9 February 2017

*** Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Is Guiding Terror Plots From Afar


HYDERABAD, India — When the Islamic State identified a promising young recruit willing to carry out an attack in one of India’s major tech hubs, the group made sure to arrange everything down to the bullets he needed to kill victims.

For 17 months, terrorist operatives guided the recruit, a young engineer named Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, through every step of what they planned to be the Islamic State’s first strike on Indian soil.
Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, left, and his younger brother Ilyas, whom he recruited to participate in the Hyderabad plot.

They vetted each new member of the cell as Mr. Yazdani recruited helpers. They taught him how to pledge allegiance to the terrorist group and securely send the statement.

And from Syria, investigators believe, the group’s virtual plotters organized for the delivery of weapons as well as the precursor chemicals used to make explosives, directing the Indian men to hidden pickup spots.

Until just moments before the arrest of the Indian cell, here last June, the Islamic State’s cyberplanners kept in near-constant touch with the men, according to the interrogation records of three of the eight suspects obtained by The New York Times.

As officials around the world have faced a confusing barrage of attacks dedicated to the Islamic State, cases like Mr. Yazdani’s offer troubling examples of what counterterrorism experts are calling enabled or remote-controlled attacks: violence conceived and guided by operatives in areas controlled by the Islamic State whose only connection to the would-be attacker is the internet.

*** Nehru's Aksai Chin Blunder

'Delhi was not concerned.'
'It would continue sleeping for several more years, with the result that Indian territory is still occupied by China today,' says Claude Arpi.

One of the Nehru government's biggest historical blunders has been the Aksai Chin road built by China on Indian soil without Delhi noticing it.

Among the several lakhs of recently released historical documents by the Central Intelligence Agency, a couple of Information Reports dating from 1953 shed some light on the issue.

Let us look at some facts.

On October 6, 1957, a Chinese newspaper, Kuang-ming Jih-pao reported: 'The Sinkiang-Tibet -- the highest highway in the world -- has been completed.'

'During the past few days, a number of trucks running on the highway on a trial basis have arrived in Ko-ta-k'e in Tibet from Yecheng in Sinkiang (Xinjiang),' the newspaper reporter.

The Sinkiang-Tibet Highway... is 1,179 km long, of which 915 km are more than 4,000 metres above sea level; 130 km of it over 5,000 metres above sea level, with the highest point being 5,500 meters.'

The reporter spoke of: 'Thirty heavy-duty trucks, fully loaded with road builders, maintenance equipment and fuels, running on the highway on a trial basis' heading towards Tibet.

The Aksai Chin road was opened.

It should have been obvious, even for the blind Intelligence Bureau Director B N Mullick and others in Delhi that the Chinese had built a road on Indian soil.

Still, it took nearly two more years for the news to become public in India.

Early in 1958, five months after the 'official' opening, Subimal Dutt, then India's foreign secretary, wrote to then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru: 'There seemed little doubt that the newly constructed 1,200 kilometre road connecting Gartok in Western Tibet with Yeh (Yecheng) in Sinkiang passes through Aksai Chin.'

Dutt suggested sending a reconnoitering party 'in the coming spring' to find out if the road had really been built on Indian territory.

*** The case for getting tough on Pakistan

Bruce Riedel

Eight years ago, President Barack Obama called me to ask if I would chair an urgent interagency review of American policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. He had discovered on his first visit to the Pentagon that the war in Afghanistan was going much worse than his predecessor had admitted. Pakistan was abetting the Afghan Taliban in the war with NATO forces, and the United States military needed immediate and substantial reinforcements. Worse, al-Qaida was running rampant inside Pakistan, posing an urgent threat to the American homeland. The president announced the results of the interagency study in a speech to the nation in March 2009, just before a NATO summit in France. After 60 days in the White House, during which I was on leave from Brookings, I returned to the Institution.

Last fall I collaborated with a number of my fellow Pakistan watchers in the think tank community in Washington on a review of American policy toward Pakistan. Scholars from the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute and other institutions came together. We did so as scholars—not institutions—and had a healthy, collegial, and civil debate. My compliments to the co-chairs of this important piece, Lisa Curtis and Husain Haqqani.

Pakistani safe havens for the Afghan Taliban remain the single most difficult challenge to the NATO effort to stabilize Afghanistan.

The report concludes that Pakistani safe havens for the Afghan Taliban remain the single most difficult challenge to the NATO effort to stabilize Afghanistan. Efforts to encourage the Pakistani army to curtail their assistance to the Haqqani network and the Taliban have failed, despite over $25 billion in U.S. assistance by two presidents over 15 years. The longest war in American history is a proxy war with Pakistan, and it has the fastest-growing nuclear weapons arsenal in the world.
A new approach is therefore critical. The report suggests a more vigorous effort to encourage Pakistan to break ties with the Taliban and other terrorist groups based in Pakistan like the Lashkar e Tayyiba group that attacked Mumbai in November 2008. These groups have enjoyed Pakistani backing for decades. The civilian government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has very little role in this patronage network—rather, it’s the so-called “deep state” of the intelligence service and the army high command that’s in charge.

*** Innovation And other things that brief well

Capt Joshua Waddell

I am now thoroughly convinced there is something deeply wrong with the part of the Marine Corps occupying the I-95 corridor leading to the Pentagon. What has become painfully apparent to me is the drastic difference between the mindset of the Operating Forces and the Supporting Establishment. While I grant that, in the case of the former, the prospects of being shot, blown up, or otherwise extinguished tend to be wonderful motivators to constantly improve and perform, the Marine Corps Supporting Establishment is filled with senior officers whose backgrounds include extensive experience in combat within the Operating Forces. Why then is there such a divide between the organizational energy and innovative agility of our Marines and the depressive stagnation found within the Supporting Establishment?

I believe I know a big part of the answer: self-delusion.

Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars. It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Objective analysis of the U.S. military’s effectiveness in these wars can only conclude that we were unable to translate tactical victory into operational and strategic success.1 As military professionals, it is not sufficient to offload the responsibility for these failures, at least in their entirety, to decision makers in Washington or in perceived lack of support from other governmental agencies. We must divorce ourselves from the notion that criticism of our performance is an indictment or devaluation of the sacrifices our Marines made on the battlefield. Like many of you, I lost Marines in the “Long War” as well. It has taken several years of personal struggle to arrive at the conclusions I am writing now. What makes this necessary, however, is that if you accept the objective, yet repulsive, fact that our Marines died on the losing side of our most recent wars, you cannot then accept that the status quo of the Marine Corps, and the larger defense establishment, is in an acceptable state of affairs. This is further compounded by future forecasts of conflicts with adversaries that are beginning to look like more like peers despite the self-aggrandizing “near-peer” label we assign them.2 We allow ourselves to look at our impressive defense budget and expensive systems and throw around hyperbole about the United States having the greatest military in the world. How, then, have we been bested by malnourished and undereducated men with antiquated and improvised weaponry whilst spending trillions of dollars in national treasure and costing the lives of thousands of servicemen and hundreds of thousands of civilians? Judging military capability by the metric of defense expenditures is a false equivalency. All that matters are raw, quantifiable capabilities and measures of effectiveness. For example: a multi-billion dollar aircraft carrier that can be bested by a few million dollars in the form of a swarming missile barrage or a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of rendering its flight deck unusable does not retain its dollar value in real terms. Neither does the M1A1 tank, which is defeated by $20 worth of household items and scrap metal rendered into an explosively-formed projectile. The Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has a library full of examples like these, and that is without touching the weaponized return on investment in terms of industrial output and capability development currently being employed by our conventional adversaries.

** A season to repair relations

Nirupama Rao

It’s time for a comprehensive, open dialogue between India and China to promote communication and connectivity in diverse spheres and preserve the peace on our shared borders

The Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, recently put forward some suggestions for improvement of bilateral ties between China and India. The suggestions are timely since relations between the two Asian giants have looked tired and worn in recent months. The voices from the gallery have been worrisome. China’s obduracy on India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) bid, its incomprehensible stand on the listing of known terrorist-progenitor Masood Azhar under the U.N. Security Council’s 1267 Committee, the deployment of Chinese military and engineering assets in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are all pointers to a complex and tension-riddled relationship.

Absence of trust

On the CPEC, the Prime Minister himself, speaking at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, implicitly criticised the Chinese actions saying, “Connectivity in itself cannot override or undermine the sovereignty of other nations.” While the border areas between the two countries have remained conflict-free, the Line of Actual Control continues to be subject to conflicting interpretations by both India and China and the scene of intermittent transgression. Commentators have suggested that India’s Tibet policy is also being recalibrated, drawing conclusions from the Dalai Lama’s projected visit to Arunachal Pradesh and his being “seen at Rashtrapati Bhavan, sitting beside President Pranab Mukherjee”. As expected, the nationalist Chinese media condemned it.

What did Mr. Luo say? The remarks were obviously prepared as the Chinese do not speak off-the-cuff in public spaces. He suggested a ‘friendship and cooperation treaty’ and a free trade agreement (FTA) to boost bilateral relations and joining of hands on China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, and added that the time is ripe for both countries to reap some ‘early harvest’ outcomes (based on negotiations held so far) on the unresolved boundary question.

That the Ambassador chose to make these remarks at the newly-established Ji Xianlin Centre for India-China Studies at the University of Mumbai campus lent some symbolism to the occasion. Ji Xianlin was one of China’s foremost modern Indologists and a protagonist of friendship and civilisational understanding between India and China.

** Poland Takes on Russia

By Antonia Colibasanu

When flying over the vast Pannonian Plain in January, you understand the reasons for Poland’s anxiety when it comes to national security. While the land was covered by snow, I could only think of how vulnerable it looked. There was nothing protecting the soft patches of whiteness in between the gray lines of roads or railroads, as seen from the plane. It seemed that the wind alone could spoil it all in a few hours, as frozen as it was.

I was on my way to Rzeszów for a conference on the European Union and Ukraine, to discuss and learn about the security and socio-economic challenges in the Eastern European borderlands. We flew for about an hour from Warsaw to Rzeszów, the biggest city in southeast Poland, about 60 miles from the Ukrainian border. This is a place where history reveals the reasons for both Polish pride and fears. During WWI, Rzeszów was one of the towns where the Austro-Hungarians fought the Russian army and were defeated. During WWII, it was bombed by the Luftwaffe and occupied by the Germans, but remained the main center for the Polish resistance movement called the Home Army. Locals always stress that the Home Army was loyal to the British and that during the war, whenever resistance operations were carried out by the Home Army, negotiations with the Russians failed, keeping Rzeszów under German occupation until the end of the war. Rzeszów also prides itself on being the town where Rural Solidarity, the Polish civil resistance movement against the communist government, was established. These are not only historical reasons for national pride but also measures of resistance against Russia. This and closeness to the Ukrainian border makes Rzeszów the perfect place to discuss the challenges Poland faces today.

For Poland, geopolitics is an existential issue, with its national strategy pivoting around a single goal: preserving national identity and independence. Due to its geographic location, situated in the often-invaded North European Plain, Poland has been vulnerable to moves by other Eurasian powers. NATO and EU membership has removed Germany as a potential threat. But, from Poland’s perspective, it is not protected against Russian aggression.

** Germany Buys Time From China

By Jacob L. Shapiro

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics.

The news that China has become Germany's largest trading partner merits a closer look. 
Germany’s economy has avoided the problems besetting most export-dependent countries in the last two years. In 2015, Germany accomplished this by compensating for decreased demand from China by substantially increasing its exports to the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2016, the situation was reversed. Exports to China increased while exports to the U.S. and the U.K. declined significantly. The most important geopolitical question in Europe this year is whether Germany can stave off a decline in its exports for a third consecutive year. Geopolitical Futures has forecast that German exports will fall in 2017, and the most recent trade data released by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) both supports and challenges the thought process behind that forecast.

To understand the significance of the change in German trade patterns, it is necessary to go back a few years. 2015 was the first time in 54 years that a country other than France was the top destination for German exports. German exports to the U.S. increased by 18.7 percent in 2015, or approximately 18 billion euros ($19.4 billion). For the year, German exports to the U.S. represented 9.5 percent of total German exports. Meanwhile, German exports to the U.K., the third largest destination for German goods, enjoyed a similarly meteoric rise. German exports to the U.K. increased by 12.8 percent in 2015, approximately 10.1 billion euros. For the year, 7.5 percent of total German exports went to the U.K.

A Volkswagen Passat and Golf 7 car are stored in a tower at the Volkswagen Autostadt complex near the Volkswagen factory in March 2015 in Wolfsburg, Germany. In 2015, Germany increased its total exports to the United States and the United Kingdom to compensate for decreased demand in China. Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

The growth in German exports to the U.S. and the U.K. represented just under 40 percent of the total growth in value of German exports in 2015. This was important because Germany saw major declines in exports to two important trading partners in 2015: China and Russia. The decline in exports to China was somewhat modest, with a drop of 4.2 percent, or about 3.2 billion euros. The decline in exports to Russia was more stark, declining 25.5 percent from the previous year, or roughly 7.4 billion euros. The increase in exports to the U.S. and the U.K. absorbed the blow of the unexpected (to German companies) decline in demand from China and Russia.

** Iran's Economy Is Bouncing Back

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics.
By Kamran Bokhari

A year after the U.S. agreed to lift sanctions, Iran is recovering its regional influence.
These days there is a great deal of noise over the fate of the Iran nuclear deal. It is going to be very difficult to roll back the agreement, announced a year ago. Therefore, it remains to be seen what the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump can do to limit the extent to which Iran benefits from the respite in sanctions. The issue is not a nuclear Iran or one with ballistic missile capability, but rather an economy that is improving because of the nuclear deal.

On Iran, one comes across two main types of stories, depending from where they originate – Washington or Tehran. In the United States, the newly installed Trump administration appears as though it is trying to renegotiate the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani’s opponents – largely from within the clerical and security establishments – continue to claim that the country has not benefited from the nuclear deal.

An Airbus A321 arrives at Mehrabad International Airport during delivery of the first batch of planes to the state airline company Iran Air in the capital, Tehran, on Jan. 12, 2017. The aircraft arrived as part of an order for 100 Airbus planes after the lifting of international sanctions on the Islamic republic. ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
Reversing the deal would be difficult since it is a multilateral agreement. Undoing the agreement thus would entail a complex process where all major world powers would agree to do so. Rhetoric aside, senior members of the Trump administration, particularly Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis, do not want to reopen the proverbial Pandora’s box. That said, the bellicose rhetoric on this issue is useful in shaping Iranian perceptions and keeping them in check.

Similarly, the claims from hawks within Iran’s various power centers also are disingenuous. Those claims are designed to undermine Rouhani, especially ahead of his re-election bid in May. The Iranian president’s adversaries make a number of different arguments. The main one is that Iran has not benefited from the nuclear deal because sanctions relief has not led to economic benefits, especially in the life of average citizens.

Reports do suggest that ordinary citizens have yet to benefit from the financial gains of a respite in sanctions. But this is natural because a trickle-down effect takes time to materialize. The agreement went into effect only a year ago. That said, the Iranian economy has improved, which is the most notable geopolitical development taking place in Iran.

** China to become #1 economy by 2050, US to fall behind India, Russia to top Europe – PwC

Over the next three decades, the global economy will be dominated by China, and the US economy will lose steam and fall behind India, says consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Russia will become the leading European economy ahead of Germany, UK, and Italy with GDP of $7 trillion, according to a PwC report.

The report, called "The long view: how will the global economic order change by 2050?," ranked 32 countries, based on their projected Gross Domestic Product by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).

Demonetisation woes due to bank officers' role: Panagariya

Arul Louis (IANS)

In implementing demonetisation what did not go as planned was that "a lot of bank officials really played it in the way that they should not have played it" and it was on a scale not anticipated, according to Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog.

He defended the demonetisation of the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes calling them a part of an overall strategy to fight black money and to introduce developments like digitisation of currency.
"Remember this was not a step taken in isolation," he said. "It sent a very strong signal, 'Look the government's strategy is to combat the black money'."

He was answering students' questions after a lecture on India's economic policy and performance organised by the Deepak and Neera Raj Centre on Indian economic policies at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

"It is a gigantic operation," he said. "Those who have been critical of the RBI have not understood what a gigantic task it was to remonetise the economy.

"The money that was completely out of the system, a substantial part of the cash that was in circulation was not in circulation, was not in the formal economy," he said.

"A lot of these the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) knew was not coming through the banking system at all. So they all needed to come back.

"Demonetisation sends a very, very strong signal that the day when the central government was complacent was over, that if you are going to misbehave we are going to see to it that you pay for it," he added.

The Telegraph Lay-offs: Is It The End Of The Era Of Field Reporting?

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By Manisha Pande 

ABP let go of hundreds recently and many were reporters. Aside from ‘right-sizing’, it signifies the changing face of journalism

Gautam Sarkar (47) did not know his job was on the chopping block when his editor called him at around 12 pm on February 2. “I had filed a Budget copy and was planning to list a story for the day. When my editor called me to give me the news, my first reaction was to say, ‘please, give me time to complete my story.’ He allowed me to do so,” he said.

Sarkar has worked with The Telegraph for 17 years. He joined its Jharkhand bureau in 2001. When the paper started its Patna edition in 2010, he shifted base to Bhagalpur in Bihar to report from there. Though he worked as a fulltime correspondent with The Telegraph, his contract classified him as a “contributor”. His monthly package at the time of his firing came to Rs 23,000 (plus perks). He will receive four months of cost to company, or CTC, as severance and will not serve a notice period.

As offers made to those being laid off, it’s a generous one. However, what is happening to reporters like Sarkar signals a shift in English print journalism’s nature and practice.

Downsizing or rightsizing?

The news of lay-offs at ABP Group first started trickling in on social media last week, but the extent and number of job losses still remain in the realm of speculation.
Speaking to Newslaundry, ABP Chief Executive Officer Dipankar Das Purkayastha placed the total figure at close to 300 employees across the group’s print publications. “The [retrenchment] exercise is still going on and the number may touch 300,” he said. This figure refers to all of ABP’s print publications including The Telegraph, Anand Bazar Patrika and Ebela and doesn’t factor in stringers associated with the group.

Unending wait for Chabahar: India and Iran squabble over a key port, under Trump’s long shadow

Devjyot Ghoshal

When Iranian and Indian leaders signed the agreement to jointly develop the Chabahar port—some 1,800 kilometres south of Tehran—last summer, it was heralded as a project that would transform relations between the two countries.

“We should perceive the agreement as an engine of growth, and I believe it is the beginning of a new era in the Indo-Iran relationship..,” Nitin Gadkari, India’s roads and shipping minister, had declared on May 22, 2016. A day later Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani signed on the dotted line, formalising New Delhi’s commitment of $500 million towards the project.

Nine months on, Chabahar seems dead in the water: The Indian and Iranian governments are now squabbling over delays, even as newly-elected US president Donald Trump’s hawkish stance towards Tehran threatens to hamstring the project.

The ongoing diplomatic finger-pointing is a curious affair. Indian officials insist that New Delhi has $150 million ready for disbursement but the Iranians haven’t completed the paperwork necessary to release the funds, The Economic Times newspaper reported. The Iranians told the newspaper that the delay was from the Indian side, without explaining further.
Conceived in 2003, the interruptions in implementation of the Chabahar project belie its importance: India views it as a conduit to bypass Pakistan and make deeper inroads into energy-rich Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and beyond. It is also a counterbalance to increasing Chinese influence in the region; Beijing has built a deep-water port in Pakistan’s Gwadar, only 72 kilometres from Chabahar, which became operational last November.

Backroom bickering aside, India’s pursuit of Chabahar faces another obstacle: deteriorating US-Iran ties.

The Future of China-US Relations in the Trump Era

By Shen Dingli

How will the Trump administration influence US-China ties in the political, economic, and security spheres? 

How will China-U.S. relations evolve in the new Trump era? Let us take a look at the three key aspects of China-U.S. relations: political, economic, and security factors.

This is the realm of values: ideology, social systems, and human rights. For a long time, it has been difficult for China and the United States to adjust and compromise with regards to their key political interests – the source of most of their conflicts. Although China partially introduced a market economy following its “reform and opening up” policy in 1978, this was no more than a pragmatic move to save the regime.

China’s opening up came as a relief to the United States, which at first perceived China’s rise as peaceful. However, a more powerful and assertive China is now employing its own methods to challenge U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific, which has been in place since the end of World War II. This has caused the United States to be increasingly concerned over China’s rise. Be it the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” policy or the Trump administration’s “America First” slogan, it is clear that the United States in the 21st century has formed a national consensus in perceiving China as the greatest challenge to its superpower status.

What Is Trump’s ‘America First’ Doctrine?

JANUARY 31, 2017 

At noon on January 20th, Barack Obama stepped aside, leaving Donald Trump as the leader of the free world. In his inaugural address, Trump pledged to implement an ‘America First’ doctrine. But while the implications for trade and immigration are relatively clear, his speech brought us little closer to understanding what this will mean for foreign policy.
Indeed, thanks to the incoherence of the president-elect’s foreign policy remarks during his campaign, the range of potential outcomes is wide. But Trump’s past comments suggest four potential paths that his ‘America First’ Doctrine could take.
The first option is true isolationism. Though it remained unclear throughout the campaign the extent to which Trump truly understood the historical baggage that came with the term ‘America First,’ many commentators assumed that he would indeed pursue a classic isolationist policy. And Trump seems to mean it literally in some cases: only a week into office, he has already sought to erect trade and immigration barriers. He may also seek to withdraw from the world in military terms, abandoning alliances, and refusing to engage in even the diplomatic resolution of international problems which don’t directly concern the United States.

Yet elements of Trump’s own statements call this assumption into question. From his insistence on increased military spending to his promise in the inaugural address to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism ‘completely from the face of the Earth,’ Trump has repeatedly implied that he is likely to pursue a relatively hawkish foreign policy.
A second option for the Trump Doctrine could be described as ‘pragmatic power.’ In his rare scripted speeches devoted to foreign policy, Trump’s speechwriters did a good job of working his off-the-cuff remarks into a relatively coherent and pragmatic approach to the world.

Iran's New Way of War in Syria

By Paul Bucala


Iran is transforming its military to be able to conduct quasi-conventional warfare hundreds of miles from its borders. This capability, which very few states in the world have, will fundamentally alter the strategic calculus and balance of power within the Middle East. It is not a transitory phenomenon. Iranian military leaders have rotated troops from across the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Artesh, and Basij into Syria in order to expose a significant portion of its force to this kind of operation and warfare. Iran intends to continue along the path of developing a conventional force-projection capability.
Iranian military planners deployed thousands of soldiers from across its military branches over a 15-month operation to set conditions for the envelopment and eventual recapture of Aleppo City by pro-Assad forces in December 2016. They reoriented forces that had traditionally focused on defensive operations into an expeditionary force capable of conducting sustained operations abroad for the first time since the end of the Iran-Iraq War.

Trump presidency:Much global turbulence lies ahead

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By C. Uday Bhaskar

It is a little over a fortnight since the assumption of office by US President Donald Trump on January 20 and in this brief period, the tweets and related statements from the White House have roiled the global political, strategic and economic domains in a visible manner.

Iran has been placed under limited sanctions (Feb 3) for its ballistic missile test and the White House has officially put Tehran "on notice." Sensitivities among key US allies have been bruised and UK, Germany – and now Australia are case in point.

In many ways Mr. Trump has been true to his campaign promises (threats?) which had aroused considerable global interest at the time. Post November 8 when the surprising Trump victory was announced, interest transmuted into anxiety about the manner in which the new POTUS (President of the US) would bring about major policy changes. 

Iran apart, the most significant development of the last fortnight includes the executive order signed by Mr.Trump wherein he has taken the US out of the 12 nation TTP (Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership) thereby signaling a protectionist trade policy and banning citizens of some Islamic nations from entering the USA. China has been cautioned and the wall with Mexico is yet another Trump goal - two initiatives which could trigger heightened domestic anger and resistance within the USA.

The Trump manner of discharging the many onerous responsibilities that devolve upon the POTUS was discernible in his first public appearance (performance?) after assuming office. The acceptance speech by the new US President was graceless and petulant. He rubbished the contribution of his predecessors – particularly former President Barrack Obama – and vowed to ‘make America great’ by loudly advocating a simplistic but seductively attractive slogan – ‘ America first.’

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley Targeting U.N. Peacekeeping for Reform

Nikki Haley, in her first week as U.S. ambassador, has made reform of the United Nations' far-flung peacekeeping operations a top priority, diplomats said.
The missions cost nearly $8 billion a year and Haley said in her Senate confirmation hearing last month that she wants to look at all 16 to see which are succeeding in maintaining peace and which aren't.
"Do we need to shift and do things differently or do we need to pull out?" she asked.

Haley singled out the mission in war-ravaged South Sudan, the world's newest nation, calling it "terrible." She said the government isn't cooperating with the U.N. force, which has nearly 13,000 troops and police and a current budget of more than $1 billion.
Two diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the conversations were private, said that in discussions this week Haley put a mission-by-mission review of peacekeeping operations as a top priority.
One diplomat said Haiti, where nearly 5,000 U.N. troops and peace are deployed at an annual cost of about $346 million, is a mission Haley talked about winding up…

Pentagon Spells Out Details of Troops’ New Retirement System

The Defense Department on Wednesday laid out the final details for its new blended retirement system for military personnel, which will automatically enroll new service members and give existing troops the option of signing up.

The changes were included in the fiscal 2016 Defense authorization bill as the result of a longstanding effort to reform military service members’ compensation package. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, an Obama appointee who President Trump asked to stay on, officially issued the policy that will take effect in 2018.

Under the system, new troops would automatically be enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan and receive a matching contribution from the government. The government will contribute between 1 percent and 5 percent of service members’ salaries toward their TSPs, depending on what they elect to contribute themselves, though they will be defaulted into contributing 3 percent of their paychecks. The TSP account will begin 60 days into their service. Those who stay in the military for 20 years, and are thereby entitled to a retirement pension, would receive a less generous calculation for their annuity.

The new system moves away from the 20-year, all-or-nothing pension system currently in place for military members. Only about 17 percent of troops serve for 20 years and become eligible for the benefit.

‘The Most Beautiful of Wars’: Carl von Clausewitz and Small Wars

Carl von Clausewitz was both an avid analyst of small wars and people’s war and, during the wars of liberation, a practitioner of small war. While Clausewitz scholars have increasingly recognised the centrality of small wars for Clausewitz’s thought, the sources and inspirations of his writings on small wars have remained understudied. This article contextualises Clausewitz’s thought on small wars and people’s war in the tradition of German philosophical and aesthetic discourses around 1800. It shows how Clausewitz developed core concepts such as the integration of passion and reason and the idea of war in its ‘absolute perfection’ as a regulative ideal in the framework of his works on small wars and people’s war. Contextualising Clausewitz inevitably distances him from the twenty-first-century strategic context, but, as this article shows, it can help us to ask pertinent questions about the configuration of society, the armed forces and the government in today’s Western states.


The classical perception of Carl von Clausewitz up until 1976 was one that depicted him as the paradigmatic thinker of regular interstate wars. Since 1976, the year that saw the publication of two seminal books on Clausewitz (Peter Paret’s Clausewitz and the State and Raymond Aron’s Penser la guerre), Clausewitz scholarship has moved on considerably. The Clausewitz reception in the past decade has continued the appreciation of Clausewitz as a thinker of small wars as well as large wars. It has acknowledged that Clausewitz himself did not subscribe to a binary view of war that distinguishes between these two as fundamentally different forms of war. Beatrice Heuser’s work on Clausewitz as a thinker who lived at a ‘watershed’ moment between partisan warfare and people’s war also emphasised the centrality of small wars for Clausewitz’s thought.

British warships 'so noisy' Russian submarines can hear them 100 miles away, investigation finds

Laura Hughes

Britain's ability to defend itself against a major military attack has been called into question after an investigation found Navy warships are so loud they can be heard 100 miles away by Russian submarines.

Rear Admiral Chris Parry, a former director of operational capability for the Ministry of Defence, said the £1 billion a piece Type 45 destroyers are “as noisy as hell” and sound like "a box of spanners" underwater.

It comes amid warnings that years of defence cuts and expensive procurement contracts with a small number of large defence firms, has the left the military with an "existential minimum" amount of equipment.

The Ministry of Defence spent £3.5bn on each of the Army's Ajax tanks, but they are unable to fit on board transport aircraft without needing to be dismantled, according to an investigation by the Sunday Times. 

A further £1.2 billion was spent on 54 Watchkeeper reconnaissance drones, which haven’t entered frontline service for 12 years.

General Sir Richard Barrons, a former commander of Joint Forces Command, has called on the Government to "re-bench" the armed forces.

A powerful attack on the Marine Corps leadership — by a serving Marine captain


There is a powerful article in the February issue of the Marine Corps Gazette by Capt. Joshua Waddell, a company commander in the 1st Marine Division. It is so heartfelt that it kind of jumps off the page.

“It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Capt. Waddell asserts.
He adds that he finds that conclusion an “objective, yet repulsive, fact.” And, he writes, that shouldn’t be entirely blamed on civilian leaders or other parts of the government.

Waddell, now a company commander, notes that he lost Marines in the fighting. (He served in Afghanistan with the 3/7 Marines in 2010-11.) “It has taken several years of personal struggle to arrive at the conclusions I am writing now.”

Why does this amount to an attack on the Marine Corps leadership? Because he says it is engaging in talk about how good the Corps is without really doing the things that need the make the Corps good. It has “well-meaning policies [that] are hollow without the corporate environment in which they can be successful. “By repeatedly espousing the need for innovation in the Marine Corps while refusing to foster” innovative practices, he concludes, “we delude ourselves.”

The situation is so bad, he says, that Army units — the 82nd Airborne and 75th Rangers — “have outpaced our capacity for expeditionary communications.” That’s a real shot across the bow.
He goes on to attack several sacred cows. No more talk of “innovation,” he says. Be more careful about hiring military retirees for civilian jobs. “While prior military service can be an asset, it can also be a hindrance to organizational change. Our civilian headquarters billets should not be … akin to a ‘no colonel left behind’ program.” He also criticizes the personnel system for discouraging risk taking and instead, incentivizing “playing it safe and making it to 20.”
He certainly isn’t playing it safe with this article. I admire his courage in writing it and the editors of the Gazette for running it. Let’s just hope the Corps appreciates that.

Army Selects New Battle-Management System

The U.S. Army has selected Systematic to provide the service with a new command and control, and battle-management system. 

The U.S. Army has selected Systematic to provide the service with a new command and control, and battle-management system designed to direct digital information across handheld, mounted and command post mission command systems.

The contract, a Firm Fixed Price and Time and Material with a one-year base and four one-year options, is valued at approximately $39 million, according to a recent Army press release.

Systematic’s SitaWare will provide scalable and seamless information sharing across systems and devices, taking a significant step toward the Army’s continued evolution of its Command Post Computing Environment, according to Army officials.

“SitaWare provides an out-of-the-box solution to synching mission command data across echelons and provides a leap forward in the Army’s goal of migrating to a common architecture,” said Lt. Col. Shane Taylor, product manager for the Army’s Tactical Mission Command, part of the Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical.

“It meets two of our needs in that it will provide soldiers within a Command Post with simplified, improved C2 (command and control), as well as better interoperability with coalition forces. Additionally, it provides the basis for the Army’s initial, common framework that we will use to converge warfighting functions.”

Fearful of Hacking, Dutch Will Count Ballots by Hand

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Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands speaking at a college.

Concerned about the role hackers and false news might have played in the United States election, the Dutch government announced on Wednesday that all ballots in next month’s elections would be counted by hand.

The decision to forgo electronic counting is a stark response to warnings that outside actors, including Russia, might try to tamper with pivotal elections this year in the Netherlands, France and Germany — three major democracies in which establishment parties are facing pressure from right-wing populism of the kind that fueled Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Donald J. Trump’s triumph in the United States election.

“The cabinet cannot exclude the possibility that state actors might gain advantage from influencing political decision-making and public opinion in the Netherlands and might use means to try and achieve such influence,” Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said in a statement. “We’re talking about actors that both have the intention and ability to do this.”
Parliament recently discussed the finding by intelligence agencies that the Russian government tried covertly to help Mr. Trump, and Mr. Trump’s allegations — made without evidence — that millions of undocumented immigrants had cast ballots, costing him the popular vote.

Demystifying digital marketing and sales in the chemical industry

By Søren Jakobsen, Kedar Naik, Nikolaus Raberger, and Georg Winkler

Digital can give chemical companies the power to unlock more than $200 billion of new value by reducing cost to serve, improving pricing, and for fast movers, capturing growth from competitors. 

Over the past decade, the chemical industry has enjoyed remarkable success, delivering more shareholder value than its upstream suppliers, downstream customers—and, indeed, the global equity market as a whole (Exhibit 1). 

Exhibit 1 

But experience shows there is no room for complacency. Almost 50 percent of chemical companies in the top quintile from 2000 to 2004 no longer were from 2010 to 2014.1Today’s chemical companies can’t expect to keep delivering above-market returns by continuing on the same path. That’s because that path has been forged, to a large extent, by advances in productivity. Many traditional productivity levers, however, have now been exhausted. Where can companies look for their next step change in financial performance? 

Insider Threat Special Report: Contracting at the NSA


The latest allegations against former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin have increased the concern about contractor access at NSA and in other highly sensitive classified environments. These are very valid concerns, and what to do about it is complicated, as there are legitimate cases for and against contractor access. Assuming the government continues to use contractors in the intelligence sector, there needs to be a consideration of how the government maintains oversight and control of the contractors.
To some extent, the haranguing about contractors at NSA is a bit of red herring. It can be argued that what Harold Martin has allegedly done, and what NSA leaker Edward Snowden did, had nothing to do with their contractor status and could have just as easily been done by government employees. For example, Pfc. Bradley Manning (convicted WikiLeaks leaker), CIA officer Aldrich Ames (convicted spy), and FBI agent Robert Hanssen (convicted spy) were all government employees. Frustration with government policies or actions, money problems, blackmail, extortion, greed, or any other number of motivations that drive people to steal classified data are not exclusive to contractors. Controversies around such events should focus more on the individual, the affected organization, and the damage done rather than arguing over whether the perpetrator was a contractor.

However, there do appear to be significant risks associated with contractors today. With the boom of instantaneous information provided worldwide by the Internet, individuals with ill intent and foreign intelligence services are able to hone in on specific companies through a company’s business filings, marketing efforts, or even just loose talk by employees in public areas. Additionally, they can target specific jobs that may provide the access they want based on job board postings that are specific to a government mission or role, even if the government agency or department where the person would work is not identified.