23 April 2018

India hauls US to WTO against import tariffs

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India is clear that it in no way deserves to be saddled with the 10% higher import duty on aluminium and 25% on steel - Akos Stiller With the US refusing to roll back the higher duties on steel and aluminium imports from India, the latter has dragged it to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and has sought discussions on adequate compensation for the losses. “The decision to approach the WTO was taken after India’s attempts to sort out the matter bilaterally with the US did not yield results,” a government official told BusinessLine. New Delhi, however, hopes to sort out the issue with Washington at the consultations without having to request for a dispute settlement panel to fight out the matter. “India is clear it in no way deserves to be saddled with the 10 per cent higher import duty on aluminium and 25 per cent duty on steel as it neither poses a security threat to the US nor has it remained unresponsive to the bilateral trade imbalance. If the higher duties on the two items are not rolled back, India has to be compensated as per WTO rules,” the official said.

In Helmand, Taliban dominates security situation

BY BILL ROGGIO 

Since US forces withdrew of the bulk of its “surge” forces in 2014 and turned over security to Afghanistan’s military and police, the security situation has rapidly deteriorated in Helmand province, according to information compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. That data is confirmed by Resolute Support (RS), which provided the district level assessments to the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Uzbekistan’s Pivotal Role in Central Asia


Uzbekistan is perhaps the most overlooked country in the most overlooked region of the world.

Uzbekistan plays a pivotal role in regional affairs, and it is able to do so because of its geography – and its geographic position. It is the only Central Asian state that borders every other. Like Kazakhstan, it is rich with oil and natural gas, the revenue from which has enabled it to have at least the semblance of self-determination. It is the second-largest Central Asian state by area and the largest by population. In fact, roughly half the population of the entire region lives within its borders, their livelihoods aided in large measure by the fact that Uzbekistan boasts more land in the Fergana Valley – the most hospitable place for human life in the region, with its comparatively fertile soil and mild climate – than any other country.

Will Malaysia Buy Pakistan’s JF-17 Fighter Jet?

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Pakistan and Malaysia are purportedly engaged in preliminary talks over the possible procurement of an unknown number of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 “Thunder” multirole fighter jets, a PAC official told IHS Jane’s at the Defense Services Asia (DSA) 2018 exhibition in Kuala Lumpur on April 16. “We are aware of the potential requirements in Malaysia for cost-effective fighter aircraft,” the PAC official said. “There have been no serious talks but through government-to-government channels there have been what we can describe as primary level talks about the JF-17 program.”

China’s currency displacing the dollar in global oil trade? Don’t count on it.

David Dollar and Samantha Gross

On March 26, China launched crude oil futures contracts priced in renminbi (RMB) on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange. These contracts are the first RMB-denominated futures that foreigners can directly buy and sell. China is also taking steps to begin paying for some crude oil in RMB rather than in U.S. dollars. These moves are raising questions about whether China intends to challenge the dollar’s role as the default currency for oil pricing and trading worldwide.


Beware the Xi Jinping reform trade, it may end up getting ‘trumped’

William Pesek

Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s fair to wonder how far Xi can get in the next five years, protecting the root of all financial evil: a 6.5% growth target. In the space of 15 months, the “Donald Trump trade” went from bullish euphoria to complete puzzlement. Might market excitement over Xi Jinping follow a similar arc? The buzz in investment circles is how a newly supersized Chinese president—perhaps even holding power for life—will get a handle on Beijing’s excesses. Xi, the bulls say, just built a new economic dream team to rein in duelling bubbles in credit, debt, property, pollution and corruption.

CHINA—NOT TRUMP—COULD LOSE MOST IN A TRADE WAR WITH U.S.

BY BILL POWELL

While U.S. President Donald Trump stewed about Beijing on Twitter, Chinese President Xi Jinping played the role of the grown-up and struck a softer tone. On April 10, Xi said his country was committed to becoming a more “open” market. As evidence, he offered to reduce tariffs, particularly the 25 percent levy China slaps on imported automobiles, as well as the limits on foreign ownership of auto plants. The American president liked what he heard. “Very thankful for President Xi’s kind words on tariffs and auto restrictions,” Trump tweeted. After weeks of declines, U.S. stock prices soared in relief.

The Saudi Export Of Ultra-Conservatism In The Era Of MbS – Analysis


There has long been debate about the longevity of the Saudi ruling family. One major reason for doubts about the Al Sauds’ viability was the Faustian bargain they made with the Wahhabis, proponents of a puritan, intolerant, discriminatory, anti-pluralistic interpretation of Islam. It was a bargain that has produced the single largest dedicated public diplomacy campaign in history. Estimates of Saudi spending on the funding of ultra-conservative Muslim cultural institutions across the globe and the forging of close ties to non-Wahhabi Muslim leaders and intelligence agencies in various Muslim nations that have bought into significant, geopolitical elements of the Wahhabi worldview are ballpark. With no accurate date available, they range from $75 to $100 billion.

Crisis of Confidence

CARL BILDT

Even barring worst-case scenarios, the West will be facing a new world with new aspirants making new demands about the future. So it would be a fateful mistake to abandon the ideas and institutions that delivered prosperity and stability in previous decades. STOCKHOLM – In an age defined by US President Donald Trump’s rage, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revisionism, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unbridled ambition, the international order is becoming increasingly disorderly, dysfunctional, and even dangerous. How did we arrive at this state of affairs? And how can we leave it behind? 

Missile Strikes Are Unlikely to Stop Syria’s Chemical Attacks, Pentagon Says

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

A military intelligence report found that the Syrian government is expected to resume its chemical weapons program, despite President Trump saying “mission accomplished.” Here’s how the strike unfolded. ImagePlanning for the strike of 105 missiles on three targets — chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs — took nearly a full week.

The Syria Quagmire

By Charles Hill

In 1947, Arnold Toynbee appeared on the cover of Time magazine. At the time, he was the world’s most renowned scholar, author of the monumental ten-volume A Study of History, praised by the historian William Hardy McNeill for “taking all the knowable human past as his province” and finding “rhythms and patterns which any less panoramic view could scarcely have detected.” Toynbee’s reputation soon plummeted when historians turned away from studying big ideas to nibble away at small-scale trends. But his unique perceptions still are relevant. Decades ago, he recognized that “two relatively small patches of geography”—one in “the Oxus-Jaxartes basin,” i.e. Afghanistan, and the other in Syria—have been “roundabouts” where the traffic of civilizations and religions across the world come together, jostle, and collide at exceptionally close quarters. Just as Afghanistan has proven elusive to conquer and tame over the years, so too is Syria a place of chaos and instability, which is today sucking the great powers of the world into its whirlwind.

Trump, promising hellfire in Syria, blinked. Why that could bode well for the Iran deal

Suzanne Maloney

In the hours after last week’s joint U.S.-U.K.-French airstrikes on Syria, President Trump tweeted that the operation was a “mission accomplished.” That declaration reinforced other signals from the administration that the retaliation against Bashar al-Assad’s latest chemical attacks on civilians would firmly avoid any open-ended military engagement in the Middle East, a region that Trump described in his statement as “a troubled place” whose “fate…lies in the hands of its own people.” By coupling his show of force with an insistence on extracting Washington from the Middle East, Trump was speaking to his domestic constituency, whose weariness over the human and economic cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts contributed to the appeal of his unconventional candidacy in the first place. But his message was heard—and welcomed—well beyond his base.

The Pentagon Is Building an AIProduct Factory

BY PATRICK TUCKER

The Pentagon’s research chief is deep in discussions about the newly announced Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, a subject of intense speculation and intrigue since Defense Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin announced it last week. Griffin has been sparse in his public comments on what the center will do. But its main mission will be to listen to service requests, gather the necessary talent, and deliver AI-infused solutions, according to two observers with direct knowledge of the discussions. Little else about the center has been decided, they say.

AFRICALosing The Battle: How China is Outperforming the USA in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Henry Hama

Under what conditions could the United States regain its position of strategic dominance in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) despite increasingly reduced economic support programs as well as a limited-to-no Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants? With the expansion of China’s economic and military cooperation activities across SSA in the last decade, the United States is increasingly becoming unpopular to much of the region. It is imperative to comprehend that China did not emerge accidentally as a global economic contender. When the United States was engaged in the “Global War Against Terror (GWAT),” following the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks, much of its focus was in Southwest Asia and the Middle East. 

ISIS and the Continuing Threat of Islamist Jihad: The Need for the Centrality of PSYOP

By Kimbra L. Fishel

The National Security Strategy of the United States (NSS) calls for direct military action against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the disruption of terror plots, the destruction of terrorist safe havens and sources of finance, a shared responsibility with allies in confronting the threat and combating radicalization to counter ISIS ideology. The Trump Administration’s NSS accurately identifies the ISIS end goal as creation of the global Islamic caliphate and notes its totalitarian vision. This strategy further acknowledges the threat posed by ISIS will remain after its territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria. 

Falling Into Old Habits at the 38th Parallel

By Ian Morris

After decades of lamenting the Korean Peninsula's division, South Koreans increasingly regard reunification as unnecessary and undesirable. The split between North and South Korea along the 38th parallel, though seemingly arbitrary, follows approximately the same border that divided the peninsula's northern and southern kingdoms in antiquity. The division reflects the reality of contemporary geopolitics, which suggests that if reunification does happen, it will more likely occur under Beijing's wing than under Washington's. According to legend, a gaggle of junior young men from the U.S. Army and State Department divided Korea, armed with nothing more than a pencil and a wall map from National Geographic magazine. The day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, with Japan's surrender imminent, they got abrupt orders to split the Korean Peninsula into Soviet and American administrative zones until elections could be held for a new national government. For lack of a better idea, they simply drew a line along the 38th parallel.

The {Cyber} Guns of August

Michael Senft

"History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes.”

-- Mark Twain

“Why did the lessons of Stuxnet, Wannacry, Heartbleed and Shamoon go unheeded?” asked the inquisitive student to the doleful professor, whose withered, prematurely-aged face bore witness to the shattering of a hyperconnected world. Today students ask the same questions about the Russo-Japanese War and the Spanish Civil War. Voluminous accounts detailed the terrible lethality of modern weaponry at the Siege of Port Arthur and the Battle of Mukden, which foretold the unimaginable bloodshed of the First World War. [1] Likewise, the Spanish Civil War was a harbinger of blitzkrieg warfare and the unspeakable carnage unleashed during the Second World War. [2,3,4] Despite insightful analysis and almost clairvoyant assessments, the lessons from both conflicts were largely ignored as they ran counter to prevailing views, established organizational structures and pre-ordained plans. Are we any different today?

Cybersecurity Tech Accord sets new privacy standards for tech companies

By James Sanders 

The new paper, signed by 34 tech companies, is akin to a 'digital Geneva Convention' to govern the rules of engagement in technology. Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:  Signatories to the accord will not, among other things, "help governments launch cyberattacks against innocent citizens and enterprises. The accord comes amidst a wave of new attempts by governments to compel tech companies to decrypt communications. On Tuesday, a group of 34 technology companies signed the "Cybersecurity Tech Accord," a document that declares that the signatories will protect all of their customers from threats and will not "help governments launch cyberattacks against innocent citizens and enterprises from anywhere."

Notes from the AI frontier: Applications and value of deep learning

By Michael Chui, James Manyika, Mehdi Miremadi, Nicolaus Henke, Rita Chung, Pieter Nel, and Sankalp Malhotra


An analysis of more than 400 use cases across 19 industries and nine business functions highlights the broad use and significant economic potential of advanced AI techniques. Artificial intelligence (AI) stands out as a transformational technology of our digital age—and its practical application throughout the economy is growing apace. For this briefing, Notes from the AI frontier: Insights from hundreds of use cases (PDF–446KB), we mapped both traditional analytics and newer “deep learning” techniques and the problems they can solve to more than 400 specific use cases in companies and organizations. Drawing on McKinsey Global Institute research and the applied experience with AI of McKinsey Analytics, we assess both the practical applications and the economic potential of advanced AI techniques across industries and business functions. Our findings highlight the substantial potential of applying deep learning techniques to use cases across the economy, but we also see some continuing limitations and obstacles—along with future opportunities as the technologies continue their advance. Ultimately, the value of AI is not to be found in the models themselves, but in companies’ abilities to harness them. 

Artificial Intelligence — The Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the mantra of the current era. The phrase is intoned by technologists, academicians, journalists and venture capitalists alike. As with many phrases that cross over from technical academic fields into general circulation, there is significant misunderstanding accompanying the use of the phrase. But this is not the classical case of the public not understanding the scientists — here the scientists are often as befuddled as the public. The idea that our era is somehow seeing the emergence of an intelligence in silicon that rivals our own entertains all of us — enthralling us and frightening us in equal measure. And, unfortunately, it distracts us.