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Showing posts from September 14, 2014

Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition   Analysis SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 | 0436   Summary Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader. Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.  Analysis Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to inte

No full stop, only comma in (Pak) diplomacy: Sushma     Last month, India called off the Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan, scheduled for August 25, after Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit met separatist leaders just a week before the talks. Last month, India called off the Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan, scheduled for August 25, after Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit met separatist leaders just a week before the talks. Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Posted: September 9, 2014 2:40 am External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Monday said that there is "no full stop" in diplomacy, only "comma or semicolon" — an indication that New Delhi is willing to move ahead with its relations with Islamabad. Responding to a question at her first media interaction since taking charge as minister, Swaraj said, "Diplomacy mein kabhi bhi purn viraam nahin lagta,

The US-EU-Russia sanctions puzzle Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.   Whatever Russia does, doubt does not even enter the equation. The answer is sanctions. So here we go again. The US Treasury-EU latest sanction package targets Russian banking, the energy industry and the defense industry. The sanctions are mean. The sanctions are nasty. And there's no euphemism to describe them; they amount to a declaration of economic war. Sberbank, Russia's largest won't be able to access Western capital for long-term funding, including every kind of borrowing over 30 days. And the current 90-day lending bans affecting six other large Russian banks – a previous sanctions package - will also be reduced to 30 days. On the energy front, what the US-EU want is to shut down new Russian exploration projects in Sib

NATO stages Black Sea naval drills

Published time: September 17, 2014 23:42 Get short URL NATO is launching exercises in the international waters of the Balkans, with warships and troops of several member countries also "visiting" Bulgaria until September 22. It comes as a new submarine enters service in the Russian Black Sea Fleet.   Starting Friday, naval exercises will take place in the southeast of Constanta, off the territorial waters of Romania. Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 – which includes the US, the UK, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, as well as the naval forces of Bulgaria, Romania, and Canada - is taking part in the drills.  The drills include PASSEX type exercises. These will feature communication drills, joint tactical maneuvers, and data exchange on viewing surface and underwater situations. The naval forces will also be tasked with defeating attacks of simulated air and surface enemies.  Two ships of the Romani

Analysis: YPG - the Islamic State's worst enemy Michael Stephens, JDW Correspondent - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly 11 September 2014       While the Islamic State (IS) has swept away the armies that have stood before it, a little-known group fighting its own war against the extremist group has done remarkably well. The People's Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel: YPG) are the defence force of the Democratic Administration of Rojava: the de facto autonomous Kurdish region that has been formed in northeast Syria since the outbreak of that country's conflict in 2011. Currently engaged in combat against the IS on five front lines across northern Syria, the YPG is perhaps one of the only forces that knows how to take on the extremists at their own game. Relying on speed, stealth, and surprise, it is the archetypal guerrilla army, able to deploy quickly to front lines and concentrate its forces before quickly redirecting the axis of its attack

State of failure - Libyan government struggles to stem violence

Tribal forces from western Libya, allied with loyalists of former leader Muammar Ghaddafi and remnants of the former army, are fighting against a coalition of Islamist forces primarily from the coastal area between Misratah and Tripoli. Limited military intervention in the conflict is likely by Algeria and Egypt, although this will be insufficient to turn the tide of the battle without arming the fighters on the ground. The Libyan government is unlikely to recover its authority in the coming year, and in a best-case scenario will remain dependent on quasi-independent militias and remnants of the former army for several years to come.  

Scottish independence: impact on defence and military structures

17 September 2014 Scotland risks having a "very hollow military force" as a result of a limited defence budget should the country become independent on 18 September, according to Edward Hunt, an IHS Senior Defence Consultant. "Maintaining a country's armed forces is inherently expensive and requires a sustained commitment of public funds not easily amended or reversed," he said. "In addition to the costs of buying, maintaining and, in some cases, upgrading equipment, there is the long-term cost of supporting personnel. "Hiring, training and supporting personnel and their families is a long-term commitment that can span up to 20 or 30 years." The budgetary costs of supporting a smaller force can be promotionally higher than that of a larger force owing to the inherent fixed costs such as training, maintenance and basing. While any equipment used i

The Iraqi Shi’a Militia Response to the U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition By Ahmed Ali On September 15, Iraqi Shi'a militias issued statements concerning any further involvement by U.S. military personnel in Iraq or neighboring countries. The groups included the Sadrist Trend, which has fully reactivated its Mahdi Army under the banner of the "Peace Brigades," Asai'b Ahl al-Haq (AAH), and Katai'b Hizballah (KH). Both AAH and KH are supported by the Iranian government while the Sadrists have had more complex relations with the Iranian government. The three groups, along with the Badr organization, have also had a forward-deploying role in the Iraqi government's ground campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The role of KH and AAH has been coordinated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force (QF). The Peace Brigades have avoided public association with the Iranian government and may be coordinating with QF to a lesser extent in comparison to AAH and KH. In his st

Kurdistan deputy PM: ‘Great imbalance’ between weapons used by Kurdish forces, ISIS

Published September 03, Kurdistan Regional Government Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani told Fox News' Bret Baier Wednesday that there is a "great imbalance" between the weaponry used by the Islamic State militants and that of the Kurdish peshmerga security forces, imploring the U.S. to provide the Kurds with advanced weapons. Talabani said on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that the caliber of the weapons used by the Islamic State fighters, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is far greater than that of the Kurdish forces. "There is a great imbalance in the weaponry because ISIS have state of-the-art, U.S.-supplied weaponry that they were able to take with ease from the Iraq armed forces," he said.  Talabani was referring to the fact that the militant group seized a large arsenal of U.S.-supplied weapons from the Iraqi army when the group captured the city of Mosul. In contrast, Talabani said the Kurdish forces are working with decades-old

Kurdish Peshmerga Kill Top IS Military Commander

By RUDAW 13 hours ago - - ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Kurdish security officials said that Peshmerga forces had killed senior Islamic State (IS) commander Yasin Ali Suleiman Shlash known as Abu Abdullah near Khazir on Tuesday. "He was killed with a number of other terrorists during a military operation by Peshmerga forces in coordination with the US air force to liberate Hassan Sham and its vicinities," Kurdistan Region's Security Council said in statement. According to the statement, Abu Abdullah was a senior military commander and a top IS official in the state (Wilayat) of Mosul. "Abu Abdullah was the mastermind behind the 2007 explosion in front of the ministry of the interior in Erbil," said the security statement. The Kurdish Security Council described Abu Abdullah, also known as Abu Sumaya, as a native of Mosul, 39 years old and former Arabic language teacher in Mosul. "In 2010 he was arrested by the American forces and later transferred to the jurisdict

ISIS atrocities: Sold into Sex and a Widow at 19

By  Obêd Reşavayî Homeless Yezidis arriving in Kurdistan, escaping from jihadi militants who regard them as 'unbelievers.' Homeless Yezidis arriving in Kurdistan, escaping from jihadi militants who regard them as 'unbelievers.' DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – One day, it was her turn to be sold. Still, of all the hundreds of Yezidi girls and women captured, abused and sold as war booty by Islamic State militants in Iraq, she has to count herself among the fortunate. That is because 19-year-old H. Ali, identifying herself only by her initial and already a widow with a three-year-old child, managed to escape. She lives to tell the tale of her abduction, captivity and abuse by the Islamic State (IS/formerly ISIS) armies. What has emerged from her account – and of the few like her who could tell their stories to Rudaw -- after storming the Yezidi town of Shingal and nearby villages early last month, the militants embarked on

Three Convergent Thinking Techniques Every Analyst Should Master   \While divergent thinking is useful for developing concepts, ideas or hypotheses, convergent thinking is useful for focusing the analytic effort.  I have found that there are three crucial convergent thinking techniques: Grouping.   Grouping (and its corollary, Establishing Relationships) is probably the most useful of the convergent thinking techniques.  In order to get a handle on all of the ideas that typically emerge from any divergent thinking exercise, it is important to be able to group similar ideas or hypotheses together.  Critical to this effort are the labels assigned to the various groups.  All sorts of cultural and cognitive biases can easily come into play with poorly chosen group names (For example, think how easily the labels "terrorist", "freedom fighter", "good" or "evil" can influence future analysis).  Mindmapping and other conc

Chinese Colleges Are Trying to Look Like the Ivy League

Over the next few weeks, American undergraduates flooding back to campus will take part in a university tradition even older than drinking from Solo cups or inhaling stale pizza: They'll be setting up homes inside the rock-hewn walls of Gothic buildings that look like Medieval castles, retrofitted for serious scholars. Many of these buildings were designed a century ago, when young American colleges—desperate to assert their legitimacy—went on a knock-off binge. They cloned British universities' libraries, cathedrals, quads, sculptures and even dress codes in the hopes of recreating the feel (and prestige) of Oxford and Cambridge. READ MORE

Israel's Worst-Kept Secret   Is the silence over Israeli nukes doing more harm than good? DOUGLAS BIRCH AND R. JEFFREY SMITHSEP 16 2014, 5:00 AM ET   Israel has a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons. Former CIA Director Robert Gates said so during his 2006 Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of defense, when he noted—while serving as a university president—that Iran is surrounded by "powers with nuclear weapons," including "the Israelis to the west." Former President Jimmy Carter said so in 2008 and again this year, in interviews and speeches in which he pegged the number of Israel's nuclear warheads at 150 to around 300. But due to a quirk of federal secrecy rules, such remarks generally cannot be made even now by those who work for the U.S. government and hold active security clearances. In fact, U.S. officials, even those on Capitol Hill, are routinely

Seeds of Doubt An activist's controversial crusade against genetically modified crops. BY MICHAEL SPECTER    Vandana Shiva accuses multinational corporations such as Monsanto of attempting to impose "food totalitarianism" on the world. Vandana Shiva accuses multinational corporations such as Monsanto of attempting to impose "food totalitarianism" on the world.   Early this spring, the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva led an unusual pilgrimage across southern Europe. Beginning in Greece, with the international Pan-Hellenic Exchange of Local Seed Varieties Festival, which celebrated the virtues of traditional agriculture, Shiva and an entourage of followers crossed the Adriatic and travelled by bus up the boot of Italy, to Florence, where she spoke at the Seed, Food and Earth Democracy Festival. After a short planning meeting in Genoa, the caravan rolled on to the South of France, ending in Le Mas d'Azil, just