15 March 2015

Beijing’s Cat’s Paw: China may improve relations with India, but not at Pakistan’s expense

March 14, 2015

Is China’s alliance with Pakistan in trouble? Pakistan’s recently announced intention to invite Chinese President Xi Jinping as chief guest at their joint military services parade and subsequent postponement has encouraged some to see cracks in the relationship. Like periodic reports about China’s unhappiness with Pakistani militants’ role in training and arming Xinjiang’s jihadi Uighurs or Beijing’s supposed distancing itself from Islamabad on the issue of Kashmir, this more recent flurry is also much ado about very little. Pakistan’s security situation and President Xi’s busy calendar may delay his first visit more than Islamabad would like, but the Sino-Pak friendship is based on too long a history of strategic cooperation to be affected by minor irritants.

Unlike the hyperbolic assertions about friendship between countries that sometimes dominate diplomatic discourse, the rather straightforward description of Sino-Pak relations as an ‘all-weather friendship’ is among the most accurate. It is a friendship that has lasted through 65 years of trials and tribulations, and as China challenges the post-Cold War global order, Pakistan is likely to become more – not less – indispensable as an ally. In his well-researched, ground-breaking book The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, Andrew Small says the ties are not only solid but set to become even stronger.

Small, who has had remarkable access to political, military and intelligence officials in both countries, writes that after nearly a decade of preparing PLA for ‘new historic missions’ across the world, Beijing is carefully weighing up which countries it can trust to facilitate the global projection of its power. He quotes a Chinese expert as saying: “If China decides to develop formal alliances, Pakistan would be the first place we would turn. It may be the only place we could turn”. This seemingly total trust in Pakistan is rooted in intimate and unwavering collaboration over decades from which both countries have benefited. It is also based, Small writes, on China’s “steady, long-term commitment to ensure that Pakistan has the capabilities it needs to play the role that China wants it to.”

Small details the early days of blossoming Sino-Pak military relations, focused at the time on mutual needs against a common strategic adversary – India. Mao passed away shortly after meeting Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and blessing nuclear cooperation with Islamabad. His funeral in September 1976 provided the occasion for A Q Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, to meet China’s top nuclear official in Beijing. Their secret collaboration has since enabled Pakistan to build an arsenal of warheads and long-range nuclear capable missiles. On the other hand Pakistani transfer of pilfered Western know-how – from centrifuge design to US Tomahawk and stealth helicopter technology – has given China ability to leapfrog the West.

Fighting Terrorism on Social Media

By Mina Sohail
March 13, 2015

Pakistan is trying to combat terrorist organizations online, with mixed results. 

Following the devastating attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School on December 16, 2014, where the Pakistan Taliban killed more than 130 children, military and political leaders formed a National Action Plan to counter terrorism. One point in the 20-point plan called for the formation of a committee to counter online terrorism, in a country estimated to have nearly 30 million Internet users.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has been taking action against pages on social media and online videos posted by terrorist groups. There are approximately 60 banned organizations in Pakistan, according to the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) document. Recently the federal government has been reluctant to confirm a reported ban on Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), but news reports say that the ban is part of the National Action Plan. The Twitter account of JUD chief Hafiz Saeed was suspended two months ago but the organization’s website can still be accessed and Twitter accounts with his name still exist. 

According to Ahmed Rashid, author of several books on Pakistan and Afghanistan and veteran policy critic, questions the priorities. “Social media is a very big part of recruitment in the West. In Pakistan it helps produce a point of view amongst those on Twitter and other such sites but doesn’t have the power to recruit.” Rashid says that access to social media is limited in Pakistan, as opposed to more developed societies in Europe where there are huge online followings.

“Before we get on to internet and social media, what is needed is better state control of mosques and seminaries,” says Rashid. “The real danger in Pakistan is from mosques that continue to deliver Friday sermons calling for jihad and extermination of India and America.” Rashid adds that most Muslim countries have a centralized system where the sermon is drafted and regulated by the state, unlike in Pakistan where, he says, “We have a free-for-all system which is extremely dangerous. It is from here that most of the hate material, posted online, actually finds inspiration.”

Yet addressing the mosque is but a fraction of the overall picture. There are a total of 22,052 seminaries in Pakistan, 15,954 in Punjab, 4,264 in Sindh, 1,400 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 1,247 in Balochistan and 187 in Islamabad.

Rashid maintains that, “The government should bring seminaries under control. A large number are under the control of militant groups and their ideology and don’t serve as function of seminaries which is to produce religious scholars and not preach militants.”

Mapping the emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan

March 5th, 2015
Source Link

Ever since disaffected Afghan and Pakistani Taliban insurgents began pledging allegiance to the Islamic State during the summer of 2014, rumors and reports have emerged indicating how the Islamic State has expanded its presence throughout South Asia. A chronological narrative of the rise of the jihadist group in Afghanistan follows below and the above graphic depicts its emergence.

In late September 2014, fierce battles raged between Afghan security forces and insurgents reported to be associated with the Islamic State in the Arjistan district of Ghazni province. At the time, Afghan officials reported that the insurgents had raised the black flag of the Islamic State and were burning down homes and beheading captured security forces and local residents alike. The incident in Arjistan is mired in controversy, as local Afghan officials allegedly recanted their versions of events and admitted to embellishing the presence of Islamic State fighters as a ploy to obtain more resources, according to a report by The New York Times.

It should also be noted that in early February 2015, the Chief of Police for Ghazni denied that the Islamic State had created a presence in the area, stating that the insurgents fighting against the Afghan Government were local Taliban members.

Osama bin Laden’s Files: The Pakistani government wanted to negotiate

March 9th, 2015

Recently released files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that parts of the Pakistani government made attempts to negotiate with al Qaeda in 2010. The letters were released as evidence in the trial of Abid Naseer, who was convicted on terrorism charges by a Brooklyn jury earlier this month.

One of the files is a letter written by Atiyah Abd al Rahman (“Mahmud”), who was then the general manager of al Qaeda, to Osama bin Laden (identified as Sheikh Abu Abdallah) in July 2010. The letter reveals a complicated game involving al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the brother of Pakistan’s current prime minister, and Pakistan’s intelligence service.

“Regarding the negotiations, dear Sheikh, I will give you an overview, may God support me in this,” Rahman wrote. “The Pakistani enemy has been corresponding with us and with Tahreek-i-Taliban (Hakeemullah) for a very short time, since the days of Hafiz, may God have mercy on him.” Hakeemullah Mehsud was the head of the Pakistani Taliban at the time. The “Hafiz” mentioned is Mustafa Abu Yazid (Sheikh Saeed al Masri), who served as al Qaeda’s general manager prior to his death in May 2010. Rahman succeeded Yazid in that role.

“We discussed the matter internally, then we talked with Abu-Muhammad later once we were able to resume correspondence with him,” Rahman explained. “Abu-Muhammad” is the nom de guerre of Ayman al Zawahiri. As a result of these discussions, al Qaeda was willing to broker a deal in which the jihadists’ would ease off the Pakistanis so long as the military and intelligence services stopped fighting al Qaeda and its allies.

South Asia's Hinge Moment

March 13, 2015 

Don't look now, but South Asia is getting its act together.

Nightmares of despair and disaster are an occupational hazard for those who follow developments in South Asia. But for once, the news from the region is not uniformly grim. Washington should take note.

National elections throughout the region have produced victors who, compared to their predecessors, appear to be agents of change. Elections last year in India and Afghanistan fit this pattern. But the starkest example is also the most recent: Sri Lankan voters, in an outcome anticipated by almost no one, summarily dispatched an autocratic ruler who had appeared entrenched for the long run this January. 

The encouraging signs go beyond elections. By some measures, India has surpassed China to boast the fastest growing economy in the world. The new prime minister, Narendra Modi, has taken a meat cleaver to bureaucracy and venality. In Pakistan, the army’s offensive against extremists in North Waziristan has proved far more sustained than most observers had expected. The December 16 massacre of 150 people in Peshawar, most of them young schoolchildren, seems to have reinforced Pakistan’s commitment to combating terrorist violence.

No, China’s Not About to Collapse

By Timothy Heath
March 13, 2015

Yes, the CCP faces challenges, but it is stronger than you think. 

The CCP’s liabilities are well known. These include an antiquated political identity, cumbersome ideology, and widespread disenchantment with Marxism among the public (and among more than a few party members). CCP-led government has failed to provide adequate services, ensure rule of law, and has long tolerated corruption, malfeasance, and widening inequality. Many of these vulnerabilities have persisted for years, and some have worsened over time.

The party’s advantages are less often discussed, but these bear reviewing if one is to evaluate the viability of CCP rule. One of the most overlooked, but important, assets is a lack of any credible alternative. The party’s repressive politics prevent the formation of potential candidates, so the alternative to CCP rule for now is anarchy. For a country still traumatized by its historic experience with national breakdown, this grants the party no small advantage. To truly imperil its authority, the CCP would need to behave in so damaging a manner as to make the certainty of political chaos and economic collapse preferable to the continuation of CCP rule. A party that attempted to return to extreme Mao-era policies such as the catastrophic Great Leap Forward could perhaps meet that threshold. But despite the numerous superficial comparisons in Western media, little about the current administration policy agenda resembles classic Maoism.

The second major political advantage lies in improvements to the party’s effectiveness in recent years. In a major paradigm shift, the CCP redefined itself as a “governing party” whose primary responsibility rests in addressing the myriad economic, political, cultural, ecological, and social welfare demands of the people. It has carried out ideological and political reforms to improve its competence and effectiveness accordingly. The Xi administration has refined, but upheld, the focus on increasing the nation’s standard of living and realizing national revitalization, objectives embodied in the vision of the “Chinese dream.” Although the party has rightly come in for criticism for moving slowly and inadequately on these issues, the policy agenda nevertheless appears to resonate with the majority of Chinese citizens. Independent polls consistently show that the party has in recent years enjoyed surprisingly strong public support.

When weighing the party’s political liabilities against its assets, therefore, the evidence suggests that the CCP faces little danger of imminent collapse. Improvements to its cohesion, competence, and responsiveness, combined with a policy agenda that resonates with most Chinese and the lack of a compelling alternative outweigh the persistent political liabilities. The party’s overall political stability throughout the 2000s, despite massive political unrest generated by breakneck economic growth, underscores this point.

The Insecure CCP

China’s Emerging Interests in the Arctic

Written by Nong Hong.
March 10, 2015

During the Cold War, the Arctic was a security flashpoint with nuclear submarines from the United States and the Soviet Union patrolling deep below the polar ice of the Arctic Ocean and bombers airborne over the region. Today, the Arctic may be disassociated from great power politics, but new geopolitical realities are taking shape, arising from the melting Arctic. Countries with military/security interests and naval capacity in the Arctic include Russia, Canada, the U.S., Norway, and Denmark. But the exclusivity of the region has been challenged by the activities of major powers from outside the region, such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Japan, South Korea and India, as they are taking special interest in many aspects of the Arctic that focus on scientific research, shipping and resource development. It is important to explore the growing interests of China, among a select group of non-Arctic states, in the Arctic and examine the nature of its interests and motivations in wanting to maintain both its involvement and presence in the region. The interests of China range from participating in Arctic governance affairs and accessing potential resources to exploiting shipping opportunities and undertaking polar research.

Seeking participation in the Arctic Council

Since 2007, China has participated as an ad hoc observer at Arctic Council meetings, allowing it to gain a better understanding of the Council’s work. In 2008, it also began officially expressing its intentions to become a permanent observer to the Arctic Council. Although China has yet to articulate an official policy for the Arctic, different voices in China’s academic circles have expressed views on how China should approach Arctic governance. Some hold that China has great strategic interest in the Arctic, but rather than adopting a “neutral” position as an outsider, it should push for the internationalization of the region instead. Some other scholars believe that the idea of internationalizing the Arctic might risk damaging China’s image in the international community, as taking such a stance would not conform to its consistent position of a principle of “non-interference”. In May 2013, the Arctic Council granted China, Japan, South Korea, India and Singapore an observer status.

Why China and the Philippines Won't Reconcile Anytime Soon

By Richard Javad Heydarian
March 13, 2015

Manila and Beijing have a long way to go before improving their troubled relations. 

Almost two years into Xi Jinping’s tenure at the helm of the Chinese political system, he had yet to meet his Filipino counterpart, Benigno Aquino III. His foreign minister, Wang Yi, who repeatedly got into heated exchanges with his Filipino counterpart, Albert Del Rosario, in various regional fora, had yet to make a single official visit to the Philippines more than a year into office.

The dearth of high-level dialogue between the two countries reflected the depth of bilateral animosities, especially after a dangerous standoff over the Scarborough Shoal in mid-2012, which perilously placed the two neighbors on the verge of an armed confrontation. But there was a whiff of new hope for revival in Philippine-China relations when Xi and Aquino managed to conduct an ‘icebreaker’ meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing in late-2014.

In fact, Aquino was quite sentimental in describing his minutes-long encounter with Xi by claiming a ‘meeting of minds‘ with his Chinese counterpart. The confab marked the first face-to-face talk between the two heads of state. A closer look, however, reveals that the two neighbors will face an uphill battle in repairing their frayed ties.

China seems to be hardening its position in the South China Sea by ramping up its construction activities in disputed waters, frustrating efforts at negotiating a Code of Conduct (CoC) for maritime disputes in the region, and lambasting other claimant countries for fortifying their position on the ground.

The Dearth of Dialogue

China's Plan to Dominate World Markets

March 13, 2015

China hopes SOE mergers can result in internationally-respected brands. 

China will consolidate state-owned enterprises (SOEs) into mammoth companies, all with the hopes of winning China more of the global market share in key sectors – and the international prestige that entails.

SOE reform is only one piece in Beijing’s larger attempt to create globally attractive Chinese brands. During his work report to the National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang introduced the “Made in China 2025” initiative. That’s only the first leg of a 30-year plan to transform China “from a big manufacturing power to a strong manufacturing power,” as China Daily explained. China may be the “world’s factory,” but its own domestic products and companies are not internationally competitive. The “Made in China 2025” plan aims to fix that, by focusing on “an innovation drive, intellectual property and green development.”

The initiative also called for “enterprises’ merger and reorganization” to promote competitiveness in global markets. That’s precisely what will happen to China’s SOEs, Reuters reports.

Beijing will pay particular attention to boosting China’s competitiveness in a number of key sectors, including railways and nuclear power plants, two areas where China is already actively promoting exports abroad. Those sectors will see the first round of consolidations, according to Reuters, beginning with previously announced mergers between China CNR Corp. Ltd. and China CSR Corp. Ltd (two locomotive manufacturers) and between China Power Investment Corp. and State Nuclear Power Technology Corp.

China also hopes to expand its competitiveness in other fields, including automobiles and aircraft (see, for example, the media push anticipating the first flight by China’s domestically-produced commercial jet, the COMAC C919). Shipbuilding is another field where China might pursue mergers to boost competitiveness.

4 Reasons China Can Fight a Modern War

March 13, 2015

Do not underestimate the PLA’s fighting capabilities, particularly its fighting resolve. 

Perhaps the biggest question about China’s rise is whether it will inevitably lead to a military conflict with other powers, particularly the existing superpower, the United States. It is undoubtedly true that no one wants to see a general war between China and the U.S., though in reality both countries might be dragged into a war that they do not want to fight in areas like the East China Sea. If that happens, many analysts believe that the PLA does not stand a chance against the mighty U.S. military for a series of reasons, ranging from poor training to lack of war experience. Such an estimate might be true, but it might also truly underestimate the fighting power of the PLA, thus contributing to misjudgment and poor policy-making overall. Thus, accurately assessing the power of the PLA is a critical part of any serious military planning by the U.S. and other countries.

As a general rule, the outcome of a possible war involving the PLA and another military depends on many factors such as comprehensive capabilities, strategies, and fighting resolve. Recent analyses (here, here, andhere) that are skeptical about the PLA’s probability of winning tend to focus on its command structure, training, corruption, inexperience, and inadequate equipment as key factors. But, there are four reasons that the PLA can fight a modern war and even win one under certain conditions.

First, equipment is essential. As has been pointed out, the PLA has transformed itself into a powerful militaryafter more than 20 years of continuous investment. Although in terms of hardware, the PLA still cannot compete with the U.S., the mightiest fighting machine in the world, the PLA nonetheless stands a good chance against its main potential rival in Asia, Japan. Although some might claim that Japan now has an edge over China, very soon China’s PLA will surpass Japan’s SDF in terms of hardware given China’s economic size and greater military spending. The PLA’s spending is already at least twice as large as Japan’s and this trend will continue in coming years, thus giving the PLA a big advantage down the road. So, in ten years’ time, the PLA will have superb military hardware that is only second to the United States. This is one necessary condition for the PLA to fight a modern war.

Sorry, America: India Won't Go to War with China

March 13, 2015 

In his latest contribution to our debate, Shashank Joshi raised some excellent points against my skeptical view of the emerging India-U.S. strategic partnership. But I'm still unpersuaded.

To explain why, it helps to step back and clarify the question we are debating here. It is not whether strategic relations between Delhi and Washington have grown closer in recent years, because clearly they have. It is what these closer relations mean for the geo-political contest between America and China.

India's position is clearly important to this contest. Many Americans, and many of America's friends in Asia, have long believed that India's growing wealth and power will be vital in helping America counterbalance China's growing strategic weight, and resist China's challenge to U.S. regional leadership.

Indeed, the belief many people have that India will play this role is central to their confidence that America can and will preserve the status quo against China's challenge. It is therefore important to decide whether the progress we have seen in U.S.-India relations justifies that confidence.

I have argued that in a geopolitical contest of the kind we see unfolding between America and China today, India's relations with America will only make a difference to the extent that India is seen to be willing to support America in a U.S.-China conflict.

The consequences of the strengthening US-India partnership are still uncertain

10 March 2015 

Over the past month, Hugh White and I have exchanged opposing views on the meaning of the US-India relationship on The Interpreter.

Hugh first argued that President Barack Obama's January trip to New Delhi failed, 'because India is not willing to make the preservation of US primacy its principal strategic aim in Asia.' I replied that this was an unfairly high bar to set in terms of judging India's role in the pivot. Hugh then clarified:

India's new alignment with the US will only make a real difference if it is credibly willing to support America militarily against China if and when US primacy is at stake. Diffuse and politically acceptable diplomatic support won't cut it at a time like this. So the test of the US-India alignment is simple: does anyone think India would send forces to help America defend Japan's claim to the Senkakus, or the Philippines' claims in the South China Sea, or Taiwan? If not, how does India's support help America deter China from challenging US primacy in these flashpoints? And if it doesn't do that, what use is it to Obama? 

In his book The China Choice, Hugh fleshes this out with three arguments. First, 'as India emerges as a great power in its own right...its aim will be to maximise its own power, not support America's.' Second, 'the stronger India becomes, the less it will need America to help balance China.' And third, 'the stronger China is relative to India, the more cautious Delhi will be about sacrificing its interest in a good relationship with Beijing.'

Against this, we might raise five issues:*

China's Myanmar Policy: Dilemma or Strategic Ambiguity?

Bernt Berger
2 March 2015

This brief discusses China’s problem of how to deal with ethnic Chinese irredentist groups involved in the ongoing ethnic conflict in Myanmar’s Shan State along the Chinese border. The author states the failure of Beijing to diffuse suspicions of Chinese support for such groups and to rein in local actors could undermine China's relations with Myanmar and its neighborhood policy more generally.
© 2015 The Institute for Security and Development Policy

Only China Can Contain China


When Xi Jinping visits the U.S. this autumn, one of the items on his agenda is bound to be what he has called a "new type of major power relations." The term remains ambiguous and some Americans fear that it is a device for disrupting American alliances. Chinese scholars reply that it is a genuine effort to avoid the dangerous dynamics between a rising and an established power that helped precipitate the Peloponnesian War and World War I.

Looking ahead, pessimists predict an impending clash as China grows stronger and seeks to expel the U.S. from the Western Pacific. Some argue that this can be forestalled by the acceptance of spheres of influence in which the U.S. restricts its activities primarily to the Eastern Pacific. But such a response to China's rise would destroy American credibility and lead regional states into bandwagoning rather than balancing China. Instead, a continued U.S. presence in the Western Pacific can reinforce the natural balancing reactions of regional states and help to shape the environment in a way that encourages responsible Chinese behavior.

An appropriate policy response to the rise of China must balance realism and integration. When the Clinton Administration first considered how to respond to the rise of China in the 1990s, some critics urged a policy of containment before China became too strong. We rejected such advice for two reasons. First, it would have been impossible to forge an anti-China alliance since most countries in the region wanted (and still want) good relations with both the U.S. and China. Even more important, such a policy would have unnecessarily guaranteed future enmity with China. As I used to say in my speeches when I was responsible for East Asia in the Pentagon, if you treat China as an enemy, you are certain to have an enemy.

Made in China?

Asia’s dominance in manufacturing will endure. That will make development harder for others Mar 14th 2015 

BY MAKING things and selling them to foreigners, China has transformed itself—and the world economy with it. In 1990 it produced less than 3% of global manufacturing output by value; its share now is nearly a quarter. China produces about 80% of the world’s air-conditioners, 70% of its mobile phones and 60% of its shoes. The white heat of China’s ascent has forged supply chains that reach deep into South-East Asia. This “Factory Asia” now makes almost half the world’s goods.

China has been following in the footsteps of Asian tigers such as South Korea and Taiwan. Many assumed that, in due course, the baton would pass to other parts of the world, enabling them in their turn to manufacture their way to prosperity. But far from being loosened by rising wages, China’s grip is tightening. Low-cost work that does leave China goes mainly to South-East Asia, only reinforcing Factory Asia’s dominance (see article). That raises questions for emerging markets outside China’s orbit. From India to Africa and South America, the tricky task of getting rich has become harder.

China’s economy is not as robust as it was. The property market is plagued by excess supply. Rising debt is a burden. Earlier this month the government said that it was aiming for growth of 7% this year, which would be its lowest for more than two decades—data this week suggest even this might be a struggle (see article). Despite this, China will continue to have three formidable advantages in manufacturing that will benefit the economy as a whole.

France's Flagship Carrier Takes the Fight to ISIS

March 13, 2015

WASHINGTON - Late last month, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle steamed into the Persian Gulf to join the fight against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). While little noticed in the United States, the de Gaulle's arrival significantly enhances what France is bringing to the fight. Already a key contributor to the anti-ISIS coalition, France's carrier-based operations will significantly reduce the flight time of aircraft striking targets in Iraq. When the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, visited the carrier with his French counterpart last week, French officials said that as many as 15 Rafale fighter jets take off from thede Gaulle each day to conduct combat missions.

The presence of France's flagship carrier in the Gulf has a special resonance, especially when considering the bitterness between the United States and France over the Iraq War a decade ago. And French participation in the campaign against ISIS reflects a much-welcomed - and for many in Washington, underappreciated - trend. For years, senior U.S. officials and experts have traveled to European capitals and followed a well-known script to ask for greater burden-sharing in security and defense. To be sure, many of these concerns remain. European defense budgets remain underfunded, too many commitments go unfulfilled, and the capabilities gap continues to widen. U.S. leadership remains indispensable, and it is still responsible for the lion's share of the effort against ISIS in Iraq (roughly 75 percent of strikes as of early January).

What's a Palestinian?

MARCH 12, 2015

A man overseeing the erection of tents in the Jaramana Refugee Camp, Damascus, Syria 1948. (gnuckx / Flickr)

Last week, on his return from a tour of the Holy Land, former Governor of Arkansas and Republican presidential nomination candidate Mike Huckabee said to The Washington Post that “there’s really no such thing as the Palestinians.”

“The idea that they have a long history, dating back hundreds or thousands of years, is not true,” Huckabee continued, citing one of the tour’s speakers, Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein.

Huckabee’s comments are far from the first on the issue from a United States politician. “There was no Palestine as a state,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel when running for president in 2011. “It was part of the Ottoman Empire. I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs.”

It is not often that American presidential candidates make public pronouncements about the historical origins of national identities, but the Palestinian identity is a unique case. It has long been the source of much controversy and mystery, raising the question of when the Arabic speakers of Palestine first began calling themselves Palestinians.

The concept of a Palestinian people had never included Zionists, not in English and certainly not in Hebrew or Arabic.


Is It Time for a Counterinsurgency Approach to the Cyber War Against ISIS?

MARCH 12, 2015

What's missing in policy discussions about ISIS is a sense of an overarching strategic framework for countering the group in cyberspace.

In countering the violent extremism of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), understanding and responding to ISIS’ online activities have become important challenges. Two recent reports add to this debate. In Cyber Jihad, Dr. Christina Schori Liang of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy examines the unprecedented ways in which ISIS uses Internet applications to spread propaganda, create support networks, and contribute to the radicalization of individuals. In The ISIS Twitter Census, J. M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan of Brookings provide data on Twitter use by ISIS supporters, who utilized approximately 46,000 Twitter accounts but whose “social media success can be attributed to a relatively small group of hyperactive users, numbering between 500 and 2,000 accounts[.]”

David P. Fidler is a Visiting Fellow for Cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the James Louis Calamaras Professor of Law and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University and an Associate Fellow with the Centre on Global Health Security ... Full Bio


RESEARCHERS WORKING with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained byThe Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the “Jamboree,” where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple’s devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company’s attempts to provide mobile security to hundreds of millions of Apple customers across the globe. Studying both “physical” and “non-invasive” techniques, U.S. government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple’s encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption.

The CIA declined to comment for this story.

The security researchers also claimed they had created a modified version of Apple’s proprietary software development tool, Xcode, which could sneak surveillance backdoors into any apps or programs created using the tool. Xcode, which is distributed by Apple to hundreds of thousands of developers, is used to create apps that are sold through Apple’s App Store.

The modified version of Xcode, the researchers claimed, could enable spies to steal passwords and grab messages on infected devices. Researchers also claimed the modified Xcode could “force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post.” It remains unclear how intelligence agencies would get developers to use the poisoned version of Xcode.

Researchers also claimed they had successfully modified the OS X updater, a program used to deliver updates to laptop and desktop computers, to install a “keylogger.”

Other presentations at the CIA conference have focused on the products of Apple’s competitors, including Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption system, which is used widely on laptop and desktop computers running premium editions of Windows.

STRATFOR: Loose Nukes In Russia Will Be ‘The Greatest Crisis Of The Next Decade’

MARCH 11, 2015

The most alarming prediction in the Decade Forecast from private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, involves a Russian collapse leading to a nuclear crisis.

The firm believes the Russian Federation will not survive the decade in its present form, after a combination of international sanctions, plunging oil prices, and a suffering ruble trigger a political and social crisis. Russia will then devolve into an archipelago of often-impoverished and confrontational local governments under the Kremlin’s very loose control.

“We expect Moscow’s authority to weaken substantially, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of Russia” the report states, adding, “It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form.”

If that upheaval happened, it could lead to what Stratfor calls “the greatest crisis of the next decade”: Moscow’s loss of control over the world’s biggest nuclear weapons stockpile.

Russia is the world’s largest country and its 8,000 weapons are fairly spread out over its 6.6 million square miles. According to a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists study, Russia has 40 nuclear sites, which is twice as many as the US uses to house a comparable number of warheads. This policy of dispersal makes it difficult for an enemy to disable the Russian nuclear arsenal in a single attack, but it also makes the Russian stockpile difficult to control.

The Bulletin report also found that the Russia was uncertain exactly how many short-range “tactical” or city-busting “strategic” nukes it has, nor what the weapons’ state of assembly or alert status may be.

Stratfor fears that the dissolution of the Russian Federation could cause an unprecedented nuclear security crisis. Not only could the command-and-control mechanisms for Russia’s massive and highly opaque nuclear arsenal completely break down. Moscow might lose its physical control over weapons and launch platforms as well.

“Russia is the site of a massive nuclear strike force distributed throughout the hinterlands,” the Decade Forecast explains. “The decline of Moscow’s power will open the question of who controls those missiles and how their non-use can be guaranteed.”

What Can the Middle Ages Teach Us About US Naval Strategy?

March 12, 2015

The history of European chivalry offers valuable insights for analyzing the Sino-US naval competition. 

“To wage war, you need first of all money; second, you need money, and third, you also need money,” goes the famous saying of Raimondo Graf Montecúccoli, an Italian who served in the armies of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations.

Consequently, with the debate on the U.S. Navy’s budget for the next fiscal year raging on (see here and here), it is perhaps time to assess not how much money is spent on the American navy, but whether it is spent wisely. The discussion surrounding China’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities and the costs that these capabilities impose on the U.S. Navy are especially worth examining in that regard.

For the lack of space here, let us just briefly investigate one aspect of the Sino-U.S. naval rivalry, the arms race between Chinese anti-ship missiles and American aircraft carrier battle groups from a financial perspective. A 2013 report by the Center for New American Security neatly summarizes the uneven financial equation of this arms competition. The paper notes that the cost of the DF-21D, a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, lies between $5 to $ 11 million:

“Assuming the conservative, high-end estimate of $11 million per missile gives an exchange ratio of $11 million to $13.5 billion [the estimated cost of one nuclear-powered aircraft carrier], which means that China could build 1,227 DF-21Ds for every carrier the United States builds going forward. U.S. defenses would have to destroy every missile fired, a tough problem given the magazines of U.S. cruisers and destroyers, while China would need only one of its weapons to survive to effect a mission kill.”

In short, Chinese missiles are imposing asymmetrical financial costs on the U.S. naval forces. Interestingly, the U.S. Navy’s strategy to counter these threats is not too different from how European knights dealt with the advent of the English longbow on medieval battlefields during the late European Middle Ages.

Does Britain Still Have a Voice Beyond the Channel?

Posted by Kirsty McNeill 
March 12, 2015

The United Kingdom retains a powerful hand in international institutions, with seats at the top tables of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, NATO, the European Union, and the United Nations - but you wouldn't know it from listening to the candidates for Britain's highest office.

Prime Minister David Cameron recently decided to skip Ukraine cease-fire talks to visit Leamington Spa. The electoral calculation of the move was helpfully underscored by a senior aide who noted "there's a general election on. You wouldn't expect the prime minister to spend much time on foreign policy now." Cameron's challenger, Labour's Ed Miliband, is yet to give a major foreign policy address. How has Britain, one of the world's global powerhouses, produced an election campaign with so little to say about how we might best secure our interests and advance our values in turbulent times?

On one level, the answer is obvious: the voters' minds are elsewhere. The idea that there are no votes, only controversies, to be found in foreign policy holds sway at the highest levels of strategy development for the governing Conservatives and their Labour opposition alike. That is what lies behind the prime minister's desire to avoid defense debates, despite the traditional lead Conservatives enjoy on questions of national security. Labour likewise has skirted around questions about the purpose and capabilities of Britain's armed forces, focusing much more on what they should not do than what they should.

There is some evidence, however, that the parties have misread the public mood. Just because an individual voter doesn't want to devise their own answer to a complex policy dilemma doesn't mean they don't want their leaders to have one.

How Netanyahu Saved the Iran Nuclear Talks

By Maysam Behravesh
March 13, 2015

Netanyahu’s speech has only made both the U.S. and Iranian governments more determined to finalize a deal. 

Organized behind the back of the Obama administration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech in front of the Republican-dominated Congress has arguably exerted a polarizing effect on how the U.S. will act during the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. The unconventional letter by a group of 47 Republican Senators — who bypassed the White House to directly address Iranian leaders about the constitutional powers of the legislature – was the most explicit example of such an effect. Any deal on “your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress,” the letter reads, will be considered as “nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei” which could thus be repealed “with the stroke of a pen.”

Ironically, however, Netanyahu’s spoiler attempt has also set in motion a parallel political-psychological dynamic, both in Washington and Tehran that is actually helping facilitate negotiations toward a feasible settlement. Both the Obama administration and the Iranian leadership, including President Hassan Rouhani, now feel that any potential failure to clinch a deal will be largely attributed to Netanyahu’s last-ditch “heroic feat”, rather than to irresolvable differences between the negotiating parties.

On the U.S. side, Obama does not want to go down in American history as a weak leader, who buckled under the pressure of a foreign prime minister and had to submit to the demands of a “junior partner” at the end of his two-term presidency. With this in mind, it is no surprise that Obama has been exceptionally quick to respond to Netanyahu’s congressional address.

“I did not have a chance to watch Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech,” he said shortly after the talk was given. Obama further downplayed the speech as featuring “nothing new” and offering no “viable alternatives” to a negotiated agreement. In a thinly veiled attempt to confront critics with a sort of fait accompli, he hadsuggested, only a day before the speech, a verifiable suspension of Iran’s nuclear program for at least 10 years as a prerequisite to a final deal. Notably, in a rare yet calculated interview a few days later, Obama cited “progress in narrowing the gaps” during the nuclear talks with Iran. And finally, he was as quick to scorn the open Republican letter to Iranian leaders as an “ironic” indication of an “unusual coalition” between hardliners in Washington and Tehran. Other senior administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, voiced similar criticism, respectively denouncing the letter as “highly misleading” and “absolutely incorrect.

America’s Frustration With South Korea

By Harry W.S. Lee
March 10, 2015

A recent State Department speech has revealed Washington’s impatience over South Korea-Japan relations. 

The gory photo of the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, covering the wound on his neck was a shocking sight in South Korea, a country where terrorism has virtually been non-existent – all the more so because Korea has been a key U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific for decades. Interestingly, the knife attack came just days after a recent flaring of anti-U.S. sentiment across the South Korean media at disparaging comments made about the historical disputes between Japan and South Korea by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy R. Sherman.

There is no apparent evidence to suggest the nascent tension with the U.S. is linked to the attack, which was carried out by a pro-North Korean extremist, Kim Ki-jong. But coming in the midst of brewing antagonism towards the U.S., the unfortunate incident has placed the South Korean government in an awkward spot.

During the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Sherman appeared to have accused the Chinese and South Korean governments of limiting “future possibilities for cooperation” in Northeast Asia by “vilifying a former enemy” [Japan] for “cheap applause,” citing these examples: “[t]he Koreans and especially the Chinese are sensitive to any change in Japanese defense policy. The Koreans and Chinese have quarreled with Tokyo over so-called comfort women from World War II.”

The comments have snapped a nerve ending in South Korea, with the local media throughout the political spectrum going into overdrive on what they see as U.S. siding with Japan on the historical dispute.

The left’s flagship paper, Hankyoreh, ran an editorial titled, “U.S. should reflect on its next action after inflammatory remarks”, saying “[t]he remarks are an enthusiastic endorsement of the position of the Japanese government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is not only reluctant to resolve the historical issues but in fact denies that they even exist.”

Will New U.S. Aid and an IMF Bailout Be Enough to Save Ukraine?

MARCH 11, 2015

Ukraine got a desperate $17.5 billion shot in the arm Wednesday from the International Monetary Fund. But the biggest threat to the country’s economy — fighting with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine — still looms large, and a new U.S. aid package falls short of what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he needs to defeat them.

The White House announced Vice President Joe Biden told Poroshenko the United States would send an additional $75 million for equipment to help the country as it struggles with a pro-Russian insurgency backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The money will pay for drones, counter-mortar radar, Humvees, radios, and medical kits, among other equipment, but not for arms.

The Treasury Department also announced new sanctions against eight Ukrainian separatists, three former officials from the ousted regime, and a Russian bank. The European Union has not followed suit, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned last week that if the cease-fire was “seriously violated,” the European Commission was ready to impose more restrictions.

French and German Governments Think U.S. Officials Exaggerating Russian Role in Ukrainian War

Matthew Schofield
March 13, 2015

Europe, U.S. at odds over size of Russia’s intrusion in Ukraine

BERLIN — A diplomatic divide between the United States and Germany over the extent of Russian military involvement in Ukraine and how to respond to it threatens to hinder hopes of providing greater support to the beleaguered nation.

The dispute comes as the United States agreed this week to provide $75 million in nonlethal aid to Ukraine, including 30 armored Humvees and up to 200 unarmored ones. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the $75 million a “substantial supplement” to the assistance the United States already has provided, including some $120 million that’s gone to the Ukrainian military, but he stopped short of saying lethal aid might be considered.

Whether to provide additional military assistance to the Ukrainian military remains an open question. The U.S. administration is concerned that it could never provide enough military support for Ukraine to defeat Russia and that doing so would only encourage pro-Russia fighters in eastern Ukraine to violate a tenuous cease-fire.

Still, in recent weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has appeared frustrated with proposals emanating from Congress and parts of the Obama administration to send weapons to Ukraine, saying that could scuttle the chance of finding a diplomatic solution and escalate the crisis.

German officials, including some in Merkel’s office, have recently referred to U.S. statements of Russian involvement in the Ukraine fighting as “dangerous propaganda,” and the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel went so far as to ask: “Do the Americans want to sabotage the European mediation attempts in Ukraine led by Chancellor Merkel?”