9 September 2019

US OPEN MEN’S FINALS

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Tonight is the US Open Men’s Finals. By all account Rafa is overwhelming favourite to lift the trophy and win his 19th grand slam tournament. The three time US Open champion Spaniard will play his sixth final at Flushing Meadows. Nadal lost one set in five encounters to advance into the 28th Grand Slam final.

Will it be a repeat of womens finals? Not likely. Though there is a lot of similarity. Rafa is not Serena. Coming to this tournament his preparation is impeccable.

Against Nadal across the net will be Daniil Medvedev, a 6 ft 6 inches tall and gaunt twenty three year old Russian, with a patchy mustache under his long, sharp nose and a scrappy goatee on his chin. His light brown hair is retreating at the temples. He has high cheekbones and hooded eyes, and sometimes wears a faint smirk, although he is capable of appearing angelic. He likes to play video games and chess. He looks more like a professor than like a professional athlete. He acts more like a professional wrestler than like a tennis star.

Daniil Medvedev will be a tired man. He has played more singles tennis matches in the month than anyone on the tour. Medvedev reached three consecutive finals since the start of August, at tournaments in Washington, Toronto and Cincinnati.

BIANCA ANDREESCU WINS US OPEN

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu has upset Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5 in the US Open final to claim her first Grand Slam title. The 19-year-old Andreescu is the first woman to win the trophy at Flushing Meadows in her tournament debut in the Open era. When Serena won her first grand slam in US Open 20 years back Andreescu was not even born. She got a check of $3.85 million. Much more will follow in endorsements.

Was the result an upset? After all she was playing unarguably the GOAT of women’s tennis, holder of 23 grand slam trophies in front of a stadium full of screaming fans of Serena. Serena had been annihilating her opponents this year in US Open with her power play.I don’t think it was an upset.

One has to look at CV this year of teenager Bianca Andreescu. Just to remind everybody of her mental toughness, She has won 12 consecutive 3 set matches, her record in 44 – 4 win lose this season is the best. If you take out the injury withdrawal in two tournaments she has hardly been beaten this year. She had made her presence felt by storming to the Indian Wells title in March and after a knee injury forced her to pull out of the Miami and Rome tournaments earlier this year after just one match. She won the Rogers Cup in Toronto last month. In the finals she was leading Serena 3-1 when Serena withdrew due to injury. The way the teenager reacted there after Serena threw in the towels won praise from Serena who is not known for praising others.

Size vs Statecraft: How India and Japan Play the Major Power Game

By Bonnie Bley

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are keeping busy. Just a week after being courted by G-7 members in Biarritz, France they were off to Vladivostok for the Eastern Economic Forum hosted by Putin this week. Their attendance at multilateral forums is requisite these days. Amid global fixation on the gridlock between the United States and China, countries are increasingly looking to Abe and Modi to guide the way. 

Recent moves by Tokyo and New Delhi to work closer together along economic and security avenues have been welcomed by the region. And with reason. The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index – a data-backed study of power across 25 countries in Asia – puts Japan and India as the third and fourth most powerful countries in Asia after the United States and China. The two countries are neck-and-neck, with only a 1.5-point difference between them. 

A Deal With the Taliban Is Only the First Step Toward Peace

By Johnny Walsh 

After months of closed-door negotiations in Doha, Qatar, the United States appears close to finalizing a deal with the Taliban that would end Washington’s 18-year war in Afghanistan. The agreement would reportedly set a conditional timetable for the United States to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban commitments to suppress terrorist groups and open peace talks with their fellow Afghans.

The deal is controversial. Supporters (and I am one of them) view the agreement as far preferable to the status quo—a bloody battlefield stalemate—and a necessary first step toward any deal among Afghans to end the war. Critics worry that the deal sells out Washington’s Afghan allies, places naive trust in an extremist group, and provides cover for a troop withdrawal that Trump wants regardless of whether it makes diplomatic or military sense.

Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again

BY COLIN P. CLARKE, CHARLES LISTER
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Eighteen years have passed since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and al Qaeda is worse for the wear. The terrorist organization looks remarkably different today than the group that killed thousands of U.S. citizens on American soil. Intensive counterterrorism pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan has left behind an aging and increasingly disconnected central leadership. The emergence of the Islamic State as a peer competitor, meanwhile, has left al Qaeda with a brand that, at times, has struggled to compete for global jihadist primacy.

With the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in bad health and isolated, most likely somewhere in Pakistan, and Hamza bin Laden, who may have been next in line, recently reported killed, al Qaeda’s most dedicated members seem to understand that its best chance to remain relevant is through its ongoing presence in Syria. To capitalize on the opportunities that the Syrian civil war has presented to al Qaeda, the group began moving significant assets from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Levant in September 2014. This shift in the center of the group’s gravity constitutes a major change and one with implications still not fully understood by counterterrorism officials worldwide. After two turbulent decades following its most spectacular mission, al Qaeda has settled down and is again intensely focused on attacking the West.

Talks ‘still ongoing’ to end Afghanistan war, says Defense Secretary Esper

By: Robert Burns
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STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday he’s not ready to publicly discuss how a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan would begin under a peace deal with the Taliban.

"Negotiations in some ways are still ongoing," he told reporters traveling with him to Europe.

"I don't want to say anything that gets in front of that or upsets that process," he said.

The Taliban on Tuesday defended their suicide bombing against an international compound in the Afghan capital that killed at least 16 people and wounded 119, almost all local civilians, just hours after a U.S. envoy said he and the militant group had reached a deal "in principle" to end America's longest war.

Esper said he planned to meet for dinner Thursday in Stuttgart with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss Afghanistan and give him “a sense of where I think things are” in the push to close a peace deal.

US-Taliban Negotiations: How to Avoid Rushing to Failure

BY JAMES DOBBINS

We strongly support a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, a limited force drawdown as part of getting peace negotiations going, and the substantial force drawdown later that peace would allow. 

Equally strongly, we believe that US security and values, including support for women, require that a full troop withdrawal come only after a real peace. How our troop presence is managed will have a critical influence on the chances for successful peace negotiations, the future of the fight against the Islamic State, and the chance for Afghans to pursue representative government.

A few critical guard rails stand out in order to avoid the risk of Afghanistan becoming a new center of terrorism harboring groups dedicated to attacking the United States and to avoid betraying our own values by depriving Afghans of the chance to determine their own future.

Much of the current debate has focused on the substance of US-Taliban negotiations, which will become clearer as more details of the agreement announced September 2 are revealed, and the effects of a substantial US troop withdrawal as part of a peace settlement. The devil is in the details, however. Understanding which details matter requires considering a few points.

Why America Doesn't Want to Admit That it Failed in Afghanistan

by Daniel R. DePetris 

After nine rounds, ten months of direct negotiations, and a whole lot of squabbling, the United States and the Taliban have finally reached an agreement in principle. According to the terms that have been reported so far, Washington would swap an initial U.S. troop reduction in exchange for a Taliban commitment to reduce violence, a pledge to enter into political talks with the Afghan government on a future political settlement, and an assurance that Taliban-controlled areas will not be used by transnational terrorists to plot attacks against Americans. Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and the Trump administration’s point-man on the Afghan conflict, explained to TOLO News that over five thousand U.S. troops would depart from five bases within 135 days of the agreement’s signing. Assuming that Taliban fighters decrease violence at the same time American soldiers pack up and leave, President Donald Trump would be on his way toward extricating the United States from the longest conflict in its history. 

Interview – Nayan Chanda


Nayan Chanda is the founder and former editor-in-chief of YaleGlobal Online which started in 2002. Before his time at Yale, he spent nearly thirty years with the Far Eastern Economic Review, a Hong Kong-based publication, as its editor and Indochina correspondent. He was also a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington and the editor of the Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly. He has authored numerous books including Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization and Brother Enemy: The War After the War. He is the recipient of the 2005 Shorenstein Award. He is currently associate professor of International Relations at Ashoka University.

How has the way you understand the world changed over time, and what (or who) prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?

Apple’s iPhone ban in China just got Serious

Michael K. Spencer
Sounds like a Huawei revenge, a Chinese court has banned the sale and import of most iPhone models in a stunning decision sure to escalate the nasty trade war between the United States and China.

iPhone Sales in China could be impacted

Legal issues can really be a pain even when you have limitless cash and a global brand. Qualcomm and Apple are in a fierce multibillion-dollar legal battle over who owns the technology that goes into chips that power the iPhone.
Qualcomm and Apple are not friends

Qualcomm sought the injunctions, alleging Apple violated two of its patents.

Apple denies violating the patents and says the scope of the iPhone ban in China goes beyond what the injunction calls for.

China’s Great Game in Iran

BY ALEX VATANKA
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to the G-7 summit in France late last month was a surprise to many in the West. Some even viewed it as a good omen. But for the Iranian leadership, Zarif’s quick trip to Biarritz was always a long shot and with little chance to turn the tide in the U.S.-Iranian standoff. Such doubts were confirmed in the days that followed. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration still refuses to lift sanctions on Iranian oil, and Tehran will not engage in direct talks with Washington until some unequivocal relief from sanctions is first provided by the U.S. side.

Feel-good symbolism aside, Zarif departed Biarritz empty-handed. His next trip held more promise, anyway. Before he even arrived in Beijing, Zarif had already put pen to paper for China’s prominent Global Times. His call in that op-ed for consolidating what he labeled a “strategic partnership” with China is a recurrent aspiration of the leadership in Iran. But despite Tehran’s deep need for Beijing to come to its rescue, the prevailing view there is that a qualitatively different relationship with the Chinese government is needed before Iran can commit itself to becoming China’s anchor in Western Asia. The question is how China sees its own long-term interests in Iran.

How Chinese phonemakers have destroyed Indian ones like Micromax

By Rajiv Rao

When I first read this story in the Economic Times about the dismal situation of Indian phone maker Micromax, I couldn't help but revisit this piece from 2012. At that time, Micromax was a pioneering and hard-charging company, one that channelled its "bruiser" self-mythology into its fist logo. It advertised itself as being proudly Indian and unafraid of emphasising its origins.

This was the ostensible beginning of a grand future, one where the company was successfully attracting, in droves, the next great wave of India's phone buyers -- its youth -- by making them loyal customers drawn to an edgy brand. 

Its Indian market share was a lofty 17%. Its global marketing face was none other than Hugh Jackman and the phone maker was in the process of expanding aggressively in Russia. In terms of competition, no one seemed to measure up to it other than industry leader Samsung. Today, as reported in ET, Micromax's valuation has nosedived from its peak of ₹21,000 crore four years ago to a measly ₹1,500 crore, signalling a spectacular 93% drop over the period. Many prominent venture capital investors such as TA Associates and Sandstone Group have recently sold their stakes.

Carriers, Missiles, Submarines and Stealth: China's Military Has Arrived

by Kris Osborn
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Aircraft carriers, stealth fighters, anti-satellite weapons, drones, cyber attack technology and a growing arsenal of ballistic missiles are all among a series of Chinese weapons said to present serious concerns for Pentagon leaders and weapons developers, according to DoD’s annual China report.

The Pentagon 2018 report, called “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” details a broad spectrum of risks to include global economic expansion, massive military modernization and breakthrough weapons technology able to threaten US superiority.

While of course the report emerges within the context of a complicated, multi-faceted and stressed US-China relationship which includes growing tensions, military rivalry and some measure of cooperation as well. A recent DoD news report, for instance, was careful to mention China as a potential “adversary,” not “enemy.”

Nikita Khrushchev is elected first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The 8.2 megawatts earthquake struck Chiapas, southern Mexico, killing at least 60 people.

Asia Has Three Possible Futures

BY STEPHEN M. WALT
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Ispent the last week of August in South Korea, attending a conference on security studies sponsored by the Korea National Defense University and giving lectures at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies and at Sungkyunkwan University. As you might expect, the trip got me thinking about the evolving strategic environment in Asia. There’s a lot at play these days: an escalating trade war between the United States and China, North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and improved missile capabilities, deteriorating relations between South Korea and Japan, and increased cooperation between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Toss in the Afghanistan peace talks and India’s heavy-handed actions in Kashmir, and you have a pretty full diplomatic agenda.

At times like this, it’s useful to step back from today’s headlines and look at the big picture. And for a realist like me, the most important factors to consider are, first, the balance of power between the United States and China and, second, the likely response of other Asian countries to any significant shifts in that balance. These elements aren’t the only things that matter, of course, but the relative capabilities of the world’s two most powerful nations—one of which happens to be located in Asia—are bound to cast a long shadow over all the other countries in the region.

Looking ahead, one can imagine three main possibilities.

Why U.S.-China Supply Chains Are Stronger Than the Trade War


While the trade war between the U.S. and China continues to take its toll, global supply chains provide a “force for reason” in ending the standoff because they bind the two countries in prosperity, writes Wharton dean Geoffrey Garrett in this opinion piece.

Say the words “supply chain” and most people tune out. Supply chains sound technical, geeky and boring. But nothing could be further from the truth. Here are my three cheers for supply chains:

If you listen to President Donald Trump talk about trade you will get the impression that international supply chains don’t exist. In the most important case, China and the United States, the President’s analysis goes something like this: Goods and services are either “made in America” or “made in China.” America “wins” when products made in America are exported to China. America “loses” when it imports products made in China. The trade imbalance represents the win-loss records for both countries, just like your favorite sports team.

On this accounting, America is losing badly. Hence the ongoing trade war. The problem is that Trumpian trade is a relic of a distant era, when products really were made in one country and sold to another. That model is long gone, transformed first by containerized shipping in the 1960s and then by the internet in the 1990s.

How Iran Sees Its Standoff With the United States

By Seyed Hossein Mousavian 

My old mother is very ill, and so I have spent the last couple of weeks with her in Iran. My stay here has afforded me the opportunity to closely follow both public and official opinion during a time of rising tensions between the United States and Iran.

“What will happen to the nuclear agreement?” ordinary people have asked me. “Why did the United States violate the deal, even though Iran remained faithful to it?”

Iran’s economic situation has deteriorated since the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions after withdrawing from the deal. Government dysfunctionalities are partly responsible for the malaise, but Iranians nevertheless blame the United States for it. They do so because they are convinced that the party that did not keep its end of the nuclear bargain was the Trump administration, not the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Revolutionary Religion: Shia Islam and the Iranian Revolution

NATHAN OLSEN

The Iranian revolution of 1979 saw a mass movement of diverse interests and political groups within Iranian society come together to overthrow the Shah. This would eventually lead to the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in April 1979 and the creation of a new constitution that December. However, the movement to depose the Shah and the movement driving the construction of a new political system in Iran constituted two separate movements. As Moghadam (2002:1137) argues, ‘Iran had two revolutions…the populist revolution…[and] the Islamic revolution’. In this essay, I will focus on the ‘populist revolution’ and the extent to which it can be labelled Islamic. This focus on the first revolution is important, as its nature is contested (Kurzman, 1995; Sohrabi, 2018). In contrast, the second revolution was undeniably Islamic: the successful referendum on the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the creation of an Islamic constitution and the enshrinement of Ayatollah Khomeini as Supreme Leader of Iran all support this notion. Thus, my essay will consider to what extent we can label the ‘populist revolution’ as Islamic. It will be argued that it is appropriate to use this label, as the revolution utilised the narrative and organisational structure of Shi’a Islam to build a mass movement powerful enough to overthrow the Shah (Nasr, 2007; Richard, 1995; Roy, 1994). However, the socioeconomic conditions and existing political movements which fostered a climate of change were secular in nature (Ahmineh and Eisenstadt, 2007; Kamrava, 1990; Abrahamian, 1982). Therefore, it is appropriate to label the Iranian revolution of 1979 as Islamic, yet we must recognise that it originated from secular demands. This essay will demonstrate the above argument by examining Iran’s history of protest, considering the economic and political context of the 1979 revolution and evaluating the role that Ali Shariati’s actions and ideas had on the revolution. The final section will examine the role that Shi’a Islam played in the revolution, focusing on the symbolic power of Karbala (Fischer, 2003).

Iran in the 20th Century: Revolution and Reform

Double Trouble

MAHA YAHYA
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On Sunday, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles against the Israeli military, the first incident of its kind since the 2006 war between the two sides. This followed an Israeli drone attack a week earlier on a building housing Hezbollah’s media center in Beirut’s southern suburbs. It was later suggested that Israel had targeted an industrial mixer necessary for the production of propellant for missiles.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah announced that Hezbollah would retaliate from Lebanese territory for the drone attack. After the party did so on Sunday, both sides could claim success. The Israelis for having purportedly destroyed equipment critical for Hezbollah’s missile manufacturing capacity, Hezbollah for having reaffirmed its deterrence capabilities. Even as both sides scored points with their constituencies, neither seems to want a war. There are several reasons contributing to this.

The escalation needs to be seen in light of the broader regional standoff between Iran and the United States. It is becoming increasingly clear that while the United States has used sanctions to tighten the economic and financial noose around Iran, Israel has been tasked with upping the ante on the military front. In light of this, Hezbollah viewed retaliation for the drone attack as necessary to deter Israel’s efforts to change the rules of engagement with the party, whom the Israelis have accused of manufacturing precision missiles. Therefore, even as they fired on each other, both sides were focused mainly on defining the parameters of their future confrontation, not on mobilizing for a major conflict—at least for now.

Hezbollah Readies for Next War Against Israel

BY SULOME ANDERSON
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BEKAA VALLEY, Lebanon—Hilal stretched his legs in a plastic chair on the veranda outside his house, close to a Hezbollah military base in Hermel, Lebanon. Even in late summer, the night air here has a crisp edge to it, and stars dot the sky above the rust-red hills that separate the country from neighboring Syria.

But despite his posture, Hilal, who like other Hezbollah fighters interviewed by Foreign Policy asked that his name be changed, was anything but relaxed. An ivory-handled revolver shimmered on his hip. He pointed to where the hills crest into the horizon not far from his home.

“Can you see all those mountains?” he asked. “All of this area is full of missiles. They are all under preparation. Every day, we bring in and deploy them. We have received instructions not to wait for orders [to fire]. At any minute, or any bullet, the guys will not wait.”

Time for the EU to Refocus on Kosovo and the Region

ANDREAS WITTKOWSKY

Kosovar demand for the famous ladyfingers, made in Serbia, did not disappear in the dark years of Slobodan Milošević’s reign, in the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, or even during the spat over Kosovo’s independence.

If the biscuits are no longer available today, it is a sign of how deep the rift currently is between Pristina and Belgrade.

One year ago, Hashim Thaçi and Aleksandar Vučić, the respective presidents of Kosovo and Serbia, proposed to “correct” their shared border. What it really meant was a land swap. It proved to be surprisingly unpopular, both in Kosovo and in Serbia, albeit for different reasons.

In Kosovo, the plan met the fierce resistance of then prime minister Ramush Haradinaj. In an attempt to torpedo a prospective deal between the presidents, his government introduced a 100 percent import tax on goods originating from Serbia. This prohibitive tax hit Serbia’s exporters to Kosovo hard, as they still had a major market share. It also poisoned the political rhetoric between the two countries.

In return, Serbia stepped up its campaign to block Kosovo’s access to international institutions, lobbying third countries to undo their recognition of Kosovo.