major win for the army because this new group is, in effect, pledging to no longer support terrorist violence inside Pakistan. The army tends to go easy on Islamic terrorists who confine their mayhem to India, Afghanistan and other foreign targets. 

The military believes the North Waziristan offensive is just about over and that Taliban capabilities, for the moment, are much reduced. The new goal is to get most of the 800,000 civilians who fled the fighting back into their homes before the cold weather arrives. Some of the most remote and rugged areas (about 20 percent of North Waziristan) still have to be cleared, but were never a lot of civilians in these places. 

Meanwhile pamphlets backing ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) have been appearing in northwestern Pakistan. They appeal to local tribesmen to join ISIL, either in Syria or in Pakistan and fight. This is the only known ISIL activity in Pakistan so far, aside from hundreds of local Islamic terrorists going to join ISIL in Syria over the last year. Most other Islamic terrorist organizations are hostile to ISIL, which is seen as greedy and too extreme for most Islamic extremists. Given the large number of Islamic terrorist already in Pakistan, that would make it difficult get established in Pakistan. 

In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) the army is building new border defenses, mostly in the form of a 480 kilometer long trench that is two meters (6.1 feet) deep and three meters (9.3 feet) wide. Afghanistan protests this effort, mainly because disputes about exactly where the border is. Pakistan wants to exercise more control over the smuggling of weapons, Islamic terrorists and goods and this trench will at least slow down smugglers or make them easier to detect and catch. 

In Pakistan there remains a threat of another military takeover, but a recent opinion poll found that only 19 percent of the population backed that and 67 percent preferred an elected government. The coup threat has been a popular issue in Pakistan lately because of over a month of street demonstrations in the capital aimed at overthrowing the government. This effort has been orchestrated by opposition politician Imran Khan and Islamic cleric/politician Tahir ul Qadri. On August 14th these two began a massive march on the capital (Islamabad) with the intention of blockading parliament and other government offices to force the current government to resign. Khan is a nationalist and populist and Qadri is reformer and anti-corruption advocate who proposes an appointed government of honest politicians followed by elections that are not rigged. Kahn/Qadri accuse the government of corruption (a normal state in Pakistan) and rigging the last election (also quite normal). While the Kahn/Qadri solution is radical and, to an outsider, seemingly improbable, it is very popular to many, if not most, Pakistanis. 

Opportunities in the Development of Pakistan’s Private Sector

SEP 19, 2014 

Pakistan’s economic crisis is one of the main sources of its instability, but government and donor efforts to stabilize and grow its economy have so far been inadequate. One of the barriers to investing in Pakistan’s private sector has been the perceptions of risk due to insecurity and corruption. This report suggests that opportunities for economic cooperation are hidden among those real risks. It reviews a number of sectors, focusing on small and medium-size enterprises, where foreign investors might find opportunities for joint ventures and investments, including the stock market, financial services, information and communication technologies, agriculture, consumer goods, and private education. Prospects for growth in these sectors derive from Pakistan’s large and growing population, consumer spending trends, and other comparative advantages. This report should be treated not as a guide to investing but as a study of where U.S.-Pakistan policy dialogues might focus on connecting investors with entrepreneurs. 

Opinion: Former Pentagon Official Does Not Like DNI James Clapper’s New “US Intelligence Strategy”

Jed babbin
September 20, 2014

BABBIN: Clapper’s off-target intelligence strategy

Downplaying the jihadist threat won’t keep Americans safe

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper has just released a new National Intelligence Strategy, the first in five years. It’s a highly unsatisfying read for two reasons.

First, no public document can or should tell us everything we want to know — even much of what we think we need to know — about what we should expect from the intelligence community. This “strategy” lists goals and objectives and tosses around buzzwords from “corporate speak” as though it were a “management by objectives” statement written by an MBA student. We can excuse that but for one thing.

Second, a National Intelligence Strategy written for public consumption should resolve the apparent inconsistencies between what the government tells us and what we can see for ourselves. This one doesn’t.

Mr. Clapper writes, “This guidance is designed to propel our mission and align our objectives with national strategies.” However, the document is much more a summation of what the intelligence community should already be doing than a strategy to address the wide range of challenges to our national security. It has to be read in the context of the massive gaps in our strategies that President Obama has left open.

For example, Mr. Clapper’s strategy promises “innovative” intelligence analysis and constant improvements, which we should expect as the norm for intelligence agencies. There are a lot of very smart people trying every day to gather intelligence and improve how it’s done.However, at the president’s direction, the National Security Agency’s actions have been curtailed. Mr. Clapper’s strategy fails to tell us if his “innovations” will overcome those limitations, but he gives no such assurance.

We know that intelligence-gathering and analysis has improved since Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Clapper writes that the intelligence community will support “current operations” by ” [providing] actionable, timely and agile intelligence support to achieve and maintain operational decision advantage.” The public is left to believe, wrongly, that intelligence-gathering and analysis is like what they see on television. It’s not: Nothing can be guaranteed. We know that the intelligence community lived up to the promise of “providing actionable, timely and agile” support in the 2011 raid by Navy SEALs in which Osama bin Laden was killed. It couldn’t do that, though, when plans to rescue hostage James Foley failed because he couldn’t be located. There is nothing in Mr. Clapper’s strategy to render his promise possible to fulfill.

The most important promise in his strategy is in the “Counterterrorism” section: to “[p]rovide insight to mitigate the spread of violent extremist ideology.” In the entire document, as in every other national security document issued by the Obama administration, nowhere does it mention that the “extremist” ideology is jihadism, stemming from the terrorists’ religious beliefs.

On Aug. 20, shortly after the Islamic State beheaded James Foley, Mr. Obama said, “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. [The Islamic State] has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt.” In his most recent speech, however, Mr. Obama continued his refusal to recognize the connection between that ideology and Islam. He went too far, saying that the Islamic State isn’t Islamic.

The war terrorists have waged against us since long before Sept. 11 — think back, at least to the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983 — is as much an ideological war as a kinetic war. We can’t win either without winning both. If the intelligence community were to wage ideological war against the jihadists, that would mark a major strategy revision. However, there is no reason to expect it will in the context of the president’s policies.

Among the many other doubts Mr. Clapper’s strategy creates is the question of how it can do all the things it promises in these days of massive cuts to defense and intelligence spending.

The intelligence community’s budget and spending is classified and must remain so. It isn’t likely suffering the massive cuts the defense budget is enduring. WhenMr. Clapper’s strategy promises to “find and deploy new scientific discoveries and technologies,” though, he is talking about a constant and massive spending campaign. The cost of a new spy satellite can easily be more than $1 billion and it can cost more than $200 million just to launch it. Basic research — which, like intelligence-gathering, can’t guarantee results — requires spending by the government to pay companies, universities and government laboratories that do the work. Is that being done and done right?

The biggest failure in Mr. Clapper’s public strategy has been the biggest concern of intelligence-watchers since the Carter presidency. When President Carter’s CIA director, Adm. Stansfield Turner, decided America would rely on satellites for intelligence — at the expense of real live spies — he so severely damaged our ability to gather intelligence that we are still recovering from it. There is no mention of active intelligence agents in Mr. Clapper’s public document. There’s a lot we shouldn’t know, but one sentence saying that spies remain an essential part of our intelligence community’s plans would make some of us sleep a lot better.

Jed Babbin is a former deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration and co-author of “The Sunni Vanguard” (London Center for Public Policy, 2014).

China’s Effort to Quash Muslim Extremism in Western China Has Become a War Against Conservative Islam

Simon Denyer
September 20, 2014
China’s war on terror becomes all-out attack on Islam in Xinjiang

SHACHE COUNTY, China – The month of Ramadan should have been a time of fasting, charity and prayer in China’s Muslim west. But here, in many of the towns and villages of southern Xinjiang, it was a time of fear, repression, and violence.

China’s campaign against separatism and terrorism in its mainly Muslim west has now become an all-out war on conservative Islam, residents here say.

Throughout Ramadan,police intensified a campaign of house-to-house searches, looking for books or clothing that betray “conservative” religious belief among the region’s ethnic Uighurs: women wearing veils were widely detained, and many young men arrested on the slightest pretext, residents say. Students and civil servants were forced to eat instead of fasting, and work or attend classes instead of attending Friday prayers.

The religious repression has bred resentment, and, at times, deadly protests. Reports have emerged of police firing on angry crowds in recent weeks in the towns of Elishku, and Alaqagha; since then, Chinese authorities have imposed a complete blackout on reporting from both locations, even more intense than that already in place across most of Xinjiang.

Chinese police have cracked down on the wearing of beards and veils, in observance of Ramadan, in Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.

A Washington Post team was turned away at the one of several checkpoints around Elishku, as army trucks rumbled past, and was subsequently detained for several hours by informers, police and Communist Party officials for reporting from villages in the surrounding district of Shache county; the following day, the teamwas again detained in Alaqagha in Kuqa county, and ultimately deported from the region from the nearest airport.

Across Shache county, the Internet has been cut, and text messaging services disabled, while foreigners have been barred. But in snatched conversations, in person and on the telephone, with the few people in the region brave enough to talk, a picture of constant harassment across Xinjiang emerges.

“The police are everywhere,” said one Uighur resident. Another said it was like “living in prison.” Another said his identity card had been checked so many times, “the magnetic strip is not working any more.”