10 March 2015

India’s Middle East Policy Gathers Momentum

By Kabir Taneja
March 08, 2015

New Delhi’s active diplomacy with the region is now being bolstered by growing recognition of threats such as ISIS. 

Much of India’s foreign policy, even today, is based on the fundamentals laid down by the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. India’s place in the world and the policies that have shaped its global personality as a nation are based on Nehru’s ideals, which were sacrosanct until the Indo-China war of 1962 offered a perspective based on realism, rather than idealism.

Nehru was genuinely fond of driving India’s foreign policy, just like Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi have been. However, Nehru’s play in extending India’s hand of friendship and cooperation in the Middle East and Persian Gulf (more commonly known in India as West Asia) was a masterstroke, the benefits of which India reaps in the region even today.

India’s influence post-independence in the region started with the rapport that Nehru ended up building with the former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. By 1953, eminent Indian diplomat V. K. Krishna Menon had already started to market the idea of a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at the United Nations. Nehru, Gamel, and others from Asia and Europe later championed the NAM, at the time a revolution, but now an idea well past its expiry date.

Nehru made Cairo a single-point policy in West Asia, though which New Delhi over the years developed exposure to the various intricacies of the region. Even though trade between Egypt and India never flourished to the levels that both Nasser and Nehru had hoped for, the Nehru-Nasser dynamic did lay much of the groundwork for India’s policy of strategically backing Arab states. Even after Nasser died in 1970, India supported his successor President Anwar Sadat’s regime as it partnered with Hafez al-Assad’s Syria and took on the Israelis in the October War (Yom Kippur War).

Continuing the trend, India also maintained good relations with Hafez al-Assad’s Ba’athist regime in Damascus. These ties were retained when his son, Bashar al-Assad, took over the presidency of Syria in 2000. India has maintained a sly preference for the Assad regime even during the current Syrian Civil War, echoing the Russian line of supporting only an amicable solution via talks. In addition to taking part in the Geneva II talks, New Delhi sent a business delegation to Syria last May to bolster trade ties.

India's ‘Airpocalypse’

By Asit K. Biswas ,Julian Kirchherr
March 08, 2015

India has been pursuing a non-sustainable development path that repeats many of China’s mistakes. 

Rising levels of air pollution in India are truly worrisome. New Delhi is now ranked as the most polluted city on earth where air pollution may be 60 times higher than what is considered safe. In total, 13 of the world’s dirtiest 20 cities are now in India, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The ramifications of this development are many. Air pollution has already shortened average life expectancy by three years for almost 700 million people in India, according to an estimate by the University of Chicago. Only China is worse off. Air pollution has shortened the lives of the people in north Chinese by 5.5 years, the relic of its past growth-at-any-cost policies.

China is fundamental in the discourse on air pollution in India. When the WHO released its report on the most polluted cities on earth, India rejected the findings immediately, claiming the UN agency had overestimated the levels, especially in India’s capital, while underestimating the levels in Beijing (ranked 77th in the WHO report). The Indian government was unwilling to accept that the country had already surpassed China’s high air pollution levels.

Many believe that air pollution will be an inevitable side effect if India wants to grow as fast in the next three decades as China did in the past three. When asked recently if he planned to cut coal-powered electricity, Prakash Javadekar, the Environment Minister, responded: “What cuts? That’s more for developed countries. India’s first task is the eradication of poverty.”

China is now significantly more developed than India. Its per capita income is 4.5 times higher. However, it is now paying the price for its past high-growth policies. China’s “pollution is nature’s red-light warnings against the model of inefficient and blind development,” Prime Minister Li Keqiang recently acknowledged.

Consequently, China has now launched a variety of anti-air-pollution initiatives in its declared “war on pollution.” Many may be promising – ranging, among other things, from public transportation enhancement to green trade and a revision of the country’s energy mix. Beijing alone, once dubbed as “Greyjing” by the international media, will invest almost 760 billion yuan ($121 billion) in anti-air-pollution measuresby 2017. Admittedly, China has been no environmental ideal thus far, but it may now be on the right track.

Southern Asia's Nuclear Powers Southern Asia's Nuclear Powers

Author: Eleanor Albert, Online Writer/Editor

March 6, 2015 Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation/Courtesy Reuters


Southern Asia is home to three nuclear powers—China, India, and Pakistan—that continue to expand and modernize their arms programs. Motivated by the need to address perceived security threats, each is seeking to expand ballistic missile and cruise missile-based nuclear delivery systems. Such nuclear competition is dangerous given mounting mistrust and a dearth of diplomatic measures in place to reduce risk of confrontation. Pakistan’s chronic political instability, spotty nonproliferation record, and ongoing threats posed by militant forces have focused special concern on the safety of its nuclear materials. 

What are China's nuclear capabilities? 

China is seeking to soon achieve a nuclear triad (land, air, and sea-based nuclear delivery capabilities). Analysts estimate that China’s inventory is close to two hundred and fifty warheads. This includes short, intermediate, and long-range ballistic missiles. Some experts say China has as many as sixty long-range missiles with ranges between 4,350-9,320 miles. China's Central Military Commission oversees the country's nuclear weapons under the management (PDF) of the Second Artillery Force of the People’s Liberation Army.

Beijing first pursued atomic weapons after the Korean War (1950–1953) and conducted its first nuclear test in 1964. The U.S. nuclear threat during the 1950s Taiwan Crisis incentivized China's strategic nuclear program. Since China’s economic boom, Beijing has sought to modernize its nuclear forces to improve survivable second-strike capabilities, which would prevent the destruction of its entire arsenal in the event of a first-strike attack, securing the means for nuclear retaliation. Though historically driven by both U.S. and Soviet capabilities, the recent modernization of China's nuclear forces is primarily motivated (PDF) by existing and developing U.S. capabilities.

In addition to increasing the size of its arsenal, China is also altering the composition of its nuclear forces to build up more mobile systems. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2014 annual report (PDF) said that China’s nuclear forces would grow considerably over the next five years, with the introduction of road-mobile nuclear missiles, ballistic missile submarines, and multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles. Meanwhile, some experts stress that the pace of growth is slow. Chinese missile accuracy has also significantly improved (PDF), according to a U.S. Department of Defense report.

What India can Aspire for in Unmanned Systems and Cyber Warfare

By Rear Admiral (Retd) Dr S Kulshrestha 
Source Link

“We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken—you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

—President Barack Obama, inaugural address, January 20, 2009

THE CURRENT approach to the US national security relies on technological superiority over the adversaries and not on overwhelming numbers of weaponry, as was the case during WW II. 

Technology is thus, the core and integral aspect of US national security. Technology is integral to war fighting, be it weapons, C4ISR, logistics or counter measures and its superiority consists in quickly overpowering the adversary. Inferring from the above, a technology acquired/developed by an adversary or ability to acquire it, also becomes a national security issue for a government, this in turn, propels the science and technology policy to invest in military R&D. Emerging technologies with military uses should therefore continue to remain in forefront of issues affecting national security. Developing technologies to meet a nation’s national security environment is a complex process involving basic research, applied research, and development of useful products, which aid in national security. This therefore envelops a much larger canvas of institutions and production agencies in the civilian sector. A country would perforce have to seek technologies in the civilian realm if they are befitting goals in the national security domain. The investment in science and technology has to be structured to meet the security needs that may fructify in the civil sector as well.


March 9, 2015

In the decades since the United States and Saudi Arabia began funding the Pakistani-run jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the loosely knit groups of Arab volunteers who joined the Afghan mujahideen have mutated – both in reality and in western perceptions – from “freedom-fighters” to al Qaeda to the so-called Islamic State. The factors that have driven these changes, including the role of U.S. policy, have been widely debated. Less attention, however, has been given to understanding the dynamics of the jihadi movement from the perspective of its own adherents.

A new book, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan, begins to rectify this deficit. The book is not an easy read. It is intended for specialists and makes few concessions in terms of explaining events for readers who are not steeped in the history of the jihadist movement. Despite this limitation, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan is a rare piece of original research into a subject that remains little understood and is often over-simplified. The book argues, correctly, that without understanding the early history of the jihadist movement we cannot hope to assess how the movement will evolve. It is also one of the few works to try to explain this history from the perspective of an early, active participant. The Arabs at War in Afghanistan is co-authored by Mustafa Hamid, one of the first Arabs to join the anti-Soviet jihad, and Leah Farrall, an academic and former counter-terrorism analyst with the Australian police. Hamid, or Abu Walid al-Masri as he is known, was never a member of al Qaeda, but knew Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Like many other Arabs, Hamid fled Afghanistan after the September 11th attacks, and was then detained in Iran for a decade before being released to his native Egypt, where he worked with Farrall on the book.

Those Who Do Not Learn From History…

Hamid and Farrall describe the process of change among the “Arab-Afghans”, whose introduction to transnational jihad came with the war against the Russians from 1979 to 1989. As other Arabs followed in their footsteps after 1989, the Arab-Afghan groups splintered, allowing the emergence of new schools of thought in which violence became more important than political strategy. This process was neither led by al Qaeda, as is often assumed, nor the natural outgrowth of Islamist militancy. Rather it was the result of competition among different groups of Arab volunteers in Afghanistan, of which al Qaeda was only one; the impatience of young men looking for a fight; the availability of funds; and the unintended consequences of outside events. This produced fighters whose worldview was forged in the rootless and fractured jihad that flourished in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union left and has since seeped into many countries in the Muslim world. With private funding from rich Gulf merchants, they were like soldiers-of-fortune, except they were seeking martyrdom not money. Their kind dominates Salafi jihadi movements today. The book therefore not only gives us a rare insight into the drivers of change, historically, but also helps illuminate the influences likely to be at work inside major threats today such as the Islamic State.

Lawless: The Israeli-Hezbollah Conflict Takes a Dangerous Turn

March 8, 2015 
The "rules of the game" have unraveled. Now what?

On January 18, 2015, an Israeli missile strike in Quneitra (part of the Syrian-controlled section of the Golan Heights) resulted in the deaths of several Hezbollah operatives, including a fighter named Jihad Mughniyah.

Barely two weeks later, in a leaked report published by the Washington Post, the world also learned that Imad Mughniyah (Jihad’s father and a senior Hezbollah operative) had been assassinated in February 2008 through the combined efforts of the CIA and the Mossad.

Why, one has to wonder, is this detailed information regarding the players behind the 2008 car-bombing death of Imad Mughniyah just now coming to light?

To understand the message conveyed by this leak, it is important to consider the events that unfolded following the killing of Jihad Mughniyah in January. After the Israeli attack, the world waited apprehensively for the retaliation that everyone knew Hezbollah would feel compelled to provide.

Obama's 'Nixon Goes to China' Moment?

March 9, 2015 

"Reaching an agreement with Iran would be a historic achievement for the president."

In a speech on February 8, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threw his support behind nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 group of world powers, and accepted all concessions that Iran has made in the negotiations for limiting its nuclear program.

Calling the concessions “rational,” Khamenei said that they were made to “take the excuse away from the enemy.” And, echoing President Obama, Khamenei said that no agreement is better than a bad agreement.

But Khamenei has also made statements that might cast doubt on his willingness to reach a compromise with the United States.

In the same speech, for example, he stated his opposition to a two-stage agreement with the P5+1, in which the two sides must first agree on a political framework by March 24, and then sign the comprehensive agreement by the end of June.

Dissent, Defections and Battlefield Losses Indicate That ISIS Is In Trouble

Liz Sly
March 9, 2015

The Islamic State appears to fray from within

BEIRUT — The Islamic State ­appears to be starting to fray from within, as dissent, defections and setbacks on the battlefield sap the group’s strength and erode its aura of invincibility among those living under its despotic rule.

Reports of rising tensions between foreign and local fighters, aggressive and increasingly unsuccessful attempts to recruit local citizens for the front lines, and a growing incidence of guerrilla attacks against Islamic State targets suggest the militants are struggling to sustain their carefully cultivated image as a fearsome fighting force drawing Muslims together under the umbrella of a utopian Islamic state.

The anecdotal reports, drawn from activists and residents of areas under Islamic State control, don’t offer any indication that the group faces an immediate challenge to its stranglehold over the mostly Sunni provinces of eastern Syria and western Iraq that form the backbone of its self-proclaimed caliphate. Battlefield reversals have come mostly on the fringes of its territory, while organized opposition remains unlikely as long as viable alternatives are lacking and the fear of vicious retribution remains high, Syrians, Iraqis and analysts say.

The bigger threat to the Islamic State’s capacity to endure, however, may come from within, as its grandiose promises collide with realities on the ground, said Lina Khatib, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

“The key challenge facing ISIS right now is more internal than external,” she said, using another term for the group. “We’re seeing basically a failure of the central tenet of ISIS ideology, which is to unify people of different origins under the caliphate. This is not working on the ground. It is making them less effective in governing and less effective in military operations.”

Winds of War in Gaza

Video by Adam B. Ellick 
March 7, 2015. 
In Gaza, Nicholas Kristof finds the place still in ruins after last year’s war with Israel.

GAZA — IT is winter in Gaza, in every wretched sense of the word. Six months after the latest war, the world has moved on, but tens of thousands remain homeless — sometimes crammed into the rubble of bombed-out buildings. Children are dying of the cold, according to the United Nations.

Rabah, an 8-year-old boy who dreams of being a doctor, walked barefoot in near-freezing temperatures with his friends through the rubble of one neighborhood. The United Nations handed out shoes, but he saves them for school. For the first time in his life, he said, he and several friends have no shoes for daily life. Nearly everyone I spoke to said conditions in Gaza are more miserable than they have ever been — exacerbated by pessimism that yet another war may be looming.

Lacking other toys, boys like Rabah sometimes play with the remains of Israeli rockets that destroyed their homes.

Boko Haram Pledges Allegiance to Islamic State

March 8, 2015

The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, pledges allegiance to the ISIS group in a new audio recording posted on the group's Twitter page, according to the BBC and the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist propaganda. VICE could not independently verify the recording. 

The message is just the latest evidence of how the Nigerian militant group has apparently been influenced by the Islamic State. 

Last week the group released a video allegedly showing the beheadings of two men in the style similar to the dramatically produced videos of executions by the Islamic State's media wing. 

The 6-minute video of the executions was a very different kind of video than from previous Boko Haram video releases, which often showed Shekau speaking directly to the camera and going on long tangents about the militant group.

Before the pledge to ISIS, the militant group also appears to have been inspired by the Islamic State to create their own "caliphate" in northern Nigeria. 

The alleged pledge of allegiance from Shekau comes after reports that Nigerian and other government forces have continued to launch offensives against Boko Haram strongholds, according to the Associated Press.

Militants are preparing to face-off with multinational government troops, according to an AP report. Citizens who fled the area under Boko Haram's control reported seeing members of the group readying for a showdown. 

Shekau's reported message also comes hours after five bomb blasts ripped through the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, killing 54 people, according to the AP. Boko Haram has not taken responsibility for the bombings, but the bombings appear similar to past attacks by the militant group. The city of Maiduguri is the birthplace of the Boko Haram and has been hit by multiple terrorist attacks since the group launched in 2009.

Boko Haram pledges allegiance to Isis in video message

07 March 2015

The Nigerian terror group has become one of the most organised supporters of the Caliphate established in Iraq and Syria 

Boko Haram, the militant Nigerian group, has announced it is allying with the Islamic State (Isis). The pledge was made in an audio message, appearing to be a recording of the group’s leader Abubakar Shjeka, which was posted online on Saturday evening. Monitoring news website SITE quoted the recording as saying: “We announce our allegiance to the Caliph… and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity.” 

Isis has already received pledges of allegiances from militants in North Africa countries such as Egypt and Algeria, and in Libya where 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded in a coastal location in February. Boko Haram, however, is one of the most organised groups to join forces, after running a bloody campaign for territory in the North African country since 2009. More than 12,000 are believed to have died, some in ruthless massacre attacks. Over 1.5 million more have been made homeless fleeing the group.

Boko Haram declares allegiance to Islamic State

Daniel Boffey and agencies
Sunday 8 March 2015

Video purportedly by leader of Nigeria group posted after female Islamists suicide bombers kill at least 50 in coordinated attacks in Maiduguri
The main gate to the Monday Market, Maiduguri, where a suicide bomb attack took place on Saturday. Photograph: Tunji Omirin/AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram has sworn allegiance to Islamic State, which rules a self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, according to a video posted online. The pledge came in an Arabic audio message with English subtitles alleged to have come from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and posted Saturday on Twitter, according to the SITE Intelligence monitoring service.

“We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims ... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah,” said the message.

The video script identified the caliph as Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Awad al-Qurashi, who is better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State and self-proclaimed caliph of the Muslim world. Baghdadi has already accepted pledges of allegiance from other jihadist groups in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north Africa

Iran: Boots on the ground in Iraq? Not us.


“We have always had advisers helping the Iraqi government and the Iraqi army,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad. Zarif | AP Photo

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Thursday that his country does “not have forces on the ground in Iraq.”

“We have always had advisers helping the Iraqi government and the Iraqi army,” Zarif told CNNs Christiane Amanpour in an interview in London.

U.S. officials and published accounts strongly suggest otherwise.

As Iraqi forces have been trying to push Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces from the city of Tikrit, Iran is said to be playing a major role. Even Iran’s own FARS news agency has reported that a commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force — Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani — is personally directing the advancement of Iraqi troops.

The New York Times has reported that “Iran has taken the most prominent role on the ground” in Iraq with militias and “Iranian generals sometimes directing the fighting.” A source also confirmed to NPR that Iranian fighters were among the forces storming Tikrit.

American officials have spoken at length about the role of Iranian operatives and the importance of Iranian assistance to the fight in Iraq, but the siege of Tikrit appears to represent a new level of Iranian engagement.

Is Canada Going to Declare the Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization?

Brian Daly
March 8, 2015

Muslim Brotherhood under the microscope in Canada

MONTREAL — The federal government is coming under increased pressure to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terror outfit, as more evidence piles up that the group has tentacles in Canada.

Its two main offshoots, Hamas and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, are listed as terrorist organizations in Canada.

The last Canadian organization to be added to the list is the alleged Hamas fundraiser IRFAN-Canada, which has worked closely with the Brotherhood, according to an RCMP warrant.

A source tells QMI that the Brotherhood itself, long considered the ideological godfather of Islamist terrorism, has also been under close watch by security officials.

A QMI investigation found that top Brotherhood leaders have lived in Canada for decades. They have led pro-Sharia organizations and sent money and resources to groups that the RCMP and the Canada Revenue Agency say are owned or controlled by Hamas.

Brotherhood-linked facilities have invited extremist speakers to Canada who defended child suicide bombers, amputation for thieves and stoning for adulterers.

A U.S. terror financing trial heard a secret Brotherhood plan for North America calling for a “grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house.”

Stockwell Day, who served in Stephen Harper’s cabinet for five years, tells QMI that Islamist ideology is being propagated in Canada by Brotherhood “sympathizers.”

"The government really has to drill down and look at statements from the Brotherhood," the former public safety minister said from Vancouver, where he works as a consultant.

US Counterterrorism Officials Becoming Increasingly Pessimistic About Progress in the War on Terror

Greg Miller
March 8, 2015

In campaign against terrorism, U.S. enters period of pessimism and gloom

U.S. counterterrorism officials and experts, never known for their sunny dispositions, have entered a period of particular gloom.

In congressional testimony recently, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. went beyond the usual litany of threats to say that terrorism trend lines were worse “than at any other point in history.”

Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, commander of U.S. Special Operations forces in the Middle East, told participants on a counter­terrorism strategy call that he regarded the Islamic State as a greater menace than al-Qaeda ever was.

Speaking at a New York police terrorism conference, Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, said he had come to doubt that he would live to see the end of al-Qaeda and its spawn. “This is long term,” he said. “My children’s generation and my grandchildren’s generation will still be fighting this fight.”

The assessments reflect a pessimism that has descended on the U.S. counterterrorism community over the past year amid a series of discouraging developments. Among them are the growth of the Islamic State, the ongoing influx of foreign fighters into Syria, the collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Yemen and the downward spiral of Libya’s security situation. The latest complication came Saturday, when the terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria carried out a series of suicide bombings and reportedly declared its allegiance to the Islamic State.

Unlike the waves of anxiety that accompanied the emergence of new terrorist plots over the past decade, the latest shift in mood seems more deep-seated. U.S. officials depict a bewildering landscape in which al-Qaeda and the brand of Islamist militancy it inspired have not only survived 14 years of intense counterterrorism operations but have also spread.

Washington Now Worried That ISIS Is Expanding Rapidly Outside Iraq and Syria Into Nigeria and Other African Countries

Eric Schmitt
March 8, 2015

African Training Exercise Turns Urgent as Threats Grow

MAO, Chad — An oath of allegiance from Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based militant group, to the Islamic State on Saturday reinforces Western fears that the terrorist group is growing beyond its base in Iraq and Syria. These worries have prompted American and allied commandos to rush to train African counterterrorism troops to fight extremists on the continent.

The expanding effort here on the edge of the Sahara to fight militancies like Boko Haram comes as the group has kidnapped schoolgirls, slaughtered thousands of people, and now has expanded its attacks from Nigeria into Cameroon, Niger andChad.

“When your neighbor’s house is burning, you have to put it out, because if not, yours is next,” said Lt. Col. Brahim Mahanat, a Chadian Army officer who spoke during the Pentagon’s annual military exercise with 1,200 African troops, United States Army Special Forces and other Western commandos, which ends on Monday.

More than any exercise in the past decade, this year’s training — three weeks of marksmanship, mock ambushes and patrols in harsh desert terrain — is bumping up against real-world operations. The Chadian capital, Ndjamena, is just 30 miles from militant-held territory in Nigeria, and Boko Haram has vowed revenge since Chad began cross-border attacks against the militants. Police officers and army troops have stepped up patrols in the capital in response to increased risks, including suicide bombings.

Boko Haram has, in the meantime, pushed more than 200,000 Nigerian refugees across the border into neighboring countries. And on Saturday, three explosions rocked the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, killing dozens of people in the worst attack there since suspected Islamist militants tried to seize it in January.

“Boko Haram is not just a threat to our country or to Africa,” said Brig. Gen. Zakaria Ngobongue, a senior Chadian officer who has trained in France and at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and is overseeing this year’s exercise. “They are an international threat.”

Boko Haram in Nigeria Pledges Allegiance to ISIS

March 8, 2015

Nigeria’s Boko Haram pledges allegiance to Islamic State 

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram group, newly weakened by a multinational force that has dislodged it from a score of northeastern towns, reportedly pledged formal allegiance to the Islamic State group.

The pledge to IS came in an Arabic audio message with English subtitles alleged to have come from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and posted Saturday on Twitter, according to the SITE Intelligence monitoring service.

"We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah," said the message. IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has declared himself the caliph.

Earlier, the Nigerian extremist group was blamed for four suicide bomb attacks that police said killed at least 54 people and wounded 143 in the northeast city of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and birthplace of Boko Haram.

The blasts occurred over four hours in locations from a busy fish market to a crowded bus station, said Police Commissioner Clement Adoda.

A fifth explosion from a car bomb at a military checkpoint 50 miles (75 kilometers) outside the city wounded a soldier and two members of a civilian self-defense unit. The bomber apparently wanted to reach Maiduguri, said a police officer at the scene who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the press.

In the deadliest blast, 18 people died when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a tricycle taxi at the entrance to the bustling Baga fish market, police said.

Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) Intel Assessment of ISIS

March 8, 2015

The website publicintelligence.net has placed online a 217-page assessment of ISIS, entitled Special Operations Command Central Multi-Method Assessment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, dated December 2014.

This is an extremely interesting study, written by analysts outside the intelligence community, so it has an interesting take on the ISIS militant organization. According to publicintelligence.net,

"The following multi-method assessment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was commissioned in the summer of 2014 by MG Michael Nagata, Commander, SOCCENT and written by “an unofficial brain trust outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies” in an effort to understand the psychology of ISIL and its supporters. The assessment was the subject of an article by the New York Times’ Eric Schmitt in late December 2014. A “Subject Matter Expert Elicitation Summary” of the assessment from January 2015 is also available.”

The full study can be accessed here.


March 5, 2015

War on the Rocks is expanding, and we need your help! 

How are our European allies meant to cope with the predations of Russia, Middle East friends with the Islamic State, and Asian partners with the gray-zone challenges of China? Washington expects them to shoulder more of the burden for their own security, even as constrained defense budgets and the proliferation of high-technology erode the credibility of U.S. power projection forces.

The diffusion of power, threats, and technology demands adjustments to the way we partner with other countries to achieve common security objectives. Two days of intense and wide-ranging discussion about the implications of rising powers, hybrid threats, and disruptive technologies atChatham House in London reinforce our view that we must widen the aperture on how the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom, and Langley contemplate defense cooperation. This applies to alliance management, partnership capacity building, and even defense acquisition. Achieving future strategic objectives will depend on our ability to refashion the way we prepare our allies and partners to deter or fight adversaries and shape the emerging world.

We call for a new model of defense cooperation because the challenges the United States and its allies face are more complex and diverse than they have ever been. From Russian aggression in Ukraine to the Islamic State and Boko Haram, to weak states and illicit trafficking, to natural disasters, climate change, and China’s contest over rules and rule-making in the East and South China Seas, the security challenges shatter familiar frameworks. Even in the United States we lack a clear consensus on our top security priorities. We need to download a new security operating system for government that makes our defense cooperation more responsive, effective, and affordable.

Our institutional machinery is failing to keep pace with a rapidly changing landscape. Governments and private industry are struggling to catch up with three characteristics of our contemporary environment: globalization, internationalization, and commercialization.

Reckless: Don't 'Go for Broke' in Iran Nuclear Talks

March 9, 2015 

A gradualist approach is the most realistic option for solving the nuclear issue.

As a mutually acceptable deal with Iran remains elusive despite the hopes and efforts of the P5+1 group of world powers, the risk of the talks failing is growing.

Opponents of the deal are mobilizing, and increasingly the outcome of the negotiations is cast as a binary choice: either Iran will get nuclear weapons or it will not. Failure to reach a deal is cast in similarly stark terms. The talks collapsing, we are told, would result in an increased risk of an Israeli military strike, the expansion of hostilities and violence throughout the Middle East, and the unraveling of the entire nuclear nonproliferation regime.

There is a lot at stake for all the parties involved, which is enough for each side to want to reach a deal, regardless of their differences on other issues.

At present, negotiations with Iran have stalled on a number of important technical questions. Key among these is how much enrichment capability Iran would be permitted. Relatedly, the two sides are still negotiating permissible volumes of low-enriched uranium stockpiles, the construction of the Arak reactor, the closing of theFordow underground enrichment facility, Iran’s past nuclear activities, its missile program, and a host of other issues.

The parties are also at odds over how the sanctions would be lifted if a deal is struck: on the procedure for lifting sanctions as well: Tehran insists on a one-step process while the P5+1 want to gradually lift sanctions over time as Iran’s complies with its commitments This latter approach would take years.

North Korea's 5 Nightmare Weapons the World Should Fear

March 9, 2015 

Yes, we should be concerned about Pyongyang's nuclear weapons arsenal--but that isn't the only trick it has up its sleeve.

North Korea, for lack of a better term, is one hell of a hot mess. And its one that if South Korea and its ally the United States ever had to go to war with would create all sorts of problems.

From a leader who has more in common with the fictional Dr. Evil than any other normal head of state to rants about going to war against the United States and South Korea on an almost weekly basis to much more serious and deadly temper tantrums (like attacking a South Korean naval vessel and opening up its artillery to shell islands), one never knows what Pyongyang is capable of—just look how it treats it own people.

And that is what makes it one of the most dangerous regimes on the planet today.

But in a straight up war with Seoul and Washington, many military minds are of the opinion that Pyongyang would lose—and lose badly. Sure, North Korea could come out swinging, launching a massive strike across the DMZ, firing off a blistering artillery barrage at Seoul that would induce panic on par if not worse than 9/11 and maybe even have the guts to use those nukes the Kim regime has been threatening the world with for years. But in the end, most agree Kim Jung-un would be signing his own death certificate.

U.S. Should Be Appalled by Japan's Historical Revisionism

March 9, 2015 
If Imperial Japan was the victim in WWII, than Harry Truman, not Hideki Tojo, must be the war criminal.

In a late January address to Parliament, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directly entered the fray in Tokyo’s accelerated attempts to rewrite World War II history.

As the New York Times reported at the time, in the speech Mr. Abe vowed “to step up efforts to fight what he called mistaken views abroad concerning Japan’s wartime actions.”

The prime minister was referring specifically to references to Comfort Women in a McGraw Hill-published textbook used in some California high schools. However, while Japan’s historic revisionism may begin with the Comfort Women and the Nanking Massacre, it ends with President Truman and the atomic bomb. If Japan is the victim in the Pacific War, Tokyo would have it, then America must be the aggressor and Harry Truman, not Hideki Tojo, the war criminal.

Those who argue that the United States should have little interest in the current debate raging over the historic legacy of the Second World War in Asia need to think again. First and foremost, the Pacific War, which ended 70 years ago this coming summer, was very much America’s war too.


March 6, 2015

War on the Rocks is expanding, and we need your help!

By now the parallels between current Russian and pre-war German expansionism are so obvious as to invite satire. Those parallels are indeed stark and sobering. It is hard not to recall the ineffectual diplomacy that preceded the First and Second World Wars; when Hollande and Merkel flew to Minsk, many people heard the echo of Munich.

It is always tempting but nevertheless fraught with intellectual danger to reason by historical analogy. Yet, because such analogies are an apparent constant of political debate, we must at least pick them well. The World Wars are not the right source of comparative basis for current Russian actions. Our analogies really must be drawn from the nuclear age. The arrival of nuclear weapons permanently transformed the calculus of great power confrontations. Russia is a nuclear power. Thus, our fight against them must begin from the assumption that the worst-case consequence is not a bitter and brutal war of many years with extensive loss of life, but the end of everything.

In that regard, it is timely to return to George F. Kennan’s 1957 Reith Lectures. Kennan, the American diplomat who was then a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, gave a series of six lectures on the logic of confrontation in the atomic age. Of these, perhaps the most interesting is the fourth, on the military logic. (Thanks to the BBC, thetranscript and audio are both readily available.) Even at this early stage of the Cold War, Kennan was striving to find an approach to nuclear strategy that was both humane and practical. That struggle led him to reject graduated deterrence and tactical atomic weapons, and conclude that the only plausible option was to keep nukes out of any war.

In coming to this conclusion, Kennan made two realizations of considerable contemporary relevance. The first is that it is essential for the continental European powers to defend themselves, without the assistance of nuclear-armed states. The second is that this is best done by the formation of militias designed to provide resistance to a Soviet occupying force, since the prospect of stopping their divisions at a rigidly defended border is remote.

Is the Euro Compatible With Democracy?

MARCH 6, 2015 

“New elections change nothing,” asserted Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, ahead of the Greek vote in January that swept into office a radical-left government pledging an end to austerity and demanding debt relief from its eurozone creditors. The new Greek administration, Schäuble insisted, must accept the terms struck by its predecessor. By and large, Greece’s new government has done so, despite its electoral pledges. How, then, can the destructive policies imposed by the likes of Schäuble really be changed? Is membership in the eurozone compatible with democracy?

This is more than just a Greek issue. Elections are due in Spain at some point later this year, and the radical leftists of Podemos are leading in the polls. Indeed, in almost every election since the crisis, voters have thrown out their government, only to be told by Schäuble and his eurozone minions that the new administration must stick to the failed policies that the voters have just rejected. In 2012, for instance, François Hollande won the presidency of France on a pledge to end austerity, but was soon forced to back down by Berlin. Last year, with a mandate from his resounding victory in May’s European elections, Italy’s reformist prime minister, Matteo Renzi, demanded changes to the eurozone’s fiscal rules that would enable the Italian government to invest more. He was rebuffed.

Of course, politicians often junk loose election promises when confronted with the hard facts of governing. That is a (regrettable) feature of democracy, rather than proof of a lack of it. But the constraints on democracy in the eurozone are very real. In 2011, eurozone authorities even forced out of office the elected prime ministers of Italy and Greece — the latter for having the temerity to offer Greeks a referendum on the unjust conditions imposed on them by Germany — and replaced them with pliable, unelected technocrats.

Welcome to Ukraine's Electronic War

March 8, 2015

Ukrainian troops are blind and deaf on the battlefield. Kiev’s members of parliament suddenly discover their cell phones don’t work. International observers watching the war lose contact with their drones and can’t do their job.

Welcome to Ukraine’s electronic war.

Throughout the conflict, the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have disrupted Kiev’s communications. It’s a problem that Ukraine—lacking secure communications systems and jamming equipment of its own—can’t counter.

And as with other forms of overt and covert support provided to Ukraine’s separatists, all eyes are on Russia as the source of the interference. The rebels’ equipment is just too fancy.

“Russian electronic counter-measures, jamming, and cyber are all frequently deployed not only tactically against Ukrainian units in the field, but against larger strategic command and control systems right back to Kiev,” James Stavridis—NATO’s former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and current dean of the Fletcher School—told War Is Boring in an email.

“Unquestionably these systems are all being operated directly by highly trained Russian troops.”

Sentry Aloha: Why America's Elite Air Units Have Gathered Over Hawaii

Tyler Rogoway

1F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s and A-10s from around the US have migrated west to join the Hawaiian Air National Guard's F-22 Raptors for exercise Sentry Aloha, where they will all train to fight and win as an integrated team. Hopefully, they'll also get a chance to drink something out of a coconut.

Cope North is one of the largest multi-national air power exercises in the Eastern Hemisphere.…Read more

Acting Director of Sentry Aloha, Lt. Col Kyle Mitsumori describes what Sentry Aloha is all about:

"Sentry Aloha provides a pivot to the Pacific, combining fifth-generation, fighter integration training with large force employment to provide joint, total force integration between the HIANG, Air National Guard, USAF, and other DOD counterparts in a current and realistic war fighting capacity."

2Sentry Aloha is a big undertaking, with about 50 aircraft and 1,000 airmen from around the US participating in the war games, with KC-135s and C-130s taking on key support roles alongside their fighter brethren. Of special note is that the exercise saw two of America's five premier homeland defense F-15C/D units attending, the 123d FS "Redhawks" out of Portland, Oregon, and the 159th FS out of Jacksonville, Florida.

Russia’s Not-So-Secret Electronic Warfare Campaign in the Ukraine

Adam Rawnsley
March 8, 2015

Kremlin Tech Jams Ukrainian Airwaves: The equipment is far too fancy to come from anywhere except Russia

Ukrainian troops are blind and deaf on the battlefield. Kiev’s members of parliament suddenly discover their cell phones don’t work. International observers watching the war lose contact with their drones and can’t do their job.

Welcome to Ukraine’s electronic war.

Throughout the conflict, the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have disrupted Kiev’s communications. It’s a problem that Ukraine—lacking secure communications systems and jamming equipment of its own—can’t counter.

And as with other forms of overt and covert support provided to Ukraine’s separatists, all eyes are on Russia as the source of the interference. The rebels’ equipment is just too fancy.

“Russian electronic counter-measures, jamming, and cyber are all frequently deployed not only tactically against Ukrainian units in the field, but against larger strategic command and control systems right back to Kiev,” James Stavridis—NATO’s former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and current dean of the Fletcher School—told War Is Boring in an email.

“Unquestionably these systems are all being operated directly by highly trained Russian troops.”

Stavridis coauthored a recent report for the Brookings Institution urging the U.S. to support Ukrainian forces with arms exports. He noted that the sophistication of electronic warfare systems are an indicator that Russian personnel—and not local separatists—are responsible for the jamming.

“The ‘insurgents’ lack the training, education, equipment, and general wherewithal to operate such systems—they are absolutely not ‘out of the box’ systems,” he wrote.

One of the Suspects Arrested in the Murder of Boris Nemtsov in Moscow Was a Russian Policeman in Chechnya

March 8, 2015

One of Nemtsov Killing Suspects Served in Police: Report

MOSCOW — One of the men detained on suspicion of killing Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov served in a police unit in the Russian region of Chechnya, Russian news agencies quoted a law enforcement official as saying.

Nemtsov was shot dead on the night of Feb. 27 within sight of the Kremlin walls, in the most high-profile killing of an opposition figure in the 15 years that President Vladimir Putin has been in office.

Two buses arrived on Sunday at the Moscow court where the two men investigators say they have detained over the killing, Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev, were scheduled to appear before a judge to be formally arrested.

A Reuters reporter said the buses, with blue flashing lights and with a police escort, drove into the back entrance of the court. Several people wearing ski masks and in black clothes could be seen getting out.

It was not possible to see if the people being delivered were the two suspects, but large numbers of police lined the street outside the Basmanny district court, and guarded the entrances.

Dadayev served for around 10 years in the “Sever” battalion of Chechnya’s interior ministry, Russian state-controlled news agencies quoted Albert Barakhayev, Security Council secretary in the neighboring Ingushetia region, as saying.

Gubashev and Dadayev were detained on Saturday in Ingushetia, where some members of their families live, according to Barakhayev. He said a relative of Gubashev was also detained, though this has not been confirmed by officials investigating Nemtsov’s killing.