20 November 2014

Left over on the table

Written by Ajay Jakhar
November 20, 2014 

We should implement subsidies that are inversely proportional to land operating sizes.

Indiaseemsrelieved,having convinced the United States to advocate on its behalf at the WTO regarding the issues arising from its food security programmes, while food-exporting nations are rejoicing at New Delhi signing on the dotted line without insisting on a reduction of farm support in developed countries. As we defend public procurement and stock holding, they will be looking at opportunities to export to India high-value produce like fruit, vegetables, milk, poultry and pulses.

Food prices have been rising for the past many years; more so since 2007. As a result, food-importing countries, usually developing nations, are not overly interested in subsidy reduction in developed countries, because this would increase the cost of their food imports.

Now that the trade facilitation agreement is inevitable, the government must insist on the removal of the many unresolved anomalies and ambiguities in the international trade architecture before a final agreement is inked. Farm support that increases production and skews the market price is considered trade distorting. At the WTO, the market price prevailing in 1986-88 is the “reference price” used for calculating subsidies. Had this reference price been updated — say it was the average price of the preceding three years — we would not be in any danger of breaching the WTO subsidy limit of 10 per cent. Logically, it shouldn’t bother anyone if our support price is less than the prevailing international price. Yet, other rice-exporting nations complain about our rice subsidies.

We could also evoke the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, where “due consideration is given to the influence of excessive rates of inflation on the ability of any member to abide by its domestic support commitments”. Inflation over the past 25 years (about 600 per cent) warrants our not being able to abide by domestic support commitments.

A Modi doctrine?

November 20, 2014 

When he received Xi in Gujarat, Modi announced that China was prepared to invest massively in India.
Many commentators have (often pleasantly) been surprised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s considerable investment in foreign policy, borne out by his incessant trips to various countries. Yet this is what one should expect from nationalist leaders. Was it not the trademark of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who demonstrated it in an even more dramatic manner by testing India’s nuclear devices immediately after taking power in 1998?

But foreign policy is not composed only of assertions of power or the tamasha (spectacle) of occasions such as the G-20 meet. It must pursue coherent goals and result in achievements that may or may not appeal to the public, such as the Indo-US nuclear deal. Modi’s foreign policy seems to highlight two priorities: India’s economic interests (something Manmohan Singh also emphasised, occasionally confusing pragmatism with opportunism) and its immediate neighbourhood (for security reasons, among other things).

The economic dimension of Modi’s diplomacy was evident in early September, when he went to Japan, his first trip out of South Asia. During his visit there, Modi declared, “Mere blood mein money hai (Money is in my blood)” — reportedly, he often makes it a point to speak in Hindi with foreigners. Modi’s meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resulted in Japanese assurances of cooperation on a Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train link and on upgrading the ship-breaking yard at Alang. Collaboration between India and Japan will probably be bolstered by the strong personal equation between Modi and Abe, which flows partly from their ideological affinities. But Japan’s economic dynamism today is not what it was after Abe administered shock therapy in the first year of his tenure. This month, the country even slipped into recession.


20 November 2014 

It is entirely due to Major Bob Khathing's courage and swift action, backed by the Assam Governor, that Tawang is part of India. Had Jawaharlal Nehru had his way, it would have been Chinese territory today

While the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru is being discussed by ‘eminent’ personalities at the Nehru International Conference, organised by the Indian National Congress to commemorate Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary, it is perhaps time to stop using the usual clichés about the first Prime Minister’s 17 years at India’s helm. By the way, I seriously doubt if many of the invitees of the conference have read any of the 58 volumes of Nehru’s Selected Works.

During the recent months, many have questioned the audacity to compare Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to Nehru, but it is obvious that the Sardar would have been a far more decisive Prime Minister than the Pandit. Remember Kashmir.

In a rare interview, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, who was Director of Military Operations at the time of independence, recounted a historic meeting presided over by Lord Mountbatten held at the end of October 1947: “There was Jawaharlal Nehru, there was Sardar Patel, there was Sardar Baldev Singh… I knew Sardar Patel, because Patel would insist that VP Menon [Secretary in the Ministry of States] take me with him to the various states.”

The young Brigadier continues his narration: “At the morning meeting [Mountbatten] handed over the [Kashmir’s Instrument of Accession] thing. Mountbatten turned around and said, ‘Come on Manekji (he called me Manekji instead of Manekshaw), what is the military situation?’ I gave him the military situation, and told him that unless we flew in troops immediately, we would have lost Srinagar, because going by road would take days, and once the tribesmen got to the airport and Srinagar, we couldn’t fly troops in. Everything was ready at the airport.”

The future hero of the Bangladesh War then recalls: “As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, ‘Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away?’ Nehru said, ‘Of course, I want Kashmir. Then [Patel] said, ‘Please give your orders’. And before he could say anything Sardar Patel turned to me and said, ‘You have got your orders’.” Without the Sardar, Kashmir would be Pakistani today.

India Should Look East, to Northeast India

By Mukesh Rawat
November 19, 2014

It is time for New Delhi to recognize the ideological changes taking place in India’s Northeast, and reciprocate. 

Ever since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, representation has been among the gravest and most persistent issues confronting India’s Northeast. It is a tragedy that this part of the country – a land of mesmerizing beauty, a rich cultural legacy, and the diversity that India so loves – has not been able to win sympathy among the ruling elites in New Delhi in the six decades since Independence. Instead, the people of Northeast India have largely been seen as separatists. Even today, the perception remains that the region is somehow antithetical to Indian democracy, a perception that has often been exploited for political purposes.

True, secession was a serious issue in the early days following Independence, giving rising to scores of outfits such as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). But while insurgency activity remains, times have changed, and the changes need to be recognized by both the Indian government and the public. There has been a noticeable shift in the way the people of Northeast India view their relations with the rest of the country. Rather than secessionism, the demand now is largely for regional autonomy and affirmative action.

Indeed, talk to the new generation in Northeast India today and you may hear of dissatisfaction with poor infrastructure and mounting unemployment, but you will struggle to find talk of separatism, at least among the general public. Visit Maniput and you may find protest against the “draconian” Armed Forces Special Power Act or demands for a Greater Nagaland; in Meghalaya, you might hear criticism of the proposed railway line, which locals fear will lead to an influx of non-tribals; go to Tripura and Bodoland and the talk may be of illegal immigrants. Yet it is very unlikely that you will hear the anti-India slogans that once were so common.

Today, the people of Northeast India realize that their aspirations can be accommodated within the Indian constitution, as has exemplified by the example of Mizoram. From a state once known for its famine, compounded by rampant poverty, illiteracy, and insurgency, Mizoram is now a model for development. This occurred only when the insurgents (led by the legendary Laldenga) realized that the Indian constitution was flexible enough to accommodate them.

The insurgents who remain in Northeast India are those who are deprived of education and employment. They join these groups not because they associate themselves with the “separatist ideology” but because of their helplessness in the wake of rampant poverty and underdevelopment. Yes, they do have ideological conflicts with the government (largely on inter-community relations and territorial claims). But these differences don’t mean they are necessarily anti-India.

Can the Afghan Military Hold Against the Taliban? Lots of Question Marks…

Maggie Ybarra
Washington Times, November 18, 2014

Doubts about Afghan forces rise after attack in capital

A Taliban attack in Afghanistan’s fortified capital Tuesday triggered fresh concerns about the ability of U.S.-trained Afghan security forces to secure Kabul as international combat troops withdraw from the war-torn nation.

A small truck laden with explosives rammed the gate of a compound housing foreigners on Kabul’s eastern outskirts, Afghan officials said. Two gunmen then tried to enter the breached gate. Four people, including two Afghan security guards, were killed in the attack, and no NATO forces were slain or wounded.

The assault was the latest in stepped-up bombings in the capital. Over the past week, suicide bombers have targeted the chief of police and a female lawmaker, both of whom survived.

Before Tuesday’s attack, analysts had suggested that the Taliban is set to exploit weaknesses in Afghanistan’s security forces as U.S. and NATO troops dwindle to about 12,000 over the next two years.

Thomas Joscelyn, a security analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Taliban is “actually in pretty good shape to make a stunning comeback after the West leaves,” despite more than a decade of U.S.-led warfare.

U.S. intelligence officials have long warned of senior al Qaeda operatives fleeing into Afghanistan to avoid U.S. drone strikes on hideouts in Pakistan.

But analysts say a more disturbing development centers on behind-the-scenes assistance the Taliban has received from Pakistan — as well as from the Haqqani network, whose terrorists move easily across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

"They’ve already been providing broad support for the Taliban, even with the U.S. there," said Mr. Joscelyn, senior editor of the Long War Journal."With the U.S. drawing out of the region, that’s only going to increase."

Pentagon Continues to Give Short Shrift to Al Qaeda Presence in Afghanistan

Bill Roggio

US military continues to claim al Qaeda is ‘restricted’ to ‘isolated areas of northeastern Afghanistan’

The Long War Journal, November 19, 2014

A recently issued report on the status of Afghanistan by the US Department of Defense has described al Qaeda as being primarily confined to “isolated areas of northeastern Afghanistan.” But information on Afghan military and intelligence operations against the global jihadist group contradicts the US military’s assessment.

The Defense Department released its "Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan" in October. The report, which “covers progress in Afghanistan from April 1 to September 30, 2014,” contains only nine mentions of al Qaeda. Five of those mentions simply reference the mission to conduct “counterterrorism operations against remnants of core al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

The US military’s report states that “[s]ustained ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] counterterrorism operations prevented al Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan as a platform from which to launch transnational terrorist attacks during this reporting period.”

Then the report goes on to describe al Qaeda as “isolated” in the northeastern part of the country, a reference to the remote mountainous provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.

"Counterterrorism operations restricted al Qaeda’s presence to isolated areas of northeastern Afghanistan and limited access to other parts of the country," the report continues. "These efforts forced al Qaeda in Afghanistan to focus on survival, rather than on operations against the West. Al Qaeda’s relationship with local Afghan Taliban organizations remains intact and is an area of concern."

Al Qaeda’s operations contradict US military claims

For years, the US military has claimed that al Qaeda is constrained to operating in northeastern Afghanistan, but ISAF’s own data on raids against the terrorist group and its allies has indicated otherwise. According to ISAF press releases announcing operations between early 2007 and June 2013, al Qaeda and its allies were targeted 338 different times, in 25 of 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces. Those raids took place in 110 of Afghanistan’s nearly 400 districts. [See LWJreport, ISAF raids against al Qaeda and allies in Afghanistan 2007-2013.]

Pentagon IG Investigating Why US Spent $700 Million on Economic Development in Afghanistan and Accomplished Nothing

SIGAR: Pentagon’s Economic Development in Afghanistan ‘Accomplished Nothing’

Joe Gould

Defense News, November 18, 2014

WASHINGTON — The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says he is investigating the Pentagon’s efforts to spark that country’s economic development, which cost between $700 million and $800 million and “accomplished nothing.”

SIGAR’s chief, John Sopko, told reporters Tuesday, that the agency has opened an “in-depth review” into the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a Defense Department unit aimed at developing war zone mining, industrial development and fostering private investments.

“We have gotten serious allegations about the management and mismanagement of that agency, as well as a policy question about what they were doing and whether they should have existed,” Sopko said.

More broadly, Sopko faulted the US government’s economic development efforts in Afghanistan as “an abysmal failure,” saying it lacked a single leader, a clear strategy or accountability. An avenue of inquiry for SIGAR’s investigation into TFBSO could be Afghanistan’s underdeveloped mining industry.

“We have seen hit-and-miss efforts to develop the [Afghan] economy,” Sopko said of the US. “You, the development experts, should have had a plan to develop the economy and you haven’t, so now we’re stuck.”

Untapped mineral wealth in Afghanistan is estimated at $1 trillion, but Sopko noted that Afghanistan has only recently passed mineral laws and legal gaps make investment unattractive. Critics say the law lacks transparency regarding contracts and ownership, and strong rules for open and fair bidding.

The task force did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Drone War in Pakistan

Steve Coll
November 18, 2014

The Unblinking Stare

At the Pearl Continental Hotel, in Peshawar, a concrete tower enveloped by flowering gardens, the management has adopted security precautions that have become common in Pakistan’s upscale hospitality industry: razor wire, vehicle barricades, and police crouching in bunkers, fingering machine guns. In June, on a hot weekday morning, Noor Behram arrived at the gate carrying a white plastic shopping bag full of photographs. He had a four-inch black beard and wore a blue shalwar kameez and a flat Chitrali hat. He met me in the lobby. We sat down, and Behram spilled his photos onto a table. Some of the prints were curled and faded. For the past seven years, he said, he has driven around North Waziristan on a small red Honda motorcycle, visiting the sites of American drone missile strikes as soon after an attack as possible.

Behram is a journalist from North Waziristan, in northwestern Pakistan, and also works as a private investigator. He has been documenting the drone attacks for the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a Pakistani nonprofit that is seeking redress for civilian casualties. In the beginning, he said, he had no training and only a cheap camera. I picked up a photo that showed Behram outdoors, in a mountainous area, holding up a shredded piece of women’s underwear. He said it was taken during his first investigation, in June, 2007, after an aerial attack on a training camp. American and Pakistani newspapers reported at the time that drone missiles had killed Al Qaeda-linked militants. There were women nearby as well. Although he was unable to photograph the victims’ bodies, he said, “I found charred, torn women’s clothing—that was the evidence.”

Since then, he went on, he has photographed about a hundred other sites in North Waziristan, creating a partial record of the dead, the wounded, and their detritus. Many of the faces before us were young. Behram said he learned from conversations with editors and other journalists that if a drone missile killed an innocent adult male civilian, such as a vegetable vender or a fruit seller, the victim’s long hair and beard would be enough to stereotype him as a militant. So he decided to focus on children.

Many of the prints had dates scrawled on the back. I looked at one from September 10, 2010. It showed a bandaged boy weeping; he appeared to be about seven years old. There was a photo of a girl with a badly broken arm, and one of another boy, also in tears, apparently sitting in a hospital. A print from August 23, 2010, showed a dead boy of perhaps ten, the son of an Afghan refugee named Bismillah Khan, who lived near a compound associated with the Taliban fighting group known as the Haqqani network. The boy’s skull had been bashed in.

China’s New Silk Road must steer clear of terror haven Pakistan

NOV 17, 2014

Can China isolate itself from developments happening on the soil of its ‘all weather friend’ Pakistan? Will not the New Silk Road, which will allow free circulation of goods and people, be the perfect vector for further spreading terrorism?

This week witnessed the frostiest Handshake of the Year.

On the side of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping met the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and after years of tension in the East China Sea, they shook hands. BBC World Service said:

“The most awkward handshake ever? The body language between China’s president and Japan’s prime minister looked decidedly frosty.”

Twenty seconds worth watching (especially, the faces of the 2 leaders)! But that was a thaw, a small beginning!

Also, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘circling each other warily at a global summit in China’ as Associated Press put it: “On the surface, were all niceties — a pat on the back here, a pleasantry there,” but tough goings during three separate encounters.

And the most awkward — in a chilly night of Beijing, a chivalrous Vladimir Putin’s wrapped a shawl around the shoulders of Peng Liyuan, Xi Jinping’s wife. That is just not done in today’s China.

The South China Morning Post said that the incident was soon “scrubbed clean from the Chinese internet, reflecting the intense control authorities exert over any material about top leaders.”

It was probably better for Narendra Modi to have skipped altogether the mega event. His presence could have hardly helped advance India’s interests.


By Sanchita Bhattacharya

In the night of November 6, 2014, Pakistani hackers defaced websites of 22 Government departments and organisations in India. On the defaced websites, the hackers identified themselves as ‘1337 & r00x! – Team MaDLeeTs’, greeted the Government of India, and leveled a range of allegations against the Indian Army in Kashmir. “We are not asking for Kashmir. We ask for peace. Nothing deleted or stolen. Just here to deliver my message to the government and the people of India,” the hackers wrote, signing off with “Pakistan Zindabad” (long live Pakistan).

On November 1, 2014, Pakistan-based hackers, calling themselves ‘Pakistan Cyber Mafia Hackers’, hacked two websites of Gujarat Government – the official website of the Commissionerate of Higher Education (www.egyan.org.in) and the official website of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee of Ahmedabad (www.apmcahmedabad.com). The hackers put their logo and some text on the homepages of these websites, which read: ‘Hacked by Pakistan Cyber Mafia Hackers’, ‘Feel the power of Pakistan’, ‘Pk_Robot was here’ and ‘Pakistan Zindabad’.

These incidents are the most recent in a rising trend. Indeed, on July 14, 2014, Communications and IT Minister Ravishankar Prasad, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) disclosed,

During the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 (till May), a total number of 21,699, 27,605, 28,481 and 9,174 Indian websites were respectively hacked by various hacker groups spread across worldwide. In addition, during these years, a total number of 13,301, 22,060, 71,780 and 62,189 security incidents, respectively, were reported to the CERT-In [Computer Emergency Response Team-India (CERT-In)]. These attacks have been observed to be originating from the cyber space of a number of countries including the US, Europe, Brazil, Turkey, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria and the UAE. A total of 422, 601 and 1,337 cases were registered under cyber crime related sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) during the year 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Afghan Public Poll Released; Khan Accuses Pak Government of Ties to Terrorists; India Tops Global Slavery Index

NOVEMBER 18, 2014 

Editor's Note: New America is looking for a Project Manager - UAVs and Development to join our team in Washington, D.C. to support our efforts to create a primer and a corresponding database on the development potential of unmanned aerial vehicles. For more information about this one-year contract position, as well as the application requirements, please check out the employment listing here.

Wonk Watch: "The Unblinking Stare," Steve Coll (New Yorker


The Asia Foundation released its annual report, "Afghanistan in 2014: A Survey of the Afghan People," the longest-running and broadest nation-wide opinion poll on the opinions of 9,271 Afghans from 14 ethnic groups and 34 provinces on Tuesday (Asia Foundation, TOLO News). The poll found that 54.7 percent of Afghan thought the country was moving in the right direction, down almost three percent from 2013, and were optimistic due to reconstruction (36.4 percent), the security situation (32.8 percent), and an improved education system (15.1 percent). Conversely, 40.4 percent thought the country was moving in the wrong direction, up almost three percent from 2013, and were pessimistic due to insecurity (38.3 percent), corruption (24.2 percent), and unemployment (22.6 percent). Afghans responded that the biggest problems facing the country were unemployment (33.1 percent), the electric supply (22.5 percent), and roads (17.5 percent). A total of 75.3 percent of Afghans felt the national government was doing a somewhat good or very good job. A February 2014 Pew Research poll found that only 29 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with the government in Washington all or most of the time (Pew). 

Bomb blasts rock Afghanistan

Turkmenistan to pipe gas to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan

KIRAN SHARMA, Nikkei staff writer
November 17, 2014 10:30 pm JST

NEW DELHI -- State energy companies in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Turkmenistan have established a joint venture to build, own and operate an ambitious 1,800-km pipeline exporting natural gas from resource-rich Turkmenistan to the other three countries over a 30-year period.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline -- dubbed the Peace Pipeline in this terrorism-infested part of Asia -- has been incorporated as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) in the Isle of Man, a British crown dependency located in the Irish Sea. The SPV is responsible for finance, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the TAPI pipeline.

State-run natural gas companies Afghan Gas Enterprise, GAIL of India, Inter State Gas Systems of Pakistan and Turkmengas have taken equal shares in the TAPI Pipeline Company (TPCL).

The project was conceived in the 1990s between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan, and India joined in April 2008. At that time, the project cost was estimated at $7.6 billion. The pipeline will handle exports of up to 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, and is due for completion by 2018.

"GAIL is vigorously pursuing this project which has the potential to transform the region by contributing to energy security and social and cultural exchange between the four participating countries and their peoples," a GAIL spokesperson told the Nikkei Asian Review.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was appointed as the transaction advisor for the project in November 2013, has recommended that TPCL identify a consortium leader to take a substantial stake in the company and spearhead construction and operations.

"Establishment of [TPCL] is a key milestone in the development of the pipeline," said Klaus Gerhaeusser, director general of ADB's Central and West Asia Department. "It is a tangible sign of transformational cooperation among the parties that presages the enhanced energy security, business prospects, and overall peace and stability in the region promised by the pipeline."

Heart of Darkness: Into Afghanistan’s Taliban Valley


Untouched by Western journalists except in the presence of American troops, Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley was once the most violent part of the Afghan War. 

Several years ago I was contacted out of the blue by Matt Trevithick and Daniel Seckman, who said that they lived in Kabul and were trying to figure out how to penetrate an area of Afghanistan I knew well: The Korengal Valley, in a remote part of Kunar Province. The Korengal was the scene of an enormous amount of combat when I was there with American forces in 2007-08, and after they pulled out, the Taliban had completely taken over. Being there with a company of American infantry was dangerous enough; going there on your own seemed like straight-up suicide. 

We arranged to meet in New York when they passed through, and we settled on a basement coffee place in Manhattan, somewhere in Tribeca. For some reason I was late, and I found myself running full-tilt down Varick Street to meet a couple of men who I thought had to either be spooks or simply insane. I couldn’t think of any other plausible explanation for what they were trying to do. 

They were neither. For an hour over coffee they explained how they would drive to Jalalabad and then up the incredibly beautiful Kunar Valley, and then west along the Pech River to the mouth of the Korengal. They had long beards and dressed like locals, and trip after trip they managed to slip through the checkpoints and the danger spots without any trouble. I was in plenty of combat in that area, and I was blown up on the road, but what I had done with US forces seemed like child’s play compared to what they were doing. They were alone and unarmed in hostile territory without even having the reassurance of radio communications. If Taliban fighters stopped them on the road they were as good as dead. 

Matt and Daniel’s dedication and courage allowed them to acquire an incredibly deep knowledge of Afghan society and politics. Frankly, I have never heard anyone else speak with such insight into Afghan affairs, post-US surge. Over 2,200 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and we poured hundreds of billions of dollars into its economy and infrastructure. We have deeply transformed Afghan society—mostly for the better in my opinion—but at great cost to our country and to theirs. Now we are pulling out, and no one knows what will happen next. Matt and Daniel come awfully close, however, to having a pretty good guess at what the next few years will bring. We are all very lucky to have them reporting back to us in this fashion. 

—Sebastian Junger, Author of War and director of Restrepo and Korengal 

Global Terrorism Index

The number of terrorist attacks around the world has increased dramatically; over 80% of all terrorism occurs in only 5 countries. Get the facts on terrorism.

Terrorism has become a global phenomenon with a 61% increase in the number of people killed in terrorist attacks over the last year. The 2014 Global Terrorism Index provides a fact-based understanding of terrorism and its impact.


17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, that’s 61% more than the previous year.

82% of all deaths from terrorist attack occur in just 5 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.

Last year terrorism was dominated by four groups: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, and al Qa’ida.

More than 90% of all terrorist attacks occur in countries that have gross human rights violations.

40 times more people are killed by homicides than terrorist attacks.


Iraq is the country most impacted by terrorism; last year there were 2,492 terrorist attacks in Iraq which killed 6,362 people.

In 2013, 24 countries experienced terrorist attacks that killed more than 50 people. There were 75 countries that did not experience a terrorist attack.


On Obama and the Nature of Failed Presidencies

Geopolitical WeeklyTuesday, November 18, 2014 


We do not normally comment on domestic political affairs unless they affect international affairs. However, it is necessary to consider American political affairs because they are likely to have a particular effect on international relations. We have now entered the final phase of Barack Obama's presidency, and like those of several other presidents since World War II, it is ending in what we call a state of failure. This is not a judgment on his presidency so much as on the political configuration within it and surrounding it.

The midterm elections are over, and Congress and the president are in gridlock. This in itself is not significant; presidents as popular as Dwight Eisenhower found themselves in this condition. The problem occurs when there is not only an institutional split but also a shift in underlying public opinion against the president. There are many more sophisticated analyses of public opinion on politics, but I have found it useful to use this predictive model.
Analyzing a President's Strength

I assume that underneath all of the churning, about 40 percent of the electorate is committed to each party. Twenty percent is uncommitted, with half of those being indifferent to the outcome of politics and the other half being genuinely interested and undecided. In most normal conditions, the real battle between the parties -- and by presidents -- is to hold their own bases and take as much of the center as possible.

So long as a president is fighting for the center, his ability to govern remains intact. Thus, it is normal for a president to have a popularity rating that is less than 60 percent but more than 40 percent. When a president's popularity rating falls substantially below 40 percent and remains there for an extended period of time, the dynamics of politics shift. The president is no longer battling for the center but is fighting to hold on to his own supporters -- and he is failing to do so.

France names Maxime Hauchard as Islamic State executioner

November 18, 2014

France names Maxime Hauchard as Islamic State executioner in newly released video

PARIS, Nov. 17 (UPI) — Authorities confirmed Monday that French citizen Maxime Hauchard, a 22-year-old from Normandy, is one of the militants shown in a newly released Islamic State execution video.

IS released the video Sunday showing the executions of 18 Syrian captives and American aid worker Peter Kassig, also known as Abdul-Rahman.

In the video, Hauchard is seen marching with other unmasked IS terrorists outside of a town identified as Dabeq in northern Syria. Each jihadi, clad in camouflage and black hat, escorts a Syrian captive to a death squad-style line up. Simultaneously, the jihadis — including Hauchard — undertake a graphic mass execution, depicted in slow motion shots.

French prosecutor Francois Molins confirmed the Normandy native’s identity in the video on Monday at a press conference. Hauchard was first identified in the video by French writer and journalist David Thomson, who tweeted pictures of the jihadi.

Hauchard, who changed his name to Abu Abdallah el-Faransi, has reportedly been on the French intelligence services’ radar since 2011. There is an active arrest warrant for him, issued last month.

In July, Hauchard told BFMTV in an interview that “My personal goal is martyrdom, obviously.”

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Sunday reported a doubling in the number of French citizens joining the Islamic State since January, which he attributed to the ability of terrorists to use the Internet to reach potential recruits in France.

It is unclear how Hauchard was radicalized.

Is the CIA Making An Already Bad Situation in Iraq and Syria Even Worse? One Man’s Opinion

Trevor Timm
November 18, 2014

If you thought the Isis war couldn’t get any worse, just wait for more of the CIA

As the war against the Islamic State in Syria has fallen into even more chaospartially due to the United States government’s increasing involvement there – the White House’s bright new idea seems to be to ramping up the involvement of the intelligence agency that is notorious for making bad situations worse. As the Washington Post reported late Friday, “The Obama administration has been weighing plans to escalate the CIA’s role in arming and training fighters in Syria, a move aimed at accelerating covert U.S. support to moderate rebel factions while the Pentagon is preparing to establish its own training bases.”

Put aside for a minute that the Central Intelligence Agency has been secretly arming Syrian rebels with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and antitank weapons since at least 2012 – and with almost nothing to show for it. Somehow the Post neglected to cite a front-page New York Times article from just one month ago alerting the public to the existence of a still-classified internal CIA study admitting that arming rebels with weapons has rarely – if ever – worked:

As the Times’ Mark Mazzetti reported:

‘One of the things that Obama wanted to know was: Did this ever work?’ said one former senior administration official who participated in the debate and spoke anonymously because he was discussing a classified report. The C.I.A. report, he said, ‘was pretty dour in its conclusions.’

The Times cited the most well-known of CIA failures, including the botched Bay of Pigs invasion and the arming of the Nicaraguan contra rebels that led to the disastrous Iran-Contra scandal. Even the agency’s most successful mission – slowly bleeding out the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s by arming the mujahideen – paved the way for the worst terrorist attack on the US in its history.

But as anyone who has read journalist Tim Weiner’s comprehensive and engrossing history of the CIA knows, the agency’s past is a graveyard rife with literally dozens of catastrophic failures involving covert weapons deals to countless war criminals and con artists in an attempt to overthrow governments all over the world. Not only has the CIA failed repeatedly, but oftentimes its plan has completely backfired, solidifying the very power of the actor it sought to remove and leaving the people the agency claimed to be helping in a much, much worse-off spot than before the CIA gun-running mission began.

#BBCtrending: What will Saudis do when the oil runs out?

by Mai Noman
17 ovember 2014 

What will happen to Saudis and Kuwaitis when they run out of oil? An Arabic hashtag expressing that fear has now been used a million times.

Early last week, an Arabic hashtag that translates to 'Your job after oil runs out...' begun to trend mostly in Saudi Arabia but also in neighbouring Kuwait. Citizens of these countries used it to make jokes, but there was also serious contemplation of a future without their once abundant oil wealth. Some Saudis contemplated returning to a simpler life style and perhaps becoming shepherds. Others were a bit more pessimistic about their nation's future. "I'm unemployed and there are another million like me, so how much worse will it get when oil runs out?" one man commented on Twitter. Despite being the largest oil producer in the region, Saudi Arabia has had a longstanding issue with unemployment.

Saudis are feeling insecure because oil prices recently hit a four-year low. That doesn't in itself tell us anything about oil supply - indeed if it was running out the price might be expected to rise - but in 2011 a Citigroup report warned that Saudi might run out of oil to export by 2030. Inside the country, many believe that the kingdom is not ready for a future without oil. One Saudi tweeted: "I fear we will say we wasted our oil in luxury and opulence and didn't make use of it in scientific advances that will benefit us and the coming generations."

Paul Rogers Security Briefing: The evolution of the Islamic State conflict

Paul Rogers
5 November 2014

A Kurdish refugee in Mursitpinar in Turkey waits for news about Kobane, October 2014

Events in Iraq and Syria during October – not least the desperate battle for Kobane and a spate of executions in Iraq’s Anbar province – have demonstrated the limitations of aerial attack by the coalition of Western and Arab states in containing the activities of Islamic State (IS). The coalition is hamstrung by its divisions over the need to oppose Syria’s Assad regime and a lack of strategy to counter the local and global appeal of IS as much as by the paucity of available ground troops. The result is increasingly stalemate, and this may be more to the advantage of IS and its very long game than to its opponents.

The last briefing in this series examined the nature and development of Islamic State from 2012 to 2014. Among the significant aspects of its development were: 
The extent to which the paramilitary core of the movement owed much to the background of Iraqis who had direct combat experience against US and UK forces, especially Special Forces, in Iraq in the mid-2000s; 
The unusual ideological context of Islamic State with its eschatological dimension, meaning that its leadership was working to a singularly long time-frame. 
The significance of the antagonism of Sunni clans to the Shi’a-dominated Maliki government (2006-14) and the hope that the Abadi government would be far more inclusive, thereby eroding support for Islamic State in Iraq; 
The policy of the Assad regime in Damascus of concentrating its forces on non-jihadist rebel groups, thereby aiding the self-generated narrative of the regime facing a terrorist threat and implying the need for western support; 
The imperative for Islamic State to gain more recruits from the region and beyond; 
Its skill in communications, especially the use of new social media; and 
Its probable desire for confrontation with the “far enemy” (the West) and the consequent dangers arising from western states satisfying this desire. 

ISIS Restructures Raqqa Under its New Ruling System

Residents tell Syria Deeply that ISIS has divided Raqqa and assigned responsibilities to its local leaders, in a systematic bureaucracy of religious rule. 

Ever since ISIS took over the city of Raqqa in eastern Syria, claiming it as the capital of its self-declared Islamic caliphate, the group has reorganized the city and the province around it. 

Residents tell Syria Deeply that ISIS has divided the province and assigned responsibilities to its local leaders, in a systematic bureaucracy of religious rule. Those leaders are then given the authority to make rulings and laws, overseeing all affairs in their areas. 

For example, Tabqa city has a new ISIS-instated legal court, says Abu Mazen, 38, who decided to stay in his hometown under its new leadership. 

"We have ISIS-led administrative offices, educational departments, Islamic guidance and Dawa offices, tax collecting offices ... telephone, electricity and water departments," he said. 

"All these departments and offices are independent in their course of action from the other areas of Raqqa," he added. 

ISIS itself says it has divided Raqqa into sectors and localities in order "to facilitate the administrating of each area ... run and managed by specialized and highly qualified people," according to Abu Qais, one of the group's local leaders. 

He added that ISIS has built out what it considers to be "all the required institutions, offices, departments and sections to be just like any other country in the world." To press the point to a global audience, ISIS announced last week that it would mint its own currency, in the form of gold, silver and copper coins. 

Omar, a 32-year-old resident of Raqqa, has watched the ISIS system take shape. He spoke to Syria Deeply about the new ruling order, sharing what he has seen of its organization and operations. 

A horrifying new report reveals the strategy behind ISIS's brutality

November 17, 2014

A Kurdish man sits across the border from Kobane, a town ISIS laid siege to.(Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Scattered reports from inside ISIS-controlled territory have painted an awful picture of life under the militant group's rule. But a brand-new UN report, compiled from interviews with 300 people who have lived or currently are living in ISIS-controlled Syria, gives us a systematic look at the militant group's reign.

This isn't just because the behavior documented is terrible, though it is. It's that the UN report documents astrategy, not just random brutality or religious fanaticism. ISIS's ultraviolence is designed to cement its rule by terrifying the population into submission. And it might be working.
Everyday life in ISIS territory is a horror show

Consider this testimony from an anonymous father living in Deir ez Zor, in the eastern part of the country. Walking with his son, he saw two men strung up on a cross. "Both victims' hands were tied to each side of the improvised cross," the man reports. "I went to read the placards. On the first one it read, 'This is the fate of those who fight against us.'"


November 18, 2014

Morten Storm with Paul Cruickshank & Tim Lister, Agent Storm: My Life Inside Al Qaeda and the CIA (2014)

Agent Storm feels like a James Bond story or one of John Le Carre’s marvelous spy-thrillers. Yet, the story written by CNN’s Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister is a true account. The journey of Morten Storm provides valuable insights into high-stakes intelligence operations, as well as the social issues surrounding radicalization and extremism. It is a first-rate account of how a troubled young Danish Christian, with a history of petty criminality, incarceration and drug use converted to Islam and entered into its most extremist jihadi circles in Denmark and Britain, ultimately becoming a trusted member of al-Qaeda (AQ). Storm represents the highest level of Western intelligence penetration of AQ’s most dangerous affiliate – al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

Some may be highly skeptical of Storm’s claims. Indeed, Cruikshank and Lister specialize in international security and terrorism. They acknowledge that Storm’s account will face scrutiny, but stand by his credibility as a witness to the inner-workings of contemporary AQ. They cite audiovisual evidence and records of electronic communications that “both corroborate his story and enrich his account.” Then, the spy-thriller story begins to unveil.

Morten Storm celebrated his 13th birthday by attempting an armed robbery. His life spiraled into “a cycle of drugs, gratuitous violence and hardcore partying.” He went to prison twice. Denmark funds social programs to rehabilitate wayward youth like Storm, but he was incorrigible.

Later in his youth, Storm left for the United Kingdom, where he found refuge in a community of the Islamic faithful after becoming a Muslim. He became a member of radical circles in Birmingham and London, and he made valuable connections to the militant group al-Shabaab in East Africa and AQAP in Yemen. Storm then achieved something unusual: He became a member of Anwar al-Awlaki’s inner circle. Al-Awlaki, one of AQ’s top leaders, had inspired many Western jihadi terrorists, such as Major Nidal Hassan (the November 2009 Fort Hood murderer), Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the unsuccessful 2009 Christmas Day airliner bomber) and the Tsarnaev brothers (who conducted the Boston Marathon bombings in mid-April 2013). Storm also befriended other notable jihadist operatives and leaders, including Zacarias Moussaoui, who helped plan the 9/11 attack on the twin towers, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of AQAP.

What Is the Russian Military Up to In the Eastern Ukraine?

Benny Avni
November 18, 2014

Unmarked military trucks drive along a road in a territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic near the town of Khartsyzk, east of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, November 15, 2014. International monitors deployed along the Russian border in eastern Ukraine say their drones were shot at and jammed days before new columns of unmarked soldiers and weapons, said by the West to be Russian, were seen in the rebel-held territory. Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

What is Vladimir Putin’s game in eastern Ukraine? NATO reports that long convoys of unmarked military vehicles transporting heavy artillery and tanks, along with armored personnel carriers and trucks bearing rocket launchers manned by troops dressed in camouflage without identifying livery, have reinforced the pro-Russian separatist positions around the key Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Kiev forces confirmed the sightings and, like NATO, accused the Russians of mounting the sort of stealth invasion that proved so successful when Moscow annexed Crimea last winter. The Russians, meanwhile, indignantly deny that any of their forces have crossed the border, just as Russian President Vladimir Putin denied his forces had been sent to occupy Ukraine.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, who presided over the defeat of the long and bloody failed experiment in Marxism-Leninism, thinks what is going on in Ukraine marks the start of a new Cold War. But it could be even worse than that. As the first cold blasts of winter bring the first flakes of snow, it is now a common belief on all sides that the fragile cease-fire in Ukraine will turn before long into a hot and bloody conflict that could drag the whole region—if not the whole world—into war.

Vote on Crucial NSA Reform Legislation Coming Up

November 18, 2014

A Crucial Vote on the Surveillance Bill

The Republican Party is so badly fractured that it is impossible to tell what steps it will take on domestic surveillance once it assumes control of Congress in January. Its rising libertarian wing wants to crack down on abuses of Americans’ privacy, but many of its leaders express full support for any action the intelligence agencies want to take.

That’s why it’s important that the Senate break a filibuster on the USA Freedom Act, which would reduce or end the bulk collection of telephone records, in a vote scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. If the bill doesn’t pass in the current lame-duck session of the Senate, still controlled by Democrats, it may never get past the 60-vote hurdle in the next session of Congress.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, would require the National Security Agency to ask phone companies for the records of a specific person or address when it is searching for terrorists, instead of scooping up all the records in an area code or city. It would force the agency to show why it needs those records, and to disclose how much data is being collecting.

The bill would also create a panel of advocates to support privacy rights and civil liberties in arguments before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; currently, there is no one to offer opposition to government requests before the court. The government would have to issue clear summaries of the court’s most significant rulings.

Not every potential surveillance abuse is addressed in the measure. For example, it leaves open the possibility of “backdoor” searches of American data that investigators come across when searching for the communications of foreigners. It exempts the F.B.I. from transparency on searches. And it is not clear whether the government believes there is some other hidden legal authority for bulk collection other than the one addressed in the USA Freedom Act.

Nonetheless, the bill is a good way to begin restoring individual privacy that has been systematically violated by government spying, revealed through the leaks provided by Edward Snowden. It has been supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other privacy watchdogs. On Sunday, a group of the biggest technology companies — including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter — endorsed the bill because it allows more disclosure of the demands for information made of them by the government.

In addition to Senate Democrats, the bill is supported by some hard-right Republicans, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. But Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will soon be the Senate majority leader, hassupported the N.S.A.’s spying on Americans. That’s a good a reason to pass it before a new Senate can water it down.

Details of Failed U.S. Effort to Recruit Former Alawite Syrian Army Officers Opposed to Assad

Dana Ballout and Adam Entous
November 18, 2014

Outreach to Alawi Officers From Syria Fell Flat

A Syrian man walks near a poster with an image of President Bashar al-Assad in the Saadallah al-Jabiri square on the government-controlled side of Aleppo on Nov. 16, 2014. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Syrian army officers housed in a special camp in southern Turkey aren’t the only Assad regime defectors who feel abandoned by the West. The camp was set up to house Sunni Muslim officers, some with decades of military experience and know-how, as described in a Wall Street Journal article.

Some military officers and government officials from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s own Alawite sect, along with members of the Ismaili Shia Muslim sect, also fled to Turkey with high hopes for the opposition. Like the Sunnis, they grew disillusioned.

Despite their shared goal of removing Mr. Assad, the groups weren’t housed together because they were too distrustful of each other, officers said. The Sunnis largely remain in the 24-acre Camp Apaydin, complete with a grocery and exercise yard; the Alawis and Ismailis were sent to live in private homes and hotels in southern Turkish towns, and many of them have since moved to Europe and broken off ties with the Syrian opposition.

“We were afraid of the Sunnis there,” said one defector, Ahmad Hallak.

Russian SU-27 Fighter Intercepted Near Latvian Airspace

NATO Jets Intercept Russian Fighter Plane Over Baltic Sea

Ott Ummelas

Bloomberg News, November 17, 2014

NATO fighter jets intercepted a Russian military airplane over the Baltic Seatoday after four such incidents last week as the confrontation over Ukraine between Russia and its Cold War-era foes intensifies.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s F-16 jets based in the Baltic region intercepted a Russian Su-27 fighter plane, Latvia’s army said today on Twitter. The encounter took place over international waters near Latvia’s territorial seas, it said.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, former Soviet republics that joined NATO in 2004, won more security guarantees from the 28-nation bloc in September after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Military planes and naval vessels have been increasingly moving in the Baltic Sea between St. Petersburg and Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, while Estonia and non-aligned Finland have reported increased violations of their airspace.

Putin said in a TV interview with German broadcaster ARD yesterday that Russian planes and ships don’t violate European territory and military exercises take place “exclusively in the international waters and over international airspace.”

Two Dutch F-16 fighter jets on a NATO mission intercepted a Russian Ilyushin transport plane over the Baltic Sea on Nov. 12 after it approached Estonian and Lithuanian airspace, while Eurofighter Typhoons based in the Baltic region intercepted two Russian Su-27 fighter planes on Nov. 15, according to Latvian and Lithuanian authorities.