February 27, 2014

Asia’s New Security Trifecta

By Jaswant Singh


NEW DELHI – Winter is India’s diplomatic high season, with the cool, sunny weather forming an ideal backdrop for pageantry, photo ops at the Taj Mahal or Delhi’s Red Fort, and bilateral deal-making. But this winter has been particularly impressive, with leaders from Japan and South Korea visiting to advance the cause of security cooperation in Asia.

The first to arrive was South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Despite a strong economic foundation, the bilateral relationship has long lacked a meaningful security dimension. But China’s recent assertiveness – including its unilateral declaration last November of a new Air Defense Identification Zone, which overlaps about 3,000 square kilometers of South Korea’s own ADIZ, in the Sea of Japan – has encouraged Park to shore up her country’s security ties with India.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s unpredictable and often provocative policies represent an additional impetus for improved ties – as do China’s increasingly visible plans to weaken South Korea’s alliance with the United States. Not surprisingly, the discussions during Park’s four-day visit focused on grand strategy, and included detailed talks on maritime security and naval shipbuilding.

Nuclear energy also featured prominently on the agenda, owing to both countries’ dependence on energy imported through dangerous sea-lanes. In 2008, South Korea, as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, supported the waiver granting India access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries – both of which it had been denied since becoming a nuclear-weapons power in 1974. Indeed, India’s nuclear tests are what initially spurred the NSG’s formation. South Korea’s support of India’s civilian nuclear ambitions earned it high praise in India and helped to advance bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation.

This budding strategic partnership is undoubtedly important. But when it comes to the regional balance of power, India’s deepening ties with Japan are even more consequential.

While India’s relationship with the United States has been faltering of late, following the arrest and mistreatment of an Indian consular official in New York, its ties with Japan are flourishing. The visit last December of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko was the clearest sign yet of a de facto alliance between the two democracies.

The imperial couple last visited India more than a half-century ago, as Crown Prince and Princess, when India was part of the non-aligned movement and Japan was happy with a security guarantee from the US. But, with China’s rise having shifted Asia’s balance of power, Indian and Japanese leaders have been seeking new security assurances, and the visit by the Emperor and Empress was the clearest signal Japan could send concerning the value it places on this
emerging alliance.

The search for greater security was even more explicit in January, when Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera spent four days in India discussing the specifics of enhanced defense cooperation. During the meeting, Onodera and his Indian counterpartaffirmed their countries’ intention to “strengthen the Strategic and Global Partnership between Japan and India,” including “measures ranging from regular joint-combat exercises and military exchanges to cooperation in anti-piracy, maritime security, and counter-terrorism.” In fact, later this year, bilateral naval exercises will be held in Japanese waters for the first time – sending a powerful signal to China.

But Indo-Japanese relations must extend beyond the realm of security – something that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pursued enhanced bilateral ties more vigorously than any other Japanese leader, seems to grasp. Convinced that a strong India is in Japan’s best interests, and vice versa, Abe hopes to create a new “arc of freedom and prosperity” connecting Asia’s two major democratic economies.

While Abe could have done more during his recent visit to India to advance this vision for example, by meeting with Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi, who may become the country’s next prime minister – it seems certain that such a
relationship will be achieved in the coming years. Japan has already surpassed the US as one of India’s largest sources of foreign direct investment, accounting for inflows totaling $2.2 billion last year. And the two countries recently tripled their US dollar currency-swap arrangement, bringing it to $50 billion.

Abe, India’s chief guest at this year’s Republic Day celebrations, also rightly views enhanced trade as a key element in deepening the bilateral relationship, thereby contributing to substantially increased security. But bilateral trade amounted to only$18.4 billion in 2011-2012 – far smaller thanIndia-China trade and a pittance compared to Japan-China trade.

Even with a significant deepening of ties, however, bilateral relationships alone will be inadequate to counterbalance China. Achieving an internal Asian balance of power will require India, Japan, and South Korea to build a tripartite security arrangement, which can be achieved only if Japanese and South Korean leaders overcome their historical animosities.

As Winston Churchill declared in his famous 1946 speech in Zurich, “We cannot afford to drag forward across the years that are to come the hatreds and revenges which have sprung from the injuries of the past.” Just as France and Germany
pursued reconciliation in order to build a better future in the years following Churchill’s declaration, Japan and South Korea must learn to tame the hatreds and injuries of the past in order to build, with India, a structure of peace and a more prosperous future for Asia.

Copyright Project Syndicate

Jaswant Singh, a former Indian finance minister, foreign minister, and defense minister, is the author of Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence and India At Risk: Mistakes, Misconceptions And Misadventures Of Security Policy.

Six Steps to a Done Deal on Nuclear Iran

By Joe Cirincione

The stakes could not be higher, or the issues tougher, as the world's six major powers and Iran launch talks on February 18 on a final resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The goal "is to reach a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful," says the temporary Joint Plan of Action, which calls for six months of negotiations. If talks fail, the prospects of military action and potentially another Middle East conflict soar.

Six issues are pivotal to an accord. The terms on each must be accepted by all parties - Iran on one side and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States on the other - or there is no deal. The Joint Plan notes, "This comprehensive solution would constitute an integrated whole where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

1. Limiting Uranium Enrichment

Iran's ability to enrich uranium is at the heart of the international controversy. The process can fuel both peaceful nuclear energy and the world's deadliest weapon. Since 2002, Iran's has gradually built an independent capability to enrich uranium, which it claims is only for medical research and to fuel an energy program. But the outside world has long been suspicious of Tehran's intentions because its program exceeds its current needs. Iran's only nuclear reactor for energy, in the port city of Bushehr, is fueled by the Russian contractor that built it.

Centrifuges are the key to enriching uranium. In 2003, Iran had fewer than 200 centrifuges. In 2014, it has approximately 19,000. About 10,000 are now enriching uranium; the rest are installed but not operating. To fuel a nuclear power reactor, centrifuges are used to increase the ratio of the isotope U-235 in natural uranium from less than 1% to between 3% and 5%. But the same centrifuges can also spin uranium gas to 90% purity, the level required for a bomb.

Experts differ on how many centrifuges Iran should be allowed to operate. Zero is optimal, but Iran almost certainly will not agree to eliminate totally a program costing billions of dollars over more than a decade. Iranian officials fear the outside world wants Tehran to be dependent on foreign sources of enriched uranium, which could then be used as leverage on Iran - under threat of cutting off its medical research and future nuclear energy independence.

Most experts say somewhere between 4,000 and 9,000 operating centrifuges would allow many months of warning time if Iran started to enrich uranium to bomb-grade levels. The fewer centrifuges, the longer Iran would need to "break out" from fuel production to weapons production.

So the basic issues are: Can the world's major powers convince Iran to disable or even dismantle some of the operating centrifuges? If so, how low will Iran agree to go? And will Iran agree to cut back enrichment to only one site, which would mean closing the underground facility at Fordow?

A deal may generally have to include:

·         reducing the number of Iran's centrifuges,

·         limiting uranium enrichment to no more than 5%, and

·         capping centrifuge capabilities at current levels.

In short, as George Shultz and Henry Kissinger say, a deal must "define a level of Iranian nuclear capacity limited to plausible civilian uses and to achieve safeguards to ensure that this level is not exceeded."

2. Preventing a Plutonium Path

Iran's heavy water reactor in Arak, which is unfinished, is another big issue. Construction of this small research reactor began in the 1990s; the stated goal was to produce medical isotopes and up to 40 megawatts of thermal power for civilian use. But the "reactor design appears much better suited for producing bomb-grade plutonium than for civilian uses", warn former secretary of defense William Perry and former Los Alamos Laboratory director Siegfried Hecker.

For years, Iranian officials allowed weapons inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, intermittent access to Arak. Inspectors have been granted more access since the Joint Plan of Action went into effect on January 20, but satellite imagery can no longer monitor site activity due to completion of the facility's outer structure.

The reactor will be capable of annually producing nine kilograms of plutonium, which is enough material to produce one or two nuclear weapons. However, the reactor is at least a year away from operating, and then it would need to run for 12 to 18 months to generate that much plutonium. Iran also does not have a facility to reprocess the spent fuel to extract the plutonium. In early February, Iranian officials announced they would be willing to modify the design plans of the reactor to allay Western concerns, although they provided no details.

3. Verification

The temporary Joint Plan allows more extensive and intrusive inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities. UN inspectors now have daily access to Iran's primary enrichment facilities at the Nantaz and Fordow plants, the Arak heavy water reactor, and the centrifuge assembly facilities. Inspectors are now also allowed into Iran's uranium mines.

Over the next six months, negotiations will have to define a reliable long-term inspection system to verify that Iran's nuclear program is used only for peaceful purposes. A final deal will have to further expand inspections to new sites. The most sensitive issue may be access to sites suspected of holding evidence of Iran's past efforts to build an atomic bomb. The IAEA suspects, for example, that Iran tested explosive components needed for a nuclear bomb at Parchin military base.

Iran may be forthcoming on inspections. Its officials have long held that transparency - rather than reduction of capabilities - is the key to assuring the world that its program is peaceful. They have indicated a willingness to implement stricter inspections required under the IAEA's Additional Protocol - and maybe even go beyond it. But they are also likely to want more inspections matched by substantial sanctions relief and fewer cutbacks on the numbers of centrifuges in operation. At least four of the six major powers - the United States, Britain, France and Germany - will almost certainly demand both increased inspections and fewer, less capable centrifuges.

4. Clarifying the Past

The issue is not just Iran's current program and future potential. Several troubling questions from the past must also be answered. The temporary deal created a joint commission to work with the IAEA on past issues, including suspected research on nuclear weapon technologies. Iran denies that it ever worked on nuclear weapons, but the circumstantial evidence about past Iranian experiments is quite strong.

Among the issues:

·         research on polonium-210, which can be used as a neutron trigger for a nuclear bomb;

·         research on a missile re-entry vehicle, which could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon; and

·         suspected high-explosives testing, which could be used to compress a bomb core to critical mass.

Iran may be reluctant to come clean unless it is guaranteed amnesty for past transgressions - and can find a way to square them with its many vigorous denials. And any suspicions that Iran is lying will undermine even rigorous new inspections that verify Iran's technology is now being used solely for civilian purposes.

On February 8, in a potential breakthrough, the IAEA and Iran agreed on specific actions that Iran would take to provide information and explanations of its past activities. "Resolution of these issues will allow the agency to verify the completeness and correctness of Iran's nuclear activities," says Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association, "and help ensure that Tehran is not engaged in undeclared activities." Resolving all past issues before a final agreement may prove difficult, however. Negotiations may instead produce a process for eventual resolution.

5. Sanctions Relief

Iran's primary goal is to get access to some US$100 billion in funds frozen in foreign banks and to end the many sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Since the toughest US sanctions were imposed in mid-2012, Iran's currency and oil exports have both plummeted by some 60%.

The temporary Joint Plan of Action says a final agreement will "comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions ... on a schedule to be agreed upon". (It does not, however, address sanctions imposed on other issues, such as support for extremist groups or human rights abuses.) The United States and the Europeans may want to keep some sanctions in place until they are assured that Iran is meeting new obligations.

The specter of the US Congress will overshadow negotiations. Its approval will be required to remove the most onerous sanctions imposed over the past five years. "The US Congress will have to allow meaningful sanctions relief to Iran, just as Iran's hard-liners are going to have to be convinced not to stand on principle when it comes to their 'right' to enrich and their demand to have all sanctions lifted," says Brookings Institution scholar Ken Pollack. "The US Congress is going to have to agree to allow Iran's economy to revive and Tehran's hard-liners are going to have to be satisfied with the revival of their economy and some very limited enrichment activity."

6. The Long and Winding Road

The final but critical issue is timing: how long is a long-term deal? It will clearly require years to prove Iran is fully compliant. But estimates vary widely from five to 20 years. Another alternative is a series of shorter agreements that build incrementally on one another.

For all the big issues ahead, both sides have an interest in negotiating a deal. The world's six major powers want to curtail more of Iran's program, while Iran wants to revive its economy and normalize its international relations. If the negotiators succeed, they will make history. Their failure could open the path to a nuclear-armed Iran or a new war in the Middle East - or both.

Joseph Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund and author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World before It Is Too Late

Originally posted on iranprimer.usip.org

Plugging heroin smuggling in Punjab

Since 2005, there has been a shift in the ISI strategy. It wants to push more and more heroin into India through Punjab to generate funds for its covert operations. With its corrosive effect on the youth, heroin is the new weapon to wound India. 
Rohit Choudhary

Heroin from the opium fields of Afghanistan accounts for 83 per cent of the global production (left) and  Drugs are regularly intercepted at the Indo-Pak border in Amritsar

IN 2012, of the total 1,110 kg heroin seized in South Asia, 1,029 kg was seized in India. Out of this haul, 278 kg was seized in Punjab alone. Over the last few years smuggling of heroin in the state has shown an alarmingly phenomenal increase. Last year, the recovery in Punjab touched 416 kg, up from less than 50 kg till 2005. Though the Indo-Pak border manned by the BSF is more than 2,300 km, out of which only 550 km falls in Punjab — the remaining being in J&K, Rajasthan and Gujarat — the recoveries in Punjab are far beyond their share of the border. Last year, only about 20 kg heroin was recovered in Rajasthan and about 40 kg in Gujarat and J&K as against 400 kg in Punjab.

The phenomenon needs a deeper analysis and countermeasures to check the resulting threat to Indian security and damage to society.

Disturbed past

Punjab has lived through an era of terrorism aided and coordinated by Pakistan. Smugglers and couriers from across the border actively participated under the aegis of the ISI in supplying weapons to terrorists. It was with the objective of preventing unchecked movement of terrorists and weapons across the border, which was proving to be major impediment in controlling terrorism in Punjab, that border fencing was erected by India. It was a highly successful measure, but given the topography, the smuggling of weapons could not be prevented entirely. The weapons recovered in Punjab from 1990 to 1994 are a testimony to that. During this period, about 2,000 AK 47/56/74 rifles, 1,200 other rifles, 4,250 small arms, 1,150 hand grenades, 870 bombs, 5,400 kg explosive material and 3 lakh cartridges were recovered in Punjab. The supply of arms and explosives dwindled with the arrival of heroin on the scene.


While the years from 1994 saw a sharp decline in terrorist activities in Punjab, the bid to infiltrate weapons from Pakistan continued. Over a period of time, the consignments began to be mixed with packets of heroin and bundles of fake currency notes to make smuggling lucrative. The period from 1995 to 2005 can be called a decade of transition, whereby the focus of smuggling gradually shifted from weapons to heroin. Since the year 2005, there has been an apparent strategic shift by the ISI to push the drug into India through Punjab. Heroin is easily available from Afghanistan, which accounts for nearly 83 per cent of the global heroin production. This way, the ISI can generate unaccounted money to fund its disruptive covert operations in various parts of India. It also weakens the population, and thereby the nation. Once the pride of the Army, the Punjab youth can now barely match up to the recruitment standards of the force.

Easy money

While the takers for arms and explosives were difficult to find in Punjab, heroin was turning out to be a money spinner, not only for Indian farmers on the border — many of whom started working as couriers — but also for the smugglers on the Indian side. Pakistani couriers easily develop relations with farmers and lure them with huge commission for supplying the consignment. Pakistani mobile phone SIM cards help farmers in safely communicating with Pakistani smugglers without any fear of monitoring and evidence on apprehension. The rate for Indian couriers is Rs 50,000 for five packets to be carried and delivered across the border. If the delivery is made in Delhi, a smuggler makes Rs 2 lakh.

Drug affliction

Punjab is the primary gateway for smuggled opiates. While there are reports of heroin brides from Afghanistan due to economic gains from the drug trade there (55 per cent of Afghanistan’s economy is tied to drugs), in Punjab, Maqboolpura in Amritsar is known as the ‘village of widows’ since many young men have died of drug abuse. The gravity of the menace can be gauged from the fact that only in a span of over nine months (Jan to Oct 2013), over 3,300 FIRs were registered in cases related to drugs and 3,600 persons were arrested in the state for illegally possessing banned drugs. Daulewala of Moga district has earned an unwanted sobriquet — ‘drug capital of Punjab’. In the past six years, this village, with nearly 400 households, has 390 cases registered against its residents pertaining to drug peddling and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. Many villages do not have health clinics but have drugstores, which often make sizeable profits selling pills and other synthetic drugs to addicts who cannot afford heroin.

Drugs in Punjab are a multi-dimensional problem affecting different sections of society. It is a favoured route for the smuggling of heroin and the trend is emerging towards the local distribution of a part of the consignment in the villages and cities of the state. The local population is consuming traditional drugs like poppy husk (1.71 lakh kg last year), charas and ganja in villages and the urban youth is taking to smack. The consumption of shelf drugs from medical stores like cough syrups and Iodex etc. has also gone up. About 12.38 lakh banned capsules, 27,000 injections and 9,000 bottles of habit-forming syrups were seized last year. The production of synthetic drugs like M-amphetamine, or ICE, is being undertaken for smuggling to Europe, Canada and the US.

Multi-pronged approach

India is sandwiched between two major regions of the world producing illicit narcotics (the golden triangle and the golden crescent). On account of being a traditional cultivator of illicit opium and a supplier of this raw material for medical and scientific needs of pharmaceutical industry, which makes use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances to make critical medicines, the Government of India came up with a comprehensive policy on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in the year 2012. The policy attempts to curb the menace of drug abuse and contains provisions for treatment, rehabilitation and social re-integration of victims of drug abuse. Implementation of the provisions of the policy would also lead to reduction of crime and drugs abuse.

Since multiple agencies are involved in the process, there is a need for regular meetings for sharing information and coordination among different agencies in the region such as the police, BSF, Narcotics Control Bureau, Delhi Police, Intelligence Bureau, Customs and Excise, Enforcement Directorate, RAW, Railways and DRI.

There should be strict surveillance on smugglers and ‘hawala’ operators with past record, including those lodged in various jails in Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, J&K and Mumbai. Community participation measures would create awareness and also help in the identification of drug peddlers and persons living beyond their means in the border villages and towns. It is also imperative that some effective mechanism is evolved with Pakistan so that identified smugglers in Pakistan do not indulge in drug trafficking to India with impunity.

The computerised data bank relating to DNA and fingerprints of all drug dealers and peddlers should be maintained and shared among different enforcement and intelligence agencies. The provisions of the relevant Act like criminal procedure code and prison manual should be amended to allow DNA profiling of all arrested persons by different agencies, irrespective of the final outcome of the case. The conviction rate of the NDPS Act cases can be improved by conducting specialised training programmes and strengthening of Forensic Science Laboratories. There are stringent provisions for punishment under the Act and to prevent its misuse and miscarriage of justice, there are additional mandatory requirements pertaining to arrests and recovery to be fulfilled by the investigating officers. These can be highlighted in the training programmes.

Dreadful substitute

Desomorphine, which goes with the street name ‘krokodil’, is a new drug currently and increasingly being used in Russia due to its relatively simple synthesis from codeine which is available over the counter. This was after Russia started a major crackdown on heroin production and trafficking. It has been estimated that around 1,00,000 people use ‘krokodil’ in Russia and its use has been confirmed among Russian expatriate communities in a number of other European countries. It is a cheap alternative to heroin but the impurity of homemade ‘krokodil’ produces severe tissue damage, phlebitis and gangrene, which sometimes requires limb amputation in long-term users. Such drugs may find usage in Punjab too.

As Punjab reels under the onslaught of heroin smuggling from Pakistan, there is a need to adopt a multi-pronged approach and initiate robust measures in the region to counter it urgently.

The writer is ADG, Punjab Police

Smuggling tactics

* Digging tunnels underneath the barbed wire fencing.

* Throwing consignment over the fence.

* Concealing contraband in cultivated land of Indian farmers across the fence and transporting it by hiding it in tractors and other farm implements.

* Smuggling contraband concealed in goods legally imported through rail and road.

* Through riverbed area where barbed wire is either not erected or is breached.

The Partitioning of Iraq: Will the Country Remain on the Map?

Anton VESELOV | 26.02.2014 | 00:00

The West, headed by the United States, as well as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and obviously Israel, have an interest in keeping Iraq from ever again rising to the position of a powerful regional state; they need it to remain a manageable supplier of high-quality petroleum with minimal costs for extraction and export, and also to serve as a bargaining chip in resolving problems of another order.

Most likely the future state structure of Iraq and the country's fate are being decided now not in Baghdad, but in back room negotiations between «very interested parties»... There have been many examples in the history of the Middle East where states appeared or disappeared from the political map during a game of bridge, and the borders between them were drawn with an ordinary ruler. In spite of all the technological achievements of the past decades, in geopolitics and geo-economics little has changed since then.

Recently news from Iraq has all but disappeared from the reports of world news agencies. As if on command, the largest Western media outlets have begun to strictly measure out coverage of events in this country. The multistage Iraqi scheme, which has required colossal expenses and huge casualties, is failing, and the situation is threatening to go completely out of control and progress in an entirely different direction than that which was scripted.

The occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath party marked the beginning of massive repressions of those who had held more or less significant posts in the previous regime. However, soon minor functionaries began to be subject to persecution, and then ordinary citizens, mostly from among Sunnites. The ruling Shiite bloc of Nouri al-Maliki has conducted an openly discriminatory policy toward Sunnites throughout the years of its governance. More than once the state bureaucracy, the armed forces, the police and intelligence agencies have been purged of people who confess Sunni Islam. All attempts by various political forces, including on the parliamentary level, to start a dialog for the purpose of national harmony have been left unanswered by the authorities, and peaceful demonstrations all end the same way: with crackdowns and numerous casualties. Purges, raids and «preventative arrests» took on such proportions that a backlash was inevitable.

Over 9,000 people were killed in Iraq in 2013, and over 1000 in January 2014 alone. Propagandistic attempts to blame everything on the machinations of outside forces and hosts of foreign al-Qaeda insurgents are no longer working: it is becoming obvious that the country is in the grip of a civil war. It is becoming increasingly more violent and is sweeping over more and more regions of the country, increasing casualties and limiting possibilities to choose a future.

Iraq is experiencing a very dramatic period in its history, when the disintegration of the country could become a reality at any moment. Iraqi Kurdistan is already essentially no longer under Baghdad's control and is self-sufficient, with almost all of the agencies, symbols and attributes of an independent state. The situation with regard to security in the provinces of Baghdad, Salah ad-Din, Ninawa, Diyala and several others is extremely tense; the armed conflicts and terrorist attacks which take place each month number in the triple digits. The situation has become most acute in the country's largest province by area, al-Anbar. Since December of last year fierce battles have been being fought there between the government forces, which in Iraq are called the «Shiite Militia of al-Maliki» and local Sunnite tribes who have despaired of gaining equal rights through peaceful means.

On December 28, commando and army forces conducted yet another operation to wipe out the tent camps of protesters by force. Casualties were numerous. The next day a member of parliament from the al-Anbar province who tried to act as a mediator in negotiations with Baghdad was arrested, despite his parliamentary immunity; the legislator received gunshot wounds when his house was stormed, and his brother and four bodyguards were killed. Local sheikhs issued a call to arms. Support arrived from other provinces to aid their brothers in faith. A day later the army and police had been driven from many districts and the armed opposition had taken control of almost all of the al-Anbar province, including the provincial capital Ramadi and the large city of Fallujah, which in Iraq is glorified as «the stronghold of the spirit and the symbol of resistance» - American troops were only able to enter the city a year and a half after their «declaration of victory», having lost over 400 men in battle.

Despite the arrival of reinforcements (according to some reports, another 90,000 troops and policemen were deployed to the province), the many attempts by government forces, commando troops and the police to enter the cities did not meet with success, and in mid-January a siege began: the suburbs are completely blocked off, and residential neighborhoods are coming under intensive fire from artillery, tanks and helicopters. There have been numerous civilian casualties, but those who attempt to leave the battle zone cannot do so, as the bridges on the main highways which connect the cities with neighboring provinces have been blown up, and the back roads have been blocked by the army under the pretext of «preventing the spread of terrorism». The province is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster; On February 6 the head of the UN Mission in Iraq, Nikolai Mladenov, stated that international funds have started sending urgent deliveries of essential commodities to al-Anbar (the first delivery is to be enough for 45,000 people). On February 9 Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq appealed to the European Union to immediately send humanitarian aid to al-Anbar…

On April 30 there are to be parliamentary elections in Iraq, after which there will probably be some changes. The country has come to a dead end. The parliament is dysfunctional; many members do not participate in sessions as a sign of protest against the government's policies, and the lack of a quorum makes it impossible to make decisions. The draft of the country's 2014 budget has not yet been discussed, and many other important bills are in limbo as well. A huge number of vitally important projects which have not been confirmed and have not received funding remain on paper, while the giant revenues from oil and gas go into accounts opened in the U.S.

Many in Iraq have a good idea of where this money goes after that; that is why the Ministry of Finance's refusal to observe a law passed in 2013 which was to increase the amount allocated to provincial budgets for oil extracted there from $1 to $5 per barrel for 2014 caused a storm of protest among local authorities. Governors and provincial councils started actively developing coordinated measures for influencing the government. Judging by official statements, provincial leaders are determined and intend to get the draft budget for 2014 revised by any means available.

On January 11 in al-Diwaniyah, al-Qadisiyyah province, the «Middle Euphrates Convention» was convened with the participation of the governors of five provinces; the convention demanded «the fair distribution of revenues in proportion to the population». On January 25 in Basra, the capital of Iraq's oil extraction, a conference was held with the participation of official representatives of eight oil and gas producing provinces, as well as the parliament's petroleum committee. The next day the governor of Basra, Majid al-Nasrawi, announced that he had filed suit against the Ministry of Finance for its violation of the 2013 law. It is worth noting that the Basra provincial council gave official permission to hold meetings and demonstrations condemning the actions of the country's government and urged everyone to work toward securing «the lawful rights of the residents of the province, which has the richest resources in the country but is at the bottom of the list with regard to prosperity».

According to many analysts, the personal authority, influence and political weight of Nouri al-Maliki and the State of Law Coalition he leads have dropped noticeably. Accusations of authoritarianism, wholesale corruption, inability to maintain security even in the center of the capital (the average number of terrorist attacks with human casualties in Baghdad has grown over the past three years from 70 to 110 per week), and a lack of desire to seek compromise, along with unceasing attempts to physically eliminate his opponents, all seriously reduce Nouri al-Maliki's chances to occupy the post of prime minister and supreme commander in chief for a third time.

Iraqi leaders over the past 10 years have behaved like favored minions. Many former functionaries of the «new democratic government» have already found refuge in prestigious areas of London, starting with the first Minister of Defense, Hazim al-Shaalan (who was once accused of stealing one and a half billion dollars in just the first year in his post). Many current officials have also foresightedly acquired real estate there. According to data from the parliamentary anti-corruption committee, the amount of money embezzled from the treasury and sent abroad is approaching 200 billion dollars.

Foreseeing developments which could be dangerous for them, the current authorities are seriously concerned about preserving the status quo (this is called «continuity of reforms») in order to prevent power from shifting into the hands of their opponents. Recently feverish attempts have been being made to get out of the crisis, including by generating rather unexpected initiatives.

For example, in Baghdad they have officially began talking about redrawing the administrative map of the country, increasing the number of provinces from 18 to 30. Their willingness to do this is supported by a number of official statements, one of which (dated January 21, on the formation of 4 new provinces) was unexpected even for the residents of the municipal district of Fallujah itself, to say nothing of the leadership of the al-Anbar province. The cunning of the idea of fragmentation is that it simultaneously accomplishes several aims, namely:

- dismembering «rebellious» provinces with mostly Sunnite populations while at the same time attempting to bring representatives of the tribes which have joined the Sahwa («Awakening») movement to power; in particular, it has already been decided to turn a number of municipal districts in the provinces of al-Anbar, Salah ad-Din and Ninawa into provinces;

- knocking some of the trumps out of the hands of the leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan by turning 4-5 municipal districts into separate provinces, which would lead to a reduction in the territory and population of the current autonomous region and a diminishing of its weight and influence on the country's political arena. And this regards not only the disputed territories in the provinces of Wasit, Diyala, Ninawa and Kirkuk, but also the «traditionally Kurdish» Dohuk and as-Sulaymaniyyah;

- changing the overall alignment of forces in the country by putting loyal people into the leadership of the newly formed provinces. At the municipal elections in 2013 the ruling coalition lost gubernatorial posts even in such strategically important provinces as Baghdad and Basra, retaining fewer than half of the gubernatorial seats, and that with restrictions.

However, considering the weakness of the state machinery and the growing centrifugal tendencies of the local authorities, the process could get out of control, and the repartitioning of territories could bring about the opposite effect, causing entire regions to split off and create autonomous regions (following the example of Kurdistan). For example, the governor of the Ninawa province has already stated that if practical steps are taken to split municipal districts off from the province as has been announced, all efforts will be made to turn the province into an autonomous territory. This statement received widespread support, including from the oil-rich South. In the provinces of Basra and Maysan there have already been demonstrations in support of giving the status of provinces to several municipal districts, including those located in oil-producing regions, with the subsequent formation of a «Southern Confederacy» on the model of Kurdistan.

Today practically all the conditions have been created for the transformation of Iraq into a federative state with dozens of provinces grouped into 3-4 autonomous territories (tentatively Shiite, Kurdish and Sunnite ones) on the basis of tribal connections, religious affinity and economic interests, with severe restriction of the powers of the Center.

Outwardly such a program seems difficult to implement; in order to legislatively formalize such decisions there will need to be parliamentary conciliatory commissions, committees, secondary legislation, etc., to say nothing of amendments to the country's constitution. However, if one looks at the matter more attentively, the thought arises that perhaps that is the common interest of the key players who are influencing developments.

The West, headed by the United States, as well as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and obviously Israel, have an interest in keeping Iraq from ever again rising to the position of a powerful regional state; they need it to remain a manageable supplier of high-quality petroleum with minimal costs for extraction and export, and also to serve as a bargaining chip in resolving problems of another order.

Most likely the future state structure of Iraq and the country's fate are being decided now not in Baghdad, but in back room negotiations between «very interested parties»... There have been many examples in the history of the Middle East where states appeared or disappeared from the political map during a game of bridge, and the borders between them were drawn with an ordinary ruler. In spite of all the technological achievements of the past decades, in geopolitics and geo-economics little has changed since then.


* The Sahwa movement was created by the U.S. in the beginning of the occupation by paying off tribal sheikhs in exchange for their non-resistance. Many Iraqis to this day see the members of Sahwa as traitors and collaborators, and they are one of the main targets of armed attacks.

QUOTE OF THE DAY : G Parthasarathy

India should make it clear (to US)  that it will not tolerate events like Mrs. Sonia Gandhi being threatened with prosecution while undergoing medical treatment in New York, or the supercilious attitude adopted towards Mr. Narendra Modi, who is a constitutionally elected Chief Minister. We should not accept a situation where Americans believe that they can behave high-handedly towards our elected politicians because of their domestic lobbies. The US should also be left in no doubt that on such issues, including consular and diplomatic privileges, India will firmly adhere to a policy of strict reciprocity."

G Parthasarathy

Challenges in India-US ties

Washington becoming strident in economic relations
G Parthasarathy

TRAVELLING across the US as the winter Olympics in Sochi commenced, one was saddened to witness how India's international credibility had been shaken when television audiences across the world saw three forlorn Indian athletes marching without the national flag. India faced this disgrace, thanks to the avariciousness and nepotism of an internationally disgraced Indian Olympic Association. Sadly, this was accompanied by charges of corruption, nepotism, match fixing and worse involving the President of the BCCI. Many Indian friends in the US asked in anguish: "Is there no section of national life left in India which is free from corruption and venality?"

The mood in Washington, where one had an occasion to meet a cross section of senior officials, business executives, analysts and scholars, was quite different. In marked contrast to the earlier years, I found widespread criticism of the conduct of foreign and security policies by President Obama. The Administration had not just botched up its healthcare programme, but was seen as indecisive and weak in dealing with challenges in West Asia, Afghanistan and the provocations of a jingoistic and militaristic China. President Obama, in turn, is acutely conscious of the mood in the country which wants an end to foreign military entanglements.

More significantly, as the US moves towards becoming a net exporter of energy, thanks to the expanding production of shale gas and oil, the country's geopolitics are set for profound change. Using its leadership in areas of productivity and innovation, the US now appears set to the stage for increasing domination of the world economic order. From across its eastern shores, the US is negotiating comprehensive trade and investment partnerships with its European allies. Across its western shores in the Pacific, the Americans are negotiating transpacific partnerships with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam as negotiating partners. While China has informally indicated an interest in joining this partnership, the US will use its influence to ensure that China is not admitted till American political and economic pre-conditions are met.

There is naturally interest in Washington in the forthcoming general election in India. The assessment appears to be that the ruling Congress is headed for a drubbing in the polls. Not many tears will be shed in Washington or elsewhere about this inevitability as the only questions which well-wishers of India ask are how India landed itself in its present morass of corruption and whether a new dispensation, which may be fractious, will be able to restore India to a high growth path. Speaking informally, a senior official recalled that President Obama had described the US-India partnership as "one of the defining partnerships of the world". The official noted that "every meaningful partnership between powerful nations encounters setbacks", adding that such setbacks should be minor compared to the benefits of the relationship and the magnitude of what the two could accomplish together.

The Khobragade episode was a defining event in India-US relations. The Americans found Indians across the political spectrum united in the view that insults to India's national dignity would not be acceptable. It is important that in future negotiations by the Task Force set up to address such issues, India should make it clear that it will not tolerate events like Mrs. Sonia Gandhi being threatened with prosecution while undergoing medical treatment in New York, or the supercilious attitude adopted towards Mr. Narendra Modi, who is a constitutionally elected Chief Minister. We should not accept a situation where Americans believe that they can behave high-handedly towards our elected politicians because of their domestic lobbies. The US should also be left in no doubt that on such issues, including consular and diplomatic privileges, India will firmly adhere to a policy of strict reciprocity.

The Obama Administration has messed up its relations with President Karzai in Afghanistan, dealing with him in a manner that showed scant regard for his position as the elected Head of State of Afghanistan. Worse still, by its actions, the US has clearly given the impression that despite its protestations it was clandestinely dealing, behind Mr. Karzai's back, with the Taliban. While the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership speaks of joint determination in eliminating the "al-Qaida and its affiliates," the US now speaks only of eliminating al-Qaida and not is affiliates like the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. There are naturally concerns in Afghanistan that the US, which needs Pakistan's assistance for withdrawing its military equipment from Afghanistan, will seek to appease the Pakistanis by giving them a less-than-healthy role in determining the future dispensation in Afghanistan and the role of the Taliban in such a dispensation.

While there is an evident congruence of interests in working with the US, Japan and others in the face of growing Chinese military assertiveness, New Delhi and Tokyo cannot ignore the reality that there have been many flip-flops and inconsistencies in the approach of the Obama Administration to China. Moreover, the US is becoming increasingly strident in its economic relations with India on issues ranging from sanctions on sections of our pharmaceutical industry and our civil aviation facilities, while demanding changes in our policies on solar panels and equipment and placing restrictions on the movement of IT personnel. It is, however, not India alone that is the recipient of such measures from the US!

Despite these challenges, India cannot ignore the reality that the US is the pre-eminent power in the world. Moreover, it will remain so in the coming years, primarily because its innovative and technological strengths are going to be reinforced by its energy surpluses, together with the energy potential of its neighbours like Canada, Mexico and Argentina. It will, moreover, remain the foremost power in the manufacture of high-tech equipment, particularly in defence and aerospace. It is for India to fashion industrial policies to leverage its strengths and potential to secure high levels of investment and partnership in crucial high-tech industries. I was advised in Washington that contracts currently secured with US companies enable us to import 5.8 million metric tonnes per annum of shale gas from the US annually. According to oil industry sources, these contracts alone provide us more gas than we could obtain from the controversial Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. But, for all this to fructify, the new dispensation in New Delhi will have to replace economic populism and accompanying fiscal irresponsibility with a quest for accelerated growth.

The Asian Status Quo


Global Affairs
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2014 - 04:01  
Global Affairs with Robert D. KaplanStratfor
By Robert D. Kaplan and Matt Gertken

Arguably the greatest book on political realism in the 20th century was University of Chicago Professor Hans J. Morgenthau's Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, published in 1948. In that seminal work, Morgenthau defines the status quo as "the maintenance of the distribution of power that exists at a particular moment in history." In other words, things shall stay as they are. But it is not quite that clear. For as Morgenthau also explains, "the concept of the 'status quo' derives from status quo ante bellum," which, in turn, implies a return to the distribution of power before a war. The war's aggressor shall give up his conquered territory, and everything will return to how it was.

The status quo also connotes the victors' peace: a peace that may be unfair, or even oppressive, but at the same time stands for stability. For a change in the distribution of power, while at times just in a moral sense, simply introduces a measure of instability into the geopolitical equation. And because stability has a moral value all its own, the status quo is sanctified in the international system.

Let us apply this to Asia.

Because Japan was the aggressor in World War II and was vanquished by the U.S. military, it lay prostrate after the war, so that the Pacific Basin became a virtual American naval lake. That was the status quo as it came to be seen. This situation was buttressed by the decades-long reclusiveness of the Pacific's largest and most populous nation: China. Japanese occupation and civil war left China devastated. The rise to power of Mao Zedong's communists in 1949 would keep the country preoccupied with itself for decades as it fell prey to destructive development and political schemes such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. China was not weak, as the United States would discover in the Korean and Vietnamese wars and later turn to its advantage against the Soviets. But its revolution remained unfinished. The economy did not truly start to develop until the late 1970s, after Mao died. And only in the mid-1990s did China begin its naval expansion in a demonstrable and undeniable way. Thus the United States, in its struggle with the Soviets, got used to a reclusive China and a subordinate Japan. With these two certainties underlying the Cold War's various animosities, the United States preserved calm in its lake.

But the 21st century has not been kind to this status quo, however convenient it may have been for American interests. China's naval, air, cyber and ballistic missile buildup over the past two decades has not yet challenged U.S. military supremacy in the region, but it has encroached significantly on the previously unipolar environment. Moreover, to measure China's progress against U.S. supremacy is to neglect the primary regional balance of power between China and Japan. Tokyo, over the same time period, has come to see China as reaching a sort of critical mass and has accelerated its own military preparations, both in a quantitative and a qualitative sense. Recently, Tokyo has taken to trumpeting its abandonment of quasi-pacifism in order to adjust the world's expectations to what it sees as a new reality. Japan was already a major naval power -- it ranks fourth in total naval tonnage, has more destroyers than any navy besides that of the United States, and its technology and traditions give it a special edge. But now it is moving faster to loosen restrictions on its rules of engagement and to upgrade the capabilities it needs to defend its most distant island holdings.

While Beijing sees Japan's actions as aggressive, it is primarily China that is altering the status quo. No doubt Japan was once the region's most ambitious and belligerent power, and no doubt China cannot assume good intentions, but Japan's current military normalization has little in common with its 1930s militarization, and Tokyo is for the moment mostly reacting to Beijing. China, for instance, has largely succeeded in shaping a global narrative of a legitimate dispute over islands in the East China Sea. But Japan has controlled the Senkaku islands (known as Diaoyu in Chinese) for more than 40 years, and China has only recently asserted its claims. Japan's other territorial disputes, by contrast, show a continuation of the status quo: Russia administers the southern Kuril islands but sees Japan offering dialogue while moving military forces away from that border; South Korea controls the Liancourt Rocks, but any feared Japanese appetite for overturning that status quo remains in check by the Americans. Nor were Japan's sea-lanes under any conceivable threat of interference from China until recently. Keep in mind that Japan's supply line anxieties are inherent to its geopolitical position.

Indeed, in the eyes of the Pentagon, Japan now has every reason to tailor its military capabilities in order to take precautions against China's rise. For years U.S. defense officials have argued that a stronger Japan would help ensure China's peaceful ascent. Only a few years ago, defense officials and think tank analysts in Washington were fretting that the Japanese might not muster the courage to stand up to China. The explanation for all this is clear: Almost seven decades of U.S. military presence in Japan has created, on an emotional level, a powerful Japan lobby within the American military and on the Pentagon's E-Ring. This was further buttressed during the Rumsfeld years, when the United States encouraged Japan to spend billions of dollars on defending itself against North Korean missiles and to host a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike group, despite Japan's neuralgic attitude toward nuclear weapons at the time. (See "What Rumsfeld Got Right," by Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic, July 2008.) From a purely geopolitical point of view, a more assertive Japan could someday revive an old threat to the United States, since both are maritime powers. But for now, Washington sees immediate benefits in Japan's growing willingness to defend itself rather than rely so heavily on the United States.

The real danger Japan poses to the Americans is that attempting to establish a formidable defensive posture could provoke China into a dangerous escalation that, in turn, could ensnare the United States in a confrontation with the latter.

While Japan reacts to a changing of the status quo, China is aware of its own role as an agent of change. Beijing knows that it is an emerging power. It knows that emerging powers disrupt the international system. But it needs to buy time, since it isn't ready to confront directly and unapologetically the American-led status quo in the Pacific. China's lack of readiness is heightened by the precarious consolidation of political power and economic reforms that the Xi Jinping administration has undertaken out of necessity. China thus seeks a "new kind of major country relationship," a phrase Chinese and American diplomats have taken to repeating, whereby the two countries will find some way of accommodating each other to China's military emergence without causing the disruption and conflict that history books suggest is inevitable. The problem with this rhetoric is that, as the Napoleonic Wars and World War I showed, the awareness that a collapsing status quo often precedes a bellum is not the same thing as collective action on all sides to reform the old status quo. Knowing theoretically what causes wars -- though good in and of itself and a prerequisite for prudent statecraft -- is not the same as sacrificing some portion of one's own interests to try to prevent them.

The United States must try both to accommodate rising Chinese power and to fortify U.S. allies in response to it. But it acts from a position of military security that Japan -- not to mention China's smaller neighbors -- cannot assume. Regardless of whether Japan overcorrects, the status quo in the Pacific is changing. And the stability of the region can no longer be taken for granted.

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