13 January 2015

The Islamic State Has Conquered Centcom’s Twitter Account


“AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK. ISIS,” said one tweet. “ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base,” said another.

That type of aggressive and threatening language is nothing new for the multitude of Twitter accounts controlled by the Islamic State and its supporters. But the tweets didn’t come from one of those accounts: They came from the official account of U.S. Central Command, which was hacked by apparent backers of the militant group between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 12.

Attached to the tweets were what appeared to be the phone numbers, addresses, and emails of American military generals.

“With Allah’s permission we are in CENTCOM now,” read a page linked to by the tweets. “We won’t stop! We know everything about you, your wives and children.”

Around the same time, hackers also posted two videos with pro-Islamic State propaganda messages on Centcom’s YouTube channel. The videos featured slow-motion explosions, jihadi slogans, a clip of U.S. President Barack Obama speaking with distorted sound, and images of masked fighters.

A homage to the Indian Army

Jan 13, 2015

The Indian Army observes January 15 as Army Day every year to commemorate that day in 1949 when Lt. Gen. (later Field Marshal) K.M. Cariappa assumed office as the first Indian Commander in Chief (C-in-C) of the Army of Independent India, succeeding Gen. Sir Roy Bucher, the last British officer to hold that position.

The designation of the Chief of Army Staff was not in vogue at the time it would come later, on April 1, 1955, after passage of the Commanders-in-Chiefs (Change in Designation) Act, 1955, by the Parliament of India.

Gen. Cariappa was called upon to assume charge at a traumatic time, when the country was still recovering from the frenzied savagery of the Partition which had hit the Indian Army particularly hard. Indian soldiers, under Indian commanders, had just faced and successfully overcome their first challenge Pakistan-sponsored tribal invasion of Kashmir in October 1947, even as many were still searching desperately for loved ones missing in the great migration of the Partition.

Troops steadfastly escorted unending columns and trainloads of refugees crossing over in both directions to sanctuary in their new homelands even as their own futures were totally uncertain. The Indian Army had just been carved up between India and Pakistan, which was rapidly proving to be a hostile neighbour. Old loyalties, national and regimental, had to be transformed overnight, and capital assets and finances divided as equitably as possible between yesterday’s friends who had become today’s implacable foes. Any other Army in the world would have broken under the strain. However, the Indian Army shouldered its burden and soldiered stoically on.

It saw the country safely through the First Kashmir War that suddenly burst upon it in September 1947, while almost simultaneously dealing with fairly sizeable military operations to ensure Hyderabad and Junagarh remain within the geographical dimensions of the country’s borders. A “hot peace” Line of Control had sprung up after the hostilities in Jammu and Kashmir (including the Ladakh region bordering Tibet) that had to be garrisoned and guarded permanently.

The Sino-India war of 1962 added a third factor to an already tense equation. The Indian Army tackled this as well, but in a manner less than satisfactory, which did not lend creditably to the highest political and military leadership of the time, leaving the entire nation agonising over the outcome.

Security, development are inter-related

Suresh Prabhu
Jan 13 2015

Excerpts from the presentations at theRoundtable on National Security Key Challenges Ahead organised by The Tribune National Security Forum in collaboration with the Indian Council of World Affairs

National security means different things to different people and at different times, it will change. Whenever you feel insecure, obviously as a nation that is an issue of national concern and should be addressed as a national security issue. We have been dealing with a large number of issues which we think are supposed to be addressed as national security issues, like protecting our borders, making sure that the internal law and order is maintained, peace is established. But all these have been there for long. One point that is very important is the issue related to security and development.

It is an established fact that you cannot have development unless you are secure. Nobody is going to come and make investments in a country, not even our own citizens, in a place that is not secure. For a long time we were thinking that for development we need resources and, therefore, development and defence did not go hand in hand because there was a time traditionally when the defence expenditure was one of the very large items on the expenditure side of the budget. If you look at it, over a period of time, that's changed considerably. Now, in fact, defence is not as significant an item as it used to be once. It may be still there in large numbers, but if you go by the percentage, there are far more important items of expenditure which are occupying a permanent place in the Union Budget than defence. For example, interest has now become a far bigger liability of the Government of India and for the states.

So, if you really talk about development, if you really want to bring in a transformation and, therefore, want to make us a very strong and vibrant country and a society, then we must identify issues which will spread development. To do that, we must find out not defence items or defence expenditure alone, but so many other items which are eating into the possible investment in defence. Then we come to a large number of issues which are also directly related to security. One of them is energy.

The good, the bad and the impossible - What are the lessons that Pakistan has learnt from the Peshawar massacre, and how will they be put into practice? asks Abhijit Bhattacharyya

January 13 , 2015

Following the sequence of recent events in Pakistan can easily lead one into a record of sorts owing to the fact that 32 'active' transnational and 12 domestic terrorist groups are operating from its soil. It is time to analyse, therefore, the fast-moving scenario and the role, plight and plan of action of the Pakistani army, universally acknowledged as the only disciplined and structured organization of the State, which is being called upon to tackle the terror outfits while taking the State forward.

On Friday, December 5, 2014, the chief of the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba and now renamed Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Hafiz Saeed, spits venom on India. Early next morning, the top al Qaida commander, Adnan Gulshair el-Shukrijumah, carrying an American bounty of $5 million on his head for masterminding attacks on the United States of America and the United Kingdom, is killed by Pakistan's army in an operation in South Waziristan Agency. That very day, again, saw the Islamabad army chief, Raheel Sharif, visiting the Peshawar-based XI Corps headquarter and expressing his "satisfaction" with the "progress" in operations against militancy and "achievements" made so far. One, however, did not have to live long enough to enjoy peace as smack came the retaliatory attack from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorists on the army public school in the XI-Corps-based city of Peshawar on December 16, killing more than 140 and inflicting the biggest blow to the pride, professionalism and prestige of Pakistan's army.

The temporarily shaken army chief, in an unprecedented move, had to scamper to Kabul to take cover and seek the unqualified and unstinted support of the Afghan establishment in organizing "joint operations" and trying to get hold of the mastermind behind the Peshawar mayhem operating from Afghan soil. The rank and file of Pakistan's army as well as the regiment of nine powerful corps commanders - based in Mangla, Multan, Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta, Gujranwala and Bahawalpur - were angry too. "Something has to be done" was the chorus sung by the army personnel. They were right. But here also lay the danger. What is to be done? And how? Should the army be the sole solution for the problem of terror created by the army itself? If so, what could or would be the duration of the army's high-intensity operation against the very terrorist outfits that were once its proxy foot soldiers, killing, and getting killed by, the Soviets in Afghanistan, and also in India and Jammu and Kashmir, and again facing fire in the same land-locked terrain of Kabul fighting the 43-nation coalition euphemistically called the International Security Assistance Force under the command of the western forces?

Children back to Taliban-hit school after winter break

Jan 13 2015

Pakistani soldiers stand guard as parents arrive with their children at the Army Public School in Peshawar on Monday. AFP

Traumatised students who survived Pakistan's worst terror attack that claimed 150 lives returned to their army-run school today, clinging on to anxious parents with horrors of the deadly carnage still fresh in their minds.

Army Public School (APS) here reopened along with thousands of educational institutions across the country after an unusually long winter break, extended for 12 days due to threat of militants.

The schools which were able to fulfil the criteria set by the government were issued no-objection certificates (NOCs) whereas some institutions which failed to make arrangements such as installation of CCTV cameras and higher boundary walls across the campus boundaries were not issued NOCs.

Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif along with his wife visited the school here and met children at the gate of the school which was attacked by the Taliban militants on December 16.

The militants killed 150 people, including 134 students, during a 7-hour siege, leading to closure of educational institutions across Pakistan.

About 20 soldiers were seen at the main entry point of the APS in the morning, with an airport-style security gate installed at the front.

Elevated boundary walls with steel wire fencing were also put in place around Peshawar and in schools throughout the country.

The APS management said that psychological counselling sessions would be given to staff and students till January 17, whereas regular academic session would begin from January 19. — PTI

Speaking power to satirical truth

January 13, 2015

APUNITED IN GRIEF: “There is absolutely no justification for the brutal attacks on ‘Charlie Hebdo’, and solidarity with the publication is unconditional.” Over 40 world leaders marched with thousands at the Republique Square in Paris in a unity march to honour the 17 victims of terrorism set off by the massacre of 12 journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. 

A joke or laughter from a position of superiority over other people is unworthy of moral support, although it may obtain legal protection

Charlie Hebdo was brutally attacked for its dark sketches of humour; for apparently talking ‘satire to power.’ French President Francois Hollande called the attacks an assault on “the expression of freedom,” and liberal democracies globally have shown their support to protectthis freedom. Cartoonists in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo sketched the incongruity of a pencil and a gun. But what explains this incongruity? What is it about satirical humour that can invite such anger or can justify its protection, even through so-called “legitimate” state violence?

Novelist Salman Rushdie, a victim/perpetrator of such violence, calls this “art of satire” a “force of liberty against tyranny.” Spanish painter Francisco Goya was at odds with Fernando VII for the cartoons that he sketched, and it was Honore Daumier’s caricatures of King Louise-Philippe and the French legislature that landed him in prison. Before I continue, here are two disclaimers: first, interrogating the value of humour or satire does not in any way imply justifying the attack and the killings, for these are separate categories. Second, several of the anti-Islamic cartoons of Charlie Hebdo are not really ‘satires’ in the strict sense, for they seem to lack the complexity and the nuances implicit in the genre.A shared world

Understanding a joke presupposes a common social world; a shared intersubjective community. There need not be an agreement about the worth of the joke itself, but it presupposes the fact that a sense of humour requires a shared lifeworld and not an individualistic, solipsistic and atomised world. Humour is, therefore, highly local; it throws light on our situation, it tells us something about who we are, it brings back to consciousness the hidden and it familiarises the unspoken. Umberto Eco wrote an illuminating essay on something as trivial as eating peas with a fork in airline food — transforming the real and everyday into something surreal and unfamiliar. R.K. Laxman’s political cartoons, ‘The Common Man,’ used domestic, everyday images of a middle-class family to challenge mainstream politics. Although he mounts a successful challenge to politics, his portrayals of domesticity unknowingly reveal gendered relations within Indian homes, for instance, between the husband and wife. In a similar analogy, as the Marxist commentator Richard Seymour suggests, Charlie Hebdo may be mocking the extremists, but that mocking itself reveals a certain racist undertone.

U.S. military Twitter account allegedly hacked by Islamic State

January 13, 2015

Screenshot of hacked twitter page of U.S. military's central command, including posts by apparent hackers.

A group claiming links to Islamic State (IS), the terror outfit that controls parts of Syria and Iraq, has apparently hacked into the Twitter accounts of the U.S. military’s Central Command, with the @CENTCOM handle, and subsequently posted a series of tweets including threats against U.S. soldiers and their families.

At approximately 12:30 p.m. EST an unknown group of hackers appeared to post on the @CENTCOM account the contact details of numerous U.S. soldiers including top brass, under the hashtag #CyberCaliphate.

The hack raised eyebrows for its timing, as it came even as U.S. President Barack Obama was said to be preparing a speech on cybersecurity, and the White House is organising a multi-nation conference on countering violent extremism in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

The warnings on Monday included statements such as, “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back. ISIS CyberCaliphate,” and “ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base.”

Islamic State group operating in south: Afghan officials

Jan 13, 2015

CAMP SHORABAK: Afghan officials confirmed for the first time on Monday that the extremist Islamic State group is active in the south, recruiting fighters, flying black flags and, according to some sources, even battling Taliban militants. 

The sources, including an Afghan general and a provincial governor, said a man identified as Mullah Abdul Rauf was actively recruiting fighters for the group, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. 

Gen. Mahmood Khan, the deputy commander of the army's 215 Corps, said that within the past week residents of a number of districts in the southern Helmand province have said Rauf's representatives are fanning out to recruit people. 

"A number of tribal leaders, jihadi commanders and some ulema (religious council members) and other people have contacted me to tell me that Mullah Rauf had contacted them and invited them to join him," Khan said. 

But he said the Taliban, which is active across Helmand and controls some districts, have warned people not to contact Rauf. 

"People are saying that he has raised black flags and even has tried to bring down white Taliban flags in some areas," said Saifullah Sanginwal, a tribal leader in Sangin district. "There are reports that 19 or 20 people have been killed" in fighting between the Taliban and the IS group, he added. 

Rauf was a corps commander during the Taliban's 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan, according to Amir Mohammad Akundzada, the governor of Nimroz province neighboring Helmand. Akundzada said he is related to Rauf but has not seen him for almost 20 years. 

Both Khan and Akundzada said Rauf was apprehended after the fall of the Taliban in the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and was detained for years at Guantanamo Bay. 

Khan and Akundzada suggested Rauf may have fallen out with the leaders of the Afghan Taliban after spending time in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where Afghan officials and analysts believe senior Taliban leaders are based. 

A video released online Saturday purports to show militants from both Afghanistan and Pakistan pledging support to IS. 

But Akundzada said IS was not likely to gain traction with ordinary Afghans. "People who want to fight in Afghanistan just create new names _ one day they are wearing white clothes (of the Taliban) and the next day they have black clothes and call themselves Daesh, but they are the same people," he said, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group. 

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. has noted the "rhetorical message of support" for the Islamic State group by some in Afghanistan. 


By Jayshree Sengupta*

The year 2015 is likely to be rosy for India. There is no more doomsday scenario awaiting the country on the economic front in the year. There will be problems but India will remain a global giant with its huge, mostly young, population, a big market and vast resources. Since there is no real social safety net, people are resilient and adapt to adverse situations. Political upheavals are thus unlikely.

There will, however, be no spectacular rise in the economic growth because the way things are going, the government will not be able to control either the fiscal deficit (in December 2014, the fiscal deficit had reached 98.9 per cent of the budgeted total) or the current account deficit ( at 2.1 per cent of the GDP in December’14). Managing the twin deficits will not allow the government to keep its tall promises about bringing ‘achche din’ (good days). The economy will grow at 5 or 5.5 per cent which is not high enough for harmonious and equitable growth or a steep reduction in poverty.

First of all, from all indications, the revenue shortfall will be massive (Rs 1,05,000 crore). To bridge the revenue gap the government may have to cut expenditure where it is most needed — in the social sectors. It is already apprehended that health sector will be the first to receive the cut which will of course have its repercussions on the healthcare of the poor. Already, the public healthcare is below par and it will be more so. The poor will be the ones who will have to bear the brunt and sink further into poverty.

Similarly, the current account deficit will remain a problem with the continuing heavy import of gold and flat export growth. Prime Minister Modi’s exhortation to the people to put their money in banks and not buy gold will only work when people are sure about the continuity of low inflation. Even with a fall in petroleum prices, there are problems in imports and more problems in exports. Global markets are not recovering strongly and India’s exports to EU, Russia, Japan and the Middle East will be lower.

Afghanistan: Recycling History

Ajit Kumar Singh

The US has a long history of failed military campaigns abroad, and an entrenched proclivity to 'declare victory and run'. As 2014 came to a close, the US-led coalition in Afghanistan added another page to this dismal history, when the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officially concluded its combat mission in Afghanistan at an event held at ISAF headquarters in capital city Kabul on December 28, 2014. ISAF had been constituted under US leadership under the Bonn Agreement 13 years earlier, in December 2001. The ISAF worked under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement, on the same day, boasted, 

The mandate of the United Nations Security Council was to help the Afghan authorities provide security across the country and develop new Afghan Forces. This mandate was carried out at great cost, but with great success… Thanks to the remarkable effort of our forces, we have achieved what we set out to do. We have made our own nations safer, by denying safe haven to international terrorists. We have made Afghanistan stronger, by building up from scratch strong security forces.. 

Regrettably, however, the Secretary General's statement remains far from reality. Afghanistan today is unsecure and volatile, and is home to a multiplicity of Islamist extremist and terrorist formations that constitute a tremendous and potentially global threat. Moreover, the grave risks located in the wider Af-Pak region, and the neglect of the principal source of Islamist terrorism in the South Asian region - Pakistan - was studiously ignored through the period of ISAF's engagement in Afghanistan, despite the continuous losses inflicted on ISAF personnel and infrastructure by terrorist formations located on Pakistani soil. Afghanistan is now utterly exposed to the dangers of a proxy war by the Pakistani state backing the Taliban, as well as an incendiary mix of radicalized terrorist formations that have slipped out of Pakistani state control. 

Border Violence and the Iran-Pakistan Gas Project

By Kiyya Baloch
January 11, 2015

A dozen villagers from Balochistan’s Kech district protested recently in front of the national press club in Quetta, the provincial capital, over an “unprovoked attack” by Iranian border guards in the Kech area of the troubled province.

The protesting villagers, who live close to the border with Iran, said that they had been trapped within their homes, frightened by heavy fire from Iranian border guards.

In the village of Zamuran, on the edge of the Goldsmith Line, people were confined to their houses because of heavy Iranian firing, the protesters say.

“We are terrified. We can’t go to our working places and schools,” Mohammad Hanif, chairman of protesting villagers told The Diplomat during the protest in Quetta.

Hanif said that at least 42 rockets were fired by Iranian security guards into the Zamuran area of Balochistan’s restive Kech district, wounding at least seven civilians and spreading fear and uncertainty among the villagers.

He said that Iranian border guards started firing the rockets around 4:00 a.m. and stopped at 10:00 a.m., claiming that the rockets were fired into the civilian population from very close range. A large number of houses and shops in the area were turned to rubble due to the heavy firing. The victims were taken to the district hospital in Turbat for treatment.

Zamuran is situated very close to Iran, and villagers frequently cross the border into Iran for business. However, the shelling kept residents confined to their houses. Another protester, Habib Baloch told The Diplomat, “We are very afraid of our business which is directly connected to Iran. We want this firing to stop forever.”

Habib, who travelled 1200 kilometers to Quetta to attract the attention of provincial authorities, added, “We will go back if only Balochistan government ensures our security otherwise.” He noted that there had been a constant movement of Iranian border guards near the border.

What Now for Afghanistan?

By Tamim Asey
January 11, 2015

The war in Afghanistan – for America, the longest war in its history – has ended. In a small and quiet ceremony in the presence of dozens of handpicked Afghan and international officials – the United States and its NATO allies lowered the flag of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and replaced it with Operation Resolute Support (ORS), which aims to assist, advise and mentor the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in its fight against terrorism and a resurgent Taliban post 2014. The Taliban spokesperson characterized the end of the ISAF/NATO mission as an admission of defeat. That is hardly surprising, but still the questions are what did the war bring for Afghanistan, and what might the future hold given growing insecurity, economic uncertainty, and political instability?

There is no doubt that Afghanistan is a much better place today, with higher standards of living, than it was under the brutal Taliban regime. Billions of dollars in foreign aid, technical assistance, and thousands of lives lost in this brutal war have paved the way for a more prosperous, yet still fragile Afghanistan. Millions of girls go to school, hundreds of thousands of Afghans have attended institutions of higher education, Afghanistan has a government, a parliament, a judiciary, a vibrant civil society, and a strong presence of women across the spectrum. It has established embassies in more than 140 countries and maintains diplomatic relations with almost every nation on earth. Afghanistan is no longer the isolated and sanctioned country it was under the Taliban.

Afghanistan has averaged 9.25 percent economic growth over the last one decade or so, and income per capita has risen from $120 to above $640 dollars today. It has a strong currency and has maintained a robust poverty reduction agenda with the help of billions of dollars in foreign aid.

Transition in Afghanistan: Losing the Forgotten War?

JAN 12, 2015 

The US role in Afghanistan formally transitioned from a combat role to one of supporting the Afghan government at the end of 2014. It is far from clear, however, that Afghanistan can develop the level of effective political unity, governance and security forces, or viable economy for this transition to work. Moreover, the US faces significant challenges in dealing with Pakistan, and developing a new strategic posture in Central Asia.

The Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS is issuing a new report on the successes and failures of Transition in Afghanistan and the broader challenges in reshaping US strategy in Pakistan and Central Asia. This report is entitled Transition in Afghanistan: Losing the Forgotten War? It is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/150109_Losing_Forgotten_War.pdf

This report builds on more than a decade’s worth of reporting and analysis of the Afghan war. It examines the recent trends and problems in Afghan governance, the trends in the fighting, progress in the Afghan security forces, and what may be a growing crisis in the Afghan economy.

It raises serious questions about the political unity of the country and the effectiveness of its government, provides a detailed analysis of the problems resulting fromthe recent election, a growing Afghan budget crisis, and critical problems with power brokers and corruption.

The report indicates that the military situation is far worse than the US Department of Defense and ISAF have reported, and provides detailed graphs and maps showing the real risks of the current security situation. It also provides a detailed analysis of the problems in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the limits in their capability, as well as the weaknesses in past and planned US and allied force development and training efforts. The report suggests that President Obama’s insistence on rapid cuts in the US advisory presence and its near elimination by the end of 2016 could cripple the Transition effort, and that a large and longer conditions-based effort may be critical to success.

Expect more US casualties in Afghanistan, top NATO commander says

By Carlo Munoz
January 8, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — Americans must be prepared for more U.S. casualties in Afghanistan even after the declared end to NATO’s combat mission in the country, the alliance’s supreme commander warned Thursday.

“All of us as commanders have reminded our senior leadership ... the war in Afghanistan has not ended, (just) the combat mission for NATO,” Gen. Philip Breedlove told Stars and Stripes.

“It’s hard to say, but we are going to continue to have (American) casualties” in Afghanistan, Breedlove said in an interview at Bagram Airfield.

“It is going to be unavoidable,” he added.

Breedlove’s comments came just days after American and allied forces officially closed the book on the 13-year International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, shifting to a lower-key advisory role named Resolute Support.

At the time, the Obama White House and top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan heralded the transition as a crucial milestone in ending America’s longest war. The move represented “an end of an era and the beginning of a new one” in Afghanistan, ISAF commander Gen. John Campbell said at the command’s end-of-mission ceremony in Kabul on Dec. 28.

As part of the new NATO mission, roughly 12,500 troops — about 6,000 of them from allied nations — remain on the ground to train and advise Afghanistan’s army and police. Not all of the roughly 10,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. operation Freedom’s Sentinel are assigned to Resolute Support. Some will conduct counterterrorism and related operations. The number of American troops isslated to drop to 5,500 by the end of this year, with all U.S. forces scheduled to leave Afghanistan by 2016.

Sorry, China: Japan Has the Better Claim over the Senkakus

January 11, 2015 

While some point to a grand bargain between China and Japan over disputed territory in the East China Sea, such a deal might simply be unfair to Japan—as it holds the superior claim. 

Commentary on the long-standing contest over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands may be entering a new and more conciliatory phase. A lot of early scholarship focused on the zero-sum question of who has proper title under international law, but more recent analyses have started to explore paths toward a cooperative resolution.

Last month, Akikazu Hashimoto, Michael O’Hanlon and Wu Xinbo offered a multipronged plan under which China and Japan would promise not to raise new territorial disputes in the future, the parties would agree to decouple EEZ determinations from sovereignty over the islands themselves, each side would acknowledge the other’s territorial claims and Japan would delegate rights of administration to a joint oversight board with authority to regulate patrols and usage. The authors view their approach as “designed to respect the core interests and nonnegotiable demands of both claimants to the islands.” Under a separate proposal by Mark Rosen, Tokyo would concede that the islands are not entitled to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Beijing would pull back excessive straight baselines along the coast of the Chinese mainland and acquiesce to Japanese effective control over the Islands, and the two sides would divide the sea space opened up as a result of their respective concessions. Rosen frames his plan as a simple application of international law and asserts that it will resolve tension by “tak[ing] the Senkaku off the table in terms of the effect that those islands have in establishing a maritime boundary in the East China Sea.”

These scholars share a commitment to the idea that a grand bargain is the most likely path to a peaceful resolution, and their proposals are admirably creative. But they also share a common problem in that they misapply international law in ways that uniformly disfavor Japan. Consider two key points:

The Shanghai Stampede and Xi Jinping’s Lost Opportunity

By Elizabeth C. Economy
January 12, 2015

“The leadership has mistakenly understood this terrible disaster as a potential threat to its legitimacy.” 
In the wake of the New Year’s Eve stampede along the Bund in Shanghai that resulted in the death of almost forty people, Chinese President Xi Jinping wasted no time calling for hospitals to treat the injured and for an investigation to determine responsibility for the tragedy. Yet beyond that, his response, and that of the rest of the Chinese leadership, has been tone deaf, missing an important opportunity to demonstrate real leadership through compassion and understanding.

As people throughout China have sought to express their shared grief and reach out to those who lost loved ones, Beijing has actively discouraged such generosity of spirit. Instead, the leadership has mistakenly understood this terrible disaster as a potential threat to its legitimacy. It is censoring news accounts, trying to prevent victims’ families from speaking with journalists, and placing these families under surveillance. It has expended scores of police hours searching for and interrogating people who have posted their thoughts about the tragedy online. And before one father was allowed to receive his daughter’s body to fly back to Malaysia, he was told that he had to agree to “absolve the government of any wrongdoing.”

A commentator in Shanghai explains the government’s reaction thus: “Such a major public safety incident can tug the heartstrings of the public, and the acts and words by victims’ relatives can make the public sentiments swing, making it a key task for authorities to control the families, limiting their contacts with each other or with the media….The method is brusque toward the families, preventing them from resorting to law and to the media, but—in a positive way—it can indeed alleviate the shock to the public.”

Yet the Chinese people clearly do not need to be told what matters or how to behave when confronted with tragedy. In the aftermath of the devastating July 2012 Beijing floods—the worst in six decades—that resulted in the death of seventy-seven people, for example, Chinese social commentator Li Chengpeng wrote a beautiful and profound testament to the selflessness and generosity of his fellow Beijing citizens: “the humanity is there, like a luminous pearl, normally ordinary and unremarkable like a rock, but in the key moment shining brightly…this is Chinese people’s civic awareness growing…which is to say, when you participate in community self-government and self-management, you’ll feel a strong sense of existence and security.”

China’s Political Spectrum under Xi Jinping

By Sebastian Veg
August 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

A Turning Point in China’s Anti-Graft Campaign

By James Char
January 11, 2015

A key phase of the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption campaign has concluded 

The political downfall of a former aide to Hu Jintao was finally confirmed some two years after a speeding Ferrari first crashed along a Beijing street in 2012. In a brief statement released last week, the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced that Ling Jihua, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, had been indicted for “serious discipline violations.” Following the impeachments of Zhou Yongkang and Xu Caihou, Ling was the third high-profile politician to be ensnared in China’s anti-graft movement in 2014.

Ling’s fall from grace is particularly stark, considering that his political star was on the rise in the lead-up to the 18th Party Congress, where he had been primed for a seat on the 25-member Politburo. As a key member of Hu Jintao’s inner circle, Ling’s access to China’s former top leader meant that he had been favored to join the ranks of the country’s most powerful politicians. Following the car crash involving his son and two female passengers, however, Ling subsequently failed to make the cut and was also stripped of his post as director of the influential General Office of the CCP’s Central Committee.

While Ling had largely stayed out of the political limelight in the past two years, it became clear earlier in the year that the CCP had not forgotten his previous indiscretions, when the party’s anti-corruption agency began initiating proceedings against Ling Zhengce and Ling Wancheng. The two – respectively a provincial official of Shanxi, and a businessman – are brothers of Ling Jihua. In the same manner in which other senior party officials such as Zhou Yongkang had been toppled, the CCDI steadily worked its way towards Ling – its intended target and big “tiger” – by first taking out the small “flies” associated with him.

A Political Storm Two Years in the Making

What then, are the regulations Hu Jintao’s former “political fixer” had supposedly contravened? According to media sources, Ling had ordered the unauthorized use of state security forces to cover up the details of his son’s accident. Possibly motivated by the rivalry between Hu’s Communist Youth League (CYL) – of which Ling was a representative figure – and Jiang Zemin’s followers, Ling also allegedly misled Hu and the rest of the party leadership regarding the driver’s identity by passing his son off as the offspring of a member of Jiang’s faction in order to discredit his political rivals.

Sorry, China: Japan Has the Better Claim over the Senkakus

January 11, 2015

Commentary on the long-standing contest over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands may be entering a new and more conciliatory phase. A lot of early scholarship focused on the zero-sum question of who has proper title under international law, but more recent analyses have started to explore paths toward a cooperative resolution.

Last month, Akikazu Hashimoto, Michael O’Hanlon and Wu Xinbo offered a multipronged plan under which China and Japan would promise not to raise new territorial disputes in the future, the parties would agree to decouple EEZ determinations from sovereignty over the islands themselves, each side would acknowledge the other’s territorial claims and Japan would delegate rights of administration to a joint oversight board with authority to regulate patrols and usage. The authors view their approach as “designed to respect the core interests and nonnegotiable demands of both claimants to the islands.” Under a separate proposal by Mark Rosen, Tokyo would concede that the islands are not entitled to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Beijing would pull back excessive straight baselines along the coast of the Chinese mainland and acquiesce to Japanese effective control over the Islands, and the two sides would divide the sea space opened up as a result of their respective concessions. Rosen frames his plan as a simple application of international law and asserts that it will resolve tension by “tak[ing] the Senkaku off the table in terms of the effect that those islands have in establishing a maritime boundary in the East China Sea.”

These scholars share a commitment to the idea that a grand bargain is the most likely path to a peaceful resolution, and their proposals are admirably creative. But they also share a common problem in that they misapply international law in ways that uniformly disfavor Japan. Consider two key points:

First, Japan has a superior claim to title over the islands. I acknowledge that it may be difficult for readers to view this argument as anything other than yet another partisan salvo in what has become a tired and seemingly intractable debate. But the characteristics of the debate itself should not obscure the fact that the law supplies a doctrinal resolution. The best answer to the question of title is not an unknowable mystery, obscured by rhetorical heat, high stakes and history, but a simple puzzle very similar to dozens of others that international tribunals have resolved over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. And on balance, the best solution to that puzzle is that the relevant historical facts and legal doctrines favor Japan, which has exercised effective control over the Senkaku Islands for over a century, with prolonged periods of Chinese acquiescence. Those who remain skeptical should consider the views of other thoughtful analysts (here and here) who have reached the same conclusion.

Second, the Senkaku Islands probably create an EEZ. Article 121(3) of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that land features can have no EEZ if they are “[r]ocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own.” But the Senkakus do not appear to be rocks of that type. It is widelyacknowledged that Tatsuhiro Koga—a longtime lessee of the islands—brought scores of seasonal workers to live there and operate businesses processing bonito and collecting albatross feathers in the early twentieth century. In carrying out those activities, Koga demonstrated that the Senkakus are capable of sustaining both human habitation and economic life of their own. To conclude that the islands are rocks, despite this history, one must find that they are no longer capable of fulfilling functions that they previously fulfilled for extended periods of time. I have seen no evidence to support such a finding.

These observations suggest that the recent proposals for a grand bargain are unfair to Japan. Equipped with the better legal argument, why would Tokyo agree not only to acknowledge the Chinese claim, but also to delegate administrative rights? And given that the islands probably add significantly to Japan’s EEZ, why would Tokyo accept that they do not? For advocates of conciliation, the answer is that Japan would win concessions in return. O’Hanlon has emphasized that Japan could gain a Chinese promise not to raise additional territorial disputes or contest Japan’s rights of administration, while Rosen proposes that Japan could win Beijing’s agreement to pull back straight baselines along the coast of the Chinese mainland. But from a legal perspective, these are sour deals for Tokyo. None but the most ardent Chinese nationalists think that the PRC has anything better than a frivolous claim to other territories currently administered by Japan, and even Rosen describes the Chinese straight baselines as “excessive.”

In truth, what these commentators are proposing is that Japan give up comparatively strong legal claims in exchange for China's abandonment of comparatively weak claims. This might be sensible for any number of reasons, including the trajectory of the regional balance of power, but none of those have anything to do with international law. If the parties achieve a diplomatic solution, it will be in spite of the law, rather than with its assistance.

Ryan Scoville is an Assistant Professor at Marquette University Law School. This piece first appeared on the author’s blog, here.

5 Chinese Weapons of War Japan Should Fear

January 10, 2015

Over the last several years Sino-Japanese relations have reached low after new low—all thanks to claims and counterclaims over the Senkaku islands (China refers to them as the Diaoyu islands). The relationship between the two countries, which had been tepid at best—quickly cooled beginning in 2010 as both sides jockeyed for position over the disputed islands.

Japan’s Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, threatened the country primarily in the north with submarines, bombers, fighters, and a theoretical invasion by sea. China is a different sort of strategic threat to Japan, being most active in the more southern East China Sea, with its military reach extending to the Senkaku and Ryukyu Islands as well as the Japanese mainland.

The challenge posed by the People’s Liberation Army has shaken a complacent Japanese government, which had left its national security establishment virtually unchanged since the 1980s. A national security council similar to that in the United States has been formed, secrecy laws have been passed and Japan’s defenses are shifting southward. Here are a five weapon systems that Tokyo should worry about as tensions with Beijing continue to simmer:

J-20 Stealth Fighter:

Japan lost control of her airspace during the Second World War to devastating effect. The result: as many as 900,000 people killed in aerial bombing raids. Since then, Japan has invested in only the best American fighters.

China: The Real Reason for the Great Oil-Price Crash?

January 9, 2015

Plunging oil prices have sent shockwaves around the world, threatening to topple governments and bankrupt businesses even while U.S. consumers celebrate cheap gasoline.

Yet while rising supply has been largely blamed for the precipitous price fall, China’s lower demand growth and its long-term implications for the global economy have been largely ignored. Is Beijing a winner or loser from cheap oil?

On January 7, U.S. benchmark oil prices dipped below $48 a barrel, the lowest since April 2009 and half the level of just five months ago. The slump follows November’s decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) not to curb production, despite surging U.S. shale supply and weakening Asian and European demand.

China’s role in oil’s rise and fall reflects its re-emergence on the world stage. During the past decade, the communist giant’s industrialization spurt saw it become the world’s second-biggest economy and top consumer of resources such as iron ore and coal, as well as the world’s largest net oil importer.

According to Societe Generale, a French multinational banking and financial services company, Beijing’s opening to world trade at the start of the 21st century, signified by its joining of the World Trade Organization in 2001, was responsible for increasing the oil price from around $20 a barrel to $100. During this period, China’s demand grew by the equivalent of Japan and the United Kingdom’s total oil consumption, giving oil markets a similar shot in the arm to that of other commodities.


By Toke S. Aidt, Gabriel Leon, Raphael Franck and Peter S. Jensen*

Some theories suggest that the threat of revolution plays a pivotal role in democratisation. This column provides new evidence in support of this hypothesis. The authors use democratic transitions from Europe in the 19th century, Africa at the turn at the 20th century, and the Great Reform Act of 1832 in Great Britain. They find that credible threats of revolution have systematically triggered pre-emptive democratic reforms throughout history.

The threat of revolution hypothesis

The wave of violent protests that swept across north Africa and parts of the Middle East during the Arab spring between 2010 and 2012 coincided with the fall of several long-established autocracies; in those that survived, policy reforms and redistributive policies aimed at calming the masses were hastily implemented. A century and a half before, something similar happened in western Europe. The revolutions in France and parts of Germany in 1848 were followed by democratic reforms in Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Episodes like these lend credence to the hypothesis that revolutions, riots, and other types of violent protest can trigger democratic change. The hypothesis is appealing because it resolves the franchise extension puzzle, namely why would incumbent autocrats with a monopoly on political power, and often on economic resources, agree to share their power with broader segments of the population whose goals they do not share? The threat of revolution hypothesis, developed in the work of Acemoglu and Robinson (2000, 2006) and Boix (2003) amongst others, suggests that autocrats might do so when they face a credible threat of revolution that, if successful, would eliminate their entire power base. Seen in this perspective, the reactions of autocrats in the Arab world today, and of monarchs in western Europe 150 years ago, are pre-emptive responses to a credible threat of revolution.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation, however. In his discussion of democratic reforms between 1830 and 1930, Roger Congleton (2010, p. 15), for example, argues that: “In essentially all cases [countries], liberal reforms were adopted using pre-existing constitutional rules for amendment. In no case [country] is every liberal reform preceded by a large-scale revolt, and in most cases, there are examples of large-scale demonstrations that failed to produce obvious reform”.

Thinking the Unthinkable: Rise of ISIS

10 Jan , 2015

The United Nations Security Council has given a top priority to eliminate the threat of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL popularly known as IS or ISIS) that posses a grave danger to the international community and global peace. However adequate steps are already taken in the past but further action is required. Severe human rights violations, mass killings and executions have been reported ever since the ISIL took control over parts of Syria and Iraq; in the previous weeks alone, numerous reports on mass executions, beheadings, rapes, torture, sexual enslavement and kidnappings were submitted to the UNHCR.

However air raids and aerial bombings from US and allied nations have assisted them in recovering some territories from ISIL; a more extensive and coordinated military strategy is required to eliminate the militants from their territories and stop human rights violations. With the increase in returning fighters from militant occupied regions throughout the world to the western civilization only creates a need of more urgency to address this situation. This concern of international community has to be addressed through the Security Council’s resolution.


In October 2004, United Nations officially designated the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as terrorist organization. Right after seizing significant territories of Iraq and Syria with approximately eight million civilians residing, ISIL proclaimed its world leader, Caliph Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi as the leader of worldwide Muslim populations and successor to the Prophet. They crowned him the king slayer of infidels. ISIL is probably the only militant organization that uses social media applications like twitter and YouTube for military propaganda, beheadings and mass execution. During its course of operation ISIL has been responsible for countless human rights violations and atrocities against civilians. Force religious conversions and physical torture are normal operations of ISIL.

Although most of the Islamic communities have condemned the “actions in the name of religion” by ISIL; recently the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia declared ISIL as “enemy number one” of Islam.

Blasphemy and the law of fanatics

January 8

As they went on their rampage, the men who killed 12 people in Paris this week yelled that they had “avenged the prophet.” They followed in the path of other terrorists who have bombed newspaper offices, stabbed a filmmaker and killed writers and translators, all to mete out what they believe is the proper Koranic punishment for blasphemy. But in fact, the Koran prescribes no punishment for blasphemy. Like so many of the most fanatical and violent aspects of Islamic terrorism today, the idea that Islam requires that insults against the prophet Muhammad be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda. 

One holy book is deeply concerned with blasphemy: the Bible. In the Old Testament, blasphemy and blasphemers are condemned and prescribed harsh punishment. The best-known passage on this is Leviticus 24:16 : “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.” 

By contrast, the word blasphemy appears nowhere in the Koran. (Nor, incidentally, does the Koran anywhere forbid creating images of Muhammad, though there are commentaries and traditions — “hadith” — that do, to guard against idol worship.)Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has pointed out that “there are more than 200 verses in the Koran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called ‘blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet’ . . . but nowhere does the Koran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.” On several occasions, Muhammad treated people who ridiculed him and his teachings with understanding and kindness. “In Islam,” Khan says, “blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment.” 

Somebody forgot to tell the terrorists. But the gruesome and bloody belief the jihadis have adopted is all too common in the Muslim world, even among so-called moderate Muslims — that blasphemy and apostasy are grievous crimes against Islam and should be punished fiercely. Many Muslim-majority countries have laws against blasphemy and apostasy — and in some places, they are enforced.