Mark Collins – Syria: Number of Foreign Jihadis Up Tenfold–When Omar Comes Marching Home?

Further to this post,

Western Jihadis and Syria: A Good Question

thing look like getting seriously worser:

Number of Foreign Fighters in Syria Jumped from 800 to 8,000 in the Past Year

…as Syria’s worsening civil war has morphed, so has the challenge of tracking from afar who’s who among a disparate network of fighting forces now numbering roughly 8,000 strong and growing, according to the top U.S. commander for the region.

President Barack Obama’s wait-and-see containment policy for the conflict has kept the war inside of Syria and American troops out. But the war has produced its own undesired consequences, including the influx of foreign fighters that U.S. defense and intelligence officials say has splintered the once formidable rebel alliance, given al-Assad’s forces time to regain key positions, and left thousands more civilians dead or displaced…

[U.S. Central Command’s Gen. Lloyd] Austin, the final commander of the Iraq War, said the threat of foreign fighters and extremists is very real…

“You know, when I took command about a year ago, we were talking about 800 to 1,000 foreign fighters being in that country,” he said. Now, the intelligence community says it’s 7,000 to 8,000, which means it’s grown by orders of magnitude within one year.”

If left ungoverned, they will “export mischief” to Western Europe and the United States, he said. “There’s a lot more to be done.”..

A Canadian angle (with video):

Canada is the latest western country to receive an Internet threat from an Islamic militant group fighting in Syria’s civil war.

“This is a message to Canada and all of America,” says a young English-speaking man on a recently uploaded YouTube video. “We are coming and we will destroy you.”

The man, who in the 75-second clip is surrounded by masked people holding rifles, claims to be a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL.

“I (came) to this land for one reason alone,” the man says before tearing and burning what looks like a passport, “I left comfort for one reason alone: For (God).”..

And a UK one:

Syria is now the biggest threat to Britain’s security
Returning fighters from the Syrian civil war now pose greater threat than al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Plus on the supposedly white hat rebel side:

Syrian opposition fighters obtain U.S.-made TOW antitank missiles


Obama Mid-East Mess Update, Aid to Syrian Rebels Section (plus Hezbollah)

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – How’s That “International Community” Cant Working Out, Obama, Harper et al.? Part 3

Further to this post, Timothy Garton Ash also points out the hard fact that much of the world does not recoil from Bad Vlad the way we do:

Putinismo has more admirers than you’d think

…The Russian strongman garners tacit support, even quiet plaudits, from important emerging powers, starting with China and India.

During a recent visit to China, I kept being asked what’s going on in Ukraine, and I kept asking in return about the Chinese attitude to it. Doesn’t a country that has so consistently defended the principle of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of existing states (be they former Yugoslavia or Iraq), and that has a couple of prospective Crimeas of its own (Tibet, Xinjiang), feel uneasy about Russia simply grabbing a chunk of a neighbouring country?

Well, came the reply, that is a slight concern, but Ukraine is a long way away and, frankly speaking, the positives of the crisis outweighed the negatives for China. The United States will have another strategic distraction (after al-Qaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq) to hinder its “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region and divert its attention from China [related: "Obama looks to salvage Asia 'pivot' as allies fret about China", more here]. Cold-shouldered by the West, Russia will be more dependent on a good relationship with Beijing…

Beyond this realpolitik, I was told, there is also an emotional component. Chinese leaders such as Xi Jinping, who grew up under Mao Zedong, still instinctively warm to the idea of another non-Western leader standing up to the capitalist and imperialist West. “Xi likes Putin’s Russia,” said one well-informed observer…

It’s not just China. A friend of mine has just returned from India. He notes that, with the likely electoral success of Narendra Modi and the growth of India’s own “crony capitalism,” liberal Indian friends fear that the world’s largest democracy might be getting its own version of Putinismo [bit of a stretch I'd say--anyway Indira Gandhi already did it]. In any case, India has so far effectively sided with Russia. Last month, Mr. Putin thanked India for its “restrained and objective” stance on Crimea. India’s postcolonial obsession with sovereignty, and resentment of any hint of Western liberal imperialism, plays out (rather illogically) in support for a country that has just dramatically violated its neighbour’s sovereignty. An Indian satirical magazine even suggested that Mr. Putin had been hired as “the chief strategic consultant for India in order to bring a once-for-all end to the Kashmir issue.” Oh, and by the way, India gets a lot of its arms from Russia.

Russia’s two other so-called BRICS partners, Brazil and South Africa, both abstained on the United Nations General Assembly resolution criticizing the Crimea referendum…

Timothy Garton Ash is professor of European Studies at Oxford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

When are our media, political class and chatterati going to open their eyes wide?  Meanwhile a many-sliced evisceration of Western responses from Terry Glavin’s scalpel–President Obama gets particularly knifed.  Well worth the read even if one cannot see practicable reactions that NATO/the EU might in fact agree upon [see here for the Germans] that could have some chance of stopping the Russkies.  And war?

A leaderless world fails to act

As for the American President:

They’re WEIRD–Why Obama et al. Don’t Get Putin

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Canada’s CH-148 Cyclones: 4th Time Lucky?

Defense Industry Daily ask a very good question in a major round-up article:

April 15/14: Agreement #4. Canada and Sikorsky have reportedly reached an agreement regarding the CH-148 program, but it isn’t public yet. Anonymous sources are telling CP that Canada won’t pay more money, will accept up to 8 interim capability helicopters, and will pay only for “the delivery of capable aircraft.” The catch is that Canada had to be realistic about what that meant, and distinguish between capabilities they needed to have, vs. capabilities they wanted to have. It’s amazing that this hadn’t been done during previous contract amendments, but there you have it. CP adds:

“Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show that in addition to a report by consultants, officials also conducted an independent analysis of the financial implications of the existing program on the country’s defence industry. [Competitors] were also asked what they might be able to provide…. Internal documents showed last January that more than $1.7 billion has already been spent in preparing to receive the troubled choppers.”

Sources: The Canadian Press, “Ottawa and Sikorsky agree on new terms for Cyclone choppers: sources”…

Lots more on the cursed chopper earlier.  NEVER. BUY. A PAPER. AIRCRAFT.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Robert Muggah and Ilona Szabo de Carvalho – Fear and Backsliding in Rio

From the New York Times

With just two months to go until the start of the World Cup, a sense of panic is gripping Rio. Cariocas, as the city’s residents are known, are less concerned about whether stadiums will be built on time than with the direction of the state police department’s once-lauded pacification program. The pacification police units — or UPPs — were intended to retake control of neighborhoods previously controlled by heavily armed drug barons, with the goal of eventually reintegrating these communities back into the city.Many people now fear that the pacification police units are unraveling and that violence in some of Rio’s 600 slums — known as favelas — is getting out of control. The state’s governor recently called for massive reinforcements from the Brazilian Army, with more than 2,500 soldiers deployed to the Maré slum earlier this month. Local newspapers are predicting the demise of the state’s flagship public security program before the world’s biggest sporting event gets underway.

Violence and petty crime have clearly increased in some areas of the city over the past months. Nineteen police officers have been assassinated since the start of the year, more than in all of 2013. But the militarization of policing is likely going to make a bad situation worse. As heavily armed soldiers and shock troops begin pouring into the city’s largest favelas, Rio’s authorities risk reversing the progress made by the country’s most effective community policing experiment in a generation.

Instead, there is now tough talk of killing traffickers and liberating the city’s poor from the clutches of sinister drug gangs. Some media outlets are unintentionally stigmatizing the favelas as havens of crime and drugs, reinforcing the government’s hard line. Critically important discussions on ways to expand public services — health, education and sanitation — are being overtaken by the rhetoric of fear.

Yet for all its imperfections, Rio’s pacification program has generated impressive results. Since its launch in late 2008, the initiative has set up 37 permanent police posts targeting 257 communities and reaching approximately 1.5 million people. It has contributed to a dramatic 65 percent reduction of lethal violence in “pacified areas” between 2008 and 2012. In newly pacified neighborhoods, homicide rates are 9.2 per 100,000, compared with 18.8 per 100,000 in the rest of the city. These are startling numbers for a country that experiences on average 50,000 murders per year and has seen over a million intentional homicides over the past three decades.

There are also fewer civilian killings due to stray bullets, less open carrying of firearms, and a growing level of confidence among community residents to criticize violent policing operations and demand better quality public services.

Students in pacified areas today perform twice as well as children in the city’s public schools. There have also been some setbacks. Theft and robbery have increased in some areas, though this may be partly because crimes are more widely reported than before. There are also legitimate concerns that the gentrification in some pacified areas has forced locals to leave the neighborhoods they’ve lived in for decades.

Now, more than ever, there is a need to improve and consolidate public security efforts in Rio. Although it is tempting, the state and city governments must not resort to the repressive tactics of the past. They should recall that before the pacification program began, Rio’s military police killed 1 out of every 23 people they arrested between 1985 and 2008. By way of comparison, the New York Police Department registered a ratio of 1 in 37,000 between 2002 and 2011.

Today, there are more than 9,000 police officers newly trained in human rights and community outreach. While a small number have been implicated in the excessive use of force, they are not as ruthless as in the past. After all, pacification is not just about recovering territory dominated by armed factions, but also about pacifying the police.

But with elite troops now involved in training police pacification units, there is a risk of reverting to the harsh practices that haven’t been used since Brazil’s days under a dictatorship.

Rather than dispensing with pacification, Rio de Janeiro needs to double down on it. Public safety in Rio or anywhere cannot be achieved by focusing on policing alone. There is also an urgent need to reap the social and economic dividends generated by the pacification project. To do so will require letting people hold title to their property and improving access to basic services for low-income residents who are literally living off the grid. It will also mean identifying meaningful employment opportunities for poor young men — who are most likely to be the perpetrators and victims of violent crime.

In a crisis, there is a temptation to resort to “us” versus “them” narratives. This kind of discourse is especially tempting to politicians, like Rio’s, who are facing an election this October. Yet precisely the opposite is needed: a dialogue with the community leaders who live Rio’s war on a daily basis. This conversation needs to be joined not only by the police, but by politicians, entrepreneurs, academics and activists.

Pacification will fail if it is not accompanied by serious investment and a commitment to integrating hillside favelas with the glitzy beachfront neighborhoods where the better-off reside. And for genuine peace to emerge in time for the World Cup, much less the Olympics, Cariocas of all classes need to ask themselves what kind of society they want to build. Will security be a public good shared by all, or the preserve of a select few?

Robert Muggah is the research director at the SecDev Foundation and at the Igarapé Institute, where Ilona Szabó de Carvalho is executive director. 

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Mark Collins – World Military Spending, Three Graphics

Further to this post,

“2013’s top defence-spenders”

have a look here–this is second one


Aussie Defence Spending about 50% Higher than Canada’s…

NATO vs USSR/Russia: “Spending on the military,1988-2012″ (plus Canada)

Not Boris Yeltsin’s Russian Army

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – F-35: Canadian Fighter Review Ends, Danish One Starts

They two bureaucratic processes appear quite similar–except that it looks as if the Danish one actually is supposed to lead directly to a political selection decision whereas ours leaves next steps up to the politicians.

1) Canada: the fighter review that has been going on has been completed; it’s now up to the pols to make a decision about how to make a decision on actually buying an aircraft:

F-35 decision back in government’s court as air force completes major study
[the RCAF alone did not do the study, rather the interdepartmental National Fighter Procurement Secretariat did, more here and here]

The countdown on a decision over the F-35 has begun now that air force officials have completed a highly anticipated study of the controversial stealth fighter and its competitors [no-the NFPS did the study].

The Harper government accepted the “options analysis” report late last week, officially putting the issue back in their laps after more than a year-and-a-half with the Defence Department.

Officially, the government doesn’t have to rush on deciding what to do about the jet fighter; Canada has already missed its window to order F-35s this year. It will now have to wait until January 2015, at the earliest, if it does decide to go ahead with a purchase.

However, the schedule could be tighter if the government decides to hold an open competition – hoped for by the F-35′s competitors as well as opposition parties – since that could take years to conduct…

Complicating matters is next year’s federal election…Any future decision will require cabinet approval and prompt widespread political attention, both in Canada and abroad [political attention in many countries?]…

From last year:

New Canadian Fighter: Up to the Pols

Plus recently:

Canadian Fighter Buy (F-35?) Pushed to 2016? US Pressure?

2) Denmark: an F-35 partner nation like Canada; but unlike us the Danes never formally committed to buying the JSF and so did not have to reverse course:

Denmark starts fighter evaluation process to replace F-16

On April 10, 2014 The Danish Ministry of Defense has issued a Request for Binding Information (RBI) to four combat jet manufacturers as a next step in the evaluation of candidates for the replacement of the current – 30-year old – Lockheed F-16AM/BM fleet. At this moment only 30 F-16’s are operational in the Danish inventory.

The four candidates included in the selection process for the new Danish fighter are:
- Eurofighter Typhoon
- Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet
- Lockheed F-35A Joint Strike Fighter
- Saab Gripen E.
[Same as Canada except Dassault Rafale in our mix, Saab took Gripen out.]

Request for Binding Information (RBI)

The RBI had been planned in the Defence Planning 2013-2017 and it consists of a questionnaire with approximately 950 questions, a total of 1000 pages and it contains four chapters for each of the areas of evaluation:

Strategic issues will include focus on the relationship between the candidates and the overall Danish security and defense policy objectives. It is partly about security aspects, and partly on the military strategic aspects in relation to cooperation with other countries.

Military issues will focus on candidates’ ability to provide operational power and if the aircraft is future proof with questions about life expectancy and risks associated with each candidate.

The Economic evaluation focuses on a comparative assessment of the candidates’ life cycle costs, including costs associated with the acquisition and ongoing operation and maintenance (O&S costs).

The questions about industrial cooperation focuses on how the procurement of the candidates may support the Danish Industry and Danish security interests.

Selection process; final decision end 2015

The candidates have received the RBI 10-apr-2014 and are expected to submit their response to the request in July 2014 to the Director of the Nyt Kampfly Program (New Combat Aircraft Program).

Hereafter, it will be analyzed, validated and eventually additional information will be gathered from the manufacturers. As a result an evaluation report will be provided to the Minister of Defense as a basis for procurement proposals at the political level. Planning is a final decision about mid-2015, followed by Parliamentary Approval and negotiations with the selected manufacturer…

Let’s see how the two processes play out.  And see who actually gets a new fighter flying operationally first.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Canadian Military Response to Russia/Ukraine: CF-18 Six-Pack?

The possibility is raised here but one wonders, what with our now militarily very risk-averse government (and their diplomatic, er, firmness has surely already done all that is necessary for the Ukrainian-Canadian vote):

If NATO calls, will Canada stand by Ukraine?

What others are doing:

NATO to triple Baltic air patrol from next month

More American fighter planes heading East: U.S. F-16s to be deployed to Romania

France offers 4 fighter jets to Poland, Baltics to boost NATO patrols

On verra, eh?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – How Fissiparous is Iraq?

Further to this post,

Iraq: Baghdad Threatened by Jihadis?

two stories raise that very good question, the answer to which has huge implications for the Middle East (and others, e.g. oil):

The big test facing Iraq
As the first elections loom since the US left four years ago, Iraq struggles to avoid splitting apart amid escalating violence and political paralysis.

Iraq’s Elections Setting Up ‘Worst Case Scenario

The area just gets worser and worser.  And then there’s that new Thirty Years War.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Cyber Security and Intelligence, The NSA and Heartblead: The Administration Has a “Bias”

What the administration is fessing up to, er, acknowledging:

Obama Lets N.S.A. Exploit Some Internet Flaws, Officials Say

Stepping into a heated debate within the nation’s intelligence agencies, President Obama has decided that when the National Security Agency discovers major flaws in Internet security, it should — in most circumstances — reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used in espionage or cyberattacks, senior administration officials said Saturday [April 12].

But Mr. Obama carved a broad exception for “a clear national security or law enforcement need,” the officials said, a loophole that is likely to allow the N.S.A. to continue to exploit security flaws both to crack encryption on the Internet and to design cyberweapons.

…on Friday…the White House denied that it had any prior knowledge of the Heartbleed bug, a newly known hole in Internet security that sent Americans scrambling last week to change their online passwords. The White House statement said that when such flaws are discovered, there is now a “bias” in the government to share that knowledge [emphasis added] with computer and software manufacturers so a remedy can be created and distributed to industry and consumers…

At the center of that technology are the kinds of hidden gaps in the Internet — almost always created by mistake or oversight — that Heartbleed created. There is no evidence that the N.S.A. had any role in creating Heartbleed, or even that it made use of it. When the White House denied prior knowledge of Heartbleed on Friday afternoon, it appeared to be the first time that the N.S.A. had ever said whether a particular flaw in the Internet was — or was not — in the secret library it keeps at Fort Meade, Md., the headquarters of the agency and Cyber Command.

But documents released by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, make it clear that two years before Heartbleed became known, the N.S.A. was looking at ways to accomplish exactly what the flaw did by accident. A program code-named Bullrun, apparently named for the site of two Civil War battles just outside Washington, was part of a decade-long effort to crack or circumvent encryption on the web. The documents do not make clear how well it succeeded, but it may well have been more effective than exploiting Heartbleed would be at enabling access to secret data…

Plus a very critical piece at the Guardian:

The NSA’s Heartbleed problem is the problem with the NSA

What the agency’s denial isn’t telling you: it didn’t even need know about the bug to vacuum


NSA Did Huawei’s Back Door

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Brazilian Infrastructure: Lots of New Junk

Further to this post,

Brazilian Economy: Junk?

several examples of screw-ups that look like reflecting more general troubles (good photos, another good NY Times report):

Grand Visions Fizzle in Brazil

Brazil plowed billions of dollars into building a railroad across arid backlands, only for the long-delayed project to fall prey to metal scavengers. Curvaceous new public buildings designed by the famed architect Oscar Niemeyer were abandoned right after being constructed. There was even an ill-fated U.F.O. museum built with federal funds. Its skeletal remains now sit like a lost ship among the weeds.

As Brazil sprints to get ready for the World Cup in June, it has run up against a catalog of delays, some caused by deadly construction accidents at stadiums, and cost overruns. It is building bus and rail systems for spectators that will not be finished until long after the games are done.

But the World Cup projects are just a part of a bigger national problem casting a pall over Brazil’s grand ambitions: an array of lavish projects conceived when economic growth was surging that now stand abandoned, stalled or wildly over budget.

The ventures were intended to help propel and symbolize Brazil’s seemingly inexorable rise. But now that the country is wading through a post-boom hangover, they are exposing the nation’s leaders to withering criticism, fueling claims of wasteful spending and incompetence while basic services for millions remain woeful. Some economists say the troubled projects reveal a crippling bureaucracy, irresponsible allocation of resources and bastions of corruption.

Huge street protests have been aimed at costly new stadiums being built in cities like Manaus and Brasília, whose paltry fan bases are almost sure to leave a sea of empty seats after the World Cup events are finished, adding to concerns that even more white elephants will emerge from the tournament…

Remember that Brazil (along with India) is one of these:

First BRICs, Now the “Fragile Five”

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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