Friday, August 30, 2013
Posted by LEE at 9:59 PM
By KABIR TANEJA
Bikas Das/Associated Press
MIG-21 fighter jets parked at the Kalaikunda Air Force Station in West Bengal.
Bikas Das/Associated Press
MIG-21 fighter jets parked at the Kalaikunda Air Force Station in West Bengal.
On July 15, a Russian-made MIG-21 Bison fighter jet, operated by the Indian Air Force, crashed while attempting to land at the Uttarlai air base in the Barmer district of Rajasthan. This was the second MIG-21 crash, at the very same air base, in two months. However, unlike in the previous accident, which had no casualties, this time the pilot was killed. The crash has been attributed to pilot error.
Only a day after the second accident in Rajasthan, a serving officer of the Indian Air Force, Wing Commander Sanjeet Singh Kaila, who himself is a MIG-21 crash survivor, petitioned the courts for the scrapping of the entire fleet. Wing Commander Kaila has contended that flying the aircraft has violated his right to work in a safe environment. The wing commander was involved in a crash during a flight exercise in 2005 after his aircraft caught fire. He delayed in ejecting to safety from his burning aircraft because he was flying over a populated region. His accident also took place in Rajasthan.
The MIG-21, which marked 50 years of service with the Indian Air Force in April this year, has been the backbone of the air force’s fleet. The aircraft has participated in every major conflict involving India since 1963, and still forms the bedrock for most of the air force’s operations.
Even as the MIG-21 stands tall in its performance for the Indian armed forces, its safety record, specifically in the past decade, has come under harsh criticism. A few months back, India’s defense minister, A.K. Antony, said that out of 29 crashes over the past three years in the Indian Air Force, 12 have been MIG-21 airframes. Two more MIG-21s have crashed since Mr. Antony put out those numbers.
Because of the MIG’s poor safety record, the aircraft has been given grim tags in the public sphere like the “Flying Coffin” and the “Widow Maker.” More than 170 Indian Air Force pilots have been killed in MIG-21 accidents since 1970. These accidents have also resulted in the deaths of 40 civilians.
The Indian Air Force has inducted more than 1,200 MIG variants in its fleet since 1963, when it was first used by the military. Currently, at least 252 MIG-21s are known to be operational in the air force, according to the Indian military enthusiast site Bharat Rakshak, including the latest upgraded version, the Bison.
The aircraft is the most-produced combat jet in aviation history since World War II. Over 11,000 air frames of the original MIG variant and its copies, like the Chinese-made Chengdu J-7, have been built since 1959.
When the MIG-21, given the reporting name “Fishbed” by NATO, reigned supreme in the 1960s and 1970s, many Western bloc fighters like the American F-104 Starfighter and the English Electric Lightning were also plagued by high accident rates. According to James J. Halley, author of “Broken Wings: Post War R.A.F. Accidents,” more than 100 Lightning jets crashed out of the 345 in service with Britain between 1959 and 1988.
India has depended a lot on the MIG-21 for maintaining air superiority in and around its neighborhood. The success of the aircraft has been recognized globally. According to the authors David Nicolle and Tom Cooper in “Arab MIG 19 and MIG 21 Units in Combat,” India even provided MIG pilot training to countries like Iraq. Mr. Nicolle and Mr. Cooper say, contrary to popular beliefs, Iraqi pilots in the 1970s were trained more on the MIG-21s by India than by Pakistan or the Soviet Union.
Having served with over 45 air forces worldwide, the MIG-21’s low operational and maintenance cost has earned it the nickname “The People’s Fighter.” India, which produced the aircraft domestically after a transfer agreement with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, was manufacturing a single unit at a cost of just a little over 30 million rupees. This achievement was seen as a boon for the Air Force in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Indian economy was very small compared to what it is today.
Critics of the MIG-21 question the quality of the fleet’s maintenance. Wing Commander Kaila has alleged in his petition that poor maintenance work executed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which manufactured all the domestically made MIG jets, had contributed to the failure of his aircraft. HAL has maintained a steely silence.
Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, the former chief of the Indian Air Force, fiercely defended air force’s use of the jet fighter. “I have flown more than 2,000 hours in various variants of the MIG-21, from the earliest Type 77, the updated Type 96 and the Bison. The aircraft is the finest of its kind and it is not correct to call it the ‘Flying Coffin’ or the ‘Widow Maker.’
“Whenever an aircraft leaves, it is 100 percent serviceable,” he said. “An unserviceable aircraft never gets out. Component failures may occur within three minutes into a flight or not occur for many sorties. Any issue with the MIG-21 gets magnified because much of the fleet comprises of this type.”
The availability of spare parts has also been an area of concern for India’s aging fleet, and the country has looked at various cheaper options in countries like Israel and former Soviet states like Ukraine. Defense authorities in Moscow have previously warned India not to cut corners in purchasing authentic parts. The Russian ambassador in New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin, has said that India should not be surprised if aircrafts meet with accidents if it continues to use spares from outside Russia.
During the earlier part of this decade, the sudden jump for junior pilots from trainer aircrafts like the HAL Kiran, an indigenous jet trainer built in 1964 by Hindustan Aeronautics, to the MIG-21 was seen as too big a change for pilots to cope with. The Kiran, which was a subsonic jet with a maximum speed of 201 miles per hour, was unable to prepare young and inexperienced pilots for the raw power of the supersonic MIG, which has a maximum speed of 1,468 miles per hour.
This jump between the two air frames was seen at the time as taxing, and the treatment of the MIG doubling as an advanced jet trainer was neither“optimal” nor “cost effective,” according to experts such as retired wing commander K S Suresh. In 2004, India ordered 66 BAE Hawk advanced jet trainers from Britain, with a follow-up order of 57 more aircraft in 2010 to plug the gaps in pilot training. The decision for these purchases was fast tracked because of rising public dissent over frequent MIG-21 crashes.
The modernization of the Indian Air Force has been excruciatingly slow because of the long process of approving procurements and irregularities in deals, thanks to red tape and corruption. Controversies like the recentbribery scandal on a deal for helicopters worth $750 million have constantly plagued the Indian armed forces.
Other than bureaucratic and financial irregularities, India’s indigenous defense programs, such as the Light Combat Aircraft, which is slated to replace the MIG-21 fleet, are running decades behind schedule. Meanwhile new deals like the Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft program, won by Dassault Aviation Group of France, are still on the negotiation table, adding to unending delays in modernization efforts.
The Indian Air Force currently operates 34 fighter squadrons against asanctioned strength of 42. The MIG-21 will be required to continue to fill in the gaps over the next few years, as India’s military modernization crawls forward at a negligible pace.
Kabir Taneja is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi.
Read more at: http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/the-trouble-with-indian-air-forces-mig-21-fighter-jets/?_r=0l.
Posted by LEE at 9:33 PM
By George Friedman
Images of multiple dead bodies emerged from Syria last week. It was asserted that poison gas killed the victims, who according to some numbered in the hundreds. Others claimed the photos were faked while others said the rebels were at fault. The dominant view, however, maintains that the al Assad regime carried out the attack.
The United States has so far avoided involvement in Syria's civil war. This is not to say Washington has any love for the al Assad regime. Damascus' close ties to Iran and Russia give the United States reason to be hostile toward Syria, and Washington participated in the campaign to force Syrian troops out of Lebanon. Still, the United States has learned to be concerned not just with unfriendly regimes, but also with what could follow such regimes. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have driven home the principle that deposing one regime means living with an imperfect successor. In those cases, changing the regime wound up rapidly entangling the United States in civil wars, the outcomes of which have not been worth the price. In the case of Syria, the insurgents are Sunni Muslims whose best-organized factions have ties to al Qaeda.
Still, as frequently happens, many in the United States and Europe are appalled at the horrors of the civil war, some of whom have called on the United States to do something. The United States has been reluctant to heed these calls. As mentioned, Washington does not have a direct interest in the outcome, since all possible outcomes are bad from its perspective. Moreover, the people who are most emphatic that something be done to stop the killings will be the first to condemn the United States when its starts killing people to stop the killings. People would die in any such intervention, since there are simply no clean ways to end a civil war.
Obama's Red Lines
U.S. President Barack Obama therefore adopted an extremely cautious strategy. He said that the United States would not get directly involved in Syria unless the al Assad regime used chemical weapons, stating with a high degree of confidence that he would not have to intervene. After all, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has now survived two years of civil war, and he is far from defeated. The one thing that could defeat him is foreign intervention, particularly by the United States. It was therefore assumed he wouldn't do the one thing Obama said would trigger U.S. action.
Al Assad is a ruthless man: He would not hesitate to use chemical weapons if he had to. He is also a very rational man: He would use chemical weapons only if that were his sole option. At the moment, it is difficult to see what desperate situation would have caused him to use chemical weapons and risk the worst. His opponents are equally ruthless, and we can imagine them using chemical weapons to force the United States to intervene and depose al Assad. But their ability to access chemical weapons is unclear, and if found out, the maneuver could cost them all Western support. It is possible that lower-ranking officers in al Assad's military used chemical weapons without his knowledge and perhaps against his wishes. It is possible that the casualties were far less than claimed. And it is possible that some of the pictures were faked.
All of these things are possible, but we simply don't know which is true. More important is that major governments, including the British and French, are claiming knowledge that al Assad carried out the attack. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a speech Aug. 26 clearly building the case for a military response, and referring to the regime attack as "undeniable" and the U.S. assessment so far as "grounded in facts." Al Assad meanwhile has agreed to allow U.N. inspectors to examine the evidence onsite. In the end, those who oppose al Assad will claim his supporters concealed his guilt, and the insurgents will say the same thing if they are blamed or if the inspectors determine there is no conclusive evidence of attacks.
The truth here has been politicized, and whoever claims to have found the truth, whatever it actually is, will be charged with lying. Nevertheless, the dominant emerging story is that al Assad carried out the attack, killing hundreds of men, women and children and crossing the red line Obama set with impunity. The U.S. president is backed into a corner.
The United States has chosen to take the matter to the United Nations. Obama will make an effort to show he is acting with U.N. support. But he knows he won't get U.N. support. The Russians, allies of al Assad and opponents of U.N.-based military interventions, will veto any proposed intervention. The Chinese -- who are not close to al Assad, but also oppose the U.N.-sanctioned interventions -- will probably join them. Regardless of whether the charges against al Assad are true, the Russians will dispute them and veto any action. Going to the United Nations therefore only buys time. Interestingly, the United States declared on Sunday that it is too late for Syria to authorize inspections. Dismissing that possibility makes the United States look tough, and actually creates a situation where it has to be tough.
Consequences in Syria and Beyond
This is no longer simply about Syria. The United States has stated a condition that commits it to an intervention. If it does not act when there is a clear violation of the condition, Obama increases the chance of war with other countries like North Korea and Iran. One of the tools the United States can use to shape the behavior of countries like these without going to war is stating conditions that will cause intervention, allowing the other side to avoid crossing the line. If these countries come to believe that the United States is actually bluffing, then the possibility of miscalculation soars. Washington could issue a red line whose violation it could not tolerate, like a North Korean nuclear-armed missile, but the other side could decide this was just another Syria and cross that line. Washington would have to attack, an attack that might not have been necessary had it not had its Syria bluff called.
There are also the Russian and Iranian questions. Both have invested a great deal in supporting al Assad. They might both retaliate were someone to attack the Syrian regime. There are already rumors in Beirut that Iran has told Hezbollah to begin taking Americans hostage if the United States attacks Syria. Russia meanwhile has shown in the Snowden affair what Obama clearly regards as a hostile intent. If he strikes, he thus must prepare for Russian counters. If he doesn't strike, he must assume the Russians and Iranians will read this as weakness.
Syria was not an issue that affected the U.S. national interest until Obama declared a red line. It escalated in importance at that point not because Syria is critical to the United States, but because the credibility of its stated limits are of vital importance. Obama's problem is that the majority of the American people oppose military intervention, Congress is not fully behind an intervention and those now rooting the United States on are not bearing the bulk of the military burden -- nor will they bear the criticism that will follow the inevitable civilian casualties, accidents and misdeeds that are part of war regardless of the purity of the intent.
The question therefore becomes what the United States and the new coalition of the willing will do if the red line has been crossed. The fantasy is that a series of airstrikes, destroying only chemical weapons, will be so perfectly executed that no one will be killed except those who deserve to die. But it is hard to distinguish a man's soul from 10,000 feet. There will be deaths, and the United States will be blamed for them.
The military dimension is hard to define because the mission is unclear. Logically, the goal should be the destruction of the chemical weapons and their deployment systems. This is reasonable, but the problem is determining the locations where all of the chemicals are stored. I would assume that most are underground, which poses a huge intelligence problem. If we assume that perfect intelligence is available and that decision-makers trust this intelligence, hitting buried targets is quite difficult. There is talk of a clean cruise missile strike. But it is not clear whether these carry enough explosives to penetrate even minimally hardened targets. Aircraft carry more substantial munitions, and it is possible for strategic bombers to stand off and strike the targets.
Even so, battle damage assessments are hard. How do you know that you have destroyed the chemicals -- that they were actually there and you destroyed the facility containing them? Moreover, there are lots of facilities and many will be close to civilian targets and many munitions will go astray. The attacks could prove deadlier than the chemicals did. And finally, attacking means al Assad loses all incentive to hold back on using chemical weapons. If he is paying the price of using them, he may as well use them. The gloves will come off on both sides as al Assad seeks to use his chemical weapons before they are destroyed.
A war on chemical weapons has a built-in insanity to it. The problem is not chemical weapons, which probably can't be eradicated from the air. The problem under the definition of this war would be the existence of a regime that uses chemical weapons. It is hard to imagine how an attack on chemical weapons can avoid an attack on the regime -- and regimes are not destroyed from the air. Doing so requires troops. Moreover, regimes that are destroyed must be replaced, and one cannot assume that the regime that succeeds al Assad will be grateful to those who deposed him. One must only recall the Shia in Iraq who celebrated Saddam's fall and then armed to fight the Americans.
Arming the insurgents would keep an air campaign off the table, and so appears to be lower risk. The problem is that Obama has already said he would arm the rebels, so announcing this as his response would still allow al Assad to avoid the consequences of crossing the red line. Arming the rebels also increases the chances of empowering the jihadists in Syria.
When Obama proclaimed his red line on Syria and chemical weapons, he assumed the issue would not come up. He made a gesture to those in his administration who believe that the United States has a moral obligation to put an end to brutality. He also made a gesture to those who don't want to go to war again. It was one of those smart moves that can blow up in a president's face when it turns out his assumption was wrong. Whether al Assad did launch the attacks, whether the insurgents did, or whether someone faked them doesn't matter. Unless Obama can get overwhelming, indisputable proof that al Assad did not -- and that isn't going to happen -- Obama will either have to act on the red line principle or be shown to be one who bluffs. The incredible complexity of intervening in a civil war without becoming bogged down makes the process even more baffling.
Obama now faces the second time in his presidency when war was an option. The first was Libya. The tyrant is now dead, and what followed is not pretty. And Libya was easy compared to Syria. Now, the president must intervene to maintain his credibility. But there is no political support in the United States for intervention. He must take military action, but not one that would cause the United States to appear brutish. He must depose al Assad, but not replace him with his opponents. He never thought al Assad would be so reckless. Despite whether al Assad actually was, the consensus is that he was. That's the hand the president has to play, so it's hard to see how he avoids military action and retains credibility. It is also hard to see how he takes military action without a political revolt against him if it goes wrong, which it usually does.
Read more: Obama's Bluff | Stratfor
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Posted by LEE at 3:39 AM
Thursday, August 29, 2013
By Robert D. Kaplan
Because so many war plans simply do not survive the reality of war itself, each war is a unique universe unto its own and thus comparisons with previous wars, while useful, may also prove illusory. One of the many wrong assumptions about the Second Gulf War before it started was that it would somehow be like the First Gulf War, in which the pessimists had been humiliated by the ease of the victory. Indeed, the Second Gulf War unfolded in vastly different ways, this time proving the pessimists right. That is why the recent media refrain comparing a military operation in Syria with the one in Kosovo in 1999 worries me.
There are profound differences.
Syria has a population ten times the size of Kosovo's in 1999. Because everything in Syria is on a much vaster scale, deciding the outcome by military means could be that much harder.
Kosovo sustained violence and harsh repression at the hands of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, which was met with a low-intensity separatist campaign by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Violence was widespread but not nearly on the scale of Syria's. Syria is in the midst of a full-fledged civil war. The toppling of Milosevic, moreover, carried much less risk of ever-expanding anarchy than does the toppling of Syrian ruler Bashar al Assad.
Kosovo was more or less contained within the southern Balkans, with relatively limited chance for a spillover -- as it turned out -- into neighboring countries and territories. Full-scale sectarian anarchy in Syria threatens to destabilize a wider region.
The Kosovo Liberation Army may have been a nasty bunch by some accounts, with criminal elements. But it was not a threat to the United States like the transnational jihadists currently operating in Syria. For President Bill Clinton to risk bringing to power the Kosovo Liberation Army was far less of a concern than President Barack Obama possibly helping to midwife to power a Sunni jihadist regime.
Kosovo did not have a complex of chemical weapons facilities scattered throughout its territory as Syria does, with all the military and logistical headaches of trying to neutralize them.
The Kosovo war campaign did not have to countenance a strong and feisty Russia, which at the time was reeling from Boris Yeltsin's incompetent, anarchic rule. Vladimir Putin, who has significant equities in al Assad's Syria, may do everything in his power to undermine a U.S. attack. Though, it must be said, Putin's options should Obama opt for a significant military campaign are limited within Syria itself. But Putin can move closer to Iran by leaving the sanctions regime, and ratchet-up Russia's anti-American diplomacy worldwide more effectively than Yeltsin ever wanted to, or was capable of.
The Kosovo war did not engage Iran as this war must. For all of the missiles that America can fire, it does not have operatives on the ground like Iran has. Neither will the United States necessarily have the patience and fortitude to prosecute a lengthy and covert ground-level operation as Iran might for years to come, and already has. A weakened or toppled al Assad is bad for Iran, surely, but it does not altogether signal that America will therefore receive a good result from this war. A wounded Iran might race even faster toward a nuclear option. It is a calculated risk.
The Kosovo war inflicted significant pain on Serbian civilians through airstrikes, but the Syrian population has already been pummeled by a brutal war for two years now, and so it is problematic whether airstrikes in this case can inflict that much more psychological pain on the parts of the population either still loyal or indifferent to the regime.
The goal in Kosovo was to limit Serbia's geographic influence and to ignite a chain of events that would lead to Milosevic's ouster. Those goals were achieved: Milosevic was forced from power in the fall of 2000, largely because of a chain of events stemming from that war. His ouster, as I wrote in The New York Times on Oct. 6, 2000, meant the de facto death of the last ruling Communist Party in Europe, even if in its final years it had adopted national-fascism as a tactic. Because the war was in significant measure a result of the efforts of a single individual, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, it demonstrated how individuals can dramatically alter history for the better.
Kosovo thus symbolized the power of human agency over impersonal forces in order to wrest a victory for human rights. This is a popular cause among liberal journalists and intellectuals, as is the desire to do something to punish the massive human rights violations of the al Assad regime. The comparison between Kosovo and Syria follows from that. But it is a flawed comparison: Elegantly toppling Milosevic incurred no negative side effects. Toppling al Assad could lead to a power center in the Levant as friendly to transnational jihadists as the one in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was in the late 1990s until 2001.
Of course, the Obama administration will try to calibrate its military effort in a way to avoid further jihadi chaos in Syria. But even with overwhelming firepower, it is not necessarily in control. Whereas ending Milosevic's rule meant an end to ethnic cleansing, it is far from certain that sectarian carnage would end with al Assad's demise; it might possibly even intensify, with Sunnis exacting revenge on a weakened and cornered Alawite community.
Obama faces a dilemma more extreme than the one Clinton faced in Kosovo. If he chooses limited military strikes to send a message against the use of chemical weapons, he risks looking weak, especially following the powerful rhetoric employed by his secretary of state, John Kerry. If he chooses regime change -- while not calling it that -- he threatens to unleash a jihadi nightmare. He may try a middle option calibrated to seriously erode al Assad's power base while sending a message to Russia and Iran to help him negotiate a stable transfer of authority in Damascus -- something that might yet open up a wider diplomatic process with Iran. But that is obviously very difficult to do.
Keep another thing in mind about Kosovo. At that time, the United States had not been in a ground war for a quarter-century and thus the American people were not weary of war. Even so, Clinton rightly calculated that the public would not tolerate casualties on the ground in a war that did not involve a naked American interest. But the American public is now tottering from more than a decade of bloody ground war, and so Obama has even less leeway than Clinton, even as Syria presents a greater military challenge than Kosovo.
So far, Obama has handled the Middle East tolerably well. He has reduced and ended ground force commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, while avoiding quagmires elsewhere in the face of regional change and chaos. This is in keeping with the leadership of a global maritime power that has serious military commitments in Asia and elsewhere, even as its energy dependency on the Middle East is on the wane. But Obama now faces a defining event that will test his commitment to keep America out of regional quicksand while being able to wield considerable power in the region at the same time. If Obama prosecutes a significant military operation, one thing is certain: Syria will be its own war for the United States with its own narrative, for better or worse.
Read more: Syria and the Limits of Comparison | Stratfor
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Posted by LEE at 10:15 PM
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Greek police in Athens attempt to disperse Muslim protesters in September 2012. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/GettyImages)
The threat of experienced militants returning to Europe from combat in North Africa and the Middle East is fueling debate about immigration and integration in Europe and strengthening xenophobic and nationalist sentiments. It is not a new phenomenon for Europeans to travel abroad to fight. Reports have circulated for months about the growing number of foreigners fighting alongside Islamists in places such as Libya and Syria. Most recently, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported Aug. 5 that leaks by unspecified European intelligence services warned that terrorist organizations in Syria could be preparing international attacks, particularly in Europe.
As new intelligence emerges -- whether the threats are legitimate or not -- European authorities will intensify counterterrorism efforts and immigration controls in an effort to thwart possible attacks. But given the large and growing Muslim population in Europe and the ease of travel throughout the Continent, preventing all attacks will not be easy.
The El Mundo article identified the Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Helpers), formerly known as the Muhajireen Brigade, as a group that many foreigners join. Created in summer 2012 by foreign fighters and led by Chechens, the group has recruited foreign participants from all over the world and merged with two other Syrian rebel factions, the Khattab Brigade and the Army Muhammad, in February. According to the Chechen news agency Kavkaz Center, the group consists of roughly 1,000 fighters and has led assaults in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Latakia and Idlib, among others.
In April of this year, EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove estimated that some 500 European citizens were fighting in Syria, most of them from the United Kingdom, France and Ireland. A survey by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London found that up to 600 Europeans from 14 countries, including Austria, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Germany, have participated in the Syrian conflict since it began in early 2011, representing roughly 7 to 11 percent of the total number of foreign fighters in Syria. The study showed that the largest contingent of foreign militants -- somewhere between 28 and 134 -- came from the United Kingdom. (The number of foreign fighters could be higher considering that many likely cycled through the fighting arena and returned home in a very short time.)
Though no one knows the exact number of foreigners fighting in jihadist militant groups, reports occasionally surface about foreigners killed in action in Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, among other countries. In March, for example, a Swedish man known by the nom de guerre Abu Kamal As Swedee and a Danish man known as Abdul Malik al-Dinmarki, both members of the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar, were reportedly killed in suicide bombings in Syria.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Flashpoint Global Partners conducted a joint study this year that monitored extremist Internet sites and analyzed the national origins of 280 foreign fighters reported to have died fighting alongside rebels in Syria between July 2012 and May 2013. The study found that 60 of those killed came from Libya, 47 came from Tunisia and 44 came from Saudi Arabia. The death toll also included single fighters from countries such as Denmark, France, Uzbekistan, Ireland, Morocco, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Jihadists Back Home
Muslim communities have existed in Europe for centuries, but guest-worker agreements and relaxed immigration policies in the 1960s brought waves of Muslim immigrants from Turkey into Germany, from Algeria into France and from Pakistan into the United Kingdom. EU cross-border travel restrictions are minimal, and some European authorities try hard not to disturb Muslim communities in hopes that inaction will safeguard Europe against attacks by radicalized Islamists. Compounding the problem is that returning jihadist fighters are more often than not European citizens and are usually not caught by standard immigration controls.
Hence, it has not been difficult for European Islamists to receive support from people and groups in the Middle East and North Africa largely undetected. Those connections can then be used to attempt to carry out terrorist attacks inside Europe. Below are some of the most recent attempted and successful attacks involving European jihadists:
- March 2013: A Belgian federal police counterterrorism force conducted a felony car stop that led to a shootout and the death of Hakim Benladghem, a French citizen of Algerian descent. Benladghem was known to have received training as a paratrooper with the French Foreign Legion. Police discovered a cache of weapons and explosives in his apartment and believed Benladghem intended to carry out an armed assault in Europe.
- August 2012: Spanish and French police foiled an al Qaeda plot by two Chechen men, Eldar Magomedov and Mohamed Ankari Adamov, and a Turk named Cengiz Yalcin. Their alleged plan was to drop improvised explosive devices from paragliders onto British and U.S. targets in Spain, France and elsewhere in Europe during the London Olympics. All three suspects were said to be al Qaeda operatives who had received training in Pakistan.
- July 2012: A Swedish national of Lebanese descent, Abu Abdurraham, plotted to blow up a U.S. passenger jet during the London Olympics. Abdurraham was believed to have converted to Islam in 2008 and was recruited for the operation in a terrorist training camp in Yemen.
- March 2012: A French-Algerian man named Mohammed Merah shot and killed a rabbi and three children outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. A week before the attack, Merah targeted a group of French paratroopers, killing four. He reportedly targeted army personnel because of his involvement with unknown militant groups in the war in Afghanistan.
In France and the United Kingdom, the threat posed by radical Islamists has become an important public issue, making both countries hesitant to supply weapons to Syrian rebels in spite of their earlier moves to end an embargo on such support. Both countries are also well aware that the large Muslim enclaves spreading throughout the Continent provide attractive havens for European jihadists who have received training in places such as Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and North Africa. These communes provide effective environments for radicalization because of their relative isolation and the cultural and religious bonds they provide to largely disenfranchised immigrant populations.
Since the outbreak of instability in North Africa and extended fighting in Syria, the fear of attacks by nationals returning to Europe after fighting abroad has become widespread. It is a concern not only for France and the United Kingdom, both of which have sizable Muslim populations and have already seen terrorist attacks, but also for countries such as Denmark and Sweden, the latter of which is often portrayed as a positive example regarding the acceptance of immigrants.
Another Look at Immigration Policies
With border controls inside the European Union largely abolished, radicalized Islamists can easily threaten multiple countries, making collaboration among EU members more important. At the beginning of August, nine EU countries, including France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Italy, the United Kingdom and Sweden, called on the EU Parliament to support the establishment of a European database of airline passengers who enter and leave the European Union. While most EU countries already collect such data, it is not shared because the European Parliament is concerned about infringing upon privacy rights.
In order for EU members to better address the threat of jihadist attacks at home, security along the bloc's borders will likely be tightened. This will affect not only potential terrorists but also other Muslim and European travelers. This could add pressure on countries such as the Balkan states -- many of which are not part of the European Union, though they border EU territory and reportedly have seen extensive outflows of fighters to Syria -- to increase their overall security efforts. Western European countries will probably provide aid in the form of money, personnel and hardware to those that need it.
In many European countries, immigrant populations are already under the spotlight because of rising unemployment. Right-wing parties, such as the National Front in France and the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, which are already gaining popularity in light of the European economic crisis, will fuel the fear that European jihadists will return from the battlefield to perpetrate attacks in Europe. This could lead to more criticism of European Muslim communities for their lack of integration. Rising unemployment, combined with the threat of returning jihadists, only increases the pressure on European governments to tighten immigration policy.
Europe's Jihadist Outlook
Despite the large number of European Muslims who have received training overseas and fought in places such as Somalia, Libya and Syria, few have actually conducted attacks after returning to Europe. Still, in an era when jihadist ideologues are urging individual jihad in the West, these trained individuals do pose a very real threat.
One problem is that the manner in which fighters are recruited from Europe or elsewhere is inconsistent from one place to another and difficult to track. As a result, it is hard to determine who might carry out a terrorist attack, what type of attack it could be and where it might occur. This problem is compounded by many others, including the grassroots strategy propagated by al Qaedaand the difficulties of disrupting terrorist training that occurs abroad. Problems specific to Europe include the historical Muslim presence in the Continent and the relative ease of cross-border European travel. Authorities will continually be challenged in their efforts to thwart terrorist attacks, not only in Europe but anywhere there are vulnerable targets as well.
Read more: European Jihadists: The Continuation of a Historical Trend | Stratfor
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Posted by LEE at 5:18 PM
An elderly man in Beijing. (LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese society is on the verge of a structural transformation even more profound than the long and painful project of economic rebalancing, which the Communist Party is anxiously beginning to undertake. China's population is aging more rapidly than it is getting rich, giving rise to a great demographic imbalance with important implications for the Party's efforts to transform the Chinese economy and preserve its own power in the coming decade.
Two reports in Chinese media highlight different aspects of China's unfolding demographic crunch. The Ministry of Education reported Aug. 21 that more than 13,600 primary schools closed nationwide in 2012. The ministry looked to China's dramatically shifting demographic profile to explain the widespread closures, noting that between 2011 and 2012 the number of students in primary and secondary schools fell from nearly 150 million to 145 million. It also confirmed that between 2002 and 2012, the number of students enrolled in primary schools dropped by nearly 20 percent. The ministry's report comes one day after an article in People's Daily, the government newspaper, warned of China's impending social security crisis as the number of elderly is expected to rise from 194 million in 2012 to 300 million by 2025.
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The Communist Party is already considering measures to counter, or at least limit the short-term impact of, demographic changes in Chinese society. On one hand, the Party continues to flirt with relaxing the one-child policy in an effort to boost fertility rates, most recently with a potential pilot program in Shanghai that would allow only-child couples to have another child. On the other hand, the government has proposed raising the national retirement age from 55 to 60 for women and from 60 to 65 for men. If implemented, this would bring China's retirement policy more in line with international norms and delay some of the financial and other social pressures created by the ballooning number of retirees dependent on government pensions and the care of their children.
But even sweeping adjustments to the one-child policy or the national retirement age would create only temporary and partial buffers to the problem of demographic change. It is no longer clear that the one-child policy has any appreciable impact on population growth in China. China's low fertility rate (1.4 children per mother, compared with an average of 1.7 in developed countries and 2.0 in the United States) is at least as much a reflection of urban couples' struggles to cope with the rapidly rising cost of living and education in many Chinese cities as it is of draconian enforcement of the policy.
Likewise, lifting the retirement age by five years will only partly delay the inevitable, and in the meantime it will meet stiff opposition from an important constituency of professionals, including many civil servants. In adjusting the retirement age, the government also risks aggravating an employment crisis among the rapidly growing population of unemployed college graduates in cities, many of whom are looking to filter into the employment ladder as elderly workers exit the workforce. In this context, the Communist Party must weigh policy adjustments carefully -- any change it makes in one area is likely to create new tensions elsewhere in the workforce.
The crux of China's demographic challenge lies in the fact that, unlike Japan, South Korea, the United States and Western European countries, China's population will grow old before the majority of it is anywhere near middle-income status, let alone rich. This is historically unprecedented, and its implications are made all the more unpredictable by its coinciding with the Chinese economy's forced shift away from an economic model grounded in the exploitation of inexhaustibly cheap labor toward one in which young Chinese will be expected to sustain the country's economic life as workers and as consumers. A temporary reprieve from the demographic crisis will be difficult but possible with reform, but a long-term solution is far out of reach.
Read more: In China, an Unprecedented Demographic Problem Takes Shape | Stratfor
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Posted by LEE at 5:14 PM
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Airbus Military delivers first A400M to French Air Force (c) Airbus Military
Airbus Military has today formally delivered the first A400M new generation airlifter, which is known in French service as the A400M Atlas, to the French Air Force, a milestone marking the beginning of the transformation of military air transport in Europe and beyond. This delivery, just authorized by the French procurement agency DGA, enables the aircraft, MSN7, to join tomorrow the French airbase of Orleans-Bricy where it will be based with the French Air Force.
This delivery represents the culmination of 10 years of development by Airbus Military and more than 5,000 flight-test hours, involving close to 40,000 people working for this major European defence programme.
Domingo Ureña said: “Today is a truly historic day for the European aerospace industry – marking the moment at which it becomes the new global leader in the military transport sector with an entirely new aircraft. I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone at Airbus Military, Airbus and our suppliers whose unflagging efforts have made this enormous achievement possible, as well as our customers and OCCAR whose inputs over the years have been crucial to the success of the programme.”
This first aircraft delivered to France will initially be used for the continuing training of aircrew before becoming part of the French Air Force operational transport fleet. An official ceremony to celebrate the delivery in its Final Assembly Location in Sevilla will take place after the summer break.
About the A400M
The A400M is an all-new military airlifter designed to meet the needs of the world's Armed Forces in the 21st Century. Thanks to its most advanced technologies, it is able to fly higher, faster and further, while retaining high maneuverability, low speed, and short, soft and rough airfield capabilities. Powered by four 11,000shp TP400 turboprop engines made by EuroProp International, the most powerful ever designed in the West, it can carry up to 116 fully-equipped paratroopers or 37 tonnes of payload, and additionally can serve as an air-to-air refueller capable of refuelling fast jets, other large aircraft and helicopters.
It combines both tactical and strategic/logistic missions. With its cargo hold specifically designed to carry the outsize equipment needed today for both military and humanitarian disaster relief missions, it can bring this material quickly and directly to where it is most needed. Conceived to be highly reliable, dependable, and with a great survivability, the multipurpose A400M can do more with less, implying smaller fleets and less investment from the operator. The A400M is the most cost efficient and versatile airlifter ever conceived and absolutely unique in its capabilities.
Posted by LEE at 4:15 AM
By George Friedman
Editor's Note: For more information on purchasing the full PC16 report, which assesses each member of the grouping, and for details on custom briefings and analysis for your organization, please click here.
China has become a metaphor. It represents a certain phase of economic development, which is driven by low wages, foreign appetite for investment and a chaotic and disorderly development, magnificent in scale but deeply flawed in many ways. Its magnificence spawned the flaws, and the flaws helped create the magnificence.
The arcs along which nations rise and fall vary in length and slope. China's has been long, as far as these things go, lasting for more than 30 years. The country will continue to exist and perhaps prosper, but this era of Chinese development -- pyramiding on low wages to conquer global markets -- is ending simply because there are now other nations with even lower wages and other advantages. China will have to behave differently from the way it does now, and thus other countries are poised to take its place.
Reshaping International Order
Since the Industrial Revolution, there have always been countries where comparative advantage in international trade has been rooted in low wages and a large work force. If these countries can capitalize on their advantages, they can transform themselves dramatically. These transformations, in turn, reorganize global power structures. Karl Kautsky, a German socialist in the early 1900s, wrote: "Half a century ago, Germany was a miserable, insignificant country, if her strength is compared with that of the Britain of that time; Japan compared with Russia in the same way. Is it conceivable that in 10 or 20 years' time the relative strength will have remained unchanged?" Lenin also saw these changes, viewing them as both progressive and eventually revolutionary. When Kautsky and Lenin described the world, they did so to change it. But the world proved difficult to change. (It is ironic that two of the four BRIC countries had been or still are Communist countries.)
When it is not in the throes of war, trade reshapes the international order. After World War II, Germany and Japan climbed out of their wreckage by using their skilled, low-wage labor to not only rebuild their economy but to become great exporting powers. When I was a child in the 1950s, "Made in Japan" meant cheap, shoddy goods. By 1990, Japan had reached a point where its economic power did not rest on entry-level goods powered by low wages but by advanced technology. It had to move away from high growth to a different set of behaviors. China, like Japan before it, is confronted by a similar transition.
The process is fraught with challenges. At the beginning of the process, what these countries have to sell to their customers is their relative poverty. Their poverty allows them to sell labor cheaply. If the process works and the workers are disciplined, investment pours in to take advantage of the opportunities. Like the investors, local entrepreneurs prosper, but they do so at the expense of the workers, whose lives are hard and brutal.
It's not just their work; it's their way of life. As workers move to factories, the social fabric is torn apart. But that rending of life opens the door for a mobile workforce able to take advantage of new opportunities. Traditional life disappears; in its place stand the efficiencies of capitalism. Yet still the workers come, knowing that as bad as their lot is, it is better than it once was. American immigration was built on this knowledge. The workers bought their willingness to work for long hours and low wages. They knew that life was hard but better than it had been at home, and they harbored hopes for their children and with some luck, for themselves.
As the process matures, low wages rise -- producing simple products for the world market is not as profitable as producing more sophisticated products -- and the rate of growth slows down in favor of more predictable profits from more complex goods and services. All nations undergo this process, and China is no exception. This is always a dangerous time for a country. Japan handled it well. China has more complex challenges.
Indeed, China is at the fringes of its low-wage, high-growth era. Other countries will replace it. The international system opens the door to low-wage countries with appropriate infrastructure and sufficient order to do business. Low-wage countries seize the opportunity and climb upon the escalator of the international system, and with them come the political and business elite and the poor, for whom even the brutality of early industrialism is a relief.
But identifying these countries is difficult. Trade statistics won't capture the shift until after it is well underway. In some of these countries, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, this shift has been taking place for several years. Though they boast more sophisticated economies than, say, Laos and Myanmar, they can still be considered members of what we are calling the Post-China 16, or PC16 -- the 16 countries best suited to succeed China as the world's low-cost, export-oriented economy hub.
In general, we are seeing a continual flow of companies leaving China, or choosing not to invest in China, and going to these countries. This flow is now quickening. The first impetus is the desire of global entrepreneurs, usually fairly small businesses themselves, to escape the increasingly non-competitive wages and business environment of the previous growth giant. Large, complex enterprises can't move fast and can't use the labor force of the emerging countries because it is untrained in every way. The businesses that make the move are smaller, with small amounts of capital involved and therefore lower risk. These are fast moving, labor-intensive businesses who make their living looking for the lowest cost labor with some organization, some order and available export facilities.
In looking at this historically, two markers showed themselves. One is a historical first step: garment and footwear manufacturing, a highly competitive area that demands low wages but provides work opportunities that the population, particularly women, understand in principle. A second marker is mobile phone assembly, which requires a work force that can master relatively simple operations. Price matters greatly in this ruthlessly competitive market.
Therefore we tried to determine places where these businesses are moving. We were not looking for the kind of large-scale movements that would be noticed globally, but the first movements that appear to be successful. Where a handful of companies are successful, others will follow, so long as there is labor, some order and transportation. Some things are not necessary or expected. The rule of law, understood in Anglo-Saxon terms of the written law, isn't there at this stage. Things are managed through custom and relationships with the elite. Partnerships are established. Frequently there is political uncertainty, and violence may have recently occurred. These are places that are at the beginning of their development cycle, and they may not develop successfully. Investors here are risk takers -- otherwise they wouldn't be here.
The beginning of China's boom is normally thought of as 1978-1980. The Cultural Revolution had ended a few years before. It was a national upheaval of violence with few precedents. Mao Zedong died in 1976, and there had been an intense power struggle, with Deng Xiaoping consolidating power in 1977. China was politically unstable, had no clear legal system, sporadic violence and everything else that would make it appear economically hopeless. In fact, Egbert F. Dernberger and David Fasenfest of the University of Michigan wrote a paper for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress titled "China's Post-Mao Economic Future." In this paper, the authors state: "In the next seven years as a whole, the rate of industrial investment and production, more than the total of the last 28 years, imply a level of imports and industrial labor force such that the exports, transportation facilities, social overhead capital, energy and middle-level technical personnel requirements would exceed any realistic assessment of Chinese capabilities."
I don't mean to criticize the authors. This was the reasonable, conventional wisdom at the time. It assumed that the creation of infrastructure and a managerial class was the foundation of economic growth. In fact in China, it was the result of economic growth. The same can be said for rule of law, civil society, transparency and the other social infrastructure that emerges out of the social, financial and managerial chaos that a low-wage economy almost always manifests. Low-wage societies develop these characteristics possibly out of the capital formation that low-wage exports generates. The virtues of advanced industrial society and the advantages of pre-industrial society don't coincide.
There is no single country that can replace China. Its size is staggering. That means that its successors will not be one country but several countries, most at roughly the same stage of development. Taken together, these countries have a total population of just over 1 billion people. We didn't aim for that; we realized it after we selected the countries.
The point to emphasize is that identifying the PC16 is not a forecast. It is a list of countries in which we see significant movement of stage industries, particularly garment and footwear manufacturing and mobile phone assembly. In our view, the dispersal of industries that we see as markers of early-stage economic growth is already underway. In addition, there are no extreme blocks to further economic growth, although few of these countries would come to mind as having low political risk and high stability -- no more than China would have come to mind in 1978-1980. I should also note that we have excluded countries growing because of energy and mineral extraction. These countries follow different paths of development. The PC16 are strictly successors to China as low wage, underdeveloped countries with opportunities to grow their manufacturing sectors dramatically.
The new activity is focused on Africa, Asia and to a lesser extent, Latin America. When you look at the map, much of this new activity is focused in the Indian Ocean Basin. The most interesting pattern is in the eastern edge of Sub-Saharan Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar and Bangladesh are directly on the Indian Ocean. The Indochinese countries and the Philippines are not on the Indian Ocean, and even though I don't want to overstate the centrality of the Indian Ocean, they are nearby. At the very least we can say that there are two ocean basins, the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. You might want to read my colleague Robert D. Kaplan's book Monsoon on this region.
There are some countries in Latin America: Peru, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Mexico. A special word needs to be included on Mexico. The area north of Mexico City and south of the U.S. borderlands has been developing intensely in recent years. We normally would not include Mexico but the area in central-southern Mexico is large, populous and still relatively underdeveloped. It is in this area, which includes the states of Campeche, Veracruz, Chiapas and Yucatan, where we see the type of low-end development that fits our criteria. Mexico's ability to develop its low-wage regions does not face the multitude of challenges China faces in doing the same with its interior.
All of this has to be placed in context. This is not the only growth process underway. It is most unlikely that all of these countries will succeed. They are not yet ready, with some exceptions, for advanced financial markets or quantitative modeling. They are entering into a process that has been underway in the world since the late 1700s: globalism and industrialism combined. It can be an agonizing process and many have tried to stop it. They have failed not because of their respective ruling classes, which would have the most to lose. It doesn't take place because of multinational corporations. They come in later. It takes place because of profit-driven jobbers who know how to live with instability and corruption. It also takes place because of potential workers looking to escape their lives for what to them seems like a magnificent opportunity but for us seems unthinkable.
The parabola of economic development dictates that what has not yet risen will rise and eventually fall. The process unleashed in the Industrial Revolution does not seem to be stoppable. In our view, this is the next turning of the wheel.
Read more: The PC16: Identifying China's Successors | Stratfor
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Posted by LEE at 4:07 AM