17 January 2015

Pakistan likely accelerating covert nuke programme

Published: January 17, 2015 

Narayan Lakshman
Airbus imagery dated December 12, 2014 showing the Khushab nuclear site in Pakistan. Steam is visible in reactor 3 but no steam is visible at reactor 4. Photo: Institute for Science and International Security
Airbus imagery comparing the new construction site to the fourth reactor at the Khushab nuclear site. Photo: Institute for Science and International Security

Evidence has emerged this week suggesting that Pakistan may have accelerated its covert nuclear weapons development programme and rendered operational a nuclear reactor structure located near a heavy water reactor, in a complex that is likely geared toward the production of plutonium.

High-resolution satellite imagery dated January 15, 2015, shows that external construction of the Khushab complex’s fourth reactor is complete and it has “become operational.”

If, as the evidence suggests, Pakistan is accelerating its nuclear weapons programme, it may heighten tensions with New Delhi, where the subject is likely to come up when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets U.S. President Barack Obama during Republic Day celebrations next week.

In a report that included the satellite photographs by Digital Globe, Washington think-tank Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said that the assessment of reactor completeness and operation was “based on the presence of a very specific signature: steam is venting from the reactor’s cooling system.”

The Khushab reactor complex was originally constructed and became operational in the 1990s, at that time comprising primarily of a heavy water production plant and an estimated 50 megawatt-thermal (MWth) heavy water reactor.

Following the nuclear tests in India and Pakistan in 1998, Islamabad initiated the construction of a second heavy water reactor between the year 2000 and 2002, ISIS notes, a third one in 2006, and a fourth one in 2011.

ISIS, which has closely tracked the progress on the construction of the reactor complex, noted that a January 2011 image showed the building, similar in layout to the second and third reactors at the same site, early in its construction but by April 2011, the frame of the reactor building and the main reactor hall were visible.

However, images from November 1, 2013, clearly show that in addition to the near-completion of the fourth reactor’s external structure, the reactor stack and four of the six auxiliary buildings also present in reactors two and three “appear complete.”

The enemy within

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Posted: January 17, 2015 1

Last month, the chief of the Pakistan Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, spoke to the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute on “Security Outlook 2025: National Security and Defence Transformation”, and stated: “In contemporary geopolitics, the battles are no longer between state and non-state actors but with supra-individuals, those individuals who exploit both the national and international space for their desired objectives. These supra-individuals have the capacity to manipulate networks, organisations and state institutions to create waves of instability and create discord at the centre of the state institutions. Explosions are still a viable tool of war, but implosions are the new defeat mechanisms.”

Who are these supra-individuals endangering the nation-state and the world? He didn’t use the word supermen, as it has been squeezed of meaning somewhat by cinema, where flying men come to the help of beleaguered humanity. He definitely meant leaders who arouse violence, the one instinct all individuals are gifted with, but which is suppressed by a civilisation rising dazed from world wars conducted by supra-individual leaders.

Did the general refer only to leaders who create inter-state conflict? He also said Pakistan’s enemy was “within” rather than “without” — he “lives within us and looks like us”. One can name a few supra-individuals — unfortunately all Muslims today — killing Muslims and causing inter-state conflict. One can also look at the leaders within Pakistan who exercise personality cult and can be placed in the category of supra-individuals. In all cases, violence is the hallmark of their identity.

The birth of the violent supra-individual is unavoidable. Religion helps in his nurture. In the organised state, he takes his flock and occupies a sequestered space where he can mould his followers’ conduct without being challenged. Because he uses violence, he gets into trouble with the organised state sooner or later, is attacked in his stronghold, after which he kills himself like Hitler in the last face-off with the law. His followers remain loyal and embrace death; such is the power of the supra-individual.

No excuses for terror


Written by K P S Gill | Posted: January 17, 2015 

The world has reacted in horror to the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, just as it did to the slaughter of children in Peshawar. But Peshawar is already shrinking from public memory and, so far, Pakistan has stuck with its usual approach to terrorism, suppressing the domestic variety and supporting the international brand. Despite the immensely powerful media of the West, Paris will also recede from public consciousness unless the dynamic that underpins extremism and terrorism is understood and neutralised. Even 9/11, where 2,996 persons were killed in the most powerful country in the world, has been harnessed to old and ill-conceived patterns of thought, creating spaces across the world for the resurgence of terrorism.

Terrorism does not arise in a vacuum. It is the product of years, even decades, of ideological mobilisation, of radicalisation, and of a transformation of the cultural context of religious, social and political discourse. In my book, Punjab: The Knights of Falsehood, I had documented the progressive perversion of faith, the gradual radicalisation of elements within the Sikh community over nearly 60 years before Khalistani terrorism suppurated in Punjab. Terrorism was comprehensively defeated in Punjab by 1993, but the undercurrents of extremism persist and are becoming more audible in the political discourse today.

For years now, extremists of different faiths and ideologies have exercised an increasing veto over any critical assessment of their ideas and actions. This arises not so much from their own strength, but rather from the tyranny of political correctness that has suppressed all contestation of ideas put forward in the garb of “religion”, for fear of “giving offence”, and often from the political mischief of various constituencies across the world. Much of the West today shows signs of extraordinary radicalisation, in spite of the prosperity, stability and quality of life it offers citizens, including those with extremist propensities.

How to Combat Global Islamism


By Tufail Ahmad

Published: 14th January 2015 

The continuing series of jihadist attacks by “lone wolves” – some call them stray dogs but both the terms are insults to animals – in London, Boston, Sydney and Paris illustrates the fact that modern democracies cannot take their freedom for granted. After the Second World War, democracies faced threats from armed communism.

Seven decades on, democratic nations and their liberties are still threatened, this time by radical Islamism. It is a matter of time before Indian democracy too will come face to face with such threats, especially since the signs of radicalisation are emerging in many parts of India.

The January 7 attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo illustrates two points: first, democratic nations must put in place a counter-radicalisation strategy that integrates Muslim communities and counters radicalisation. Second, big powers must join hands and evolve a global strategy against the jihadist threat currently wreaking Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and others. As of now, the Western powers are not engaging in developing a global strategy against Islamism due to the fear that they will be seen as anti-Islam.

However, the longer the West takes it to tackle this cancer, the bigger it will become. It was indeed this realisation which forced the leaders of forty countries including the UK, Israel, Germany, Palestine, Jordan, Poland and Spain to march hand in hand with the French president in Paris on January 11 to denounce the attackers of Charlie Hebdo.

A difficult future - Anger and historic hurt may not vanish, but a start could be made


Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

Of all the global grandees who attended last Sunday's street theatre in Paris, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas should have had least difficulty in understanding the fierce passions behind the tragedy they mourned. Indian and Vietnamese ambivalence towards yesterday's enemy is reflected in the Filipino slogan, "Yankee Go Home - And Take Me With You!" Japan's former adversary is its closest friend today. Jews and Arabs never forget. Jews have triumphed over fate without surrendering an unforgiving memory: Adolf Eichmann, the Holocaust organizer, was hunted down and hanged 17 years after World War II. The Muslim's less focused but no less rankling sense of injustice explodes in one bloodbath after another and will continue to plague the world until past wrongs are addressed.

None of this can excuse the brutal killing of 17 men and women in the Charlie Hebdooffice and a kosher supermarket. But Netanyahu's reiteration of Israel's Law of Return was more than an invitation to 550,000 French Jews who haven't forgotten the Dreyfus affair 121 years ago. Resonating with echoes of Emile Zola's J'accuse, it held the tacit threat of compounding Muslim grievances by gobbling up even more of the Palestinian West Bank to house an expanding population. Abbas can't afford to be as forthright. He isn't president of a "Republic of Palestine" but of an amorphous entity called the Palestine Authority over which he exercises limited authority. Even that grace and favour job can be snatched away if he displeases Netanyahu or, worse, his three hard-Right rivals (two ministers, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, and Eli Yishai, leader of Israel's new Haredi party) who were also in Paris. It seems Israel's prime minister accompanied the trio rather than the other way round.

Not that Abbas, whose doctoral dissertation at Damascus University was titled, "The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism", should be underestimated. According to Abu Daoud, who planned the 1972 Munich Olympic Games hostage-taking which ended with the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German policeman, Abbas funded the operation though without knowing what the money would be used for. Predictably, Hamas, which cocks a snook at the Palestine Authority from its Gaza stronghold, accuses Abbas of "hypocrisy and political juggling" for going to Paris where pictures showed him standing only a few feet from Netanyahu.

Freedom and its discontents


Harsh V. Pant

Last week, two suspected Islamist militants attacked the Paris office of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, with high-powered assault rifles, killing 12 people. Among the dead are the editor and cartoonist, Stephane Charbonnier, who was on an hit list appearing in the al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire magazine for "insulting the Prophet Mohammed". The attackers were heard shouting "We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed" and chanting "God is Great" in Arabic. This is the third such attack in a Western country in less than three months.

The two assailants stormed a staff meeting of Charlie Hebdo, conducting the raid with precision and military-grade weapons, and then escape into the streets and out of Paris, making them fugitives in France's worst terror attack in years.The men were well prepared for their mission, and there have been reports that one of the suspects had been convicted of recruiting fighters to battle American forces in Iraq.

Just two months ago, a group of French members of the Islamic State put out a video calling on Muslims to conduct terror attacks on French soil and offering them direct operational support. These calls were answered by the latest Paris attacks. French authorities have connected all the suspects to radical Islam, which is also underlined by the fact that the gunmen praised Allah as they executed victims. France's long-time fears of a homegrown attack are realized as it joins Australia and Canada as Western fronts in the fight against extremist elements in the Middle East.

US, UK for encryption of online services to track terrorists

Jan 17, 2015

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron appear at their joint press conference following meeting at the White House. 

WASHINGTON: Terming the cyber threat as one of the most serious national security challenges, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have asked for encryption of online services by private companies to maintain both people's privacy and help track down terrorists. 

"I think what we have to find is a consistent framework whereby our publics have confidence that their government can both protect them, but not abuse our capacity to operate in cyberspace. Because this is a whole new world, the laws that might have been designed for the traditional wiretap have to be updated," Obama said yesterday. 

"How we do that needs to be debated, both here in the US and in the UK. We're getting better at it. I think we're striking the balance better," he added. 

Noting that the companies in the US at least recognized that they have a responsibility to the public, Obama said the companies also want to make sure that they're meeting their responsibilities to their customers that are using their products. 

"So the dialogue that we're engaged in is designed to make sure that all of us feel confident that if there is an actual threat, our law enforcement and our intelligence officers can identify that threat and track that threat at the same time that our governments are not going around phishing into whatever text you might be sending on your smartphone. That's something that can be achieved," he said. 

Obama conceded that there are going to be situations where there are hard cases. 

"On the other hand, there are times where law enforcement and those of us whose job it is to protect the public aren't thinking about those problems because we're trying to track and prevent a particular terrorist event from happening," he said. 

The US and Britain agreed that the cyber threat was one of the most serious economic and national security challenges they face and requires cooperation between governments and the private sector. 

"Every day foreign governments, criminals, and hackers are attempting to probe, intrude into, and attack government and private sector systems in both of our countries," a statement said. 

Washington condemns anti-Charlie Hebdo protests

Jan 17, 2015

The United States on Friday condemned Friday violent protests by thousands of people in Muslim majority countries against a new cartoon of the prophet Mohammed published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday condemned Friday violent protests by thousands of people in Muslim majority countries against a new cartoon of the prophet Mohammed published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo. 

Washington stressed the "universal" right of the press to freely publish any kind of information, including caricatures, after at least three people were injured when protesters clashed with police outside the French consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. 

Among them was an AFP photographer, who was shot in the back. In Niger's second city, Zinder, protesters smashed the entrance door to the French cultural center and set fire to its cafeteria, library and offices, while three churches were also torched. 

"We certainly urge all to refrain from violence, exercise restraint and respect the rule of law," said Jeffrey Rathke, a State Department spokesman. 

"No act of legitimate journalism, however offensive some might find it, justifies an act of violence. That's I think an important starting point." 

The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo features a cartoon of Mohammed on its cover holding a "Je Suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) sign under the headline "All is forgiven." 

It was the first edition since Cherif and Said Kouachi gunned down 12 people in an attack on the magazine's Paris offices on January 7 over such cartoons. 

The image has angered many Muslims as depictions of Mohammed are widely considered forbidden in Islam. 

Freedom of expression is enshrined in the US Constitution, but religious satire is seen as taboo. 

"Media organizations and news outlets often publish information that's meant to cause debate, to stir debate," Rathke said. 

"And while we may not always agree with any particular judgment or every item of content, the right to publish that information is one that is fundamental and that we see as universal." 

The year of Paris

January 17, 2015 

During President Obama’s visit to India, India and the U.S. are expected to firm up agreements on renewable energy and new technologies.

As the world heads towards a new climate treaty by the end of the year, with Lima providing a bare-bones launching pad, many of the issues that have dogged negotiations will reach a flashpoint. Countries need to do more as was evident during the UN climate talks but there is not much ambition reflected either in terms of finance or technology transfer. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has reached just over $10 billion, far short of what developing countries need to carry out urgent actions. The Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has clearly laid a strong scientific basis, and adaptation alone will not save the earth from warming to levels which will have irreversible effects. The way the developed world is positioning itself, it is doubtful whether the issue of its historical responsibility will be the mainstay of the new treaty, post 2020. India maintains that developed countries have to pay for their pollution, and technology transfer cannot be entangled in intellectual property rights. Funding for mitigation and adaptation in the developing world becomes crucial but the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) has taken a hard hit in recent times. Countries like the United Kingdom have already ruled out a separate allocation of funds in addition to development aid for climate actions.

The developed world contends that emerging economies like China and India cannot be treated on a par with other developing nations and that they have an equal responsibility to curb emissions. The polluter pays principle is already wilting under pressure from the first world, and will be tested as erstwhile polluters develop cleaner technology and pass it on to their poorer cousins. A case in point is the investment Europe has made in solar energy with feed-in tariffs which has brought down the costs of photovoltaics. Renewable energy becomes the focus in countries like India and China, which has already reached a bilateral agreement with the U.S. on climate. During President Obama’s visit to India, India and the U.S. are expected to firm up agreements on renewable energy and new technologies. India has volunteered to reduce the energy intensity of its GDP by 20-25 per cent by 2020 as compared to the base year of 2005. The government has tightened norms for the cement industry and will introduce new norms for fuel emissions but its National Action Plan on Climate Change lacks a unified approach. The world will know by November if the aggregate national contributions are adequate to keep global average warming less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Alternatives to an unsustainable path are in plenty; only the commitment needs to be scaled up, and that’s why the year to Paris will be decisive.


By Samir Saran
JANUARY 16, 2015

What is a security actor and how is it different from being a great or major power? In many ways, this question is central to understanding the lack of appreciation of the European Union (EU) as an actor in the security arena in India and certainly in some other parts of Asia. The use of the word ‘security actor’ by EU agencies and research institutes is itself perhaps a neutralisation of the phrase ‘major power’. This reveals the ambivalence of the EU to power in contemporary times, despite having given the world several great powers in the past. This ambivalence, and the hesitant Asian comprehension of the EU’s role in the security domain shape the current debate.

However, to move beyond this general understanding and to try and understand the Indian perspective on this issue, three key enquiries are essential. First, does the EU have the agency to be a security actor? Second, does it have the capability and capacity to follow through in this role? And, finally, does the EU, or a significant part thereof, see itself as a Security Actor?

Agency: Who do I call?

The EU is a great economic power and is central to the construction of any polycentric order. In spite of this, it is not viewed as a security actor. Perhaps this can in part be explained by what Henry Kissinger once famously said, in an interview with Der Spiegel, ‘Who do I call if I want to call Europe?’. While the EU now has a number of structures that deal with security its security policy has not evolved to the point where it can shape emerging international security scenarios.

Billionaire Pawns Plaza Hotel for Bail

Michael Daly

It may be the storied house of Eloise, but New York City’s legendary Plaza is being hawked like a pinky ring by its Indian owner to help pay for his $3 billion bail in New Delhi. 

The owner of New York’s fabled Plaza Hotel has hawked it like the world’s biggest pinky ring to bail himself out of an Indian jail. 

To make the situation all the more remarkable, he hawked the house of Eloise along with two other hotels to an investment group that includes a Grammy-winning hip-hop artist and a noted New York sports agent. 

Who would have guessed that Pras Michel of the Fugees would go on to become a record-breaking bail bondsman and help spring an Indian billionaire from a New Delhi hoosegow? 

The Plaza owner, 66-year-old Subrata Roy, made the tentative deal from Tihar jail, where he has been held for nearly a year in lieu of $3 billion bail for allegedly defying a court order to refund investors in financial schemes that Indian regulatory authorities nixed. 

Roy has been described by a biographer as “a larger-than-life image where the dividing line between myth and reality disappears.” He started out with $32 and his father’s Lambretta scooter in 1978 and used deposits as small as a rupee from members of India’s working poor to build a bank that was not exactly a bank. 

The multibillion-dollar Sahara Group now employs more than 1 million people. Roy has insisted that he already complied with the reimbursement order. 

When the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) demanded proof, Sahara said there were no banking records, as the reimbursements had all been made with cash raised inside the company. The authorities insisted on some kind of documentation, and Sahara dispatched 127 trucks crammed with what were purported to be the proceeds of 30 million investors. 

Opinion: No country for old soldiers

In which Major Navdeep Singh takes India's higher defense leadership apart for the treatment meted out to veterans by the institutions meant for their welfare.

Hurtful is the cold reality that while the society at large renders lip service aplenty for our soldiers, the practical ground reality is somewhat removed from this theoretical compliment.

The rights and benefits of our men and women in uniform, especially disabled soldiers, are under siege, and if there is any institution to be thanked for protecting them, it is our Constitutional Courts, more particularly the Delhi and the Punjab & Haryana High Courts, which have time and again raised a protective shield for military personnel, veterans and their families from terror unleashed by that very officialdom which was designed to care for them.

Take for example Naik Suraj Bhan of the Punjab Regiment who suffered psychiatric scars after extensively serving in counter-insurgency and then suffering a fall while on duty. He was medically boarded out without any pension with the system branding his disability “neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service” thereby denying him disability benefits. After running from pillar to post, he finally got relief from the Punjab & Haryana High Court but the Army appealed to a Division Bench of the High Court and then to the Supreme Court. Thankfully the appeal was thrown out by the Supreme Court, but how many of these poor infirm and disabled soldiers afford assistance in Courts?

Pakistan's Local Militants Show Weakness With Islamic State Allegiance

January 16, 2015

Taliban propaganda keeps getting better, and now its become as good as that of the so-called Islamic State. A new 16 minute long video released on Twitter and other jihadi websites on Saturday, shows — with astonishing videography — influential former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid and other militants passing through a rugged mountainous area on horseback, waving ISIS flags.

Here is a link to the video from the renewed and improved media cell of the terror group. Children are shown in the forefront of what the militants claim is the beheading of a Pakistani soldier, to portray either that they don’t care about the psychological effects on the children seeing it live, or to portray that these children are as active in their propaganda as adults.

While many allegiances have come forth before, this one is the most significant among them and perhaps the most worrisome too. After the attack on a private school run by the Pakistani Army in Peshawar that killed over 140, mostly children, the Pakistani military and civilian government swore to take on all Taliban, good or bad. Without the support or genuine permission by elements within the Pakistani government, these groups have been able to do much less than they would with the support that they got from the state for many years, especially after 2002. Now that the Pakistani military announced that it will take off its gloves in dealing with all militants, it has effectively deserted them, making many of these groups feel neglected and short of cooperation.

Wall chalking and allegiances have punctured the air for people in Pakistan who are exhausted from the brunt of militancy at home. Worrying about the fate of minorities—including Shias and Christians, who have suffered first hand from the butchery of Sunni militant groups—the local media is pulsating with new questions. Militant groups in Pakistan have also been responsible for getting the country in trouble with its neighbors like in the case of high profile attacks abroad such as the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 (also known as 26/11), and several others in Afghanistan. The recent blast on the Pakistani side of the India-Pakistan land border at Wagah for which the Taliban claimed responsibility was also a remarkable attack to show the ambitions of these militants groups who have shown that they will essentially do anything to gain attention.

Chinese Anti-Aircraft Missiles Appear in South Sudan


The civil war in South Sudan is a little more than a year old, but it won’t end for lack of fresh weapons. Recently, South Sudanese troops proudly paraded a new surface-to-air missile launcher.

It’s also Chinese. Specifically, it’s a Chinese QW-2 Vanguard, according to consultant firm Armament Research Services, which identified the weaponfrom its design and markings.

The shoulder-fired QW-2 is a fairly advanced and modern weapon. It launches infrared-homing missiles that can shoot down everything from transport helicopters to jet fighters traveling at altitudes higher than 13,000 feet.

And there’s one overriding reason why China is supplying South Sudan with the missile—to ward off occasional air strikes by Sudan.

Chinese weapons and ammunition began appearing in large numbers among South Sudanese Pres. Salva Kiir’s troops in 2014.

“In recent months, we’ve seen large transfers from China,” Emilie LeBrun of weapons-monitoring group Small Arms Survey tells War Is Boring.

South Sudan is also highly dependent on oil — with most facilities located in the war-torn northern regions of the country. China heavily invests in South Sudan’s oil infrastructure, and wants to protect it.


January 15, 2015

Japan Ramps Up Military Budget to Ward Off China

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a 2.8 percent rise in defense spending on Wednesday, with Tokyo seeking to bolster defenses in its waters bordering China.

“The situation around Japan is changing,” Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said on Sunday. “The level of defense spending reflects the amount necessary to protect Japan’s air, sea, and land, and guard the lives and property of our citizens.”

The draft budget included 4.98 trillion yen ($42 billion, 35 billion euros) for items including planes, naval vessels, and other combat vehicles to guard waters.

“This is the largest budget ever,” one ministry official told the AFP news agency. The highest allocation previously, he said, was 4.96 trillion yen earmarked in 2002.

It is the third year in succession that Japanese defense spending has risen, though Tokyo has previously maintained a relatively low military profile. The trend reflects Abe’s wish to build a more active military amid rising tensions with China.

Small Islands, Big Dispute

In particular, the two countries have revived a decades-long spat over the sovereignty of a group of islands in the East China Sea. Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have become increasingly strained over the rocks, known as the Senkaku Islands, in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China.

America's Massive Military Dilemma in Asia: Visibility vs. Vulnerability

January 15, 2015 

In this last quarter of the Obama administration, U.S. leaders have a critical opportunity to make progress on a host of policies vital to strengthening the U.S. position in Asia. While the Trans-Pacific Partnership will rightfully dominate the domestic debate in early 2015, an equally important debate is occurring in the halls of the Pentagon and Capitol Hill one between visibility and vulnerability.

This tradeoff is critical because the value of visibility and the danger of vulnerability differ in peacetime and wartime. In peacetime, U.S. forces are most useful when they are most visible. Visible forces reassure allies and partners while deterring potential adversaries. Yet, visibility comes at a cost – increased vulnerability. Publicly sailing a carrier strike group into a disputed area can be a strong signal of resolve, but in wartime such actions open these forces to attack. Therefore, while U.S. leaders seek to maximize visibility in peacetime, they often attempt to minimize vulnerability is wartime.

The capabilities that maximize visibility and those that minimize vulnerability are quite different; sequestration is forcing U.S. leaders to choose between them. How should leaders in Washington decide in which capabilities to invest? One way is to examine the range of possible conflict scenarios and assess the advantages and disadvantages of visibility and vulnerability in each. Three types of potential Asian conflict scenarios—arrayed on a spectrum from peacetime to wartime—are particularly instructive: low-level coercion, short war, and protracted war.

Superbad: ISIS & Al Qaeda May Be Merging


ISTANBUL — For a year now, there has been a civil war within the civil war in Syria, one that pitted jihadist against jihadist, Al Qaeda against the upstart group that calls itself Islamic State run by the self-proclaimed “caliph” known as Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

One week ago, all that seemed to be turned on its head during the bloody terror attacks around Paris. Two men who slaughtered journalists at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo claimed they owed their allegiance, and were assigned their mission, by the most militant heirs of Osama bin Laden: the Yemen-based leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But a third killer, who murdered a policewoman and then four Jewish shoppers in a kosher grocery, and who claimed he “synchronized” his attacks with the others after helping them fund their operations, announced he owed his allegiance to Islamic State, widely known as ISIS.

Do the Paris attacks signal some sort of rapprochement or coordination between the two bitterly opposed branches of the same jihadist lineage? Could they augur a new wave of attacks throughout Europe or, indeed, the West?

On Thursday night, a series of counter-terror raids in Belgium targeting fighters returning to Europe from Syria seemed a further confirmation of the risks ahead. Two suspects were killed and one wounded in a shootout in the normally placid little Belgian town of Verviers.


January 15, 2015 

There is much talk here in Nigeria of the world’s muted response to the latest outrage by the Boko Haram Islamic insurgents who sacked the entire town of Baga in the beleaguered north-east while any number of heads of state gathered in Paris to mourn the deaths of 17 French citizens. Double standards? Perhaps. But if so, what should we say about the silence of President Goodluck Jonathan in the face of the wholesale slaughter of his citizens – 2000 according to initial reports; 150 according to the government – even as his French counterpart was to be seen everywhere exhorting his people to stand firm? Nine months ago, when Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls, it took the president nearly three weeks to acknowledge that anything had happened.

Nobody knows what Boko Haram want and perhaps they don’t know themselves. We only know what they don’t want, most famously ‘Western’ education. When they first upped the ante in late 2010, eight years after they announced themselves, they targeted churches, police stations and army barracks, along with the UN building in Abuja. This made sense of sorts but in 2013 they started killing Muslims in the north. Since they began their ‘armed struggle’, Boko Haram have killed around 5000 people and displaced 300,000, but these figures are guesswork; nobody really knows. Last week they killed 19 people in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, where the surviving Baga residents had fled, using a bomb strapped to a 10-year-old girl which they detonated by remote control.

As I wrote last year, there are many who believe that Boko Haram is the armed wing of the northern Muslim political establishment, smarting from the accidental ascendancy of Jonathan, a Christian from the oil-producing Niger Delta in the south. Last June, the Northern Elders Forum issued a communiqué which begins by asserting that the north laments the ‘dangerous trend’ by the Jonathan administration ‘aimed at weakening the determination of the North to reclaim its traditional position of providing leadership for the Nigerian polity’. After taking a swipe at the traitors among them who have fallen for Jonathan’s divide and rule tactics, it reiterates the long-held belief that the North has a divine right to rule (‘it is the almighty that has destined it so’) as the only way to keep the country ‘stable and secure’.

The Turkey-Hamas Nexus

Jonathan Schanzer, David Andrew Weinberg
January 16, 2015

Last week, Israel’s Foreign Ministry praised Qatar for purportedly expelling Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal from Doha. The announcement came shortly after CNN cited reports from a Hamas news agency indicating that Meshaal was to be expelled and was probably headed to Turkey. Within hours, however, CNN changed its story, issuing a correction on Twitter that read “sources close to Hamas—not news agency—say Qatar expelled Khaled Meshaal; Hamas official denies it.”

In actuality, Hamas issued multiple denials. Izzat Risheq, Hamas politburo member who reports to Meshaal and is believed to reside in Qatar, declared that “there is no basis of truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal leaving Doha.” He even asked CNN for an apology. Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson also believed to reside in Qatar, stated that “there is no truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal. And his place of residence. This is an attempt to stir up confusion, nothing more.” The Qatari paper Al-Sharq also reported that Meshaal was “currently in Doha” and “going about his activities as usual without change”.

It is still possible that Khaled Meshaal is on his way out of Doha. Indeed, a writer considered close to Hamas statedthat while the news about Meshaal leaving Qatar was not exactly correct, he did not rule it out. He only denied that the departure of the Hamas politburo leader would be the result of recent exchanges between Qatar and Turkey in an ongoing effort to deescalate tensions between the two countries.

Exclusive: ISIS Gaining Ground in Syria, Despite U.S. Strikes

 By Tim Mak

American jets are pounding Syria. But ISIS is taking key terrain—and putting more and more people under its black banners. 

ISIS continues to gain substantial ground in Syria, despite nearly 800 airstrikes in the American-led campaign to break its grip there. 

At least one-third of the country’s territory is now under ISIS influence, with recent gains in rural areas that can serve as a conduit to major cities that the so-called Islamic State hopes to eventually claim as part of its caliphate. Meanwhile, the Islamic extremist group does not appear to have suffered any major ground losses since the strikes began. The result is a net ground gain for ISIS, according to information compiled by two groups with on-the-ground sources. 

In Syria, ISIS “has not any lost any key terrain,” Jennifer Cafarella, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War who studies the Syrian conflict, explained to The Daily Beast. 

Even U.S. military officials privately conceded to The Daily Beast that ISIS has gained ground in some areas, even as the Pentagon claims its seized territory elsewhere, largely around the northern city of Kobani. That’s been the focus of the U.S.-led campaign, and ISIS has not been able to take the town, despite its best efforts. 

Al Qaeda Is Back In A Big Way

JAN 15, 2015

Defendants linked to al Qaeda react as a verdict upholding their jail sentences are pronounced at a state security court of appeals, in Sanaa, Yemen on April 23, 2013.

Despite its claim of responsibility earlier today, there's a lot that isn't publicly known about Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's connection to last week's by Cherif and Said Kouachi in Paris.

Said previously traveled to Yemen, met with influential Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar Al Awlaki,befriended the man behind the failed "underwear bomb" attempt, and received training and perhaps some seed money for a future attack against the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

But that was several years ago, long enough for the Kouachi brothers to have formulated the operational details of the plot on their own or with the assistance of other, yet-unknown accomplices.

The optics of today's announcement are still unmistakable. AQAP, which is part of a larger Al Qaeda network engaged in a struggle for jihadisthearts and minds with the upstart Islamic State, just claimed credit for the most galvanizing jihadist terror attack on a Western target in years.

The terrorism in Paris highlights that al Qaeda's core didn't fade into irrelevance after the US invasion of Afghanistan and deaths of its top figures. Instead, it shifted leadership, expertise, and operational capabilities to Yemen (and to some extent Syria).

The coming fall of the house of ISIS

By Jim Sisco
JANUARY 14, 2015 

The chinks in ISIS’s armor are already starting to appear and it is only a matter of time before ISIS is defeated.

ISIS’s initial popularity and ability to defeat its adversaries and acquire territory are attributed to several factors. The most important of which was a lack of governance in the region and the Syrian and Iraqi governments’ inability to deliver basic services. When ISIS initially took over territories in Syria and Iraq they delivered basic services, governance, and justice—although extreme—to many ungoverned regions. ISIS was able to immediately fill a void created by the ongoing civil war in Syria and a Shiite dominated Iraq Government that neglected the Sunni tribes. ISIS was able to play upon the population’s sympathies and desires and win the “hearts and minds” of the populations in territories they concurred.

Unlike al-Qaeda, whose philosophy is to create a global movement without acquiring vast territories, ISIS’s philosophy is to create an Islamic Caliphate. In order to achieve its objective, ISIS will need to maintain captured territory within existing states, provide basic goods and services and administer governance and justice to the populations in these controlled areas. ISIS lacks the capacity and ability to do so and is increasingly relying on fear and violence to maintain control of the areas they currently occupy. As opposition to ISIS increases, so does the level of brutality that ISIS imposes on the population, which will eventually be the cause of its demise. We are already seeing parts of the controlled areas push back in Syria and Iraq.

Managing of Oil, Gas and Mining Resources for Development

JAN 13, 2015

In 2013, global mining revenues were roughly $731 billion, or about five and a half times total annual official development assistance (ODA). Much of this activity is taking place in the developing world. For example, 51 of 54 African countries have ongoing or planned oil and gas exploration operations and a little over one quarter of Africans live in a country where natural resources accounts for 80 percent of all exports. Many of these countries citizens are often the world’s poorest and its governments are the least politically stable; according to discussions from the recent Annual Democracy Forum in Botswana in November, roughly 40 percent of conflicts that threaten stability in developing countries are directly linked to inequitable resource exploitation.

Building transparent and accountable institutions in these countries will be critical in unlocking resources for local-driven development and directing extractive revenues into productive investments in infrastructure, business enabling environment, and human capital. As the global demand for energy and raw materials continues to grow over the next several decades, sustainable development in resource-rich countries will depend on their ability to leverage the extractive industry to jumpstart development rather than simply the primary source of revenue. Given that the mismanagement of natural resource wealth breaks the social contract between citizens as taxpayers and governments as providers of public services, effective management of these resources can help bridge this gap and strengthen public confidence in the government’s ability to provide accountable and transparent governance. Donors and resource-rich developing countries must therefore act in concert to ensure that these demands are met and that developing countries progress.


The United States and United Kingdom will conduct joint cyber “war games” against each country’s banks, financial institutions, and other critical infrastructure in order to improve defenses against cyber attacks.

Additionally, the two allies will create a joint “cyber cell” featuring agents from both countries that will conduct the war games and share information on threats, as well as the best ways to combat hackers. The US division has already been staffed with members of the FBI, National Security Agency, GCHQ, and MI5, the Guardian reported.

The first war game will occur later this year with the help of the Bank of England, and will target institutions in London and on Wall Street. Later exercises will test other infrastructure such as power suppliers and transportation systems.

The news comes as British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in the United States Thursday to meet with President Barack Obama for two days of talks. The two are slated to discuss boosting the global economy and terrorism, as well as cyber security.

Prior to meeting with Obama, Cameron commented on the joint cyber initiative.


By Nick Simeone

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in what was expected to be his last major address to the troops before leaving office, told an Army audience today the world is at a defining moment, with events charging ahead with a new immediacy, creating less margin for error for U.S. leaders and he urged the military to “prepare this institution in ways that we’ve never had to.”

In an address at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy on Fort Bliss, Texas, Hagel described the cascade of events that have occurred on his watch — from threats associated with Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the emergence of the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant in the Middle East, Ebola’s spread in West Africa and other challenges to national security — as being unprecedented in modern times, a trend that he said will continue to place demands on military leaders.

“We are living at a very defining time in the world,” Hagel said. “We have not seen disruptions in the world order like we are seeing today since World War II.”

While only the people of the affected countries can ultimately solve such problems, Hagel said, the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria along with sectarian violence in the Middle East in general will require solid judgment on the part of U.S. leaders, who will have “very little margin of error.”
Key Requirements for Leadership

“The world will be presented more and more with those kinds of issues where responsible leadership will always end up having to rely on responsible judgment,” said Hagel, who added that not every problem will come with immediate answers.

Obama's Libya Fiasco

January 16, 2015

Nearly four years ago, in a moment that electrified global audiences, the beleaguered Libyan strongman Muammar al-Gaddafi declared his intention to "cleanse Libya house by house" as part of his impending siege of the rebellious, eastern city of Benghazi. Within a month, President Obama, with UN Security Council support, led an air coalition to save the city of Benghazi from Qaddafi’s threatened massacre. Willing to “lead from behind” after intense pressure from Britain and France, the president both launched and then expanded the initially stated UN sanctioned war aims and pursued regime change. As a result, President Obama made three critical pitfalls in pursuing this multilateral intervention.

First, Obama failed to articulate a clear and convincing case for war to the American public that justified why this military action was necessary and in the national interest. By no means a very close American ally, Muammar al-Qaddafi had taken steps in the previous eight years to improve relations with the U.S., including ceasing his nuclear weapons program and settling with the Lockerbie families. As a result, while a plurality of Americans initially supported the Libyan campaign in March 2011, by June public opinion had turned decidedly negative. Despite campaigning for president on ending America’s engagement in “wars of choice,” Obama had reluctantly bought into one alongside his European allies who were incapable of launching this intervention independently.

Second, Obama and his European allies changed their UN sanctioned war aims from a no-fly-zone and protection of civilians, to outright regime change. As a result, the U.S. alienated Moscow and Beijing who had withheld their vetoes against authorizing force based on the assumption that the proposed campaign had limited aims and intentions. By pursuing regime change without the full support of the UN Security Council, the U.S.-led coalition broke the trust of Moscow and Beijing and lost their participation in any post-war effort to rebuild the state. A globally sanctioned action became branded as an American and European enterprise. Since then, Moscow has repeatedly raised this episode as a reason it distrusts President Obama’s commitment to multilateralism. Critically as well, the U.S. and its European allies rejected a negotiated settlements proposed by the African Union and Qaddafi himself, which could have prevented a complete collapse of the state

Somalia: The Next Oil Superpower?

January 15, 2015
Source Link

Last month, Soma Oil and Gas, a London based energy company, searching for hydrocarbon deposits off the coast of Somalia, announced that it had completed a seismic survey to ascertain the potential for recoverable oil and gas deposits. Although further details have yet to be released, chief executive Rob Sheppard announced that the results were encouraging. However, Somalia, and potential investors, should proceed with caution when considering entering this frontier market.

East African oil exploration, and in Somalia specifically, is not a secret. Energy firms like Royal Dutch Shell and Exxonmobil operated in Somalia before the government collapsed in 1991. But recent gains against the insurgent group al Shabaab in the south and the decrease in piracy off the coast have sparked a regeneration of the industry. The Somali president, riding these positive evolutions, recently stated that the country is “open for business.”

Although recent security developments are encouraging, substantial hurdles still exist. The Heritage Institute recently released “Oil in Somalia: Adding Fuel to the Fire?,” by Dominik Balthasar. The paper discusses how the oil industry in Somalia could have a promising future, but it also explores the risks facing Somalia if the development of its petroleum resources is not carefully managed. Balthasar rightly asks, “is Somalia ready for oil?”

The historic challenges that have limited business opportunities in Somalia, domestic insurgency and piracy, have diminished for now, but these threats have not disappeared. Al Shabaab has been largely pushed out of southern Somalia by multinational forces, but has recently proven that it is still able to operate in the north of Kenya. As Kenya flexes to counter al Shabaab in its own country, it could provide an opportunity for al Shabaab to return to its previous strongholds in Somalia. And even as piracy has largely stopped, it is conceivable that al Shabaab or others could see oil tankers as opportunities to resurrect that practice as well.

Europe Rediscovers Nationalism

In his latest novel, French writer Michel Houellebecq presents a controversial situation: The year is 2022, and France has become an Islamicized country where universities have to teach the Koran, women have to wear the veil and polygamy is legal. The book, which created a stir in France, went on sale Jan. 7. That day, a group of terrorists killed 12 people at the headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Also on Jan. 7, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met British Prime Minister David Cameron in London. Although the formal reason for the meeting was to discuss the upcoming G-7 summit, the two leaders also discussed Cameron's proposals to limit migration in Europe. Finally, a much less publicized event took place in Germany that day: A group of politicians from the Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party met with members of Pegida, the anti-Islam protest group that has staged large protests in Dresden and minor protests in other German cities.

The date of these four episodes is only a coincidence, but the issues involved are not. A growing number of Europeans believe that people from other cultures are threatening their national identities and livelihoods. The emergence of Germany's Pegida movement, which opposes the "Islamization" of Germany, the terrorist attack in Paris and the recent attacks against mosques in Sweden put the focus on Muslims. But the Europeans' fear and mistrust of "foreigners" is a much broader phenomenon that goes beyond the issue of Islam-related violence. What is actually happening is that Europe is rediscovering nationalism.
The Limits of European Integration