14 April 2015

Yemen must not occur in India


Apr 13, 2015

The Indian Navy has once again kept the country’s flag flying high, in the emergency evacuation of a large number of Indians from Yemen. INS Sumitra and her sister ships, carried out an evacuation under fire reminiscent of the battle of Dunkirk during World War II. Air attacks by German Stuka bombers were absent of course, but even that factor might have been added had rebel pilots of the Yemeni Air Force joined the fray in their decrepit but still flyable MiG-21s.

So what are the lessons for India from the bloody conflagration that is consuming Yemen? The ans-wer is simple — Yemen must not be allowed to occur in India. The wild-eyed, politico-religious hate figures should be restrained. Religious ideology apart, an equally important question is whether the outbreak of sectarian war in Yemen has some hidden agenda as well?

Could it be oil?

The myth of ‘Greater China’


India’s claim over Arunachal doesn’t rest on any historical tradition or cultural affinity. We are there because the British went there. But then the Chinese have no basis to stake a claim, besides the notion of China among some of the hangers-on in the Qing emperor’s court.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon be in Beijing following up on the Chumar incident blighted visit by Chinese’s President Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, the Chinese seem to be either testing the waters or ratcheting up the dispute over control of either the whole of Arunachal Pradesh or part of it. They have made a string of pronouncements on the subject, including strongly protesting the recent visit to Itanagar by the Indian Prime Minister.

The Chinese have based their specific claim on the territory on the premise that Tawang was administered from Lhasa, and the contiguous areas owed allegiance to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet. Then the Chinese must also consider this. Sikkim, till well into the 19th century, was a vassal of Tibet and Darjeeling was forcibly taken from it by the British! By extending this logic could they realistically stake a claim for Sikkim and Darjeeling? Of course not. It would be preposterous. History has moved on. The times have changed. For the 21st century to be stable our borders must be stable, whatever be our yearnings.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015 | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

The Iran nuclear deal is a wonderful opportunity for India. It’s an occassion for Iran to be revisionist. Importantly, it bogs the jihadi problem down in Iran’s own backyard and severely tests the limits of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia security guarantees

The Iran nuclear deal is a wonderful opportunity for India. However, the real test will be whether the deal follows through (or even has the ability to follow through) on the opportunities that are presented. Far from being a stabilising factor, the deal gives Iran the licence to destabilise the region significantly. It is this instability, though potentially economically damaging to India, which can be geopolitically beneficial for India. While North Korea and Pakistan had to nuclearise themselves in order to exploit the sub-conventional space and to change the status quo, the Iran nuclear deal gives Tehran this space without ever having weaponised. Why is it so?

At the top of this argument is the Russian opposition to snapback sanctions. There are two layers to these sanctions — one imposed by the UN that have less bite and one set imposed by the US and the EU that are crippling. The US and the EU can snapback sanctions at will, but should the UN sanctions be lifted? Re-imposing them becomes an onerous task, one that Russia will leverage heavily to its advantage in situations like Ukraine — which is what it wants.

*** Carter: Toss vintage personnel systems

By Andrew Tilghman
April 12, 2015 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the military should build an internal social media platform that would transform the way jobs are assigned and how troops are evaluated.

The idea is emerging from corporate America, where some large organizations are spending millions of dollars to create their own Facebook-style systems that can have far-reaching effects on the way they do business every day.

Since taking over the Pentagon's top job in February, Carter has repeatedly cited the professional networking site LinkedIn as an example of what the military needs for better internal management.

"That's an example of a kind of technology that you can use, and we can use, to improve performance evaluations; to make sure that onward assignments, next assignments, that you have the greatest visibility into ... how you find a next assignment that fits you — your skills, your family, your future and your goals in life. We need to be competitive in that way," Carter told a group of soldiers during a recent visit to Fort Drum, New York.

Carter's push for new technology in part reflects a growing anxiety about recruiting and retaining the best and brightest among today's so-called millennial generation.

Yemen crisis: Pakistan finds itself caught between an angry Iran and an angrier Saudi Arabia

Whatever decision Islamabad takes on joining the Saudi campaign against the Houthis, the cost is likely to be steep.

How do you turn down someone who has given you $1.5 billion, discounted oil, and sanctuary when your enemies were calling for your head? That’s the dilemma Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces. His government needs to respond to Saudi Arabia’s request for troops, warships and airplanes in its military campaign against the Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels who have taken over large parts of Yemen. The campaign, which began on March 25, is the latest escalation in an increasingly violent tussle for regional supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who happen to be on opposing sides of a sectarian divide within Islam. Their proxy war is already taking place in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and now with Yemen it has just become deadlier.

Yemen ousted its long-time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh during the Arab Spring in 2011. And like other Arab countries, it has struggled to come up with a replacement. A weak Saudi-backed government put in place after Saleh’s ouster struggled to provide basic services to Yemeni citizens and incurred the ire of the Houthis, who wanted greater participation in the political process.

The Muslim World Is Turning on Hezbollah

April 13, 2015 

Despite the group's initial popularity, it is at risk of losing goodwill throughout the Muslim world...

Hezbollah is currently the strongest group in Lebanon, both politically and militarily. In the past decade it has made a series of tactical decisions that yielded momentary victories. However, these victories might prove costly in the long term. Indeed, in the past couple of years Hezbollah has slowly positioned itself as a sectarian actor instead of a pan-Islamic organization that appeals to both Sunnis and Shia. This is a tipping point for the organization, and its involvement in Syria signals the acceleration of its fall from grace in the eyes of the majority of Muslims. To survive in the long run, the organization will have to execute another volte-face similar to its Lebanonization in the early 1990s.

The 2006 war with Israel was Hezbollah’s Pyrrhic victory, and in retrospect, Hezbollah’s first major mistake in a series of mistakes that the group has made over the past few years. These mistakes have alienated it from Sunnis, especially in Lebanon.

PLA Navy Used for First Time in Naval Evacuation from Yemen Conflict

A PLA Navy soldier watches as Chinese citizens board the Linyi to be evacuated from Yemen. 
On March 29, the Linyi, a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) missile frigate, evacuated the first 122 Chinese citizens and two foreign experts from Aden, Yemen to Djibouti as the situation in Yemen deteriorated—marking the first time PLAN ships were used to rescue citizens abroad (People’s Daily Online, March 30; Xinhua, March 30). The next day, the Linyi’s sister ship, the Weifang, also rescued another 449 Chinese citizens from Al-Hodayda (Xinhua, March 30). Speaking at the Boao Forum in Hainan on March 29, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “there are 590 Chinese nationals in Yemen and the Chinese government launched the evacuation plan Thursday evening [March 26], when Saudi Arabia and its allies launched airstrikes in Yemen. The evacuation will help ensure Chinese nationals come back to China safely” (China Daily, March 29).

The crisis in Yemen escalated this January when Houthi rebels took control of the capital, Sana’a, forcing the president to leave the capital in February, and by early March they had taken large parts of the country. In response to the president fleeing to Saudi Arabia via Oman on March 26, Saudi Arabia was able to build a 10 country coalition, with a reported 150,000 troops, seemingly overnight to begin an air campaign against the rebels. Describing the scene in the capital, Xinhua said residents had fled and businesses were closed (Xinhua, March 29). The instability in Yemen represents a challenge to what was a deepening relationship between Beijing and Sana’a, after Defense Minister Muhammad Nasir Ahmad and President Abdu Rabbu Mansur Hadi visited Beijing in September and November 2013, respectively, to “[seek] cooperative relations” (Xinhua, September 23, 2013; CTTV, November 13, 2013; China Brief, July 7, 2006). However, the Chinese government had already begun pulling back on some projects in the country in January (Yemen Post, January 1).

The Maritime Silk Road and the PLA: Part Two

April 3, 2015

In the previous issue, the first part of this article examined the various strategic and other motivations behind China’s desire for an increased military presence west of Singapore (see China Brief, March 19). Having laid out China’s basic purpose in building up a military presence and supporting bases along the Maritime Silk Road, it is incumbent to assess exactly what constraints China will face in achieving these objectives. This conclusion will examine these constraints and make broad predictions for the future.

Constraints on China’s Military Presence West of Singapore

The first set of constraints (and perhaps the most critical) is that which Chinese leaders place upon themselves. As many analysts have noted, China’s leaders have long made avoiding involvement in other countries’ affairs a key rhetorical and practical plank of their foreign policy, a plank that remains largely intact and would, at the very least, be complicated by efforts to obtain and maintain military facilities in countries lying along the Maritime Silk Road. [1] Moreover, the Chinese have generally shown that while they may be a revisionist power, they are not radically so, preferring to gradually, progressively and incrementally change the existing geopolitical order to more suit their own ends. Beyond this, they cannot help but be aware of the potential for conflict with India incumbent upon any rapid or forceful military expansion into the region, which would be almost certain to exacerbate the presently mild degree of strategic competition between the two (China News, February 12). A similar consideration would also have to be paid to the United States, which would certainly not sit diplomatically or politically idle as Chinese bases were built in the Indian Ocean or Middle East.

Wake up, America: China Must Be Contained

The fundamental problem in U.S.-China relations concerns, quite simply, the balance of power in Asia.

The United States needs to fundamentally change its grand strategy toward China.
One need look no further than the recent Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) debacle to understand how China’s ascent is aimed at challenging American global reach. The China-led international financial institution is poised to undermine the influence of the U.S.-led World Bank and International Monetary Fund while institutionalizing China’s geoeconomic coercion in the Asia-Pacific. Italy, France, Britain, Germany, South Korea, Denmark, and Australia have signed on as members of the AIIB, with Thailand and even Taiwan eyeing imminent entry. Meanwhile, the U.S. remains on the outside looking in as its influence is directly challenged by China’s rise.

Along with the AIIB, China is also pursuing a number of additional initiatives to expand its strategic reach in Asia and beyond. China has announced plans to advance a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)—trade agreements that link the economies of China, Japan, and India along with Southeast Asian countries.

Cambodian Activists Released

By Juliette Rousselot
April 13, 2015

A Buddhist monk is detained by Cambodian police officers during a protest, calling the court to release seven detained protesters, in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in Phnom Penh November 11, 2014.

Ten land rights activists from Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake receive a royal pardon. 
After a lawyer and lawmaker for Cambodia’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) announced that negotiations between the ruling party and the CNRP had taken place over the release of imprisoned activists and opposition politicians, ten land rights activists from Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake received a royal pardon and were released from prison on Saturday afternoon.

Speaking from Boeung Kak Lake upon her release from prison, Tep Vanny, one of the imprisoned activists and one of the most prominent land rights activists in Cambodia, said “I have two feelings right now: I am happy that I am free and that I can be with my family, but I am also hurt because I am innocent and politicians have used us for political ends. I will keep protesting in the future.”

The news of their release was also welcomed by human rights organizations, who have been campaigning for the activists’ release and who had criticized their initial conviction. Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in an email that the organization was “very pleased to learn this news. [They] should never have been arrested in the first place. That they have had to endure imprisonment since November 2014 only for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly is appalling.

As the War Escalates, Yemen Risks Disintegration, With No End in Sight

April 10, 2015 

‘‘My family is completely destroyed, we have no more hope in life.’’

Yemenis stand amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in a village near Sana, Yemen, Saturday, April 4, 2015.
The al-Amari family was asleep in their home in Yarim, a town some 80 miles south of the Yemeni capital, when the airstrike hit, killing six of them. It was March 31, nearly a week into the air offensive launched by Saudi Arabia against Houthi rebels in Yemen. At around 2:30 AM, a missile crashed into a gas tanker, witnesses said, turning the street into an inferno that lit up the night sky and burned residents alive.

“I saw horrific things,” said Mohamed Abdu Hameed al-Amari, at 32 the eldest of his siblings, and the family’s main provider. He was returning home from a late-night errand when the bomb hit.

His two brothers, their wives, his 5-year-old daughter, Hanan, and his one-and-a-half year-old niece, Emada, were all killed in the blaze.

“To see your brother, your daughter, your son burning in front of your eyes,” Mohamed said. “It was the blackest day in history.”


In the speech on counterterrorism policy that he delivered last year at West Point, President Barack Obama made clear that the United States would no longer try to fight the terrorist threat abroad on its own, but rather would aim to “more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.” Last month, the Arab League answered that call by pledging to establish a joint Arab military force to respond to the growing chaos in the region. The Obama administration has given its cautious support to the proposal. A senior State Department official I spoke to said, “We welcome something like this, especially in Syria, but also elsewhere.”

Gulf Armies Are Doomed in Yemen

April 13, 2015 

Despite the poor record of their armies, an emerging Arab alliance worries both Iran and Israel.
Sunni Arab Gulf states have great wealth, spend immense amounts on defense, and command large numbers of troops. They have nonetheless depended on foreign powers, chiefly the United States, for their security. Paradoxically, their arms purchases seek to obligate Western powers to defend their big Arab customers, as they try to build competent militaries.

This was made clear when the startling rise of the Islamic State (IS) last year led to proclamations and bravado from Sunni Arab capitals, but little of military significance. The bulk of the forces fighting IS in Iraq are Shia soldiers and militias and Western fighter pilots.

The Sunnis are trying to change this dependency by building an international force of land, sea, and air units to deal with the Houthi rebels in Yemen. What will come of this coalition in Yemen? What does it portend for the Middle East?

Saudi Airstrikes in Yemen Have Not Reversed Houthi Battlefield Gains

Alexandra Zavis and Zaid al-Alayaa
April 12, 2015

From their post on a rocky hilltop, a pair of Saudi border guards man a .50-caliber machine gun and use binoculars to scan the dry scrubland that separates this kingdom from its war-torn neighbor to the south, Yemen.

The scene before them appeared peaceful Friday: The craggy peaks that rise beyond a riverbed were spotted with goats, cows and families of baboons. But later that day, mortar rounds fired into Saudi territory from Yemen killed three soldiers and injured two others stationed along the frontier, state media reported Saturday.

It was the latest in a series of border skirmishes that have killed six of the kingdom’s troops since a Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes March 25 against rebels known as Houthis, who have seized large parts of Yemen. The Saudi Defense Ministry said that its forces returned fire, and that 500 Houthi fighters have been killed in the clashes.

“Our border is a red line,” said Lt. Col. Hamed Alahmari, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry guards who patrol the highly porous frontier that stretches about 1,000 miles through mountains and desert.

US Drone Strike Killed 2 Leaders of Al Qaeda’s Indian Affiliate Earlier This Year

Al-Qaeda: U.S. drones kill 2 leaders in Pakistan
April 12, 2015

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed two leaders of al-Qaeda’s Indian branch earlier this year, a spokesman for the militants said Sunday, a major blow to the affiliate only months after its creation.

In an audio message, spokesman Usama Mahmood identified the dead as deputy chief Ahmed Farooq and Qari Imran, in charge of the group’s Afghan affairs. Mahmood said a Jan. 5 drone strike in North Waziristan killed Imran, while a later drone strike killed Farooq. His claim corresponds with dates that previously reported suspected U.S. drone attacks were carried out in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghan border.

Mahmood said that Farooq’s real name was Raja Suleman and that he graduated from Islamabad’s International Islamic University. Mahmoud said Imran’s real name was Hidayatullah and that he was from Pakistan’s central city of Multan in Punjab province.

Mahmood also lashed out against Pakistan army over its operation in North Waziristan.

“This operation is being carried out under direct supervision of American forces, its leadership and with their direct help through drones and jets,” Mahmood said. “Pakistan’s army is in fact just providing intelligence against the targets America wants to hit.”

Should We Be Afraid of ISIS’ ‘Cyber Caliphate’

Emma Graham-Harison
April 12, 2015

Could Isis’s ‘cyber caliphate’ unleash a deadly attack on key targets?

When a chubby Birmingham teenager went on trial in 2012 for hacking Tony Blair’s personal address book, and taking down an anti-terror hotline, defence lawyers described him as “shy and unassuming” and dismissed the online exploits as a childish prank.

“They weren’t terrorists in any way, shape or form,” his barrister argued in court. Less than two years later, Junaid Hussain was in Syria, apparently on his way to join Isis, one of its most dangerous new recruits.

The group transfixed the world with its ultraviolent ideology, as it swept through Syria and Iraq in a frenzy of bloodshed and destruction. But its leaders’ enthusiasm for medieval barbarity is matched by an equally fervent embrace of modern technology. They know that a hacker like Hussain, behind his laptop, is as intimidating to some of their distant enemies as the gunmen terrorising people on the ground.

“Isis has been recruiting hackers for some time now. Some are virtual collaborators from a distance, but others have been recruited to emigrate to Syria,” said JM Berger, co-author of Isis: The State of Terror. “Activity targeting the west is just part of their portfolio. They’re also responsible for maintaining internet access in Isis territories, for instance, and for instructing members on security.”

Fighting Has Started Again in the Eastern Ukraine

April 13, 2015

Fighting Picks Up in War-Torn Eastern Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine — Fighting has picked up in eastern Ukraine, after more than a month of relative calm, as diplomats gathered in Berlin Monday to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Sunday that its mission observed an intense clash with the use of tanks and heavy artillery as well as grenade launchers and mortars in the north of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. On Sunday alone, the OSCE recorded at least 1,166 explosions, caused mainly by artillery and mortar shell strikes in northern Donetsk as well as on its outskirts including the airport, now obliterated by fighting

The OSCE also reported intense mortar fire outside the village of Shyrokyne by the Azov Sea but said its representatives were repeatedly barred from accessing the village on Sunday.

Mortar fire was also heard at night and in the morning on Monday in central Donetsk.

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and six more wounded in eastern Ukraine in 24 hours, Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, military spokesman for the Ukrainian presidential administration, told reporters at noon on Monday, while the rebels reported four wounded.

South Korea’s THAAD Decision

Seoul is coming under pressure from all sides on the question of missile defense.

Last month, I argued that North Korea’s combined nuclear and missile program was reaching a tipping point. Previously these systems could be defended – at the outer reaches of rationality, to be sure – as protection against possible American-led regime change. In practice, they were primarily tools for the extortion and blackmail of Pyongyang’s neighbors, most obviously South Korea. North Korea’s gangsterism, while objectionable, has generally been manageable. But if (when?) the Northern program expands into more, faster, and more powerful warheads and missiles (as seems likely), then it would morph into a serious, possibly existential threat to South Korea (and Japan). A North Korea with a few missiles and warheads is unnerving, an obvious concern for proliferation and blackmail, but not a state- and society-breaking threat to the neighborhood. But a North Korea with dozens, or even hundreds, of such weapons (in the coming decades) is a threat to the constitutional and even physical survival of South Korea and Japan.

My greatest concern then for regional stability is that at some point Seoul elites will be so terrified of a spiraling arsenal of Northern nuclear weapons (following the logic of the security dilemma), that they will consider pre-emptive air-strikes (as Israel has done in Iraq and Syria). The possibility of a Northern response and slide into war is obvious.

Comeback: How Islam Got Its Groove Back in Russia

April 13, 2015 

Russian state attitudes toward religion changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. What did this mean for Islam?
Vladimir Putin has made religion a central part of his public image, using Orthodoxy as a way to bolster for his political agendas. But Orthodoxy is not the only religion that experienced a revival in the post–Cold War period; among other religions, Islam, once shunned by the Soviet state, has increasingly been embraced by the Russian state.

This was a major theme of an April 7 presentation at George Washington University’s Elliott School by Bulat Akhmetkarimov, a PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). At the event, titled “Islam and the Dynamics of Ethno-Confessional Regimes in Russia, 1990-2012,” Akhmetkarimov discussed the Russian state’s attitudes toward religion and how attitudes toward Islam have evolved in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

As the largest religious minority in Russia, Muslims make up roughly 11 percent of Russia’s total population. Based on statistics provided by Pew Research Center, this percentage is predicted to increase to roughly 13 percent by 2030 and nearly 17 percent percent by 2050, with about twenty million Muslims in Russia.

What Might a Hillary Clinton Presidency Mean for Asia?

April 13, 2015

Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016. How would U.S. policy toward Asia look under her leadership? 
Sunday, Hillary Clinton formally entered the 2016 presidential race with a video announcement and social media push. She’ll hit the campaign trail immediately. Traditionally, foreign policy plays a very small part in determining the outcome of American elections. But, ahead of President Obama’s 2015 state of the union address, the Pew Research Center released a poll saying that the share of Americans who rated foreign policy as more important than domestic policy for the president to cover in the speech, doubled from the previous year. Overall, however, that still only amounted to 20 percent of those polled and isn’t necessarily an indication of how Americans will make their decision on the country’s 45th president. Another poll from Pew, indicates that Americans trust Republicans more than Democrats when it comes to issues of terrorism and foreign policy.

The End of the Iran Nuclear Journey?

By Peter Jenkins
April 12, 2015

With the parties having come so close, it will be surprising if they fail to complete their journey. 
The joint statement issued on April 2 in Lausanne did not lie—earlier that day, the EU High Representative, the Foreign Minister of Iran and the six other parties to the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme did take a “decisive step” towards ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of that programme.

Their primary instrument will be the nuclear inspectorate of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran has offered to grant the IAEA unprecedented access to its programme. Iran will re-apply the Additional Protocol, a legal norm which allows the IAEA to acquire information about, and access to, a wide range of declared or suspected nuclear sites. Iran will also allow the IAEA access to the workshops, where key components of its centrifuges (for enriching uranium) are manufactured, as well as to centrifuge assembly and storage sites.

These provisions will make it extremely hard for Iran to escape detection in the most unlikely event that its leaders were tempted to build a secret enrichment facility to produce uranium enriched to weapon-grade (HEU).

Nuclear Negotiations with Iran Reach a Decision Point

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are approaching a March 24 deadline for a political agreement on principles that will govern a later comprehensive deal. If the P5+1—the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany—and Iran reach this agreement, they will then have an additional three months to conclude a detailed final agreement.
The proximity of this deadline sharpens the dilemma facing both sides of the negotiating table. As Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged following three days of negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Lousanne, Switzerland, “We have made some progress but there are still gaps, important gaps, and important choices that need to be made by Iran in order to move forward.”

The deadline also increases the pressure that the negotiating parties face from both opponents and proponents of a possible agreement. Two highly visible and controversial examples of such pressure are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the U.S. Congress on March 3, in which he fiercely attacked what he has perceived as the coming agreement, and the open letter to Iran signed by 47 Republican senators on March 9, which advised the Iranian regime not to rely on any agreement with President Barack Obama without the approval of Congress. However, other U.S. allies are applying pressure in less obvious ways. Secretary Kerry flew after a previous negotiations meeting directly from Montreux, Switzerland, to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in an effort to reassure the new Saudi King Salman that any nuclear deal with Iran will be in Saudi interests, indicating just how concerned this significant Middle Eastern partner is about the content of the talks with Iran.

Russia Says That It Has Detected New Cluster of Spy Satellites Over Russia Disguised as Space Junk

Russia detects spy satellites disguised as space junk, commander says
April 12, 2015

MOSCOW – Russia has detected a group of spy satellites operating above its territory disguised as space junk, the head of its space command said Sunday, according to the Interfax news agency.

“Very recently, specialists from the Main Space Intelligence Center uncovered a newly created group of space satellites … made for radio-technical reconnaissance of equipment on Russian territory,” said Gen. Oleg Maidanovich, the commander of the Aerospace Defense Forces’ Space Command. He was speaking in a Russian television documentary.

Space Command is a division of the military responsible for warning of missile and airstrikes. It also controls Russia’s defense satellites.

Maidanovich declined to say which country or countries the satellites belonged to.

He also said the Main Space Intelligence Center currently tracks more than 20,000 items in orbit and has troops monitoring them around the clock, according to Interfax.

Dangerous Research And Unknown Unknowns

The genetic engineering of deadly pathogens is not the sort of thing that a terrorist or would-be supervillain could easily attempt in a kitchen. But the quickening pace of genetics research has plenty of scientists worried. Suzanne Fry, director of the Strategic Futures Group at the Office for the Director of National Intelligence, told a group at last month’s SXSW technology conference in Austin, Texas, that synthetic biology was a big concern among many of the technologists she’s been interviewing recently. “Some very, very prominent scientists have said that that worries them very much,” she said.

George Church, a Harvard Medical School researcher widely considered a father of modern genetic research, offered a somber assessment of the future of genetically engineered bioterror. “How would we have calculated the odds of the events on 9-11-2001 on 9-10-2001?” he said via email, “or the Aum Shinrikyo [Tokyo subway attacks]? Hopefully, before anything happens, the good guys will get better at new pathogen detection and immunity soon — both to prevent this scenario and naturally emerging infectious diseases.”

The Clash of Internet Civilizations: Why Neither Side Should Prevail

April 10, 2015

In what is sure to be the first of many cyberbattles, a clash of Internet civilizations is unfolding. The conflict has been hastened by the recent decisionby the Federal Communications Commission to classify Internet service providers as public utilities, which effectively prevents cable and telecommunications companies from controlling Web content by blocking sites or auctioning off faster traffic speeds to the highest bidder.

Although FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler praised the newly approved policy on net neutrality for preserving a “fast, fair and open Internet,” there's more to it than meets the eye. That's because it fails to address the more important evolving Internet debate — how to manage the Internet as it becomes more intertwined with our daily lives.

This debate pits two opposing philosophies against each other — one pushing for the continued evolution of the Internet as an open information superhighway, the other asserting that the Internet's evolution needs to take more account of the many ways it is and will be used.

Malaysia Strengthens Sedition Act

A repressive colonial-era law is given new scope. 
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has made two contrasting pledges with regard to the Sedition Act of 1948. First, during the election period in 2012, he vowed to repeal the archaic law. Then, two years later, he announced that the law would be strengthened to preserve domestic harmony. Last Friday, Najib’s allies in parliament upheld the latter when they passed a bill that made several amendments to the Sedition Act.

Some government critics will no doubt be relieved that the amendments included the removal of provisions that make it seditious to criticize the government and the judiciary. Overall, though, the new law represents a greater threat to human rights and free speech. The maximum jail term for general sedition cases has been increased from three to seven years. A new provision allows for a penalty of up to 20 years for seditious activities that result in physical harm or destruction of property.

The Untold Story of Mussolini’s Fake Diaries


Before the war, Churchill offered Il Duce a deal. After the war, British intelligence tried to destroy their correspondence. Years later, a mystery man offered them to me. 
It was a gruesome end for the fascist dictator who had once dominated Italy. The corpses of Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, were hung upside down on meat hooks in Milan’s Piazzale Loreto. Seventy years ago this month, Mussolini had tried to escape to Switzerland in a convoy of German trucks, but it was intercepted by Italian communist partisans while it was weaving its way along one of the most ravishingly beautiful landscapes in Italy, the western shores of Lake Como. 

Just who killed Mussolini remains contentious in Italy, with many theories still unresolved. But there is no disputing that he was executed by machine gun fire while standing against a wall of the Villa Belmonte in a small village near Lake Como, according to most accounts by a communist partisan commander, on the orders of the communist leadership. 

Whatever the truth, the death of Il Duce set off instant alarms in the British security services. Somewhere in the Italian archives were copies of correspondence between Winston Churchill and Mussolini. When Churchill became prime minister in May 1940 he tried, in a series of letters, to dissuade Mussolini from joining the Axis powers. He was ignored. Three weeks later Italy joined Nazi Germany and declared war on Great Britain.

A Big Reason Why Most Electronic Surveillance Programs Are Kept Secret Is Because of the Inevitable Public Backlash If They Are Ever Disclosed

Trevor Timm
April 12, 2015

The government hides surveillance programs just because people would freak out

Want to see how secrecy is corrosive to democracy? Look no further than a series of explosive investigations by various news organizations this week that show the government hiding surveillance programs purely to prevent a giant public backlash. 

USA Today’s Brad Heath published a blockbuster story on Monday about the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) running a massive domestic spying operation parallel to the NSA’s that was tracking billions of international calls made by Americans. They kept it secret for more than two decades. According to the USA Today report, the spying program was not only used against alleged terrorist activity, but countless supposed drug crimes, as well as “to identify US suspects in a wide range of other investigations”. And they collected information on millions of completely innocent Americans along the way.

Heath’s story is awash with incredible detail and should be read in full, but one of the most interesting parts was buried near the end: the program was shut down by the Justice Department after the Snowden leaks, not because Snowden exposed the program, but because they knew that when the program eventually would leak, the government would have no arguments to defend it.

Russian Cyber Attacks on U.S. Computer Systems Has Reached Unprecedented Levels

Cory Bennett
April 12, 2015

Russia’s cyberattacks grow more brazen

Russia has ramped up cyber attacks against the United States to an unprecedented level since President Obama imposed sanctions last year on President Putin’s government over its intervention in Ukraine.

The emboldened attacks are hitting the highest levels of the U.S. government, according to reports, in what former officials call a “dramatic” shift in strategy.

The efforts are also targeting a wide array of U.S. businesses, pilfering intellectual property in an attempt to level the playing field for Russian industries hurt by sanctions.

“They’re coming under a lot of pressure from the sanctions — their financial industry, their energy industry” said Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which monitors critical infrastructure attacks. “And they’re obviously trying to leverage cyber intrusion and cyber espionage to compensate for that.”

Crowdstrike has recorded over 10,000 Russian intrusions at U.S. companies in 2015 alone. That’s a meteoric rise from the “dozens per month” that Alperovitch said the firm noted this time last year, just as the U.S. was imposing its sanctions.

Colombian Hacker Gets 10 Years in Prison for Spying on Secret Peace Talks With FARC Guerrilla Group

April 12, 2015

Hacker gets 10 years in jail for spying on Colombia peace process

A Colombian court sentenced hacker Andres Sepulveda to 10 years in prison after he admitted to various crimes, including spying on the government’s peace talks with the FARC, and accepted the prosecution’s offer of a reduced penalty in exchange for his cooperation.

Sepulveda was judged guilty of five crimes, including illegal interception and espionage, according to the sentence handed down by the 22nd Presiding Court of Bogota.

He must also pay a fine worth 120 of his current monthly minimum salaries as part of the agreement.

The Internet pirate was arrested in May 2014 after being traced to secret offices that hacked confidential information and messages, including one whose objective was to sabotage the peace process.

Several months earlier he had been contracted by the Colombian presidential campaign of then-candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga of the Democratic Center Party, led by ex-President and Sen. Alvaro Uribe.

Before hearing the sentence, Sepulveda read a statement to the effect that he offered no apologies to the FARC but did apologize to the armed forces and the Colombian police.

House set for 'open mic' on military


Think of it as the “open mic night” of defense spending. 
Every member of the House will have the chance on Tuesday to make recommendations for what should be in this year’s defense policy bill, which is produced by members of the House Armed Services Committee.

The annual “Member Day,” which is held like a regular, multi-panel hearing, gives lawmakers who do not sit on the panel the opportunity to advocate for military concerns back in their districts, such as supporting a base or keeping funding for a weapons program.
ADVERTISEMENTThe event was started so that every lawmaker would have a chance to make the case for “why they wanted things in the bill. And we would listen to them as long as they came,” said former Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who began the tradition and retired at the end of the last Congress.

Likewise, panel members know they had “better pay attention because sometime in the future, the tables could be reversed,” McKeon told The Hill.

The event will come just under a week before Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) releases his “chairman’s mark” of the national defense authorization act (NDAA).

Bridging the Civilian-Military Divide With Stories

Twenty years ago, military reporter Thomas E. Ricks followed a platoon of young Marine recruits through their first year in the Corps. Watching them transition back home after boot camp, he was stunned to see how alienated many of them felt from their previous lives. Realizing that he was seeing their personal experience of the widening gap between military and civilian America, he was inspired to write an article forThe Atlantic describing this divide. “The United States may be in danger of drifting into a situation in which the military is neither well understood nor well used,” Ricks cautioned. That was July of 1997. 

Flash forward nearly 20 years, and Ricks’ observations not only proved prescient, but remain exceedingly relevant. 

How to Be Emotionally Intelligent

APRIL 7, 2015 

What makes a great leader? Knowledge, smarts and vision, to be sure. To that, Daniel Goleman, author of “Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence,” would add the ability to identify and monitor emotions — your own and others’ — and to manage relationships. Qualities associated with such “emotional intelligence” distinguish the best leaders in the corporate world, according to Mr. Goleman, a former New York Times science reporter, a psychologist and co-director of a consortium at Rutgers University to foster research on the role emotional intelligence plays in excellence. He shares his short list of the competencies.


Realistic self-confidence: You understand your own strengths and limitations; you operate from competence and know when to rely on someone else on the team.

Emotional insight: You understand your feelings. Being aware of what makes you angry, for instance, can help you manage that anger.