9 November 2014

NSA Ajit Doval's new status effectively dwarfs many in Cabinet

By BHAVNA VIJ AURORA, ET Bureau | 8 Nov, 2014, 

NEW DELHI: He is omnipresent in New Delhi, but you may not recognise him if you run into him in Lutyen's power corridors. Over the past months, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has quietly cut through political and bureaucratic blockages to become an overarching presence in decisionmaking. For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is the go-to-man, much to the chagr in of many in the administration who complain that he is overriding .. 

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Doval's Deceptive Demeanour

Doval was also the representative to hold talks with the US about cooperation on terrorism and with Israel on strengthening defence ties. The NSA is advising the Prime Minister on the black money issue, too, say sources. "It is not a mere coincidence that the Defence Acquisition Committee of the government cleared purchases worth over $525 million from Israel on October 25, three days after Doval met .. 

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Bhutan: The Indian Army’s Front Line

By Victor Robert Lee
November 06, 2014

Strategically located, the tiny Himalayan country is at the center of growing tensions between two great powers. 

In late October, on the dirt road that winds north from the Bhutanese town of Paro in the direction of the border with Chinese-controlled Tibet, I pass an Indian army base of more than 600 soldiers. They are packing up to return to India for the duration of Bhutan’s harsh winter months. On the same road just after sunrise, I encounter an Indian Army squad of special forces soldiers with Himalayan features running in formation, sandbags roped to their backs, with the squad’s commander shouting “No photos, sir!”

Adjoining the Indian Army base is a camp for approximately 120 Bhutanese soldiers who train with the Indians on joint exercises in the rugged mountains that rise up from the Paro Valley. Just another kilometer or so further up the road is a Bhutanese army camp of 24 soldiers and their families. The camp’s sole purpose is to maintain 80 horses to cart supplies to military units higher still on the trail to the Bhutan-Tibet border region.

Indian Army unit stationed in Bhutan, upper Paro Valley. Photo by Victor Robert Lee.

One of the horses’ former destinations, the Bhutanese army base at Gunitsawa, 14 kilometers further up the valley, was accessible only by mountain trail until a crude road was carved out in 2012, the year the base first received reliable electric power. Gunitsawa’s regiment of approximately 90 soldiers sends 15-man units on one-month rotations to three checkpoint huts higher in the mountains; supplying these forward checkpoints gives continuing employment to the army’s stable of horses.

The three checkpoint camps, Gyatsa, Soi Thangthangkha and Lingshi, are Bhutan’s only means of keeping an eye on its northwest border with China’s Tibet region. (Bhutan, a Switzerland-sized country of 740,000 inhabitants, famous for its emphasis on “Gross National Happiness,” has no air force; it relies on neighboring India and Nepal even for helicopter support in the event of emergencies in remote districts). The checkpoints are near a region of Bhutan that Beijing says is its territory, in addition to the claims it has made on Bhutan’s northern border. Bhutanese soldiers report that their usual task on the frontier is to intercept smugglers, but that the Chinese military sometimes crosses into Bhutanese territory via roads China has recently built all the way to the western Bhutanese border. “When they come in, it’s with 15 trucks or nothing,” says one Royal Bhutan Army officer.

Putin’s created an economic crisis and left Moscow no easy way out

By William E. Pomeranz
November 4, 2014

Western sanctions have left Russia in dire financial circumstances — stuck somewhere between recession and stagnation. Though proven solutions exist for what now ails Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s geo-strategic and political choices have rendered these traditional economic approaches unworkable.

Under normal market conditions, for example, the recent collapse of the Russian ruble should have spurred exports, domestic manufacturing and foreign investment because a weaker currency makes Russian business more competitive both domestically and internationally. Yet a dramatic rebound in any of those economic arenas remains unlikely not just due to sanctions but also because of the entrenched structural weaknesses of Putin’s system.

In particular, Russia lacks a diversified economy, a vibrant entrepreneurial class, the rule of law and a stable business environment that can support a fast economic turnaround. In addition, this crisis has sparked Russian anti-Western and isolationist rhetoric that makes Moscow’s road to recovery significantly more difficult.

Putin’s pursuit of greater imperial glory has brought an unrelenting stream of bad economic news. The dramatic collapse of the price of oil means a decline in state revenues and less money for Putin’s ambitious military and social spending projects. Along with the ruble sinking, inflation is rising and capital flight has soared to record highs.

The only good news is that the Russian budget is in balance. That only occurred, however, because the government is paying its bills with cheaper rubles. It is never a good sign when the finance minister announces that he needs a backup budget since the proposed 2015-17 budget is already obsolete. (It is based on an oil price of $100 per barrel.)

Why the US Will Welcome Chinese Influence in Afghanistan

November 07, 2014

Does the United States care if Beijing ramps up its influence in Afghanistan? Probably not. 

One of the hallmarks of the Cold War, especially its later stages, was bitter competition between the superpowers over areas of dubious strategic significance. More than one African dictator lined his pockets with the proceeds of bribes from both the U.S. and the USSR, as each struggled for influence and markets. In places like Somalia, this competition had enduring disastrous effects on both state and society.

One way we know that we haven’t quite arrived at a new Cold War is that this sort of competition has not yet begun between the United States and China. The U.S. and China both have interests in Africa, Latin America, and Central Asia, but in few or no cases can we say that a government has drifted into Beijing’s “column.”

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen several vaguely cautious articles about Chinese influence in Afghanistan. In the Cold War, the prospect of the Soviet Union gaining influence anywhere in the world would set off alarms in Washington. This makes me wonder: would anyone, anywhere in the national security bureaucracy of the United States, begrudge Beijing the opportunity to take on Afghanistan as a client state?

The U.S. government clearly doesn’t have a firm grasp on what it should do with Afghanistan, a situation which has persisted since 2002. The achievement of a modicum of stability has come at significant cost, and remainsunder threat from the Taliban. The overwhelming U.S. interests in Afghanistan are as follows: 
Maintenance of a reasonably stable central state that can prevent the use of Afghan territory for terrorist attacks against the United States. 
Preservation of a portion of the social, political, and economic gains made by Afghanistan in the last decade. 

Beyond that, there’s not much. Supporting the Afghan rebels in the 1980s was a strategically viable way of threatening the soft Central Asian underbelly of the Soviet Union, as well as making Moscow pay a severe price for its aspirations to global relevance. Today, Afghanistan isn’t much use as a client state for pressuring Pakistan or Iran (perhaps the latter more than the former), and doesn’t really open a door to use influence deeper in Central Asia (getting to Afghanistan is a bigger pain than getting anywhere from Afghanistan).

The point of this argument is not to suggest that “giving” Afghanistan to China is a viable option; Beijing probably doesn’t want it, and Afghanistan is not America’s to give. Rather, the question of Chinese influence in Afghanistan should serve as a reminder that a zero-sum, Cold War mindset has yet to take hold between China and the United States. Even with respect to Russia, Afghanistan remains the great “dog that hasn’t barked.” Russia and the United States have continued to quietly cooperate on support of the Afghan government, with the United States facilitating the purchase of Russian helicopters and Russia continuing to allow the supply of U.S. operations.

Indeed, the one reassuring takeaway from this thought experiment is that, apart from Pakistan, virtually no one anywhere in the region benefits from an implosion of the Afghan government, or a return of the Taliban to power. Collective action problems are real, but there’s a good chance that Afghanistan can be spared yet another round of great power competition.

Pentagon: Pakistan Uses 'Proxy Forces' in India and Afghanistan

November 06, 2014

An October 2014 Pentagon report calls out Pakistan for its use of terrorist proxies in India and Afghanistan. 

The Pentagon released a report earlier this week that directly condemns Pakistan for its use of terrorist proxies against India. The report, titled “Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” is atypically candid and is intended for consumption by U.S. legislators. While a growing chorus of experts and former officials in the United States has remarked that the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship is sliding into dysfunction and delusion, the U.S. government has generally kept things civil, refraining from overtly condemning Pakistan. U.S. officials, however, have long privately acknowledged Pakistan’s support of anti-India militant groups. Most notably, the United States’ former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, testified that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence had links to the Haqqani Network.

India, naturally, applauded the release of the report. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs remarked, “If the international community is saying Pakistan is using terrorists as proxies to counter Indian army then its welcoming [sic]. Issue of terrorism should not be segmented.” As one report in The Hindu noted, the release of this report following Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States could signal a coming rapprochement between the United States and India. Historically, Indian officials have remained skeptical of the United States given its long term support — both rhetorically and materially — for Pakistan. By acknowledging Pakistan’s use of terrorist proxies, U.S. officials are saying what Indians have long waited to hear. Amid worsening relations between India and Pakistan in recent weeks, the report will likely reverberate in both India and Pakistan.

China’s Dangerous Game

The country's intensifying efforts to redraw maritime borders have its neighbors, and the U.S., fearing war. But does the aggression reflect a government growing in power—or one facing a crisis of legitimacy?

Brian Stauffer

In the tranquil harbors that dot the coastline of Palawan, a sword-shaped island in the western Philippines, the ferry boats are crowded with commuters traveling back and forth between sleepy townships, and with vendors bearing fresh produce. On Sundays, they fill with people dressed up for church. From nearby berths, fishermen set out to sea for days at a time aboard their bancas, the simple, low-slung catamarans they have favored for generations.

Just inland from the shore, narrow, crowded streets thrum with the put-put of motorized rickshaws. The signs on the small shops and restaurants that line them are almost as likely to be in Korean, Vietnamese, or Chinese as in the Filipino language Tagalog.

The shore-hugging seas of this part of the world, from the southern tip of the Korean peninsula to the Indonesian archipelago, have always served as a kind of open freeway for culture, trade, and ceaseless migration. In past times, historians of the region went so far as to call the long waterway that encompasses both the East China Sea and the South China Sea the Mediterranean of East Asia. But more recently, it has begun to earn more-ominous comparisons to another part of Europe, a fragmented region that was the famous trigger for the First World War: the Balkans.

A mere 25 miles off the shore of Palawan sits the frontier of an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable struggle. Its origin lies in China’s intensifying efforts to remake the maritime borders of this region, just as surely as Russia is remaking Europe’s political map in places like Crimea and Ukraine—only here the scale is vastly larger, the players more numerous, and the complexity greater.

Moving with ever greater boldness, Beijing has begun pressing claims to ownership of more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, waters enclosed by what it calls its “nine-dash line,” a relic of the country’s early-20th-century nationalist era, when it was first sketched to indicate China’s view of its traditional prerogatives. The line has no international standing and had gone largely unremarked upon until China recently revived it. It now figures in all Chinese maps. Since 2012, it has been embossed in new passports issued to the country’s citizens.

Also known as the cow’s tongue, for the way it dangles from China’s southern coast, the line encloses a region through which roughly 40 percent of the world’s trade and a great majority of China’s imported oil passes, via the Strait of Malacca, as through the eye of a needle. An observation from the 16th century—“Whoever is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice”—still conveys the region’s maritime importance.


By Huy Duong*

If a country cites international law to justify its position while avoiding having that position tested in court, such use of international law is just rhetoric, and does not deserve support from scholars.

In the article “Separating fact from fiction in South China Sea conundrum”,[1] Dr Mark Valencia decries “a veritable fountain of government pronouncements, propaganda, and biased analyses” and the conflation of information with misinformation, and he claims to “separate fact from fiction when it comes to several oft-made statements.” Unfortunately his article contains a number of flaws that could contribute to the very problems he is trying to address.
US pivot

One of the allegedly oft-made statements that Dr Valencia was refuting was that “[t]he US pivot or rebalance to Asia is enhancing security and stability in the region.” In actual fact, no government or serious analyst has made such a claim, and neither is the statement oft-made in the media. In any case, the US pivot or rebalance is hardly past gestation, and not even its most ardent proponents and supporters can say that it is already enhancing security and stability in the region. Nevertheless, it seems that Valencia is using this statement as a lead-in for putting forward the view that the US pivot has contributed to instability in the region, and it is still worth analysing his view.

Valencia argues that:

China’s Clandestine Submarine Caves Extend Xi’s Naval Reach

By David Tweed 

In this Aug. 28, 2014 photo, fishermen look at a Chinese nuclear submarine sails past Yalong Bay in Sanya, south... Read More

Xi Jinping, China's president, continues to extort the miliary to get into shape, saying Sept. 22 that PLA forces... Read More

The Doomed Dragon: Is China's Economy Headed for a Crash Landing?

November 6, 2014 

"China is growing too slowly and accumulating debt too fast. Its leaders have rejected fundamental reform. They still have the power to delay a reckoning but seem helpless to change the direction of events."

“Eye-popping.” That’s how David Dollar of the Brookings Institution describeda recent Conference Board report predicting the Chinese economy would grow at only 3.9 percent between 2020 and 2025. Also stunning is the forecast of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Summers and co-author Lant Pritchett, both at Harvard, coincidentally believe China will experience 3.9 percent annual growth over the next two decades.

China’s official National Bureau of Statistics estimates that the country’s economy expanded 7.7 percent last year. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute described 3.9 percent growth, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, as “too gloomy.”

Despite what virtually everyone thinks, the 3.9 percent figures are wildly optimistic. China, at the moment, is in fact growing in the low single digits, if it’s growing at all, and it is heading into one of the biggest debt crises in history, if not the biggest. The shock of a Chinese collapse will roil the global economy. “China Is Very, Very, Very, Very Big,” Bloomberg noted last week, so when it falls the consequences will be very, very, very, very catastrophic.

How fast is China growing? The place to start is the official position of Li Keqiang, who as premier is in charge of the economy. In a speech last October,he said each percentage point of growth of gross domestic product produces 1.4 million jobs. Applying Premier Li’s formula to 7.7 percent growth, China should have created 10.8 million new jobs last year.

Robert Steele: Reflections on China & The Internet

Robert Steele
3 November 2014

It was my great privilege to be a co-founder with Winn Schwartau of the first Information Warfare Conference in the early 1990’s. Winn, through his books and Congressional testimony did more than anyone else to warn us of both NSA’s likekly malfeasance (see his 1980’s book Terminal Compromise) and of the vulnerability of the Internet to melt-down if we did not address security at the code level.

It was also my privilege to serve on rotation to the CIA’s Office of Information Technology where I led the effort to introduce advanced information technologies including artificial intelligence, from 1986-1988. When Bill Casey died this initiative died with him. We still do not have today the tri-fecta I called for back then: geospatial attributes for all data in all mediums and languages; open standards and embedded security to allow for the inter-operability of all information and communications technologies and related data; and finally — defined much more ably by Diane Webb and Dennis McCormick, eighteen integrated desktop analytic functionalities (look for CATALYST – Computer-Aided Tools for the Analysis of Science & Technology).

Beginning with a ghost-written article for General Al Gray, 1989 Al Gray (US) on Global Intelligence Challenges and then my own 1990 Intelligence in the 1990′s – Six Challenges and going on for the past 25 years with nine books and many other works, I have been focused on the basic challenge of connecting all human minds to all information in all languages all the time.

Today CIA and NSA and Microsoft and Google are equally worthless when it comes to the fundamentals. Let’s start with the fact that all US communications and computing products and services have been compromised by the CEOs of the major corporations — Dell, Google, HP, and IBM particularly. This blatant breach of their fiduciary duty to their shareholders has not yet been tested in court — from where I sit, each of those CEOs and all associated officials should be fired and lose all retirement benefits.

Google has replaced Microsoft as the poster child for industrial-era misdirection — what Russell Ackoff would call doing the wrong things righter. Google’s search “service” is criminally deficient — less than .005 (that’s point zero zero five) percent of the substantive web is indexed, and the search results are so biased by human and algorythmic corruption that even locksmiths are suing Google now for lack of due diligience.

Google has also failed to do anything tangible in the sense-making arena (what Howard Rhiengold called for in his 1980’s book, Tools for Thought), but I do give a nod to Google Translate. In brief, Google sucks at multi-lingual multi-disciplinary sources; Google sucks at tools for sense-making, and Google sucks at geospatial visualization of non-geospatial data (Google Maps would not exist without Silicon Graphics and Keyhole Markup Language, they don’t do all-source data).

Chinese management ideas are beginning to get the attention they deserve

MANAGEMENT thinkers have paid surprisingly little attention to how Chinese firms are run. They routinely ascribe those firms’ rapid growth in recent years to their copious supply of cheap labour, or to generous financial backing from the state, rather than inventiveness. They have much more time for India, particularly its knack for frugal innovation, with all those colourful stories of banks putting cash machines on bikes and taking them into the countryside, and companies building water purifiers out of coconut husks.

However, it seems unlikely that China’s companies have come as far as they have just by applying lots of labour and capital. It is also hard to imagine that the huge expansion of China’s education system and its technology industries is not producing fresh management thinking. Western companies knew little about Japan’s system of lean production until its carmakers gobbled up their markets. The danger is that the same will happen with Chinese management ideas.

There are, however, signs that these are now getting the attention they deserve. The MIT Sloan Management Reviewdevotes much of its current issue to examining innovation and management lessons from China. Peter Williamson and Eden Yin of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School contribute a fascinating essay on “Accelerated Innovation: the New Challenge from China”. The latest issue of the Harvard Business Review has a piece on “A Chinese Approach to Management” by Thomas Hout of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and David Michael of the Boston Consulting Group.

The first article suggests that the Chinese, like the post-war Japanese, have been doing a great deal of innovation under the radar. The second demonstrates that they are becoming more creative as they seek to solve the problems of a rapidly advancing consumer economy.

The Ultimate Fatal Attraction: 5 Reasons People Join ISIS

November 7, 2014

"Five distinct trends—not including theology or technology—explain the fatal attraction to the Islamic State. And understanding these trends is vital for winning the war against extremist ideologies."

The appeal of the Islamic State to Arab and Muslim youth is hard to understand. Many assume religion or social media is the main draw for the increasing numbers who are uprooting their lives to join the militants in Iraq and Syria. But this is not the full story.

Five distinct trends—not including theology or technology—explain the fatal attraction to the Islamic State. And understanding these trends is vital for winning the war against extremist ideologies.

First, Arab education systems have failed. Instead of vital analytical skills or civic values, schools emphasized rote learning and the uncritical acceptance of authority.

History curricula and religious education fostered an us-versus-them mentality along ethnic, ideological, and sectarian lines, making youth vulnerable to external influence. This helped transform the cultural landscape of Arab countries, facilitating the spread of militant ideologies and the early indoctrination of younger populations.

Second, a lack of economic opportunities and weakened welfare systems forced citizens to turn to others. As Arab states liberalized economically, they undermined existing welfare systems and removed guarantees of public employment without providing alternatives.

Arab governments did not promote investments in productive sectors and their economies did not generate the number or quality of jobs that were needed. In fact, the highest levels of unemployment today are found among those with higher-education degrees.

Consequently, informal economies grew exponentially. For example, 33 percent of economic activity in Morocco and 40 percent of GDP in Egypt are informal, leaving many without access to any form of social security.

This is catastrophic for a region where one in five people are between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four. Twenty-nine percent of Arab youth are currently unemployed, many with high levels of education. Recent estimates indicate that105 million jobs are needed by 2020 to absorb new entrants into the labor market.


The old certainties that governed Middle East politics for decades are being turned on their head, as much of the Arab world descends into a self-destructive maelstrom of brutal and bloody violence. Syria and Iraq, Algeria, Libya and Yemen have all succumbed to sectarian savagery. Egypt is fighting Hamas-supported jihadists, whose activities spill over from Sinai into attacks in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. Lebanon is torn apart by bitter Sunni-Shi’ite conflict (the Shia element, Hezbollah, supported and funded by Iran), and the fighting erupts on to the streets of Beirut. Even Jordan is combatting Islamist factions intent on destabilising, if not overturning, the regime.

There is a “civil war within Islam between moderation and extremism,” said Jordan’s King Abdullah last week. “If the military battle takes a brief time, the security and ideological war might extend for 10 or 15 years.” Abdullah’s remarks come amid heightened fears of increased radicalization in Jordan, prompted by Amman’s participation in the anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition.

Jordan’s former prime minister, Maruf al-Bakhit, has warned that up to 4000 Jordanians support the extremist and violent Salafist ideology preached by the militant Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian behind multiple attacks against US, Iraqi and Jordanian targets, and who the CIA claims beheaded two US citizens in Iraq.

Among the few islands of stability to be found in this turbulent Arab ocean are, perhaps, Tunisia, where democratic elections have just ousted the ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, in favour of the secular Nidaa Tounes party – and the economically and politically stable Morocco. Also holding out against the increasing chaos in the Arab world are the authoritarian, and often brutally draconian, Gulf states – the antiquated monarchies and emirates. These currently stable regimes, led by Saudi Arabia and including Qatar, are those to whom the US and the West now look to help stem the apparently irresistible rise in the power and influence of IS. They, together with Egypt, are also the elements within the Arab world which Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had in mind in his speech to the UN on September 29, when he suggested the idea of a working alliance between Israel and those Arab states opposed to militant Islamists in general, and IS and Iran in particular.

Spies Warned White House: Don’t Hit Al Qaeda in Syria

WRITTEN BYShane HarrisJamie Dettmer

The U.S. is opening another front in its ISIS war—despite promises of a limited operation. Months ago, American analysts cautioned the conflict could get out of hand.

It’s the clearest signal yet that the U.S.-led military campaign in Syria is widening: American warplanes on Thursday struck at al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists who attacked two groups of Western-backed rebels—fighters that the Obama administration is counting on to battle ISIS.

In an apparently improvised effort to relieve the rebels and prevent the loss of more of their strongholds close to the Turkish border, the U.S. bombed positions of Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s Syria branch. It was a remarkable turnaround, because previously the administration had said it was avoiding attacks on thegroup, which used to occasionally fight alongside the American-supported rebels.

But it’s a turnaround the White House should have seen coming. In meetings of senior Obama administration officials before the first airstrikes began in Syria on Sept. 22, which hit both ISIS and al Qaeda positions, U.S. intelligence officials warned that any additional American attacks against al Nusra could drive a wedge between the group and their erstwhile allies in the American-backed, moderate opposition.

The U.S. intelligence community’s fear, according to individuals involved in the discussions, was that hitting al Nusra could draw a giant target on the rebels’ backs—which is precisely what appears to have happened. In the initial round of airstrikes in late September, the U.S. struck targets occupied both by al Nusra and a third group, an al Qaeda unit known Khorasan that U.S. intelligence agencies believed was plotting attacks against commercial airliners. Khorasan may have been the target, but Nusra was hit, too, and the impression on the ground was that the U.S. had meant to go after al Nusra all along. (Some Syrian rebel groups maintain that the Americans invented Khorasan as a pretext for the attack.) Soon after, al Nusra turned on U.S.-backed rebels, labeling them in official statements last week as “corrupt” lackeys of the Obama administration.

The administration now finds itself in the very position it had hoped to avoid, fighting a broader war against al Nusra forces and risking further alienation of Syrian civilians.

“The goal of the airstrikes has evolved from combatting ISIS in Iraq to combating ISIS and Al Nusra in Syria, because they pose an increasing threat to the opposition,” said a former U.S. official.

Why Has U.S. Been Able to Kill Any Senior ISIS Commanders So Far?

Kate Brannen
November 6, 2014

Why Can’t the Pentagon Kill the Islamic State’s Top Commanders?

The United States and its coalition partners have conducted close to 800 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, hitting command-and-control facilities, training compounds, armored vehicles, oil refineries, supply trucks, artillery pieces, and bunkers. But there’s a notable absence from the target list: the Islamic State’s top leaders.

Since the Obama administration’s bombing campaign began in Iraq on Aug. 8, the United States has not conducted what’s called a “decapitation strike,” an attack specifically aimed at taking out a member of the Islamic State’s senior military commanders.

The tactic’s absence from the military campaign is particularly glaring because hunting high-value militants has become a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy in other parts of the world.

In his Sept. 10 speech unveiling his campaign against the Islamic State, President Barack Obama said his plan to fight the militant group, which is also known as ISIL, would be similar to the approach used in Yemen and Somalia, where the United States has taken out “terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines.”

How We Got Here

By Conrad Black
NOVEMBER 6, 2014 4:00 AM

The entire kaleidoscope of countries and movements between Libya and Turkey and Pakistan and Yemen is perhaps more complicated than ever. This is an attempt to review how we got to where we are.

At the start of the Cold War, the Arab countries were almost unanimous in considering the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine the last straw in a sequence of humiliations starting from their expulsion from France in the eighth century. After secular officers led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser seized control of the Egyptian government and evicted the picturesquely dissolute King Farouk in 1952, the Soviet Union promoted Nasser’s pan-Arab nationalism, especially after the United States under President Dwight D. Eisenhower pulled its promised assistance to the ambitious Aswan Dam project, Nasser seized the Suez Canal, and the British and French pre-positioned forces in Cyprus and encouraged an Israeli invasion of Sinai. The Anglo-French, in one of the most insane enterprises in the history of either country (a vast competition), tried to assume the role of “peace-keepers” while invading Egypt to “separate the combatants” at the Suez Canal, where the Israeli army had swiftly arrived.

It was a dreadful fiasco. In 1958, after Egypt and Syria purported to merge in the United Arab Republic, Nasser’s supporters staged a coup in Baghdad as Jordan and Iraq were also attempting to merge, which would have submerged the Palestinian majority in Jordan. The putschists massacred the entire Iraqi royal family in the manner of the Bolsheviks slaying the Romanovs, and killed the long-serving prime minister, Nuri al-Said, as he attempted to escape disguised as a woman (but wearing men’s shoes). His corpse was dragged through the streets behind an automobile for several days.

The smashing Israeli victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 caused King Hussein of Jordan to hand over authority for the Palestinian cause to Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, and after Nasser died in 1970 and was replaced by Anwar Sadat, a new cleavage developed in the Arab world between those who would compromise with Israel and those who pursued the destruction of the Jewish State. In the Yom Kippur War of 1973, which was also, like that six years before, unleashed by Egypt, the Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal and breached the Bar Lev Line, and appeared to be at Israel’s throat. President Richard Nixon effectively supplied the Israelis a new air force and Ariel Sharon turned the tide, but Nixon and Henry Kissinger intervened to arrange a cease-fire that preserved the Egyptians’ belief that they had acquitted themselves adequately to make peace with Israel. Eventually, in 1978, they did so, at Camp David, with the skilled mediation of President Jimmy Carter. Sadat had expelled the Russians from Egypt in 1974.

Nixon and Brezhnev were contemplating a comprehensive regional settlement when the Watergate controversy distracted Nixon’s ability to pursue one. Thereafter, the Soviet Union did not really have sufficient influence to be a valid co-contractant, and, in 1979, Carter was complicit in forcing out the shah of Iran, and that key country became a violently anti-Western theocracy. Nixon had been correct that the Russians would be easier to deal with than all the countries and factions that were going to emerge after the involuntary departure of the Russians from the region.

ISIS Wave of Might Is Turning Into Ripple

NOV. 5, 2014

A destroyed school in Qirnas, a village that Iraqi forces took back from the Islamic State.CreditAli Mohammed/European Pressphoto Agency

BAGHDAD — The extremists of the Islamic State appeared unstoppable after their sudden blitz through Iraq this summer, with its battle-hardened fighters continually raising their black flag over newly conquered areas.

Today, roughly a third of Iraq is dotted by active battle fronts, with intense fighting and occasional Islamic State victories. But analysts also say the days of easy and rapid gains for the jihadists may be coming to a close in Iraq, as the group’s momentum appears to be stalling.

The international airstrike campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has clearly played a role in slowing the Sunni Muslim group’s advance. But analysts say other factors are having a major effect, including unfavorable sectarian and political demographics, pushback from overrun communities, damage to the group’s financial base in Syria and slight improvements by ground forces in Iraq.

Across the territories the Islamic State holds, the group has overhauled its operations. Bases and hospitals have been evacuated and moved to civilian homes that are harder to identify and bomb, Iraqi officials said. Fighters who used to cross the desert in convoys now move in small groups or by motorcycle.

“The airstrikes from the coalition have been very helpful, and now the ISIS fighters are confused and don’t know where to go,” said Maj. Gen. Hamad Namis al-Jibouri, the police chief of Salahuddin Province in Iraq, where a combination of government security forces and Shiite militias have been fighting the jihadists near the town of Baiji. “They have also raised the spirits of the groups on the ground that are fighting ISIS.”

Dark Shadow of Wahhabi Groups Across Asia

06 Nov , 2014

Ayman al Zawahiri’s declaration that al-Qaeda was opening an office in the Indian subcontinent poses a significant threat to India and other countries of the region. India needs to reassess the likely modus operandi of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the role of terrorist groups operating in India associated with the activities of al-Qaeda. Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), a Pakistani jihadist group which is linked to al-Qaeda is likely to lend full support to AQIS. It is already active in South Asia, and it is reported to be running several training camps in Afghanistan. The US State Department has described HUM as ‘a Pakistan-based terrorist organization that seeks the annexation of Kashmir into Pakistan’.

Major policy miscalculations of the Western powers in the past are directly or indirectly responsible for the rise of the IS, which is now threatening to damage the fabric of modern civilisation.

The ISIS, or simply IS, operating across the Iraqi-Syrian borders has dramatically changed the global security environment. It is currently in occupation of nearly one-third of Iraq, a swath of land from outskirts of Baghdad to Aleppo, in Syria, in the east and areas bordering Lebanon and Turkey in the west.

Barbaric acts against unarmed civilians, mass executions, catastrophic bombings and massacre of minorities in the areas occupied by the IS indicate that it may soon become a major threat to existing international world order. Joint action by regional and international powers is urgently needed against the IS, along with the revival of the global war against terror through the UN and international counterterrorism agencies.

Major policy miscalculations of the Western powers in the past are directly or indirectly responsible for the rise of the IS, which is now threatening to damage the fabric of modern civilisation. However, the ISIS is still not fully organised to accomplish its objectives even in Iraq and Syria, although it has about 20,000 to 40,000 well-trained fighters at its command, equipped with sophisticated equipment. At this point of time, it does not pose an existential threat to the Baghdad regime, which has the backing of the United States and other Western powers besides Iran and Kurds. However, if the IS is allowed to consolidate its gains in Iraq- Syria, it will pose an existential threat to Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and other states of the region.1

ISIS Eyes Nuclear-armed Pakistan

Unless ISIS is defeated now in Syria and Iraq, it will present a far greater threat to US national security...

Pakistan’s use of Islamic militancy as an instrument of its foreign policy, including knowingly playing host to Osama bin Laden, may now pose a looming threat to its own national security.

According to Pakistani sources, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is gaining strength in Pakistan. Altaf Hussain, the founder and leader of Muttahida Quami Movement, a Pakistani political party representing the Urdu-speaking community, said the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al-Qaeda are merging with ISIS and may challenge Pakistan’s integrity and stability.

Six prominent members of the Pakistan Taliban have turned their allegiance away from Afghan Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Five regional Taliban commanders also affirmed their support for al-Baghdadi, who, in June, declared himself the Caliph of the Muslim world and ordered all Muslims to pledge their allegiance to him. Al-Baghdadi’s success has been largely attributed to his ability to consolidate disparate militant factions into a single fighting force.

The October 23, 2014 killing of eight Shia Muslims in the southwestern city of Quetta suggests that ISIS may be having an influence on indigenous Sunni militants in Pakistan. Abdul Khaliq Hazara, leader of the Shia Hazara Muslim community, said: “There are indications of ISIS seeking to expand its presence in Baluchistan. I suppose ISIS are [sic] looking to build up a support base here along the border with Iran, to add pressure on Iran from its eastern border [along Pakistan].”

Europe’s Incomplete Unification

NOVEMBER 6, 2014

The summer of 1989 was balmy. During those weeks, tens of thousands of East Germans headed south. Their goal was the West.

I won’t forget the cavalcades of spluttering East German Trabant cars that chugged through what was then Communist Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

On the outskirts of Budapest, young and old had set up camps. Many were simply waiting. Others moved on, making their way to Hungary’s border with Austria. The torrent of East Germans was unstoppable. They wanted to get out to the West.

On September 10, a Sunday night, Hungary’s Communist foreign minister Gyula Horn appeared on state television. He said the border with Austria would be opened. That was it! The Iron Curtain that had been thrown up across Eastern Europe after World War II was breached. On November 9, the Berlin Wall was scaled. The reunification of Europe had begun. Twenty-five years on, it has yet to be complete.

It was people’s power that toppled the Communist systems across that part of Europe. The role of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, was crucial too. He was not going to send troops from the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact to stem the exodus or squash demonstrations.

But above all, the people of Eastern Europe did not want to spend the rest of their lives under a system that completely disregarded human rights and that kept Europe divided. When their countries joined the EU, these citizens’ freedom was consummated.

Money is the mother’s milk of politics.

The famous American truism that “money is the mother’s milk of politics” is attributed to Jesse “big daddy” Unruh, California’s Democratic party boss in the 60’s who won the state for John F Kennedy in 1960 and had Richard Nixon defeated for governor two years later. California, the like now, is the USA’s biggest state and logically the biggest source of political funding. In those days US politicians collected money in wads pretty much like our politicians do now by putting the squeeze, shaking hands, collecting IOU’s and cutting deals with businessmen, criminals and some other less desirable types.

Politics in India is a full time vocation. People who are devoted to it do not hold regular office hours jobs to make a living. Some might have private means, but most are “supported” by moneyed people keen to buy connections than can translate into political favors. The level a person is at determines the scale of money that passes hands. If you look at them closely, very few of our top political leaders have held or hold jobs or have assets that will provide them with living incomes. But almost all of them manage to live well, come to own properties and migrate into the plush comforts of upper income lifestyles. The beauty of this is that almost all of the leading self-made political figures of our age will have hagiographies about early life under very trying conditions. Clearly some or even much of the so-called “party funds” do not reach the party’s coffers. At a time when most party identities are coterminous with a ruling dynasty, the difference between party and self is often very blurred.

It’s not that political parties do not get money directly and declare it too. Corporates and business houses made 87% of the total donations to national parties between FY 2004-05 and 2011-12. Out of Rs 435.87 crores collected by national parties between FY 2004-05 and 2011-12, corporates and business houses donated Rs 378.89 crores. Out of the national parties, BJP received the maximum donations of Rs 192.47 crores from 1334 donors from corporate/ business sector followed by INC receiving a total contribution of Rs 172.25 crores from 418 donors from corporate/ business sector. 92% of INC’s voluntary contributions are from corporate/ business houses while 85% of BJP’s contribution is from corporate/ business houses.

Interestingly, in clear violation of the laws, 301 donors contributing Rs 25.28 crores to the national parties have not declared either their PAN details or address in the contribution form. BJP has the listed the maximum number of donors (273) who have not declared their PAN and address while contributing a maximum of Rs 22.53 crores. In addition to these the two major parties have declared additional contributions from “unknown” contributors. The Congress had the highest “unknowns” income in the three financial years (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10), which accounted for approximately Rs. 1,185 crores, and the BJP is shown to have a similar total income of around Rs. 600 crores.

The Eerie Silence Before the EU Reform Storm

NOVEMBER 4, 2014

Perhaps never in the history of the European Union has there been a greater mismatch between the need for reform and the political capital available to enact that reform. So what will bring the EU member states to the point where they embrace meaningful change in that union of theirs?

This is the question that has been lingering in the air in Brussels as the new EU leaders have begun to take office. Everybody knows that it can’t go on like this, few trust that anything major will change, and many have an inkling that something big is about to occur. The atmosphere resembles a political drôle de guerre—that unnerving phase of silence and tension that everybody knows must end soon so the real battle can finally be fought.

The current combination of challenges facing the EU is extreme, even by the union’s crisis-ridden standards. That calls for an equally momentous reform effort.

First, the EU needs to address the possibility of the departure from its ranks of one of its leading members: theUnited Kingdom. The UK is a country with a positive long-term demographic outlook, firm liberal economic leanings, a strategic view on the world, and a rock-solid transatlantic orientation. There aren’t too many member states like that, and the EU certainly doesn’t want to lose them.

Second, the EU faces a Europe-wide sclerosis that has created structural unemployment, enormous debt, low growth rates, and lackluster innovation across the continent. Europeans have lived beyond their means and at future generations’ expense to such an extent that harder times with longer work and diminished privilege are unavoidable.

Europe’s lack of preparedness to deal with this sclerosis can be seen in the prolonged economic failure of France, another of the EU’s indispensable members and the second pillar, after Germany, of the single currency. The utter ossification of France’s political elite and the rusty mechanics of the country’s centralized republic have led to systemic paralysis and a huge populist backlash against modernity, openness, and economic and political liberalism.

To be sure, reforming France is ultimately a French task. But so much depends on it for the EU that some hard thinking needs to be done—at least in Berlin, London, and Brussels.

The ossification of #France's political elite has led to systemic paralysis.

Third, the populist backlash visible in France is a harbinger of what might follow in the EU as a whole if the bloc does not decisively reform its governance structures soon. This will mean creating some sort of democratic participation in the EU that makes Europeans true citizens of the EU, not just token ones.

The European Parliament, in its current form, cannot address the EU’s democratic deficit. Nor can subsidiarity or stronger national parliaments improve the union’s democratic credentials. If the current level of EU integration is to be maintained—or even increased, as necessity seems to dictate—the union will have to establish real Europe-wide participation in EU decisionmaking in the not-so-distant future.

This is highly unlikely. And yet, if it does not happen, the EU will start to come apart.

Democratic participation and its logical consequence, political union, are more likely within the eurozone than across the EU. Just as the currency’s founders envisioned, the euro will require a political union of some sort that creates legitimate governance of the EU’s already deeply developed economic integration.

What the founders did not envision is that political union for the eurozone will also force the fragmentation of the EU. Not all members want political union. But those inside the eurozone clearly need it. Between these two forces, the EU’s future will have to be negotiated.

Fourth, the EU will have to forge a real common foreign policy, at least in those fields where the union’s survival could be at stake. This foreign policy should include integrated and hard-nosed approaches to the Eastern and the Southern neighborhoods, military cooperation, energy security, immigration, Europe’s attitude toward Asia, and cybersecurity.

The #EU is mostly a bystander in foreign policy with occasional success stories and lots of drift.

The EU is miles away from any of this. The union is, for the most part, a bystander in classical foreign policy with occasional success stories and lots of drift. It still relies on an order that it is ever less capable of underwriting with its own assets. That is not a survival posture.