August 17, 2012

Militants Strike Suspected Pakistani Nuclear Facility


Published: 8/16/2012

Pakistan's giant aeronautical complex at Kamra has been attacked by the domestic Taliban. The base may contain components of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.

IHS Global Insight Perspective



The Pakistani Taliban has launched another attempted suicide-siege attack against an air base.


It is possible the base contains components of Pakistan's nuclear-weapons programme, although Pakistani officials deny this.


The militant attack included planning errors that limited its effectiveness, reducing fears about the safety of dangerous technologies.

In Kamra

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has attacked the Kamra aeronautical complex near Attock in an escalation of its operations within Punjab province, which is more stable than the west of the country and where the majority of Pakistanis live. In the early hours of 16 August a squad of nine TTP militants stormed the Pakistan Air Force's PAF Minhas base, which is adjacent to the complex. The private Geo News channel reported that they were disguised in military uniform. The breach began at 2am and was concluded only after a four-hour gun battle in which the base's commander, Air Commodore Mohammad Azam, received a serious bullet wound when leading the counter-attack. One soldier died, as did all the militants. The PAF said six of the TTP operatives were wearing suicide vests, but not all of these were detonated. The militants had time to emplace a number of improvised explosive devices, and a bomb disposal squad was called in to dismantle these.

The TTP assault was similar to that on the PNS Mehran air base in Karachi in May 2011 (see Pakistan: 23 May 2011: Pakistan's Taliban Stages Unprecedented Attack in Karachi). It was, however, less successful on this occasion. Whereas the assault in Karachi succeeded in destroying some of Pakistan's most prized aircraft—P-3C Orion surveillance planes acquired from the United States—on this occasion it appears that only one aircraft was damaged, by a rocket-propelled grenade. Moreover, in the Karachi attack a dozen service personnel died and the siege lasted for more than 15 hours, rather than just four at Kamra.

This failure would appear to be due to basic planning errors by the TTP. Any advantage conferred by the cover of darkness must have been reduced by the fact that, it being Ramadan, many of the base's personnel were awake for their pre-dawn breakfasts. Close to the Kamra facility is Attock Fort, a base of the Special Services Group (SSG)—the elite commando unit that eventually ended the Mehran siege and whose presence nearby posed a serious threat to the TTP militants involved. Nevertheless, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters that the group was "proud of this operation" and that its leadership had been planning the attack for a "long time". This was the third attack by the TTP's cell in Punjab in a little over a month (see Pakistan: 12 July 2012: Pakistani Taliban Claim More Killings in Punjab); Ehsanullah had warned to expect more after those in July. Geo News reported that the Pakistani interior ministry suspected the cell to be led by Adnan Rasheed, a TTP militant who was one of several hundred to escape from prison in April (see Pakistan: 16 April 2012: Militants Stage Mass Jail Break in Pakistan). A former PAF servicemen, he may have had the insider knowledge necessary to breach Kamra's perimeter.

A Sensitive Target


Security personnel guard the Pakistan air force base in 
Kamra, 16 August 2012, PA.14318487

This was not the first attack on Kamra—suicide bombers targeted the facility in 2007 and 2009. There are a variety of reasons why it is a tempting target for the TTP. It lies on the border between Punjab and the Pashtun-majority Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and is therefore relatively close to the TTP's base in the semi-autonomous tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan. Kamra is also the nucleus of Pakistan's aeronautical industry. Alongside the air base are four factories—three for assembling aircraft and one for avionics and radar. They contain state-of-the-art equipment, including for the manufacture of the joint Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft. Several reports suggested the presence of Chinese personnel at the base during the raid.

Moreover, although PAF officials deny the base contains warheads or materials connected to the country's nuclear weapons programme, this contradicts numerous other expert assessments, including by reliable IHS Jane's sources. The security of Pakistan's nuclear sites continues to be a major concern for the United States. Speaking at a Pentagon news conference on 14 August, before the Kamra raid, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that it was particularly important for Pakistan to confront its internal terrorist threat. Panetta said: "The great danger we have always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country, those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands." In July, the US Congressional Research Service issued a report suggesting that Pakistan had somewhere between 19 and 110 nuclear warheads and that it is expanding its nuclear weapons capability.

Outlook and Implications

Despite such worries, the overall US military assessment is that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secure, and that Pakistan's leadership is aware of the importance of them remaining so. There is no particular reason to alter this assessment as a result of the latest TTP raid. Although the militants were heavily armed, it appears that they did a minimal amount of physical damage to the site and were swiftly intercepted, although this was in part due to planning failures that were absent in the 2011 attack in Karachi. Although the TTP may attempt to conduct similar operations in reprisal for an impending Pakistani army operation against the group in North Waziristan, announced by Panetta on 14 August (see United States - Pakistan: 14 August 2012: US Claims Deal with Pakistan for New Anti-Militant Operation) that operation—should it materialise—is also likely to inflict significant damage to the TTP.

August 16, 2012

Pentagon’s DARPA looking to create super soldiers

13 Aug 2012  by Jacque Fresco

The US military's future technology division is reportedly eyeing tampering with soldiers' genes, allowing them to go for days without food or sleep and re-grow limbs lost in battle or due to landmines.

Scientists at the Pentagon's high-tech Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency hope to find a way to affect certain genes to make the human body do amazing things, like using body fat more efficiently, says British newspaper Sunday Express.

The journalists talked to novelist Simon Conway, who was given a behind-the-scenes glimpse of DARPA's research, which may seem like it comes straight out of a science fiction novel.

"If you can efficiently convert fat into energy you don't need to feed your soldiers as often," Conway said. "So you can send them into battle in remote areas plump and they live off their own fat.

"It is all about improving efficiency of energy creation in the body. Soldiers would be able to run at Olympic speeds, carry large weights and go without sleep and without food," he said.

Another possible chilling breakthrough is a drug that can make people go for hours without sleep and stay alert, Professor Joel Garreau, of Arizona State University told the tabloid.

"It was tested by the US army on helicopter pilots. They found that after 40 hours, pilots actually had better concentration levels than if they had rested. It is much better than amphetamines, which affect decision making and have led to many so-called friendly fire incidents," he said.

There is also a project to make soldiers regenerate lost limbs.

"There are well-documented cases of young children losing a finger and it grows back. The trick is how to identify the trigger. Now it's a well-funded area of research," he said.

The agency, sometimes dubbed Pentagon's "mad scientists division", is known for reaching for far-fetched, eyebrow-raising technology. But it has its record of breakthroughs, including the creation of the precursors of the modern internet.

Among other things, DARPA's $2 billion-a-year budget is used for a hypersonic unmanned vehicle, insect-sized spy drones, mini-satellites that can cannibalize other spacecraft and new brands of cyber weapons.
DARPA universal soldier

Targeting Tribal Leaders: A New Militant Tactic in Sinai

August 16, 2012 | 0903 GMT

By Ashley Lindsey

Militants killed Egyptian tribal leader Khalaf al-Menahy and his son Aug. 13 as the two were returning from a conference in east Sinai organized and attended by tribal leaders to denounce militancy, according to Sinai security forces. The senior al-Menahy was a prominent proponent of bolstering the Sinai Peninsula's representation in Egypt's parliament and of improving security in the region. He also was a prominent sheikh in the Sawarka tribe, said to be the largest in Sinai. Following his burial Aug. 13, the tribe vowed to seek vengeance.

This is the first reported case of militants attacking tribal leaders in Sinai. It comes soon after an attack on Egyptian security forces Aug. 5 and an attack on military checkpoints in northern Sinai on Aug. 8. 

Although the militant tactic of targeting tribal leaders is new to Sinai, the tactic has been common in conflict zones in the Middle East and South Asia, such as in Yemen, Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Though it can offer many benefits to these militants -- including weakening the targeted tribe and possibly leading to its co-option -- these kinds of attacks tend to only succeed in zones with little government control and against tribes that cannot effectively retaliate. Examining similar instances of this tactic thus provides a helpful tool for assessing the consequences of attacks against tribal elements in the Sinai Peninsula.

A Widespread Militant Tactic


Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has operated openly in Yemen's tribal-dominated southern and eastern provinces for years. It has sought to expand its presence and operations by winning over local tribes using tactics such as strategic marriages. 

Lately, it appears to have begun a shift from wooing tribal leaders to intimidating them. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula recently failed in an attempt to assassinate tribal leader Majed al-Dhahab in the city of Radda in Bayda province. An important tribal leader, al-Dhahab participated in the offensive to drive al Qaeda -- and his own cousin, a local al Qaeda leader -- from the region after the militant group seized control of Radda in January. Al-Dhahab's son received a package that unbeknownst to him contained a bomb, which he was instructed to give to his father. However, the package exploded in his arms Aug. 4 before he could deliver it. Immediately after his son's death, al-Dhahab received a call warning him that the group would kill anyone who opposed it. 

The group followed up with another attack on tribal elements Aug. 5. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at a wake in Jaar, killing 45 people. The dead included several tribal fighters who had participated in the June Yemeni government offensive against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the wounded included a tribal leader. 

The region's tribes have not publicly vowed to retaliate against the militant group. If they are capable of doing so, they probably will respond to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's attacks. But the tribes could be too weak to mount an effective response, especially in the wake of attacks on their leadership structure. This could cause some tribesmen to abandon the fight, allowing militants to try to resume activity in the region's towns should they wish.

Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border

Although new to Yemen, militants frequently used the tactic of attacking tribal leaders during the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tactic is still frequently used, especially in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. In one significant instance, in 2007 al Qaeda in Iraq assassinated high-profile Sunni tribal Sheikh Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who led the Anbar Awakening Council. A U.S. ally, Abu Risha had formed the council, uniting dozens of Sunni tribes in the province against al Qaeda in Iraq. His killing backfired on the militant group, generating a massive outpouring of sympathy for Abu Risha and prompting the tribes in the province to join in vowing to fight al Qaeda in Iraq to the death.

In southern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban are deeply embedded into the tribal system. They have effectively used the tactic of assassinating tribal leaders to eliminate obstacles to their operations and evolution. To this end, they regularly employ suicide operations, armed assaults and roadside bombs against anti-Taliban militias known as lashkars and against tribal leaders in northwestern Pakistan.

One area particularly affected by such attacks is Bajaur, a Pakistani agency that borders Afghanistan's Kunar province. After numerous attacks on tribal leaders and members of peace committees in Bajaur, the Mamond tribe announced July 25 that the tribal leaders had formed a lashkar to prevent cross-border attacks. Hundreds of elders, leaders and religious figures of various subtribes and peace committees pledged their support for this militia. As with the killing of Abu Risha, the Afghan Taliban attacks on tribesmen and leadership in the region spurred a fiercely united response across numerous tribes, with the new militia even expressing a willingness to enter Afghanistan to attack Taliban leaders.

Upsides and Downsides of a Militant Tactic

Militant groups attack tribal leaders to increase their influence and area of operations. From the militants' perspective, removing a tribal leader ideally will weaken the targeted tribe. This could end the tribes' resistance and even lead to the its being co-opted by the militant group due to a leadership vacuum following the militant attack. The weakening of the tribe could leave the group no choice but to allow the militant group to operate unchallenged in its territory. Even though assassinated tribal leaders are replaced and the leadership structure remains intact, tribal leaders in the area could be persuaded to adopt a more accommodating stance on the presence of militants.

Success for a militant group in the long term happens under two conditions. First, the militants must be acting in an area with a tribal patronage network and limited government oversight. Without such a network, attacks on tribal leaders in efforts to co-opt and intimidate that tribe would not provide any significant gain. In Yemen, for example, the patronage and tribal network are very strong and in most cases enjoy greater legitimacy and power than the government. Attacks against tribal chiefs there are accordingly tantamount to attacks on the local government. On the one hand, that means tribal networks can band together and shun foreign militant elements as one community. On the other hand, if al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is able to coerce a tribe into aligning with it, the militant group will then enjoy access to that tribes' resources, will gain the ability to plan and launch attacks in that area, and could even gain better relations with neighboring tribes. 

Second, the group must be militarily capable of overwhelming the targeted tribe and its allies or at least of gaining the upper hand. As can be seen from the Iraq example, killing Abu Risha backfired because his tribe was large, committed and militarily strong, and it had the support of several allied Sunni tribes that belonged to his Anbar Awakening Council.

The tactic of targeting a tribal leader thus comes with certain risks. When the aforementioned two conditions are not met, a militant group exposes itself to great danger when it targets tribal leaders.

Consequences of the Sinai Assassination

The Sinai Peninsula meets the requirement of limited government control and strong tribal networks. The question then becomes whether the Sinai tribes can muster a strong defense against the militants. In the coming weeks, it will be important to look for signs of the retaliation pledged by al-Menahy's Sawarka tribe and others allied with it. This retaliation could come in the form of attacks against the militants passing through Sawarka and its allied tribes' territory.

Tribal retaliation could also come in the less aggressive, yet still effective, form of supplying increased logistical support and intelligence to the Egyptian government. Increased weapons seizures and the arrest of key leaders suggest that tribal sources on the ground are providing intelligence to Cairo. A targeted campaign against the militants already has begun, with Egyptian planes bombing the mountains of El Arish on Aug. 15. The intelligence for these attacks likely came from local tribes.

The success of tribal and Egyptian security efforts against the militants will determine whether the militants miscalculated their position in Sinai when they attacked a key tribal leader. The resilience of militants in Sinai also will help determine whether they can continue to stage attacks against Egypt and Israel.

Read more: Targeting Tribal Leaders: A New Militant Tactic in Sinai | Stratfor 

August 14, 2012

Looking back at India’s Partition

Behind Pakistan and Jinnah were much bigger forces. These forces needed the partition of India.

The Fate of India as the Raj saw it (Cartoon By Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, (1902-1979) in Daily Mail  on 25 February 1946

The Fate of India as the Raj saw it (Cartoon By Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, (1902-1979) in Daily Mail on 25 February 1946

Hard landing for Pakistan

From it’s very start, Pakistan fancied itself as an equal to India. An illusion that India did little to change. And many in India implicitly believed in, till about two decades ago.

While the Indian ship has changed course, the Pakistani behaviour remains rooted in the past – back to its very formation. Back to events, immediately after the formation of India and Pakistan.

when India was divided, it might have been logical for the new Muslim state in the Indus valley to take the name ‘India’ (or even ‘Industan’, as the valley was called by an eighteenth-century English sailor). But Muhammad Ali Jinnah rejected the colonial appellation and chose the pious neologism Pakistan, ‘Land of the Pure’, instead. He assumed that his coevals in Delhi would do the same, calling their country by the ancient Sanskrit title, ‘Bharat’. When they did not, Jinnah was reported to be furious. He felt that by continuing to use the British name, India had appropriated the past; Pakistan, by contrast, looked as if it had been sliced off and ‘thrown out’.

Sixty years after Jinnah, the Pakistani response remains the same. Obama administration’s recent Af-Pak Strategy has left Pakistan shell-shocked. The de-hyphenation of India and Pakistan in the Af-Pak strategy has dealt a body blow to their illusions. Pervez Musharraf in this interview reveals,

I don’t agree with this Af-Pak solution at all because we are being bracketed with Afghanistan. Afghanistan hardly has any governance, it is out of control. And also, there is extremism within India among the Muslim youth and it is developing linkages with others — the Kashmir issue too. Therefore, if we want to finally deal with terrorism and extremism and solve it in its short-term and long-term perspective, we have to look at events in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am totally against this Af-Pak strategy. (via ‘Kashmir solution can reduce extremism in Pak society’).

Obviously, this change is something that has dawned on Pakistan as a ‘hard print’ rather than a ‘soft copy’. Fancying themselves as an equal till a few decades ago, Pakistan had to endure a hard landing.

And this hard landing is Musharraf’s problem – as also of the Pakistan’s ruling elites.

Under an Indian flag - finally!

Under an Indian flag - finally! (JN Nehru delivering speech!)

India’s growing up

In India, the India-Pakistan calculus changed.

A few decades earlier, India-Pakistan sporting encounters were most awaited by sports enthusiasts in India and Pakistan. India-Pakistan cricket now comes lower down in India at least – and the place has been taken up India-Australia cricket series. Now Pakistan is asking David Morgan, from the ICC to ‘intervene’ and“to convince the BCCI to play a series in England”against Pakistan.

In the 60s-80s, Indian business publications, Indian bureaucracy indexed themselves with Pakistan. Sensex, the Indian stock index was then compared with the Karachi index.

But the comparison is now with global markets and the US.

Then and now

The Indian economy is now compared with the Chinese economy, ASEAN, EU and the US economies. The Indian film industry, compares itself with Hollywood – unfortunately, in terms of becoming a Hollywood clone.

In this new global matrix, India must now work to jettison some colonial detritus, its diplomacy must get over its Pakistan Fixation – and manage the Chinese relationship.

Understanding India of today

There are three aspects of this ‘development’ that has not fully dawned on Indians, which needs greater introspection in India.

One is the ‘Western clone’ status – which, for instance, is what some ‘leading lights’ of the Indian film industry want to be. The second is danger of becoming an arrivistathe danger of hubris.

The third aspect is the continuing debate, pain and anger about India-Pakistan Partition. The Congress response has been the demonization of Pakistan. The BJP offers a dream of ‘akhand Bharat’. The (increasingly irrelevant) Marxist response is, of course, dictated by their admiration for the Chinese model.

A British born journalist, Sarfraz Manzoor, writing for The Guardian, from a significantly Western perspective feels

Sixty years on and today’s India is sexy, forward-looking and economically powerful; Pakistan, on the other hand, remains trapped by the contradictions which led to its creation and in the grip of the mullahs and the military. India has thousands of years of history its citizens can cite; Pakistan sits on an ancient land but as a nation it is younger than my mother.

In his novel Shame, Salman Rushdie described Pakistan as a “place insufficiently imagined”; when one considers its troubled history, perhaps it is not heretical to confess some sadness that it was ever imagined at all.

Whether Pervez Musharaff’s unwillingness to acknowledge reality or Sarfraz Manzoor’s emotional view from a Western perspective, they both miss (like many Indians and Pakistanis) the realities of the post WW2 world and the India.

Within the realms of possibility

To understand the choices, outcomes, responses and alternatives, this post examines the three scenarios that could have resulted from the British retreat from India.

As Britain progressively impoverished India during 200 years of colonial rule, India became a drag on Britain. Between 1857-1947, more and more Indians rejected British rule, violently and peacefully. Soon after WW2, the colonial Indian Army, some 2 million strong, revolted against British rule. Colonial history calls it the Naval Ratings Mutiny – on February 18th 1946. Within 1 week, Britain decided to evacuate from India.

Between life and death ... stood the Raj?

Between life and death ... stood the Raj?

Post war Britain, was tired of rationing, shortages – and subsidising a starving, bankrupted India.

The Colonial Office was reporting deficits. Gold transfers from India had reduced to a trickle. After WW2, Churchill promised that he will not preside over the liquidation of Her Majesty’s empire …” Clement Atlee promised the British voter a quick exit from India. Clement Atlee won. Mountbatten was sent to India.

Broadly, India(ns) was given three choices.

1. A Federal India with regional autonomy

India could have accepted the British Cabinet Mission Plan(1946) of a ‘federal’ India – which was designed by the British, for rejection by the Congress. Nehru and Patel saw this as a British attempt at ‘Balkanizing’ India.

The Cabinet Mission Plan is now of academic interest since it was overtaken by Partition, but it is true that on June 25, 1946 Congress accepted it in the hope of establishing a “united democratic Indian Federation with a Central authority, which would command respect from the nations of the world, maximum provincial autonomy and equal rights for all men and women in the country”. And on July 10, Nehru, newly elected Congress President, rejected “Grouping”, one of the key (if still opaque) aspects of the Plan. Azad described this, politely, as one of those “unfortunate events which changed the course of history”. (fromJaswant’s Jinnah: Dividing India to save it By M J Akbar).

What was this ‘grouping’ which according to MJ Akbar was ‘a key aspect but opaque’ ?

the British and Jinnah’s insistence that Congress accept those provisions of the Cabinet Mission Plan which specified the compulsory grouping of provinces into separate sections and those which specified that the proposed Indian Union have not one but two or more separate Constitution making bodies for all subjects except only three Union subjects defence, foreign affairs and communications. (from India’s Constitutional Question – The Cabinet Mission Plan 1946).

A successful execution of this option (though difficult), meant that Sikkim, Tibet would have surely joined India – with options of Afghanistan, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka joining India in a loose federation and a common market.

British superiority

British superiority?

This would have meant modern Federal India’s population would have been nearly 200 crores, with nearly 35,000 tonnes of private gold, the 2nd largest economy of the world (PPP basis), a raw material and agricultural powerhouse.

By 2050 the GDP (PPP basis) would be equal to the EU and the US put together. With such a large market, India would have also become an intellectual powerhouse, becoming the world’s largest education market and producer, with unmatched R&D spend.

With close cultural and economic ties with China, the combination of Ch-India would become the economic, intellectual capital of the world.

Jinnah’s obstructive version of politics(born of British divide-and-rule) made many doubt how well a large Islāmic population would meld into India. Considering that 25% of this India would have been Muslims – numbering about 50 crores. This would have given India the world’s largest Muslim population.

Interestingly, many Indian ‘Hindus’ also thought that living with Muslims was difficult – and partition was a good idea.

The British calculus

How could Britain and the dominant Anglo Saxon Bloc allow this?

If an India of this shape emerged, what would happen to the Bretton Woods architecture? Britain obviously did not wish to midwife a country of these dimensions – especially, since there were plain desires from Tibet, Sikkim to join the Indian Union. With such countries joining in, India would have become a country with 200 crore people (2000 million).

This Greater Federal India could have been a possibility between 1940 and 1950, while the cement was not yet set. While Britain was at war. While the ferment was on. And the two people who could have made this happen, were alive.

Subhash Chandra Bose with Captain Mausenberg, with whom he made a submarine voyage from Europe to Asia in 1943. (Image source and courtesy - Click for larger image.

Subhash Chandra Bose with Captain Mausenberg, with whom he made a submarine voyage from Europe to Asia in 1943. (Image source and courtesy - Click for larger image.

SC Bose and the IIL had significant presence across most of SE Asia. After all, how could arrangements for Netaji’s escape from India and travel via Afghanistan, Russia to Germany happen! With the passing away ofSC Bose, and the IIL, India’s international agenda had little chance of success.

That left us with only one man who could have made this happen – Gandhiji. The only way to stop this from happening, was the death of Gandhiji.

It happened.

2. Partition of India – or the Two Nation Theory

The other option that the Colonial Raj ‘offered’ was TNT – Two Nation Theory.

This was something that Britain had worked upon for long. In fact from 1822. Starting with the knighthood in 1888 and encouragement to ‘Sir’ Syed Ahmad Khan. More seriously from 1906. After subduing the native population with unprecedented levels of brutality during the 1857 War and subsequent revolts and rebellions.

While Britain itself was going down the tube ...

While Britain itself was going down the tube ...

Commandent of Moradabad, Lt. Col. Coke, wrote in 1822:

“Our endeavour should be to uphold in full force the (for us fortunate) separation which exists between the different religions and races, not to endeavor to amalgamate them. Divide et Impera should be the principle of Indian government.”

The Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 paved the way for communalization of India. From 1910-1940, the British vigorously implemented the‘divide and rule’ policy. Initially, in fact Jinnah,

“scoffed at Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s two-nation theory, and wrote an angry letter to The Times of India challenging the legitimacy of the famous Muslim delegation to Lord Minto on October 1, 1906, which built the separatist Muslim platform. He ignored the convention in Dhaka on December 30, 1906 where the Muslim League was born.”

KM Munshi's described Indian situation as 'ship-to-mouth'. KM Munshi centre with C. Rajagopalachari (L) and C. Subramaniam (R). (Photo -

KM Munshi's described Indian situation as 'ship-to-mouth'. KM Munshi centre with C. Rajagopalachari (L) and C. Subramaniam (R). (Photo -

Under this proposal, India and Pakistan would become two countries. The immediate chances of a large federation and a common market became that much more difficult. Which suited British interests fine.

India with a population of 35 crores and a ‘ship-to-mouth’ economy, (in KM Munshi’s words, then Union Minister for Agriculture and Food, on a trip to the US to get food-aid), seemed unlikely to succeed.

In this scenario, instead of 2050, India would possibly (if at all) attain a significant leadership position only by 2070. In Western minds, the continued existence of India itself was a question mark. The sneering and the patronizing view of the British establishment is best illustrated by the cartoons linked to this post.

What could have stopped India from becoming stable and successful nation? Communal bloodletting, war, famine, and death of its leaders. All this and much more, happened.

Communal bloodletting – At the time of 1947 partition, organized gangs started communal riots. Kolkatta (then Calcutta) was in flames. An unprepared India and a leaderless Pakistan were handed over governance.

Many theories apart, it showed another extension of the “scorched earth policy” and a callous disregard for 10 lakh brown lives that were lost to Hindu-Muslim-Sikh riots. The British Raj was a mute bystander. In contrast, areas ruled by the ‘decadent’ and ‘feudal’ Indian maharajahs, did not see such a magnitude of communal riots in their territories..

War – India and Pakistan have fought four wars neither could afford. Over boundaries and legacy issues.

The Mechanics of Partition

The very division of India was based on broadly three rules -

1. Hindu majority – India; Muslim majority – Pakistan

2. The wish of the local ruler – as quite a few local rulers were independent of the British Raj.

3. Wish of the people

In most of the Indian subcontinent these principles worked well – except in three places. Hyderabad and Junagadh, where a Muslim ruler, ruling over a Hindu majority wished to become part of Pakistan. And Kashmir, where a Hindu king with a Muslim majority, wished to stay independent.

In Hyderabad and Junagadh, the Indian Government resorted to ‘police action’ – where the kings were deposed and their kingdoms became a part of India.

Sheikh Abdullah (Sheikh Abdullah after a visit to the Hazratbal mosque in Srinagar followed by his supporters in 1947). Photo - Magnum

Sheikh Abdullah (Sheikh Abdullah after a visit to the Hazratbal mosque in Srinagar followed by his supporters in 1947). Photo - Magnum

In Kashmir, the king wanted to remain independent. Since, it had a Muslim majority, Pakistan wanted Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan. There was only one glitch. The popular leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah refused to even meet up with Pakistani leaders. He wished for an autonomous Kashmir as a part of India. Pakistan, of course, disputes, if the Sheikh Abdullah represented the popular leadership of Kashmir.

So, while all these discussions were going on, the Pakistani Government and Army, which still had a significant British component, decided to invade Kashmir. The Indian Government and Army, headed by Earl Mountbatten, at the invitation of Nehru, messed up this situation. British generals, Roy Bucher (India) and Douglas Gracey (Pakistan) were the commanders-in-chief, succeeding generals Rob Lockhart and Frank Messervy, respectively.

Pakistan occupied half of Kashmir. India rushed to the UN – a mistake. UN asked both armies to freeze – which they did. And there they remain – frozen from 1948. All in all, the Kashmir issue is colonial detritus – which both India and Pakistan have not been able to jettison.

Famine – Indian agriculture system was in a comatose state. India had not yet recovered from the Great Bengal Famine when another crisis developed. Within a year of the Indian Republic, the food situation in India became alarming. KM Munshi was despatched to the US for obtaining food aid. In his famous interview with The New York Times, he described the Indian situation as ‘ship-to-mouth.’

Leadership – Gandhiji was assassinated in 1948. Sardar Patel was no more by the end of 1950. Ambedkar in 1956 and in 1958, Maulana Azad passed away. Thus apart from Nehru, the entire leadership of India was no more, 10 years after Mountbatten’s departure.

Colonial Indian armed forces took on the complacent Raj. Atlee appointed a Cabinet committee to finalize British departure after the Indian Navy put the British Empire on notice. This cartoon came in some 3 months after the Indian Navy's action. (Artist: Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, 1902-1979; Published: Daily Mail, 14 May 1946.

3. India becomes 8-12 countries

This was the worst of all options. Nizam State becomes a country. Kashmir becomes another country. India and Pakistan of course were already on the table. No other significant land bloc, of course, raised such a possibility at that time. But if Nizam of Hyderabad and the Maharaja of Kashmir, were to become successful, a Baroda-Gaikwad, or a Scindhia-Holkar or a Raja of Travancore raising such a demand could have materialized.

Permutations and combinations

Of the three outcomes, that were possible, outcome One and Three would have made India too small or too large. The important points are that: –

1. The West could NOT let the larger ‘Federal’ India come into being. What could have stopped either the British or the IML to up the ante, the moment the Congress agreed to anything. The larger India would have left us an India that would be unwieldy, i.e. open to ‘unrest’, ‘independence movements’, etc .

2. The Indian polity (principally the Congress + the other political parties) would NOT accept a lesser India – i.e. with an Nizam of Hyderabad or a Nawab of Junagadh wanting to be a part of Pakistan.

Looking at the contours of the situation, ground realities and realpolitik of the era, the Partition scenario seemed manageable. Having gone down that road, where are we today? What direction do we take?

The most unproductive exercise is to blame any of the individual players – including the IML and Jinnah. If for a minute, if we are to assume, that Jinnah was intractable to British overtures, was it too difficult for the British to prop up some one else. After all, Congress derived some of the legitimacy, from the fact that the British preferred to talk only to the Congress.

After 60 years

India, China and Pakistan are nuclear powers, all. History shows that when our people live in peace, there is peace in the world. When there is war in our countries, the world is at war. Peace in our countries will usher peace in the world.

While India-China-Pakistan glare at each other ...

While India-China-Pakistan glare at each other ...

Our three countries are blessed with adequate, natural resources – and between us three, we hardly need anyone else in the world. The rest of the world cannot say that about itself – or for us. Remember, the world still ‘orients’ itself.

Between our three countries, we have foreign exchange currency reserves of more than US$2.5 trillion – equal to the one-third the global forex reserves. Each year, we subsidize the West to the tune of US$250 billion in currency depreciation.

It is this subsidy that enables the West to continue exploiting us. Between our three countries, we have one-third of the world’s gold reserves.

The subsidy by the three of us to the West increases, when we use the PPP matrix. Based on PPP, Western currencies are overvalued by 30%-50%. Combine the fact, that the current system allows the West to maintain no foreign exchange reserves and to use their own over valued currencies for trade, means that they pay us a lot less – and we pay them a lot more.

As various colonial powers were forced out of various colonies, left behind was the garbage of colonialism. This post-colonial debris has become the ballast, that is dragging down many newly de-colonized countries.

60 years on, there is nothing to show for these border disputes. Dutifully, the Indians, Pakistanis and the Chinese glare at each other – over colonial border issues. These border issues are less than peripheral to our nations. We have allowed the past to hold our future as a hostage.

The past is extracting a ransom that we cannot afford to pay. Let us recognize our past for what it is – empty ballast that is dragging us down. Having achieved nothing on this front for the last 60 years, why do we wish to continue down that path?

While the world was busy writing off India ...

While the world was busy writing off India ...

Sixty years earlier, 80% of the world’s poorest lived in our countries . For many decades now, peoples in our country have been patient in their suffering. There has been progress. These poorest of the world, living in our countries, deserve a better deal. A much better deal.

Between our three countries, lives half of humanity. The poorest half of humanity. At one time the richest half of humanity. They deserve peace, security, progress. We have 5000 years of history to show that we can do it. We have done it many times before. We can do it again. That is all our poorest ask and need.

Are medical evacuation efforts worrying militaries?

Defence IQ
Contributor: Richard de Silva
Posted: 07/26/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0

With the conflict in Afghanistan winding down and the withdrawal of all major international forces rapidly approaching, commanders have realised that the window of opportunity to learn, test and analyse for tomorrow’s conflict is beginning to slide shut.

Specifically, the US military and other key players have all begun a concerted research drive for information, particularly when it comes to ensuring the survivability of troops on the frontline.

The biggest area of concern appears to be in the fields of battlefield healthcare and medical evacuation, which require constant improvement despite the leaps and bounds in progress over the past fifty years.

Real-time research already being carried out in Afghanistan includes MRI scanning on troops suffering mild trauma to the brain from IED incidents and the effects of high-altitude on damaged brains during medevac.

As per the culture of modern armed forces, past experiences in evacuation – both of distant history and of more recent occurrence – must undergo thorough analysis and assessment in order to improve procedures in the future.
Compiling an accurate understanding is not an option. In fact, it is now felt by many commanders that the reliability of personnel extraction and of long-term healthcare for troops have a key impact on the path of conflict.

Personnel Recovery vs Public Relations

The indelible relationship between the two types of PR is hardly news to those who know their history.

The US in particular puts so much value in personnel recovery today because reportage of POW losses and rescues has had such a resonant effect on the perception of a campaign, as well as the politics and President involved, for over 60 years.
Looking back at the recent activity in Libya, the downing of an F-15 in March 2011, caused by nothing more than an onboard technical failure, saw no crew captured or killed thanks to the urgency given to recovery operations on the insistence of senior commanders.

Had this not been the case, it could well be argued that the entire operation may have failed, owing to the inevitable public backlash. For certain, Barack Obama would certainly be looking far less confident of re-election.

More recently, UK Special Forces experienced a rare mission failure when attempting to rescue British and Italian hostages from a Nigerian branch of Al-Qaeda. The result was not only a tragic loss of life, but also added pressure on ministers and led to a dispute between the UK and Italian governments over blame and procedure.
So there is indeed a strategic reason for this upswing in recovery and in combat healthcare. As John Frisbee of AirForce Magazine once said of the military intervention in the 1975 seizing of the SS Mayaguez, “it was important to counter a growing feeling among US allies and adversaries that this country was a ‘helpless giant’, an unreliable ally lacking resolve.”

Time has not changed this requirement, but what has changed is the attention from senior leaders to the immediate need for recovery operations to continue to receive analysis and investment, given the general success of PR efforts across the board.

Improving Joint PR Operations

Paul Miller, Director of the Personnel Recovery Education and Training Centre (PRETC), outlined the problems in planning such operations as being a “cognitive” issue.

There can frequently be a lack of understanding in the planning phase, often when operators are oversimplifying or generalising the task at hand to the rest of the team.

During execution itself, Miller believes it to be a challenge to find any time to question or analyse the operation, or indeed to theorise on the wider implications of the actions being undertaken, and yet there must be a method of focus under which this can be achieved.

“Leaders may understand the value of PR,” said Miller, “but if they only understand
it when it occurs, that’s too late.”

“Leave no one behind – we’ve all heard the phrase, but there needs to be a tactical plan ahead of time to ensure that happens.”

In that sense, Miller demonstrated the complexity of the decision and implication process, pointing to a list of considerations such as evaluating the uniqueness of other services involved in an operation – as well as coalition partners, other governments and authorities – and then fully grasping where the capabilities and responsibilities may rest.

“It goes against our human nature to not just act, but sometimes you have to pass over PR to more able partners, even if that’s hard for us to do.”

21st Century Medevac

Back in World War II, the time to transport a patient from the frontline to a hospital on home soil could take up to 90 days by land or sea. Yet it was during this conflict that helicopters first introduced a proven requirement for fast and effective medical evacuation.

Before this time, primitive air ambulances had been used to some benefit in Europe during World War I, greatly reducing the mortality rate. Even before this, in 1866, Jules Verne had written a ‘science fiction’ tale in which sailors are recued by hot air balloon – a scenario that came true a mere four years later during the Siege of Paris.

Today, the United States Air Force has 32 Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) squadrons in operation, working alongside other valued medical units including physicians, reserves, and CCATT (Critical Care Air Transport Team) members.

As each AE crew complement requires two flight nurses, training has been honed to between 11-18 weeks to bring a registered nurse to the standard for flight nurse. This universal qualification demands that the nurse trains on three altogether different types of aircraft: KC-135; C-130; and C-17. As such, the individual is outfitted with the awareness of different loading systems, oxygen needs, and other variables.

While US forces had seen only a 6 per cent drop in the combat mortality rate between World War II and the 1990 Persian Gulf War (30 per cent to 24 per cent) – owing perhaps to AE long being viewed as a last resort behind the philosophy of getting the injured soldier fixed up and straight back into action – the figure for recent campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is under 10 per cent.

The reason behind this change is down to a number of factors, but the formation of CCATTs in 1996 has been a huge boon owing to its focus on continuously stabilizing patients during transport. These teams offer the specialities of a CC doctor, a CC nurse, and a cardiopulmonary technician, all individually trained within an 8 week programme.

Alongside the progress was the attention to joint trauma solutions, which exposed a gap in critical care within the aircraft. To address this, Tactical Critical Care Evacuation Teams (TCCETs) have also been established to provide even more advanced care, from aggressive resuscitation at the point-of-injury and throughout the evacuation process.

Today, the average timeframe for getting a wounded soldier from the battlefield to surgical care is between 20-75 minutes, while taking a downed infantryman from the combat zones of Enduring Freedom to the military hospital in Landstuhl is between 24-48 hours, and to the Continental United States (CONUS MTF), just 2-4 days. This is quite an improvement on the 8 day average at the beginning of the Afghanistan campaign, and even more so on the 45 days once suffered by those deployed to Vietnam.
Among the planned improvements paving the road forward are agreements with Australia, the UK and Canada on the mutual use of equipment and landing space, such as flying US teams into Camp Bastion.

Tailing off from joint operations is the new Instructor Exchange programme, offering medical staff from all militaries the chance to tap into a wider pool of operational lessons.

New Technology

As USAF looks to develop its medical capability at a strategic level, so to is it looking to develop the instruments on-hand.
AE teams are now benefiting from the likes of video assisted intubation, vacuum spinal immobilisation and virtual (simulator) training.
Colonel (Rtd) Jace Sotomayer, senior advisor to the Air Force Surgeon General HQ, has a firm understanding of the needs for airborne combat healthcare given his background as an aviator.

His work involves liaising with analysts, academics and manufacturers to work out the best approaches to modernising equipment at every level, from where there is an immediate hazard present to when evacuation and en-route care is required.
“Modernisation is a long and consistent road and we’re always trying to improve.
“Budget cutbacks are always noted but it is something that has to happen or you’re going to be obsolete.”

Sotomayor explained that there are two paths to improving equipment; one is the long development laboratory based approach for high-tech systems, and the other is looking at what the industry have waiting on the shelf and whether that is something the military can augment to fit its immediate needs.

Approving private sector technology off course requires testing and often, where aeromedical units require the same sensitive equipment to work in a variety of platforms, there is more difficulty in getting them to meet all operational standards.

He gave the example of a NATO-standard litter with undercarriage sensors to measure the body for vital signs:

“Looked good in the lab, company brought it forward, the work was good, however, as part of a field test, we put it onboard one of our rescue helicopters.
“The propeller blades of the helicopter caused a frequency change, so the readings were altered.

“In fact, GPS had had the same problem, radios had the same problem – these things can be overcome, you just have to work at it, but just because you have a good piece of equipment doesn’t mean it’s going to work in all places and in all cases.”
As to the emerging technologies that were proving significant, Sotomayor referred to diagnostic instruments, including a virtualisation effort called ‘FELIX’, named after the cartoon cat and his bottomless magic bag of tricks.

“Your first responder will open a bag and be able to pull out a device that will give you some form of medical treatment – a small technology, a diagnostic device, something to transmit or receive information quicker, a video transmitter that will allow you to conference with a doctor somewhere else in the world.
“Data’s no good unless we can move it, so we’re trying to link that data through a standardised data network cloud, so the data is effective not only for immediate treatment, but when the troop gets back, his data record is there.”

Medevac Worldwide

Akin to the Instructor Exchange programme, forces from many countries are finding increasing value in working with friendly nations, but in itself, this approach also presents its own share of problems.
Lieutenant Colonel Jose Peralba, the head of a medevac unit for the Spanish Air Force who was stationed recently at Bagram Airfield, spoke on the issue of interoperability.

“It’s becoming a more and more important issue as we are working in multinational environments and most of the international conflicts that the US and Europeans are involved in,” he said.
“Protocols differ quite a bit and there’s a lot of mistrust from different countries who like to take care of their own patients.

“The only way to surpass that is to have common protocols and feedback on testing.”
Peralba also has the same concerns that worry every one of his international counterparts, such as the ongoing debate over the degree of readied medical care required on the aircraft.

“If you get a severely wounded combatant, you may need to get more than just a combat medic on the forward helicopter, but we may be told we are risking sparse resources like doctors and nurses, but on the other hand, you are risking a lot of other resources on those same missions by not using them.
“So it’s a command call, and we need to ‘protocolize’ how to intervene in those cases.”

Every nation possesses a valuable perspective on operating within a domestic environment that may be second nature to them, but that may one day also prove useful to other troops going into conflict in similar settings in the future, but who may not have enough experience within those conditions.

“The greatest challenges facing our aeromedical community in our country lies in our geography,” explained Lieutenant Colonel Lina Maria Mateus, head of the Colombian Air Force’s Special Medical Operations Centre.
Colombia is sandwiched between two large bodies of water, is covered in mountains and rainforest, and is dealing with internal militarised strife, meaning medevac is not only an ongoing requirement, but is about as tough to deliver as anywhere else in the world.

“Even if you have all the assets and capabilities together in one centre,” said Mateus, “with highly experienced aircrew and medical crew, it can take a lot of time to recover isolated personnel or soldier in the field – there’s too much rain, too little visibility, too hostile an environment.”

Mateus stressed that there is a big difference between the type of fighting taking place against the FARC in Colombia and the Taliban in the Middle East, but noted that there has emerged a common type of injury which both Colombian and coalition forces must treat.
“Of course, abdominal wounds are very difficult to treat, but the most frequent injury is limb wounds from the IED.
“It’s becoming easier to treat, but in the past we lost many people through blood loss.”

Indeed, the IED injury is only second to “general sickness” for medevac response missions, outweighing the likes of gunshot wounds and even simple accidents.
Aside to domestic terrorism, Colombian medevac teams deal with everything from providing humanitarian assistance – including Earthquake’s in Chile, Haiti, Guatemala and Costa Rica, not to mention its own severe flooding and forest fires – to rescuing mountaineers in the Andes.

To tackle this, the government established the National Personnel Recovery Centre (NPRC) as a joint service pool of resources in 2008, involving the Department of Defence and Department of Health, with equipment support from the US, and it sees advantage in discussing progress with agencies in other nations.

“Nowadays, we have advanced medical group support, which includes general surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, anaesthetists, and all kinds of resources to treat the patient in that ‘golden hour’,” Mateus explained.

“But we have to hear from other countries because that will help us to establish ourselves as the best at medevac and PR in our region – that’s our goal.”

The Israeli Crisis

August 14, 2012 | 0859 GMT


By George Friedman

Crises are normally short, sharp and intense affairs. Israel's predicament has developed on a different time frame, is more diffuse than most crises and has not reached a decisive and intense moment. But it is still a crisis. It is not a crisis solely about Iran, although the Israeli government focuses on that issue. Rather, it is over Israel's strategic reality since 1978, when it signed the Camp David accords with Egypt.

Perhaps the deepest aspect of the crisis is that Israel has no internal consensus on whether it is in fact a crisis, or if so, what the crisis is about. The Israeli government speaks of an existential threat from Iranian nuclear weapons. I would argue that the existential threat is broader and deeper, part of it very new, and part of it embedded in the founding of Israel.

Israel now finds itself in a long-term crisis in which it is struggling to develop a strategy and foreign policy to deal with a new reality. This is causing substantial internal stress, since the domestic consensus on Israeli policy is fragmenting at the same time that the strategic reality is shifting. Though this happens periodically to nations, Israel sees itself in a weak position in the long run due to its size and population, despite its current military superiority. More precisely, it sees the evolution of events over time potentially undermining that military reality, and it therefore feels pressured to act to preserve it. How to preserve its superiority in the context of the emerging strategic reality is the core of the Israeli crisis.


Since 1978, Israel's strategic reality had been that it faced no threat of a full peripheral war. After Camp David, the buffer of the Sinai Peninsula separated Egypt and Israel, and Egypt had a government that did not want that arrangement to break. Israel still faced a formally hostile Syria. Syria had invaded Lebanon in 1976 to crush the Palestine Liberation Organization based there and reconsolidate its hold over Lebanon, but knew it could not attack Israel by itself. Syria remained content reaching informal understandings with Israel. Meanwhile, relatively weak and isolated Jordan depended on Israel for its national security. Lebanon alone was unstable. Israel periodically intervened there, not very successfully, but not at very high cost.

The most important of Israel's neighbors, Egypt, is now moving on an uncertain course. This weekend, new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi removed five key leaders of the military and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and revoked constitutional amendments introduced by the military. There are two theories on what has happened. In the first, Morsi -- who until his election was a senior leader of the country's mainstream Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood -- is actually much more powerful than the military and is acting decisively to transform the Egyptian political system. In the second, this is all part of an agreement between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood that gives Morsi the appearance of greater power while actually leaving power with the military.

On the whole, I tend to think that the second is the case. Still, it is not clear how this will evolve: The appearance of power can turn into the reality of power. Despite any sub rosa agreements between the military and Morsi, how these might play out in a year or two as the public increasingly perceives Morsi as being in charge -- limiting the military's options and cementing Morsi's power -- is unknown. In the same sense, Morsi has been supportive of security measures taken by the military against militant Islamists, as was seen in the past week's operations in the Sinai Peninsula.

The Sinai remains a buffer zone against major military forces, but not against the paramilitaries linked to radical Islamists who have increased their activities in the peninsula since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Last week, they attacked an Egyptian military post on the Gaza border, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers. This followed several attacks against Israeli border crossings. Morsi condemned the attack and ordered a large-scale military crackdown in the Sinai. Two problems could arise from this.

First, the Egyptians' ability to defeat the militant Islamists depends on redefining the Camp David accords, at least informally, to allow Egypt to deploy substantial forces there (though even this might not suffice). These additional military forces might not threaten Israel immediately, but setting a precedent for a greater Egyptian military presence in the Sinai Peninsula could eventually lead to a threat.

This would be particularly true if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood impose their will on the Egyptian military. If we take Morsi at face value as a moderate, the question becomes who will succeed him. The Muslim Brotherhood is clearly ascendant, and the possibility that a secular democracy would emerge from the Egyptian uprising is unlikely. It is also clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is a movement with many competing factions. And it is clear from the elections that the Muslim Brotherhood represents the most popular movement in Egypt and that no one can predict how it will evolve or which factions will dominate and what new tendencies will arise. Egypt in the coming years will not resemble Egypt of the past generation, and that means that the Israeli calculus for what will happen on its southern front will need to take Hamas in Gaza into account and perhaps an Islamist Egypt prepared to ally with Hamas.

Syria and Lebanon

A similar situation exists in Syria. The secular and militarist regime of the al Assad family is in serious trouble. As mentioned, the Israelis had a working relationship with the Syrians going back to the Syrian invasion of Lebanon against the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1976. It was not a warm relationship, but it was predictable, particularly in the 1990s: Israel allowed Syria a free hand in Lebanon in exchange for Damascus limiting Hezbollah's actions.

Lebanon was not exactly stable, but its instability hewed to a predictable framework. That understanding broke down when the United States seized an opportunity to force Syria to retreat from Lebanon in 2006 following the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. The United States used the Cedar Revolution that rose up in defiance of Damascus to retaliate against Syria for allowing al Qaeda to send jihadists into Iraq from Syria.

This didn't spark the current unrest in Syria, which appears to involve a loose coalition of Sunnis including elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. Though Israel far preferred Syrian President Bashar al Assad to them, al Assad himself was shifting his behavior. The more pressure he came under, the more he became dependent on Iran. Israel began facing the unpleasant prospect of a Sunni Islamist government emerging or a government heavily dependent on Iran. Neither outcome appealed to Israel, and neither outcome was in Israel's control.

Just as dangerous to Israel would be the Lebanonization of Syria. Syria and Lebanon are linked in many ways, though Lebanon's political order was completely different and Syria could serve as a stabilizing force for it. There is now a reasonable probability that Syria will become like Lebanon, namely, a highly fragmented country divided along religious and ethnic lines at war with itself. Israel's best outcome would be for the West to succeed in preserving Syria's secular military regime without al Assad. But it is unclear how long a Western-backed regime resting on the structure of al Assad's Syria would survive. Even the best outcome has its own danger. And while Lebanon itself has been reasonably stable in recent years, when Syria catches a cold, Lebanon gets pneumonia. Israel thus faces the prospect of declining security to its north.

The U.S. Role and Israel's Strategic Lockdown

It is important to take into account the American role in this, because ultimately Israel's national security -- particularly if its strategic environment deteriorates -- rests on the United States. For the United States, the current situation is a strategic triumph. Iran had been extending its power westward, through Iraq and into Syria. This represented a new force in the region that directly challenged American interests. Where Israel originally had an interest in seeing al Assad survive, the United States did not. Washington's primary interest lay in blocking Iran and keeping it from posing a threat to the Arabian Peninsula. The United States saw Syria, particularly after the uprising, as an Iranian puppet. While the United States was delighted to see Iran face a reversal in Syria, Israel was much more ambivalent about that outcome.

The Israelis are always opposed to the rising regional force. When that was Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, they focused on Nasser. When it was al Qaeda and its sympathizers, they focused on al Qaeda. When it was Iran, they focused on Tehran. But simple opposition to a regional tendency is no longer a sufficient basis for Israeli strategy. As in Syria, Israel must potentially oppose all tendencies, where the United States can back one. That leaves Israeli policy incoherent. Lacking the power to impose a reality on Syria, the best Israel can do is play the balance of power. When its choice is between a pro-Iranian power and a Sunni Islamist power, it can no longer play the balance of power. Since it lacks the power to impose a reality, it winds up in a strategic lockdown.

Israel's ability to influence events on its borders was never great, but events taking place in bordering countries are now completely beyond its control. While Israeli policy has historically focused on the main threat, using the balance of power to stabilize the situation and ultimately on the decisive use of military force, it is no longer possible to identify the main threat. There are threats in all of its neighbors, including Jordan (where the kingdom's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is growing in influence while the Hashemite monarchy is reviving relations with Hamas). This means using the balance of power within these countries to create secure frontiers is no longer an option. It is not clear there is a faction for Israel to support or a balance that can be achieved. Finally, the problem is political rather than military. The ability to impose a political solution is not available.

Against the backdrop, any serious negotiations with the Palestinians are impossible. First, the Palestinians are divided. Second, they are watching carefully what happens in Egypt and Syria since this might provide new political opportunities. Finally, depending on what happens in neighboring countries, any agreement Israel might reach with the Palestinians could turn into a nightmare.

The occupation therefore continues, with the Palestinians holding the initiative. Unrest begins when they want it to begin and takes the form they want it to have within the limits of their resources. The Israelis are in a responsive mode. They can't eradicate the Palestinian threat. Extensive combat in Gaza, for example, has both political consequences and military limits. Occupying Gaza is easy; pacifying Gaza is not.

Israel's Military and Domestic Political Challenges

The crisis the Israelis face is that their levers of power, the open and covert relationships they had, and their military force are not up to the task of effectively shaping their immediate environment. They have lost the strategic initiative, and the type of power they possess will not prove decisive in dealing with their strategic issues. They no longer are operating at the extremes of power, but in a complex sphere not amenable to military solutions.

Israel's strong suit is conventional military force. It can't fully understand or control the forces at work on its borders, but it can understand the Iranian nuclear threat. This leads it to focus on the sort of conventional conflict they excel at, or at least used to excel at. The 2006 war with Hezbollah was quite conventional, but Israel was not prepared for an infantry war. The Israelis instead chose to deal with Lebanon via an air campaign, but that failed to achieve their political ends.

The Israelis want to redefine the game to something they can win, which is why their attention is drawn to the Iranian nuclear program. Of all their options in the region, a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities apparently plays to their strengths. Two things make such a move attractive. The first is that eliminating Iran's nuclear capability is desirable for Israel. The nuclear threat is so devastating that no matter how realistic the threat is, removing it is desirable.

Second, it would allow Israel to demonstrate the relevance of its power in the region. It has been a while since Israel has had a significant, large-scale military victory. The 1980s invasion of Lebanon didn't end well; the 2006 war was a stalemate; and while Israel may have achieved its military goals in the 2008 invasion of Gaza, that conflict was a political setback. Israel is still taken seriously in the regional psychology, but the sense of inevitability Israel enjoyed after 1967 is tattered. A victory on the order of destroying Iranian weapons would reinforce Israel's relevance.

It is, of course, not clear that the Israelis intend to launch such an attack. And it is not clear that such an attack would succeed. It is also not clear that the Iranian counter at the Strait of Hormuz wouldn't leave Israel in a difficult political situation, and above all it is not clear that Egyptian and Syrian factions would even be impressed by the attacks enough to change their behavior.

Israel also has a domestic problem, a crisis of confidence. Many military and intelligence leaders oppose an attack on Iran. Part of their opposition is rooted in calculation. Part of it is rooted in a series of less-than-successful military operations that have shaken their confidence in the military option. They are afraid both of failure and of the irrelevance of the attack on the strategic issues confronting Israel.

Political inertia can be seen among Israeli policymakers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to form a coalition with the centrist Kadima Party, but that fell apart over the parochial Israeli issue of whether Orthodox Jews should be drafted. Rather than rising to the level of a strategic dialogue, the secularist constituency of Kadima confronted the religious constituencies of the Likud coalition and failed to create a government able to devise a platform for decisive action.

This is Israel's crisis. It is not a sudden, life-threatening problem but instead is the product of unraveling regional strategies, a lack of confidence earned through failure and a political system incapable of unity on any particular course. Israel, a small country that always has used military force as its ultimate weapon, now faces a situation where the only possible use of military force -- against Iran -- is not only risky, it is not clearly linked to any of the main issues Israel faces other than the nuclear issue.

The French Third Republic was marked by a similar sense of self-regard overlaying a deep anxiety. This led to political paralysis and Paris' inability to understand the precise nature of the threat and to shape their response to it. Rather than deal with the issues at hand in the 1930s, they relied on past glories to guide them. That didn't turn out very well.

Read more: The Israeli Crisis | Stratfor