16 March 2015

Looking beyond nuclear liability

March 16, 2015

While breaking the logjam on nuclear liability is perceived as the most significant outcome of the Obama visit, such a narrow focus misses the larger picture. An underlying broader political objective has driven the India-U.S.-nuclear dialogue since the end of the Cold War, and in the talk of ending the logjam, Narendra Modi and Barack Obama clearly had the larger political objective in view

A month has passed since U.S President Barack Obama was in Delhi as the chief guest at the Republic Day and had his famous “chai pe charcha” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. An overview of the Indian commentary about the Obama visit would reveal that breaking the logjam on nuclear liability is perceived as its most significant outcome. Both leaders focussed on it at their joint press conference and Paragraph 43 of the Joint Statement states that “the Leaders welcomed the understandings reached on the issues of civil nuclear liability and administrative arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation, and looked forward to U.S.-built nuclear reactors contributing to India’s energy security at the earliest.”

Political objective in mind

A lack of details initially led to considerable speculation about the nature of the breakthrough and the assurances provided. To clarify matters, the Ministry of External Affairs took the unusual step of putting out a seven page ‘Questions and Answers’ explanatory paper which sparked yet another round of debate on whether this was really a breakthrough or not. However, such a narrow focus on nuclear liability misses the larger picture; there is an underlying broader political objective which has driven the nuclear dialogue between India and the United States since the end of the Cold War, and when Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama talked of breaking the logjam, they clearly had the larger political objective in view.

Murky Waters: Naval Nuclear Dynamics in the Indian Ocean

MARCH 9, 2015 

As India and Pakistan develop their naval nuclear forces, they will enter increasingly murky waters. By further institutionalizing relations between their navies, both countries may succeed in adding a greater degree of stability to a dangerously volatile maritime environment.

More than five years have passed since India launched its first ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) in July 2009. Meanwhile, Pakistan formally inaugurated a Naval Strategic Force Command headquarters in 2012 and has declared its intent to develop its own sea-based deterrent. As India and Pakistan develop their naval nuclear forces, they will enter increasingly murky waters. By further institutionalizing relations between their navies and by insisting on stronger transparency with regard to naval nuclear developments, both countries may succeed in adding a greater degree of stability to what otherwise promises to be a dangerously volatile maritime environment.

Ongoing Naval Nuclear Dynamics in South Asia 
India’s pursuit of a sea-based nuclear strike force is the next logical step in its quest for an assured retaliatory capability. 

India has conducted a series of test firings of Dhanush-class short-range ballistic missiles from offshore patrol vessels. It appears that for the Indian Navy, the Dhanush program is a stopgap measure until the SSBN fleet comes to fruition.

The submarine-based leg of India’s nuclear triad will have a major impact on the nation’s existing command-and-control arrangements.

To enjoy an effective sea-based deterrent vis-à-vis China, India’s other prospective nuclear adversary, New Delhi has to develop larger SSBNs with greater missile carriage capacity and more powerful nuclear reactors.

Pakistan’s naval nuclear ambitions are fueled primarily by the sense of a growing conventional, rather than strategic, imbalance between New Delhi and Islamabad. 

By dispersing low-yield nuclear weapons across a variety of naval platforms, Islamabad aims to acquire escalation dominance and greater strategic depth and to reduce the incentives for a preemptive strike on its nuclear assets.

Takeaways for India and Pakistan 
Naval nuclear operations during the Cold War hold an immense value in terms of thinking more deeply about issues such as conventional operations under a nuclear shadow, naval nuclear signaling, and escalation control.

Pentagon IG: No effort by Afghans to prevent waste of billions of US aid funds

By Tony Capaccio
March 11, 2015

Sagging reinforcement rods at the unfinished Justice Center in Parwan complex in Parwan province, Afghanistan. This photo was part of a May 15, 2013, report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

WASHINGTON — Billions of dollars in U.S. and international aid for Afghanistan's security forces are at risk because the ministries that manage the money aren't preventing waste and corruption, the Pentagon inspector general found.

"Future direct assistance funds are vulnerable to increased fraud and abuse" because the Afghan government has "had numerous contract award and execution irregularities" and procurement-law violations, according to an audit labeled "For Official Use Only."

The Afghan National Security Forces remain dependent on U.S. and allied financing as foreign troops depart. The Pentagon has provided $3.3 billion in payments directly to Afghan ministries since October 2010, and an additional $13 billion in such direct military aid is projected through 2019, three years after President Barack Obama has pledged to withdraw all but a small number of U.S. troops.

The Feb. 26 audit bolsters previous assessments by the separate office of John Sopko, speciala inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, that the country's Defense and Interior ministries aren't ready to manage the funds going to the military and national police force without major U.S. help.

"The ministries did not adequately develop, award, execute or monitor contracts funded with U.S. direct assistance," Michael Roark, assistant inspector inspector general for contract management, wrote to U.S. and allied commanders in a letter submitting the new audit.

In one case cited in the report, the Combined Security Transition Command of U.S. and allied forces refused to provide a $15 million, or 25 percent, increase to an Afghan Army fuel contract that was requested five days after a contract was awarded. The command called it a "possible vehicle for corruption," according to the report.

The Afghan defense ministry also "significantly overestimated fuel requirements" for military vehicles, generators and power plants last year, according to the audit.

In another instance, an audit by the combined command concluded that the defense ministry "lacked controls to provide reasonable assurance it appropriately spent" $120.5 million of direct U.S. assistance for clothing, the inspector general's report found.

The audit criticized the transition command for inadequately training the ministries to manage U.S. assistance and instead doing the work itself, creating a "continued dependence."

Officials with the command said "pressure to maintain hard-fought gains" on the battlefield "and not compromise" Afghan military operations'' with poorly executed support contracts "resulted in the coalition overlooking ministerial shortcomings."

The audit didn't say what U.S. or allied entity was bringing such pressure to bear.

How Islamic Is the Islamic State? Not at

MARCH 12, 2015
All.What The Atlantic got wrong about ISIS

It is difficult to forget the names, or the images, of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Alan Henning and Peter Kassig. The barbaric beheadings between August and November 2014, in cold blood and on camera, of these five jumpsuit-clad western hostages by the self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS, provoked widespread outrage and condemnation.

However, we should also remember the name of Didier François, a French journalist who was held by ISIS in Syria for ten months before being released in April 2014. François has since given us a rare insight into life inside what the Atlantic’s Graeme Wood, in a recent report for the magazine, has called the “hermit kingdom” of ISIS, where “few have gone . . . and returned.” And it is an insight that threatens to turn the conventional wisdom about the world’s most fearsome terrorist organisation on its head.

“There was never really discussion about texts,” the French journalist told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last month, referring to his captors. “It was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion.”

According to François, “It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran.” And the former hostage revealed to a startled Amanpour: “We didn’t even have the Quran. They didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”

The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been a disaster for the public image of Islam—and a boon for the Islamophobia industry. Here, after all, is a group that calls itself Islamic State; that claims the support of Islamic texts to justify its medieval punishments, from the stoning of adulterers to the amputation of the hands of thieves; and that has a leader with a PhD in Islamic studies who declares himself to be a “caliph,” or ruler over all Muslims, and has even renamed himself in honour of the first Muslim caliph, Abu Bakr.

The consequences are, perhaps, as expected. In September 2014, a Zogby poll found that only 27 percent of Americans had a favourable view of Islam—down from 35 per cent in 2010. By February 2015, more than a quarter of Americans (27 per cent) were telling the pollsters LifeWay Research that they believed that life under ISIS rule “gives a true indication of what an Islamic society looks like.”


John J. Mearsheimer concludes his book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, with the chapter “Can China Rise Peacefully?” This is certainly on the minds of many, as over the the past few years the size of China’s economy has overtaken that of the U.S. While China’s economy grows, so too has her aggressive stance on her territorial claims in the South China Sea, Scarborough Shoal and theSenkaku Islands. Coupled with her rapid double digit increases in military spending, one would be hard pressed not to conclude that China is quickly rising to “Great Power” status, if not there already.

At the same time, China’s leadership has gone out of its way to promote its policy of “peaceful development.” It has embarked on a program of“neighborhood diplomacy” emphasizing “friendship and partnership” and “good neighborliness.” It has even enshrined this policy of peaceful development and eschewed hegemonic intentions in the Chinese Communist Party doctrine.

China asserts that unlike Western powers, it can rise peacefully due to its unique Confucian cultural tradition. In 2014, China celebrated the 2,565th birthday of Confucius (551-479 BC), and President Xi Jinping provided the keynote address marking the occasion. In it, he sought to emphasize that China’s Confucian heritage, integrated within Communist doctrine (naturally) would promote social harmony at home and peaceful understanding with its neighbors and the world. Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World, suggests as much when he describes China as a “civilization state” rather than a “nation state.“

So what are we to make of this? Will China’s “Confucian exceptionalism” exempt her from the traditional historical patterns of conflict when rising powers bump up against status quo powers like the United States? Yuan-kang Wang, assistant professor at Western Michigan University addresses that question in his book,Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics. In it, he asks, “To what extent does culture influence a state’s use of military force against external security threats?” This is the central concern to those in the world outside of China, as history tends to suggest that when a rapidly rising power threatens an established power, competition almost inevitably leads to conflict – the dreadful Thucydides’s Trap. (There is a good argument that the trap may already have been sprung.)

Returning to China and its Confucian tradition, what does history suggest? The premise of Dr. Wang’s book is to address head on whether “cultural theories [which] argue that ideational factors … can transform the harmful effects of [state system anarchy] and have an independent effect of state behavior.” Therefore, China’s strategic behavior in the past should largely reflect and be explained by the cultural traditional of “Confucian pacifism.”

Confucian pacifism has four key features: a culture of antimilitarism, defensive grand strategy, the theory of just war and limited war aims. Antimilitarism suggests that China has a historic bias toward civil virtue over martial virtue as shown by its state promotion of Confucian ideology. Its tradition of nonviolence led it to favor a defensive grand strategy over aggressive expansion, relying on “cultural attraction” or the “benevolent way” as opposed to the Western tradition of the “hegemonic way.”

Fog of War: Is China's Military Battle-Ready?

March 14, 2015 

Are you experienced? The Chinese military debates the importance of its lack of recent combat experience.

A new assessment of the Chinese military by a reputable U.S. think tank concludes, in effect, that “the emperor has no clothes.” The authors of this report seem to be wary lest “… the US might be inclined to assume China has more sway in international affairs than its actual combat power merits.” This analysis claims to be more authoritative, based in part on an examination of “human capital” intangibles, which goes well beyond the rote “bean-counting” of simple force-structure analysis to look at command structures, health and recruiting, education, training, as well as corruption and civil-military relations.

A thorough evaluation of that report is well beyond the scope of this brief commentary. The research seems, by and large, to have been carefully done and to be supported by evidence from Chinese sources. This edition of Dragon Eye will focus solely on a point made repeatedly in this report and some of the related commentary: that “… the PLA has not, by and large, experienced modern warfare and may therefore be more cavalier about the prospects for achieving political goals through military means…” Put more simply, the PLA’s paucity of military experience would appear to be a gaping hole in China’s rapid military modernization, and one that simply cannot be remedied by shiny new weapons kitted out for glittering parades or even by elaborate computer simulations. This alleged major weakness in China’s military brings to mind a recent article from the official Chinese Navy newspaper, 人民海军, [People’s Navy], which ran under the headline: “Do Not Consider the ‘Lack of Real Combat Experience’ As a Major Issue.”

Admitting that many in Chinese military circles are concerned by the PLA’s lack of actual combat experience, the author 赵辉 [Zhao Hui] opens the essay, writing: “In the process of rapid military transformation, there are always people who say that a lack of combat experience is an important limitation on combat power…” Baldly stating his thesis, Zhao then asserts that such perspectives are “untenable, unscientific, rustic, inhibit self-confidence, and may lead to misguided policy …” While he concedes that this lack of fighting experience is the “objective reality confronting … [the Chinese] armed forces,” the author maintains that combat experience does not always signify a military advantage.

A Turning Point in China's 'War on Pollution'

March 14, 2015

For the first time since 2001, China’s total carbon emissions dropped last year. 

China’s total carbon dioxide emissions dropped in 2014, the first year-on-year decline since 2001,Bloomberg reported on Friday. The news marks a potential turning point in China’s “war on pollution” and in global efforts to prevent climate change.

Using energy demand data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that China’s CO2 emissions dropped 2 percent in 2014 compared to 2013. That confirms recently released findings by the International Energy Agency, which found that changing energy consumption patterns in China were a major reason that global emissions remained flat in 2014.

Sophie Lu, an analyst for BNEF, pointed out a major cause of the emission drop — China’s “coal demand is slowing” while other energy sources are becoming more widely used. According to China’s National Energy Administration, coal represented 64.2 of China’s total energy matrix, down from 66 percent in 2013. The goal is to have China’s reliance on coal continue to decline, with a target of having coal represent only 62 percent of China’s energy usage by 2020. Some experts are even calling for a cap on coal to be included in the next Five Year Plan (to cover the period from 2016-2020). The move away from coal was reflected economically as well; as Sara Hsu pointed out for The Diplomat, China’s coal mining industry saw profits drop by 46 percent last year.

In recent years, China had only been willing to commit a reduction in “emissions intensity,” or the number of emissions per unit GDP. Given China’s rapid GDP growth over the past decade, even meeting goals for emissions intensity reductions did little to stop total emissions from skyrocketing. China’s goal for this year, for example, is to reduce carbon intensity by 3.1 percent. But in a breakthrough climate change action plan announced alongside U.S. commitments last November, China announced it would aim to have its total emissions peak by 2030.

China’s push to move away from coal and toward cleaner energy sources is already paying off. China invested just under $90 billion in renewable energy in 2014 (compared to $51.8 billion for the U.S., the next largest investor in the world). China is also more aggressively pursuing natural gas and other, cleaner energy solutions such as nuclear power. According to China’s Energy Development Strategy Action Plan, released last November, China wants 10 percent of its total energy use to be supplied by natural gas by 2020.

Myanmar Bombings in Yunnan Killed 4 Chinese

March 14, 2015

4 Chinese citizens were killed in an airstrike conducted by the Myanmar Air Force. 

Chinese media, including Xinhua, CCTV, and People’s Daily, have confirmed that four Chinese citizens have been killed as a result of a misjudged bombing run by the Myanmar Air Force on Friday. These reports come after a Chinese foreign ministry press conference earlier this week confirmed bombings by Myanmar jets on the Chinese side of the China-Myanmar border, in Yunnan province, last weekend. However, the press conference noted that though a civilian domicile was damaged, no Chinese lives were lost.

Today’s reports additionally note that Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin has summoned Myanmar’s envoy to China, Thit Linn Ohn, to lodge “solemn representations.” The bombing, which claimed four lives and resulted in nine injuries and took place after the press conference earlier this week, suggested repeated cross-border strikes by Myanmar jets. Myanmar’s Air Force has been conducting air strikes against ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels along the country’s northeastern border with China.

According to Xinhua, a bomb released by a Myanmar jet struck “a sugarcane field in the border city of Lincang and killed four people working there on Friday afternoon. Nine others were also injured.” Liu, the vice foreign minister, has condemned the incident and urged Myanmar to “thoroughly investigate the case and inform the Chinese side of the result.” Liu additionally recommended that Myanmar “punish the perpetrator.”

Earlier this week, in a press conference, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei noted that the “Chinese side has expressed grave concerns to the Myanmar side, asking them to get to the bottom of this incident as soon as possible and take effective measures to ensure that such incident will never happen again.” Obviously, given these reports, China’s earlier diplomatic pressure failed. As I noted earlier this week, the cross-border bombings put Beijing in a difficult position. News of Chinese casualties will only render the situation more severe and test the limits of China’s policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries.

Will China Bail Out Putin?

By Andrew Collier, Arthur Peng and Abigail Collier
March 14, 2015

As Russia’s economy struggles, China has been making overtures. 

China has been increasingly willing to help countries experiencing financial distress. This is part of a larger attempt to follow President Xi Jinping’s desire to make China “more engaged with the world.” Stepping in to help Russia would be another notch in China’s bailout belt. However, despite China’s increased economic support for Russia, China’s support is likely to remain indirect and limited.

Chinese bank loans and natural resource imports have provided Russia with some substantial economic advantages. Despite energy demand sinking to its lowest level since 1992, China’s imports from Russia have climbed in price and volume. This has been accompanied by Beijing’s promises for substantial infrastructure projects and long-term agreements. Likewise, several Chinese banks, including the Export-Import Bank of China, Bank of Harbin, China Export & Credit Insurance, and China Finance Strategies Investment Holding, have agreed to provide $13.8 billion in credit facilities and loans to Russian banks. China has even agreed to shoulder the larger part of a $242 billion high-speed rail project between Beijing and Moscow.

China has trumpeted these measures. “Together we have carefully taken care of the tree of Russian-Chinese relations,” Xi Jinping said at a meeting with Putin at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing last November. “Now fall has set in, it’s harvest time, it’s time to gather fruit.”

China has signed two natural gas deals with Russia that could account for as much as 17 percent of China’s gas consumption by 2020, according to research by Nomura Holdings.

But despite China’s significant contribution to Russian trade, bank loans, and the overall bilateral relationship – and the quid pro quo in energy deals – China’s assistance would not be enough to support the Russian economy. Currently, China provides nowhere near the support of the European Union, whose foreign direct investment accounts for 75 percent of Russia’s total inflow. The substantial finances provided by China are still only less than 10 percent of the $265 billion in loans and bonds that Russian companies need to repay.

Would India go to War with China to Help America?

March 13, 2015

In his latest contribution to our debate over at the Lowy Interpreter, Shashank Joshi raised some excellent points against my sceptical view of the emerging India-US 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 US 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 US-India relations justifies that confidence.

Our J&K strategy can be simple: hold on for 15-20 years, and Pakistan will self-destruct

by Ajai Sahni 
Mar 14, 2015 

More than 30 years ago, Pakistan launched its proxy war against India, intervening, first, by backing Khalistani terrorism in Punjab and, thereafter, flush with the success of its US-backed ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan, igniting the Islamist-terrorist insurrection in Jammu & Kashmir.

Gradually, the goal of the Kashmiri jihad widened to include the rest of India, and continuous efforts of recruitment secured some ‘successes’, with a rash of terrorist attacks afflicting different parts of the country over an extended period of time.

Pakistan only needs to be left alone: Image used for representational purposes only

Even as India frets about the impending release by a Pakistani court of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, we tend to forget that the anti-India activities of the Pakistani Deep State predate even the Khalistani campaign.

Pakistani mischief, in fact, commenced with the ‘tribal raid’ – in fact a covert military invasion – of Jammu & Kashmir in 1947, and comprehends support to virtually every significant separatist revolt in India’s North-east. Another three conventional wars have marked the brief history of the two nations born out of the crucible of Partition.

In this long interregnum, India is yet to devise a coherent policy response to enduring Pakistani trouble-making and is, today, once again, blundering along the same exhausted pathways, the same swings of the pendulum between talks and no talks.

Despite the sheer relentlessness of Pakistan’s campaigns, and the persistence of its amplifying hatred against India, no regime in Delhi has ever evolved a coherent strategic perspective or response to Pakistan’s sustained project of inflicting ‘death by a thousand cuts’ on India.

Indeed, successive governments in India have held stubbornly to the thesis that a ‘strong and stable Pakistan’ is in India’s interest, despite augmenting evidence that Pakistan’s internal difficulties and vulnerabilities have invariably brought great relief from Islamabad’s mischief, and that a ‘strong and stable’ enemy can hardly be in the best interest of any country.

Pakistani persistence and Indian incoherence has inflicted tremendous harm on India.

There Is No Global Jihadist 'Movement'

MAR 11 2015

The world of Islamist fighters is deeply fragmented and constantly shifting.
Wikimedia Commons/The AtlanticReports last week indicated that the Nusra Front, a major anti-Assad jihadist group, might be abandoning its affiliation with al-Qaeda due to a combination of leadership losses and internal dissent, though a Nusra spokesman has since denied that development. The group, otherwise known as Jabhat al-Nusra, was first formed in Syria as an independent affiliate of both al-Qaeda and ISIS, which were then allies. When al-Qaeda and ISIS parted ways, Nusra established itself as a rival to its former Islamic State sponsor out of loyalty to al-Qaeda. Even with that defection, however, the self-proclaimed Islamic State is becoming increasingly attractive to other members of the jihadist universe, with Boko Haram the latest group to sign on.

Such kaleidoscopic patterns are not uncommon: What’s sometimes referred to as the global jihadist “movement” is actually extremely fractured. It’s united by a general set of shared ideological beliefs, but divided organizationally and sometimes doctrinally. Whether to fight the “near enemy” (local regimes) or the “far enemy” (such as the United States and the West), for example, has been contentious since the 1990s, when Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. Rivalry among like-minded militant groups is as common as cooperation. Identities and allegiances shift. Groups align and re-align according to changing expectations about the future of the conflicts they’re involved in, as well as a host of other factors, such as competition for resources, leadership transitions, and the defection of adherents to rival groups that appear to be on the ascendant.

This Week in War

March 13, 2015 

In America, Hillary Clinton continued to take fire for using a private email server for correspondence while she served as Secretary of State. Though Colin Powell also used a private email for correspondence while Secretary of State, some members of Congress have called for an investigation into the affair and connected it—wait for it—with investigations into the attack on the U.S. Embassy inBenghazi, Libya. Among the most vocal of Clinton’s critics was Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Technology who claims to have never sent an email in his life because he is too busy being “thoughtful.”

Rather than email, 47 U.S. Senators addressed a letter to the leadership of Iran, warning, threatening, or reminding them (depending upon who you ask) that congress or a future president could scuttle any deal President Barack Obama agrees with Tehran regarding their nuclear program. Many have accused the signatories of violating the Logan Act, which prevents U.S. government officials from conducting relations or negotiations with foreign officials. Ayatollah Khameini called the letter proof of America’s dishonesty and “internal disintegration.”

This past week the U.S. Senate also held hearings on the president’s authorization to use military force, or AUMF. No major news channel covered the hearings. And the room was reportedly half-empty. Or maybe it was half-full?

South America

U.S. Officials Say That ISIS Is Still Growing Despite Heavy Losses in Iraq and Syria

Helene Cooper, Anne Barnard and Eric Schmitt
March 13, 2015

ISIS Still on the Attack, Despite Internal Strife and Heavy Losses

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State is facing growing dissension among its rank-and-file fighters and struggling to govern towns and villages it has seized, but the militant Sunni group is still managing to launch attacks and expand its ideological reach outside of Iraq and Syria, senior American officials said.

In the seven months since allied warplanes in the American-led air campaign began bombing select Islamic State targets, the Sunni militancy, while marginally weaker, is holding its own, senior defense and intelligence officials said.

Pentagon officials expressed only cautious optimism on Thursday after the Islamic State lost much of the central Iraqi city of Tikrit following more than a week of fierce fighting, warning that it would be as difficult for Iraqi forces to hold the city as it was to liberate it. And even as the militants had a last stand in Tikrit, Islamic State fighters were mounting one of the fiercest assaults in months in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. 

But in recent months tensions have become apparent inside the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. The troubles stem from new military and financial pressures and from the growing pains of a largely decentralized organization trying to hold together what it views as a nascent state while integrating thousands of foreign fighters with Iraqi and Syrian militants.

The tensions were described in recent interviews with a Syrian fighter who recently defected from the group and an Islamic State recruiter who still works with the group but is critical of some of its practices. The troubles were consistent with accounts from residents of areas that the Islamic State controls and from interviews with numerous Syrian activists who oppose both the Islamic State and the Syrian government. Those activists have recently fled from those areas but maintain extensive contacts there.

There are reports of dozens of executions and imprisonments of Islamic State fighters trying to flee the group. There are strains in fighting on multiple fronts, with some fighters being deployed to battles that, they complain, are not strategically important. There are complaints about salaries and living conditions, disputes over money and business opportunities, and allegations that commanders have left with looted cash and other resources.

And there is growing anecdotal evidence that some members of the group — particularly locals who may have joined out of opportunism or a sense that it was the best way to survive — have been repulsed by its extreme violence.

100 Men From Caribbean Islands Have Joined ISIS or Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
March 13, 2015

Southcom Commander Discusses Recruit Movement to Syria

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2015 – The movement and tracking of recruits traveling from the Caribbean region to Syria to fight alongside Islamic extremists is concerning, Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said today.

During a Pentagon news briefing, Kelly responded to reporters’ questions, which were generated by his testimony on Southcom’s posture earlier today before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

About 100 Recruits from Region

During his SASC testimony, the general said about 100 recruits have traveled from the Caribbean to Syria to fight alongside Islamic extremists.

“Everyone’s concerned too if they come home,” he said, “because if they went over radicalized, one would expect they’ll come back at least that radicalized.”

“Do we have any indication right now of … any scheme to attack the United States? No,” Kelly said.

The general said it’s a situation similar to the U.S. where “there’s some small number reportedly that have radicalized for one reason or another here in the United States.”

But much larger numbers of extremist recruits go from Western Europe into the fight in Syria, where they develop fighting skills, Kelly said.

Tracking Recruits

An immodest Iranian proposal


An anthropologist, Gusterson is a professor of anthropology and sociology at George Mason University. His expertise is in nuclear culture, international security, and the anthropology of science....

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND—In a worldwide news exclusive, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists can report that Iranian nuclear negotiators have shocked their American counterparts by announcing—after months of haggling over the minutiae of uranium enrichment—a 180-degree change in their negotiating position.

Looking tired after a negotiating session that stretched late into the night and apparently caught off-guard by a reporter’s question, a top Iranian negotiator, Arad Iqhal, offered the Bulletin a startling inside look at his country's new position: Iran has agreed to dismantle every bit of its nascent nuclear weapons capability, he said, if the United States complies with the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"The Iranian people can no longer withstand the sanctions," Mr. Iqhal said. "We have thrown in the towel. All the Americans have to do is follow a treaty they helped write back in the Beatles era. It should be simple."

US diplomats refused to confirm or deny having received the Iranian proposal. Senate Republicans immediately denounced it as treaty-mongering that threatens Israel. 

Over the last few months, negotiators from the major nuclear powers and Iran have sought to reach an agreement that limits Iran's nuclear program, focusing on moderate reductions in the infrastructure that could otherwise enable Iran to make a nuclear bomb. These reductions would be frozen in place for 10 years, keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons; a relaxation of sanctions against Iran would presumably be offered as a quid pro. Until today's stunning turn of events, Western negotiators had tacitly conceded that they cannot turn the clock back to 2003. In 2003, when Iran had far fewer centrifuges than it has now, it made an exploratory offer through a Swiss intermediary to freeze its nuclear program and make peace with Israel in return for normalized relations with the United States. The Bush Administration ignored the attempted opening

Wanted: a party leader willing to talk about defence

14 March 2015

In this election campaign, no one wants to mention the bear in the room

James Forsyth and John Bew discuss the lack of foreign policy in the election campaign

In the 1984 US presidential election, Ronald Reagan came up with an effective way of embarrassing his rival Walter Mondale over defence. ‘There’s a bear in the woods,’ ran his television advert, showing a grizzly bear wandering through a forest. ‘For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it all.’ During the British general election campaign, the Russian bear isn’t making any attempt to hide — it is standing on its hind legs and pawing at the trees with its claws. Although everyone can see the bear, none of the political parties want to focus on it.

You wouldn’t know from this election campaign, but Europe is in crisis. On its eastern border, the threat from Russia is as great as at any point since the end of the Cold War. Crimea has been annexed and large parts of eastern Ukraine are under control of Russian-backed forces. Russian aircraft have even been taunting the RAF in the English Channel. The Baltic states are increasingly fearful that they will be next to suffer from Vladimir Putin’s attempt to reassert Russian dominance on its doorstep.

On Europe’s southern border, Islamic State continues to cause death and destruction — the recent decapitations in Libya were filmed along the shore to make the point that the jihadis have reached the Mediterranean. More worrying, perhaps, is the number of Europeans fighting for it. Last weekend, Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, warned that the number of Europeans who will have taken up arms with Isis may treble to 10,000 by the end of this year. As these radicalised youths return home, the terrorist threat in Europe will rise exponentially.

Obama Backs Tehran's Push for Hegemony

March 12, 2015

What U.S. President Barack Obama has achieved is impossible, if not miraculous. He has pushed the Saudis, the Sunni Gulf states, Egypt, and the Israelis into each other's arms.

The president sees his negotiations with Iran as restricting Iran's nuclear ambitions. In reality, Obama has moved back the goalposts. The goal before was clear enough: to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear device. The goal now is to monitor a nuclear infrastructure which has a breakout capacity that can easily lead to a nuclear weapon.

The president has not flip-flopped this much on foreign policy since he had to decide what to do in Syria.

In both cases, Obama managed to inspire some confidence among the peoples of the region, which is why his policies have produced cooperation among unexpected partners, all of whom now feel betrayed by the president's embrace of Iran.

The president's supporters have argued that a nuclear deal is in no way contingent on Iran's foreign policy. Iran's hegemonic aspirations are dismissed as inconsequential. Its support of terrorists in the region and its export of terrorism overseas to kill Jews in Argentina are also said to be independent considerations.

Vladimir Putin Is Hiking the Appalachian Trail

MAR 12 2015

The Russian leader hasn't been seen in public for a week, leading to some wild speculation about his whereabouts and well-being.

Alexei Nikolsky/Reuters/The AtlanticWhere were you when you heard that Vladimir Putin, fat on territorial conquest and thin on ruble value, had died at age 62? Probably the same place you were when you heard that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un had either suddenly disappeared, was thought to be dead, or was on a cheese bender.

On Thursday, the Internet once again went aflame with theories about the possible whereabouts and potential demise of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. According to reports, the last time Putin was seen in public was March 5, a week ago, when he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"It offers evidence enough that Russia has become an outright dictatorship."Putin's health first became the topic of conjecture when he paused his recent flurry of globetrottingand canceled a trip to Kazakhstan earlier this week. The Kazakh government, as The Guardianreported, said that Putin had fallen ill.

Putin not only missed presidential pow-wows withBelarus and Kazakhstan, but a treaty signing in South Ossetia, Georgia's breakaway region. On Wednesday, the Kremlin posted pictures and particulars from Putin's meeting with Karelian chief Alexander Khudilaynen in Moscow, but that appears to have been a ruse. As Meduza noted,"a local business newspaper in Karelia, however, reported this meeting on March 5," one day after it took place. Khudilaynen was said to be far from Moscow on March 11.

DoD, intel community zero in on big data analytics

Amber Corrin, Senior Staff Write
March 12, 2015 

Defense Department and intelligence community officials are capitalizing on tech tools that make sense of vast quantities of big data, including with a new big data hub and app marketplace at the CIA.

The CIA next month will start using Cloudera's Enterprise Data Hub platform, which will pool standardized data from intelligence analysts across agencies for use by intelligence community (IC) decision-makers, according to CIO Doug Wolfe. The open-source big data platform and marketplace will be hosted on the IC's Amazon Web Services C2S private cloud, Wolfe said Feb. 25 at the Cloudera Federal Forum in McLean, Va.

The enterprise data hub agreements are set to last no more than three years as agency officials throughout DoD and IC look to exploit fast-moving technology – and move more quickly themselves. The goal is to keep pace with emerging threats and avoid getting stuck in proprietary solutions, focusing instead on open-source technology.

"I am concerned on the analytic front that we get locked in to certain solutions – that we believe we should put all our data in one place and we believe we have to run all of our data against any given tool or any given solution," Wolfe said. "I've got to believe that two years from now there's going to be the next generation of Spark or Hadoop or whatever that is and we're going to say we really need access to that and we really need to leverage that to make our mission work."

At DoD, officials are hoping to emulate the IC's strides in the cloud.

"You can talk about big data, you can talk about all kinds of new technology…but at the end of the day what does that mean? It means change," said Dave Bennett, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency's implementation and sustainment center. "DoD is not a big change agent. We are slow, we are cautious. If you expect us to move with any sort of speed, I would say good luck with that."

Yet despite DoD's caution in implementing new technologies, services and processes, it's something that must be done, if for no other reason than to maintain network security, Bennett noted.

How (and why) the CIA plans to expand cyber capabilities

By Sean Lyngaas 
Feb 24, 2015 

CIA Director John Brennan's plan to ramp up the agency's cyber espionage capabilities and compete in a space the intelligence community has increasingly prioritized involves better integrating cybersecurity into human intelligence operations.

The agency's plans, first reportedby the Washington Post, involve boosting humint efforts by dispatching cyber specialists beyond their traditional enclave at the Information Operations Center, which analyzes foreign threats to U.S. computer systems, a former senior CIA official told FCW. Embedding cyber specialists into CIA operational divisions would help the cyber hands find better IT tools to support agency operations, the former official, who asked not to be identified, said.

Stephen Slick, another former CIA official who now heads the Intelligence Studies Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said the agency would do well to focus more on cyberspace.

"To the extent that the director's plans may involve highlighting cyber issues, that's entirely appropriate -- even overdue," Slick wrote in an email to FCW and other news outlets. "Advances in digital technology are having a revolutionary impact on the intelligence business, and it's important for CIA to adapt its collection and covert action missions to account for the new opportunities and dangers that are presented."

Brennan's "plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations," from recruiting informants to attacking the Islamic State, the Post reported. The CIA director has also considered creating a "cyber-directorate" at the agency that would elevate the role of IT experts in intelligence operations, the report says, citing current and former CIA officials.

The reported cyber plans are part of a larger, ongoing reevaluation of the agency's operations and personnel. CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency had no comment on the reported cyber plans "given that final decisions have not yet been made with respect to internal agency modernization efforts."

A source close to the House Intelligence Committee, however, told FCW that Brennan gave the the panel's leadership a general overview of the agency's reorganization plans but hardly any information on the cyber component. The committee is awaiting more details on the CIA's reported cyber plans, that source said.

Communication on cybersecurity policy has previously been a point of contention between the Obama administration and Congress. House Intelligence Committee members were irked that they were not briefed ahead of the administration's recent announcement of a new cyber intelligence agency, the source said.
Overshadowed by NSA

Brennan has described cyberspace as a "double-edged sword" for the intelligence community. "Digital footprints may enable us to track down a suspected terrorist, but they may leave our officers vulnerable as well," he said in a speech at Georgetown University last June.

The CIA's cyber capabilities are generally overshadowed by those of the National Security Agency, which has more manpower to tackle cyberspace and often budgetary support to boot. The CIA requested $685.4 million for computer network operations in fiscal 2013, compared with $1 billion requested by the NSA, according to a classified budget former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shared with the Washington Post.

Drawing back the curtain on cyberwar

By Sean Lyngaas 
Mar 13, 2015 

Shane Harris' new book details the turning points and turf battles in federal cybersecurity policy.

Journalist Shane Harris has written a richly detailed, page-turning recent history of the militarization of cyberspace. The combination of thoroughness and accessibility makes "@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex" an important contribution to the ever-changing, seemingly unfathomable field of cybersecurity.

Harris offers an inside account of how, over the course of more than a decade, U.S. military, intelligence and civilian agencies have ramped up their cyber capabilities to try to stay ahead of threats posed by criminal hackers and nation states. But the book does more than chronicle that transformation. It also picks up on the personalities and bureaucratic turf battles behind it and reflects on the broader implications for the security and openness of the Internet.

The book's subtitle is a variant of President Dwight Eisenhower's warning against the potentially outsize influence of industry on U.S. defense policy. The military-Internet complex treats the Web as a battlefield, writes Harris, a senior correspondent at The Daily Beast. That battlefield is full of government and corporate secrets, and it has spawned a lucrative market for protecting them.

FCW readers will appreciate the book's detailing of the interagency tensions that come with grappling with a new domain. The 2009 birth of U.S. Cyber Command under the leadership of the National Security Agency director gave NSA even more clout among agencies in cyberspace. But Jane Holl Lute, who became deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that year, challenged the notion that NSA was uniquely suited to defend civilian cyberspace, Harris writes.

"Pretend the Manhattan phone book is the universe of malware," she is quoted as telling colleagues. "NSA only has about one page of the book."

That turf battle is likely far from settled, and DHS has continued to expand its own cyber-defense capabilities.

Cyberwarfare is not a new concept, but it is a fairly new practice. One of the pivotal moments came in 2007, during the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq, according to Harris. He profiles Bob Stasio, then an Army lieutenant whose signals-intelligence platoon is credited with tracking down hundreds of insurgents. He used cell phone signals to determine insurgents' locations and sent reports back to commanders to correlate the data with a wider view of the battlefield.