March 15, 2013

The Blog

Iran: Mounting Evidence that Sanctions Have Failed

March 12, 2013 by

Iranians stand in a subway train headed to northern Tehran, on January 3, 2013

Testimony by senior-level U.S. military commanders before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week painted a bleak picture of the effectiveness of international sanctions at stopping Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The testimony, and public polling results, also point to the sanctions’ unintended consequences.

Continuing economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation do not appear to be lessening Iran’s drive to become a nuclear weapons power. Ongoing efforts by Western powers to coax Iran into negotiations have also yielded little progress. In fact, Iran continues t0 stall while at the same time agreeing to negotiations in order to forestall any real international action, serving to increase regional tensions and the possibility of military intervention.

To read the full analysis, please visit LIGNET.com

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Political Parties and Minority Voters in India

March 8, 2013 by

Voters in Poonch, Jammu in 2004. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Votebank politics is the pitfall of democratic systems around the world. In essence, votebank politics is the practice of loyalists supporting certain candidates of a certain party. Votebank politics varies depending on the diversity of a country and India, as one of the most diverse countries in the world, is the largest playground for votebank politics. India is heavily populated with minority groups and Indian politicians are champions of votebank politics. A politician living in a remote village of India is busy building his own votebank to secure his way up to the higher level of politics at the expense of the welfare of his own people.

Votebank politics is based on divisive policies, which the Congress Party inherited from India’s former colonial rulers who used this practice to remain in power perpetually. For example, the Congress party attracted the largest minority in India, Muslim voters, by appointing and promoting Muslim politicians to different positions. These handpicked politicians are neither representatives nor leaders of their community, they are just politicians handpicked by the elites.


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Countering Extremism in Africa

March 7, 2013 by

Militants from the Islamist terrorist group Ansar Dine stand guard during a hostage handover in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali, in April. Associated Press via The Washington Times

The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute published a useful reminder on 6 March 2013 titled “Pardon the Pivot, What about Africa? African Lessons for Avoiding Myopic National Security.” The authors are Frank Cilluffo, Joseph Clark and Clinton Watts.

The analysis offers a good summary of the security threats that exist in Africa, especially the Sahel region, and suggests a number of questions that need better answers. In my view, the most important question is what are the political, economic, environmental, social, religious and cultural issues that create a safe haven for extremist groups in Africa. In other words, what are the root causes of extremism? Once an answer to this question is agreed upon, it might be possible to make some real progress in combating extremism in the region.

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Hack Insight Magazine: Penetration Testing Distribution

March 6, 2013 by

Check out the new edition of Hack Insight Magazine.

Some highlights of this months edition include ‘Seek & Destroy’ vulnerabilities using BackTrack and Nessus, hacking remote Windows or Linux PC using Java 7 Applet, defending against WPA2-Enterprise client compromises and countering to cracking WEP wireless networks using BackTrack.

Full Disclosure: While I did read a bunch of these articles and did some copyediting, it is far beyond my technical proficiency. Even so, take a look and give it a read.

The March edition is online for your reading pleasure HERE.

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Understanding the Plight of the Rohingya Muslims

March 6, 2013 by

Rohingya Muslims in the Nayapara refugee camp. Photo by Ruben Flamarique/Austcare

One fails to understand the unperturbed attitude with which regional and international leaders and organizations are treating the unrelenting onslaught against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Numbers speak of atrocities where every violent act is prelude to greater violence and ethnic cleansing. Yet, western governments’ normalization with the Myanmar regime continues unabated, regional leaders are as gutless as ever and even human rights organizations seem compelled by habitual urges to issue statements lacking meaningful, decisive and coordinated calls for action.

Meanwhile the ‘boat people’ remain on their own. On February 26, fishermen discovered a rickety wooden boat floating randomly at sea, nearly 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Indonesia’s northern province of Aceh. The Associated Press and other media reported there were 121 people on board including children who were extremely weak, dehydrated and nearly starved. They were Rohingya refugees who preferred to take their chances at sea rather than stay in Myanmar. To understand the decision of a parent to risk his child’s life in a tumultuous sea would require understanding the greater risks awaiting them at home.


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Jon Stewart is going on Vacation, to Direct ‘Rosewater’

March 6, 2013 by

“Daily Show” host Jon Stewart via The Huffington Post

Jon Stewart is taking an extended hiatus from “The Daily Show” to direct his first movie, “Rosewater”. John Oliver will fill in for Stewart.

Jon Stewart’s hiatus will be for 12 weeks this summer.  The film, “Rosewater” will be an adaptation of Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity And Survival. The film will tell the true story of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist who spent 118 days in an Iranian prison.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post

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Send a US Ambassador to Khartoum

March 5, 2013 by

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Special Envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman

The United States has not had an ambassador in Khartoum since the mid-1990s. There are a number of reasons for this but the most important over the last decade has been the opposition of certain domestic constituencies and members of Congress.

In a blog on the Center for Global Development, Kate Almquist Knopf makes the case for sending an American ambassador to Khartoum rather than replacing the special envoy position being vacated by Princeton Lyman.

She also explains why it is important for that ambassador to be able to meet with President Bashir, something has been prohibited since he was indicted by the International Criminal Court. While I do not agree with everything that Kate recommends on her blog, titled “Send an Ambassador, Not an Envoy, to Khartoum,” I certainly agree with these thoughts.

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Elections in Kenya

March 5, 2013 by

A protest against political corruption in Kenya head of the 2013 elections. Photo by Katy Fentress

In the run-up to the 4 March and 11 April 2013 elections in Kenya, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) published two background reports. The first one by Joel Barkan, senior associate in the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, appeared in January 2013 and is titled “Electoral Violence in Kenya.”

The second is dated 28 February 2013 by Joshua Kurlantzick, fellow for Southeast Asia at CFR. His contribution is titled “Democracy’s Decline and the Case of Kenya.” Both are worth a look.

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U.S. and Africa

March 2, 2013 by

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Tardio briefs his squad on tactical movements while deployed at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti

Writing in the Huffington Post on 28 February 2013, Robert Nolan, editor at the Foreign Policy Association, discusses US policy in Africa in a commentary titled “Hotspot or Hotbed? A Tale of Two Africas.”  He argues there are two competing narratives in American media and policy circles. The first is Africa as a safe haven for displaced jihadist terrorists bent on harming Western countries like the US. The second is the economic rise of Africa.

He concludes that by not addressing the realities of the new Africa and its growing importance to the global economy, the US risks alienating a whole generation of Africans who have long held the US in high regard, not to mention missing out on the fruits of a mutually beneficial relationship based on storng economic and security partnerships.

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China, Africa and FDI

March 2, 2013 by

Standard Bank South Africa. keso/Flickr

A number of us have struggled for years trying to determine the amount of China’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa. China’s Ministry of Commerce regularly publishes a total cumulative figure for FDI in Africa. In 2012, Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming, stated that as of the end of 2011 China’s cumulative FDI in Africa “exceeded $14.7 billion, up 60 percent from 2009.” But the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) also commented in 2012 that China’s investment in Africa of “various kinds” exceeds $40 billion, among which $14.7 billion is direct investment. A number of Chinese academics use a variety of other numbers, a few exceeding $40 billion.

Some of the problem surrounds the issue of FDI definition. The OECD Benchmark Definition is the global standard. China specifically excludes investment in financial institutions. As a result, China’s $5.5 billion investment in Standard Bank of South Africa, for example, is presumably not included in its FDI total, but presumably is included in the “various kinds” of investment. But the exclusion of investment in financial institutions does not come close to explaining the different totals.

I recently ran across a couple of detailed studies that shed some light on this dilemma. Both of them are somewhat dated, but still useful even if they do not end the confusion.


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Somalia: Rising from the Ashes

February 28, 2013 by

AMISOM troops in Somalia provided by Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda

Known for topping the list of failed states, Somalia seems to be rising from the ashes of war and all its connotations. Its capital Mogadishu, infamously known for Black Hawk Down and often described as one of the most dangerous cities on earth, has seen a revival since August 2011 when AMISOM ousted Al-Shabaab fighters from the city after four years of intense battle.  Just a few days ago, AMISOM reported to have secured further cities in Middle and Lower Shabelle in the surrounding region of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab announced a temporal tactical withdrawal – they have not yet returned.

A parliament has been elected, a constitution has been written, and refugees and UN workers return to Mogadishu. Turkey among some other states opened an embassy and Turkish Airlines, as the first European Airline in twenty years to do so, added the city to the list of its destinations. Further, and to the delight of the international community, piracy decreases. Construction material is being shipped into Mogadishu’s port on an increasing level and property prices rise. Art and sport has returned and restaurants can be found on the beach-side. A multitude of good news not heard for a long time form this corner of the planet.


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Russia: Borey-A Class Submarines to be Equipped with Fewer Missiles

February 24, 2013 by

The Borey-A Class (Борей), a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine produced by Russia intended to replace the Delta III, Delta IV and Typhoon. The class is named after Boreas, the North wind. Image via Military-Today

Russia announced that its Borey-A class nuclear powered strategic missile submarines will be outfitted and armed with 16 Bulava ballistic missiles. The announcement is a downgrade of previous pronouncements that the Borey-A class would be outfitted with 20 Bulava missiles. The submarine reportedly will still have significant upgrades including modernized sonar, navigation and communications systems.

The Borey-A class submarines also will have a significant stealth capability, as resources have been allocated to ensure it maintains a low electromagnetic signature. The Borey-A class submarines will replace Russia’s Typhoon class and Delta-3 and Delta-4 submarines.

They are expected to become the backbone of the Russian Navy’s strategic nuclear deterrence fleet. The announcement by Russia that its new submarine will carry fewer Bulava missiles may indicate that it is experiencing technical hurdles with the Borey-A class. However this could very well be a disinformation effort to muddy the waters regarding the submarines capabilities. Given there is no open source reports confirming or countering Russian claims, LIGNET does not take such reports from Russian officials at face value.

To read the full analysis, please visit LIGNET.com

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Can Everybody Shut Up About the Senkakus?

February 23, 2013 by

A demonstrator bares a shirt declaring the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands as Japanese territory. Image via Al Jazeera

Prime Minister Abe was compelled to get into China’s grill about the Senkakus dispute in a Washington Post interview setting the table for his meeting with President Obama, claiming the PRC had a “deeply ingrained” need to challenge neighbors over territory.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs laid into Abe:

“It is rare that a country’s leader brazenly distorts facts, attacks its neighbor and instigates antagonism between regional countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. “Such behavior goes against the will of the international community…We have solemnly demanded the Japanese side immediately clarify and explain.”

People’s Daily ran with the ball under the heading “How Japan Misleads the US”, proving that the PRC will not hesitate to take offense any time Japan makes an overt play for US strategic support against China—and will avoid criticizing the US on the issue in order to work the wedge between Tokyo and Washington a little deeper.


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The U.S. Can Play a Key Role in Mali

February 22, 2013 by

Pentagon Press Secretary George E. Little briefs the media on the U.S. role in supporting France’s efforts to expel Islamist militants from Mali

A U.S. congressional delegation on Monday made a one-day visit to the Malian capital of Bamako. Headed by Sen. Christopher A. Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, the delegation included Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, and Democratic Reps. Karen Bass of California and Terri A. Sewell of Alabama.

“The United States is likely to eventually resume direct support for Mali’s military, but only after full restoration of democracy through elections,” Mr. Coons, Delaware Democrat, said, according to the Reuters news agency. He noted that “U.S. law prohibited direct assistance to Mali’s armed forces” after President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown in a military coup in March, but U.S. military aid will resume after democracy is fully restored.  ”We are committed to ensuring support…in the ongoing fight against extremism,” Mr. Coons said.

The delegation’s one-day visit to Mali was reminiscent of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 10-day visit to nine African countries in August. The common threads in Mrs. Clinton’s remarks were the building blocks for democratic institutions, good governance, the rule of law and security. Mali was not on the itinerary and was barely mentioned.


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Washington-area Defense Contractors Worry Over Sequestration Cuts

February 21, 2013 by

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brief the Pentagon press on sequestration cuts, Oct. 25, 2012

The looming March 1 deadline for across-the-board government spending cuts (known as “sequestrations”) is on everyone’s minds and everyone’s lips these days, including the Presidents.  As President Barack Obama explained in his recent State of the Union Address, “In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.”

While a deal was reached to prevent sequestration from taking effect last December, the outlook for a Congressional agreement on how best to bridge the political impasse looks far from certain. In fact, it is leaving many small and large businesses conducting business with the U.S. Government on edge as they attempt to navigate an uncertain future and ensure contingencies.

Impending budget cuts will hit local economies and businesses providing services and products directly, as well as indirectly, to the US government – especially area defense contractors.


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