Terrorism

Following a recent series of deadliest attacks, Kabul was again shaken with heinous terrorist bombing on 27 January when an ambulance loudened with explosive materials was detonated on busy road near the city hospital. According to the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan (MoPH) 95 civilians have been killed and more than 191 others have been injured. Responsibility behind this attack was claimed by proxy Taliban militants.

Another such deadly attack has occurred at Intercontinental Hotel Kabul killing 25 people, almost 14 were foreign nationals, included nine from Ukraine, two from US and others from Greece, Germany and Kazakhstan when gunmen in army uniforms entered the hotel. It was also claimed by the Taliban, the shadow of Haqqani Network. In the course of such soft targeted attacks, yet another terror attack was carried out on British run aid agency ‘Save the Children’ in Jalalabad on 23 January where at least four people were killed and dozens injured.

The gist of the above reports is that in the modern warfare strategy, the adversaries make use of irregular and covert means, in other words unconventional dimensions of war strategy to achieve their strategic and political designs which is called hybrid war. For more than four decades Afghan people are victimized and winced in this excruciation of undeclared war, which represents the essence of hybrid war, imposed upon them from neighbouring states, particularly from Pakistan due to Afghanistan unfortunate strategic location and political importance in the region. In military warfare, this undeclared war is the most sophisticated warfare strategy against an adversary.

Hybrid warfare has non-standard methods or tactics used to combat the adversary through indirect war such as terrorist actions, indiscriminate violence, criminal activity, changing perceptions and propaganda. The strategic calculations of hybrid war are more lethal, potential and cheap allurements to belligerent state due to the use of non-state actors, as forefront liners in the combat ground against the rival. In the same way, the Pakistani military elite and intelligence agency ISI have launched proxy war against Afghanistan for its so-called strategic abyss, containment of Kabul for future retribution and bulwark against New Delhi.

For disrupting and destabilizing Afghanistan and the region as whole, Pakistan military establishment uses and calculates the Taliban, Haqqani network and other militant groups as foreign policy tools for many years and now by nurturing, recruiting, financing and sheltering these goons under aegis of Islamic sentimentalities in religious madrassahs and masques where they get Islamic edict or fatwa issued by Pakistan clerics to legitimize holy war in Afghanistan and where else.

The Haqqani network is most qualified, veritable arm and sophisticated militant group for Pakistan military establishment in Rawalpindi backing and sponsoring against Afghan, US and allied forces in Afghanistan. The group is led by Siraj Haqqani, the son of the famous anti-Soviet Jihadist Jalaluddin Haqqani, who also led deputy command of Afghan Taliban after death of Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor in US drone attack in Pakistan July 2016. Since the recent past the Haqqani network preserves huge command and control lines of Taliban operations which prove more extreme, disastrous and fatal for innocent civilians of Afghanistan and its national security forces. The recent atrocious and barbaric attack in Kabul via explosive ambulance has crossed and ashamed humanity and civility at all.

However despite much confirmation of sponsoring and sheltering terrorist groups, Pakistan repeatedly denies these allegations about collaborating with Islamist proxies against Afghanistan. While on the other side, for interval of times, suspected U.S. drones find and kill high profile commander level militants of Haqqani network or Taliban in missile strikes. Even the world most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan.

In the recent months, sources close to the Haqqani Network confirmed to media that drone missiles had killed two militants of the Network in the compound in Dapa Mamuzai village of Kuram Agency Pakistan who were mid-level Afghan commanders. In response Pakistan clamours for condemning U.S. drone strikes and pursues the violation of its sovereignty and integrity while in sagaciousness, isn’t it being considered as the transgression of the territorial by Pakistan officials when its military establishment harbours, assists and foreign militants in safe havens within Pakistan soil? No, because it depicts the reality that these militants are the strategic assets the Pakistani state uses as policy tools against Afghanistan and India.

Even the US President Donald Trump’s tweets about Pakistan’s duplicities and lies in international war on terror didn’t fall on the deaf ears of Pakistan ruling elites and military establishments. Its world prospects are even narrowed down to the level that Pakistani state confronts an isolation and diplomatic failure internationally for its double standards and carries on the same covert suicidal policies of harbouring and sheltering Islamic proxy terrorists and extremists at home and abroad and making denials officially.

Through these remarkable evidences, it’s an open message for the US, international community and Afghanistan that this strategy of Pakistan via proxy groups is much worth and more prohibitive for it. Its behaviour can’t be changed unless and until the steps of international sanctions and declaration of terror sponsor state are imposed on Pakistan.

Habib Khan is an M.Phil Student of International Relations at QAU Islamabad.

 

In December 2017,  the Synagogue in Gothenburg, Sweden, was attacked by 10-20 masked men with firebombs, following the demonstrations against the planned move of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Synagogue’s meeting hall was currently being used for a youth party and the teenagers had to flee to the basement for safety. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the teenagers’ parents were contacted to escort them home. Three men have been arrested during the day.

i24NEWS – i24NEWS DESK | Another synagogue in Sweden attacked | Monday, December 11th 2017

It is only a few months ago that the violent Nordic resistance movement, Neo-Nazis, in Gothenburg were marching with posters with portraits of Swedish Jews with the text “criminals” smashed over it. We all know that there is a wave of right-winged Anti-Semitism, as well as Islamophobia and Xenophobia, flowing slowly through Europe at the moment and yet, despite all of this, many of us still do not believe that they were behind last night’s attack. The majority of the terrorist attacks against Jews in Europe these past years have been perpetrated by Muslim extremists, and not right-winged neo-Nazis, as one might think.

Often when people talk about the growing Anti-Semitism in Sweden they are referring to the third biggest city, Malmö, that has had a growing number of hate crimes against the Jewish community facilities and its members. I have even heard people refer to Malmö as “Ra-Malmö”, insinuating that it has a big Arab/Muslim population, which also isareausing the raise in Anti-Semitism. There are no clear numbers in regards to the size of the Arab/Muslim population, but it seems that they are closing up to be almost 1/3 of the population in Malmö.

The pressure and threats against the Jewish community in Malmö are often growing in relation to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. During a demonstration in Malmö on Friday evening, as a response to Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, they chanted “We have announced the intifada from Malmö. We want our freedom back, and we’re going to shoot the Jews“. These atmospheres are slowly getting a stronger hold in other parts of Sweden as well, which becomes clear in regards to last night’s attack in Gothenburg.

The Jewish population in Sweden has long been under attack. The hate hasn’t necessarily been very physical but very present, first and foremost in social media. The Jews in Malmö have often experienced a more physical threat and the Rabbi there, Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, has been harassed and attacked for years. Sadly, as I stated earlier, it seems that the Anti-Semitism is getting a stronger hold of Gothenburg as well and if the situation between Israel and the Muslim world worsens, even more, we could expect to see a continued increase in Anti-Semitic hate crimes in Gothenburg as well as in other parts of Sweden.

However, there are finally signs that the Swedish government and authorities are realizing the gravity of the threat against their Jewish population and will hopefully act accordingly. Even the public service, the media, have for ones been focusing on the crimes of the activists instead of highlighting the background to their aggression. Maybe there still is a chance to decrease the growing Anti-Semitism in Sweden.

 

Alice Hüttner

 

Since the very beginning of the European construction, the questions of defense and security have been generally put aside. In 1954 French people decided to follow this path by voting no for the European defense community. More than half a century later, the geopolitical context is far from similar and the European defense remains an issue for European policymakers.

NATO members

Potentialities and strength

In 2017 the European Union counts 28 countries since the United Kingdom remains in the Union. The simple addition of every military troop allows Europe to dispose of more than 1.4 million soldiers which throws the EU at the same rank as the United States. Besides this much too simple and quantitative observation, out of the 28 EU members, 22 are part of NATO. The article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, the Washington treaty, establishes the principle of collective defense. This article stipulates that « an attack against one ally is an attack against all Allies ». NATO plays the role of a shield capable of protecting Europe’s borders. In 2017, NATO plans less than 30 military exercises in the Baltic states. To assure European defense, France, and the UK take the lead of the nuclear deterrence. Having a nuclear arsenal gives the EU a much more important role on the international scene.

The role of France has to be emphasized. Even if French military policy is first and foremost nationally oriented, its outcomes are positive for the whole of Europe. Since 2012, less than 4000 French soldiers fight to prevent an Islamist establishment in West and Central Africa. Such an establishment would pose a serious threat to every European nation.

The European Union faces increasing threats and weaknesses

The first weakness is a gap between the governments and the public opinions. On the one hand, governments are reluctant to implement a common defense because they have different strategic orientations and diplomatic views. It has to be said States lost an important part of their sovereignty. However, they have full power on their military structures and are not eager, for the moment, to mutualize their respective armies. On the other hand, according to a recent report published by the European Commission, 80% of European citizens are in favor of a common defense. The same report expresses some signs of progress on this issue. Yet, no major achievements seem reachable on the short or middle run.

As we put the light on the strength of France, we should mention its weaknesses. Indeed, budget constraints seem more and more harmful to French armies, which led to the resignation of the Head of armies in July 2017. In the same way, many European countries face high levels of debt. Investing in their defense is getting more and more complicated. The Brexit should challenge this unstable equilibrium. Even if the non-European UK would never stop paying attention to Europe’s defense, an effective Brexit means that France would pay for one-quarter of the military expenditures in the European Union.

Besides these weaknesses within the European Union, Trump’s foreign policy focuses more or less explicitly on America. Many observers doubt the ability of the USA to economically assume the leading of NATO.

The need for a solid European defense grows as the threats towards the EU increase. The situation in Ukraine is not stabilized. The Minsk agreements are far from implemented, and Russia has definitely imposed its sovereignty on Crimea. Islamic terrorism and Turkish complacency are two important sources of tension.

These constitute a real necessity for Europe to focus on defense. This continent has more than 500 million inhabitants. Europe can be a military superpower if and only if it understands this demographic asset. Europe, no matter the States or the EU, should consider this reality before anything else.

Noam Hakoun

As the dust settles in on President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan speech there has been quite a lot of fuss about Pakistan’s role in providing support to militants in Afghanistan.  That this allegation comes up again is nothing new or earth shattering. It has been a tried and tested formula for the United States (US) to lash out at Pakistan publicly.

Key Balancing

Yet scratching beneath the surface and behind the headlines, one will notice reliance on the Pakistan military and its intelligence services for American and British security since 9/11. Further to this, the Pakistani army are the leading trainers of Arab militaries and a key balancing act between the tinder box of tensions between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Pakistan’s Army has undergone a transition post- the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Prior to the terrorist attacks in the United States, Pakistan’s army had trained for conventional war against its arch enemy India.

Furthermore, the Pakistani Army has become the first Army from the Islamic world to train British and international officer cadets at the world’s oldest elite military training school the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS). Aside from this, the United Nations’ centre for excellence for peace keeping training is located in Pakistan where officers from all over the world come to be trained in conflict resolution. This article analyzes the Pakistan Army’s role in securing stability around the world, in the West and Middle East in particular.

Dick Cheney in Pakistan
 Pakistan’s Army transition post 9/11Pakistan’s Army has undergone a transition post- the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Prior to the terrorist attacks in the United States, Pakistan’s army had trained for conventional war against its arch enemy India. Indeed, it had fought three major wars against India. Yet as the insurgents fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan, the Pakistanis had to re-train their doctrinal ethos into sub-conventional warfare and counter insurgency. After initial failures in the tribal areas and Swat Valley, the Army turned a significant corner by routing the insurgency from 2014 onwards. Some of the leading Western sceptics wrote openly how the Pakistan Army had won its war on terror.

During this time according to Lt-General Patrick Sanders, Commander Field Army of the British Armed forces said that the Pakistan Army achieved in Waziristan what the British could not achieve in 200 years. The Pakistan Army has one of the highest casualty rates on the Afghan border. This meant they have become extremely battle hardened and sought after as trainers in the Arab world and beyond. The Czech Republic and Germany are both seeking training from the Pakistani military following in the footsteps of the British Army; despite German media pressure to not to get too close to the Pakistani military. So why are so many countries and militaries cozying up to the Pakistani Army despite pressure to do the opposite?

Despite the politics and headlines, senior American officials and leaders have gone quite far to praise the Pakistani military’s fight against terror and the capture of senior al Qaeda leadership.

Dick Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney in particular went into some detail about decisions taken by Pakistani generals despite militant threats against their personal lives and their children. General Tommy Franks talks about the key air and land corridors that were provided by the Pakistan military that led to the first push into Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda.

So how does this sit with the allegations of Pakistani duplicity in Afghanistan?

One cannot argue against those allegations within the parameters of this article but again senior Western generals have come into the defence of the Pakistani military.Former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and ex CIA director David Petraeus in a public lecture at the Royal United Services Institution (RUSI) said that in his time he saw no evidence of direct Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan. Britain’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles in his book mentioned that the British Army and its Generals were always concerned about making the Pakistan Army happy much to the disappointment of President Karazai. British former Chief of Defence Staff, General Lord David Richards also worked very closely with the Pakistan Army to ensure the Afghan operations were not compromised.

In the Middle East, the Pakistan Army is no longer taking sides with any one country and instead providing balance to tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pakistan is also at the moment of writing training 156 Saudi Cadets in its academy in Abbottabad and also dozens of Iraqis and Arab militaries both in country and abroad.  Pakistan was also one of the few countries that Iraq thanked after the liberation of Mosul last month that was not part of the overall international coalition to fight ISIL in Iraq.

This was also a result of the extensive training that the Pakistanis have been providing to the Iraqi Air Force. The veteran British Afghan expert and journalist Sandy Gall in his book on the Taliban actually starts out by saying how much the Jordanians respect and like the Pakistan Army for helping them fight the PLO during Black September. One of Pakistan’s leading pilots was given full honours and highest military awards by Jordan as he helped their King train the Jordanian air force during the war against Israel.

The key to the Pakistan Army’s strategic importance lies in what Churchill called importance of having an Army that can help stability in the Middle East and West Asia.

As an army that inherited most if not all of its regiments from the British in India, it has strived for excellence in training and performing in multiple arenas around the globe. Purely as a fighting force and in matters of intelligence sharing, it remains critical to security in the West and the Middle East. Away from the politics it shall continue to dominate the defence diplomacy with the West and evolve with its handling of international relations. Whilst the Islamic State spread rapidly throughout non-Arab Muslim countries it has failed to take root in Pakistan.

The Saudis and other Arab states have noticed the army’s success in overturning the insurgency and hence made a Pakistani general in charge of its ‘Islamic NATO’. Ironically whilst the West criticises the Army interfering in politics, prominent US Senator John McCain called for General Raheel Sharif to have his tenure extendedin 2016. Similarly a leading editorial in Washington Post argued that the General‘s departure could be bad news. Hence to conclude we can say that, Pakistan Army is leading the fight and is playing a key role in warfare and security provision in an increasingly volatile world.

 

This article was written by KAMAL ALAM and published on e-ir.info. The original article is available here.

The current race for control of territory in Syria now appears to be a competition between Iran and the United States, which have established two respective axes – with a vertical American (north-south) effort on the one hand, and a horizontal Iranian (east-west) effort on the other hand. In practice, this is another stage in the shaping of Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State. In the meantime, the country’s southwestern region, from Daraa to the Golan Heights, remains open for activity and influence by Israel and Jordan, which must begin taking action before it is too late.

Current Map of Syrian Civil War

Contacts are apparently underway to formulate a joint Israeli-Jordanian-American strategy aimed at preventing Iranian influence and the presence of its proxies, especially Hezbollah and Shiite militias, in the southern Syria.

Increasing signs are pointing to the impending fall of the Islamic State in Syria, which has suffered a series of defeats in recent months. The territory in eastern Syria that will be freed of Islamic State control now constitutes a focus of the major struggle between the United States and Iran in Syria, as both are striving to seize the area.

Early June marked the onset of the final phase of the US-led coalition’s offensive to conquer the city of Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State in Syria, with a combined Kurdish-Arab (though predominantly Kurdish) ground force – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – and air support provided by the international coalition, including the  United States, other Western countries, and Arab states. At the same time, Iran and its proxies have also started intensifying efforts aimed at shaping Syria the day after the fall of the Islamic State. Forces of the pro-Assad coalition are currently trying to expand their control in the Deir ez-Zor region and improve their access to Raqqa and the surrounding area, and also seize key positions along the Syrian-Iraqi border.

 

A Collision between the Two Axes of Influence  

Iraqi Shiite Militia in Syria.

The race to shape the Syrian arena, which is currently focused on the campaign to conquer Raqqa and defeat the Islamic State, encompasses two main strategic efforts. One, led by Iran, aims at laying the foundation for a Shiite axis land bridge from Iran in the east, via Iraq, to Syria and Lebanon in the west. Its primary mode of operation is the seizure, by Iranian proxies, of major points of passage between Iraq and Syria – with Iraqi Shiite militias (al-Hashd al-Sha’abi  the People’s Mobilization Forces) on the Iraqi side of the border and forces of the pro-Assad coalition, including the remnants of the Syrian army under the authority of Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias on the Syrian side of the border. According to Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, “a relationship has been forged between the popular forces, the forces of the Iraqi government and military, and the unified forces in Syria. In practice, this is a strategic victory for Iran’s allies and for the ring of resistance to Zionism that begins in Tehran and reaches Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.”

 

In a rival strategic effort, the US-led coalition has been operating to create a wedge running north-south to sever the Iranian land bridge and cut off Iranian influence in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and west of the Persian Gulf. This effort is aimed at creating a buffer zone-security strip controlled by US allies, extending from Turkey in the north, via eastern Syria, southward to Jordan and to Saudi Arabia. Over the past weeks, a number of attacks have been carried out by US air forces against forces of the pro-Assad coalition along the southeastern segment of the Syrian-Iraqi border, in the region of the Syrian city of al-Tanf, located near the tripartite border between Jordan-Syria-Iraq. The United States has declared this area to be a “de-confliction” zone under its influence and will therefore not allow the deployment of forces belonging to Assad or to Iranian proxies in the region. On June 18, a Syrian fighter plane was shot down in the Raqqa region of eastern Syria as part of the air cover that the United States is providing to the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting to liberate Raqqa.

 

Iranian parties have explained that the deployment of forces loyal to Iran along the Iraqi-Syrian-Jordanian border is meant to thwart the US plan to divide Syria. According to the Iranians, the United States seeks to link the northeastern part of Syria that is under Kurdish control to the southeastern section of the country, up to the Jordanian border, and has therefore increased its activities and attacks in the Tanf region. The voices from Iran indicate that their forces aim: (a) to defend Iran’s dominance in Iraq, the survival of the Assad regime, and Iranian strategic depth by means of a land corridor from Tehran to Beirut; (b) to destroy the Islamic State along the Syrian-Iraqi border; (c) to neutralize the US plan to dismantle Syria; and (d) to prevent US-supported forces from establishing control over eastern Syria. It is therefore no coincidence that Iran chose to respond to the Islamic State attack in Tehran by launching six surface-to-surface missiles from Iranian territory at an Islamic State target in the Deir ez-Zor region of eastern Syria. In doing so, it demonstrated its potential in the field of ballistic missiles and leveraged its message that it is at war with the Islamic State and is unafraid of operating in a sector in which the United States is working to establish its influence.

 

Russia’s position in this context is not entirely clear. On the one hand, both the Assad regime and sources in Moscow report that Russia is a partner in the Assad regime’s efforts in eastern Syria, aided by Iran and Hezbollah, to derail the American plan. On May 8, the Syrian newspaper al-Watan, which has close relations with the regime, reported that “massive reinforcements of Syrian and Russian military forces have arrived in the Syrian desert, in addition to the forces of friends, in preparation for an operation to take control of Deir ez-Zor and the Iraqi border.” At the same time, there have been reports of coordination efforts in Jordan between US and Russian representatives. There have also been reports that Russia is working to prevent friction between forces of the Syrian regime and its allies and US forces, and strives to reach understandings with the United States and Jordan regarding a de-confliction zone, a de-escalation zone, and mutual attacks in southern Syria. In response to the intercepting of the Syrian plane in the Deir ez-Zor region, Russia announced that “all aircraft, manned and unmanned, of the international coalition operating west of the Euphrates River, will be identified as targets by Russian air defense systems,” appearing to create a Russian-controlled no-fly zone west of the Euphrates.

As part of the struggle for control of southeastern Syria, the United States has deployed two HIMARS multiple launch rocket batteries to the American special forces base near al-Tanf. In response, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that every entry of a foreign weapon system into Syria requires authorization by the central government in Damascus, and that the deployment indicates that the United States is not focused on fighting the Islamic State as its claims to be. The United States was then charged with failing to prevent Islamic State fighters from fleeing Raqqa toward Deir ez-Zor.

The pro-Assad coalition led by Russia and Iran appears to be following the American activity in southern and eastern Syria with great concern. In addition to the establishment of a special security zone north of the Jordanian-Syrian border and attacks on forces supporting the Assad regime, this activity has included use of a training infrastructure for forces of the Syrian opposition, the deployment of US special forces reinforced by artillery support, and an air umbrella provided by the Western coalition. From an Iranian perspective, and perhaps also from a Russian point of view, this marks a new phase in the US campaign to shape Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State, which is aimed at neutralizing the Iranian presence and influence in Syria.

 

The Potential for Escalation between the US and Iran in Syria and Iraq

The Trump administration includes elements that are extremely hostile to Iran and are pushing to expand the war in Syria as an opportunity to clash with Iran on a “comfortable” playing field. These elements have apparently suggested the idea of establishing an American-dominated north-to south running strip through eastern Syria with the aim of blocking and containing Iran’s regional aspirations. At the same time, Secretary of State James Mattis and US military leaders oppose the opening of a broad front against Iran and its proxies in Syria and regard it as endangering the capacity for a focused effort to advance the primary goal: the dismantling and defeat of the Islamic State. Therefore, at least at this stage, the US military leadership is seeking to avoid friction with the Iranians and Russians.

In the meantime, Iran is resolutely striving to progress toward its goals – i.e., more than other actors in the Middle East. It is checking the limits of US intervention, without any capacity to estimate the intensity of the United States commitment in the race to achieve control over eastern Syria. As a result, there is currently a potential for US-Iranian escalation in Syria that could spread to Iraq – either intentionally or as a result of miscalculated assessments.

 

Conclusion

The current race for control of territory in Syria now appears to be a competition between Iran and the United States, which have established two respective axes –with a vertical American (north-south) effort on the one hand, and a horizontal Iranian (east-west) effort on the other hand. In practice, this is another stage in the shaping of Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State. Thus far, the Syrian arena could be viewed as a game board with multiple squares, with the move of pieces in each square having an impact on the state of affairs in the others. First, Russia set up its pieces on the board’s central-western sector, between Aleppo and Damascus, including the coastal region. Turkey followed suit, arranging its forces in the board’s northern sector along the Syrian-Turkish border, including an effort to safeguard its interests in the Kurdish region. The United States focused its warfare against the Islamic State primarily in northeastern Syria, and is now trying to reorganize its pieces in the southeastern square of the Syria game board.

The upcoming competition in Syria.

As a result, the country’s southwestern region, from Daraa to the Golan Heights, remains open for activity and influence by Israel and Jordan, which must begin taking action before it is too late. Contacts are apparently underway to formulate a joint Israeli-Jordanian-American strategy aimed at preventing Iranian influence and the presence of its proxies, especially Hezbollah and Shiite militias, in the southern square of the Syrian game board. Israel and Jordan must also prepare themselves for the possibility that Islamic State fighters fleeing northeastern Syria could move southward and link up with the Islamic State branch at the border in the Golan Heights. Moreover, Israel must not forget Russia’s influence in Syria and the need to reach understandings with Moscow, at least on a clandestine level, regarding every move in this direction. Syria may have understood as much, which would explain the increased intensity of the pro-Assad coalition’s attacks in the Daraa region over the past few weeks, primarily from the air. Still, Russia understands that Israel possess the capacity to cause significant damage in Syria, and therefore prefers to maintain understandings with Israel and take Israel’s concerns seriously.

This article was previously published in the excellent INSS website : http://www.inss.org.il/publication/east-west-north-south-race-syria-islamic-state/ 

China’s new Cybersecurity Law will go into effect on June 1, 2017. According to official statements, the purpose of the law is to protect China’s national security and social stability through close supervision of internet content and technologies. The law has the potential to affect every Chinese or foreign internet or information technology business operating in China.
After the law was announced, there were concerns in the West that the continued operation of foreign companies in China will be conditional upon their providing information and technologies to Chinese authorities, or on the inclusion of “backdoors” in their products. Another concern is that foreign companies will be forced to make way for local governmental companies that develop products that are adapted to the regulations of the Chinese market. Similarly, every Israeli technology company that is involved in social media or information will be supervised by the Chinese authorities and will be forced to operate under many more restrictions than before.
China, Cyber Security
China’s new Cybersecurity Law will go into effect on June 1, 2017. According to official statements, the purpose of the law is to protect China’s national security and social stability through close supervision of internet content and technologies. The law has the potential to affect every Chinese or foreign internet or information technology business operating in China. After the law was announced, there were concerns in the West that the continued operation of foreign companies in China will be conditional upon their providing information and technologies to Chinese authorities, or on the inclusion of “backdoors” in their products. Another concern is that foreign companies will be forced to make way for local governmental companies that develop products that are adapted to the regulations of the Chinese market.
Background to the Law
 Cyber China - Young Diplomats
Lu Wei (c), China’s Minister of Cyberspace Affairs Administration, speaks at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, eastern China, November 19, 2014. Photo: Johannes Eisele / AFP

The new Cybersecurity Law joins the NGO law and the anti-terror law that were passed last year with the purpose of limiting and restraining the activity of organizations and individuals within mainland China. The law is part of an intensifying legislative trend that seeks to increase the Chinese government’s control over the technology-internet realm, thereby reducing potential threats to the regime’s stability as a result of free discourse over the internet. An example of this is the self-restraint charter of 2002 of the Chinese internet industry, which transferred legal responsibility for preventing the distribution of unauthorized content to the content providers themselves, thus turning them into agents of government censorship. The 2016 Chinese legislation on cybersecurity, international NGOs, and terrorism demonstrates the Chinese communist party’s increasing fear of the penetration of foreign influences, including Western liberal or Islamic ideas and inspiration from national separatist movements. One of the tools the party uses to control content disseminated on the internet is the “Great Firewall of China,” which is responsible for blocking access to prohibited Western internet services, such as Google and Facebook. The cyber law is another step in the party’s tightening grip on such information and in solidifying its governmental power.

Main Points within the Law
The Chinese Cybersecurity Law, which has the potential to affect the West in general and Israel in particular, is meant to protect China’s national security and the communist party’s rule. The law requires internet users to refrain from activities that endanger Chinese security, honor, or national interest (article 12), and prohibits opposition to the communist party and attempts to overthrew the socialist system, promote terrorism and religious separatism, or disseminate false information that could harm the economy or the social order. This provision demonstrates an attempt to shape the use of the internet in a way that matches the party’s needs and aims. The law calls on the nation to take an active part in enforcing it, and thus demands (article 14) that every person or organization that identifies subversive activity on the internet report it immediately to the relevant government ministries.
The law includes a number of articles that raise specific concerns for Western companies. First, the law calls for gathering civilian information and keeping it within China’s borders. Article 37 states that all personal information gathered in China by companies involved in essential information infrastructure must be saved on Chinese servers (there is a special protocol regarding information that must be saved on servers outside China). Article 24 states that companies that provide services such as domain names, distribution of information online, messaging services, and so on must demand customers’ authentic personal information and, if they refuse to provide it, must not provide them with service.
Second, companies are required to assist governmental-party agencies involved in national and public security. Thus, article 28 states that network operators shall provide technical assistance to public security agencies that require it. The law’s vague wording here raises concerns that companies will be required by law to disclose information on their customers, with no legal ability to refuse. Article 49 states that network operators must also cooperate with government departments regarding routine checks and supervision. Article 50 adds that government authorities have the right to require companies to erase information if, in their opinion, it is dangerous or illegal.
Anyone who violates the law is subject to a fine of up to 1 million yuan ($144,000). However, article 75 provides a few details on the nature of punishments for foreign companies: when foreign institutions, organizations, or individuals engage in illegal cyber activity that endangers essential Chinese information infrastructure and national security, the relevant government ministries will be entitled to freeze their assets and take any punitive measures necessary. Here too, the law’s expansive wording, especially “any punitive measures necessary,” places the future of companies seeking to operate in the Chinese market at the discretion of the various government authorities in China.
Implications for Israel
The legislation demonstrates the Chinese government’s awareness of the increasing economic and governmental potential of internet applications that can be used to accumulate economic power in mainland China and abroad and exert political influence. It likewise bespeaks the government’s intention to strengthen its supervision and control measures over internet operations by citizens and foreigners within Chinese territory, in order to fortify governmental stability. Since from the government’s perspective depending on foreign technologies constitutes a potential threat to national security, it seeks to upgrade its interest services and cyber capabilities vis-à-vis its competitors in the West. The new legislation sets out a course of action for Chinese companies, which will need to improve their technology to meet the government’s needs and demands.
China sees Israel as a source of technological knowledge and innovation, which has helped deepen trade relations between the two countries in recent years. However, the new Cybersecurity Law could complicate the continued positive development of these relations. Every Israeli technology company that is involved in social media or information will be supervised by the Chinese authorities and will be forced to operate under many more restrictions than before. Israeli companies interested in operating in China will have to take into account the fact that the Chinese government will be able to demand that their source code be submitted for review (for example, the case of Apple). This demand gives the government a “backdoor” through which it can access the source code of Western companies and make use of it for its own purposes, as well as allowing the code to be copied by Chinese companies connected to the government. In addition, the government will be able to demand the information collected on the companies’ Chinese customers, which could create an ethical problem if the information is used against citizens. Therefore, the relevant Israeli government ministries would do well to work together in order to raise awareness about the new Chinese Cybersecurity Law among Israeli companies currently operating in China or those interested in operating there in the future. Furthermore, even though Israeli companies in foreign countries are required to operate in accordance with local regulations, there is room to consider the possibility of providing special legal assistance to companies operating in China in view of the unique challenges they will confront.
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Israel Kanner is an Israel Institute Research Associate. Doron Ella is a Glazer Research Associate.
This article is a repost from the INSS website : http://www.inss.org.il/index.aspx?id=4538&articleid=13228

With the Iraqi Forces already in Eastern and Western Mosul neighborhoods , the YPG at the gates of Raqqa,  and with the Fall of Al-Bab and Manbij , the Islamic State’s Caliphate is virtually collpasing everywhere. ISIS has been retreating in 2016 and 2017-2018 should be the end of the so-called “Caliphate”. 
Still the terrorist group has showed an impressive resilience facing US and Russian airstrikes, Kurds,SAA and Iraqi Army offensives. The group is virtually facing a dozens of opponents and has lost ground but very slowly.
The group showed a incredible capacity to innovate. It notably created homemade deadly drones. This “Caliphate” despite using Middle Ages methods has been one of the most innovative regime in terms of military tactics.

Source : IHS Conflict Monitor