29 January 2015

America’s Iraq misadventure

G Parthasarathy
Jan 29 2015

Its legacy: Terrorism across Europe and violence across the Islamic world

The US-led military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 received widespread international support because it was clearly established that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC were planned and executed by Al Qaida, based in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The same cannot, however, be said of American military intervention in Iraq. Proclaiming that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein regime possessed “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMDs), the US and its allies mounted a land, air and sea invasion of Iraq on March 1, 2003. Not surprisingly, it was soon found that Iraq indeed did not possess a single WMD. With Iraq’s army disintegrating, the country was soon taken over by the US. On May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, aboard an aircraft carrying the banner “Mission Accomplished”. Matters did not end there. By the time the US withdrew from Iraq, 4,491 American soldiers and an estimated 1,50,000 Iraqis were killed. The aftershocks of this invasion are still being felt across the Islamic world and in Europe.

With a majority Shia-dominated government taking over in Baghdad following decades of the minority Sunni domination, old sectarian scores were sought to be settled. A bloody sectarian civil war was accompanied by the emergence of Sunni fighters led by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, a veteran of the CIA-sponsored Afghan jihad, to challenge Baghdad's Shia-dominated regime. Matters worsened when a US-led alliance, backed by Sunni-dominated countries led by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, sought to violently overthrow the minority Shia dominated regime of Bashr Al Assad, in neighbouring Syria. Zarqawi’s followers and successors in Iraq joined this jihad against the Assad regime. Not surprisingly, Assad receives support from an alliance of Shia states and entities, including Iran, Iraq and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, with Russia providing the military muscle. 

The art of the deal

January 29, 2015 

To understand the strategic significance of the second summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama, it is necessary to look beyond the very important and tangible outcomes that the two leaders have unveiled.

Closing the file on the historic civil nuclear initiative, expanding defence cooperation, exploring common ground on climate change and intensifying the engagement on regional security cooperation could not have been possible without the refreshing new diplomatic culture of problem-solving under the Modi government. For years now, progress on these issues has been held up principally by the Indian reluctance to negotiate purposefully. By combining strong political will with a laser-like focus on practical solutions, Modi has altered the narrative on India’s relationship with America.

The Americans, by nature, like fixing problems when they find them. In India, it has been quite fashionable to accuse the US of being too transactional. The problem, however, is in the fact that Delhi had never been sufficiently transactional in the past. While this has been a generic problem with Indian diplomacy, Delhi’s preference for posturing had acquired an extra edge in dealings with America.

Still slipping on oil

January 29, 2015

It is ironic that at a time when the prime minister is talking about making India an easier place to do business, one of his ministries is moving in exactly the opposite direction. The draft revenue-sharing contract (DRSC), which seeks to replace the New Exploration Licensing Policy production-sharing contract (NELP-PSC) regime for oil and gas exploration in India with a revenue-sharing model, reveals an attitude of extreme suspicion of the private investor. It also indicates that the government has learned nothing from the fiascos in this sector over the past decade. The committee headed by Vijay Kelkar, formed to prepare a road map for enhancing domestic oil and gas production, submitted its report to the government of India in January last year. Eight months after the new government came to power at the Centre, no action has been taken on the recommendations of the committee.

There are four areas in which the DRSC has, in a sense, moved in an investor-unfriendly direction, especially compared to the NELP-PSC format. Production of oil and gas is, by its very nature, an uncertain and risk-laden process, subject to reservoir behaviour. By penalising an investor for under-production, the government fails to recognise that many factors other than a force majeure could have an impact on production. As if this were not enough, the DRSC goes on to prescribe the creation of an escrow account into which all oil/ gas revenues will flow in the first instance, ostensibly to safeguard the revenue interests of the government. Any dispute on payments between the government and the investor will choke the flow of revenue to the latter, depriving it of the financial resources to carry on production.

When oil prices fall, canny politicians get going

Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

At their meeting in Vienna on November 27 last year, the 12-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the cartel of oil-exporting countries, decided to desist from cutting production in the face of the dramatic fall in oil prices, leaving observers stunned. Last year, oil prices had plunged 30 per cent from $115 per barrel in June to around $80-82 in November. After the OPEC decision, oil prices declined further to around $72 a barrel. The price slide has continued and is currently hovering around $60 a barrel and may even fall further. The fall has been caused by a demand-supply mismatch, with the global market awash with American shale oil and increased supplies fromIraqand Libya. For the first time oil production in the United States of America has rivalled that of Saudi Arabia. Clearly, the oil market was being oversupplied. Yet OPEC decided not to cut production, leaving companies in the energy, mining and financial sectors nervous. Lower oil prices have hit revenues of countries like Russia, Iran, Nigeria and Venezuela. Saudi Arabia's decision not to cut production was the initial trigger for the price slide. The various stimulus measures put in place after the 2008 global economic crisis are tapering off, adding to fears of stagnation in the global economy and lower demand for oil.

The Russian rouble has already fallen over 14 per cent since July 2014 against the dollar and is falling further. Russia's economy is underpinned by oil to the extent of 60 per cent of its export earnings. This, coming on top of the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia on account of developments in Crimea and Ukraine, has squeezed Russia's access to global financial markets, resulting in a severe downturn in investment flows. But Russia is not broke; it holds at least $455 billion in reserves.

Century of India in Africa begins again

Deepak Vohra
Jan 29 2015 

As the Chinese economy slows, reducing its appetite for African commodities, Africa re-awakes to the advantages of partnership with India. India’s inclusive development model appears much closer to the African ubuntu ethos. India funds projects with substantial “bread and butter” impact in Africa

In December 2014 women ululated and men cheered as President Boni Yayi of Benin inaugurated an Indian-built tractor plant. We do not need white elephants, an official commented, our need is basic. He marvelled at the cost-effectiveness of the plant, remarking that a similar European factory would have cost three times as much.

With a $15 million soft loan from India, the plant was built in record time by the $300 mn Angelique International Ltd, India’s leading EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) Company in Africa with a footprint across 27 African countries. What does this represent in India’s intensifying engagement with a resurgent Africa? 

Dark Continent’s Indian diaspora

According to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, written in the first Century AD, and other writings, intrepid Indian sailors were in regular touch with the East coast of Africa for centuries. The formal end of slavery in 1833, marked the beginning of the Indian diaspora in the “Dark Continent” through the “indentured” labour system. Within a few years, over 3.5 million Indians had been transported to build the Kenya-Uganda Railway and to work on plantations.

The partition of soldiers

Jan 29, 2015

The Indian Army was totally apolitical till June 3, 1947, when the British government announced the Partition of India. In fact, during the Partition holocaust and till that date, both Muslim and non-Muslim soldiers remained totally impartial in dealing with communal violence.

The undivided Indian Army was a unique institution set up by the British in India. It was a body of Indian soldiers from mostly the martial classes officered by exclusively British officers for the first nearly two centuries, to serve Britain’s imperial interests. The British very cleverly developed the regimental mystique of “Naam, Namak and Nishan”. Naam stood for the community of the soldiers, Namak for loyalty to their paymaster and Nishan for the regimental flag. Indians started being recruited as officers in a small trickle after the First World War, in 1919, and their numbers increased to about 50 a year in 1934, when the Indian Military Academy was established in Dehradun. The floodgates opened for Indians to join as officers during the Second World War. I joined the Indian Army during the Second World War and served in the undivided Indian Army for nearly four years before Partition. In September 1946, I returned to India after serving in Burma during the closing months of the Second World War and then, for nearly a year in Indonesia engaged in combating insurgency of Soekarno’s Revolutionary Army. The Indonesian insurgents were all Muslims and had urged our Muslim soldiers to join them and serve the cause of Islam. A few Muslim soldiers of the Indian Army deserted and joined them. I do not know the exact number but I learnt from unauthentic sources that their number was a few hundreds. Muslim and non-Muslim soldiers had fought against the British unitedly during the 1857 uprising. Subsequently, all combat units, except the Gorkhas and Garhwalis, had a mixed composition of Muslims and non-Muslims. They fought wars together and lived as friendly comrades in peace, owing loyalty to their regiments. Political developments with the emergence of the Congress and the Muslim League did not affect them. The Indian Army was totally apolitical till June 3, 1947, when the British government announced the Partition of India. In fact, during the Partition holocaust and till that date, both Muslim and non-Muslim soldiers remained totally impartial in dealing with communal violence. After June 3, 1947, things started changing. A few senior Muslim officers started visiting Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

U.S. and India Share Sense of Unease Over China

JANUARY 26, 2015
Source Link

NEW DELHI — When President Obama landed here for a three-day visit, he brought a long list of issues to discuss, like energy and trade. But when he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India sat down to talk, the first 45 minutes were dominated by just one: China.

Mr. Obama and his aides discovered to their surprise that Mr. Modi’s assessment of China’s rise and its impact on the greater strategic situation in East Asia was closely aligned with their own. Just as they did, Mr. Modi seemed increasingly uneasy about China’s efforts to extend its influence around the region and interested in a united approach to counter them.

He agreed to sign a joint statement with Mr. Obama chiding Beijing for provoking conflict with neighbors over control of the South China Sea. He suggested reviving a loose security network involving the United States, India, Japan and Australia. And he expressed interest in playing a greater role in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, where India could help balance China’s influence.

For years, American presidents have tried to enlist India, the world’s largest democracy, in a more robust partnership, partly to offset China’s rising power. India has had a long history of suspicion and rivalry with China, which allied with New Delhi’s archenemy Pakistan during the Cold War. But it has long insisted on being an independent actor in world affairs and resisted aligning itself with the United States against its giant neighbor.

Fourth Generation Warfare: Equipping The Army

Anil Chait
Source Link

Fourth Generation Warfare is a decentralised form of warfare, where nation-states lose their monopoly over violence and the adversaries are driven to non-conventional warfare and blurs the dividing line between civvies and the combatants

“4GW is not new but return to warfare before emergence of nation states. It is mostly characterised by conflicts which not just nations but many groups will wage – It will be fought for many reasons beyond Clausewitzian explanation of war as an extension of politics by other means.” —William S Lind

As the world progresses into the twenty-first century, the character of international security and its management appears to be in the midst of a revolutionary shift, with the forces of technology, media, ideology and globalisation, threatening to transform the theory and practice of war.

Our nation is also coming to recognize that we are at an inflection point in our history. Multiple forms of attacks upon the Indian State are incubating and a multitude of manifested threats, with one common purpose to denigrate the power of the state and the will of its people, are being used simultaneously against India, at multiple levels, through resolute, sophisticated and adaptable adversaries. These adversaries understand that conflict for domination and influence occurs across a variety of forms and through platforms which could be structured to fit one’s goals, at any particular time.

How Come India Isn’t Speaking Out Against the Islamic State?

JANUARY 27, 2015 - 3:40 PM

The only hat tip to cooperation is buried deep into a U.S.-India joint statement released on Sunday, where the two leaders “reaffirmed their deep concern over the continued threat posed by transnational terrorism,” including groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The White House says India could play a role battling the Islamic State, according to a Reuters report. And yet at least publicly, top Indian leaders have said almost nothing about fighting the rampant terrorist group in Syria and Iraq. So why has India been so quiet?

For one, India has huge stakes in the Middle East — but in very different ways from the United States. India’s concerns in the region are less about national security implications, and more about the safety of its citizens. India is the world’s number one remittance country; it received roughly $71 billion in 2013, according to a World Bank report — and much of that comes from the Gulf.

An estimated seven million Indians reside in the Middle East, overwhelmingly concentrated in the Gulf, where they tend to be guest workers. And India still has an unknown number of workers in Syria. If New Delhi joined a coalition, or started speaking out against the Islamic State, it would “put a massive target on their backs,” says Tanvi Madan, an India expert at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

Terrorists' relatives asked Colonel Rai to cease fire, then killed him

January 28, 2015

Army on Wednesday paid glowing tributes to Colonel M N Rai, who died fighting militants in Jammu and Kashmir, recalling his efforts to reach out to youths in the militancy-hit region and said such sacrifice only strengthens its resolve to fight elements inimical to peace. 

"Col Rai always led from the front in multiple operations that he carried out in 2014 and also in 2015. He combined bravery with compassion and people in Tral knew him very well for his several initiatives," General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha told media persons after the wreath laying ceremony at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar.

"The supreme sacrifice of the brave men only strengthens our resolve to fight all elements inimical to security of Kashmir," he said as friends and colleagues recalled the contribution of Rai, one of the senior-most officers to be killed in last one year.

Rai, 39, commanding officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles, and head constable Sanjeev Kumar Singh Special Operations Group of Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed during the encounter in Tral in Pulawama district yesterday, in which two militants were also gunned down.

Saha said once the house where the militants were hiding was cordoned off, the father and brother of one of the terrorists approached Rai claiming that the ultra wanted to surrender. But even as Rai gave them an opportunity to do so, the militants came out of the house firing indiscriminately leading to the gunbattle.

Problems and Prospects of Indian defence planning

Rahul Bedi

Indian army’s bid to indigenously build FICVs in the private sector – albeit with foreign partners – reflects the confusions and concerns with Indian defence planning in the medium and long term.

India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has resurrected its indigenous $ 11-12 billion Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) programme to replace the Army’s ageing fleet of some 2500 Soviet-designed BMP-1s and BMP-2s.

Mooted in 2009 as the country’s first locally designed-and-built platform to be developed under the Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP) ‘Make Indian (hi-tech)’ category, the MoD was supposed to finance around 80 per cent of the cost of two 20-22 ton FICV prototypes. One of these was to be selected; following 24 months of field trials in varied terrain sometime around 2020, to eventually series build 2,610 FICVs.

Future Infantry Combat Vehicle

Official sources say, the MoD is presently completing financial details of the complex project -intended to be the world’s most modern FICV – before issuing an Expression of Interest (EOI) over the next few months to eight local companies, inviting them to participate in the ambitious programme.

These include Bharat Forge, Mahindra Defence, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Punj Lloyd, Roltas, Tata Power SED and Titagarh Wagons from the private sector, and the public sector Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Pipavav Defence, all of who will be permitted ‘collaborative tie-ups’ with overseas manufacturers. By late June 2014, all the eight had made their initial FICV presentations to the MoD’s specially instituted Integrated Project Management Team (IPMT).


January 27, 2015

A senior government official recently posed the provocative question: “Is land warfare dead?”

While his premise was primarily directed at the Army and Marines, the broader question is relevant to all of the military services: Are all forms of traditional warfare – land, sea, and air – dead?

This question might seem flippant, given the enormous challenges of dealing with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Russians in eastern Ukraine, and Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. Traditional forms of warfare – which one of us has described as “Wars of Iron” – are not dead. But they are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the average American.

Allies and adversaries alike have learned a key lesson from all U.S. wars since the 1991 Gulf War: fighting the United States in a conventional, force-on-force battle is a recipe for failure. Instead, fighting the United States successfully requires an asymmetric approach that extends beyond military means.

In the coming years, the key national security challenges facing the United States will be centered less and less on states or other actors who employ traditional forms of military power to accomplish their objectives. Perhaps even more importantly, individual Americans will increasingly experience threats to their security not from enemy tanks, bombers, or submarines, but through indirect, asymmetrical means.

The Dud of banning JuD – Zebra can’t change stripes

27 Jan , 2015

Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s High Commissioner was recently centre stage on one of our national TV channel. The competition for TRPs being never ending it didn’t really matter that Basit sabotaged the foreign secretary level talks by inviting Hurriyat hardliners for a ‘Biryani with Basit’ dinner-cum-discussion on how to destabilize India and keep J&K on the boil. Knowing Gilani and Co’s character of begging more, Basit would have arranged more bones and gravy, hence, institutionalizing more moolah through hawala and support from ISI-JuD-LeT-HuM would have formed part of the agenda. Feedback of Yasin Malik’s parleys with Hafiz Saeed and others in Pakistan and future course of action too would have been discussed. Strategies would have been chalked out how to keep certain section of the polity on the payroll for making pro-Pakistan statements and how to snare others to do so, making more inroads in media, engineering Track II discussions with select pro-Pak members and the like.

…why Pakistan keeps harping on plebiscite when the 1948 UN Resolution on Kashmir had categorically stated Pakistan must withdraw its security forces from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) before any plebiscite could be undertaken.

Surprisingly, none asked Abdul Basit why he was acting Begani Shadi Mein Abdullah Deewana; by harping on Kashmir when the illegal occupation of Pakistan is the only issue that needs to be discussion. No one asked him why Pakistan keeps harping on plebiscite when the 1948 UN Resolution on Kashmir had categorically stated Pakistan must withdraw its security forces from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) before any plebiscite could be undertaken. Pakistan deliberately killed the issue of plebiscite by not only not withdrawing her security forces but did the opposite; beefed up her security forces in POK, changed the demography of POK by moving large population to POK from other areas, and engineered massacre and exodus of Kashmiri Pundits from the Kashmir Valley as part of its proxy war.

Mr President, Perception is Everything

JANUARY 25, 2015 

Obama must realize that the Mumbai attacks were the tipping point in India’s battle against terrorism.

US President Barack Obama’s visit to India to attend the Republic Day celebrations is a sign of stronger ties between the two nations. Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have broken new grounds after the latter entered office in 2014. They have rapidly moved from former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s assertion of India and the United States being “natural allies” to Modi’s description of the two countries as “natural global partners.” The positive chemistry between the two leaders is epitomized by the fact that Obama is the first US president to attend the Republic Day celebrations.

US-India relations saw a downturn after the heydays of the India-US Civil Nuclear Energy Agreement of 2005. The deal was a personal achievement for then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who virtually staked the survival of his government while signing the agreement. But relations between the US and India became comatose as Singh’s government entered a self-preservation phase during its second term.

Ties between both nations reached an abyss in 2013, when Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was detained in the US for alleged perjury. Soon after, Indo-US relations turned frosty following a public outcry over Khobragade’s humiliation.

Hey, America: Give the Balance of Power a Chance

January 27, 2015

President Obama and his team scored an early success in the president's visit to India that didn't really require any effort on their part. The first 45 minutes of the president's meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was devoted to discussing China, with the U.S. side pleased to find Modi sharing their own concerns about implications of China's rise for the strategic situation in the region. Not only were the U.S. and Indian assessments about China congruent; Modi took the initiative in suggesting revival of an informal security network that included the United States, India, Australia, and Japan.

Modi's posture on this subject was much different from what has characterized India's overall strategic posture for most of its history since independence. Throughout the Cold War a major element of Indian diplomacy was what bore the label of neutralism, and later was more often called nonalignment. Neutralism did not sit well at all with U.S. policymakers, some of whom—most notably Secretary of State John Foster Dulles—sharply criticized it. In 1956 Dulles stated, “These neutral governments do not seem to realize that the Communist intentions are so diabolical and so hostile to their freedom and independence.” He said that neutralist countries “would eventually succumb unless they could develop a crusading spirit against the evil forces of Communism.” Dulles especially angered the Indians by referring to their variety of neutralism as “immoral”.

Dulles may have been more unrestrained than most in the language he applied to this topic, but he was reflecting a strong and recurring American outlook that has been applied as well to other situations in international politics. That outlook is one of seeing the world divided fairly clearly between good guys and bad guys, of becoming impatient with those who do not see it the same way, and of using U.S. initiative to get the laggards to take their proper place in the good-vs.-bad lineup. That outlook manifested itself years after the Cold War when President George W. Bush told everyone else in the world that they were either with us or with the terrorists.

China's Military Parade: A Warning to Japan and the US

January 28, 2015

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Countries around the world will commemorate the event with their own celebrations – including a May ceremony in Russia that is expected to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and even North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This week, China announced its own plans to commemorate the end of the war with a “grand military parade.”

China typically holds a major military parade on every tenth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. The last parade came in 2009 under then-President Hu Jintao and incorporated 52 Chinese-made weapons systems, including cruise missiles, drones, and (flying overhead) fighter jets. The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II provides Xi a handy excuse to hold his own military parade without waiting another four years for the 70th anniversary of the PRC to roll around.

Back in 2009, an official from the National Day Military Parade Joint Command attempted to reassure observers that the public display of China’s military might was not meant to intimidate anyone. “A country’s military ability is not a threat to anyone; what is important is its military policy,” he insisted. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying echoed this stance when asked about the 2015 military parade in Tuesday’s press conference. “By hosting commemorative events with other counties, China is to awaken each and every virtuous man’s desire for and commitment to peace, to refresh people’s memory of the history and love for peace, and to showcase China’s staunch position of upholding the victory of WWII and the post-war international order, and safeguarding world peace,” Hua said.

Michel Houellebecq's Soumission is the Soundtrack of Our Time

January 27, 2015

Irony is the quintessential Western cultural achievement. If the West does not appreciate the importance of that defining character trait, it won't stand a chance.

It is not Michel Houellebecq's fault that his new novel Soumission ("Submission") was published in France on the same day that fanatic Islamist killers wiped out the editorial board of a satirical newspaper.

But the gruesome fate of Charlie Hebdo - and the heated (and often overheated) debate about Islamic fundamentalism and the terror it has bred in Europe and elsewhere-has become inextricably linked with Houellebecq's dystopian story of a near-future France in which the election of a Muslim president triggers the transformation of society away from its Western ideals.

In Europe, with its widespread sense of malaise over economic decline, unguided immigration, doubts about national identity, and war in the continent's periphery, the book has become the soundtrack of our time.

Why is this important for Strategic Europe? Because the novel, which is already a phenomenal success in France and Germany, picks up on the prevailing sentiment in Europe, which is the exact opposite of the goal of this blog. While we at Carnegie Europe have been trying to make the case for a Europe that embraces an outward-looking, more unified, more responsible approach to the world, Houellebecq depicts a Europe that has lost its life force.

His novel, like some of his earlier works, is essentially a fantasy of self-elimination. It is not about muscle, it is about atony. If Houellebecq, a man with remarkably fine antennae, is only 10 percent right about what he sees as the prevailing currents in Europe, Strategic Europe's aim will not just be a tall order. It will be impossible.

You can’t dance around the topic of radical Islam

January 25, 2015

I’ve never been a fan of global conferences to solve problems, but when I read that the Obama administration is organising a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism for February 18, in response to the Paris killings, I had a visceral reaction: Is there a box on my tax returns that I can check so my tax dollars won’t go to pay for this?

When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by al-Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq.

Last week the conservative columnist Rich Lowry wrote an essay in Politico Magazine that contained quotes from White House spokesman Josh Earnest that I could not believe. But I checked the transcript: 100 per cent correct. I can’t say it better than Lowry did: “The administration has lapsed into unselfconscious ridiculousness. Asked why the administration won’t say (after the Paris attacks) we are at war with radical Islam, Earnest on Tuesday explained the administration’s first concern is ‘accuracy’. ‘We want to describe exactly what happened. These are individuals who carried out an act of terrorism, and they later tried to justify that act of terrorism by invoking the religion of Islam and their own deviant view of it’. “This makes it sound as if the Charlie Hebdo terrorists set out to commit a random act of violent extremism and only subsequently, when they realised that they needed some justification, did they reach for Islam.

“The day before, Earnest had conceded that there are lists of recent ‘examples of individuals who have cited Islam as they’ve carried out acts of violence’. Cited Islam? According to the Earnest theory… purposeless violent extremists rummage through the scriptures of great faiths, looking for some verses to cite to support their mayhem and often happen to settle on the holy texts of Islam.”

Why ISIS Keeps Expanding

Lina Khatib
January 21, 2015 

Perhaps no self-designation by an armed group has been more apt in the current context of the Syrian conflict than the Islamic State’s slogan, “lasting and expanding”. More than four months after the start of an international airstrikes campaign against the organization, ISIS continues to greatly enlarge the area under its control. It is reported that since September 2014, when the international coalition airstrikes against ISIS began, its Syrian territories have doubled in size. There are several reasons for this enlargement, which is going beyond the geographical areas of Syria and Iraq to become a global expansion.

A basic reason is that, in limiting itself to airstrikes, the anti-ISIS international coalition is not implementing a military strategy with diversified components such as ground engagement. The importance of the latter has become clear following the losses incurred by the Islamic State in areas in which its fighters have faced resistance from the peshmerga. The Kobani battles show that ISIS struggles when confronted with boots on the ground. Those boots need not be Western; they can be Middle Eastern. However, the West has been slow in providing adequate military support to the Syrian opposition, which would have allowed it to stand up to the ISIS expansion more effectively. Only recently has the United States announced that it is deploying 400 troops to train the Free Syrian Army. This is a positive step but comes a little too late in the game. 

The coalition’s strikes have also indirectly helped the ISIS expansion through focusing on Iraq rather than Syria. When ISIS feels stretched following an attempt to expand into a given territory, it always resorts to retreating from this territory in order to re-group in core areas, re-strategize, and expand again in directions other than the land originally targeted. An example of this took place last year, when ISIS attempted to take over Idlib in the west but failed largely because of the governorate’s separation from Raqqa—the Islamic State’s headquarters—by Aleppo. After retreating to Raqqa, ISIS turned eastwards and has since been attempting to take over the governorate of Deir ez-Zor. As the coalition’s campaign is centered on ISIS in Iraq, the organization has withdrawn from some Iraqi areas to focus its energies on Syria, where it faces fewer challenges.

Red Alert: Rocket Fire Could Signal New Offensive on Mariupol

JANUARY 24, 2015

Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as well as a statement made by a separatist leader, indicate the potential preparation of an offensive on the city. While this would be a significant escalation and an indicator of Russian intent to push further into Ukraine, potentially forming a much-rumored land connection to the northern border of Crimea, there are also several indicators required for such an offensive that are currently still missing.

The heavy rocket artillery firing has been widely reported, and the death toll has risen to 27. Mariupol has been shelled in the past, notably in early September, but as the cease-fire took effect, separatist forces generally conducted attacks only outside of the city. It is not clear whether this is simply an intensification of relatively static fighting along the front between Russian and pro-Russian forces on the one side, and Ukrainians, or the beginning of a Russian-led offensive to widen the pocket, or the opening move in a broader strategic offensive to link up with Crimea, 200 miles to the west of the pocket.

Red Alert Update: At the Heart of the Mariupol Crisis

JANUARY 25, 2015

As the situation on the ground quiets down in the wake of the Jan. 24 barrage by Russian-allied forces near the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Stratfor is continuing the watch initiated by our Red Alert. We believe, at the very least, that Russia is keeping its option to mount an offensive open, and at most, is preparing to launch an offensive to secure its hold on the Crimean Peninsula.

The artillery barrage in Mariupol has died down, and according to the Ukrainian military's local commander, there have been no attacks today. Some diplomacy is spinning up, and mutual charges of responsibility are being exchanged. The pro-Russian faction is blaming the Ukrainian military for the attack, and the Ukrainians are charging that the Russian military initiated the barrage, not Ukrainian pro-Russian factions. The fog of war is being supplemented by deliberate disinformation on all sides. The issue is whether this was an isolated incident or part of an extended strategy. If it is, it is not a Ukrainian strategy. Following recent defeats, Ukraine is not in a position to go on the offensive in this region, despite a noticeable build up and mobilization of Ukrainian forces in recent weeks. The Russians, however, have been moving regular forces, including some first-rate units, into Donbas. More important than the charges and counter-charges is this fact: At this moment, the rebels are being strongly reinforced by Russian forces, and those forces have an operational advantage but a strategic problem.

5 Myths about America's Nuclear Weapons Debunked

Robert Gard,Philip Coyle,Greg Terryn,John Isaacs
January 28, 2015 

"As the mission of our nuclear weapons changes, so should the size and shape of the arsenal. Until then, we will continue to receive unsettling reports of scandals and inefficiencies within our nuclear enterprise."

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced last week that it has decided to move its famed “Doomsday Clock” three minutes closer to midnight or, in effect, closer to the “end of humanity.” While this year, the Bulletin focused on the threat from climate change, a spokesperson added that “a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.”

Indeed, nuclear weapons still play a limited, yet very expensive, role in our national security. The Congressional Budget Office announced last week that the United States will spend about $350 billion over the next decade to upgrade and maintain its arsenal. But at the same time, there are also misconceptions about the purpose, status and effectiveness of our arsenal. Let’s disarm some of those myths:

1. Nuclear weapons are the highest priority U.S. military forces:

Out-going Secretary Hagel perpetuated this myth during his press conferenceannouncing the results of the reviews: “Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. national security, and it's DOD's highest priority mission. No other capability we have is more important.” While nuclear deterrence has been a vestige of U.S defense policy since World War II, it clearly does not represent today’s highest priority for the DOD in terms of attention, planning or funding.

Think Harder

JANUARY 27, 2015

Every year, American parents turn to U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings, a frequently consulted (and just as frequently derided) index indicating year after year the surprising fact that Princeton, Harvard, and Yale are, once again, the best places to send your kids to school.

What if you’re not an anxious parent looking to get your kids out of the house, but an anxious government official looking for policy advice? Where’s the best place to turn? This year, you might reference something called the “2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report,” just released by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program.

Billed as “the most comprehensive ranking of the world’s top think tanks,” the report ranks 150 think tanks across several categories, including region and area of research. Of course, there’s also a “Top Think Tanks Worldwide” section, which allows the Princetons and Harvards of the think tank world (Brookings, Chatham House, and the Carnegie Endowment) to get their due.

According to James McGann, a University of Pennsylvania professor who heads the survey, he and his colleagues acquired the data by contacting thousands of journalists, policymakers, and, yes, think tanks and inviting them to nominate candidates for inclusion in the list. In a second round, participants ranked those that made the cut from “best” to “worst.” Smaller expert panels then reviewed and massaged the list according to their understanding of each think tank’s quality. Neither the identities of these expert panels nor the specific criteria for their selection are publically revealed. Though the report’s authors provide a list of 28 criteria that participants are “encouraged” to apply to their decisions, the actual ranking is subjective, the process known only to the experts themselves.

Top American Diplomat Decries ‘Lies’ of Russian Media

JANUARY 27, 2015

America’s top diplomat for Europe denounced Russian state-media coverage of the Ukraine crisis on Tuesday and belittled the Kremlin’s propaganda efforts in the United States as fallacious and ineffective.

“All you have to do is look at RT’s tiny, tiny audience in the United States to understand what happens when you broadcast untruths in a media space that is full of dynamic, truthful opinion,” said Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, referring to the Kremlin-backed global media company. “State-owned Russian media spews lies about who’s responsible for the violence [in Ukraine].”

Speaking at a Brookings Institution event in Washington, D.C., where advertisements promoting RT programming appear on numerous bus stops and public placards, Nuland rejected a journalist’s proposal to ban RT from broadcasting in the United States, saying, “We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of media in this country.“

“The question we ask Russians is, why are you so afraid of diversity of opinion in your own space?” Nuland added.

A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

In recent days, Russian media has gamely relayed the Kremlin line that the Ukrainian army is a “foreign legion” that represents NATO’s interests and that Kiev is responsible for a devastating rocket strike that killed 30 civilians in Mariupol — accusations Western nations categorically deny.

The European Union, Nationalism and the Crisis of Europe

JANUARY 20, 2015

Last week, I wrote about the crisis of Islamic radicalism and the problem of European nationalism. This week's events give me the opportunity to address the question of European nationalism again, this time from the standpoint of the European Union and the European Central Bank, using a term that only an economist could invent: "quantitative easing."

European media has been flooded for the past week with leaks about the European Central Bank's forthcoming plan to stimulate the faltering European economy by implementing quantitative easing. First carried by Der Spiegel and then picked up by other media, the story has not been denied by anyone at the bank nor any senior European official. We can therefore call this an official leak, because it lets everyone know what is coming before an official announcement is made later in the week.

The plan is an attempt to spur economic activity in Europe by increasing the amount of money available. It calls for governments to increase their borrowing for various projects designed to increase growth and decrease unemployment. Rather than selling the bonds on the open market, a move that would trigger a rise in interest rates, the bonds are sold to the central banks of eurozone member states, which have the ability to print new money. The money is then sent to the treasury. With more money flowing through the system, recessions driven by a lack of capital are relieved. This is why the measure is called quantitative easing.

The New Drivers of Europe's Geopolitics

JANUARY 27, 2015 

For the past two weeks, I have focused on the growing fragmentation of Europe. Two weeks ago, the murders in Paris prompted me to write about the fault line between Europe and the Islamic world. Last week, I wrote about the nationalism that is rising in individual European countries after the European Central Bank was forced to allow national banks to participate in quantitative easing so European nations wouldn't be forced to bear the debt of other nations. I am focusing on fragmentation partly because it is happening before our eyes, partly because Stratfor has been forecasting this for a long time and partly because my new book on the fragmentation of Europe — Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe — is being released today.

This is the week to speak of the political and social fragmentation within European nations and its impact on Europe as a whole. The coalition of the Radical Left party, known as Syriza, has scored a major victory in Greece. Now the party is forming a ruling coalition and overwhelming the traditional mainstream parties. It is drawing along other left-wing and right-wing parties that are united only in their resistance to the EU's insistence that austerity is the solution to the ongoing economic crisis that began in 2008.
Two Versions of the Same Tale

The story is well known. The financial crisis of 2008, which began as a mortgage default issue in the United States, created a sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Some European countries were unable to make payment on bonds, and this threatened the European banking system. There had to be some sort of state intervention, but there was a fundamental disagreement about what problem had to be solved. Broadly speaking, there were two narratives.

The French Colonialist’s Comeuppance

JANUARY 21, 2015

By pushing its immigrants to the fringes of French society, the country cultivated a breeding ground for humiliation, exclusion, and retribution. 
For I am all the subjects that you have, Which first was mine own king; and here you sty me

In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me

The rest of the island.

You taught me language; and my profit on’t

Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you

For learning me your language!

—Caliban in The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2

France and, by extension, Europe have put themselves between a rock and a hard place. In the French case, this situation has persisted for decades, even more than a century. While religious extremism may be the proximate motivation for the vicious slaughter at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market in Paris, the legacy of colonialism and the humiliation of ex-colonial subjects are at the heart of the matter.

In April 1961, as a young student in France, I found myself driving with four other Americans through Bordeaux, returning from a week in Spain. As we came to the edge of the city, we were stopped at a military roadblock. We were asked to step out of the car while heavily armed soldiers searched the trunk, the insides, and underneath. As we drove out of Bordeaux half an hour later, we went through the drill a second time.

Stay Scary, America

JANUARY 25, 2015

When it comes to the U.S. response to extremists abroad, it is far better for America to be feared, and to be loved. 

In Robert De Niro’s 1993 mafia epic, A Bronx Tale, Chazz Palminteri’s mob boss character Sonny takes a local kid under his wing and teaches him the ways of the streets. When his protégé asks the age-old question of whether it’s better to be feared of loved, Sonny gives him a rousing response:

It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared. Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing…. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me. But the trick is to not be hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good. I give them too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.

His message is a crucial one for a wise guy on the rise, but it also has a storied place in the realm of international affairs, dating back to the late 1400s and Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince.

In the eyes of many, the presidency of George W. Bush brought this sentiment to the forefront of post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy, a shift that President Barack Obama has tried, with some success, to roll back. From the disavowal of enhanced interrogation techniques to restoring relations with Cuba and vastly reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has undeniably softened the overall face of American power. These changes didn’t occur by accident, of course; it’s not America’s style to admit it, but after a few years of rather harsh criticism abroad, at least part of the American electorate — the part that elected Obama — wanted to be liked again.


Rensselaer (Rens) W. Lee III is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and president of Global Advisory Services, a McLean, Virginia-based consulting firm. Dr. Lee has performed overseas contract assignments for the State Department, the Department of Energy, the World Bank, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and other agencies, which have encompassed Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caribbean, and much of South America.

During 2002––03, he worked as a research analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, where he produced major reports on terrorist finance, nuclear smuggling and Afghanistan’s opium-heroin trade. In 2009, he was a Title VIII-supported short-term scholar at the Kennan Institute of Advanced Russian Studies.

Dr. Lee received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and is fluent in Russian, Chinese, Spanish and French. He expresses thanks to Professor Artyom Lukin of the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok for his comments on this article. Rens Lee


Moscow’s relations with its eastern territories, especially the nine provinces of the Russian Far East (RFE), have significant security implications for Russia and for the Asia-Pacific community generally.[1] With 36 percent of the national territory and 25,000 km of sea coast, and richly endowed with natural resources, the RFE is a valuable and strategically desirable piece of real estate. Yet, holding just 4.4 percent of Russia’s population and contributing a mere 5.6 percent to the country’s GDP, it remains a weak and underdeveloped backwater. The RFE’s geographical situation is precarious: remote from and poorly connected to Russia’s European core and uncomfortably close to dynamic and ambitious outside powers, most notably China. In broader geopolitical terms, Moscow’s authority continues to rest mainly on its political-military presence in the RFE-its industrial and financial footprint in that part of the world to date is essentially insignificant. The non-security components of power, however, have great modern day significance, and ultimately will determine whether Moscow can successfully retain real sovereignty over the RFE, or whether the interplay of outside forces will increasingly dominate the region’s economic and political future.

Technical Developments Changing Coin Strategies And Tactics

Pravash Kumar Mishra

Increasingly the counter-insurgency operations are throwing up new tactical and strategic challenges for the commanders and the political leadership as they seek to de-centralise tactical decisions to ground commanders and provide the forces technology rich, stand-off weaponry.

At present due to various technical developments in COIN, particularly in weapons, ammunitions, field uniform, air cover, surveillance/technical/ communication equipments, anti-ballistic, anti-mine and anti-blast all terrain vehicles, the strategies and tactics in counter insurgency operations in Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam and all Maoist affected states require a change.

The impact of such developments also depends upon the new tactics adopted by various militant groups (own and foreign mercenaries) operating in India including the Maoists. The Maoist insurgency had spread to 20 of the 28 states. As of now, 182 districts are disturbed by Maoists, 83 partially and 35 badly. The whole of J&K and the entire north-east keep Army and paramilitary forces occupied in countering various Indian and foreign militant groups. At present, the uses of helicopters are mostly for casualty evacuation, troop mobility and other logistics roles. Air Force, BSF, civil helicopters and UAVs are now deployed in support of all COIN.

The tactics now adopted in a COIN is, maximum de-centralisation of control, leaving the command to field commanders to take decisions. Maoist insurgency is a pan-Indian problem. As a strategy, CRPF along with BSF, RPF, CISF, ITBP, NSG, state IRB/commando forces and SSB are deployed to contain insurgency. The strategy of insurgents varies from state to state excluding Maoists’, which is common in all the affected states. The new training tactics adopted by the COIN troops include hostage crisis, rescuing citizens abducted by Maoists, providing proximate security to VIPs on visit to infested areas, resolving suicide attacks, counter terrorist operations, casualty evacuation by air and quick reaction in providing logistics and reliable communication to the spot. Additional 15 Nishant Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and about 50 OFB Kolkata made counter-land mine vehicles had been provided to field areas to protect troops from hidden mines.