November 15, 2008
The Dark Visitor blog
This Chinese hacker intrusion flowchart above, taken from Stuhack, clearly demonstrates Chinese hackers have developed a methodology to their attacks.
The first thing that popped into my head when I saw the chart was the Police song, “Murder by Numbers.”
Is this intrusion chart unique? Probably not. Could they have taken it from someone else? Sure.
As always, many thanks to Jumper for helping me to get the correct terminology. I really had some of them botched.
Economic shock has transformed the political debate in the US and the EU and changes in international politics are sure to follow, Ben Judah writes for ISN Security Watch.
By Ben Judah in London for ISN Security Watch
Since the end of the Cold War, the hard power of the US and the soft outreach of the EU have been underwritten by a crucial set of advantages. A perceived absolute financial security, thriving economies and large amounts of cash have allowed governments to indulge in military adventures in the Middle East, incorporating Eastern Europe into the Union or funding vast aid projects across the developing world without worrying about costs. This allowed the West unprecedented power-projection.
Crucially, a deep faith in the "Washington Consensus" - a combination of free markets and trust in western-inspired democratic reforms as the key to progress - enabled the US and EU to surge ahead from the positions of relative weakness and economic stress they found themselves in during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The old economic order underwrote western strength.
Yet the nationalization of key American banks, and former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan admitting there was a "flaw" in the way he had designed America's financial architecture, just goes to show that the era of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan truly has come to an end.
Undermining western power projection
The economic crisis has undermined these fundamental supports of western power projection.
Professor Anatol Lieven of the New America Foundation and Kings College London believes that the new economic pressures will limit US and UK ambitions.
"The new constraints on western financial resources, coming on top of the overstretch of US and British military power, mean that many ambitious projects cannot now seriously be contemplated. Among these are the further expansion of NATO, and any further large-scale military interventions," he told ISN Security Watch.
Bombing Iran is now simply unaffordable, financially as well as strategically. These constraints may force EU countries to scale down their commitments in Afghanistan and place further domestic opposition in the way of further deployments such as those President-elect Barack Obama hopes to see in the near future.
The UK, which is highly reliant on the financial services industry, will find its ability to act abroad curtailed along with its influence in Europe. French President Nicholas Sarkozy has taken up Tony Blair's previous leading role in European politics, and as the UK economy suffers relatively more than that of France, Paris will see its influence rise within the EU along with its old agenda.
The British government has begun to speak of a "deep" recession. It will jeopardize its electoral viability if it is perceived to put foreign power politics before the people. Gordon Brown's Britain has been adrift in foreign affairs. Despite London's prompt reaction to the crisis, this trend is only going to deepen as the UK finds it harder to finance its attempts to wield influence on the global stage.
A new world?
The West's power projection may in the short to medium terms be severely weakened, but how much has geopolitics actually shifted?
Adventurous projects that might come under fire include the massive commitments made to Georgia and the broader behind-the-scenes ideas about EU pacts and deals aimed at dragging Ukraine and the Caucasus away from a resurgent Russia.
However, Giorgi Kandelaki, deputy chairman of the Georgian Foreign Relations Committee, dismisses such suggestions. Instead, he argues in an interview with ISN Security Watch that "the donor conference where pledges of aid to Georgia were made actually took place in the midst of the crisis. In fact, Georgia's friends donated US$1 billion over the estimate. This indicates that the profound value of successful, reforming Georgia is understood by free nations."
Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson, whose revisionist interpretation of the 20th century has caused as much celebrity as criticism in recent years, tells ISN Security Watch that he sees America as down but not out.
"What is clear from the ongoing financial crisis is that it represents a great setback for the US as the model of financial markets that it has championed has been discredited. However, it is clear that this crisis is causing economic damage elsewhere in the world - in Europe, Japan and the emerging markets - while the US is still seen as safe for investors," he said.
Ferguson does not believe that the financial crisis represents a great shift in global power dynamics.
"The Russians have to be careful as they have experienced a sudden outflow of foreign capital. The Chinese too will have to be greatly circumspect as they would have more to lose than anyone else if there was a collapse in the dollar. In relative terms, the US may emerge from this crisis less weakened than everyone else," he said.
But in the East…
Ferguson's suggestion that the rising powers of China and Russia will find the coming months deeply stressful is particularly true regarding Moscow's ambitions. The collapse in the price of oil and the vast capital outflows from Vladimir Putin's new Russia have suddenly sucked from the Kremlin's coffers the means to finance expeditions into the Caucasus and the rest of the former USSR for the time being.
The sudden cooling off in rhetoric and tensions over the Crimea and Russia's desire to have a sphere of privileged interests acknowledge in its former territory has been the most dramatic effect of the financial crisis so far. Moscow's long-term reaction to these economic shocks cannot be predicted. However, if Putin and his elite have learned that the new Russia cannot rely on oil alone and needs the West for crucial investment, then a warming of relations cannot be ruled out. However, with the Anglo-American model discredited, the Kremlin's fascination with China's political stability and economic success will most likely only deepen.
The ongoing financial crisis has shown the leaders of the US and the EU that China's financial power has not grown uniquely on paper.
At the University of Oxford, lecturer in Chinese history Dr Matthew D Johnson believes that "if China comes out of this crisis relatively unscathed then it will further validate the idea that Beijing possesses an alternative development plan. This will produce an assumption that China's leaders possess an alternative model that does not produce 'Latin Americanization' or a dependence on the United States.
"The consensus now is that totally free markets are not what China needs, and the phrases chosen by China's leadership such as 'scientific development' emphasize a state role. The open economies of South America are seen as having produced to a certain degree their political instability," he told ISN Security Watch.
Fellow Oxford China expert Dr James Reilly argues that it is very unlikely that Beijing will come to the aid of the western economies.
"The G-20 meeting is coming and China is in no mood to bail out the United States," he told ISN Security Watch. "The US$680 billion financial stimulus package is in some ways designed to short cut the West's demands on China for money. This is saying loud and clear that holding up China is China's contribution to the world economy. I expect at the G-20 meeting that China will hide behind the developing countries, attempt to force open markets and try and be as small as it possibly can be."
Whatever China's desires, it has been economic meltdown and not Olympic acrobatics that has placed Beijing squarely at the center of world attention. The Communist Party is deeply concerned that its growth could slow significantly and economic problems could lead to social unrest.
In many ways this is the worst moment for China to enter the spotlight. With its increased role in global financial institutions and Beijing being pushed by western leaders to play a key role in re-designing the financial order, China's leaders will have to tread carefully not to anger popular opinion by appearing to give in, in any way, to foreign pressure.
Bill Emmott, former editor of the Economist and author of Rivals: How The Struggle Between China, India and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade, told ISN Security Watch how he believed the UK should respond to the shift in economic power.
"I am not actually sure what London's foreign policy towards the Asian giants is right now. Yet the right foreign policy approach to the emergence of economic powers is to strengthen engagement and deal with the states that actually exists - not those you would like to see in their place. The shift to the 'blind-eye policy' on human rights is actually the right one as it allows us to deal with China and seek to embarrass them in organizations comparable to say the Helsinki Process that existed with the Soviet Union. The UK should support the best and most peaceful future for Asia [and embrace] the embryonic organizations such as the East Asia forum that have the possibility to bring the powers closer together."
The financial crisis has forced the pace of history by pressuring western leaders to realize that their economies are no longer vastly stronger than those of East Asia or even Russia.
The economic shock is on the brink of bringing many of yesterday's foreign policy adventures to a point of complete reassessment. Yet it prefigures a deeper geopolitical shift: the rise of China. Europe and America will hang together this time - and it is going to be up to Obama to take the West into the new world.
Ben Judah is writer and foreign policy analyst based between London and Paris. He has previously worked as a reporter covering race relations for the St Petersburg Times, Russia.
A long haul for ISRO
Moon Impact Probe mission: they got it right the first time itself
CHENNAI: What was remarkable about the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) separating from Chandrayaan-1, its 25-minute descent and crash-landing on the moon’s surface was that “we were able to do everything for the first time and correctly too,” said J.N. Goswami, Principal Scientist, Chandrayaan-1 mission, on Saturday.
At 8.31 p.m. IST on Friday, India emphatically registered its presence on the moon when the MIP crash-landed on the Shackleton crater in the moon’s south polar region. The panels of the MIP, which is a box-like instrument, were painted with the Indian flag. After the MIP separated from the mother-spacecraft at 8.06.54 p.m., it followed a curved path for 25 minutes before it impacted on the moon and self-destructed. The MIP had three payloads: a video camera, a radar altimeter and a mass spectrometer. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has received enormous amount of data from these three payloads throughout the MIP’s flight.
“Whatever we did [during the MIP mission], we did for the first time and without anybody telling us how to do it,” said Dr. Goswami, who is also Director, Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad. ISRO was able to release it from Chandrayaan-1, spin it up, reduce its velocity of descent and then “approximately impact it at a point where we wanted to go,” he said. The 35-kg MIP, which was “a mini satellite of Chandrayaan-1” did everything it was expected to do. Its three instruments collected the data during its descent and transmitted them to the mother-spacecraft, which sent it to the ground. “We were doing something new and for the first time. That is why we have reasons to feel happy about whatever we have done,” Dr. Goswami said.
It has been a hectic journey not only for Chandrayaan-1 but a long haul for the ISRO. It was on November 21, 1963 that a Nike Apache rocket from the United States took off from the beachhead in the fishing village of Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram and climbed to an altitude of 208 km. The two-stage rocket weighed 715 kg.
The Nike Apache released sodium vapour which, with its orange trail, lit up the twilight sky. The sight created a sensation in Kerala and the neighbouring districts in Tamil Nadu. The Kerala Legislative Assembly was adjourned for a few minutes so that the members could watch the spectacle on the western sky. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President, was present at Thumba on that day and was in charge of Nike Apache’s payload.The launch signalled the start of India’s rocketry programme.
The indigenous space programme began on February 22, 1969, when a “pencil” rocket weighing 10 kg. from Thumba soared a few km. into the sky.
The Chandrayaan-1 has travelled 3,84,000 km to reach its final orbit of 100 km. above the moon. The PSLV-C11 that put it into its initial orbit around the earth stood 44.4 metres tall and weighed 316 tonnes.
M. Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayaan-1, said: “Some decades ago, man never imagined that he could set foot on the moon. Decades from now, human colonies on the moon can become a reality. India also should be in the forefront of this challenging and exciting endeavour. Chandrayaan-1 is the first calculated and well-planned initiative by ISRO in this direction.”
The Honorable Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Dear Hon'ble Senator Clinton:
I am overjoyed over news that you are tipped to become the next Secretary of State of the United States.
I am confident your nomination will help re-establish the moral authority of the U.S. that has been squandered away during the last eight years.
Not to flatter you, you are loved and respected by millions of people worldwide, including my own Baluch people who are stateless and divided among Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Your nomination will bring healing to a world enveloped by darkness and insecurity. Your tenacity and strength of character at times of adversity is hidden from none.
I am confident under your able leadership, nations who are in chains will win new freedoms and you will advocate the right of self determination for all people, including the Baluch in southwest Asia.
The enslaved, tormented and brutalized people of Baluchistan in Pakistan, have great expectations that you will make amends for the harm done to us by successive U.S. administrations since the close of World War II.
As you know, for more than half of its independent existence, Pakistan has been ruled by military despots, who enjoyed U.S. blessings. Pakistan's army, which should be an organ of the state in any civilized country, promoted itself into a ruling “institution” destroying the country for good.
A country is like a big house and if every member tries to steal as much from it nothing would remain in that house. Same is the case with Pakistan where corrupt generals have traditionally called the shots, killing innocent Baluch people.
Civilians are far better than army generals but unfortunately even they are downright corrupt. You might be knowing the present president, Asif Ali Zardari, is the second richest man in Pakistan, while a second most important politician former premier Nawaz Sharif tails closely behind and is the fourth richest man in the country. This was not so just a few decades ago and both made their billions while in political office.
Furthermore, Pakistan army--the fourth largest in the world and equipped with nuclear arms-- is a rogue and terrorist army whose hands are dirty with millions of people, including the Baluch. The American Friends of Baluchistan is of the considered view that unless this monument of evil is significantly downsized, the entire world, including the Pakistanis themselves, will continue to suffer.
The area wise largest Baluchistan province has been at the receiving end of this ruthless army since it never wanted to become part of Pakistan in the first place. You might be knowing, for more than seven months after the British left India divided in August 1947, Baluchistan was not a part of Pakistan but was an independent nation. In March 1948, it was forced into annexation with Pakistan at gunpoint. This historic injustice must now be undone under your leadership.
For nearly six decades, U.S. arms were used to let lose a reign of terror against the secular Baluch people. In recent months, U.S. F-16s and Cobra helicopters were used against the Baluch resisting the exploitation of their natural resources. Baluch freedom fighters were burnt alive by the Pakistani army just this summer.
Pakistan had also conducted nuclear tests on Baluchistan soil against the wishes of the Baluch people, who are totally opposed to nuclear weapons.
But now with your nomination as the new secretary of state I am hoping all this will change.
The A.F.B. is delighted honorable Vice President-elect Joe Biden has long been a strong advocate of balkanization of artificially created, unnatural states which can breed nothing but terrorism and instability for the world, just like Pakistan
The Baluch have fought five wars of liberation against Pakistan. Highly popular political leaders like the former governor and chief minister of Baluchistan Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and state assembly member Nawabzada Bala'ach Marri were killed extra judicially by the Pakistani army during the last two years.
I am sure you will take steps to end the plight of the Baluch people by calling for their right to self-determination.
Please undo the wrongs of the past. Just because people of different ethnic background belong to one religion can never be a guarantee of sound statehood. The oppressed Baluch minority have nothing in common with the dominant Punjab, which is the bastion of Pakistan's military.
Last week there was a historic rally in Quetta , capital of Baluchistan, where people raised slogans in favor of independence. This was, by and large, a Baluch referendum against Pakistan.
I urge you to promote Baluchistan as a priority issue for the new U.S. administration's Asian policy. I must assure you this is a surefire way of dealing with the Al Qaeda in Pakistan. As you know Pakistan army had hoodwinked the U.S. that it is their ally in the war on terror, while secretly supporting the Al Qaeda.
The U.S. must support the right of self-determination of the Baluch people in its own enlightened self-interest.
Towards that end I urge you to initiate direct talks with the Baluchistan leadership, including the De Jure Ruler of Baluchistan, Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Daud Ahmedzai, who is now in self-exile in the United Kingdom.
I have had the privilege to work as a journalist in the picture-pretty town of St. Mary's in Maryland and your dear friend the honorable Senator Barbara Mikulski and her staff know me personally.
It is extremely unfortunate some U.S. legislators look upon Pakistan as a sacred cow, completely ignoring Baluchistan, and I am confident under your dynamic leadership this flawed outlook will change.
I look forward to your kind personal interest in securing the right to self-determination for the people of Baluchistan.
American Friends of Baluchistan
9808 47th Pl. #305
His Highness, The Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Daud Ahmedzai
Hon'ble Senator Barbara Mikulski
20 hours ago
NEW DELHI (AFP) — India rejoiced Saturday over the landing of a lunar probe on the moon's surface that vaulted the country into the league of space-faring nations like the United States, Russia and Japan.
The TV set-sized probe, painted in the green-white-and-orange colours of the Indian flag, made a "precise-to-the-second" landing on the lunar surface late Friday after being released from the unmanned moon-orbiting Chandrayaan-1 satellite, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
Politicians across the spectrum buried their differences to hail the milestone in India's space history in which the nation joins Russia, the US, Japan and the European Space Agency in successfully landing moon probes.
"Today is a historic day for India," said Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party. Opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishna Advani called it an event "to be recorded in golden letters".
Former Indian president and rocket scientist Abdul Kalam said the landing of the probe -- which coincided with the anniversary of the birth of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru -- "will kindle a dream in children".
"In 15 years I want to see an Indian on the moon," said Kalam, who conceived of the so-called moon impact probe, or MIP, and is popularly known in India as "missile man".
The media was similarly ebullient. "The tricolour has landed," trumpeted the Hindustan Times daily in a banner headline, referring to India's flag. The Indian Express newspaper said: "India touches the moon."
India's first lunar mission began October 22 when a rocket transported Chandrayaan-1 into space. Chandrayaan -- the Sanskrit word for moon craft -- is on a two-year orbital mission to provide a detailed map of the mineral, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface.
The landing of the probe is a step toward landing an unmanned moon rover by 2012. ISRO also plans to launch satellites to study Mars and Venus.
Critics say India, which has hundreds of millions of people living in deep poverty, should not be embarking on a space race with starstruck regional powers like China and Japan.
But the country has been keen to display its scientific prowess and claim a bigger slice of the global satellite business.
Not only has India "put our national flag on the lunar surface, we have also emerged as a low-cost travel agency to space," ISRO chief Madhavan Nair said, referring to the space mission's total 80-million-dollar price tag which is less than half spent on similar expeditions by other countries.
ISRO says its moon mission would help it achieve international "brand recognition" for India as a serious player in space.
The probe's 25-minute descent to the moon was recorded "in its onboard memory for later readout. Finally, the probe had a hard landing on the lunar surface that terminated its functioning," ISRO said in a statement.
India began its space programme in 1963, developing its own satellites and launch vehicles to cut dependence on overseas agencies. It first staked its claim for a share of the global commercial launch market by sending an Italian satellite into orbit in 2007. In January, it launched an Israeli spy satellite.
But India still has a long way to go to catch up with China which, together with the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency, is already well established in the commercial space sector.
First pictures of lunar surface clearer than those of other missions: ISRO
Bangalore, Nov 15 (PTI) The first pictures of the craters on lunar surface sent back by India's moon probe mission which reached the moon last night are "much clearer", Indian Space Research Organization sources here said today.
Some of the craters clicked by the camera mounted on the Moon Impactor Probe are with five metre resolution, as against 15 metre resolution photos taken by moon missions of other countries, they said.
"We can see those craters more clearly", they said.
The sources said it would take almost a year before the entire lunar surface can be photographed.
The moon probe, which had India's flag painted on it, had plummeted to a crash-landing at the moon's south pole last night.
ISRO scientists would study the images and data sent back by the probe during its 25-minute descent to prepare for a future soft landing.
The video imaging system on the MIP took pictures of the moon's surface, the altimeter measured the rate of descent of the probe and the mass spectrometer studied the extremely thin lunar atmosphere. PTI
France, EU congratulate India on success of Chandrayaan-I
New Delhi (PTI): France and the European Union on Saturday hailed the successful landing of India's Moon Impact Probe (MIP) on lunar surface and expressed keenness to strengthen the existing scientific cooperations with this country in the field of space.
"France, on behalf of the European Union, warmly congratulates India for the successful landing of the Moon Impact Probe and the launch of the lunar exploration programme," a statement issued by the French Embassy said.
France is the current chair of the 27-nation European Union.
"This remarkable success of the Indian space vehicle confirms anew India's eminent position among the world-class scientific and technological powers," the statement said.
It said France and the European Union "look forward to the strengthening of the existing scientific cooperations with India in the field of space, which are particularly promiseful for the development of science and knowledge worldwide."
The MIP, carrying India's national tricolour landed on the Moon last night, making India the fourth country to mark its physical presence on the Moon.
Guest Column by Dr Sheonandan Pandey
(The views expressed by the author are his own)
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has consistently been improving its space based infrastructure. In 28 years since the first successful launch of Dong Fang Hong-1 Satellite into orbit on 24 April 1970, the PRC has demonstrably scaled many a reckonable technological step. The space missions that the PRC launches today include: recovery capsules and non-capsule remote sensing satellites; communication/ broadcasting satellites; metrological satellites; science satellites; engineering test satellites; positioning satellites; and, manned space satellites. China’s goals and objectives for going into orbit with a variety of space assets including manned are predictably similar to those that drove the Russian and the US- to gain national prestige, and to signal wealth, commitments and technological prowess
.... READ MORE
November 13, 2008
By Patrice de Beer for openDemocracy.net
France's president is a man who relishes crises. As he hops from one to another, from the Russian invasion of Georgia to the financial hurricane, Nicolas Sarkozy thrives in the self-image of "crisis-manager-in-chief" - and strives to make others perceive the halo. It helps that he can - at least until the last day of 2008 - include the "presidency" of the European Union in his portfolio.
The characteristic image of "Sarko" is of a figure popping up, rushing onto or off his plane, seizing an initiative or propelling himself to the frontline and front page. There is hardly a European or global issue where the president does not want to interpolate himself (and if it is just too intractable or time-consuming - as in the Democratic Republic of Congo - he can deploy his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner). And indeed, the bigger the issue the larger the claim. It is no wonder that Sarko now presents himself as a great friend of president-elect Barack Obama, drawing on the capital he gained when he hosted the United States' next leader at the Elysée palace during the election campaign (while disdaining to find time to welcome Obama's Republican rival, John McCain).
To achieve this pre-eminence and sustain the profile that accompanies it, he is shameless in borrowing ideas from other leaders (such as Britain's prime minister Gordon Brown on financial reforms), overshadowing once-friendly rivals (such as Germany and its chancellor Angela Merkel), or pushing himself into the limelight (such as claiming credit for convincing Moscow to sign a ceasefire with Georgia, and Washington over the convening of the G20 summit on 15 November 2008).
Sarkozy's G20-summit strategy extends to seeking recognition for coaxing Asian leaders (including China's president, Hu Jintao) to attend. But this pattern of frenetic activity is almost designed to provoke irritation, even among France's closest allies. The apparent tension with Angela Merkel over an invitation to the armistice commemoration on 11 November is but a minor example. More serious has been the discontent Sarkozy's grandstanding has occasioned across the European Union.
For the other side of Sarkozy's aspiration to be the "president of Europe" - a title he loves - is the accusation that he is plotting a kind of coup d'etat against European institutions, by trying to extend his "presidency" beyond the end-date of 31 December 2008 (when the mantle passes to the Czech Republic). The nerves are rattling in Prague, in Stockholm (which succeeds to the presidency in July 2009), in Berlin, and beyond; not least as Sarkozy's invention of a new quasi-political grouping based on eurozone membership (which conveniently excludes the Czechs and Swedes) appears also to sidestep the established Eurogroup chaired by respected Luxembourg premier and finance minister Jean-Claude Juncker).
It is all a striking turnaround for a man who, when elected in May 2007, did not seem very well versed (nor especially interested) in foreign affairs, and who had even mused over the idea of abolishing the Quai d'Orsay (site of the French foreign ministry). Sarko, a former interior minister, made his political name in the domestic arena - campaigning on law-and-order and repelling immigrants. But he has caught up quickly; indeed, history shows (for Sarkozy as with George W Bush) that even if elections are seldom won on international issues, the latter tend to bite at some point in a presidential term.
A domestic test
But if Nicolas Sarkozy knocks repeatedly at the world's door, his restlessness extends too to an impatient desire to find urgent solutions (and often merely populist non-solutions) to the many domestic concerns that have come under his voracious inspection. Among the near-limitless reform agenda, the very institutional map of France itself has been redrawn several times even since .May 2007 The national structures of the judiciary, military, universities and health services have been shaken to the core - in part to revamp overlapping and often obsolete networks, but also in part to save money in a country Sarkozy himself has called "broke".
A further renovation has now been added to the list with the setting up of a new commission, headed by Sarkozy's mentor and former prime minister, Édouard Balladur. The task is to simplify France's multilayered administrative machinery ("I don't want a new report, I want solutions" - and within three months, was the president's characteristic demand).
This official aims of this reform are to save costs and improve management. An unofficial political aim is to curtail the influence of the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party / PS) - which, if it looks incapable of taking back power on the national level, still wields control of many regions, départements and major cities.
It will be a hard task to unthread such an intricate system - harder, arguably, than many of Sarkozy's international endeavors. In 1969, Charles de Gaulle was obliged to resign from the presidency after his own regional reform - opposed by almost the entire political establishment - was rejected in a referendum. François Mitterrand was able to make some changes to the system in the early 1980, but since then no government has had the courage to propose radical reform of a clotted system.
There is popular as well as political resistance to any such effort. The French are deeply attached to their (real or imaginary) rural roots, and nostalgia for their ancestral départements or identification with the location of a weekend home is never far from the surface, and easily tapped. Politicians of left and right look with disfavor on any changes which could harm their local influence. The massive parliamentary opposition to the suppression of the départements' number on cars' number-plates (a decision now subject to a qualified reversal) is a clear signal of this very modern malaise.
A difficult reform
Yet if France is so hard to govern, it is not because of her 365 (allegedly) types of cheese, as Charles de Gaulle (allegedly) once said. It is rather because of the inextricable administrative behemoth created during the last four decades by the piling up of seven layers of institutions under the national one: 36,782 communes (from tiny villages to big cities); 2,580 intercommunal groupings; 100 départements (including four overseas, divided into 4,039 cantons, 325 arrondissements and 334 pays, or informal districts); and 26 regions.
Most of these have specific administrative and fiscal powers, backed by a huge budget that involves 30 percent of all civil servants (689,000) managing 75 percent of public investments. France also has powerful elected bodies at communal, intercommunal, departmental (where each canton is represented by a counselor) and regional levels; while the membership of the senate is heavily tilted in favor of underpopulated rural areas. At least some fiscal decisions need to be dealt with at all six levels before a decision can be reached.
Some in the leftwing opposition, led by the socialists, may agree in principle on the need to simplify this indigestible, multi-layered cake. But as a whole the left is opposed to any reform which would reduce its local powers and slash its financial resources - at the very time it is looking ahead to the next regional elections in 2010.
But there are also vocal and powerful opponents within Sarkozy's own conservative camp. The chief whip of his Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) in the national assembly, former minister Jean-François Copé, and the newly elected president of the senate, Gérard Larcher, have set up their own commission to do as much as they can to control the debate and block any proposed change.
What makes this reform even more difficult to design - let alone to implement - is the intricacy of France's local-government structures. An entangled system with overlapping responsibilities will be complicated and costly to unravel. The question of who is going to pay the price of reform (in loss of power as well as monetary terms) is a key one. Will local villages with a few dozen voters be forcibly regrouped with other neighboring boroughs; will départements be merged with regions, or small regions be amalgamated (Normandy is divided into two regions, for example); will the sacrosanct republican principle of uniformity - which specifies that any structure has to be identical with others in the same category, thus denying the option of local variation - be broken, allowing a la carte regroupings between regions and départements (or cities and départements in the case of Paris, which is both at the same time)?
The last quality
The French president may in the course of this campaign discover the truth of the renowned phrase of Tip O'Neill: "all politics is local." It is one thing to ride a white horse around the world looking for diplomatic victories, or even to impose economic and social burdens on voters at home. But it is quite another to undermine - or even just to threaten - the political fiefdoms and ambitions of France's politicians. After all, this is a country where the "local" is also the regional and the national: members of the national assembly or senate are also often local councilors, mayors or chairs of regional assemblies. In this sense they have the best of both worlds: a local power-base, and a vote at national level which (especially in troubled times) may be badly needed by president and government to pass legislation.
Nicolas Sarkozy has a very personal and persuasive blend of qualities: ideological conviction and pragmatism, charm and ruthlessness, boundless determination to trample any opposition to his goals and pervasive influence on the media. Yet even for him, it will be a tough and possibly painful challenge to achieve reform in this area.
Sarko has another precious quality (shared perhaps with the United States president-elect he reveres): luck. The burst of renewed popularity (as reflected in current opinion-polls) he has acquired - in part as a by-product of the enduring internecine conflict within the Parti Socialiste - is a case in point. To overcome so much opposition on this issue, active as well as passive, he will need plenty of this too. A failure would certainly dent his image. But Sarkozy is no Charles de Gaulle: if he were to fail he certainly would not resign.
This article originally appeared on openDemocracy.net under a Creative Commons licence
By Dominic Moran in Tel Aviv for ISN Security Watch
The sacking of a Saudi provincial governor has again drawn attention to domestic Shia-Sunni tensions, highlighted by a damning report charging systematic discrimination.
Saudi religious, security and governmental institutions have long been accused by opponents of systematic violations of the civil, religious and human rights of the country's Shia minority.
The stoking of domestic sectarian divisions is particularly jarring in light of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud's championing of interfaith dialogue, which reached new heights Wednesday with his address to a Saudi-backed UN conference in New York.
Ismaili-government tensions have been particularly high in southwestern Najran province in recent years.
Hundreds of Ismaili Shia were rounded up by the security services following clashes in the city of Najran on 23 April 2000. The violence appeared to be sparked by the closure of Ismaili mosques during a major religious festival and the subsequent arrest of a prominent Ismaili cleric, Hussein Ismail al-Makrami, dubbed a "sorcerer" by the authorities.
Two Ismailis and a Saudi officer died and several others injured in the violence according to competing accounts.
A series of royal pardons in December 2002, including then-King Fahd's decision to commute the death sentences of 17 Ismailis involved in the 200 disturbances to 10 year jail terms, appeared designed to promote an easing of tensions, but seems to have fallen flat in the absence of supporting reforms.
According to official Saudi state media, the governor of Najran province, Prince Mish'al bin Sa'ud, was relieved of his position by royal decree last week, purportedly at his own request.
Dr Ibrahim Hamad Al-Quayid from the kingdom's only independent human rights organization, the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), told ISN Security Watch, "The information we have is that the prince himself expressed his intention to resign a number of times."
Asked what the reasons for his decision were, he said, "We don't really know. We know that there were tensions in the past in the [Najran] region and there is probably some relationship between his resignation and these tensions."
A former defense minister and governor of Mecca Province, Mish'al's importance and influence within the al-Saud dynasty remains unclear. There is little doubt that his tenure as governor in Najran has been marked by a sharp rise in Shia-government tensions. Repeated Ismaili protest petitions to the crown, Najran governate and the NSHR decrying state policies have often been accompanied by requests for his removal.
One indication of the prince's influence came with his appointment as first chair of the Bay'ah Council, created in 2006 to ensure the smooth transition of royal power and to prevent a repeat of the effective interregnum created by the lengthy incapacity of the late King Fahd.
"He [Mish'al] is an instrument of the central government, or the central governments – there is no one government in Saudi Arabia," director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Dr Ali Alyami, told ISN Security Watch.
As governor, the prince was under the direct authority of Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz. To Alyami, Prince Nayef "is the most powerful man in the country. He is the one in charge of the religious establishment, the commission, and he is in charge of the secret police, he is in charge of the prisons. He is in charge actually of the country, internally."
Prince Mish'al's dismissal from the governorship – whether voluntary or otherwise – is a clear indication of government concern at the rise in tensions in Najran and perhaps signals royal recognition of the need for at least a symbolic change in tack on sectarian relations in the region.
Ismaili Shia leaders and activists in Najran have complained of discrimination in housing, land allocation, employment, education and state funding, with alleged efforts to tip the demographic balance of the province in favor of Sunnis of particular concern.
One petition has also requested the return to Najran of hundreds of Ismaili government workers effectively expelled to other areas in the wake of the 2000 disturbances.
Prince Mish'al has been accused by Ismaili representatives of backing the seizure of lands near Najran city for the resettlement Sunni Yemeni tribesmen, who, they claim, are given citizenship in order to alter the basic sectarian and ethnic makeup of the region.
In April 1977, Najran "notables" presented a petition to the king demanding the prince's sacking and the cancellation of the resettlement plans. Shortly thereafter the head of the Ismaili delegation, Shaikh Ahmad bin Turki Al Sa'b, was detained by the intelligence services. He is still being held without charge according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Pressed on past complaints received by the NSHR from Narjan, al-Quayid said, "In recent months we have had some phone calls, we have had some reports, but recently we haven't had [any]. Most of the petitions and complaints spoke about the policies of the government. The communities are demanding more participation in public life."
The course of actual events in the remote southwestern province are difficult to gauge but facts on the ground, as presented in news reports and a September probe by the watchdog group Human Rights Watch (HRW), appear to bear out Shia complaints.
The pressure for Prince Mish'al's resignation appeared to grow with the September release of a HRW report, which claimed that the 2000 violence was the culmination of rising tensions following his appointment in 1996.
According to HRW, official discrimination in Saudi Arabia against Ismailis encompasses government employment, religious practices, and the justice system.
The group reports that Ismaili lawyers are regularly prevented from appearing before the courts and that an Ismaili remains on death row for purportedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad, a charge he denies.
Sect members are blocked from attaining high level decision-making, government and military positions, the group alleges.
HRW also recorded the alleged torture of prisoners by Saudi intelligence services in the wake of the 2000 disturbances and the maintenance of repressive policies in the aftermath of the violence.
The report's writers were unable to confirm or deny Ismaili claims concerning official discrimination in land allocations.
Ismailis' religious freedoms are reportedly hampered by moves to delimit religious education and to prevent the building of new mosques. High level Wahhabi clerics and government officials have launched a series of virulent attacks on Ismaili religious practices.
The Council of Senior Religious Scholars, tasked with the official interpretation of Islamic faith, excoriated Ismailis as "corrupt infidels, debauched atheists" in April 2007, while Prince Mish'al referred to Ismaili mosques as temples in 2005.
As in the wake of previous international rights group reports, Saudi academics and government officials united in defending the kingdom's treatment of Ismaili Shia against the charges outlined in the HRW report.
Importantly, some Saudi respondents interpreted the report as signaling a covert Iranian role in fomenting opposition to the state amongst Shia.
Quoted in the UAE's Gulf News, Mohammad Al Zulfa, a member of the consultative Shura Council, responded to the report by saying that Ismailis had held important official posts in the kingdom in the past and that "no one spoke of discrimination against them or the minorities before the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the awakening movement of radical Islamists in the early eighties."
Saudi fears of domestic Iranian influence have waxed with the development of the current contest between Riyadh and Tehran for influence in Iraq and Lebanon and with the development of the Iranian nuclear program, but appear somewhat overstated.
Alyami disagrees: "While the Ismailis of Najran have had very little contact with Iran historically, they are being forced into looking to Iran for help against their government and its religious establishment's religious persecution and discriminatory polices."
Despite significant coverage of the purported mistreatment of Shia in regional states by the Iranian media, Tehran clearly has no interest in fomenting the impression of interventionism and has made efforts to ease bilateral and multilateral tensions with Saudi Arabia, Gulf states and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
"The Ismailis are […] a special [Shia] sect and, to our knowledge, have no link to the Iranian form of Shiism," Gulf Research Council program director Dr Mustafa Alani told ISN Security Watch adding, "If there are any grievances they are basically local. I don't think there is an international or regional dimension."
The ascent of King Abdullah to the throne has brought with it a cautious, gradualist approach to reform that, while significant, still falls far short of the experiments undertaken in some neighboring Gulf states in recent years.
"I think we have made great and giant steps in the last five years in reforms. We have municipal council elections, we have the King Abdulaziz Center for [National] Dialogue and also we have two human rights organizations," al-Quayid said. "We think that reforms are going in the right direction and we are really happy about this."
"Reforms, what reforms?" Alyami asks.
Efforts to ease tensions with Shia Twelvers in Eastern Province have occurred since the Iranian revolution, but, "Whatever relaxation there is in eastern Arabia it is due to the increased influence of Iran and Hizbollah," Alyami said, noting the presence of Saudi Hizbollah in the province which he believes maintains ties with Moqtada al-Sadr, Qom and Lebanese Hizbollah.
"I was watching the last national dialogue which was on television and I was surprised at the level of frankness […] this dialogue is apparently very open with a high degree of transparency," Alani said, referring to a series of national parlays instituted by the king.
Regardless of recent changes, a government commitment to the gradual incorporation of Ismailis within wider national discourses and regional and central governance processes appears sorely lacking.
Dr Dominic Moran, based in Tel Aviv, is ISN Security Watch's senior correspondent in the Middle East and the Director of Operations of ISA Consulting.
November 12, 2008
By Sergei Blagov for ISN Security Watch
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in his first state-of-the-nation address on 5 November, announced that Russia would deploy new missiles in Kaliningrad, the country's western enclave situated between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea.
Medvedev ordered the Iskander nuclear-capable short-range missile systems deployed on the EU's eastern frontier, saying prompt action was necessary because the West had ignored Russia's concerns over planned US missile defense installations in Eastern Europe.
The European Union expressed strong concern over Russia's decision to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad. NATO criticized the move as well, and the outgoing Bush administration has repeated its disappointment with Russia's stated missile intentions. In contrast, China's Foreign Ministry reportedly voiced "understanding" concerning Russia's decision.
Some analysts speculated that Russia was challenging US President-elect Barack Obama by the Kaliningrad announcement, which came within hours of the election results.
However, the Russia move should have come as no surprise to observers. In recent years, the Kremlin has repeatedly blamed US missile defense plans for raising the risk of a nuclear confrontation in Europe and warned that Russia would respond by targeting European countries with its missiles, "turning Europe into a powder keg."
As early as July 2007, officials in Moscow warned that Russia could deploy short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region as a response to US missile defense actions. The deployment of the Iskander ("Alexander the Great") missiles in Kaliningrad could place a sizable chunk of NATO territory within their range, rendering these short-range tactical missiles strategic weapons.
In May 2007, Russia successfully tested a new cruise version of the Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone). The R-500, a new cruise missile adapted for the Iskander launcher, was reported to be able to overcome air and missile defenses, while its range remained limited to 500 kilometers, still in line with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
The Kremlin has also questioned the INF's relevance. The INF Treaty between the US and the former Soviet Union, signed in 1987, eliminated nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. In February 2007, then-president Vladimir Putin declared that the INF no longer served Russia's interests.
Apart from threats to respond to US missile defense creep, Russia has also tried to negotiate with the US on the issue. In May and July 2007, Russia suggested the two countries jointly use the Armavir radar station now under construction in southern Russia, and offered to share with the US the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan. While not overtly rejecting Russian initiatives, Washington moved ahead with its missile shield in Eastern Europe.
Last year, Russia moved to abandon a key European arms control treaty, which limited armed forces deployment in a vast area between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. In July 2007, Russia withdrew from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). Moscow's departure from the CFE Treaty came as the latest in a series of Russian gestures, aimed to highlight its opposition against US missile defense plans for Eastern Europe.
Russian experts also remain divided over the proposed Kaliningrad missile deployment. Some insisted that measures suggested by Medvedev would suffice to "neutralize" the threat posed by the US facilities. Others argue the plan is little more than a political gesture lacking actual military substance.
The Kremlin itself lost little time in clarifying its Kaliningrad missile plans. One day after the announcement, Medvedev said that Russia was ready for better relations with the incoming US president. Following talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly voiced hope of a constructive defense shield dialog with Obama's administration.
Furthermore, Russian officials made it clear the Kaliningrad missile deployment plans were not final. All measures announced by Medvedev could be reviewed if Washington agreed to review its own strategy in Europe, argued Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international relations committee of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. "As long as they create problems for us, encircle Russia by new weapons systems, Russia will react," he was quoted as saying. "Obama will come to understand that Russia is seriously concerned over the European development," Kosachev said.
Russia appeared to be successful it getting itself placed on top of Obama's agenda, with the president-elect's advisers clarifying that Obama had made no commitment to a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, despite pledges to the contrary by Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
Following Medvedev's remarks on the Kaliningrad missile deployment, Russia received new proposals from the US on the planned anti-missile system – proposals Moscow swiftly rejected as unsatisfactory.
By announcing deployment of the Iskander missiles, Medvedev apparently intended neither to steal headlines from Obama's victory, nor to come up with a cold-war-style challenge for the president-elect. And Russia hardly has any interest in turning the Central Europe into the frontline of a new cold war. Instead, the Kaliningrad move should be viewed as Moscow's attempt to gain another bargaining tool in negotiations with a new US administration.
Sergei Blagov is a Moscow-based correspondent for ISN Security Watch.
November 11, 2008
New Scientist via Gizmodo
The geniuses at Carnegie Mellon have done it again. Previously known for creating autonomous vehicles capable of winning DARPA's land challenge, they have now gone one better -- Helicopters capable of doing much the same thing.This helicopter uses a two-pronged strategy for achieving high speeds at low altitudes in autonomous operations. Check out the video below and the full article at the New Scientist or some gee-whiz commentary at Gizmodo.
12:55 | 10/ 11/ 2008
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - Russia will not look on indifferently while the U.S. deploys the third positioning region of its missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.
This was clear before and is clear now, after Dmitry Medvedev has described ways in which Russia will respond to the challenge in his state-of-the-nation address.
If countermeasures are necessary, Russia will deploy the Iskander theater missile system in Kaliningrad. In addition, according to the Russian president, it also plans to use electronic countermeasures against the missile defense shield.
The president's statement is easy to explain: deployment of an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic is a direct threat to Russia's nuclear potential. The 10 ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles, planned for Poland, or even 50 such missiles, cannot of course parry a full-scale strike by the Russian Strategic Missile Forces and missile-carrying submarines, but the strategic importance of these interceptor missiles would increase were the U.S. to deliver a first nuclear strike against Russia. In this scenario, interceptor missiles would have to take on the limited number of missiles surviving the first strike, which would allow the U.S. to hope for success and, for the first time since the 1950s, for a victory in a nuclear war.
Iskander theater missile systems have long been viewed as an answer to the possible appearance of elements of a U.S. anti-missile system in Eastern Europe. The range of the Iskander in its basic form is 300 kilometers. In the opinion of missile specialists, it can easily be extended to 500 kilometers and more should Russia decide to tear up the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
In addition, the Iskander can be equipped with more than ballistic missiles. The system can also launch long-range cruise missiles - R-500s have already been test-fired from the Iskander. Potentially, the range of a cruise-missile system can exceed 2,000 kilometers, making it possible to hit targets across Western Europe.
Iskander mobile launchers, deployed in Kaliningrad and, potentially, in Belarus, will be capable of delivering a sudden strike, including nuclear warheads, at most of Poland even in standard configuration. Rapid deployment - which takes a few minutes - and the characteristics of the missile itself - increase the probability of engaging targets, especially in view of the fact that main targets - GBI interceptor missile launchers - are fixed.
The deployment of Iskanders and electronic countermeasures in Kaliningrad is certain to produce a response from the United States. Its first step will be to hand Patriot ground-to-air missile systems to Poland - an agreement to pass a Patriot battery (12 launchers) with an ammunition load of 96 missiles to the Wojsko Polskie has already been achieved. However, Patriots do not guarantee the safety of GBI missile launchers, and to make them more secure the U.S. might reinforce Poland's Air Force with modern strike aircraft able to destroy Iskanders before they launch their missiles. U.S. Air Force units and formations are likely to be deployed in Poland directly.
Russia understands the likelihood of such a development of events. So, in addition to deploying Iskander missile systems and electronic countermeasures in the Kaliningrad Region, it can strengthen its grouping of ground, air force and air defense troops in the area, both by bringing up existing units to scale and by sending in reserves from inside districts.
Undoubtedly, such an escalation will increase tensions in Eastern Europe. We are currently observing a reopening of the Cold War's European front, which is now moved several hundred kilometers eastwards. Russia started warning of the undesirability and danger of deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in Europe many years ago. Its statements have gradually intensified in expression, from regrets over the lack of a normal dialogue to a direct threat to suppress the system with force. The U.S. has meanwhile only chanted the mantra of the anti-Iranian purpose in its European missile shield. The question of "why a missile defense system cannot be deployed in Turkey" has never been completely answered.
To sum up, we have the following picture: an "anti-Iranian" missile defense system will be deployed in the next two to three years in an area clearly beyond the reach of Iran's existing and projected missiles, but very convenient for intercepting missiles launched from European Russia in a northern and a north-western direction. The immediate targets of this system are the 28th, 54th, 60th and other Strategic Missile divisions deployed west of the Urals. A simple look at the numbers shows that although there are several Topols and UR-100s for each American interceptor, this ratio would only stand until the first nuclear strike.
The concern is that it could be tempting to initiate a strike when you have a system that protects against retaliation. It is only to be hoped that a new U.S. administration will hear Russia's case and agree to develop a mechanism of collective security in Europe. If not, development could be hard to predict.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
The dearth of strong national navies to combat piracy is leading some African countries to hire private security companies to patrol their waters, Patrick Cullen writes for ISN Security Watch.
By Patrick Cullen in New York for ISN Security Watch
In a recent media query regarding the status of private security companies (PSCs) guarding ships against piracy off of the Somali coast, the deputy marine minister of the semiautonomous region of Puntland, Abdulkadir Muse Yusuf, said he welcomed PSCs into Somali waters. Yet by adding that PSCs could also help his country combat illegal fishing, Yusuf shed a sliver of light on a less well known aspect of maritime PSC work conducted in Africa: the privatized fisheries protection services.
Indeed, by mentioning that Puntland welcomed PSCs into Somali waters to combat illegal fishing, Yusuf was simply acknowledging that various Somali government administrations - from both the transitional national government as well as Puntland - had entered into agreements with no less than half a dozen private companies for these anti-poaching and related anti-piracy services over the last decade.
Other West African countries, including Sierra Leone and more recently Liberia, have also entered into contracts with PSCs to provide them with the ability to actively monitor, license, and even board and fine international fishing trawlers operating illegally in their territorial waters. Though the context of each of these privatized fisheries protection services - technically referred to as monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) programs - have varied significantly, a number of broad factors help to explain why both governments and PSCs have been interested in pursuing these partnerships, as well as why they have proved so difficult to initiate and sustain.
Privatized fisheries protection: A growing market
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), nations have been granted considerable exclusive rights to the marine resources within a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) along their coastlines. In many cases, however, the ability of a state to extend the rule of law throughout this massive jurisdiction has been limited by a weak or non-existent marine patrol capacity. Indeed, in each instance of a government hiring a PSC to run a MCS program, a state has been faced with the problem of illegal fishing fleets operating in its waters without having the indigenous naval resources to effectively combat this problem. Puntland, the Transitional National Government of Somalia (TNG), Sierra Leone and Liberia are prime examples.
For instance, aerial surveillance of illegal fishing in Sierra Leone in 2000 immediately prior to that country's first privatized MSC contract revealed a massive level of illegal fishing in inshore spawning grounds left untouched due to lack of government patrol assets. Aside from the environmental and economic damage to the artisanal fishing industry, Sierra Leonean officials estimated in 2001 that these poachers and other unlicensed trawlers stole between US$10 million and US$25 million dollars of fisheries resources every year. With a properly managed MCS program, however, these same officials estimated an annual US$14 million to US$24 million dollars a year from fishing licenses alone.
It is this source of untapped revenue that has led entrepreneurial PSCs to approach African governments with business proposals for privatized MCS programs. By offering these governments a privatized maritime patrol and an expanded source of government revenue in exchange for a share in the profits, a small market in privatized MCS fisheries programs has developed over the last decade.
The political economy of protection
Typically, these operations have required the PSC to propose that the MCS program be self-sustaining whereby the operating costs - as well as a degree of profit for both the government and the PSC itself - would be generated over the long term via revenue from licensing the fishing industry.
At the same time, the startup costs for the entire monitoring, control and surveillance program have often been footed by the PSCs themselves. Indeed, it is precisely this necessity of startup capital - and the typical reluctance of these governments to provide it - that have witnessed a number of agreements between PSCs and Somali administrations falter. Between 2005 and 2008, the Somali TNG has entered into agreements for MCS programs with the PSCs Top Cat, Al Habibi Marine Service, Northbridge Services Group and Secopex allegedly worth between US$50 million and $150 million dollars each. Yet without any financial backing, these numbers remained meaningless and the contracts went unfulfilled.
Privatized MCS programs that have proven successful - at least in the short term - have required the PSC to provide the government client with the necessary equipment and as well as an immediate source of income to run the program. For the PSC, this has come from a percentage in the profits from the issuance of large fines levied against wealthy international fishing companies caught fishing illegally as well as the possible confiscation of valuable fish catches and even the fishing equipment and boat itself.
The value of these fines and confiscated catches can be impressive. According to the Sierra Leone Fisheries Ministry, the PSC Southern Cross Security was able to arrest and fine 54 illegal fishing vessels between 2000 and 2002 with "considerable revenue created to the government through fines levied," it said in a statement to ISN Security Watch.
Indeed, the CEO of this private security firm told ISN Security Watch that in the first seven months of at sea, the private security firm levied US$450,000 dollars in fines against mostly Chinese and other illegal fishing trawlers operating without a license or fishing illegally in the spawning grounds.
Similar financial incentives motivated the government of Puntland to award its first such contract to the PSC Hart Security in 1999 to actively intervene, fine and/or license the international fleet of tuna boats and trawlers operating illegally in its waters. More recently in February of 2008, Liberian Minister of Agriculture Chris Toe cited the annual loss of at least US$12 million dollars per year from illegal and unlicensed fishing as the context within which they hired the PSC Marine Protection and Rescue Services (MPRS) to target and fine these illegal fishing vessels operating within their waters. According to a Ministry of Agriculture invoice seen by ISN Security Watch, the fishing trawler Seta 70 managed by the international firm Inter Burgo was arrested by the PSC MPRS and fined a total of US$327,000 dollars by the Liberian government.
Catching and fining illegal fishing boats
PSCs have typically relied on small, fast rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) manned by PSC security personnel acting as fisheries protection officers to approach and board fishing trawlers. These private security personnel would also be accompanied by one or two government officials to oversee the boarding operation, enforce the law, and administer any potential fines. In the case of Hart Security's Puntland contract and the more recent MPRS operation in Liberia in 2008, these PSCs would deploy their RIBs via crane from a larger mothership that used radar and night vision equipment to locate vessels suspected of illegal fishing.
Once a fishing vessel was spotted, the mothership would hail it via open channel radio communications, inform the captain that they had been spotted by a government fisheries ship, and that they should prepare to be boarded by a fisheries inspection team. Though ostensibly dealing with fishermen rather than pirates, the degree of lawlessness characteristic of illegal fishing in African waters meant that these PSC MCS operations often involved their security personnel carrying automatic rifles during vessel boardings. Once on board, the public-private boarding team would ascertain whether the ship was licensed and then document the location of the ship in the client's territorial waters via a global positioning system. If caught fishing illegally, the size of its illegal catch would be recorded and the boarding party would either issue an on the spot fine or order the ship into port for further law enforcement.
MCS programs difficult to sustain
One key recurring problem with the MCS programs has been the lack of long-term planning and investment in government infrastructure - of both salaried personnel and necessary equipment - needed for a sustainable fisheries program. Without this effort, these privatized fisheries patrols can potentially get degraded into short-term bounty hunting operations focused almost exclusively on issuing high value fines against international fishing companies rather than on developing a comprehensive fisheries program.
Indeed, in the short term, the very success of these arrests or the mere threat of the PSC presence has lead to a drop in illegal fishing, and thus the removal of the short-term revenue needed to sustain the contract. The problem of crime displacement - where illegal fishing operations have simply moved their boats to unpatrolled waters further down the African coastline - has proven to be a significant problem for these private MCS programs. Claude Berube of the US Naval Academy's political science department told ISN Security Watch that because of this problem "legitimate PSCs need to determine if the potential revenue and profit generated from these contracts merit their investment in platforms and personnel."
Berube also said that maintaining legal accountability for these private MCS programs remained of paramount concern. In practice, as in other areas in the private security industry, there seems to be mixed results with this issue. Whereas some PSCs such as Hart Security actively sought legal advice and incorporated FAO fisheries guidelines into their MCS operations, less established PSCs adopted a more cavalier attitude toward legal concerns.
Discussing his unexecuted contract with the Somali TNG, Bob Kovacic of Northbridge Services told ISN Security Watch that "we were not too concerned about the legal issues. What were these pirates going to do? Sue us?" At the extreme, a few of these privatized fisheries programs may have themselves actually devolved into piracy or extortion rackets. SomCan Ltd, for example, a security firm based in the United Arab Emirates that was given a contract by the Somali TNG to fight illegal fishing between 2002 and 2005 reportedly had three of its own employees charged with piracy and imprisoned for 10 years by the government of Thailand.
Ultimately, it remains likely that PSCs will continue to offer MCS business proposals to governments in Africa (and perhaps elsewhere) that have not already implemented such a program themselves. However, if these public-private partnerships are to have any meaningful and lasting positive effects on sustainable management of fisheries resources, a greater and more concerted effort will need to take place.
Reputable PSCs with long terms business plans must be partnered with government fisheries ministries that have a clear long-term vision for developing the in-house infrastructure needed to transform these programs from short-term bounty hunting operations into mature and sustainable MCS programs. It remains to be seen if such cooperation is possible.
Patrick Cullen is a political risk consultant and an expert on issues pertaining to the private security industry. He is the author of numerous academic and professional publications on the subject. He is currently finishing his doctorate at the London School of Economics and is based in Manhattan, New York.
Recent terror attacks in the self-styled independent Somaliland could be designed to destabilize the secessionist region, dragging it into Somalia's brutal quagmire, Simon Roughneen writes for ISN Security Watch.
By Simon Roughneen for ISN Security Watch
Somaliland is not Somalia. Ever since Somalia fell apart in the early 1990s that has been the message hammered out by Hargeisa's would-be officials, who would be officially officials if Somaliland was ever officially recognized.
The latter has not yet happened, despite Somaliland's relative stability and nascent democracy - casting the rest of what was Somalia more clearly as the wanton haven for pirates, warlords, terrorists and chronic suffering that it is - with over 3 million people homeless due to fighting, and aid workers a constant target for murder and kidnap.
Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions and its own currency. It also has a 740-kilometer coastline along the Red Sea - a vital outlet for Ethiopia, which has been landlocked since the Eritrean secession in 1993.
Somaliland's democratic transition began in May 2001 with a plebiscite on a new constitution that introduced a multiparty electoral system, and continued in December 2002 with local elections that were widely described as open and transparent. Presidential elections held in 2003 were seen as another milestone, with nearly half a million voters casting ballots in one of the closest polls ever conducted in the region, and the would-be state is gearing up for general elections due next year.
While Somalia was riven by, inter alia, vicious clans, aid-stealing warlords, al-Qaida, an invading Ethiopian army and a weak but internationally-backed transitional government, Somaliland was holding successive rounds of elections, with both winners and losers sticking to the rules. This was laid on a bedrock of traditional authorities showing leadership and maturity, the utilization of indigenous means of negotiation and a measured, positive-sum view of inter-clan rivalries.
Unlike its now-archetypal failed-state neighbor to the south, Somaliland not only has emerged with the basic trappings of self-government, it has some solid legal grounding upon which to build a case for sovereignty.
In 1960, Somaliland was independent for a few days, between the end of British colonial rule and its union with the former Italian colony of Somalia (southern Somalia). Forty years later, in 2001, voters in the territory overwhelmingly backed Somaliland's independence in a referendum. Somaliland declared its independence from the rest of the Somali Republic in May 1991, following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of its leech regime in Mogadishu.
Somaliland voluntarily joined with its newly independent southern counterpart (the former UN Trust Territory of Somalia that was a former Italian colony) to create the present-day Republic of Somalia. Somalilanders note that they voluntarily joined a union after independence, and that, under international law, they should have the right to abrogate that union, as they did in 1991.
But without official recognition from other states, Somaliland, to its chagrin, is still Somalia. For now, that is in name only, and things could change, both for the better, as Hargeisa sees it, or for worse.
Maybe not by the fiat of international law or African Union pressure, or even by some powerful and dominant entity taking control in Mogadishu, but Somaliland could become Somalia - in the reductionist, pejorative sense, with country name used as synonym for terror-wracked failed state.
It would be a shame, but that seems to be the method-in-madness rationale behind recent terror attacks in Hargeisa - and in pirate-alley Puntland, a region in Somalia that claims increased autonomy, but not outright independence, from the barely existing transitional government in Mogadishu.
On 30 October, just days after the Ethiopian and US-backed transitional government signed an agreement in Nairobi with some of the Islamist opposition - a potential landmark given that both sides were at war in 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union tried to take control of Somalia by force before the Ethiopian Army intervened - five near-simultaneous and apparently coordinated suicide attacks struck high-profile targets in Hargeisa and in Bosasso, the economic capital of the neighboring region of Puntland.
In Hargeisa, the bombs targeted the presidential palace, the UN Development Programme's compound and Ethiopia's diplomatic representation, killing 19 people on the spot.
Somaliland is a US ally, and as such is seen by Somalia's hardline Islamists, most notably the misnamed al-Shebaab ("the lads" or "the youth") group - which opposed the Nairobi talks - as a perfidious abomination backed by an Addis Ababa bent on further breaking up the historic "Greater Somalia," which should include the Somali-speaking Ogaden in Ethiopia and parts of northern Kenya, not just Somalia as mapped today.
Somaliland has perhaps been designated an easy target by an al-Shebaab seeking vengeance for the 1 May US airstrike that killed its leader, Aden Hashi Ayro, in the central Somali town of Dusamareeb. That hit came just weeks after the US State Department designated al-Shebaab as a "global terrorist entity." Afghanistan-trained Ayro was linked to the murder of 16 foreigners, including a number of aid workers and BBC journalist Kate Peyton.
Reacting to the assassination, David Shinn from Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University told ISN Security Watch last May that "I have no doubt that al-Shebaab will attempt to avenge Ayro's death by attacking American, Kenyan and/or Ethiopian interests in the region."
The US has not moved on recognizing its unofficial ally Somaliland, out of deference to the African Union, which places a priori value on state sovereignty and integrity, even though both are effectively history in Somalia. What is an effective, relatively free and de facto sovereign state, is denied recognition as such, in favor of a fractious, war-torn country where the state has had at best limited control over the past decade and a half.
If Somalia's Islamist terror groups have their way, Somaliland's strong case for recognition will be dismantled - not by Somalia arguing a compelling counter-suit, but by undermining the real democratic and governance gains made by Hargeisa since 1991. This will drag Somaliland into the violent struggles over faith, fatherland, turf and tribe that have made Somalia the failed state par excellence since the early 1990s.
Simon Roughneen is a senior correspondent, reporting from across Africa, southeast Asia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Northern Ireland since 2004.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).
Moscow, Nov 11 (PTI) Russia today said the delivery of Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier to the Indian Navy would be delayed till 2012 as the vessel could be refitted only sometime in 2010.
It also said that since last year New Delhi has not made any payments although the extra work to the tune of USD 1.7 billion has been done by the shipyard.
The 44.5-thousand tonner Kiev class aircraft carrier was to be initially commissioned as INS Vikramaditya in August this year under the USD 1.5 billion deal signed in January 2004, which included the refit of the vessel and supply of 16 MiG-29K fighters.
According to an unnamed representative of Severodvinsk-based Sevmash shipyard, Gorshkov will be launched in early December, probably to coincide with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's maiden visit to India.
After launching it would be moored to the assembly wall for the completion of its refit.
"At this juncture, the completion of work in 2010 would be realistic. Two more years would be required to complete the vessel's sailing trials, including testing its aircraft in the severe conditions of Barents Sea," the shipyard 'representative' was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.
Sea going and flying trials of the refitted aircraft carrier will be conducted by the Russian crew trained on the "Admiral Kuznetsov" aircraft carrier in service with the Russian Navy. PTI
Oman seeks help from Indian armed forces for supply systems
Looking forward: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said, at Palace Bait Al Barakah in Muscat on Sunday. —
MUSCAT: India and Oman have agreed to step up defence cooperation by upgrading their joint naval exercises. India also appreciated the Omani gesture of providing berthing facilities for its warship which is patrolling the piracy-hit waters off the shores of Somalia where 18 Indians are currently being held hostage by pirates.
Oman, considered the closest to India among the Gulf Cooperation Countries, is already being offered training cooperation of its officers and men in Indian military training institutions.
The issue of stepping up defence cooperation was discussed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s three-day visit to the Gulf countries. Among top security officials accompanying him are National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh.
After concluding his engagements in Oman, the Prime Minister later left for Qatar where he is expected to sign two agreements in the defence sphere.
Both sides are still discussing the text of the agreements and the likelihood of inking the pacts is high, official sources told The Hindu.
They said the joint naval exercise with Oman, named “Tamar-al-Tahir” (Benign Fruit), would be increased in complexity from next year. The upgraded naval exercises at the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz, through which a large proportion of the world’s oil flows, would be renamed “Naseem-al-Bahar” (Sea Breeze).
“The idea is to get on a different level of operations and share the best practices with each other. The move to step up security ties is in keeping with the memorandum on defence cooperation signed in December 2005,” said the sources.
Oman and India have been regularly exchanging ship visits and the last ship from the Royal Omani Navy visited India in April last year. Indian warships, on the other hand, have been visiting Oman more frequently, the sources pointed out.
“In the development of relations between our two countries, we have our security and defence. We have reviewed the developments in our region and international and altogether I go back with a great sense of satisfaction that the political leadership of Oman and of India are united in their resolve to cement our relationship into a mighty strategic partnership,” noted Dr. Singh.
Oman has also sought assistance from the Indian armed forces to set up credible supply systems for their defence equipment.
In the past, the sources pointed out that the Indian Navy has provided hydrological assistance to Qatar in order to help it develop fishing harbours as well as chalk out plans for off-shore pipelines.
With Qatar, the only Gulf country with which India has a defence cooperation agreement, discussions will centre exchange of data and beefing up defences against the possibility of disruption of sea lanes or sabotage of offshore installations.
India recently conducted a small scale naval exercise with Qatar named “Incisive Falcon” for which it dispatched a frontline warship. This is indicative of the increasing convergence of views and the need to work more closely.
12 Nov 2008, 0000 hrs IST, AGENCIES
MUMBAI: In a daring rescue mission, an Indian Navy warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden successfully foiled an attempt by pirates to hijack an
Indian and a Saudi Arabian merchant vessel on Tuesday morning.
According to the Indian Navy statement issued here, at around 10.30 a.m. Tuesday, the Indian vessel M V Jag Arnav sent an SOS message about a hijacking attempt on it some 60 nautical miles east of Aden.
The Indian Navy stealth frigate INS Tabar that was patrolling the area picked up the SOS and immediately despatched an armed helicopter with marine commandos on a rescue mission.
Reaching the spot, the rescuers noticed at least four or five high-speed attack boats with around five armed pirate aboard each who were attempting to capture the Indian ship and also a Saudi Arabian vessel, the chemical tanker NCC Timaha, the Indian Navy said.
The naval helicopter opened fire at the pirates and their boats, prompting them to abandon their hijack attempts and make good their escape.
INS Tabar, which had by then reached the spot, also fired its guns to ensure that the pirates did not launch a fresh attack on the vessels, the navy said, adding that the warship thereafter escorted the M.V. Jag Arnav to safety.
Commenting on the rescue mission, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said: "Piracy is a crime which all men of war are required to combat at all times.
"Indian Naval Ships operating in piracy infected areas are always in a high state of alert and have the capability to intervene by air or ship borne weapons. Their mandate is to ensure that the safety of our sovereign assets is maintained," Mehta added.
The Jag Arnav, a 38,265 tonne-bulk carrier is owned by the Great Eastern Shipping Co Ltd. The ship had transited the Suez Canal a few days ago and was eastward bound in the Gulf of Aden when she came under attack from the pirates.
The Indian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since Oct 23 as a sizeable portion of India's trade flows through the waterway and there has been a quantum increase in the number of piracy attacks in the region over the last few months.
"The patrols are carried out in coordination with the ministry of shipping and are intended to protect Indian merchant vessels from being attacked by pirates and also to instil confidence in our large seafaring community," a defence ministry statement said.
The Indian Navy has for long been keen on playing a bigger role in the region under the aegis of the UN as this would enhance its credentials.
The navy is also keen to provide a helping hand to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) by responding to urgent humanitarian needs in Somalia.
(The views expressed by the author are his own)
2008 Beijing Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, is now a history. The opening and closing ceremonies, held respectively on 08th Aug 08 and 24th Aug 08, presented spectacles of never before workmanship in every respect. 302 events in 28 sports, held in 37 Games venues, 31 in Beijing and six others in the cities of Tianjin, Shenyang, Shanghai, Qinhuangdao, Qingdao and Hong Kong, comforted 11028 competing athletes and a vast multitude of spectators including 88 heads of states and 200 celebrities, without slightest distraught, contrary to boggy of terror attack raised by none other than the Chinese security mandarins themselves.
Non-happening of inevitable mishap of any description stands out as a sure tribute to the ingenuousness of the system in place as happening of otherwise imponderable events tests positive to manageable gloss over short of abject failure of it. It is simultaneously a pointer to the quality of statecraft. Intelligence, a process and a product of omnivorous collection, storage and analysis of information, provides much needed insight to executive actions to plug the holes, as it existed and/ or could arise. In the bargain, intelligence is a “public function” of the state arm(s) of intelligence gathering. The validity and legitimacy of the organ is, accordingly, intertwined with the “public interest”. Depending on the outreach of the intelligence inputs to policy to domestic and international power equations, it has potential to make or mar the developments. The aftermath of the invalid and illegitimate US and British intelligence inputs, tested against the parameter of public interest in the case of US policy on Iraq, particularly the US-led 2003 Iraq war is an open testimony to this effect. There are umpteen number of cases world wide.
November 10, 2008
LTCOL Timothy L. Thomas (USA Retired) has written the best summary of China’s IO theory as regards cyber warfare that I’ve come across in quite awhile.
His essay “China’s Electronic Long-range Reconnaisance” is in the current issue of Military Review (h/t Small Wars Journal blog). An excerpt follows:
This article explains Chinese military thought that supports their cyberattack activities. While other articles focus on who was attacked and how many times, this article focuses more on the theory behind the attacks, especially the PLA’s use of electronic stratagems for their computer network operations and the use of surrogates such as patriotic hacker groups. The article reviews Chinese incursions since 2005 and examines open-source assessments provided by some of the most important Chinese information warfare theorists.
The PLA has followed theory with practice. Computer network operations have become part of the peacetime strategic activities of the PLA. More worrisome is the purpose of these incursions. Is it reconnaissance? Or is the purpose of these incursions to place Trojan horses or some other device into U.S. and other partner systems to disable or destroy them in case of war? As one reads about Chinese information warfare developments, it becomes clear that China’s potential intentions raise questions.
China’s Use of Surrogates
One of China’s stratagems is to “attack with a borrowed sword.” Perhaps the use of patriotic hackers fits this stratagem. A recent article in Time magazine discussed the use of a “network crack program hacker” (NC PH) group initiative to accomplish this goal. The article said the PLA had developed a competition for hackers and that the winner would receive a monthly stipend from the military. It noted that the NCNCPH group not only won the competition and received the stipend, but the PLA also used the NC PH to teach techniques and procedures to other members of the PLA’s cyber-warfare team. A U.S. branch of VeriSign, iDefense, has noted that China’s NC PH created 35 programs to implant Trojans (which take partial control of computers) and that these programs attacked U.S. government agencies. VeriSign’s iDefense accused the NC PH of siphoning off thousands of unclassified U.S. documents. Such activity would fit the PLA’s preemption focus.41 The concept of “people’s war” also fits with so-called patriotic hacking. “People’s war” in the cyber age means that citizens get involved with hacking or cyber attacking an enemy’s systems. Presently over 250 hacker groups operate in China.42 Quantity could thus create a quality all its own with the variety and intensity of incursions they could conduct. None could be traced directly to the PLA if hacker groups are private citizens (or for that matter, military members or military reservists conducting cyber operations from their home computers). Again, circumstantial evidence is all that one has to go on, but that evidence is becoming overwhelming.
Chinese theory over the last several years indicates that China wants to become proficient in active offense, cyber reconnaissance, cyber-stratagem, and computer exploitation activities in case the PLA has to go to war. If China feels it can gain the initiative by obtaining information superiority or by preventing cyber strikes, then the coming years may involve challenges from that sector. While it remains easy to measure the intent of troop deployments, the intent of a Chinese electron is harder to measure. Is it inserting a virus, conducting reconnaissance, or disabling a system? The world will move into uncertain territory as nations attempt to conduct responses to and develop consequence management actions for truly disruptive electronic intrusions.
The Chinese note that IO tactics and techniques allow more emphasis on the principle of offense than on traditional warfare. A weaker force, for example, can inflict much damage on a superior force with a properly timed and precisely defined asymmetric information attack. China portrays itself regularly as the weaker side of the U.S.-Chinese relationship. It thinks that offensive operations such as information deterrence, information blockade, information power creation (electronic camouflage, network deception, etc.), information contamination, information harassment, nodal destruction, system paralysis, and entity destruction are key to victory in a modern conflict with America.
One should remember that this analysis stems only from open-source information and public comments from the PLA, and that China’s understanding of the intersection of strategy and information technology, especially as it relates to actual conflict, is not extensive in a practical sense. The C hinese have little recent experience with conflict. Their forces have not fought an actual war in decades. From a theoretical perspective, however, China has written extensively on the use of information technology and electronic preemption and given both much thought. Chinese cyber intrusions indicate that the Chinese are gaining a lot of practical and theoretical experience in peacetime.
The PLA’s open-source comments can be interpreted either as an attempt to work with the West or to vigorously oppose it. Perhaps the PLA is being very open and transparent in its cyber strategies, perhaps more open than in any other area of military operations. (The PLA is far more open with its information warfare thinking, for example, than Russia.) If the PLA’s intent is to oppose the West, it may in fact be concealing rich information warfare concepts in PLA “rules and regulations” (the PLA’s equivalent of doctrine) within the general staff directorates and research institutes. China’s available to other nations, while unclassified U.S. doctrine is available to anyone on the Internet. The PLA keeps its rules and regulations close to its chest. In this case, lack of transparency introduces unwanted ambiguity. America and other nations under threat of PLA incursions may react harshly to some scenarios developed by the Chinese and, thus, unintentionally set off a conflict.
How and when China might use its active-offensive concepts for purposes other than reconnaissance is unclear, but, as general concepts, they are worrisome. It does not bode well for future cooperation and stability if Chinese theorists really do believe (as they openly state) that China can offset an opponent’s information superiority only if China strikes first. China will no doubt continue to use technology in conjunction with innovative stratagems to try to deceive our high-tech systems or perhaps even to force errors in the cognitive processes of U.S. decision-makers. We live in interesting times. MR