Growing Persecution in India

Bishop D’Souza notes authorities are turning a blind eye. “Our Constitution gives us religious freedom,” he says. “These radicals may know religious freedom means you can worship any god you want and eat any food you want. But the fact that a Christian, Dalit or Muslim may eat beef, it’s enough for them to attack us.”

and this…

Baskaran also raises questions about an emerging issue — the Aadhaar digital identity system established by the Indian government. Indian residents provide their fingerprints, iris scan and other information to receive an Aadhaar number. This secure government system is then linked to a person’s bank account, cell phone signal, travel and other data.

India has been the worlds largest democracy for the past 75 years and it is still home to the “Hindu Taliban.”

Dictatorships, ironically, can be more tolerant of minorities, Egypt being a good example.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Mission Creep in Syria

The tiny outpost at Tanf, surrounded by vast desert, was established during the battle against the Islamic State. But its purpose changed last year when Iranian-backed forces began bearing down on the isolated garrison.

U.S. officials feared that a small, exposed force of special operators there could be overrun as Iran, fighting in support of the Syrian government, sought to lock down a land route to Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. strikes on the encroaching forces risked pulling the Pentagon further into Syria’s civil war.

But for some senior aides, the tense encounters around Tanf were an opportunity: a chance to bolster an operation that had become an accidental bulwark against Iran, and launch a larger campaign against Tehran’s military reach in the region.

The rest can be read at Wapo here.

The Lowy Institute Asia Power Index

Can be found here.

It’s an interactive map with lots of interesting power comparisons.

Here are their top 8 CURRENT overall powers.

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. Japan
  4. India
  5. Russia
  6. Australia
  7. South Korea
  8. Singapore
  9. Malaysia
  10. Indonesia
  11. Thailand
  12. New Zealand
  13. Vietnam
  14. Pakistan
  15. Taiwan
  16. Philippines
  17. North Korea
  18. Bangladesh
  19. Brunei
  20. Sri Lanka
  21. Myanmar
  22. Cambodia
  23. Mongolia
  24. Laos
  25. Nepal

Here is the projected distribution for 2030.

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. India
  4. Indonesia
  5. Russia
  6. Japan
  7. Pakistan
  8. South Korea
  9. Bangledesh
  10. Philippines
  11. Vietnam
  12. Thailand
  13. Australia
  14. Taiwan
  15. Malaysia
  16. Myanmar
  17. Singapore
  18. Sri Lanka
  19. Nepal
  20. North Korea
  21. Cambodia
  22. New Zealand
  23. Laos
  24. Mongolia and Brunei (tie)
  25. Brunei

 

Public opinion versus popular opinion.

OF all the heresies afloat in modern democracy, none is greater, more steeped in intellectual confusion, and potentially more destructive of proper governmental function than that which declares the legitimacy of government to be directly proportional to its roots in public opinion-or, more accurately, in what the daily polls and surveys assure us is public opinion. It is this heresy that accounts for the constantly augmenting propaganda that issues forth from all government agencies today-the inevitable effort to shape the very opinion that is being so assiduously courted-and for the frequent craven abdication of the responsibilities of office in the face of some real or imagined expression of opinion by the electorate.

The author is Robert Nisbet and the outlet was National Affairs (or The Public Interest).

The piece was published in 1975.

 

Is North Korea balancing against China?

HONG KONG — The immediate causes of the recent diplomatic breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula are well known: stronger international sanctions against North Korea, approved by even China and Russia, and President Trump’s bellicose response to the recent intensification of nuclear and missile tests under Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader since 2011.

 

But a more fundamental driver is being overlooked: China’s growing ambition to dominate East Asia. Mr. Kim’s apparent move to reconcile with his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, is above all a gambit to get closer to America to keep China in check. He hopes to reduce North Korea’s overarching economic dependence on China and curb Beijing’s aspirations to control the future of the Korean Peninsula. After another surprise meeting between Mr. Kim and President Xi Jinping of China on Tuesday, the second in two months, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday that North Korea would release three American prisoners.

Could this be a new aspect of the pivot?

The author is Jean-Pierre Cabestan and you can read the rest here.

Israel the reckless driver.

Reports this morning are that Israel directly attacked Iran in Syria.

Here is reporting from the WaPo.

Confrontation between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria sharply escalated early Thursday morning as Israel said Iran launched a barrage of 20 missiles toward its positions in the Golan Heights.

Heavy military jet activity, explosions and air-defense fire could be heard throughout the night in the area. An Israeli military spokesman said the rockets were fired by Iran’s Quds Force, a special forces unit affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, marking the first time Iranian forces have ever fired directly on Israeli troops.

This is typical reckless driving by our ally Israel and I suspect a consequence of pulling out the Iran deal. Reckless driving is the unintended consequence of America assuming the defense responsibility of a foreign country. States that receive American defense guarantees will have an incentive to be more aggressive in their foreign policy had they no such assumption that America would step in if they got themselves into serious trouble.

Because these states do not burden all of the costs of their actions, they act more aggressively.

We saw this in Yemen with Saudi Arabia.

We are now seeing it with Iran in Syria.

Short primer on Chinese debt

Is provided by Bloomberg.

Here is one angle on its debt problem.

In 2008, China’s total debt was about 141 percent of its gross domestic product. By mid-2017 that number had risen to 256 percent. Countries that take on such a large amount of debt in such a short period typically face a hard landing. That’s why everyone—academics, private banks, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the Bank for International Settlements, and People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan—is sounding the alarm.

The biggest problem of Chinese debt is that it is allocated by the party and not the markets. They could get away with this because of how lopsided their capital to labor ratio was, but that has largely leveled off and the CCP no longer has such a large margin of error when determining how debt is distributed.

This is the single biggest problem facing the Chinese economy in my opinion.

The rest can be found here.

Bibi’s role

“His worldview is very clear,” said Ari Shavit, an Israeli journalist who has long covered Mr. Netanyahu. “Iran is Nazi Germany. Israel is England. He is Churchill and America is America. His main goal has been to persuade Roosevelt to get into a conflict that will crush Iran. It didn’t work with Obama. But with President Trump he sees a golden opportunity.”

 

Mr. Shavit added that Mr. Netanyahu sees Iran as both dangerous and fragile, like the weakening Soviet Union that Ronald Reagan confronted, and wishes for a similar American approach to it: very assertive American diplomacy and sanctions that exploit Iran’s weakness to eliminate its danger.

The rest can be read at the NYT.

Why Trump supports diplomacy with North Korea but not Iran.

In the case of North Korea, the hurdles preventing the United States from pursuing its own best national interests and engaging with Iran do not pop up. There is no equivalent of MEK or AIPAC lobbying the White House on behalf of North Korea; there is no North Korean version of Sheldon Adelson to obstruct a push for peace with Pyongyang. North Korea presents President Trump with the opportunity to achieve success where his predecessors could not; a possible motivating factor for the president. When discussing North Korea, the president often throws the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations under the bus by voicing that the issue should have been handled long ago. Unlike Iran, the issue of North Korea has not galvanized a large and well-funded institutionalized policy sector devoted to curtailing engagement with Pyongyang. This provides room for US policy on North Korea to more accurately reflect US interests. For the Trump administration, this means that beyond the president’s showmanship and impulse to meet with Kim Jong-un, diplomacy can be given a chance with the hermit kingdom.

I do not understand the argument here.

  1. Trump is trying diplomacy with both Iran and NK. Pulling out of the Iran deal is still a form of diplomacy, albeit not smart in my opinion.
  2. These groups usually lobby congress, not the President.
  3. Why is their anti-Iran lobbying effective post 2016 but not prior?

The obvious reason Trump doesn’t like the deal is because it’s flawed and it was not negotiated by Trump but inherited. If we had an Asian JCPOA I suspect that he would be doing the same thing.

If the author is convinced that it is local politics and interest groups which explain Iran and not Korea, the more interesting question would be why there is no significant South Korean interest groups lobbying for/against a deal.

You can read the article in its entirety here.

Boris Johnson on the Iran deal

Do not forget how this agreement has helped to avoid a possible catastrophe. In his address to the United Nations in September 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, rightly warned of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. At that moment, Iran’s nuclear plants held an estimated 11,500 centrifuges and nearly seven tons of low-enriched uranium — totals that would rise to nearly 20,000 centrifugesand eight tons of uranium.

 

Had the leaders of the Islamic Republic decided to go for a nuclear arsenal, they would have needed only a few months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for their first bomb.

 

The situation was even more worrying because, month by month, Iran was installing more centrifuges and building up its uranium stockpile. But under the deal, Iran has placed two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage and relinquished about 95 percent of its uranium stockpile. The “break out” time has been extended to at least a year — and the agreement is designed to keep it above that minimum threshold.

 

Moreover, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been given extra powers to monitor Iran’s nuclear facilities, increasing the likelihood that they would spot any attempt to build a weapon.

 

Now that these handcuffs are in place, I see no possible advantage in casting them aside. Only Iran would gain from abandoning the restrictions on its nuclear program.

It is a good piece and essentially argues that should build off of JCPOA and not “tear it up.”

It was printed in the NYT which can be read here.