21 May 2018

What Trump’s JCPOA Withdrawal Means for India

By Tanvi Madan

Over the last few years, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has sought to deepen its relationships in the Middle East (or what Delhi calls West Asia). It has continued its predecessors’ approach of maintaining links with Israel, the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (both the Qatar and Saudi/UAE wings), and Iran. Arguably, the latter is the least significant of the three for India—and definitely less crucial than India’s partnership with the United States for Indian interests. Nonetheless, for Delhi, Iran is important because of a) India’s energy interests, and b) connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Both could be affected by the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, which Modi in an India-Iran joint statement two years ago said represented a “triumph of diplomacy and sagacity.” In its response today, New Delhi was careful not to condemn the U.S. action—but it will not welcome the step, particularly as it comes at a time of global and regional flux and uncertainty.

Indian Foreign Policy 2018 Reclaiming the Neighbourhood

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Indian PM Narendra Modi in 2018 has wisely switched once again the focus of Indian foreign policy on reclaiming India’s neighbourhood which stood lost and was inherited in mid-2014 as a legacy inherited problem. The notable point that needs to be made at the outset is that in the gigantic task of PM Narendra Modi reclaiming India’s neighbourhood in terms of Indian ‘Area of Influence” and Indian “Area of National Security Interest” the attitude of the P-5 members is critical. India in 2018 can expect no support from China or Russia in this direction. It is only the United States & West with Japan that can emerge as India’s “Natural Allies” in this direction. This chiefly arises from their security interests in the Indian Ocean and also that China’s aggressive military rise and brinkmanship needs to be checkmated

India’s “hug, then repent” proclivity

Brahma Chellaney

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, Napoleon’s famous foreign minister, prescribed a basic rule for pragmatic foreign policy: “by no means show too much zeal”. In India’s case, oozing zealousness, gushy expectations and self-deluding hype have blighted foreign policy under successive leaders, except for a period under Indira Gandhi. Zeal has been to India’s male prime ministers what grand strategy is to great powers. India has rushed to believe what it wanted to believe. Consequently, India is the only known country to have repeatedly cried betrayal, not by friends, but by adversaries in whom it reposed trust. India’s foreign policy since independence can actually be summed up in three words: hug, then repent. Consider Narendra Modi’s abrupt U-turn in China policy. Stemming the deterioration in relations with Beijing makes eminent sense so as to create more strategic space for India. With escalating US sanctions forcing Moscow to pivot to China even as Washington still treats Beijing with kid gloves, India can rely on an unpredictable and transactional Donald Trump administration only at its own peril. During the Doklam standoff, for example, Washington stayed neutral.

Changing Indo-Pacific power dynamics

Brahma Chellaney

China’s two main Asian rivals, Japan and India, are seeking to mend their relations with it at a time of greater unpredictability in U.S. policy under President Donald Trump’s administration. This development carries significant implications for geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific region and could strengthen Chinese President Xi Jinping’s hand just when he has made himself China’s absolute ruler by dismantling the collective-leadership system that Deng Xiaoping helped institutionalize. Add to the picture Australia’s hedging of its bets, despite a national furor there over China’s interference in its internal affairs, and America’s persistently cautious approach toward Beijing, seeking neither overt competition nor confrontation. All this gives Xi the strategic space to carry on with his muscular and revisionist foreign policy, reflected in China’s growing military assertiveness in the vast Indo-Pacific region stretching from the Pacific to the Horn of Africa.

Indonesia is Islamic State’s new frontline

By JOHN MCBETH 

A government worker removes ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flags painted on to walls near Veteran Street in Surakarta City, Indonesia, in an attempt to discourage the promotion of the jihadist group in the region. For a long period during last week’s 36-hour stand-off at Indonesia’s paramilitary Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters, scores of rioting militants were in charge of a massive cache of automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. According to sources familiar with what transpired, the only reason the siege didn’t turn into a pitched gun-battle with police was that the leaders of the uprising lost contact with three coordinators outside the prison, known only as Deden, Ronggo and Ilham.

Why Vietnam is so Darn Tough

Vietnam thinks it can fight just about anyone and win.

This attitude stems from the country’s many wars with China, as well as its having defeated the French and outlasted the U.S. As a result of all these conflicts, the Vietnamese are fiercely determined to maintain freedom of action in their foreign policy, as evidenced by the ramping up of their naval capabilities. While the country does possess a formidable sea force, it lacks the muscle to dislodge China from the disputed Paracel Islands or prevent Chinese harassment of Vietnamese drilling in disputed waters. However, it has enough military firepower to serve as an invaluable aid to America’s effort to contain Chinese expansion in the region. Unfortunately for the U.S., Vietnam wants amicable relations with Russia, so it’s reluctant to do America’s bidding.

Views on Islam in Times of Terrorism

By Darius Farman and Enzo Nussio for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

How have recent jihadist terrorist attacks in Western Europe and the attendant debate over countermeasures affected Swiss attitudes towards Islam? Darius Farman and Enzo Nussio highlight that despite some fluctuations, there has been no significant increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in Switzerland since the 1990s. However, they also point out that public debate on Islam has shifted, particularly in terms of its prevalence and Islam’s portrayal as a potential threat. Further, discrimination against Muslims has risen, possibly because of the erosion of inhibitions against such behavior due to the hardening of negative attitudes.

Iran Energy Profile: Holds Some Of World’s Largest Deposits Of Proved Oil And Natural Gas Reserves – Analysis


Iran holds some of the world’s largest deposits of proved oil and natural gas reserves, ranking as the world’s fourth-largest and second-largest reserve holder of oil and natural gas, respectively. Iran also ranks among the world’s top 10 oil producers and top 5 natural gas producers. Iran produced almost 4.7 million barrels per day (b/d) of petroleum and other liquids in 2017 and an estimated 7.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of dry natural gas in 2017.[1]  The Strait of Hormuz, off the southeastern coast of Iran, is an important route for oil exports from Iran and other Persian Gulf countries. At its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is 21 miles wide, yet an estimated 18.5 million b/d of crude oil and refined products flowed through it in 2016 (nearly 30% of all seaborne-traded oil and almost 20% of total oil produced globally). Liquefied natural gas (LNG) volumes also flow through the Strait of Hormuz. Approximately 3.7 Tcf of LNG was transported from Qatar via the Strait of Hormuz in 2016, accounting for more than 30% of global LNG trade.

Face it: Trump has Been Right About Iran and North Korea

Author: Niall Ferguson

The greatest gunfight in the history of cowboy films is in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” It’s a three-cornered shoot-out between Clint Eastwood (Blondie), Tuco (Eli Wallach), and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef). The crucial point is that before the shooting starts, Blondie has emptied Tuco’s revolver of bullets. To members of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, regardless of party affiliation, President Trump’s decision to exit one nuclear deal (with Iran) only to enter another nuclear deal (with North Korea) is beyond baffling. They clearly never saw “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Like Eastwood’s Blondie, Trump understands that only one of his antagonists has a loaded gun. I wish I had a fistful of dollars for every article I have read in the past year about the foolishness or recklessness of Trump’s foreign policy. The funny thing is how few of the people writing such pieces ever pointed out the much greater foolishness and recklessness of his predecessor’s foreign policy.

Closing the Deal: The US, Iran, and the JCPOA

Payam Mohseni

On May 8, President Donald Trump framed the withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a dire necessity, calling attention to the "rotten structure of the current agreement" and promising a new era of allied engagement to devise a more robust deal to constrain Iranian ambitions in the region. Trump's decision, however, is strategically incoherent. On the one hand, he is preaching the old neoconservative rhetoric - doubling down on hawkish policies towards Iran, signalling regime change, and undertaking unilateral US actions against Iran without the support of key historical allies. On the other, he is practising Fortress America on the cheap - pledging to reduce American commitments to the Middle East, announcing removal of troops from Syria, and demanding US allies in the Middle East share the financial burden of American security umbrellas.

Challenges in Implementing JCPOA after the US Withdrawal

S. Samuel C. Rajiv

President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that the United States ‘will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal’.1 Trump went on to note that the US will be ‘reinstating nuclear sanctions against the Iranian regime’. These sanctions, which were waived as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in return for significant Iranian commitments on its nuclear programme, were imposed by successive administrations as part of a ‘dual-track’ policy of ‘applying pressure in pursuit of a constructive engagement and a negotiated solution’.The JCPOA was the result of more than 12 years of negotiations, which initially began with the European Union-3 (EU-3; made up of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) in 2003 and later expanded to include the other members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) after Iranian nuclear concerns were referred to the UNSC in February 2006.

Russian Analytical Digest No 219: Russia in the Middle East

By Mark N Katz and Nikolay Kozahanov for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

In this edition of the RAD, Mark N Katz first examines how President Putin’s Russia seeks to maintain good relations with multiple actors in the Middle East that consider one another as adversaries, and the limits to this policy. Nikolay Kozhanov then considers the Russia-Saudi Arabia relationship, noting that the efforts to promote better relations between the two have not as yet been derailed by various stress-tests in their relations. The two articles featured here were originally published by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) in the Russian Analytical Digest on 3 May 2018. What Do They See in Him? How the Middle East Views Putin and Russia

A Primer on Countering Terrorism

By Isaac Kfir

Terrorism’ is usually defined as the real or threatened use of violence by a non-state actor against non-combatants or civilians to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives. This definition underlines the fact that the term carries many additional connotations. (The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies has established a database of legislation that defines terrorism.) With Daesh adjusting to a huge loss of territory and al-Qaeda resurrecting itself, we need to recognise the existence of several factors involved in terrorism if we are to respond to it effectively. There are two additional elements. One is that terrorist groups will seek to justify their actions by presenting them as a response to state oppression (the state is always the stronger party).

Remaining and Expanding: Why Local Violent Extremist Organizations Reflag to ISIS

Nicholas A. Glavin

Introduction

As the U.S.-led coalition nears the military defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the collapse of its physical caliphate in the Levant, its various affiliates pose complex threats to host nation governments and Western interests from West Africa to Southeast Asia. Understanding how, when, and why local violent extremist organizations (VEOs) affiliate can inform policymakers and general officers in applying instruments of natiaonal power. This report analyzes Islamic State – West Africa Province and Islamic State – Sinai Province to examine the question, “What explains the appeal for local VEOs to reflag under the ISIS brand?”

ISIS Branches Grow as ‘Caliphate’ Fades in Syria, Iraq

by Yaroslav Trofimov 

In its former heartland of Syria and Iraq, the once mighty Islamic State has turned, at least for now, into little more than a nuisance. But that’s not the case for the self-declared caliphate’s far-flung “provinces,” from West Africa to Afghanistan to Southeast Asia. There, local insurgencies that adopted Islamic State’s brand and ideology in its heyday in 2014-2015 keep up the fight, gaining new ground and perpetrating new massacres. Some are also attracting a new influx of foreign fighters. “For now, it is really in the peripheries that everything happens,” said Prof. Mathieu Guidere, an expert on Islamic extremism at the University of Paris VIII. “The peripheral branches of Islamic State have become much more important and much more active than its original central organization.” Last year, U.S.-backed campaigns by the Iraqi government and by predominantly Kurdish fighters managed to seize Islamic State’s two main cities of Mosul and Raqqa, liberating a territory that once spanned a landmass the size of Great Britain.

Developing a Containment Strategy in Syria


Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States should withdraw its military forces from Syria. But the United States has several interests in Syria:  Balancing against Iran, including deterring Iranian forces and militias from pushing close to the Israeli border, disrupting Iranian lines of communication through Syria, preventing substantial military escalation between Israel and Iran, and weakening Shia proxy forces. Balancing against Russia, including deterring further Russian expansion in the Middle East from Syrian territory and raising the costs—including political costs—of Russian operations in Syria. Preventing a terrorist resurgence, including targeting Salafi-jihadist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda that threaten the United States and its allies. 

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Violence in Gaza: “An Ugly Witch’s Brew”


Since the United States declared the opening of its new embassy in Jerusalem, violence has broken out along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, where thousands of protesters have gathered for months for what they have dubbed “The Great March of Return” [to Israel]. Earlier this week, Israeli troops fired into the crowd from across the border fence, killing at least 58 Palestinians and wounding more than 2,700. Israel has faced international backlash for its heavy-handed approach to the protests, including Turkey expelling its ambassador and a number of countries calling for an investigation of the bloodshed. However, what’s just as interesting is which voices are missing in the conversation.

Europe Must Confront America’s Extraterritorial Sanctions

JEFFREY D. SACHS

Europe’s biggest challenge in resisting US sanctions on Iran is not legal or even geopolitical. It is psychological: European leaders act as if the US still cares about a trans-Atlantic alliance of shared interests, values, and approaches. NEW YORK – Donald Trump’s renunciation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and the reimposition of US sanctions on that country threaten global peace. Europe’s security depends on defending the agreement with Iran despite the US withdrawal. That, in turn, requires Europe, along with Russia, China, and other United Nations member states, to ensure that economic relations with Iran can develop. And that can happen only if Europe confronts, and ultimately overturns, America’s extraterritorial sanctions, which aim to deter trade and financial activities with Iran by non-US actors.

The Known Unknowns of US Sanctions Against Iran

ANATOLE KALETSKY

The sanctions against Iran reinstated by US President Donald Trump raise two all-important questions that have no convincing answers. But they also raise a third question, about which financial markets are likely to be wrong. BEIJING – The sanctions against Iran reinstated by US President Donald Trump raise two all-important questions that have no convincing answers. First, will this action make the world safer, as Trump claims, or will it further destabilize the Middle East and undermine future efforts to limit nuclear weapons, as argued by most geopolitical experts not directly employed by the US, Israeli, or Saudi governments? And, second, will US efforts to compel foreign companies to observe its sanctions against Iran prove as tough as Trump’s belligerent rhetoric?

Is Big Tech Destroying Retail Markets?

MARIA GONZALEZ-MIRANDA , IVAILO IZVORSKI

When online markets for consumer goods and services first emerged, they were hailed for empowering shoppers, encouraging competition, and reducing transaction costs. But much as changed since then, and if current trends continue, online markets will become markets in name only. Information technology is not just transforming markets; it is also making them ubiquitous, particularly for household consumers. From pretty much anywhere in the world, one can now search out goods and services, compare prices from multiple sellers, and give detailed shipping and delivery instructions, all with a mouse click or a screen tap.

The View From Olympus: Israel, Gaza, and 4GW

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Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, has traditionally been less competent than Hezbollah at Fourth Generation war. Its rocket attacks on Israel, although they have frightened Israelis, have done little physical damage while they have created a moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel that hurts the former. Now, however, it is beginning to look as if Hamas has gotten smarter in a way that poses a real 4GW strategic threat to Israel. On successive Fridays, Hamas has sponsored demonstrations at the border fence between Gaza and Israel. On April 27, the demonstrators broke through the fence. Israel responded, as it has before, with live fire that killed several Gazans. Anytime that happens, Israel suffers a defeat at the moral level, which in 4GW is the decisive level. Hamas’s challenge is to push that defeat up from the tactical to the strategic. Conditions may be ripe for it to do so. Israel, Egypt, and Fatah have combined their efforts to degrade the quality of life in Gaza to the point where people there feel they have nothing to lose. When everyday life is hell, risking that life is a modest risk. Hamas may be able to mobilize, not hundreds of demonstrators, but hundreds of thousands.

Study: Russian Support Gave Assad Half of Syria

Agence France-Presse

Airstrikes against Syrian rebels have gone up 150 percent since Russia intervened in the conflict in 2015, helping the regime triple the territory under its control, a report published on Tuesday showed. The analysis by IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC) also found that just 14 percent of the strikes were against the Islamic State group. It found that the Syrian state had increased the area under its control from 16 percent of the country in September 2015 to 47 percent in March 2018. Russian intervention not only ensured the survival of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, it changed the course of the war.

Here’s How a National Cybersecurity Agency Could Work

By Brian Rodger, 

Over the past few months, some private-sector companies have called for building a national cybersecurity agency. This agency would consist of a centralized authority responsible for the nation’s cybersecurity that would harmonize policies and set priorities across the government. This is a very interesting idea for a few reasons. For one, it is difficult to understand where cybersecurity oversight and responsibilities start and stop in the federal government. Currently, there are at least three different agencies tasked with responding to a cyber incident: Homeland Security Department, FBI and National Security Agency. This collective of responsible agencies may lead to confusion when the federal government entity can least afford it: When an agency is under attack.

The Google Tax – Analysis

By Giancarlo Elia Valori*

The European Treasury, individually as member States or collectively as Union, has so far reached – with a race to the bottom – as many as 72 agreements with large global companies. Tax competition is still very strong and active. Just think of the US corporate tax that-following the latest reforms- has decreased to a maximum 26% rate, more than one third less than the previous rate, with a US average corporate tax rate which is now below all OECD and G7 levels. Similar approaches, however, are developing in Argentina, Colombia, Luxembourg, Canada and even Japan. Conversely corporate taxes have increased in Turkey, Portugal and Taiwan, with further increases – albeit slight – also in India. They are selective increases to favour some foreign or national companies compared to others.

The Legal and Ethical Complexity of Developing ‘Super Soldiers’

Charlie Dunlap

There has been a lot of discussion recently about what impact developments in artificial intelligence might have on the military, but there is also a growing amount of talk regarding how emerging advancements in human intelligence will influence tomorrow’s wars – much thanks to remarkable work occurring in neuroscience. Fortunately, we have one of the world’s experts right here at Duke Law, Professor Nita Farahany . At our annualLENS conference earlier this year she gave an absolutely mesmerizing presentation entitled “The Legal and Ethical Complexity of Developing ‘Super Soldiers’ ” What did she address? Here’s an overview:

FIRST TO FIGHT FOR THE “RIGHT”: THE ETHICAL DILEMMA INHERENT WITHIN THE MULTI-DOMAIN BATTLE CONCEPT

Bryan Hedrick

Summary

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should—therein lies the ethical dilemma of war. Threats to our national security have exponentially increased; no longer can we depend on superiority across all domains of warfare. The situation is precarious; our adversaries are near-peer, peer, or even superior to our own capabilities. Technology has brought the fight to our own soil through cyber warfare, unmanned aircraft, long range delivery platforms, and artificial intelligence. Despite the vast changes in modern warfare, the human dimension of war still remains fixed—war has ethical limits. Multi-Domain Battle poses an intrinsic ethical dilemma to the warfighter’s ability to apply combat power congruent with the Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello principles inherent within the Law of War. As strategies and tactics develop, it is imperative to consider the ethical ramifications of our actions. The Army’s Ethical Reasoning Framework is no longer a viable tool as it does not provide commanders nor soldiers the rigor or speed at which to make sound ethical decisions. We must engage the ethical domain—the trust of our nation and the moral health of our military hangs in the balance.

Combat High America’s addiction to war

By Andrew J. Bacevich, Buddhika Jayamaha, Danny Sjursen, Gregory Daddis, Jason Dempsey, Sarah Kreps

Afew months before the United States invaded Iraq, in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time, was asked on a radio show how long the war would take. “Five days or five weeks or five months,” he replied. “It certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When George W. Bush departed the White House more than five years later, there were nearly 136,000 US soldiers stationed in the country. The number of troops has fallen since then, but Bush’s successors have failed to withdraw the United States from the region. Barack Obama campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send hundreds of troops into Syria. For years Donald Trump described America’s efforts in Afghanistan as “a waste” and said that soldiers were being led “to slaughter,” but in 2017 he announced that he would deploy as many as 4,000 more troops to the country. “Decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk of the Oval Office,” he explained. Every president, it seems, eventually learns to embrace our perpetual war.

COMBAT HIGH: AMERICA’S ADDICTION TO WAR

by Andrew J. Bacevich, Buddhika Jayamaha, Danny Sjursen, Gregory Daddis, Jason Dempsey and Sarah Kreps - Harper's Magazine

A few months before the United States invaded Iraq, in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time, was asked on a radio show how long the war would take. “Five days or five weeks or five months,” he replied. “It certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When George W. Bush departed the White House more than five years later, there were nearly 136,000 US soldiers stationed in the country. The number of troops has fallen since then, but Bush’s successors have failed to withdraw the United States from the region. Barack Obama campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send hundreds of troops into Syria. For years Donald Trump described America’s efforts in Afghanistan as “a waste” and said that soldiers were being led “to slaughter,” but in 2017 he announced that he would deploy as many as 4,000 more troops to the country. “Decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk of the Oval Office,” he explained. Every president, it seems, eventually learns to embrace our perpetual war.

How to Sell a COIN Aircraft in a Great-Power Era

by Marcus Weisgerber - Defense One

With the National Defense Strategy shift to great-power competition — and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ ubiquitously quoted “three lines of effort ” — it’s no surprise that the defense industry has been tailoring marketing messages to suit. Perhaps more surprising are the pitches for the kinds of weapons that would have been perfect for the past 17 years of counterinsurgency warfare. Exhibit one: The U.S. Air Force’s Light Attack Experiment, an ongoing evaluation of two bomb-carrying turboprop aircraft. They’re the types of planes that would have been perfect for supporting combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Such planes would also have saved tons of wear and tear on the far more expensive F-15E and F-16 fighter jets, designed for high-end combat but pressed into service against low-end foes. Some in the Air Force wanted the planes back then, but service leaders never found funding. (I explored this at greater length in Air Force Magazine’s January 2010 issue).

20 May 2018

India’s Nepal challenge

Brahma Chellaney

Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his New Delhi visit in April 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the right decision to visit Nepal, just weeks after he hosted his Nepalese counterpart, Khadga Prasad Oli, who chose India for his first foreign trip. New Delhi’s traditionally close relationship with Kathmandu is today in need of urgent repair, in part because of the Modi government’s missteps in the past couple of years and because of the election of a China-backed communist coalition in Nepal. Landlocked Nepal has lurched from one crisis to another for more than two decades. Ever since it embarked on a democratic transition, it has been in severe political flux. It is too early to say if the Oli government will be able to bring political stability. The promise of an early merger of the two main Communist parties that have formed the government has given way to protracted negotiations and public squabbling.

The Nehruvian Style of Modi’s Foreign Policy


Brahma Chellaney

In the four years that he has been in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has animated domestic politics in India and the country’s foreign policy by departing often from conventional methods and shibboleths. As he focuses on winning the next general election, the key question is whether the Modi era will mark a defining moment for India, just as Xi Jinping’s ascension to power has been for China. The answer to that question is still not clear. What is clear, however, is that Modi’s stint in office has clearly changed Indian politics and diplomacy. In domestic politics, Modi has a stronger record: He has led the Bharatiya Janata Party to a string of victories in elections in a number of states, making his party the largest political force in the country by far. Under his leadership, the traditionally urban-focused BJP has significantly expanded its base in rural areas and among the socially disadvantaged classes and spread to the country’s eastern and southern regions. His skills as a political tactician steeped in cold-eyed pragmatism have held him in good stead. Modi, however, has become increasingly polarizing. Consequently, Indian democracy today is probably as divided and polarized as US democracy.

Taliban’s 2018 Offensive Encompasses All Regions of Afghanistan

By Bill Roggio

The Taliban’s 2018 offensive, which it calls Al Khandaq Jihadi operations, has targeted Afghan government forces in nearly all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. While Afghan security forces appear to be focusing on Taliban forces in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar – the birthplace of the Taliban and its traditional strongholds – the jihadist group is effectively counterattacking in the other regions of Afghanistan. The Taliban appears to maintain the initiative throughout Afghanistan, while the Afghan military is forced to react to Taliban offensives, such as the latest incursion into Farah City. Since the beginning of Al Khandaq Jihadi operations, the Taliban has overrun five district centers in Badakhshan, Badghis, Faryab, Ghazni, and Kunduz. These provinces span the western, northern, and southern Afghanistan.

China Tries to Bring Pakistan, Afghanistan Closer

Ayaz Gul

China has proposed hosting a new round of three-way talks with Pakistan and Afghanistan this month to continue with its diplomatic push in helping the two neighboring countries improve their strained bilateral ties. Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing told an unofficial conference of government representatives and experts from the three countries in Islamabad on Tuesday that Beijing had initiated the trilateral vice foreign ministers-level dialogue in 2015. He said that since then, several rounds of talks have taken place, with the mission of easing Kabul's tensions with Islamabad and promoting security, counterterrorism and economic cooperation among the three nations.

GE14 And Its Aftermath: Enter Malaysia’s New Political Order – Analysis

By Yang Razali Kassim*

Days after the political earthquake of a general election on 9 May, Anwar Ibrahim declared Malaysia “on the verge of a new golden era”. Will it be a mere change of government or a political transition to a new order? In the wake of the seismic change that was Malaysia’s 14th general election on 9 May 2018, two aftershocks are now playing out. The first, amid the euphoria of victory, sees the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition taking ground-breaking but cautious steps to put in place not just a new government but also the seeds of what could be a new political order. The second, as part of this changed landscape, sees the defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition bracing for an unfamiliar and uncertain future, with its anchor party, UMNO, under threat of deregistration.

The Role of Political Leaders

By George Friedman
Source Link

Regardless of the issue, many people seem obsessed with the question of what political leaders will do next. Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un and many others are expected to make the decisions that will determine the course our lives. It’s a comforting thought – we want someone to be in control, someone to praise or blame, someone to analyze and psychoanalyze. The world is too vast, impersonal and unknowable to face without the belief that someone – a leader or perhaps in some cases a hidden conspiracy – is causing the events that shape our lives. And politicians seeking power nurture the idea that they are uniquely qualified to guide millions or hundreds of millions to happiness. Monarchs want to rule, and we want monarchs to rule. This model of political power cushions reality but falsifies it as well.

RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, 1945-2018

BY JAMES TRAUB

The Atlantic alliance, built to contain the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II, began to die when the Cold War ended. What kept it alive over the last three decades has been less strategic necessity than a convergence of values — the values of the liberal postwar order. Now, the senior partner of the alliance, the United States, has lost interest in those values. The alliance was already a corpse, but Donald Trump drove the last nail into its coffin when he decided this week to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran.

Trump is wrong over Iran, but Europe can’t afford to divorce the US

Bruno Tertrais

In 2003 a US-led war in the Middle East fractured western unity and divided the European family. It was a trauma of historic proportions, a watershed in some ways comparable to the 1956 Suez crisis. With Donald Trump’s decision on Iran, we may be on the verge of another such moment. On the surface, things may not look as bad as they did in early 2003. At this point, US military action against Iran is a worst-case hypothesis – not a plan. No 180,000-strong force is being built up near Iranian territory. Nor are Europeans split into two camps. In this current crisis, and despite Brexit, Europeans look like they’re sticking together.

The Iran Deal Exposes Europe’s Weaknesses as a Global Power

Judah Grunstein

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Last week, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel solemnly declared that from now on Europe would have to take its destinyin its own hands. It’s hard to disagree with Merkel. But that was already true the first time she expressed the sentiment in May 2017, in the aftermath of Trump’s first visit to Europe as president. In the meantime, Europe has not done anything to fundamentally address the challenge of managing trans-Atlantic relations under Trump. As a result, a week after the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal—officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA—it is becoming increasingly clear that Europe will be hard pressed to back up its outrage with actions to defend the agreement—and its interests. ...

The U.S. Army Could Revolutionize Long-Range Fires


In kick-starting its efforts to prepare for future high-end conflicts, late last year the U.S. Army identified six modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the Network, Air and Missile Defense and Soldier Lethality. To support this plan, the Army stood up Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) for each of these areas focused on speeding up the process of developing requirements and ensuring that the programs in each of these areas are achievable, affordable and effective. The bulk of the Army’s Science and Technology resources were refocused on these six priorities.

The Necessary U.S. Response to Russia’s Nuclear Doctrine

By Bradley A. Thayer

After decades of neglect, the decline of the United States’ nuclear arsenal is being addressed by the Pentagon. This is driven in large measure by the growth and modernization of the Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals. Their nuclear doctrines are salient as well. While Chinese nuclear doctrine remains deliberately opaque—which is, in itself, worrisome and a threat to strategic stability—Russian doctrine and statements from officials have emphasized the need to maintain their nuclear arsenal and evinced a willingness to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. 

Should the U.S. Break Up Amazon?

DEREK THOMPSON

Introducing Crazy/Genius, a new podcast from The Atlantic with Derek Thompson. Eight bold questions—and eight smart answers—about how tech is changing the world. Listen and subscribe to the podcast. Some time later this year, Amazon could become the first trillion-dollar company in American history. Its valuation has already doubled in the last 14 months to about $800 billion, and Jeff Bezos, its founder and CEO, is officially the richest man on the planet.  There are ways in which Amazon seems to be the greatest company in American history. It’s revolutionized the global shopping experience and expanded into media and hardware, while operating on razor-thin margins that have astonished critics. But some now consider it the modern incarnation of a railroad monopoly, a logistics behemoth using its scale to destroy competition. So what is Amazon: brilliant, dangerous, or both? That’s the subject of the latest episode of Crazy/Genius, our new podcast on technology and culture.

The most important — but least discussed — consequence of Trump’s foreign policy

By David Ignatius 
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President Trump’s dismissive treatment of Europe is beginning to erode the transatlantic alliance, which for many decades has been the central pillar of U.S. national security policy. The growing European-American rift may be the most important but least discussed consequence of Trump’s foreign policy. His disruptive style is usually seen as destabilizing to distant adversaries in Pyongyang, Tehran and Beijing. But the diplomatic bombs have also been exploding here in the capital of the European Union — as well as in Paris, Berlin and London — and they appear to be causing real damage.

Russian air defenses were beaten badly by Israeli forces in Syria on video - here are its excuses

DANIEL BROWN

Moscow offered two explanations on Monday as to why Russian-made Pantsir S-1 missile defense system took a direct hit during an Israeli airstrike last week. "One is that it had already used up its ammunition reserve," Aytech Bizhev, the former deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, said, according to RT. "The other is that it was simply turned off; it wasn't battle ready." Whatever the reason, the incident wasn't good advertizing for the Russian system. Moscow offered two explanations on Monday as to why its Russian-made Pantsir S-1 missile defense system embarrassingly took a direct hit during an Israeli airstrike last week.

Russian Analytical Digest No 219: Russia in the Middle East

By Mark N Katz and Nikolay Kozahanov for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

In this edition of the RAD, Mark N Katz first examines how President Putin’s Russia seeks to maintain good relations with multiple actors in the Middle East that consider one another as adversaries, and the limits to this policy. Nikolay Kozhanov then considers the Russia-Saudi Arabia relationship, noting that the efforts to promote better relations between the two have not as yet been derailed by various stress-tests in their relations. The two articles featured here were originally published by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) in the Russian Analytical Digest on 3 May 2018.

Violence in Gaza: “An Ugly Witch’s Brew”


Since the United States declared the opening of its new embassy in Jerusalem, violence has broken out along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, where thousands of protesters have gathered for months for what they have dubbed “The Great March of Return” [to Israel]. Earlier this week, Israeli troops fired into the crowd from across the border fence, killing at least 58 Palestinians and wounding more than 2,700. Israel has faced international backlash for its heavy-handed approach to the protests, including Turkey expelling its ambassador and a number of countries calling for an investigation of the bloodshed. However, what’s just as interesting is which voices are missing in the conversation.

Panel: U.S. Needs Non-Military Options to Handle ‘Gray Zone’ Warfare from Russia, China, Iran

By: John Grady

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) conducts routine patrols in international waters of the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands as the People’s Liberation Army-Navy [PLA(N)] guided-missile frigate Yancheng (FFG 546) sails close behind, on May 11, 2015. US Navy photo.The United States is nowhere close to deterring Russia from spreading fake news, disinformation, and propaganda through social media, or even convincing the American public that such a Kremlin campaign to drive wedges through society exists, a panel of “gray zone” warfare experts said Tuesday.

Perception and Misperception on the Korean Peninsula

By Robert Jervis and Mira Rapp-Hooper

North Korea has all but completed its quest for nuclear weapons. It has demonstrated its ability to produce boosted-fission bombs and may be able to make fusion ones, as well. It can likely miniaturize them to fit atop a missile. And it will soon be able to deliver this payload to the continental United States. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has declared his country’s nuclear deterrent complete and, despite his willingness to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, is unlikely to give it up. Yet Washington continues to demand that Pyongyang relinquish the nuclear weapons it already has, and the Trump administration has pledged that the North Korean regime will never acquire a nuclear missile that can hit the United States. The result is a new, more dangerous phase in the U.S.–North Korean relationship: a high-stakes nuclear standoff.

Google's march to the business of war must be stopped

Lucy Suchman, Lilly Irani and Peter Asaro

‘Should Google proceed despite moral and ethical opposition by several thousand of its own employees?’ A US remotely piloted aircraft in Iraq, 2015. Project Maven uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyse the vast amount of footage shot by US drones. Should Google, a global company with intimate access to the lives of billions, use its technology to bolster one country’s military dominance? Should it use its state of the art artificial intelligence technologies, its best engineers, its cloud computing services, and the vast personal data that it collects to contribute to programs that advance the development of autonomous weapons? Should it proceed despite moral and ethical opposition by several thousand of its own employees?

White House eliminates top cyber adviser post

By ERIC GELLER

The Trump administration has eliminated the White House’s top cyber policy role, jettisoning a key position created during the Obama presidency to harmonize the government's overall approach to cybersecurity policy and digital warfare. POLITICO first reported last week that John Bolton, President Donald Trump's new national security adviser, was maneuvering to cut the cyber coordinator role, in a move that many experts and former government officials criticized as a major step backward for federal cybersecurity policy. According to an email sent to National Security Council staffers Tuesday, the decision is part of an effort to “streamline authority” for the senior directors who lead most NSC teams. “The role of cyber coordinator will end,” Christine Samuelian, an aide to Bolton, wrote in the email to NSC employees, which POLITICO obtained from a former U.S. official.