India should be careful of Syria

Posted by Admin On Tuesday, 28 February 2012 0 comments
The ‘Friends of Syria’ [FOS] grouping, sponsored by the Western powers and their Arab allies, is scheduled to have its first session on Friday. By a clever political ploy, Tunis...

The ‘Friends of Syria’ [FOS] grouping, sponsored by the Western powers and their Arab allies, is scheduled to have its first session on Friday. By a clever political ploy, Tunis has been chosen as the venue of the meeting, as the Mediterranean capital invokes the fragrance of the Arab Spring. Although, Syria’s crisis is more geopolitical than a whiff of Arab Spring, which is itself in great distress today.
Seventy countries have been invited to the Tunis meet. India qualifies for FOS membership, arguably, since it voted not once but twice in favour of the Arab League resolutions on Syria — in the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. Whether or not, or at what level, India proposes to attend the Tunis meeting — that is, whether India is willing to be a part of the FOS — will be keenly watched.
Equally, it is not yet known where China stands apropos FOS. Vice-President Xi Jinping was in Ankara yesterday and the Turks are openly enthusiastic about the FOS. (By the way, Turkish government allowed an Uighur demonstration to be staged near Xi’s hotel, which suggests a lot about Turkey-China partnership.)
Xinhua news agency has come down heavily on the western powers over Syria. In a commentary today with Beijing dateline, It just stops short of warning the FOS against taking any decision to arm the Syrian opposition. It repeats that the western strategy in the Middle East remains geopolitical and Syria, Lebanon and Iran are inter-connected theatres. (Lebanon refuses to attend the FOS meeting.)
The most important part of the Xinhua commentary is its support for the reform programme of President Bashar Al-Assad.
On the other hand, Russia’s rejection of the FOS meeting doesn’t come as surprise. But what merits attention is Moscow’s comprehensive rejection of the western move and the warning that FOS bears similarity to the infamous Libya Contact Group that provided the platform for the NATO military intervention to over throw the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.
The Russians have put forward a new proposal that the UN secretary-general Ban KI-Moon should depute a special envoy to Damascus with a view to negotiate with the government and the opposition the modalities of rendering humanitarian assistance. This move pre-empts the FOS seeking a pretext for proposing  ’humanitarian intervention’ in Syria.
From the high-level participation by the western countries in the FOS meeting — US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is travelling to Tunis — it must be surmised that a further push for accelerating a regime change in Syria is in the offing. But Washington is not yet ready to announce the policy shift to commence direct American military assistance for the Syrian opposition, although it could be fast nearing that point.
All in all, therefore, Delhi’s stance apropos the FOS will signify a defining moment for India’s West Asia policy. Some Indian pundits have simplistically sketched the Syrian crisis as posing a dilemma for Delhi to choose between Riyadh and Tehran. This is a limited perspective of Middle East through the prism of Sunni-Shi’ite discord, which doesn’t tell the whole story. Whereas, there are many dimensions to the Syrian situation.
To begin with, the analogy of Libya ought to worry Delhi. Syria’s descent into anarchy is bound to destabilize the entire region. Beyond that lies the precedent of unilateral military interventions in selective theatres to bring about regime changes. It has grave implications for international security in general.
Delhi also cannot be oblivious to the double standards. The most important aspect of the West Asian regional upheaval could be the resurgence of radical islamist groups. Even senior US officials haveacknowledged the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria. As a country in the ‘extended neighbourhood’ of West Asia, India becomes a stakeholder. Any association with FOS is undesirable at this stage. India should remain a mere unpretentious friend of Syria.

Smile and say Murder

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It is no big secret that since 9/11, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with the support of allied agencies has been fighting a global ‘dirty war’ or applying state-sponsored...
It is no big secret that since 9/11, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with the support of allied agencies has been fighting a global ‘dirty war’ or applying state-sponsored violence, against al-Qaeda and its acolytes, encompassing both counterinsurgency and counter-terror tools. The elements of dirty war traditionally include murder, kidnapping, torture, disappearances or simply blowing up the opposition through the use of drone technology.
Drone strikes have been a sore point with the public and Pakistani politicians, who describe them as counterproductive and violations of sovereignty that produce unacceptable civilian casualties and creates more jihadists. Still, despite its public stance, it appears that Pakistan and its security services have quietly supported the drone programme as part of the counterinsurgency operations against the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan’s involvement includes providing local “spotters” on the ground who assist in pointing the drones to targets from a joint pre-agreed ‘priority list’.
The New America Foundation has estimated that since 2004, 2,551 people have been killed in the drone strikes in Pakistan, with 80% of those militants. Between 293 and 471 were thought to be civilians, including more than 160 children — approximately 17 percent of those killed. The Islamabad-based Conflict Monitoring Center (CMC) while agreeing that drones have killed over 2000 persons, has said that a majority of the killed people are ’unknown suspected militants’.
The drone program reminds one of the CIA‘s Phoenix Programme, a controversial counterinsurgency program that operated between 1967 and 1972 during the Vietnam war. The Programme was designed to identify the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI) supporting the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF), more commonly referred to as the Vietcong (VC) and neutralize it through capture, coercion or killing its members. The Phoenix Programme was widely criticized by opponents of the conflict who called it little more than an “assassination program” utilizing “indiscriminate brutality” and a violation of international law.
The CIA also provided tacit support to Operation Condor, which was a notorious campaign of assassination and intelligence operations, launched by the right-wing South American dictatorships against leftist opposition in 1975. The infamous “death flights”, orchestrated in Argentina by naval chief Admiral Luis María Mendía — and also used during the Algerian War (1954–1962) by French forces — were widely used, in order to make the corpses, and therefore evidence, disappear by throwing them out of aircraft over the ocean. There were also many cases of the abduction of children of prominent dissidents during Condor, featured in the award winning 1982 Costa-Gavras film ‘Missing’.
Whether the subject is drones or past instances of state-sponsored violence, some basic questions need to be addressed: How are targets chosen? Under what legal authority are extreme methods employed? How successful are extreme methods in killing enemies and sparing civilians? Are extreme methods helpful in winning the war against would-be terrorists or enemies?
President Obama, who recently acknowledged that the United States has a secret drone programme aimed at terrorists in the AfPak region, also hinted as to how targets were chosen. He said: “Many strikes were carried out on Al-Qaeda operatives in places where the capacities of that military in that country may not be able to get them…For us to be able to get them in another way would involve, probably, a lot more intrusive military action than the ones we’re already engaging in.”
Judging from recent polls, US voters seem pretty gung-ho on the use of unmanned drones to go after terrorists, which makes it unlikely that the US will agree to stop or scale down drone operations in Pakistan, especially in an election year. Polls also suggest that more people feel that the president as commander-in- chief has the authority to use drones against terrorists in other countries compared to those who felt that the president should get congressional approval before drones are deployed.
The CIA claims that the drones programme has ‘decimated’ the al-Qaeda leadership and disrupted the leadership of the Tehrik–i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Among those killed by drones are nine of al-Qaeda’s 20 top commanders, including ‘high-value’ targets like Abu Hamza Rabia, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Nek Muhammad and Baitullah Mehsud. However, even Admiral William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, recognizing that there can be no purely military solution to the conflict, warned: “There is nobody in the U.S. government that thinks we can kill our way to victory.”
The problem with using the drone’s strategy in isolation is that the broader political, social, and even economic policies that could mitigate its pernicious consequences are ignored. Russell Baker’s quote: “Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things” may well describe drone warfare.

Reverting terrorists

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TANK: Tank is no stranger to terrorism. The town, which has often been at the forefront of militancy, has decided to face the menace in an unusually unique way. Psychological and...

TANK: Tank is no stranger to terrorism.
The town, which has often been at the forefront of militancy, has decided to face the menace in an unusually unique way.
Psychological and cognitive therapy, it seems, is paving the way to rehabilitate men who were once fighting the war. At one unusual facility in Tank, the motto remains: If they were made to be this way, they can be turned back too.
At an internment centre, thirty-eight men of varying age groups, dressed in brownish khaddar, anxiously wait to taste freedom after having been kept in detention for almost eleven months.
Although not “hardcore” militants these men are categorised as “grey” —ideologically inclined towards militancy.
After walk around the facility, one can safely conclude that indoctrination alone was never enough to tilt their thinking but sociological factors along with distortion of facts were the main catalysts for their lopsided views.
While most of the men, part of the De-Radicalisation and Emancipation Programme  (DREP), are reluctant to speak about their activities prior to being detained, they are more focused on the prospects of their “bright” future.
Abdullah, a taxi driver who belongs to Shava, North Waziristan Agency, says the situation in his region is still not good. When asked why he was brought to this rehabilitation centre, he shies away with a chagrined smile and says, “My mind has been cleared now. We’ve been taught what Islam really means, we had been misled before”.
Abdullah now aspires for a new beginning and wants to start a new life. “I have a son and three daughters and I want to focus on their future now,” he says with sincere determination in his sparkly eyes.
Others share similar views. “My elder brother was working for a banned organisation,” says Rashid Anwar, in his early 20s. “I tried to stop him in the beginning…” but his voice trails off in uncomfortable distance — as if he were trying to forget the morbid realities of his horrific past.
The psychiatrist in this facility is quite confident that the men will not revert back to their “previous practices”.
“Their ideas were based mostly on hearsay and were not logically coherent,” he argues. “We’ve treated them with various cognitive methods and I am a 100% sure they wont revert back.”
Officials of the facility say that almost 50% of the detainees at this internment centre were not aware of the fundamentals of Islam and could not read the Quran but were ideologically inclined towards militancy instilled in their minds on the basis of religion.
The internment centre is not only de-radicalising these men, it is going one step beyond that. It also provides these men with basic training in technical fields like painting, handling electrical appliances, plumbing and tailoring — skills which will help them earn them a living after they leave the centre.
The programme – which began in October 2011 – has released its first batch of detainees and the plan is to continue and treat people because it has a “100% success rate” so far, according to the centre officials.
“De-radicalisation is the only way back after what the country has been through,” says Lt General Khalid Rabbani, the corps commander of Peshawar, explaining that a handful of people have stigmatised religion. “Locking up people is not a solution,” he asserts.
At a ceremony where tribal elders and relatives of these men have gathered and guaranteed to take them back home after their treatment, families hug their loved ones and enjoy a feast with patriotic songs played in a humming tone.
While the ceremony goes on, a bomb blast rips through a nearby city leaving 13 people dead and more than 30 injured.  A day later, three suicide bombers storm a nearby police station and kill four policemen and wound six others.
Incidents like these in the tribal belt serve as a stark reminder of the fact that de-radicalisation might be the only real hope to bring peace in a society where militant ideology sustains itself like a prominent reality.

Brahamdagh’s statements ring Warning Bells

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“America must intervene in Balochistan and stop the ethnic cleansing of Baloch people, we would also welcome Indian intervention,” was the resounding voice of Brahamdagh, echoing in the Quetta Press...

“America must intervene in Balochistan and stop the ethnic cleansing of Baloch people, we would also welcome Indian intervention,” was the resounding voice of Brahamdagh, echoing in the Quetta Press Club on February 22 as media persons listened with rapt attention to the telephonic address of the 30-year-old Baloch separatist leader from an undisclosed abode in the country of his exile. Whatever the reasons are, does it suit to Baloch ghairat, honour and pride to invite another nation, including the archrival neighbouring India, to step into their land and help them against their own brothers and even Baloch people sitting at Centre in various capacities, either in the ministries or within the military?
I believe Brahamdagh’s call for foreign intervention is not only unusual and against the Baloch pride and honour, but also on the lines of the foreign countries’ set agenda. It is important to end the issues of missing persons, forced disappearances and target killings, but it is also important to play our role as society in the province. Why has the civil dispensation in Quetta not so-far called the session of Provincial Assembly to at least condemn the US Congressional resolution on Balochistan? Instead, the other provinces’ assemblies have done it so. Where has gone the political leadership here? Who has created a wider gap and vacuum on the political front here?

Religion might help bring an end to Iran’s nuclear program

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Nina Tannenwald writes: At a time when anti-Iran hawks are beating the drums of war, the international community needs to pursue all possible routes to a peaceful solution to Iran’s...

Nina Tannenwald writes:
At a time when anti-Iran hawks are beating the drums of war, the international community needs to pursue all possible routes to a peaceful solution to Iran’s nuclear challenge. One route that has not been tried is harnessing moral and religious norms as a source of nuclear restraint. Incongruous as it may seem, Iran’s leaders have repeatedly stated that nuclear weapons are “un-Islamic.” Why not hold them to it?
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa, a religious decree, in 2004, describing the use of nuclear weapons as “immoral.” In a statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in August 2005, the Iranian chief nuclear negotiator, Sirus Naseri, read a statement reiterating Khameini’s fatwa that “the production, stockpiling, or use of nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam.” Many regime figures have repeated the prohibition, including Khamanei himself, who said in 2010 that Islam considered weapons of mass destruction (WMD) “to be symbols of genocide and are, therefore, forbidden and considered to be haraam [forbidden in Islam].”
No other national leader anywhere has ever asserted that nuclear weapons are, say, “un-Christian” or “un-Jewish” (although Western religious leaders and scholars have expressed such views).
Iran’s leaders could be dissembling, of course, as part of their effort to mislead the international community. But no one forced them to say this — let alone to repeat it publicly — and Khameini has not repudiated this fatwa even as Iran’s nuclear program has advanced. It would be strange for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its adherence to Islam to keep asserting this point if it were really totally insincere.
We don’t need to take the Iranians at face value, but why not take advantage of the opening their own words provide? The international community should capitalize on this element of restraint. We should hold them to it.
How might this work? Diplomats should refer to the statements approvingly and frequently. President Obama should use his rhetorical gifts to publicly acknowledge the Iranian prohibition and state that, as a person of faith himself, he respects and welcomes the testament. The goal would be to invoke Islamic moral values as a positive contribution to both Iranian and global nuclear restraint.
A second approach would involve “Track II” diplomacy. This would entail holding conferences that bring together religious scholars and ethicists from different religions, along with government officials and nuclear strategists from key countries to discuss ethical constraints on nuclear weapons. This would be a good project for foundations to support.
This strategy — a normative one — would not replace sanctions. Rather, by invoking Islam’s moral contribution in a positive way, and by connecting it to longer term efforts toward global nuclear disarmament, it could help provide Iranian leaders with the political cover and respect to engage in negotiations over their nuclear program.
International relations scholars have a term for this kind of normative strategy: “rhetorical entrapment.” Developed especially in constructivist analyses of human rights, it refers to how NGOs especially, but also states and international organizations, seek to hold leaders accountable to their publically-stated commitments to moral values or norms. Leaders can become “entrapped” in a public debate over their adherence. The act of holding the debate increases the salience and legitimacy of the norms at issue and thereby raises the legitimacy, or normative, costs to the regime of violating its own commitments.
Thus, in contrast to a realist strategy for dealing with a recalcitrant state, which emphasizes imposing material costs (sanctions, military threats), a constructivist strategy emphasizes raising the normative (legitimacy) costs of a violation. This approach assumes that leaders care about certain kinds of legitimacy (in this case, fidelity to Islam), just as the realist strategy assumes that states will be vulnerable to material sanctions and threats.
Is this normative approach to Iran pie-in-the-sky? Realists may snicker, but, historically, religious and moral norms have played an important role in shaping our thinking about nuclear weapons. Christian churches and other religious groups played a key role in the anti-nuclear weapons movements of the 1950s and 1980s. Their moral critique of nuclear weapons made it impossible to think of such a weapon as “just another weapon.” Perhaps most prominent was the American Catholic bishops’ influential 1982 pastoral letter criticizing nuclear deterrence as “morally flawed.” This powerful statement provoked a widespread debate about the ethics of the nuclear arms race and helped undermine public support for aggressive nuclear strategies.
Iran has good reason to harbor a special revulsion toward weapons of mass destruction. It is the second largest victim of WMD attacks after Japan. Iran suffered over 100,000 casualties, both military and civilian, from Iraqi chemical weapons attacks during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Iran did not retaliate in kind partly because it was unprepared but also because Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini believed that chemical weapons were prohibited by Islam.
This experience deeply affected the national psyche of a generation of Iranians. Adding to the bitterness is the Iranian perception that the West was mostly indifferent to this suffering. Western countries quietly sided with Saddam Hussein in the war and failed to strongly condemn the chemical weapons attacks. Thus Iran surely has something to contribute to the global moral discourse on weapons of mass destruction.
The repressive Iranian regime is distasteful for reasons that go well beyond nuclear weapons, and no one who cares about the fate of the Middle East should want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Yet significant evidence suggests that Iranian leaders, while clearly determined to acquire a nuclear capability, have not yet made a decision to actually build a nuclear warhead. Invoking the value and worth of the Iranian regime’s own publically-stated moral norms may help to reinforce more realist reasons for restraint, such as economic sanctions, military threats, or fears of provoking a nuclear arms race in the region.
Like anything else, this moral appeal may not work. But there is little to lose. To date, the key international players have shown a striking lack of diplomatic imagination in dealing with the Iranian challenge. Harnessing cultural and religious resources might facilitate a peaceful solution to this looming crisis and contribute to restraint on all sides. Of course, there is also the “boomerang” effect: engaging Iran in this conversation might require us to confront the status of our own moral values with respect to nuclear weapons.
I’m pleased to present the following guest post from Nina Tannenwald of Brown University. Alert readers will note that she is writing from a constructivist rather than realist perspective, but when you’re trying to avoid a foolish war, paradigmatic loyalty is a decidedly secondary consideration.


Drones 101

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When drones were created, how they’re used, and what their future looks like. 1. The first armed drones were created to get Osama bin Laden. In 1998, U.S. President Bill...

When drones were created, how they’re used, and what their future looks like.
1. The first armed drones were created to get Osama bin Laden.
In 1998, U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration shut down an operation to kill the al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan with cruise missiles, given collateral damage estimates of 300 casualties and only 50 percent confidence in the intelligence. As the 9/11 Commission 
, “After this episode Pentagon planners intensified efforts to find a more precise alternative.” In 2000 and 2001, the U.S. Air Force struggled to reconfigure a Hellfire anti-tank missile to fit onto a Predator surveillance drone. Meeting one week before the 9/11 attacks, the National Security Council agreed that the armed Predator was not ready to be operationally deployed. The first known killing by armed drones occurred in November 2001, when a Predator targeted Mohammed Atef, a top al Qaeda military commander, in Afghanistan.
2. So far, drones tend to crash.
On Dec. 4, an RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone crashed in Iran; a U.S. official involved in the program blamed a lost data link and another unspecific malfunction. Two weeks later, an unarmed Reaper drone crashed at the end of a runway in the Seychelles. “This should not be a surprise,” a defense official told Aviation Week & Space Technology, saying the United States had already lost more than 50 drones. As of July 2010, the Air Force hadidentified 79 drone accidents costing at least $1 million each. The primary reasons for the crashes: bad weather, loss or disruption of communications links, and “human error factors,” according to the Air Force. As Lt. Gen. David Deptula, former Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, hasnoted with refreshing honesty, “Some of the [drones] that we have today, you put in a high-threat environment, and they’ll start falling from the sky like rain.”
3. Drones are coming to America.
Worried about the militarization of U.S. airspace by unmanned aerial vehicles? As of October, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had reportedly issued 285 active certificates for 85 users, covering 82 drone types. The FAA has refused to say who received the clearances, but it wasestimated over a year ago that 35 percent were held by the Pentagon, 11 percent by NASA, and 5 percent by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And it’s growing. U.S. Customs and Border Protection already operates eight Predator drones. Under pressure from the congressionalUnmanned Systems Caucus – yes, there’s already a drone lobby, with 50 members — two additional Predators were sent to Texas in the fall, though a DHS official noted: “We didn’t ask for them.” Last June, a Predator drone intended to patrol the U.S.-Canada border helped locate three suspected cattle rustlers in North Dakota in what was the first reported use of a drone to arrest U.S. citizens.
4. The scope of U.S. military drone missions is expanding…
Drones have come a long way in little more than a decade of military use in strike operations. Five-pound backpack drones are now used by infantry soldiers for tactical surveillance and will soon be deployed for what their manufacturer calls “magic bullet” kamikaze missions. Special operations forces have developed a warhead fired from a Predator drone that can knock down doors. K-Maxhelicopter drones transport supplies to troops at forward operating bases in Afghanistan. Balloons unleash Tempest drones, which then send out smaller surveillance drones — called Cicadas — that glide to the ground to collect data. And now the U.S. State Department is flying a small fleet of surveillance drones over Iraq to protect the U.S. Embassy there. Bottom line: More and more drones have been rushed into service, and their use and application by the U.S. military is seemingly infinite.
5. …But not as fast as civilian uses.
Safety inspectors used drones at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to survey the damage after last year’s tsunami. Archaeologists in Russia are using small drones with infrared cameras to construct a 3-D model of ancient burial mounds. Environmental activists use the Osprey drone to track and monitor Japanese whaling ships. Photographers are developing a celebrity-seeking paparazzi drone. GALE drones will soon fly into hurricanes to more accurately monitor a storm’s strength. And Boeing engineers have joined forces with MIT students to build an iPhone app that can control a drone from up to 3,000 miles away. Last summer, using a laser 3-D printer, University of Southampton engineers built a nearly silent drone that can be assembled by hand in minutes.
6. Most military drones don’t bomb.
Although decapitation strikes may get all the headlines, the vast majority of the time, drones are used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance — what the military calls ISR. The U.S. Navy’s first high-altitude drone can relay black-and-white photos covering roughly half the Persian Gulf; the Global Hawk’s advanced radars make detailed images of the Earth and attempt to sniff out chemical or biological agents for telltale signs of weapons of mass destruction. Soon, the Gorgon Stare drone will “be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we’re looking at, and we can see everything,” according to Maj. Gen. James O. Poss.
7. Attack drones require more boots on the ground.
Most unmanned aircraft flown by the U.S. military require not just a ground-based “pilot,” but also a platoon of surveillance analysts (approximately 19 per drone), sensor operators, and a maintenance crew. Some 168 people are required to keep a Predator drone aloft — and 180 for its larger cousin, the Reaper — compared with roughly 100 people for an F-16 fighter jet. To keep up with the demand, the Air Force has trained more drone operators than pilots for the past two years. The upside is that,according to the Congressional Budget Office, drones “are usually less expensive than manned aircraft” ($15 million for a Global Hawk versus about $55 million for a new F-16), though costly sensors and excessive crashes can negate the difference.
8. Drones are becoming a lethal weapon of choice, but nobody’s in charge.
Over the past decade, there have been some 300 drone strikes outside the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Of these attacks, 95 percent occurred in Pakistan, with the rest in Yemen and Somalia; cumulatively, they have killed more than 2,000 suspected militants and an unknown number of civilians. Although U.S. President Barack Obama recently acknowledged that “a lot of these strikes” have been in Pakistan’s tribal areas, who can be targeted and under what authority can only be guessed from a few speeches and statements by anonymous U.S. officials. There are believed to be multiple drone-target “kill lists” among government agencies. The 2011 book Top Secret America revealed “three separate ‘kill lists’ of individuals” kept by the National Security Council, the CIA, and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. In Yemen, the Pentagon is the lead executive authority for some drone strikes (which are reported to the congressional armed services committees), while the CIA is in charge for others (reported to the intelligence committees). As for the Obama administration’s claimed power to assassinate U.S. citizens, such as Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the Justice Department refuses to declassify the memo that provided the legal authority to kill him with a drone. So, although 85 percent of non-battlefield drone strikes have occurred under Obama, we have little understanding of their use.
9. Other countries are catching up to the United States.
As with most military programs, the United States is far and away the leader in developing drone technology, and the country is projected to account for 77 percent of drone R&D and 69 percent of procurement in the coming decade. Nevertheless, estimates of how many other countries have at least some drone capability now range from 44 to 70, for an 
 drone programs around the world, up greatly from 195 in 2005. China isescalating its drone program, with at least 25 types of systems in development. Iran has also touted its program, including the armed “Ambassador of Death” drone, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled by declaring: “Its main message is peace and friendship.”
10. The drone future is already here.
The Pentagon now boasts a fleet of approximately 7,500 drones, up from just 50 a decade ago. According to a congressional 
, “manned aircraft have gone from 95% of all [Defense Department] aircraft in 2005 to 69% today.” Over the next decade, the Pentagon expects the number of “multirole” drones — ones that can both spy and strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. In 2011, the Teal Group consulting firm estimated that worldwide spending on unmanned aerial vehicles will nearly double over the next decade from $5.9 billion to $11.3 billion annually. In the future, drones are projected to: hover just behind infantry soldiers to watch their backs; carry airborne lasers to intercept ballistic missiles; perform aerial refueling; and conduct long-range strategic bombing missions. Given that drones will become cheaper, smaller, faster, stealthier, more lethal, and more autonomous, it is harder to imagine what they won’t do than what they will. Whatever limits drones face will be imposed by us humans — not technology.


Pakistan Army and ISI in the centre of every controversy

Posted by Admin On Friday, 24 February 2012 0 comments
Over past few months, a large portion of news appearing in national media links somehow or the other Pakistan military or Inter Services Intelligence agency in almost all sensitive issues....

Over past few months, a large portion of news appearing in national media links somehow or the other Pakistan military or Inter Services Intelligence agency in almost all sensitive issues. These infamous issues include Mehran Bank money scandal, missing person’s case, the memogate and lately the killing of Domki women belonging to Bugti family. Without any doubt, the prevalent situation presents a sorry state of affairs in the country.
The edifice of armed forces is erected upon respect, honour and professional competence, which helps this state institution to protect the national esteem while maintaining its pride. Among other state institutions, armed forces of Pakistan are one such organization that has always played a significant role in assisting peace and tranquillity in the country. At the time of need, Pakistan army has never disappointed the nation and government in imparting its duties satisfactorily. It is true that there have been certain shortcomings and limitations which have come to limelight over the years, however, the efficiency and dedication displayed by the armed forces of Pakistan is commendable indeed.
In the changing threat perception and internal dynamics of our country the increased participation of forces in operations other than war, as our short history depicts, has been imperative. Because it has been a custom now that apart from its traditional and expected role, Pakistan army has been repeatedly called upon for the tasks/duties which were well beyond the scope of its ordinary call of duty. From fighting war on terror to quell with internal instability to relief operations in the country, there is no sphere where Military has not been put to test. The instability, corruption and wrong decisions that have always marred our political scenario and calamities with no worthwhile civil organization to produce result up top the expectation of people has always compelled the masses to look towards the military to assist in normalizing these critical situations.
But despite subservience to the rule of law, questions are framed doubting its sincerity. One of the questions in fashions is that why Pakistan army intervenes and interrupts the civilian governance whereas the much asked question should have been why the political system and the stalwarts show incompetence, negligence and dishonesty? This is the high time that we should say goodbye to the idea that army is keen to disrupt the political system. At the same time we must admit that the army, judiciary, establishment and other patriotic forces have always supported the civilian government despite all sorts of labels on latter’s poor governance, corruption etc.
In present day scenario, we especially need to appreciate Pakistan army and the ISI for preventing all kind of aggression by both our naked and cloaked enemies and safeguarding territorial integrity of our motherland. The significant role played by army and the ISI in bringing normalcy in relations with when called upon by a political authority or in any untoward and critical situation at national and international level is laudable, indeed.
Therefore, it is high time for us to act sombre and not fall prey to the enemies within. Our army and the intelligence agency are the backbones of our country. We are only going through a rough patch that is not going to last long, however, all we need is to stand united and display a responsible and mature attitude towards issues of national interest. Dragging the Pakistan army and ISI into courts for infamous events merely to settle personal vendettas is likely to bring embarrassment to the perpetrators and the country at the international level.
The impact of injured image and bruised prestige of army and ISI will have its impact on entire nation also. Besides, mud slinging on the army and ISI may result into deepening jealousies and contemptuous environment. It is call of the hour to rise above and put a halt to the internal smoldering before it becomes a volcanic surge.

Israel keeping an eye on Syria

Posted by Admin On Thursday, 23 February 2012 0 comments
As Israelis watch the bloody confrontation between the Syrian people and the government of President Bashar al-Assad, they are torn by two sentiments: The downfall of Mr. Assad would deal a...

As Israelis watch the bloody confrontation between the Syrian people and the government of President Bashar al-Assad, they are torn by two sentiments: The downfall of Mr. Assad would deal a major blow to Iran and so would be welcome. But without a central authority, Syria could descend into being a land of chaos and terrorist bases on Israel’s northeast border.
Nearly a year into the Syrian uprising, the predominant view in Israel today is the former, that Mr. Assad must go, not only because he has killed thousands of civilians, but because he is a linchpin in the anti-Israel Iranian power network that includes Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
“Iran is investing very heavily in trying to save the Assad regime,” Dan Meridor, Israel’s intelligence minister, said at a briefing on Monday. “If the unholy alliance of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah can be broken, that is very positive.”
Efraim Halevy, who has served as both national security adviser and chief of the Mossad intelligence agency, made a similar point in a recent opinion article, saying that close international attention to Syria could obviate any need for a much riskier military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“Ensuring that Iran is evicted from its regional hub in Damascus would cut off Iran’s access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies,” he wrote in The New York Times. “This would be a safer and more rewarding option than the military one.”
Israeli government and intelligence analysts say they believe the most likely outcome of the current struggle in Syria is chaos. They base that on observing four parameters: the loyalty of Mr. Assad’s security forces, the economic situation, the participation in protests in the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo and the possibility of international intervention.
Their conclusions are that a vast majority of the Syrian security forces remain loyal to Mr. Assad, and that will not change soon; that Iranian economic aid to Syria is generous and vital and keeps the system going; that the participation within Damascus and Aleppo in antigovernment activity remains low; and that the chance of American or European military intervention in Syria is near zero.
“I see no appetite for any foreign power to come in and put boots on the ground, as happened in Afghanistan and Libya, and I see a divided opposition,” one government analyst said. “The American plate is totally full, and the same is true of the Europeans.”
As a result, Israeli officials and intelligence analysts say they also worry about an increased presence by Al Qaeda in Syria and the possibility that Syria’s large storehouse of arms could end up in the hands of Hezbollah and other anti-Israel groups.
At the annual Herzliya conference on Israeli security held several weeks ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke of this concern.
“We are following in particular the possible transfer of advanced weapons systems to Hezbollah, which break the delicate balance in Lebanon,” he said.
He was referring to long-range ballistic weapons able to reach anywhere in Israel, advanced antiaircraft systems, which threatened Israel’s action over Lebanese airspace, and unconventional weapons, especially chemical, according to Prime Source, a risk consultancy firm in Israel.
If such a transfer of arms happened, Israel would have to decide whether to strike a convoy and risk provoking the Assad government into a direct confrontation with Israel, potentially shifting attention away from its internal woes, experts said.
Prime Source concluded that Israel would be likely to strike only if the weapons changed the strategic picture because they were, for example, chemical arms. If the weapons were interchangeable with those already in Hezbollah’s hands, Israel would most likely not attack, it said.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and annexed it in 1981 in an act never accepted internationally. While Syria has not given up its claim to the area, it has kept the border trouble-free for nearly four decades. Still, Israel worries that Mr. Assad might lose control, permitting infiltrations, that the Golan Heights could become to the north what the Egyptian Sinai has become to the south: a staging ground for anti-Israel action
This led an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that it was lucky Israel had never made a peace deal with Syria that involved a return of the Golan Heights, as the world has long urged, since it has served as a buffer to the violence in the past year.
Military planners are also concerned that Mr. Assad might preemptively attack Israel to produce a response and cause Arab nations to back off pressuring the Syrian government, though there has been no evidence such a move was being contemplated.
One issue that has created debate in Israel is how public a stand its officials should take against Mr. Assad. Mr. Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have publicly called for his fall and condemned the civilian massacres, but Mr. Netanyahu has said less. His aides say he believes condemnation from Israel would allow Mr. Assad to accuse his opponents of being Zionist conspirators.
Among politicians on the left, there is more support for speaking out. Isaac Herzog, a member of Parliament with the Labor Party, said he had been in touch with Syrian opposition leaders in France and the United States and believes that such discreet contact will prove useful and that Israel needs to be on record against the Assad government.
“Most Israelis see Syria as a binary choice — Assad or nothing,” he said in an interview. “But there is a full revolution under way. I don’t think Israel should give the opposition a bear hug, but it should be open to important changes there. As one opposition leader told me: ‘We were brought up to believe that all evil comes from Israel. Now we see otherwise.’ ”
Mr. Herzog said he hoped Israeli Arabs could serve as a bridge with the new Syrian leaders. But Hussein Sweiti, a journalist with the Israeli Arab newspaper Al Sinara, said that was unlikely.
“It is very difficult for the Arab community in Israel to stand against Assad, since his was the only regime that supported the Palestinian issue and stood against Israel,” Mr. Sweiti, who has interviewed Syrian opponents for his newspaper, said by telephone. “Our community is in a difficult situation. We cannot be in the same line as Netanyahu and Obama against Assad. And no matter who rules in Syria, they will want the Golan back.”