November 24, 2018

Service Chiefs: One is Better Than Three!



‘We need a Commander-in-Chief who can whip the 3 services into efficiency’

 It was heartening to read the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, recently say: “all three services will have to adopt a coherent approach to effectively deal will all possible security threats facing the country”.

Dhanoa said this in an interview with the Press Trust of India (PTI) that it was “imperative that the three services promote joint planning and exploit the strengths of the three services to help India win a war in the shortest possible time”.

Way back in the early 1980’s at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, I took a survey course called “Current Issues in US Foreign Policy” which was taught by two top specialists in international security issues, Joseph Nye and Al Carnesale.

In those days with the Cold War blowing hot the US and former Soviet Union together had over fifty thousand nuclear warheads, each one of them on hair trigger readiness to render each other and a good part of the rest of the world “into a smoking radiating ruin.”

On the very first day they said the course would really be about the relationship between three super-powers, the US Air Force(USAF), US Navy(USN) and the Soviet Union! Because rivalries of the USAF and USN, the nuclear arms race got bigger, far more than they actually needed to be. It is only after the demise of the Soviet Union and the deep cutbacks in the nuclear arsenals that the US Air Force and Navy nuclear arsenals were integrated into a single inter-service command.

When the BJP first came came to power in 1998, one of its two main promises was to enhance national security by integrating the three services into the Ministry of Defence and also to integrate defence planning and operations.

This was meant to pave the way for a new system that would have given the military a greater role in making policies pertaining to national security as well as in managing itself. It is generally agreed that India needs a Combined Defence Staff to integrate defence planning and operations. If this has not happened, much of the blame must fall on the services themselves.

The Indian Army has its own notions about who should get primacy, exspecially since it has a tradition that goes back to 1778 when it began as the Army of Bengal in the East India Company days. But its pitch is queered by the IAF that often marches to the beat of a different drummer.

The consequence of this reluctance to plan and work together showed up in Kargil. The IAF did not have the tactics and even the appropriate weapons when called to assist the Indian Army. The Indian Army didn’t seem to know what kind of support can be called for. It wanted attack helicopters but didn’t seem to know that they couldn’t operated at high elevations. It wanted drones, when the IAF didn’t have any.

So intent are the three services on fighting its own wars that they even maintain command systems that is out of sync with each other.

The IAF has a Western Air Command headquartered in Delhi to ostensibly work with the Indian Army’s Northern and Western Commands that are headquartered near Chandigarh and Udhampur. Similarly the IAF’s commands in Ahmedabad and Shillong are out of alignment with Army commands in Pune, Jaipur, Calcutta; and Naval commands in Bombay and Vizag. I make special mention of the IAF because in any modern war, the airforce is the all powerful queen on the geo-political chess board.

The IAF has a record of waging obdurate turf wars. It fought a long battle to keep all military helicopters under its control till good sense finally prevailed and the Army was given command of Chetak helicopters used for artillery spotting, anti-tank operations, tactical supply and medical evacuation.

The Indian Army won yet another bureaucratic war when it prevailed over the legendary indecisiveness of AK Anthony to grant it control of the new Boeing Apache 64E attack helicopters, so vital in anti-tank warfare. The IAF’s single mindedness is best evidenced by the fact that it took it more than a decade to optimize a squadron of Jaguars for maritime operations with Ferranti radars and Sea Eagle missiles.

We have a joint chiefs system, but it is a rotational system with the senior-most chief as the Chairman. They do even one better in Pakistan where they have a separate Chief of Defence Staff, four stars, house, flag and all, except that the job does not matter at all because it is the Chief of Army Staff who calls all the shots – quite often literally.

This is what seems to be in the cards for us as the Chiefs want to hang on to their turf and all they seem to be looking forward to at best is another four-star job for one of their own. What they seem to have in mind is a really last among equals, when even a first among equals may not do.

What we need is a Commander-in- Chief who can whip the three services into a united, efficient and cost effective fighting machine. This person must be chosen on the basis of ability and not date of birth or entry into service. If we need to pin a fifth star on someone’s lapels to get this, we must not hesitate to do so. In matters relating to the military it is better to have one chief rather than three or four.

The mere creation of a CDS will not do the job unless it is followed by the integration of operational or theatre commands. The military organization needs to be restructured not only by allowing it to take part in the framing of policy, but also to make it more capable of implementing policy.

We need just three theatre commands, the Northwestern Theatre Command incorporating the Indian Army’s Northern, Western and the bit of the Southern command that covers Gujarat; and the IAF’s Western and Southwestern Commands. The Eastern Theatre Command should integrate the Indian Army’s and IAF’s Central and Eastern Commands.

The third theatre command should be the Peninsular Command which includes the Indian Navy’s Eastern and Western Commands, the Indian Army and the IAF Southern Commands. It also makes sense to bring the BSF and Coast Guard units under the operational command of the theatre commanders.

The three Service Chiefs should be tasked with keeping their forces trained, provisioned and equiped to be made available to the theatre commands, as when when the political and military situations demand it.

In the US military, theatre commands are more paper commands with a contingency planning staff till operationalised. They are constantly preparing for eventualities with intergrated planning and exercises. It is the same with the PLA now with the Chinese military now organised into five commands, including one headquartered at Chengdu just for us.

The need for integrated defence planning and operations need not be elaborated upon. It would suffice to say that every major military power in the world has a combined defence organization. It’s only in countries where the services have a strong political tradition that separateness still prevails. In some countries these rivalries extend to ridiculous extents. In Argentina the Navy is equipped with tanks, as it needs them to ward off possible Army assaults on its bases. Things are not so bad in India, but the rivalry between the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force has about the same keenness as the IAS-IPS rivalry.

Somebody is bound to distort this to suggest that a CDS/Commander-in-Chief will undercut the authority of the President who is the Supreme Commander of all armed forces. This is sheer nonsense but has to be dealt with as the argument has been made before to prevent the creation of a CDS.

The President will be as presidential as ever before and all acts of the government including the waging of war will be done in his name. He will continue to be greeted by the Chiefs personally on his birthday, except that instead of three of them there would be four calling on him or better still just one!

November 23, 2018

Probing the Baltic States: Why Russia’s Ambitions Do Not Have a Security Dimension

Emily Ferris
Commentary, 21 November 2018

As a political and military reassurance, a recent NATO exercise in the Baltic region makes sense. But Russia’s real levers of influence over the Baltic states are not military, and NATO may not be the appropriate answer.

On 7 November, NATO conducted military training drills with Poland which included, among others, relatively large contingents from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Anaconda 2018 was an exercise in political reassurance and an effort to test the Alliance’s emergency response and reinforcement procedures. However, it is not clear that military exercises of this kind reflect the real security needs of the Baltic states. While Baltic state leaders are apprehensive about Russia’s intent towards their countries, it is unlikely that Russia has serious territorial ambitions there. Russia certainly maintains a serious interest in gaining deeper involvement in political, intelligence and business processes in all three Baltic states, but it is not clear that this is a NATO issue that could be resolved by a military response.

Military Engagement Unlikely

Russia will not risk directly engaging with a NATO member, which would prompt a response from other member states. While it is one thing to militarily engage with a country like Ukraine that has never enjoyed NATO membership, it is quite another to test NATO’s mutual guarantee, underwritten by the US. Baltic state leaders have become increasingly concerned following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, which raised questions about changing borders in Europe. The Baltic states are particularly concerned by Russia’s military exercises, maintaining that they could be preparation for land invasions, but there is no evidence to suggest that this year’s Vostok exercises or last year’s Zapad training intended to take over Baltic territory. Russia has little desire to become embroiled in a conflict so close to its own borders, given its messy and expensive involvement in eastern Ukraine.

Second and more importantly, Russia already exerts significant influence over the Baltic states, through its high penetration of the Baltics’ political and intelligence processes, as well as business networks. While Russia certainly has interests in probing the Baltic states’ capabilities, these are unlikely to take on an outright military dimension, such as an overt territorial aggression.

Spheres of Influence

Notwithstanding Russia’s unwillingness to engage militarily with the Baltics, Russia still considers these countries to be within its historic sphere of influence. The Russian authorities retain a strong interest in gathering intelligence on political and military processes there. Russia’s intelligence penetration of all three Baltic states is thought to be very high. Lithuania’s State Security Department published its National Threat Assessment in March, noting Russia’s active intelligence operations targeting Lithuania’s foreign and domestic policies, including attempts to influence the public in the run-up to the 2019 Lithuanian presidential elections. Estonia has also seen increasing Russian intelligence activity. There have been several high-profile spy swaps, and in September a senior Estonian army officer from the Ministry of Defence and his father were detained for spying on behalf of the Russian military intelligence (the GRU).

Russia also allocates significant intelligence-gathering resources to assess the Baltic states’ military capabilities. All three Baltic states maintain that Russia works alongside Belarusian intelligence services to recruit informants, particularly from the Lithuanian military. The Baltics are also concerned by Russia’s military build-up in the exclave of Kaliningrad (near Lithuania), but the Russian authorities consider the Baltics’ cooperation with institutions such as NATO, including its consolidation of troops and hardware close to its borders, to be an aggressive act.

Business as Usual?

Russia also maintains significant influence in the Baltic business community, particularly in Latvia and Estonia. Despite Estonia’s strong anti-corruption stance, the beneficial owners of many businesses are thought to have close links to the Kremlin. Russian business interests still dominate the Latvian banking sector, which in the early 2000s became known as Russia’s ‘laundromat’ because of the banking system’s reputation for processing the proceeds of crime and corruption. In February 2018 allegations of widespread money laundering, funds of which were thought to originate in Russia, prompted the US Treasury Departmentto threaten to sanction one of Latvia’s largest banks, ABLV, which was eventually liquidated.

All three Baltic states are attempting to reduce their reliance on gas and electricity from Russia and link to the EU power grid instead, but this is a long-term ambition that is unlikely to be fully operational before 2025. Lithuania has managed to reduce its reliance on Russian gas through its LNG port at Klaipėda and also imports gas from Norway – Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom has divested its shares in most of the Baltic gas companies. However, Gazprom still has a large stake in Latvias Gāze, Latvia’s state-controlled gas company, even though the gas market was officially liberalised in 2017. Russia has in the past used its control over gas and energy markets to pressure countries into political concessions, particularly Belarus, which remains a security concern for Latvia.

Russian-Speaking Communities

One of the most frequently discussed levers of Russian influence in the Baltics is through the significant Russian-speaking minorities in Estonia and Latvia – around a quarter of the population in Latvia. The Baltic states maintain that the Kremlin could influence this community by playing on their grievances, emphasising their political and economic marginalisation – many ethnic Russians do not have citizenship and are given ‘non-citizen’status, preventing them from voting in national elections.

As part of this, the Russian Duma (parliament) is in the process of passing a bill to simplify citizenship procedures for ethnic Russians living abroad. The bill will apply to countries that have ‘difficult’ political or economic situations such as an armed conflict (likely to refer to Ukraine), but also refers to the Baltic states, claiming that ethnic Russians’ rights are under threat there. While the bill is likely to be a measure to counter Russia’s demographic concerns by encouraging skilled migrants to return to Russia for work, it also indicates Russia’s ongoing attention to this community in the Baltics.

However, these ethnic Russian communities are not a united movement seeking regime change in the Baltics. Aside from Russia’s ability to convey a narrative through the media, it is not clear that this translates into any cohesive action from the community that could have any security or fundamental political implications – pro-Russia demonstrations tend to be small and poorly attended. Moreover, despite Russian speakers’ grievances in Estonia and Latvia, as EU member states their standard of living remains higher than in Russia, and there is no widespread support for migration back into Russia.

Ultimately, Russia has no desire to territorially expand into the Baltic states, but it does have several tools at its disposal to influence these states, which are likely to remain confined to the business and intelligence community. Notwithstanding their socio-political grievances, the Russian-speaking community in the Baltics does not presents a serious security threat to their own governments. While Russia often probes the Baltic states’ military and intelligence capabilities, this intelligence-gathering strategy is unlikely to escalate into open hostilities.

BANNER IMAGE: Members of the Estonian Defense League guide in a helicopter to a landing zone during Trojan Footprint 18 near Kikepera, Estonia, 3 June 2018. Trojan Footprint is a military exercise that deployed NATO and partner nation forces to the Baltic region. Courtesy of US Army / Staff Sgt Matt Britton.

The views expressed in this Commentary are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent those of RUSI or any other institution.

The European Dimension of Nuclear Deterrence: French and British policies and future scenarios


Finnish Institute of International Affairs


While the idea of a “European nuclear deterrent” has a long history, it has recently made a comeback in the light of Russian aggression on the continent, growing tensions in the transatlantic relationship since the election of Donald Trump, as well as the British decision to leave the European Union. Voices are being heard in Germany in particular, arguing for stronger European nuclear autonomy.

This paper analyses how the French and British deterrents could play a broader and stronger role in ensuring the security of the continent. Discarding the idea of a single “European deterrent”, it suggests possible credible pathways to enhance European nuclear cooperation based on French and possibly British forces, preferably outside the EU context. Furthermore, it suggests that future US decisions and policies towards Europe will be a critical factor in defining the range of realistic scenarios and outcomes.



November 22, 2018


22 NOV 2018 - 11:29





It has become clear since Iraq’s May 2018 elections that many of the armed groups that make up the country’s Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi (aka Popular Mobilization Forces) intend to fully integrate into the Iraqi Security Forces and/or disband at some point now that the fight against the Islamic State (IS) has reached a much lower level of intensity. Several groups are less likely to do so, however, including those linked with Iran. Although all 50+ Hashd groups have been brought under the legal purview of the Iraqi state, in practice a number continue to operate autonomously. The fragmented nature of both the Iraqi state’s coercive capabilities and the country’s political landscape will make it difficult, in the short term, to compel reluctant groups to integrate into state security forces or disband. Pushing for enforcement of such compliance risks violence and is best avoided.

At the same time, using a broad set of indicators to monitor Hashd-related events and incidents based on open, online sources, this policy brief provides substantial evidence that some Hashd groups are using their autonomy to strengthen their power base in ways that will complicate achieving greater integration in the future. Our research suggests that policy makers in Baghdad and Western capitals should support four initiatives that can help limit this risk without triggering large-scale violence:

Gradually establish a direct, incentive-based relationship between Hashd fighters and the state to shift the loyalties of fighters over time.Tighten local command, control and coordination mechanisms of all state security actors to compartmentalise the way in which Hashd groups operate, especially locally.Ensure that (international) reconstruction funds have strong in-built safeguards and standards that reduce corruption and do not contribute to the growing penetration of the Iraqi economy by armed actors, e.g. by contracting them.Address the root causes of the emergence of IS to remove the rationale for some Hashd groups to retain arms (and to make Iraq safer).

U.S. and China race to “reborder” in new Cold War

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

The global economic and tech system appears to be breaking in two, one led by the U.S. and the other by China, in an unfolding new world resembling the competing geopolitical spheres of the Cold War.

The big picture: One of the eeriest features of this apparent future will be new virtual and legal "borders," a formalization of attempts already afoot by the U.S. and China to bar the other from the sphere they themselves control.

Show less

"We will reborder" to keep unwanted Chinese companies out of U.S.-led parts of the world, Janice Gross Stein, political science professor at the University of Toronto, tells Axios."China is already rebordering," walling off its people from the global internet, Stein said on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Conference, a gathering of military and security officials from the world's democracies.

Driving the news: Lying behind this coming world of new borders is, from the U.S. side, a more palpable realization that China's rise means a sharp diminution of U.S. power and possibly living standards.

President Trump has declared a trade war and demanded that Beijing stop trying to be No. 1. But China is pushing back, a dynamic made most recently clear in Papua, New Guinea, over the weekend, where the U.S. and China bickered publicly in a way not seen between great powers since the actual Cold War three decades ago.The main battleground for the future is tech — the race to dominate artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, green energy, electric cars, and so on. With the trillions of dollars and military power to be gained through these and other technologies, China is out to build itself up and preserve its closed political system; the U.S. objective is to maintain the global dominance it has enjoyed since World War II.

In the West, the rebordering, as Stein calls it, will take the form of regulation of technology companies — not to protect consumer privacy, but for national security. Stein sees a change in public and government perception in which advanced technology is seen much more clearly as having dual use — for both consumers and armies.

We’ve seen this in the government crackdown on foreign investmentsand in the Commerce Department’s move yesterday toward imposing new export controls on emerging technologies, including AI and robotics.

With the shift in attitudes, regulation will come "in a way that would have been inconceivable five years ago," Stein said.

"The regulatory state is coming back."

— Janice Stein, University of Toronto

Some say that Congress itself may not have the mettle to crack down so hard:

Nicholas Burns, a former senior U.S. diplomat and now a professor at Harvard, tells Axios that there is a "trust-busting spirit coming out of Europe," but that he is not certain it will spread to the U.S.And Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said Congress will talk about regulation, but ultimately may not approve anything. "We will haul [the tech executives] in front of us and yell a lot," he told the conference.

But, just on privacy grounds, the ground seems to be already fertile for regulation:

In a poll yesterday by SurveyMonkey for "Axios on HBO," 57% of American adults agreed that social media giants are hurting democracy and free speech. And 55% want the government to regulate them.Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking to "Axios on HBO," called regulation of Big Tech "inevitable" because "the free market is not working."

What's next: Notwithstanding Cook's remarks, expect tech executives to fight. As of now, they say they are only superficially monopolistic — that they fiercely compete among each other for ad dollars, and for the future of AI. Sooner than many people presume, they say, there will be even more savage, direct commercial competition with Chinese big tech companies. But that is the same dynamic that thinkers like Stein think will bring the sharp new tech divide, separated into U.S. and Chinese zones.

Go deeper:

U.S. mulls export controls on advanced technologyThe future of U.S.-China tech fiefdoms

The weird new soybean route

AXIOS FUTURE, Steve Levine

Data: Descartes Labs; Map: Harry Stevens/Axios

China has all but stopped buying American soybeans, which — in a circuitous new global legume market — are now going to South America, when they are not being thrown into storage in wait of an end to the trade war.

Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes:U.S. soybean exports to China are down 98% in 2018, the result of the escalating U.S.-Chinese tension.

The big picture: With the reduced Chinese demand, the U.S. has begun exporting soybeans to Brazil and Argentina in larger volumes.

Those countries, which produce lots of soybeans themselves, have been using the imported soy for domestic products like oil and soymeal. In turn, they export their homegrown soybeans to China, said Farzad Taheripour, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University.The shift was captured in an analysis of changing shipping routes, shown above. Descartes Labs, a company that analyzes information from satellite imaging and other sensors around the world, found that grain-carrying ships began cutting a new, direct route from the U.S. to Argentina in recent months."This is what you see whenyou institute tariffs that really mess up the system," said Matt Witte, a commodities expert at Descartes. "You do things like ship soybeans to a country that already produces a lot of them."

The uptick in Argentina’s soy imports is relatively modest for now, said Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri.

It’s been driven partly by tariffs, but also by a soybean shortage in Argentina due to a bad harvest. If it were not for the shortage, Argentina would have even more soybeans to export to China.The U.S. government expects this dynamic to continue into next year, even though Argentina is likely to harvest more soybeans in 2019, Westhoff said.

The bottom line: This detour hurts the American soybean industry, said Taheripour. "Our farmers will receive a lower price for their products."

November 21, 2018

Beijing to Judge Every Resident Based on Behavior by End of 2020

Bloomberg News

November 21, 2018, 2:18 PM GMT+5:30

China capital plans ‘social credit’ system by end of 2020

Citizens with poor scores will be ‘unable to move’ a step

China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident.

The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.

The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan. Xinhua reported on the proposal Tuesday, while the report posted on the municipal government’s website is dated July 18.

China has long experimented with systems that grade its citizens, rewarding good behavior with streamlined services while punishing bad actions with restrictions and penalties. Critics say such moves are fraught with risks and could lead to systems that reduce humans to little more than a report card.

Ambitious Plan

Beijing’s efforts represent the most ambitious yet among more than a dozen cities that are moving ahead with similar programs.

Hangzhou rolled out its personal credit system earlier this year, rewarding “pro-social behaviors” such as volunteer work and blood donations while punishing those who violate traffic laws and charge under-the-table fees. By the end of May, people with bad credit in China have been blocked from booking more than 11 million flights and 4 million high-speed train trips, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.

According to the Beijing government’s plan, different agencies will link databases to get a more detailed picture of every resident’s interactions across a swathe of services. The proposal calls for agencies including tourism bodies, business regulators and transit authorities to work together.

Alipay app

Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

The tracking of individual behavior in China has become easier as economic life moves online, with apps such as Tencent’s WeChat and Ant Financial’s Alipay a central node for making payments, getting loans and organizing transport. Accounts are generally linked to mobile phone numbers, which in turn require government IDs.

The final version of China’s national social credit system remains uncertain. But as rules forcing social networks and internet providers to remove anonymity get increasingly enforced and facial recognition systems become more popular with policing bodies, authorities are likely to find everyone from internet dissenters to train-fare skippers easier to catch -- and punish -- than ever before.

— With assistance by Claire Che, David Ramli, and Dandan Li

Five Things Everyone Gets Wrong on Iran

Geopolitical Monitor

OPINION - November 12, 2018

By Caleb Mills

On November 5, the Trump Administration rolled out a host of sanctions targeting 50 Iranian banks and their subsidiaries, the national airline, and 200 members of the shipping industry. The purpose? Cut off Tehran’s oil revenue and damage the regime’s nuclear capabilities.

It’s not exactly a secret that Iran has had a tense relationship with the Western world, dating back to the Islamic Revolution in the 1970s. Our goals are obviously not aligned, but if there’s anything we can both identify with, it’s being victims of consistent politically-motivated misconceptions. Actually, let’s not play with words here: blatant propaganda. We associate the word with negative connotations, but it’s a lot more common than you’d think. Any national government with an interest in morale and support either directly or indirectly has their hand in some sort of propaganda program aimed at boosting patriotism. It’s not even necessarily a bad thing, but when facts and reality start to become a victim in the quest to rally the people, that’s a problem.

Iran, from every fact-based viewpoint, has committed many atrocities and human rightsabuses. Their suppression of freedom of speech has no justification and when compared to growing personal liberty around the world, its crimes are even more despicable. But that doesn’t give its adversaries, no matter how much of the moral high ground they occupy, an excuse to stretch its crimes and exaggerate certain aspects of Iranian life. Facts speak volumes on their own, there’s no need for a government to bolster the obvious. So, for the sake of facts, let’s dispel some inaccuracies about Iran:


“Iran Is a Dictatorship”

To the average observer, it’d be easy to come to the conclusion that Iran’s political system is dominated by men in robes carrying AKs who plan terrorist attacks by day and carry them out by night. And while it’s true that the political scene in Tehran is treacherous, the governmental system is actually quite democratic.

Unlike US allies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who are almost exclusively controlled by a select group of leaders at the top, Iran’s parliament has a relatively large amount of power. Iran’s president, who is elected from a slate of candidates nominated by an array of political groups in the country, is directly selected via popular vote. There are, however, needless to say, a few restrictions. The Council of Guardians, a government-organized institution, vets all candidates running for office and can disqualify office seekers for any reason they see fit. The Assembly of Experts, a non-elected body of religious, political, and military leaders are also responsible for selecting the supreme leader, who unlike the president, is not chosen by the people and serves a life term. But at the end of the day, most decisions made by the people’s elected representatives are respected by the Imams.


“Iran Is Closed to US Visitors”

As previously mentioned, the United States and Iran are known to be not particularly close. And since the 1979 embassy crisis when Iranian revolutionaries kidnapped U.S. diplomatic personnel, many have been left with the impression that Iran is closed off to international visitors, which is simply not the case. While the Iranian government considers applications to visit the United States on a case-by-case basis, US citizens are completely free to enter Iran at any time. While the United States does not have an established diplomatic presence in the country, operations are usually run out of the Swiss embassy, where U.S. citizens can go to seek out help if needed. However, all US citizens who travel to Iran are forced to go through a process with the United States government, which includes fingerprinting and surveillance.


“Iran Is a Third-World Country”

According to reports from researchers at the University of Tehran back in 2011, around 44-55% percent of Iran’s urban population lives under the international poverty line. The state of the Iranian economy is currently transitional, with some 60%of it being planned or government-controlled. Needless to say, a large portion of the economy is based on the public sector, particularly the oil industry.  But while it understandably doesn’t have the best living conditions in the world, Iran isn’t as backward as most would believe. Despite the fact that 20% of the population does live in poverty, that’s relatively mild compared to neighbors like Iraq, where over 53% live in poverty. In the Global Finance 2016 international ranking of international wealth, highest-to-lowest, Iran came in at 70th, higher than Brazil, South Africa, Jordan, India, and Ukraine. Iran’s main issues have consistently been corruption and unemployment, both of which the administration of moderate Hassan Rouhani has taken efforts to correct. Otherwise, Iran continually ranks second in the world in natural gas reserves and fourth in proven crude oil reserves, according to the World Bank. Overall, while Iran has faced numerous problems on its path to modernization, it could in no reasonable way be described as third-world or destitute.


“There Is No Legal Opposition”

In the years directly following the Islamic Revolution and upheaval in the late 70s, politics in Iran was dominated by extremists and nationalists. Due to tough domestic conditions and the Iran-Iraq war, Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters, a mix of religiously motivated fanatics and nationalistic purists, were able to legally wrest power away from the centrist coalitions and their other opponents, the Republicans.

Following the end of the war and the return of economic growth as well as stability, the Islamic Republic Party collapsed, and several reformist parties sprung up in urban areas. Out of the six presidential elections to follow, moderates and reformers like Rouhani, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and others won four. Two were claimed by nationalist remnants of the Revolution, led by the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Contrary to popular belief, in recent history, Iranians have had a strong tendency to reject the more nationalistic elements of the political system when given the choice, opting for pragmatists and progressives. Not only do opposition parties exist in the Iranian political system, in recent years, they’ve actually been outdoing their more traditional competitors. In the last presidential contest during 2017, Rouhani was re-elected in a landslide with almost 60% of the vote.


“Christianity Is Illegal in Iran”

It’s undeniably true that Iran is majority Shiite Muslim, and as a result, persecution of religious minority groups such as Sunnis, Christians, Buddhists, and Jews is a constant problem that’s caught the attention of international groups over the years. But many blanket statements about the lack of diversity of religion in Iran, both in the past and modern times, are not completely true.

Christian communities in Iran have lasted over a thousand years, predating the arrival of Islam. In fact, the Acts of the Apostles points out that Persians and Medes were among some of Christianity’s earliest converts. Through the ages, many religious groups periodically took power in the nation, including Zoroastrians. Because of this, even after the Revolution, the country’s constitution went out of its way to officially recognize Christianity and other minorities in its legal system. The conflict between the predominantly Shiite populace and Christian minorities usually occurs as a result of the country’s strict adherence to Islamic laws and customs, which contradict a few major biblical principles. In fact, usually, when Christians are caught up in legal troubles it’s for legal reasons pertaining to the law, not specifically because they are Christian. The Iranian Constitution even states: “the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden” and that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.” So barring any blatant violations of Iranian laws or customs, usually, Iranian Christians are allowed to practice their religion in private. Today, there are around 600 public churches across the country, with an estimated 300,000 attendees nationally. All religious minorities are allowed to vote, and even hold governmental positions; and five seats in parliament are specifically reserved to represent these groups. However, only Shiite Muslims are permitted to sit on any of the councils or become president.


The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the authors are theirs alone and don’t reflect the official position of or any other institution.

Machine learning and AI for media


A study from one of the world’s biggest ad firms, its digital ad agency and a programmatic ad tech company suggests that digital ad campaigns optimized by machine learning tools outperformed campaigns managed by humans over the course of one month.

Data: Magna Global; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: Although advertising has traditionally been a creative industry, stakeholders — like agencies, ad tech firms, and even brands — are pushing the effectiveness of their automation and machine learning tools, to lure clients that are focused on cost-efficient data-driven ad campaigns.

Be smart: Most of the advertising landscape has already adopted automated advertising placement and optimization as the digital standard, but automated creative is a different story.

In total, 65% of digital media is expected to be programmatic in 2019, according to a new forecast from Zenith.Programmatic ad spend will grow 19% next year, reaching $84 billion.

Between the lines: Recent headlines suggest that automation is coming for most of the media and advertising industries, in ways that transcend programmatic advertising.

The new Lexus ES campaign, which broke this week, was written by artificial intelligence, per Campaign Magazine.Google has just started funding an artificial intelligence program that will write local news articles.A viral clip of a Chinese news anchor made from artificial intelligence last month went viral, but Axios' AI reporter Kaveh Waddel assures us that it's not exactly ready for prime time.

The bottom line, per Kaveh: "My guess is it’s a lot more like advanced CGI than it actually is AI, and the copy is still coming from people. So it’s just a realistic puppet reading off a script. A CGI anchor wouldn’t be able to react in real time to a producer’s cue in an earpiece, or pivot to breaking news, or anything like that."

Go deeper: Ad industry leans into machine learning

"Rebordering" in the new cold war

AXIOS FUTURE, Steve Levine

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios


HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — The global economic and tech system appears to be breaking in two, one led by the U.S. and the other by China, in an unfolding new world resembling the competing geopolitical spheres of the Cold War.

One of the eeriest features of this apparent future will be new virtual and legal "borders," a formalization of attempts already afoot by the U.S. and China to bar the other from the sphere they themselves control."We will reborder" to keep unwanted Chinese companies out of U.S.-led parts of the world, Janice Gross Stein, political science professor at the University of Toronto, tells Axios."China is already rebordering," walling off its people from the global internet, Stein said on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Conference, a gathering of military and security officials from the world's democracies.

Why it matters: The main battleground for the future is tech — the race to dominate artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, green energy, electric cars and so on. With the trillions of dollars and military power to be gained through these and other technologies, China is out to build itself up and preserve its closed political system; the U.S. objective is to maintain the global dominance it has enjoyed since World War II.

In the West, the rebordering, as Stein calls it, will take the form of regulation of technology companies — not to protect consumer privacy, but for national security. Stein sees a change in public and government perception in which advanced technology is seen much more clearly as having dual use — for both consumers and armies.We’ve seen this in the government crackdown on foreign investments and in the Commerce Department’s move yesterday toward imposing new export controls on emerging technologies, including AI and robotics.

With the shift in attitudes,regulation will come "in a way that would have been inconceivable five years ago," Stein said.

Some say that Congress itself may not have the mettle to crack down so hard. Nicholas Burns, a former senior U.S. diplomat and now a professor at Harvard, tells Axios that there is a "trust-busting spirit coming out of Europe," but that he is not certain it will spread to the U.S.

But just on privacy concerns, the ground seems to be already fertile for regulation.

In a poll by SurveyMonkey for "Axios on HBO," 57% of American adults agreed that social media giants are hurting democracy and free speech. And 55% want the government to regulate them.

What's next: Expect tech executives to fight.

As of now, they say they are only superficially monopolistic — that they fiercely compete among each other for ad dollars, and for the future of AI. Sooner than many people presume, they say, there will be even more savage, direct commercial competition with Chinese Big Tech companies.But that is the same dynamic that thinkers like Stein believe will bring the sharp new tech divide, separated into U.S. and Chinese zones.

Go deeper:

U.S. mulls export controls on advanced technologyThe future of U.S.-China tech fiefdoms

U.S. military chief admonishes Big Tech

AXIOS FUTURE, Steve Levine

Gen. Joseph Dunford. Photo: Smith/Gado/Getty


Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is unhappy with the readiness of Big Tech to produce products for China while many company employees insist on not working with the U.S. military.

Dunford, speaking in Halifaxon Saturday, said that the American military needs the help of Big Tech companies to master artificial intelligence, which he said will lead to a battlefield advantage.But his remarks suggestedthat he continues to find resistance in Silicon Valley in helping the military get there."This is not about doingsomething that's unethical, illegal or immoral," he said. "This is about ensuring that we collectively can defend the values for which we stand."

The big picture: In June, Google pulled back from a Pentagon program called Project Maven after a massive protest by its employees, but it said it will not rule out future work with the military. Google has meanwhile defended plans to produce a censored search engine for the Chinese market.

In October, Microsoft employees wrote a letteropposing company plans to bid on military projects. But Microsoft — and separately Amazon and Oracle — said they would continue to work with the Pentagon.

The bottom line: Notwithstanding the company statements, Dunford's remarks suggest that he is not seeing the action he'd like.

"I have a hard time with companies that are working very hard to engage in the market inside China ... then don't want to work with the U.S. military," he said. "I just have a simple expression: 'We are the good guys.'"

New robot census

AXIOS FUTURE, Steve Levine

Data: Information Technology & Innovation Foundation; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

A common way to measure the use of robots around the world shows that wealthy countries — like Korea, Singapore, Germany and the U.S. — are way ahead of the curve, while China flounders behind unlikely characters like Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes:Taking wages into accountchanges the landscape dramatically. When comparing countries’ actual robot adoption to the quantity one would expect based on their wage levels, Asian countries far outstrip Europe and the U.S.

Details: A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation created baselines for expected robot adoption using manufacturing workers’ pay. Then, ITIF compared each country's baseline to the actual number of robots there.

The report's authors argue this measure is more useful than the more standard one: the number of industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing workers."That’s not the real story, because robots cost money," ITIF president Robert Atkinson says in a video released with the report. "It makes sense to install more of them in countries with high wages, because they pay for themselves more quickly that way."The new ranking, reproduced above, shows which countries are investing in robots beyond the standard level that ITIF says makes economic sense for that country.

China in particular leapt from laggard to leader in ITIF’s reassessment.

As we’ve written before, the country is moving swiftly to become a robotics superpower, both as a consumer and a producer."We project it will lead the world in robot adoption in less than a decade, controlling for wage levels," says Atkinson.

The countries at the high end of the graph above generally have national strategies or policies in place for investing in robots, the ITIF report says.

By contrast, the 16th place American finish "reflects an overall lag in capital expenditures by U.S. manufacturers and an almost complete lack of a national robotics strategy."

November 18, 2018

Modi, Ambani and Rafale: Mainstream Media

Today I will tell you a story of an Indian Company, which is making it's name in a Domain where Indian Companies used to be considered as Non-Players.

Recently I read a news, which was extremely important, but don't know why Indian Media didn't give it any coverage at all.

* The news is....America floated a tender for maintenance and services of its Navy's 7th Fleet, which monitors entire Asian Ocean Waters. This is an important Fleet as it contains more than 100 Vessels, and the maintenance used to be handled by Singaporean and Japanese Defence Organizations.

This was a Huge order worth Rs. 15000 Crores ( more than 2 Billion USD) for 3 years. And you will be elated to know that an Indian Organization clinched this deal.

USA sent its expert panel to India to conduct a Survey of this organization, and this expert panel reported that Indian Company's Service and Maintenance Facility and Infrastructure is at par with it's  Japanese and other counterparts. They were surprised to see this, because they never expected an Indian Organization to be at such level.

> This Company is known as Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited (RDEL) which is managed by Anil Ambani's Reliance Infrastructure Limited (RInfra).

Surprised? shocked? Finding Modi's hand in it? 😊😊

Let's move over to the Second News.

An Indian Company has delivered 2 Naval Offshore patrol Vessels "Shruti" and "Sachi" to Indian Navy. Both Vessels have a 20000 KW Diesel Engine which can attain maximum speed of 25 Knots, and can travel upto 25000 Kilometers at the same go.

Both Vessels are equipped with 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM) and fitted with 30 mm AK-630 Guns to carry out any Counter Offensive operation. As per Indian Navy, both the Vessels are superior in quality amd can match any such Vessels from USA,Japan or Russia.

* This Company is also making Patrol and Transportation Vessels for ONGC and other Indian Organisations.

* This company has secured huge Supply Orders of such Vessels from Developed Nations like Norvey, Netherlands and Denmark.

> The name of this company is Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited (RDEL) which is managed by Anil Ambani's Reliance Infrastructure Limited (RInfra).

Again Surprised? Shocked? Finding Modi's Involvement in it? 😊😊😊

* News 3 - Indian and French Government secured Rafale Jet deal. Due to offset clause Dassault chose Reliance as their Indian Partner. And as expected, people started finding some hidden role of Modi in this deal.

Because for most of the Educated Illeterates, Modi is a friend of Corporates like Ambani amd Adani 😊😊

But people dont know that Rafale was choosen under MMRCA in 2007 itself. So we can say that there is no role of Modi in selection of Rafale jets for Indian Airforce....correct?

While reading an old news I got to know that in AGM of Reliance Group in 2007, Ambani decided to diversify its portfolio and to invest in Defence,Aerostructure etc.

Anil Ambani founded Reliance Aerostructure in Tennessee (France). This organization started building up its Technical Expertise, that too without having an Order in pipeline. Reliance invested heavily and gather all the required resources for this Domain.

In couple of years, Reliance Aerostructure became expertise in the following.

1. Commercial and Business Aviation Integrations & Modifications,  Avionics Upgrades, Aircraft Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS) & Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Reporting (TAMDAR), Emergency Locator (ELT) Weather Radar, Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), Extended-Range Twin-Engine Operational Performance Standard (ETOPS), Fire/Smoke Abatement System, Regional Aircraft Cargo Conversions, Aftermarket Install of APUs, Dash-8 Rudder Isolation MOD, Anti-Ice, Structural Modification (Composite & Sheet-metal).

2. Government and Military Aviation Integrations & Modifications, ARC-231 SATCOM, Forward Looking Infra Red Integration (FLIR), Air Warrior MCCS, SAFIRE II FLIR Upgrade, APX-118 Common Transponder, ARC-220 HF Radio, Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), I/R Strobe, UH-60 Health, Usage & Monitoring System (HUMS), Desert HUMS, Blue Force Tracker (BFT/EDM), MAVIN Cabin Heat, Pegasus IAS-E, CH-47 Common Missile Warning System (ALE-47), ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing System, Aircraft Wireless Intercom System (AWIS), Fast Rope Insertion and Extraction System (FRIES), Huey UH-1H-II Conversion.

Reliance Aerostructure even started providing it's services to Airforces of USA, France etc. by 2012 Reliance Aerostructure transformed itself into and Expert in Aviation Expert Technology. By 2012 Reliance acquired Technical Expertise in the field of Naval and Airforce.

During #UPA regime, while Rafale deal negotiations were made, Dassault sent their Expert Team for an inspection of both HAL and Reliance Aerostructure facilities in India. Dassault was suprised to see the kind of Expertise acquired by Reliance Aerostructure and almost decided to take it onboard as Offset Partner...but due to some unknown reasons, this never happened.

Then in 2016, the Rafale deal was signed by both Indian and French Government as a Government-to-Government deal. It was decided to provide Rafale Jets with all Weapons,Technology transfer at the cost of 97.23 Million Euros per Jet. Apart from that it was also decided to provide 32 Jaguar and 2 Mirage-2000 Fighter jets to Indian Airforce at ZERO cost, which will address the Service,Spare and Maintenance issues of IAF, as we already have Multiple Squadrons of #Jaguar and #Mirage2000 Fighter Jets.

#Dassault has signed an agreement with Reliance Aerostructure to provide local technical support. Apart from that #RelianceAerostructre will manufacture Spare parts for Dassault which will be used in other Fighter Jets, and mostly these parts will be exported to other Countries.

The MOST Important part, which NO Media will ever tell you......that apart from Reliance.....BEL, Bharat Dyanmics Limited and Samtel(Congress Leader Sam Pitroda's Organization) have also signed agreements with Dassault to provide some specific spare parts.

Apart from that French Organization Thales is also going to sign a Technology agreement with Reliance. They will form a Joint-Venture and establish a Special Economic Zone in Nagpur.

Due to Offset clause, Dassault will be investing the 50% of total deal in India. Which will be used to make a DEFENCE MANUFACTURING ECOSYSTEM in India.

Several Indian Companies like Hindustan A Aeronautics Limited, BEL, BDL, Samtel, DRDO will be provided with Component and Parts Technology by Dassault.

Important Point - Out of this 50% of Deal value, 30% will be invested in Public Sector organizations like BEL,DRDO or HAL. The remaining 20% will be invested to form Joint Venture with Private Companies of India.....Reliance is one among them.

Now here I have few questions for Cry Babies and People infected by #ModiAmbani Syndrome.

1. When IAF selected #Rafale as the best jet, after testing 6 different Fighter jets in all kind of possible terrains......Modi was nowhere in scene....then why accuse Modi?

2. Ambani started investing in Defence and Naval domain way back in took 5-6 years to gain the required Expertise......Modi was nowhere even then....then why accuse Modi?

3. Reliance did work with several developed countries and has a track record in #DefenceManufacturing......then why people accuse them of not having any Defence Tech Expertise?

4. Dassault selected #Reliance out of all the Indian Companies, because no other Indian Company had such Multiple Expertise at that moment.....then how come Modi and Ambani responsible for it???

Conclusion - The problem with Indians is that we always remain in fantasy with Foreign Brands......For them #Boeing,#Thales,#Dassault,#Sukhoi are Holier than thou Organizations.....but our own Company which has independently invested and acquired the required knowledge is an EVIL for us.

One more point.... People always remain dependent on Main Stream Media (read Biased Media) for news and facts.....they never check the facts on their Friends rather than believing on any Propaganda...sometimes use your Mind.

Source - Ranjay Tripathi
Resourced.  Manish Sharma