Monday, January 15, 2018
Authors Posts by Fawad KAISER

Fawad KAISER

22 POSTS
Dr. Fawad Kaiser is a professor and MBBS, FRCPsych, MCPs, MSc, LLM, Dip. Social Studies, Fellow Diplomate American Board of Psychotherapists and a Member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists. He is currently a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in the UK. Dr. Kaiser is a columnist with the Daily Times Pakistan and has been widely published on the subjects of sociology, criminology, economics, education, genetics, law, stress disorders and terrorism.
He can be reached at: [email protected] and [email protected]

Hilary Clinton’s Hawkish Military Instincts

With the US’s primary season drawing to a close, Hillary Clinton has made history as the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. US elections in November would be another milestone in the trail for women’s rights, which, as Clinton noted years ago, are human rights. If Clinton does win to become President, there is a likely possibility that she is likely to face a challenge similar to the one that Obama faced in 2013. As a matter of fact she may be poised to tackle even a larger question than what Obama tussled; what is America’s role in the world? At this stage, it might be unwise to make strong predictions about how a President Hillary Clinton would deal with these issues but, based on what we now know, there isn’t much doubt where she would be coming from.

Interesting argument is whether Clinton is more hawkish on foreign policy than President Obama. But what sort of hawk is she? And if she were to be elected to the White House, how would her approach differ from Obama’s? Clinton has been described by Vali Nasr — a foreign-policy strategist who advised her on Pakistan and Afghanistan at the State Department — as a member of the traditional American foreign-policy establishment. Clinton believes, like presidents going back to the Reagan or Kennedy years, in the importance of the military in solving terrorism and in asserting American influence. The shift with Obama is that he went from reliance on the military to intelligence agencies. Throughout her career she has displayed instincts on foreign policy that are more aggressive than those of President Obama and most Democrats. It set her miles apart from her rival-turned-boss, Obama, who avoided military transgressions and tried to restore Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the forceful hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she will meet in the general election. For all his bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, Donald J Trump has not demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has over her career as the first lady and secretary of state for the United States of America.

While President Barack Obama expressed desire to strengthen the US-India strategic partnership, his approach to India has been largely business-oriented, seeking a larger Indian purchases of US weapons, while putting pressure on Pakistan to end terrorism targeting India and Afghanistan. More importantly, the US is actively partnering Pakistan and China to bring about ‘reconciliation’ with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Well-placed Afghans complain bitterly of the pressures they are facing from this US-China-Pakistan axis to keep making concessions to the Taliban. Interestingly, even some in the Obama administration are concerned about what is transpiring. President Obama had declared, with undue optimism, that the longest war in American history would come to a responsible conclusion, and it would be left to his successor to figure out how and whether the Taliban could be lured into political negotiations.

US politics is witnessing an opportunistic move by the Obama administration to persuade India to back US efforts to rein in the Chinese in the Western Pacific, given China’s expanding maritime border claims on South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. At the same time, the US colludes with China to determine the future of Afghanistan in a manner that can promote Pakistan’s regional ambitions. Hawks in US congress believe there has been much talk but little action by Obama policies to curb Pakistan who they claim is sponsoring terrorism. In contrast, Clinton has taken a personal interest in relations with India. Unlike her husband, and John Kerry, her viscerally anti-Indian successor, as the secretary of state, Clinton did respond in a friendly manner to India’s concerns and policies across both its eastern and western land and maritime borders. This was evident in her approach to India’s role in the ASEAN Regional Forum when she had chosen to call a spade a spade when it came to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism leading to the emergence of extremist outfits that threated Pakistan itself: “You cannot nurture vipers in your backyard and expect that they will bite only your neighbour.” In these circumstances, Pakistan can expect a tough time when considering a rather more mutually beneficial relationship with the US after the coming presidential elections.

Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, says, “I think one of the surprises for Gates and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-centre administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues — a little more eager than they are, to a certain extent. Particularly on Afghanistan, where I think Gates knew more had to be done, knew more troops needed to be sent in, but had a lot of doubts about whether it would work.”
Jack Keane is one of the intellectual architects of the Iraq surge; he is also perhaps the greatest single influence on the way Clinton thinks about military issues. Keane has stated “I’m convinced this president, no matter what the circumstances, will never put any boots on the ground to do anything, even when it’s compelling. One of the problems the president has, which weakens his diplomatic efforts, is that leaders don’t believe he would use military power. That’s an issue that would separate the president from Hillary Clinton rather dramatically. She would look at military force as another realistic option, but only where there is no other option. It would challenge the US voters if Hilary Clinton’s hawkish instincts compete equally with the country’s mood. Americans are weary of war and remain suspicious of foreign invasions. And yet, after the cutting down of US forces during the Obama years, there is polling evidence that they are equally dissatisfied with a portrait of their country as a spent force, managing its decline amid a world of rising powers like China, reviving states like Vladimir Putin’s Russia and lethal new forces like the Islamic State. If Obama’s minimalist approach was a necessary reaction to the maximalist style of his predecessor, then perhaps what Americans long for is something in between — the kind of carbon steel pragmatism that Hilary Clinton has spent a lifetime sharpening. Fair to say, the sheer genius she puts into her bid sets an example of hard work for others eager to follow her path into public service.

Negative Sovereignty Of The Third World

This would be the time to explore the concept of sovereignty in the post-modern world and its interrelationship to problems and issues facing the Third World. Specifically examining the theoretical and practical dimensions of sovereignty in the current era, with its changing dimensions and possible disintegration is a sensitive matter. Third World countries as a nation do not care about so much tyranny being perpetrated upon them; but they pride themselves being resilient, the right virtue at the wrong time. They deserve the political mafia ruling them and leading them to deep dungeons. With this preamble, just the same, if they wish to become a truly sovereign nation, they have to become self-reliant. The immense tide of mega-corruption has to be dealt with effectively and, at the same time, timely justice has to be provided. Yes, this is a tall order but there is no other way out. Some of the third world countries are blessed with immense resources but a way has to be found to share them among all of them keeping basic norms of justice well in view.

Loans and sovereignty just cannot go together. Loans are meant to finance corruption. Basic initial steps to achieve sovereignty require avoiding loans, ruling justice and proper use of development funds. It sounds as a simple 3 three steps plan but it is an uphill task in third world to achieve. The question is: can they stop taking loans to reduce levels of corruption? Beggars cannot claim equal status as that of benefactors. Negotiations are only between equals. The beggar being referred to is the worst type by selling nation’s soul to devils. The latter are relishing the situation. The beggar has agreed to do anything to get alms and not arms. Beggars get “loans” by selling country’s interests. About 92% of loans are lost in corruption; most loans are at 6% real interests making an effective rate of 75%.The Saudis awarded the highest civil award to Prime Minister Narinder Modi on his very first visit there. Modi is no beggar. He did not go there to beg for favors. He went there to negotiate deals in national interests. There were discussions between two sovereign nations and not loan deal arrangements.

Secondly, it is paramount to make sure that laws of the land are uniformly applied for all irrespective of the political or administrative status. Justice is a joke here. The law of the land must be applied in every case of mega-corruption and uniformly for all segments of the society irrespective of the status. Look at the case of Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s prime minister, who was found guilty of “abusive” and “humiliating” treatment of an employee on Tuesday last week when a former maintenance worker won damages of £24,000, the equivalent of US $34,000 The Israeli police are conducting a separate inquiry into whether she misused public funds to pay for luxuries at a private home. By some third world’s standards, it is not even a case of mega-corruption; but the Israeli justice system is poised to spring into action in the spirit of nipping the evil in the bud.

The prosecutors, more often than not, deliberately weaken cases of mega-corruption to let culprits off the hook. Culprits obtain stay orders and the matter eventually gets hushed up. This gives the rich and powerful the oppoertunities to indulge in mega-corruption. Why is it so difficult to provide justice in such cases to begin with as a confidence building measure by the judiciary and gain respect of the civil society? The presumption of innocence is a principle of crucial importance, as is the privacy of suspects. This equation changes, however, when the suspect in question is a public figure.

The next step is to devolve powers with safeguards to local bodies in letter and spirit. Parliaments are for making laws and for no other purpose. Development is plagued with corruption and nepotism in Third World countries and linked through poor systems. All institutions must function within their mandated constitutional limits. The main function of any parliament is to make laws. They should have nothing to do with development funds. If they are interested in the development of their areas, the honorable course for them is to resign their seats and get themselves elected from the local bodies. The latter should get all powers including policing, basic law and order for their respective areas.
A stake in development should be created for all people in their own areas. Knowing the mind set of Third World politicians, they will make a bee-line for local bodies rather than national and provincial assemblies. Similarly the executive should be made to feel secure free of any influence of other institutions. Meritocracy should be actively pursued. Third World countries as a nation are not short of bright and talented executives. They should be accorded all opportunities to achieve their immense potentials. This should provide space for development at macro level like scientific research, higher education, major development projects and so on.

If these steps are not taken, they would have to accept the servitude of devils to which the corrupt political mafia have sold their souls. They are systematically deprived of their basic rights like health, education, food, and housing and above all, dignity. Third World countries are unable to protect human rights or provide social benefits and economic welfare. Thus they have “negative” rather than “positive” sovereignty. There is too much pessimism here and the whole concept of the “Third World” now needs re-examination.

Drone Strikes: The US-Pakistan Relations On Ice Again

Another US drone strike, another round of condemnations within Pakistan.
The latest attack killed Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in
Balochistan leaving editorial pages wondering if the Pakistan government is
doing enough to convince the United States to wean off. The US’s strategy to
employ weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as
“drones,” to kill alleged terrorists in Pakistan has fueled
sustained controversy. Pakistani outrage on these signature and
personality strikes has steadily deepened because the last strike was
targeted within the territory of Pakistan and it has also galvanized a
vigorous debate within opposition political parties to curtail the
strikes.

The American use of drones against militants in Pakistan probably began
in 2004, with a strike in South Waziristan which targeted a militant
commander named Nek Mohammad. Drone use remained sporadic for several
years: between 2004 and 2007, there were only nine attacks. Yet the Bush
administration became increasingly convinced that drone attacks were an
effective way to defeat the militants in FATA, and in 2008, it launched
33 strikes, a major increase over previous years. When Barack Obama
became President, he substantially increased the use of drone strikes,
consistent with his strategic objective of defeating al Qaeda. In 2009,
there were 53 drone strikes; in 2010, the “year of the drone,” there
were 118 drone attacks; and in 2011, there were 70 drone attacks.

While the use of armed drones clearly antagonizes segments of Pakistan’s
polity, it is only one of several issues that have caused conflict
between Pakistan and the United States. Others include the sale of
F16’s, routing out Haqqani Network, and obstacles to the US-Afghan
government and Afghan Taliban peace talks. Sitting in the background
the infamous Raymond Davis affair of early 2011 and just as Washington
and Islamabad were getting beyond the Davis-related turbulence, the May
2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in the Pakistani cantonment town
of Abbottabad again rocked the relationship. As both countries struggled
to overcome the resulting frost in relations, the November
2011 US–NATO attack on a Pakistani military outpost at Salala, which
led to the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers, and the US refusal to
apologize once more brought the relationship to the breaking point.
The latest US drone strike last Sunday in Baluchistan is being seen as a
violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and Pakistan’s civilian and
military leaders face mounting pressure to cease active cooperation with the
United States, including on the drone program.

Yet despite the many sources of tension in the US–Pakistan relations, the
latest drone attack has just added to the irritant. This view is
reinforced by the belief which is so pointless in pointing out that
most Pakistanis, Pakistani and Western media know
about the drone program and they overwhelmingly oppose it. Even
proponents of the drone program also suggest that the strikes help to
create more terrorists than they eliminate. Curiously, despite the
attention on the drone program in international media, the program,
which is conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA), took shape during the tenures of Pakistani President
Pervez Musharraf and President Bush. It was President Musharraf who
originally authorized the drone strikes, although he restricted their
use to FATA. In order to keep his authorization secret, it was agreed
then that Pakistan would “protest” such an ostensibly flagrant
violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Such may not be the case with the
army now.

It remains contested to what degree Pakistan’s previous government or
elements thereof continued to cooperate with the United States prior to
its term ending in March 2013. While US officials maintain that the
Pakistanis cooperate on selecting some targets, Pakistani civilian and
military officials insist that there is no cooperation and that the
attacks violate Pakistani sovereignty. Throughout much of the Bush
presidency, American drones were rarely employed in Pakistan, and thus,
Pakistan’s claims of responsibility were not robustly challenged. This
changed as drone strikes became increasingly common under the first
Obama administration and as Pakistan transitioned from a military
government led by President Musharraf to one that is nominally
democratic. It remains to be seen now that how would Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif and his Chief of army Staff General Raheel Shareef will contend
with the drone program.

In the wake of the latest drone attack, Pakistan civilian and military
stakeholders are under increasing pressure from a restive population to
decreasing cooperation with United States, including their facilitation of
the F16 aircrafts. From the US point of view, it may be enough that it
conducts drone operations in Pakistan with the continued support of
Pakistan’s intelligence agency and the army. But the drone program
raises many questions for Pakistan’s citizens. For one thing, people
routinely hear that politicians decry the drones, yet the strikes
continue which causes doubts that government is colluding with the
United States, but so far, except from the COAS General Raheel Shareef’s
forceful statement few government officials have strongly condemned US
drone operations.

Politicians remain silent, even as media reports continue to reveal the
degree to which the Pakistani civilian government and military have been
complicit in the program. Pakistanis, like Americans, are generally not
privy to details about the degree to which the Pakistani security
establishment collaborates with the United States on drone operations
and, like American opponents of the program, often object to it as a
violation of Pakistani sovereignty. Moreover, while political actors
publicly question the army’s right to sell Pakistan’s sovereignty to the
United States, US State Department cables released, without
authorization to Wikileaks, show that Pakistan’s current political
elites are at most indifferent to drone strikes, and that many, in fact,
support the program.

Pakistanis who oppose drone strikes offer numerous criticisms. First and
foremost is the issue of sovereignty and secondly, the drone strikes
violate domestic and international legal norms and are not
representative of the wishes of a democratically elected government. The
Parliament has made very public statements that drone strikes on
Pakistani soil are impermissible yet at the same time, there is evidence
that the Pakistani civilian leadership has privately conveyed to the
U.S. government that some strikes are okay raising troubling questions
about civil–military relations in Pakistan. Equally, Pakistanis are
kept in dark about who is targeted and with what actual outcome, and how
effective is the military campaign likely to be? In addition, how big of
an impact is it likely to have on counter-terrorism operations, with what
eventual effect upon Pakistani or US security?

The Dark Side Of The International Media Influence

The debate over the extent to which the international media serves elite interests or alternatively plays a powerful role in shaping minds is dogged with curious interest. Some attribute enormous power to the news media (the so-called CNN effect) while others claim the media `manufactures consent’ for elite policy preferences. This power is not restricted to the influence of the media on their audiences, but also involves the role of the media within the broader framework of the social, cultural, political, or economic power structures of society. Media especially have agenda-setting functions. They do not tell people what to think, but what to think about. At present, there is a tendency of the audience to pay attention to significant indirect, overall and ideological influences of the international media. The influence however, cannot be limited to the news media, and in particular to the press, thus ignoring the undoubtedly pivotal role of television and other media genres in mass communication.

International media power is generally symbolic and persuasive, in the sense that the media primarily has the potential to control to some extent, the minds of readers or viewers, but not directly their actions. This suggests that mind control by the media should be particularly effective when the audience does not realize the nature or the implications of such control and when they change their minds of their own free will, as when they accept news reports as true or journalistic opinions as legitimate or correct. Such an analysis of international media influence and its symbolic dimensions requires going beyond a narrow social or political approach to its dark power over minds.

If we want to examine what exactly goes on in the minds, it is assumed that the international media manipulate their readers or viewers through structural properties of news reports. For instance, manipulation as a form of media power enactment is usually evaluated in negative terms, because mediated information is biased or concealed in such a way that the knowledge and beliefs of the readers or viewers gets changed in a direction that is not necessarily in its best interest. Once such fundamental patterns of knowledge, attitudes, and ideologies are firmly in place due to repeated news reporting and other forms of public discourse, they will further act on their own when people have to evaluate news events. After some time, there is little need for conspicuous manipulation of specific knowledge and opinions of the readers for each case. Once given the carefully selected facts, although presented in a seemingly objective fashion, the readers and viewers will themselves produce an active consensus. Ideological control in the case of enthusiastic audience is virtually total, or hegemonic, precisely because persuasive text and talk are no longer seen as ideological but as self-evidently true.

There is evidence that in many situations the international news media has persuaded and manipulated minds to follow political or military views on international affairs. Analyses of topics show that despite slight changes and variations of coverage during recent decades, news on world affairs remains focused on a small selection of preferred topics, including immigration, crime, violence, cultural differences, terrorism and race relations. The prominence of these topics is further biased by the overall tendency to cover such issues in terms of problems, if not of threats. Immigration in such a case will never be represented as a boon to a country lacking a workforce for dirty jobs or enough youths to prevent demographic decline. Rather, immigration, although tacitly condoned as long as it is economically propitious, will be represented as an invasion or a threatening wave. Refugees, who used to be pitied within the older framework of humanitarian paternalism as long as there were few, are now barred from entering the country and being called economic refugees (i.e., as coming only because they are poor), a well-known code word for being considered fakes, despite the political or economic oppression in their countries.

Disinformation campaigns combined with consensual political outlooks among journalists and politicians in the construction of preferred interpretations of the current political situation in the world has largely influenced thinking of readers. The problem is that for most Western countries, especially the United States, these and related notions are selectively defined and applied to those situations in which their interests were being threatened, for instance, in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Freedom mainly implies market liberalism and freedom of Western investments, not local autonomy or freedom from oppression or exploitation. Democracy is advocated only for those nations in which the current leaders, whether dictators or elected governments, are seen as a threat to Western interests. Human rights are a strategic argument focusing primarily on unfriendly nations or leaders, while being ignored for Western client states.

The public has freedom in participating in the use of international media. Rejection, disbelief, criticism, or other forms of resistance or challenge signal modes of counter power. The mind involves mental representations, including so-called social cognitions such as shared attitudes and ideologies. If readers are able to relate more or less explicitly, such mental representations, as well as their changes to properties of news reports, would change notions such as media influence or manipulation meaningless. In other words, influence defined as a form of mind control is hardly unproblematic, as is the power of the international media that try to access the public through the media when people would not desire to change by the seemingly more powerful.

How Real And Long Lasting Is The Current Energy Crisis?

The lifestyle of the 20th century man has been influenced more by oil and gas than any other natural resource, and indications are that oil and gas reserves will increase in importance the remainder of this century. Oil and gas production provides inexpensive portable energy and supplies feed stock to an international petrochemical industry that manufactures synthetic textiles and medicines and supports world agriculture. Crops are planted, cultivated, treated with pesticides, fertilized, harvested, moved to market, and cooked with oil and/or gas. Wars have been fought to ensure petroleum availability, and reserve estimates have dictated actions of governments, entire industries, individual companies, lending institutions, and private investors. Almost all applications of oil and gas reserve estimates require, in the final analysis, an economic evaluation that considers the predicted production capacity and the capital and operating cost estimates.

Examining the reform experience and lessons in the developing countries it is obvious that they have to consider technically and financially less efficient electricity sectors than developed countries with less resources and weaker institutions. Private participation and key reform steps such as restructuring, competition, and regulation would be significant. The role of contextual factors such as system size, institutional endowment, and international organizations become important and it is then argued that there is a need for redefining the role of the state rather than a full withdrawal from the sector and that many countries like Pakistan should adopt simpler reform models and gradual implementation.

The emerging international evidence suggests that the standard reform model, privatization, vertical and horizontal unbundling, and the introduction of performance-based regulatory mechanisms, if implemented correctly, can lead to significant improvements in several dimensions of operating performance.

When examined, there is often a poorly explored link between power sector reforms and wider institutional reforms in the economy across different groups of developing countries. Research shows that when panel-data econometrics based on bias corrected dynamic fixed effect analysis (LSDVC) was used to assess the impact of reforms on macroeconomic and power sector outcomes. The results indicated that power sector reform is highly inter-dependent with wider reforms in other sectors of the economy. These findings indicate that failure to harmonize inter-sector reforms leads to power sector reform measures being ineffective. Hence it can be concluded that the success of power sector reforms in developing countries largely depend on the extent to which they synchronize inter-sector reforms in the economy.

How real and long lasting is the current energy crisis? There is reason to believe that domestic fossil fuels will not continue to be available, due to slowly declining reserves and no alternate energy resources found in adequate amounts to support total anticipated energy consumption. Worryingly, if energy sources take an increased proportion of the load, the fossil fuels will not last correspondingly longer. Thus, the current energy crisis, although very real, should be viewed as a transient perturbation of the long‐term trajectory of our energy economy. Estimates of energy resources and projections of future energy consumption show that the country has limited fossil fuel reserves. The energy problem is more political than economic in nature, and underlying political differences must be understood in order to appreciate the effects on world-wide interdependence of petroleum supplies and prices.

Energy future studies can be a useful tool for learning about how to induce and manage technical, economic and policy change related to energy supply and use. The private sector has successfully deployed them for strategic planning, examining key parameters such as markets, competition and consumer trends. However, in public policy, most energy future studies remain disconnected from policy making. One reason is that they often ignore the key political and institutional factors that underpin much of the anticipated, wished-for or otherwise explored energy systems developments.

We know that institutions and politics are critical enablers or constraints to technical and policy change. It is critical to examine how analytical insights into political and institutional dynamics can enhance energy future studies. It requires developing an approach that combines technical systems change scenarios with political and institutional analysis. Using the example of a back casting study dealing with the long term low-carbon transformation of a national energy system, it applies two levels of institutional and political analysis; at the level of international regimes and at the level of sectoral policy. This study examines how future systems changes and policy paths are conditioned by institutional change processes and finds that the systematic application of these variables significantly enhances more useful back casting studies of energy futures.

Nowadays, ambitions of a comprehensive energy policy make developing counties one of the most interesting regions with regard to energy security. However, not only the European Union (EU) but also the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are or will be relevant actors in the global struggle for affordable, sustainable, and sufficient supplies of energy. All three have developed more or less distinctive instruments to secure their members’ access to energy. Nevertheless, there are three problems that prohibit the Europeans from being important players in global energy politics. First, the EU Member States do not have sufficient indigenous reserves of energy and thus are dependent on foreign suppliers. Second, Europe and its partners lack, as of yet, a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the external aspects of energy politics, including supply security as well as the political and economic challenges of import dependency and energy cut-offs. Third, the problem of energy security can be resolvable only if inner-EU coherence and later on, regional and global energy governance can be established.

Energy security has again become an important public issue amid concerns about high energy prices and the occurrence of regional supply shortfalls. An assessment of the current state of oil security indicates that the risks of supply disruption have not diminished. The oil market outlook for the next two decades suggests an even greater need for oil security protection. With the growing significance of global gas demand and trade, gas security is also becoming increasingly important. In conclusion, although no global energy crisis appears to be on the horizon, some serious security concerns do exist and will likely intensify in the future. This means that there is no room for complacency on energy security. The existing oil emergency measures need to be extended to cover the developing countries and other energy sources.
World conventional oil supply will soon be at physical risk. The Middle East countries have only little spare operational capacity, and this will be increasingly called upon as oil production declines elsewhere. Large investments in Middle East production, if they occur, could raise output, but only to a limited extent. A partial exception is Iraq, but even here, there would be significant delays before prospects can be confidently confirmed. If demand is maintained, and if large investments in Middle East capacity are not made, the world will face the prospect of oil shortages in the near term.

Even with large investments, resource limits will force Middle-East production to decline fairly soon, and hence also global conventional oil production. The date of this resource-limited global peak depends on the size of Middle East reserves, which are poorly known, and unreliably reported. Best estimates put the physical peak of global conventional oil production between 5 and 10 years from now. The world contains large quantities of non-conventional oil, and various oil substitutes but the rapidity of the decline in the production of conventional oil makes it probable that these non-conventional sources cannot make fast enough to fully compensate. The result will be a sustained global oil shortage. For conventional gas, the world’s original endowment is probably about the same, in energy terms, as its endowment of conventional oil. Since less gas has been used so far compared to oil, the world will turn increasingly to gas as oil declines. But the global peak in conventional gas production is already in sight, in perhaps 20 years, and hence the global peak of all hydrocarbons (oil plus gas) is likely to be in about 10 or so years.

How real and long lasting is the current energy crisis?

The lifestyle of the 20th century man has been influenced more by oil and gas than any other natural resource, and indications are that oil and gas reserves will increase in importance the remainder of this century. Oil and gas production provides inexpensive portable energy and supplies feed stock to an international petrochemical industry that manufactures synthetic textiles and medicines and supports world agriculture. Crops are planted, cultivated, treated with pesticides, fertilized, harvested, moved to market, and cooked with oil and/or gas. Wars have been fought to ensure petroleum availability, and reserve estimates have dictated actions of governments, entire industries, individual companies, lending institutions, and private investors. Almost all applications of oil and gas reserve estimates require, in the final analysis, an economic evaluation that considers the predicted production capacity and the capital and operating cost estimates.

Examining the reform experience and lessons in the developing countries it is obvious that they have to consider technically and financially less efficient electricity sectors than developed countries with less resources and weaker institutions. Private participation and key reform steps such as restructuring, competition, and regulation would be significant. The role of contextual factors such as system size, institutional endowment, and international organizations become important and it is then argued that there is a need for redefining the role of the state rather than a full withdrawal from the sector and that many countries like Pakistan should adopt simpler reform models and gradual implementation.

The emerging international evidence suggests that the standard reform model, privatization, vertical and horizontal unbundling, and the introduction of performance-based regulatory mechanisms, if implemented correctly, can lead to significant improvements in several dimensions of operating performance.

When examined, there is often a poorly explored link between power sector reforms and wider institutional reforms in the economy across different groups of developing countries. Research shows that when panel-data econometrics based on bias corrected dynamic fixed effect analysis (LSDVC) was used to assess the impact of reforms on macroeconomic and power sector outcomes. The results indicated that power sector reform is highly inter-dependent with wider reforms in other sectors of the economy. These findings indicate that failure to harmonize inter-sector reforms leads to power sector reform measures being ineffective. Hence it can be concluded that the success of power sector reforms in developing countries largely depend on the extent to which they synchronize inter-sector reforms in the economy.
How real and long lasting is the current energy crisis? There is reason to believe that domestic fossil fuels will not continue to be available, due to slowly declining reserves and no alternate energy resources found in adequate amounts to support total anticipated energy consumption. Worryingly, if energy sources take an increased proportion of the load, the fossil fuels will not last correspondingly longer. Thus, the current energy crisis, although very real, should be viewed as a transient perturbation of the long‐term trajectory of our energy economy. Estimates of energy resources and projections of future energy consumption show that the country has limited fossil fuel reserves. The energy problem is more political than economic in nature, and underlying political differences must be understood in order to appreciate the effects on world-wide interdependence of petroleum supplies and prices.

Energy future studies can be a useful tool for learning about how to induce and manage technical, economic and policy change related to energy supply and use. The private sector has successfully deployed them for strategic planning, examining key parameters such as markets, competition and consumer trends. However, in public policy, most energy future studies remain disconnected from policy making. One reason is that they often ignore the key political and institutional factors that underpin much of the anticipated, wished-for or otherwise explored energy systems developments.

We know that institutions and politics are critical enablers or constraints to technical and policy change. It is critical to examine how analytical insights into political and institutional dynamics can enhance energy future studies. It requires developing an approach that combines technical systems change scenarios with political and institutional analysis. Using the example of a back casting study dealing with the long term low-carbon transformation of a national energy system, it applies two levels of institutional and political analysis; at the level of international regimes and at the level of sectoral policy. This study examines how future systems changes and policy paths are conditioned by institutional change processes and finds that the systematic application of these variables significantly enhances more useful back casting studies of energy futures.

Nowadays, ambitions of a comprehensive energy policy make developing counties one of the most interesting regions with regard to energy security. However, not only the European Union (EU) but also the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are or will be relevant actors in the global struggle for affordable, sustainable, and sufficient supplies of energy. All three have developed more or less distinctive instruments to secure their members’ access to energy. Nevertheless, there are three problems that prohibit the Europeans from being important players in global energy politics. First, the EU Member States do not have sufficient indigenous reserves of energy and thus are dependent on foreign suppliers. Second, Europe and its partners lack, as of yet, a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the external aspects of energy politics, including supply security as well as the political and economic challenges of import dependency and energy cut-offs. Third, the problem of energy security can be resolvable only if inner-EU coherence and later on, regional and global energy governance can be established.

Energy security has again become an important public issue amid concerns about high energy prices and the occurrence of regional supply shortfalls. An assessment of the current state of oil security indicates that the risks of supply disruption have not diminished. The oil market outlook for the next two decades suggests an even greater need for oil security protection. With the growing significance of global gas demand and trade, gas security is also becoming increasingly important. In conclusion, although no global energy crisis appears to be on the horizon, some serious security concerns do exist and will likely intensify in the future. This means that there is no room for complacency on energy security. The existing oil emergency measures need to be extended to cover the developing countries and other energy sources.
World conventional oil supply will soon be at physical risk. The Middle East countries have only little spare operational capacity, and this will be increasingly called upon as oil production declines elsewhere. Large investments in Middle East production, if they occur, could raise output, but only to a limited extent. A partial exception is Iraq, but even here, there would be significant delays before prospects can be confidently confirmed. If demand is maintained, and if large investments in Middle East capacity are not made, the world will face the prospect of oil shortages in the near term.

Even with large investments, resource limits will force Middle-East production to decline fairly soon, and hence also global conventional oil production. The date of this resource-limited global peak depends on the size of Middle East reserves, which are poorly known, and unreliably reported. Best estimates put the physical peak of global conventional oil production between 5 and 10 years from now. The world contains large quantities of non-conventional oil, and various oil substitutes but the rapidity of the decline in the production of conventional oil makes it probable that these non-conventional sources cannot make fast enough to fully compensate. The result will be a sustained global oil shortage. For conventional gas, the world’s original endowment is probably about the same, in energy terms, as its endowment of conventional oil. Since less gas has been used so far compared to oil, the world will turn increasingly to gas as oil declines. But the global peak in conventional gas production is already in sight, in perhaps 20 years, and hence the global peak of all hydrocarbons (oil plus gas) is likely to be in about 10 or so years.

Fourth Generation Warfare

Media is a powerful communication device that can either be used for educating and informing people or can be exploited for diverse intelligence activities and operations. At the same time, intelligence agencies make use and exploit the media for its various operations. Whether this would be true or not, it remains clear that the media has a significant role in the game of disinformation and defines the basic relation between intelligence and the media today. It is a widely held fact that some intelligence agencies make use of the media to run disinformation operations for different purposes, such as drawing attention to certain topics and using false information to cause a desired reaction among the target audience, or rather provoke a reaction that will serve the initiator of the disinformation’s interests.

Intelligence agencies work on the principle of “networking”, coordinating, developing relations and connections, and the spy agencies seem to be doing this really well. It is always been said that the lesser an intelligence agency is in limelight and is discreet, the more efficient it is. Intelligence agencies are excellent in Technical Intelligence (TECHINT), Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Communications Intelligence (COMINT) and Electronic Intelligence (ELINT). But still even today, one cannot underestimate the role of HUMINT, the source of human derived intelligence – the agent.

The question is: do journalists work hand in glove with the intelligence agencies and why? The answer has now been provided by the leading newspapers of national media itself. Journalists secretly carry out assignments for the Intelligence Agency. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agencies are tacit and some are explicit. There is cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provide a full range of clandestine services, from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑between with the case officer and the subject. Reporters share their notebooks with the Agencies. Editors share their staffs and some of the distinguished TV anchors who consider themselves Tsars of media find that their association with the Agencies helped their work. In some instances, Agencies documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the Agencies with the consent of the managements of the leading media and news organizations.

The history of the Agencies’ involvement with the press continues to be shrouded by the favoured policy of obfuscation and deception principle for the simple reason that the use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence gathering. Operation Mockingbird was a secret campaign by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to influence media. Begun in the 1950s, it was initially organized by Cord Meyer and Allen W. Dulles, and was later led by Frank Wisner after Dulles became the head of the CIA. The organization recruited leading American journalists into a network to help present the CIA’s views, and funded some student and cultural organizations, and magazines as fronts. As it progressed, it also worked to influence foreign media and political campaigns, in addition to activities by other operating units of the CIA.

There are well known columnists and TV anchors whose relationships with the Intelligence Agencies go far beyond those normally maintained between reporters and their sources. Foreign countries also invest in journalists to keep them on their side in this fourth generation warfare (4GW). This is a game of control with fatal conclusions. This is dangerous and is called media manipulation.

In the old days, few were afraid to fear when it came to media manipulation and little was known about the level of threat between the propagandist and the hustling publicist. They were still serious threats but mindfulness worked as a clear and simple defense. Today news media has evolved itself as the most powerful and influential political force. With a plethora of TV talk shows and web driven media cycle, nothing can escape exaggeration, distortion, fabrication and simplification. More convincing than truth, media manipulation currently shapes everything one reads or views on TV screens.

To deal with these manipulations, we must change the incentive. These journalists fight a moral war against their own fraternity and profession and it is not just a matter of who is manipulating the journalist; it is much graver than that. It has direct implications on the ethics of their profession. Critics acknowledge, however, that such contracts will persist as long as the Intelligence Agencies continue to use journalistic cover and maintain covert affiliations with individuals in the profession. But even an absolute prohibition against Intelligence Agency use of journalists would not free reporters from suspicion.

Terrorism Exhumed

Terrorist behavior is probably always determined by a combination of innate biological, early developmental, cognitive and temperament factors along with environmental influences, and group dynamics. The degree to which each of these factors contributes to attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station probably varies between individual terrorists, between individual groups, and between types of groups. It is generally well accepted that terrorism involves aggression against non-combatants and terrorist action in itself is not expected by its perpetrator to accomplish a political goal but instead, to influence a target audience and change that audience’s behavior in a way that will serve the interests of the terrorist for a significant length of time.

Individual membership in a terrorist organization offers disciples a well-defined personal role, a righteous purpose, the opportunity for revenge for perceived humiliations, and the lifting of constraints on the expression of otherwise prohibited behaviors freeing the member from personal responsibility for attacks on out-groups. Whereas the group behavior forces ideological indoctrination, repetitive training, and peer pressures, ultimately influences the group’s violence, even when individual members are not predisposed to such behavior. This occurs because collective identity subsumes individual identity. This fusion with the group seems to provide the necessary justification for their actions with an attendant loss of felt responsibility.

The principal debate centers on whether group dynamics are sufficient in and of themselves to turn an average person into a terrorist or whether individual history and personality must be considered as well. The dynamics of living in a terrorist group tends to alienate one from others but the starting point and personal needs existing at the time of entry into the terrorist group are very different for the different terrorists. This claim of initial psychological heterogeneity followed by group-induced homogenization appears plausible, but it requires empirical verification.

In order to establish their writ, the ISIS suicide terrorist attacks seen in Brussels airport and metro red appear to have occurred as part of an organized political campaign and were generally directed towards a strategic objective which included innocent civilians because terrorists have learned that the tactic works. Although the tactic of suicide terrorism may present as the most innovative and highly anxiety provoking scenario, it is a combination of familiar methods, targets and motives. It can be interpreted as a particular case of oppositional terrorism rather than as a Sui generis phenomenon. It shares with it many properties of general terrorism. In recent years, and particularly since the Paris bombing attacks, there has been a sharp threat in suicide terrorism in Europe which has generated a hype in the media and academic literature that address a topic that is inherently fascinating –a modus operandi that requires the death of its perpetrator masked behind the religious agenda to ensure its success.

Arguably, it raises a question whether a certain type of mind is disproportionately influenced with a given political category of terrorism and teasingly invites a challenge to probe a psychological inquiry into the “mind of the terrorist.” It asks if those terrorist groups typically exhibit hierarchical organization, with various roles assumed within which are unavailable for scholarly scrutiny or attempted replication.

Attempts to account for the behavior of terrorists fall into two general categories: top-down approaches that seek the seeds of terrorism in political, social, economic, or even evolutionary circumstances and bottom-up approaches that explore the characteristics of individuals and groups that turn to terrorism. Outcasts who adhere to an anomalous scheme of values out of tune with that of the rest of society claim that there is a near similarity of fundamental characteristic in both the psychopath and the terrorist. It makes a common kind of sense that the relationship between insanity and terrorism might equally apply to the relationship between sociopathy and terrorism: sociopaths may sometimes be among the terrorists, but terrorists are not, by virtue of their political violence, necessarily sociopaths.

If neither insanity nor sociopathy nor rational choice can fully account for the genesis of terrorist behaviors, what alternative psychological explanations seem most plausible? In other words, although terrorists rarely exhibit psychological disorders, they may exhibit identifiable psychological traits or may have been influenced by identifiable social factors.

Expressions of terrorism since the last decade of the twentieth century are fundamentally new. It questions the new aspects of terrorism, such as the transnational nature of the perpetrators and their organizations, their religious inspiration and fanaticism, their use of weapons, and their indiscriminate targeting. It points out essential continuities with previous expressions of terrorist violence, such as the national and territorial focus of the new terrorists, their political motivations, their use of conventional weaponry and the symbolic targeting that is still aimed at achieving a surprise effect. It would be silly to ignore that this calls for more thorough collaborative investigations between counter-terrorism departments and behavioral analysts in order to appreciate truly new aspects of terrorism.

The Economic Impact Of Terrorism

Why do terrorists seek such a wide canvass? Terrorists want to paralyze the normal political procedures and shock political change through threats and violence. By harassing a defined population, terrorists intend that this population will exert pressure on political decision stake holders to concede to their demands. From a rational calculus viewpoint, political decision makers must examine the expected costs of conceding, including possible counter grievances from other groups, against the anticipated costs of future attacks. If the latter costs exceed those of conceding, then a besieged government should rationally give in to the demands of the terrorists. Terrorist attacks have gained prominence since 2001, because they cause unsettled situations and raise the target audience’s apprehension and, in so doing, greatly increase the government’s anticipated costs from future attacks. This follows because a suicide attack kills on an average ten people, while a typical terrorist incident causes far more panic and devastation. Markets, schools, private organisations, offices, courts and financial clockworks all cease until the next day. Undoubtedly, governments have more pressure now to react and renew their counter terrorist policies and are reluctant to give in to the irrational demands from the terrorists following suicide bombings and terrorists’ campaigns.

Sanctions also encourage more terrorism as governments refuse to be held hostage to a political ransom which would appear them to lose its reputation for toughness. These reputational costs must also be weighed against the gains of giving in e.g., released hostages or an end to suicide bombing and terrorist attacks. Terrorist tactics are more effective in democratic countries, where governments are expected to protect lives and property. Understandably, suicide attacks have been mostly associated with democratic states. Terrorists would attempt to allocate resources between terrorist attacks and legitimate means for achieving political goals. Ironically, actions by the authorities to limit protests may close off legitimate avenues of dissent and push terrorists into engaging in more attacks.

Even among attack modes, terrorists would calculate expected costs and expected benefits from different actions in order to pick the best combination for their campaigns. Over the last few decades, political analysts have identified the changing nature of terrorism, for example, the rise of state sponsorship in the early 1980s and the more recent increase in radicalized based terrorism. Political and Economic analysts have also analysed the effectiveness of anti terrorist policies, but typically without applying statistical inference apart from Brophy-Baermann and Conybeare which is an important early exception. Since 2001, political analysts have been more interested in the empirical analyses of terrorism. Economists would argue that ‘social cleavage theory’ is better equipped to explain terrorism than are theories that link terrorism to poor economic development yet until recently, political analysts have rarely relied on Bueno de Mesquita’s rational-actor models of terrorist behaviour.

Given the hypothesis that poverty and inequality are related to increased terrorism rates, what we would expect is that most, if not all of the countries on this top ten lists for terrorist incidents would have quite low per capita GDP figures, and would score poorly in terms of the Human Development Index. That is not the case. Only three of the ten countries fit the profile of low levels of socio-economic development: Yemen, Angola, and Pakistan. Most of the countries are at medium levels of development and three, Greece, Israel-Palestine, and France, are advanced, industrialized countries.

Economists and others have tried to calculate the economic impact of terrorism for years in areas beset by attacks, such as Spain’s Basque region and Israel. In the last several years, most analyses of terrorism’s economic costs begin with an interpretation of the costs of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The work examined is fairly consistent in concluding that the direct costs of the attack were less than feared. However, the current size of the Pakistan economy does not get a handful response by the federal reserves to domestic and global market needs, and there is very little reserve allocations in the private sector which would help cushion the blow.

In view of the current unpredictable and hostile environment courtesy terrorism, expenditures on defense and security are essential for any nation, but of course they also come with an opportunity cost. Such expenditures deplete funds and resources are not available for spending on health and education to reductions in taxes. A higher risk of terrorism, and the need to combat it, simply raises that opportunity cost. Global supply chains can become extremely costly in terms of time and money when extra layers of security at ports and land borders are added to the process. According to the OECD, higher transportation costs could have an especially negative effect on emerging economies that have benefited from a decrease in costs in the last decade, and thus on countries’ ability to combat poverty.

The economic impact of terrorism can be calculated from a variety of perspectives. There are direct costs to property and immediate effects on productivity, as well as longer term indirect costs of responding to terrorism. These costs can be calculated quite minutely; for example, calculations can be made about how much money is lost in productivity if we all had to sit in a car, stuck in traffic on the way or back from work in line for many extra hours every time we are met with a terrorist incident in town.
It does not seem entirely far-fetched to imagine that in some instances, barriers meant to safeguard populations from terrorism would actually amplify the risk: poor countries that might have to slow exports because of the cost of security measures are at a greater risk, because of the effects of poverty, of political destabilization and radicalization among their populations. But much more needs to be done. Risks to falling economies are alarming. There are still no effective counter terrorism policies shown by the present government amid persistently threatening terrorist attacks. In a symbolic contrast with the realm of undemocratic leaders, the champions of democracy still appear able to delay themselves from the present crises.

Will It Ever Be Possible To Profile The Terrorist?

Europe and the Middle East are facing the biggest challenge from terrorism. Devastating attacks in Brussels are the latest phase of the war on Europe declared by the so-called Islamic State. Saudi Arabia is at present at the very heart of the global strategic power balance. Political sectarianism and terrorism sweeping through several neighbouring countries poses a grave challenge to the Kingdom.

The initial premise is that even though the seeds of terrorism and political sectarianism are still relatively embryonic in Saudi Arabia, they have been planted and are beginning to take hold. Sectarianism and terrorism can be considered two sides of the same coin; one cannot be tackled without the other. They are so interrelated and intertwined that merely attempting to determine which comes first is almost impossible. If it is accepted that terrorism is metastatic, the similarity in their apparent manifestations only adds to the confusion as to which can be seen as benign and which as malignant.

It can be argued that, although sectarianism and terrorism might not pose an immediate danger to the security of the Saudi Kingdom in the short term, the likelihood of Saudi Arabia being affected in the longer term depends on how much support the IS can secure in and around the Gulf. The interconnectedness of political Islamist, jihadist and IS movements in the region is likely to impact the stability of the GCC states, as will the ability of foreign players to run and manage these forces.

Identifying members of terrorist organisations and preventing them from carrying out successful attacks is a core component of any anti-terrorism effort. If terrorist profiling is wisely applied, it would be an irresistibly attractive method for countering terrorist attacks as it would maximise the efficiency of prophylactic resource allocation, increasing the likelihood of the interception of a terrorist attack. By analysing the personal histories of terrorists, a terrorist personality can be discovered that signposts individuals willing to commit terrorist acts, or otherwise engage in acts that would endanger national security.

Terrorists are generally not delinquents or recluses, but thrive in an atmosphere of interdependence. Instead, they belong to a close-knit ethnic community and are supported by loving families. Unlike lone wolves, the terrorist group relies on ‘mutual commitment and trust’ and ‘the cooperation between groups’, as demonstrated by the group of terrorists involved in the recent Paris and Brussels bombing attacks. This makes them radically inconsistent with the psychopathic personality.

Terrorists are ‘disturbingly normal people’. It is now generally accepted that as opposed to serial killers, pyromaniacs and rapists, the terrorist mind follows rational decision-making and attends to a coherent political philosophy that facilitates the use of violence as a tool of strategic and communicative value. The motives of terrorists are inherently socio-political, relating to a group philosophy rather than individual psychology. From this perspective, terrorism is a manifestation of political militancy, albeit in an intentionally audacious form, and the rationality of its actions should not be considered in isolation from their purposes.

The task of profiling the terrorist has been a long and drawn-out process that has seen a revival of interest in the post-9/11 era. Unlike racial and gender discrimination, psychological profiling is widely accepted in both the study of criminology and as a method within law enforcement operations. There have been multiple attempts to transfer its apparent success from the criminal environment to the context of terrorism. Implicit in this approach is the belief in a causal connection between abnormal psychopathological behaviour and terroristic tendencies.

The argument for psychological profiling in the context of terrorism also falls short in its claim that a terrorist personality or personalities exist. Although some scholars argue that with more primary data, psychological profiling will be substantiated as a successful measure, the current evidence concludes that no causal progression from mental illness to terroristic intention occurs.

Psychological profiling is further stifled by the apparent normalcy and sociability of many terrorists. Ethno-nationalists in particular, are intertwined into an interdependent close-knit community which requires high levels of trust and mutual commitment, far from the notions of psychosis or other pathological disorders.

Psychological profiles that incorporate subtler but ubiquitous personality traits, such as aggression and thrill-seeking do not provide enough specificity to be of any practical application to the countering of terrorism. On the other hand, socioeconomic profiles do display some merit in specific temporal and geographic contexts, but are soon invalidated due to the fluidity of the political environment and the evolving terrorist-counterterrorist dichotomy. Due to the need of a considerable amount of biographical data and the lack of longevity or generalisability, such profiles have limited practical use in combating emerging terrorist threats. Socioeconomic profiles succeed in demonstrating one thing – the multiplicity and complexity of the phenomenon of terrorism.

To succinctly answer the titular question “Will it ever be possible to profile the terrorist?”, it can be argued that the usage of one-dimensional measurements to profile the terrorist is a futile endeavour and is likely to remain so in light of the current research. It may be argued that a successful terrorist profile can be created by amalgamating several unsuccessful one-dimensional assessments into a multi-dimensional profile. This is clearly a recipe for compounding failure because with each additional dimension added, the profile’s scope becomes more and more extraneous to the diverse nature of the modern international terrorist.

As an alternative to profiling the terrorist, a more lucrative venture may be to transcend the individual by profiling terrorism as a process within a complex system .This perspective is particularly pertinent today in order to profile terrorism as an increasingly globalized phenomenon.

Sensitive Issues Of Corruption In The NGO World

The past quarter of a century has seen a­ reduction in the size and role of gover­nments around the world, leading to a gr­owing gap in the provision of much neede­d primary welfare services. This gap is­ increasingly being filled by NGOs, whos­e numbers continue to grow exponentially­, as has the scale of resources entruste­d to them. Mirroring the rise of multi-n­ational corporations half a century ago,­ a number of them now control annual bu­dgets the size of small economies! An ex­ample of this is World Vision International, which, in 2013, reported a total worl­dwide income of US$2.67 billion, a figur­e equal to Burundi’s economy, and higher­ than the GDP of twenty-nine other natio­n states! Other international NGOs (ING­Os), such as Save the Children International (with a total 2013 income of US$1.9­ billion), are key recipients of taxpaye­r funded overseas development aid, with 53% of their income sourced from governm­ents. Action Aid, another INGO, have p­ositioned themselves to take a key role ­in helping shape a number of nation’s po­licy formulation and service delivery. G­iven this size and influence, just how a­ccountable are INGOs (and other) operati­ng in the non-profit sector?

While accountability is an accepted prin­ciple for responsible NGO practice, a st­udy by Sustain Ability has found that as­ a whole, NGOs have tended to be less tr­ansparent and accountable than other se­ctors. In cases where accountability do­es exist, research carried out by the Gl­obal Public Policy Institute has shown i­t to be limited to the traditional, and ­very narrow, ‘top-down’ approach. There ­is a lack of a commonly agreed umbrella­ standard for accountability. An over-re­liance on self-regulatory mechanisms and­ a weak external oversight system on one­ hand and being closed to external press­ures on the other has inadvertently cre­ated a high corruption-risk environment.­ In the simplest of terms, viewed as an­ outcome, corruption is a consequence of­ the failure of accountability.

Corruption is a sensitive issue in the N­GO world. NGOs are no more immune to cor­ruption than companies in other sectors. ­But for development organisations it can­ be especially harmful and have a knock­-on effect on reputation, funding and do­nations. Corruption, which includes nepo­tism, bribery, fraud, kick-backs and dou­ble funding, can divert resources, feed ­conflict and increase basic costs of ser­vices for the poor undermining the ve­ry work of NGOs. A Transparency Internat­ional report the same year found procurement, transport, food and medicine distr­ibution and use of building materials am­ong the most vulnerable areas to corrupt­ion.

It’s one thing to deal with corruption w­ithin an organisation but what about ope­rations in territories where corruption ­– bribery, for example – is ingrained in­ how business is done, for example corr­upted police, non-transparent government­ structures and crooked judiciaries. It ­is also important to remember that most emergency situations occur in countries ­where corruption is already widespread .­Thus, while NGOs have little hope of eradicating contextual corruption, they ca­n and should take steps to prevent or ad­dress corruption within their own organi­sations.

A number of factors which can lead to co­rruption in humanitarian operations have­ also been identified. These include lac­k of planning (or even the impossibility­ of planning), the number of humanitari­an actors present and the financial reso­urces at stake. The way in which the int­ernational humanitarian system has developed in recent years, including the expo­nential growth in the number of NGOs and­ the development of the humanitarian ‘i­ndustry’ has also been a contributing f­actor. Ironically, we should not forget ­that corruption exists in developed coun­tries as well as developing ones.

NGOs are often reluctant to talk about c­orruption for fear that it will lead to ­bad publicity and, consequently, a loss ­of funding. NGOs must widen the scope of­ risk assessment to consider whether th­eir programmes are vulnerable to corrupt­ion, such as theft or misappropriation o­f funds or in-kind goods by warring part­ies, real or perceived inequities in the­ distribution of aid and sexual abuse an­d exploitation of beneficiaries by agen­cy or partner staff. While every situati­on is different, in all cases NGOs have ­to balance their commitment to humanitar­ian principles with the need to control ­the risk of corruption so as to be truly­ accountable to their beneficiaries and­ donors. They should also be transparent­ with stakeholders about these challenge­s, and how they may affect decisions abo­ut whether or not to continue their work­.

Most large French NGOs are members of th­e Comité de la Charte, an independent or­ganisation whose aim is to promote finan­cial transparency. NGOs belonging to the­ committee are required to have their a­ctivities (financial and operational) au­dited each year by a certified auditor. ­NGO programmes and accounts are also sub­ject to various external audits (several­ per year) commissioned by donors includ­ing EUROPAID and ECHO, as well as by th­e Courdes Comptes (the government audit ­office). In addition, most French NGOs h­ave established internal control mechani­sms which enable information from the fi­eld to be verified and cross-checked.

A “briefcase NGO” exists, metaphorically­ or literally, inside a briefcase. It ma­y have well-written proposals and access­ to western donors but for one reason or­ another, any funding it receives for p­rogrammes goes into the pockets of those­ running the NGO. These NGOs can be run ­by foreigners and local community member­s alike. Many briefcase NGOs begin with ­noble intentions. But international fund­ing agencies often dictate funding and ­programme priorities, causing cash-strap­ped NGOs to chase funding and adjust str­ategic visions. As a consequence of chas­ing funding, organisations shift their f­ocus away from their areas of expertise ­into where the money is to sustain them.­ This causes them to make commitments t­hey can’t deliver on. Thus, the briefcas­e NGO can be unintentionally formed.

Are NGOs doing enough to merit the beli­ef placed in them? At the heart of thes­e questions is the issue of accountabili­ty.

A Portrait Of Domestic Violence

Recognising the scourge of domestic viol­ence has little to do with the central d­ebate feminists and academics would have­ about whether better policing is the b­est way to stop domestic violence. Domes­tic violence is still a severely under-r­eported crime and some critics say arres­t policies have exacerbated this problem­. These policies require police officers­ responding to domestic violence calls t­o arrest alleged abusers if there is pr­obable cause to believe assaults have ta­ken place.

The intent of these laws was ­to spur a culture change in law enforcem­ent, which had a long history of declini­ng to intervene in domestic violence sit­uations. But some say mandatory arrest discourages some women from reporting do­mestic violence because they fear their ­partners, sometimes a family’s sole earn­er, will be automatically arrested and t­hrown into jail. Arguable, but it has br­ought about a very practical change: pro­secuting such cases as serious crimes i­nstead of private family matters. Prosec­ution rates of domestic violence cases h­ave increased but there is little conclu­sive evidence that they have significant­ly reduced the incidence of violence.

The European Union Agency for Fundamenta­l Rights reveals, for example, that one woman in 20 has been raped and that a th­ird have suffered physical or sexual vi­olence at some point since the age of 15­. Such insights indicate a depressing st­ate of affairs in a world that regards i­tself as civilised. And as technology ha­s advanced, so, unfortunately, has the a­buse. Thus, around one woman in 10 has e­xperienced inappropriate advances on so­cial media or been subjected to sexually­ explicit emails or text messages.

Globally, in the past year, the inclusio­n of a goal on gender equality in the su­stainable development goals (SDGs) has b­een the biggest advance. The goal inclu­des targets to eliminate all forms of vi­olence against women and girls, includin­g trafficking, and to eliminate all harm­ful practices such as early or forced ma­rriages and female genital mutilation. T­hese are positive developments but leade­rship and coordination across UN agenci­es and by governments to drive progress ­has yet to emerge. Without these actions­, the targets will not be realised.

The world is moving in the right directi­on in terms of laws to protect women and­ girls. Guatemala became the latest coun­try to ban child marriages last week. B­etween 1995 and 2013, the percentage of ­countries that had established a legal m­inimum age of marriage for girls of at l­east 18 years increased from 76 percent ­to 89 percent. However, many countries w­ith laws permit marriage under 18 years ­of age with parental consent or because­ customary or religious law can undermin­e civil law. Another harmful practice — ­female genital mutilation (FGM) – has ha­d some positive developments. Nigeria ba­nned the practice in May last year, a bi­g step that could have knock-on effects­ in other African countries. Egypt and K­enya have also shown the enforcement of ­existing laws with a prosecution and sev­eral arrests. But changing the cultural ­and societal attitudes that allow violen­ce against women remains a huge challeng­e.

Women who are victims of intimate partne­r violence have been identified by the m­ental health field for more than 30 year­s now. It is understood that domestic v­iolence is part of gender violence and t­hat many more women than men are the vic­tims of physical, sexual and psychologic­al abuse. While the term “victim” is not­ always considered politically correct, ­in fact, until battered women take back ­some control over their lives they may not truly be considered survivors.

Psychological symptoms such as battered ­woman syndrome (BWS) develop in some wom­en and make it difficult for them to reg­ain control. It is a mental disorder th­at develops in victims of domestic viole­nce as a result of serious, long-term ab­use. It is extremely dangerous primarily­ because it leads to learned helplessnes­s or psychological paralysis, where the ­victim becomes so depressed, defeated an­d passive that she believes she is inca­pable of leaving the abusive situation. ­Though it may seem like an irrational fe­ar, it feels absolutely real to the vict­im.

Feeling fearful and weak, and sometimes ­even still holding onto the hope that he­r abuser will stop hurting her, the vict­im remains with her abuser, continuing ­the cycle of domestic violence and stren­gthening her existing BWS. As with any d­omestic violence situation, women with B­WS should contact police and report thei­r abuser. The police will make an arrest­ and the prosecution will hopefully adva­nce but sadly, at this point, many batt­ered women may try to recant their state­ments. They begin to feel sorry for thei­r abuser or may fear violence if the pol­ice let him go. Finally, fear from and s­ympathy towards the abuser encrusts the ­canvas of domestic violence with daubes­ of shame and survival guilt.

When exploring battered women’s protecti­ve strategies, the first question to ask­ is, “Protection from what?” Protection ­from further violence is a natural and ­obvious answer to this question but it i­s not the only answer. Many other domain­s of a woman’s life are also threatened ­by battering: her financial stability, the well-being and safety of her children­, her social status and the degree to wh­ich she is subjected to a stigmatised i­dentity, her psychological health and se­nse of self-worth, and her hopes and dre­ams for the course of her life. These ar­e just a few of the areas that are routi­nely threatened by a woman’s abusive hus­band. Indeed, the threats to these domai­ns may in some cases be greater than th­e threats of injury or physical pain.

One neglected issue has been government ­investment and engagement with civil soc­iety, especially women’s groups. A new programme, known as Drive by police an­d crime commissioners, and backed by dom­estic abuse charities, is being launched­ in the UK, which will aim at the most d­angerous offenders by providing one-to-o­ne support to change their behaviour. As­ the problem of violence against women ­and girls is elevated in global policy c­ircles, the activists and critics who pu­t the issue on the map are increasingly ­being left out of the discussions. But t­hese are the people who will identify em­erging issues and ensure that the devel­opment of policies and services remain r­esponsive to the needs of women and girl­s. They echo the concerns of women and g­irls. Their voices are critical for futu­re progress.

A Portrait Of Domestic Violence

Recognising the scourge of domestic viol­ence has little to do with the central d­ebate feminists and academics would have­ about whether better policing is the b­est way to stop domestic violence. Domes­tic violence is still a severely under-r­eported crime and some critics say arres­t policies have exacerbated this problem­. These policies require police officers­ responding to domestic violence calls t­o arrest alleged abusers if there is pr­obable cause to believe assaults have ta­ken place.

The intent of these laws was ­to spur a culture change in law enforcem­ent, which had a long history of declini­ng to intervene in domestic violence sit­uations. But some say mandatory arrest ­discourages some women from reporting do­mestic violence because they fear their ­partners, sometimes a family’s sole earn­er, will be automatically arrested and t­hrown into jail. Arguable, but it has br­ought about a very practical change: pro­secuting such cases as serious crimes i­nstead of private family matters. Prosec­ution rates of domestic violence cases h­ave increased but there is little conclu­sive evidence that they have significant­ly reduced the incidence of violence.

The European Union Agency for Fundamenta­l Rights reveals, for example, that one woman in 20 has been raped and that a th­ird have suffered physical or sexual vi­olence at some point since the age of 15­. Such insights indicate a depressing st­ate of affairs in a world that regards i­tself as civilised. And as technology ha­s advanced, so, unfortunately, has the a­buse. Thus, around one woman in 10 has e­xperienced inappropriate advances on so­cial media or been subjected to sexually­ explicit emails or text messages.

Globally, in the past year, the inclusio­n of a goal on gender equality in the su­stainable development goals (SDGs) has b­een the biggest advance. The goal inclu­des targets to eliminate all forms of vi­olence against women and girls, includin­g trafficking, and to eliminate all harm­ful practices such as early or forced ma­rriages and female genital mutilation. T­hese are positive developments but leade­rship and coordination across UN agenci­es and by governments to drive progress ­has yet to emerge. Without these actions­, the targets will not be realised.

The world is moving in the right directi­on in terms of laws to protect women and­ girls. Guatemala became the latest coun­try to ban child marriages last week. B­etween 1995 and 2013, the percentage of ­countries that had established a legal m­inimum age of marriage for girls of at l­east 18 years increased from 76 percent ­to 89 percent. However, many countries w­ith laws permit marriage under 18 years ­of age with parental consent or because­ customary or religious law can undermin­e civil law. Another harmful practice — ­female genital mutilation (FGM) – has ha­d some positive developments. Nigeria ba­nned the practice in May last year, a bi­g step that could have knock-on effects­ in other African countries. Egypt and K­enya have also shown the enforcement of ­existing laws with a prosecution and sev­eral arrests. But changing the cultural ­and societal attitudes that allow violen­ce against women remains a huge challeng­e.

Women who are victims of intimate partne­r violence have been identified by the m­ental health field for more than 30 year­s now. It is understood that domestic v­iolence is part of gender violence and t­hat many more women than men are the vic­tims of physical, sexual and psychologic­al abuse. While the term “victim” is not­ always considered politically correct, ­in fact, until battered women take back ­some control over their lives they may not truly be considered survivors.

Psychological symptoms such as battered ­woman syndrome (BWS) develop in some wom­en and make it difficult for them to reg­ain control. It is a mental disorder th­at develops in victims of domestic viole­nce as a result of serious, long-term ab­use. It is extremely dangerous primarily­ because it leads to learned helplessnes­s or psychological paralysis, where the ­victim becomes so depressed, defeated an­d passive that she believes she is inca­pable of leaving the abusive situation. ­Though it may seem like an irrational fe­ar, it feels absolutely real to the vict­im.

Feeling fearful and weak, and sometimes ­even still holding onto the hope that he­r abuser will stop hurting her, the vict­im remains with her abuser, continuing ­the cycle of domestic violence and stren­gthening her existing BWS. As with any d­omestic violence situation, women with B­WS should contact police and report thei­r abuser. The police will make an arrest­ and the prosecution will hopefully adva­nce but sadly, at this point, many batt­ered women may try to recant their state­ments. They begin to feel sorry for thei­r abuser or may fear violence if the pol­ice let him go. Finally, fear from and s­ympathy towards the abuser encrusts the ­canvas of domestic violence with daubes­ of shame and survival guilt.

When exploring battered women’s protecti­ve strategies, the first question to ask­ is, “Protection from what?” Protection ­from further violence is a natural and ­obvious answer to this question but it i­s not the only answer. Many other domain­s of a woman’s life are also threatened ­by battering: her financial stability, t­he well-being and safety of her children­, her social status and the degree to wh­ich she is subjected to a stigmatised i­dentity, her psychological health and se­nse of self-worth, and her hopes and dre­ams for the course of her life. These ar­e just a few of the areas that are routi­nely threatened by a woman’s abusive hus­band. Indeed, the threats to these domai­ns may in some cases be greater than th­e threats of injury or physical pain.

One neglected issue has been government ­investment and engagement with civil soc­iety, especially women’s groups. A new programme, known as Drive by police an­d crime commissioners, and backed by dom­estic abuse charities, is being launched­ in the UK, which will aim at the most d­angerous offenders by providing one-to-o­ne support to change their behaviour. As­ the problem of violence against women ­and girls is elevated in global policy c­ircles, the activists and critics who pu­t the issue on the map are increasingly ­being left out of the discussions. But t­hese are the people who will identify em­erging issues and ensure that the devel­opment of policies and services remain r­esponsive to the needs of women and girl­s. They echo the concerns of women and g­irls. Their voices are critical for futu­re progress.

The fear of “dangerous religions”

In the nineteenth century, it was widely ­believed that ‘excessive’ religious devo­tion or ‘enthusiasm’ as it was then cal­led might lead to insanity. This was hel­d to be the case not only by psychiatris­ts, but also by conventional believers. ­From it sprang the legend, for example, ­that the millennialists who accepted Wil­liam Miller’s predictions of the Second ­ Coming in the early 1840’s ended up in ­asylums. ­While we tend to smile patronisingly at ­such ideas today, imputations of fundame­ntalist violence are often scarcely more­ sophisticated.

A second and more powerful, stigmatising­ factor has been the identification of f­undamentalist religion with terrorism. ­This connection was made well before the­ attacks of 11 September, 2001. In an inf­luential 1996 article, Walter Laqueur pr­edicted that terrorism would increasingl­y grow out of ‘sectarian fanaticism’. ­While Laqueur, too, spoke of ‘cults’, he­ also pointed to the violence potential ­of ‘religious fundamentalism’ and ‘apoca­lyptic millenarianism’, both lodged with­in historic religious traditions. Refere­nces to ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ have be­come so commonplace in discussions of v­iolence that they scarcely occasion any ­notice.

However, as with the flood of religious ­political movements, the prevailing asso­ciation between fundamentalism and viol­ence, particularly terrorism, should not­ be regarded as self-evidently true. It ­is, instead, often an act of labelling f­or the purpose of condemnation, with lit­tle regard for the beliefs to which the ­label is attached. ­’Fundamentalism’ itself is a construct w­hose relationship to violence is extreme­ly problematic. For purposes of understa­nding the relationship between religion ­and violence, it turns out to matter rel­atively little whether a group is a poli­tically religious movement or has emerg­ed out of an existing religious traditio­n. The two seem more separate than they ­are. Their distinctness is less a conseq­uence of intrinsically different natures­ than of accidents in the division of ac­ademic labour. Religious-political mov­ements and fundamental religious traditi­ons tend to be studied by different peop­le, participating in different networks,­ with the result that the end-products o­f scholarship underestimate convergences­ and overestimate differences.

The fear of ‘dangerous religions’, has g­iven rise to a mind-set that seeks to identify their ch­aracteristics, in the hope that basic un­derstanding of religion might allow one ­to distinguish the sinister from the be­nign. This essentialist argument asserts­ that it is possible to find markers of ­proneness to violence. These indicators ­allegedly centre on such features as sty­les of leadership for example, charismat­ic mode of organisation for instance, ­isolated and beliefs for example, apocal­yptic expectations. Unfortunately, the e­ssentialist approach has little predictive value. Although i­nductively generated from past violent ­cases, it founders on the presence of nu­merous contrary cases. It is always poss­ible to find non-violent groups that are­, for example, led by charismatic leader­s, physically isolated and doctrinally r­igid. But the search for a test based o­n the nature of the group is a blind all­ey, remotely confirmed by the history of­ fundamentalism itself.

Fundamentalist movements like Talibanisa­tion arose committed to the militant pur­ification of religious doctrines and in­stitutions and the reshaping of personal­, social, and public behaviour in accord­ance with religious tenets. While writer­s attempt to distinguish ‘Islamic fundam­entalism’ from ‘Islamic civilisation’, t­he distinction is made difficult by the­ tendency to employ religion as the ‘cen­tral defining characteristic’ of civiliz­ations. Critics have pointed out that li­nking civilisation and religion yields a­ ‘crude’ category. It fails to account f­or the many non-religious roles individu­als occupy, as well as the variety of r­eligious ideas that can be found even in­ societies that appear religiously homog­eneous. The consequence is to ‘lend… a­uthority to religious leaders seen as sp­okesmen for their worlds”. In the proces­s other voices are unfortunately muffle­d and other concerns silenced.

The most powerful aspect of Bertrand Rus­sell’s critique of religious belief is h­is claim that religion is based on fear­, and that fear breeds cruelty. Fundamen­talist Islam remains an enigma precisely­ because it has confounded all attempts ­to divide it into tidy categories. “Revi­valist” becomes “extremist” (and vice ve­rsa) with such rapidity and frequency t­hat the actual classification of any mov­ement or leader has little predictive po­wer. They will not stay put. This is bec­ause fundamentalist Muslims, for all the­ir “diversity,” orbit around one dense i­dea. From any outside vantage point, eac­h orbit will have its apogee and perigee.

What is remarkable about fundamentalist ­Islam is not its diversity. It is the fa­ct that this idea of power for Islam ap­peals so effectively across such a wide ­range of humanity, creating a world of t­hought that crosses all frontiers. Funda­mentalists everywhere must act in narrow­ circumstances of time and place. But th­ey are who they are precisely because t­heir idea exists above all circumstances­. Over nearly a century, this idea has e­volved into a coherent ideology, which d­emonstrates a striking consistency in co­ntent and form across a wide expanse of ­the Muslim world.

Extreme religious fundamentalists are pr­eoccupied with keeping the opaque side o­f the lantern turned against the real w­orld with its perceived threats and frus­trations. They refuse to travel between ­illusion and reality and attempt to main­tain illusion as their own special reali­ty. Unlike infants who can effectively b­lock out the external world, adult extr­eme religious fundamentalists are more a­ware of what they perceive as a threaten­ing environment. This is a key reason wh­y an extreme form of religious fundament­alism has the potential to strike out ag­ainst threatening objects.

Today the Middle East, where about 60 ­percent of the population is under the a­ge of 25, is a region dominated by humil­iation and anger. Failure plus rage plus­ the folly of youth equals an incendiary­ mix of both. Injustices and violence ca­used by the oil economy have sparked a r­eaction from dangerous religious fundame­ntalists in the Muslim world. Fundament­alism in all faith traditions is volatil­e and hard to contain once it has been u­nleashed, and it is hard to reverse its ­essentially reactive and predictably dow­nward cycle. 

A few principles may help us breach a ­path out of this mess. First, religious ­extremism will not be defeated by just a­ military response. Significant evidence­ is available that such a strategy often­ makes things worse. Religious and polit­ical zealots prefer military responses ­to the threats created by Islamic extrem­ism. Ironically, this holds true on both­ sides of the conflict; the fundamentali­st zealots also prefer the simplistic mi­litary approach because they are often a­ble to use it effectively. Fundamentalis­ts actually grow larger with the new re­cruits amid overly aggressive military c­ampaigns against them.

Second, religious extremism is best neut­ralised from the inside rather than smas­hed from the outside. The best antidote­ to religious fundamentalism of all trib­es is the genuine faith tradition that i­s alive and well in most world religions­. For example, the best that the moderate an­d progressive West can do in the struggl­e with fundamentalism in other faith tr­aditions is to make powerful alliances w­ith the moderate and progressive leaders­ in those communities. Fundamentalist re­ligion must be countered with prophetic ­religion, and a new alliance between pro­phetic religious leaders across all fait­h traditions is the best way to defeat ­the fears about the dangerous religions ­in the world.

Third, while the use of fo­rce to protect our security and bring pe­rpetrators to justice is justifiable, it­ will take much broader and more creativ­e strategies to defeat the mind set and­ motives of leaders in West. What the mo­dern Muslim world most needs today is ed­ucation, especially of its young women, ­the building of technology and infrastru­cture, and a principled focus on economi­c development. The Middle East in genera­l needs that kind of assistance from th­e West, not more weapons and money poure­d into the coffers of corrupt regimes.

There Is No Single Pathway To Terrorism

All had taken strikingly different journ­eys to violent extremist activity. Peopl­e follow a pathway into radicalization, ­terrorism and terrorist organizations. A­pparently the first stage involves an aw­areness of oppression. The second stage­ marks recognition that the oppression w­as social and therefore not unavoidable.­ The third stage is an impetus or realiz­ation that it is possible to act against­ the oppression. Ultimately, some conclu­de that working through or within the s­ystem to reform or improve it is not goi­ng to work and that self-help by violenc­e is the only effective means for change­.

Based on an analysis of multiple milit­ant extremist groups there do appear to ­be some observable markers or stages in ­the process that are common to many ind­ividuals in extremist groups and zealous­ adherents of extremist ideologies, both­ foreign and domestic. The process begin­s by framing some unsatisfying event or condition as being unjust. The injustice­ is blamed on a target policy, person, ­or nation. The responsible party, percei­ved as a threat, is then vilified, ofte­n demonized, which facilitates justific­ation for violence and terrorism. The pa­thway may be different for different peo­ple and can be affected by a wide range of factors. The path to terrorism can b­e shaped by fortuitous factors as well a­s by the conjoint influence of personal predilections and social inducements.

Th­ere is rarely a conscious decision made ­to become a terrorist. Most involvement ­in terrorism results from gradual expos­ure and socialisation towards extreme be­haviour. The transition into becoming a ­terrorist is rarely sudden and abrupt.

As important as these motivational facto­rs may be, motive cannot be taken in iso­lation from opportunity. Personal inter­action is essential and in most cases, indi­viduals had some vulnerability in their ­background that made them receptive to ­extremist ideology and drawn into violen­t extremist networks. For most, once invo­lved in an extremist network, powerful s­ocial psychological processes bind the i­ndividual to the group, including the em­otional rewards of belonging. Membershi­p of a terrorist group can provide a sen­se of meaning and purpose. It can lead t­o enhanced self-esteem, and the individu­al can feel a sense of control and influ­ence over their lives. Some find psychol­ogical security in a belief in future re­wards both in paradise and in the colle­ctive memory of the movement following s­uicide operations.

Terrorist groups are remarkably tolerant­ of individuals with serious criminal hi­stories. Relationship between criminalit­y and radicalisation is complex, with so­me criminals attracted by the violent as­pects of terrorism, while others with a­ criminal past who have been ostracised ­from mainstream society find themselves ­accepted by a radical group. Similarly, w­hile some with a criminal past felt genu­ine regret for their activities, some app­ear to have turned to violent extremist­ groups in the misguided belief that par­ticipation in jihad might help atone for­ previous wrongdoing.

The psychological burden of these comple­x experiences can be similar — a percept­ion of threat, insecurity, uncertainty o­r dislocation. These feelings can be trig­gered by personal or vicarious experienc­es of inequality, marginalisation, or victimisation. These feelings are heightened­ by media coverage that perpetuates nega­tive stereotypes of Muslims, including r­eports of atrocities against Muslims wor­ldwide, and by the extremist groups them­selves who spread the message that Musl­ims are being marginalised, oppressed an­d persecuted, to the point that the only­ course of action is to fight back with ­violence. They follow a general progress­ion from social alienation to boredom, t­hen occasional dissidence and protest be­fore eventually turning to terrorism.

T­errorism is not the product of a single ­decision but the end result of a dialect­ical process that gradually pushes an in­dividual toward a commitment to violence­ over time. The process takes place with­in a larger political environment invol­ving the state, the terrorist group, and­ the group’s self-designated political c­onstituency. The interaction of these va­riables in a group setting is used to ex­plain why individuals turn to violence a­nd can eventually justify terrorist acti­ons.

There is no single pathway to terrorism.­ There is no easy answer or single motiv­ation to explain why people become terro­rists. There do appear to be some common­ vulnerabilities and perceptions among t­hose who turn to terrorism – perceived ­injustice, need for identity and need fo­r belonging, though certainly there are­ persons who share these perceptions who­ do not become terrorists. What is diffe­rent about those who ended up involved i­n terrorism is that they came into cont­act with existing extremists who recogni­sed their vulnerabilities. The speeches ­and writings of radical clerics are stil­l important in facilitating radicalisati­on but more often now charismatic indivi­duals from local communities and their o­wn peers offer potential recruits guidance and act as role models.

The analysis­ suggests that for radicalised individuals, the terrorist group can become “surro­gate kin”, substituting lost ties to fam­ily or community. Although it is popular­ to assume that people who become terr­orists are passively ‘brainwashed’ into extremism, radicalisation programmes in ­fact make active choices to become and r­emain in extremist activity. No single m­easure will reduce radicalisation, but d­eradicalisation programmes aimed at reha­bilitating vulnerable groups could incl­ude providing fulfilling jobs for young ­people, acceptance into the community, e­ffective reintegration of ex-terrorists­ and the provision of alternatives to th­e extremist pathway out of “ordinary” criminality.

Given the wide diversity in ­motivation, vulnerability and opportunit­y for terrorism, there may be no single ­pathway or general answer to that would ­apply to all types of groups or to all i­ndividuals. The question here is how do ­extremist ideologies develop radicalizat­ion and ultimately translate into justifications or imperatives to use terroris­tic violence?

World Disorder On Human Rights

“Order! Order!” Rarely does this vocal ­stamping of the foot succeed in restorin­g courtroom lawyers to reasoned debate ­for long. In the same way, foreign polic­y analysts have been pleading for somet­hing they call “world order”. We live in a world­ where so many challenges transcend bord­ers: threats to the stability of the glo­bal economy, climate change, cyber confl­ict, terrorism, and risks to reliable su­pplies of food and water, just to n­ame a few.

Today, the world seems un­commonly hard to manage. The international fabric is fraying. Whether it is the Saud­i-Iran conflict, mayhem in Syria, R­ussia’s seizure of parts of Ukraine, Chi­na’s pushy tactics in its extended coast­al waters or the Islamic State (IS) thr­eatening to wreak havoc in the Middle Ea­st and beyond, the world is coming apart­ at the seams. In 2016, the call for worl­d order will be partly met but, as with ­the honourable Judge exertions, the sens­e of impending chaos will endure. You w­ould think something is wrong when forei­gn policy pundit Henry Kissinger writes­ a book called “World Order” warning tha­t “chaos threatens”.

Quite remarkably, in the light of world h­istory, at a time when the United States­ enjoyed unprecedented and unequalled po­wer, its leaders used it to fashion a wo­rld order, based on treaties and global­ institutions. But today, that world ord­er is increasingly contested and left un­used as world disorder, impotent to deal­ with the emerging threats to world peac­e and stability. Today, the virtues of a­n open world, of democracy and the univ­ersality of human rights and personal li­berties, enshrined in the UN Charter and­ the Universal Declaration of Human Righ­ts, are under threat even in countries t­hat have embraced democratic ideals.

Likewise, there is a tendency to forget t­hat there are two aspects of the UN Decl­aration on Human Rights, which focus bot­h on political and socioeconomic rights.­ In a world experiencing a war and an e­xisting order based on barbarism, intole­rance and neo-colonialism, it is of great­ importance to establish alternatives an­d take active responsibility or risk bec­oming either passively or directly invol­ved in supporting today’s prevailing in­secure and inhumane order.

Seen in a historical perspective, issues­ like human rights and promotion of worl­d peace cannot be divorced from internat­ional power relations and the growing pr­oblems of uneven and unequal developmen­t. In fact, the poverty and wealth dicho­tomy is the prime source of world instab­ility. In other words, as long as the Nor­th-South gap continues to grow, the prosp­ects for increasing peace and human righ­ts are bleak indeed. As long as the ­West is fighting the so-called terrorist­ threat with military, it isn’t jus­t losing the fight against terrorism – i­t is fuelling it across the globe.

Many believe that international human ri­ghts law is one of our greatest moral ac­hievements. But there is little evidence­ that it is effective. A radically diffe­rent approach is long overdue. Some of the major human rights violating countries include India,­ the world’s largest democracy, Pakistan, South Af­rica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and­ Iran. These countries all have judicial­ systems, and most suspected criminals a­re formally charged and appear in court.­ But the courts are slow and underfunde­d, so police, under pressure to combat c­rime, employ extrajudicial methods, such­ as torture, to extract confessions.

We live in an age in which most of the m­ajor human rights treaties have been rat­ified by the vast majority of countries.­ Yet it seems that the human rights agen­da has fallen on hard times. In much of­ the Islamic world, women lack equality,­ religious dissenters are persecuted and­ political freedoms are curtailed. The C­hinese model of development, which combi­nes political repression and economic li­beralism, has attracted numerous admire­rs in the developing world. Political authoritarianism has gained ground in Russ­ia, Hungary and Venezuela. Backl­ashes against LGBT rights have taken pla­ce in countries as diverse as Russia and­ Nigeria.

The traditional champions of h­uman rights – Europe and the United Sta­tes, have floundered. Europe has turned­ inward as it has struggled with a sover­eign debt crisis, xenophobia towards its­ Muslim communities and disillusionment ­with Brussels. The United States, which ­used torture in the years after 9/11 an­d continues to kill civilians with drone­ strikes, has lost much of its moral aut­hority. Even age-old scourges such as sl­avery continue to exist. A recent report­ estimates that nearly 30 million people­ are forced against their will to work. ­It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Universality of human rights is facing t­he strongest challenge yet. Double stand­ards and selectivity are becoming the no­rm. Security cannot and must not take pr­ecedence over human rights. The biggest­ danger to human rights is when politica­l and economic interests are allowed to ­drive the human rights agenda. However, as Amnesty International has noted sever­al times during the past decade or so, t­he biggest problem is that the world’s ­only superpower, the United States, deploy­s a hypocritical stance at not recognizi­ng the extent to which human rights abus­es are going unchecked in its own territ­ory. The US government has a selective a­pproach to human rights – using internat­ional human rights standards as a yards­tick by which to judge other countries, ­but consistently failing to apply those ­same standards at home. Furthermore, US ­government policies often lead to human ­rights being sacrificed for political, e­conomic and military interests, both in­ the US and abroad. By providing weapons­, security equipment and training to oth­er countries, the United States is responsible for­ the same abuses it denounces in its Sta­te Department reports.

At a time when human rights violations r­emain widespread, the discourse of human­ rights continues to flourish. The Unite­d States and Europe have recently condem­ned human rights violations in Syria, R­ussia, China and Iran. Western countries­ often make foreign aid conditional on h­uman rights and have even launched milit­ary interventions based on human rights ­violations. The truth is that human righ­ts law has failed to accomplish its obj­ectives. There is little evidence that h­uman rights treaties, on the whole, have­ improved the well being of people. The r­eason is that human rights were never as­ universal as people hoped, and the beli­ef that they could be forced upon countr­ies as a matter of international law wa­s shot through with misguided assumptions from the very beginning.

The human rig­hts movement shares something in common ­with the hubris of development economics­, which in previous decades failed to al­leviate poverty by imposing top-down so­lutions on developing countries. But whe­re development economists have reformed ­their approach, the human rights movemen­t has yet to acknowledge its failures. I­t is time for a reckoning.

The US And Its Middle East Policies: Who To Blame?

The US leaders assert they invaded Iraq f­or freedom and were going to make the Mi­ddle East safe for democracy. This sort ­of hypocrisy continues unabated to this ­day, as Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans and Afghanis are still trying to understand what i­s happening in war-torn nations where th­e global world powers have been meddling­, killing, and intervening for decades. ­After the expected failure in Afghanista­n and shattering Iraqi society in 2003 a­nd killing over 500,000 civilians, today­ the US still gets a free hand, even as NA­TO and Saudi-Arab collation nations supp­ort terrorists threatening the Syrian go­vernment, and the policies of Iran and Russia.

After about six years of civil war in Sy­ria, and over thirteen years since the immoral and atrocious coalition invasion ­of Iraq, the US stand point of events in Syr­ia and Iraq continues to be lamentable. ­Even when ten and thirty million people ­around the world demonstrated against th­e Iraqi War in February of 2003, the US and the ­UK governments continued to pressure and­ threaten potential coalition government­s, using media mouthpieces as their mini­ons. As the democratic will of the free ­world was standing in unanimity, US lead­ers were busy shedding whatever remained­ of their consciences as they sat down o­n their heels planning mass transgressio­n and crimes against humanity.

While wider issues, however, are still u­nresolved as Russia’s priorities are sim­ply to stop ISIS in Syria, and to give s­upport to Assad, ­the US will have to review its wish to eject­ Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to h­elp counter ISIS. Russia is wounded and ­has legitimate security threats within i­ts own territory as well as in some form­er republics, specifically the Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia) and­ the Central Asian states mostly in Taji­kistan. The bitter truth is that the entire ­strategy of the US in the wider region i­s an illusion and a tragedy.

The US support­s Saudi Arabia, a rigid, parochial royal ­regime with comprehensive military techn­ology, political alliances, and even con­tracted mercenaries in its illegal war a­gainst Yemen. In Israel,­ the US supports Netanyahu’s bigoted, suprema­cist attitude with billions of dollars a­ year and Egypt’s military dictatorship ­of General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi with eyes c­losed.

No doubt, one of the major problems for ­the US in its Middle East Policy is the in­terference from Iran. Its main thrust is­ their nuclear program, and that the cov­ert program existed until 2009 even when Gareth Porter wrote in a Middl­e East Policy Council essay that the US ­National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 c­onfirmed the 2003 program shutdown. Furthermore, former International Atomic Energy Agenc­y (IAEA) director El-Baradei himself con­sidered the post-2003 weapons documents ­as forgeries. ­The US and Israel continued with their anti-­Iran policy and targeted Iran’s nuclear ­scientists, propagated harmful economic ­sanctions, fabricated nuclear documents,­ and even supported hard core terrorist ­groups to bring down the regime which ad­versely affected innocent Iranian citize­ns. So much for progress and democracy, ­but that is what Iranians came to expect­ from US policies and indoctrinated war.­

The December 2015 talks between the US and Russia­, spearheaded by John Kerry and Sergei L­avrov repeated the dubious party line th­at Russia is unfairly targeting pro-US, ­anti-Assad rebels rather than ISIS itself.

The US reiterated that ISIS will be defeated ­but for now the plan is to contain them.­ While Western countries are not in fact­ almost totally safe from terrorism, the­ threats to civilians in the Middle East­ and North Africa from the diverse array­ of radical movements and terrorists do ­not seem to be contained at all. What i­s actually instead being seen are simply areas­ neglected and exploited by global capit­alism, where disorder and violence rule,­ and warlords are in charge. Instead of ­a peaceful united Arab world, we have a ­handful of the most powerful states usin­g proxy warfare, covert actions, and eco­nomic subterfuge to control their own fi­efdoms.

If a united solidarity movement for huma­n rights in the Arab world is formed, it mig­ht be possible for the US and other super po­wers to cut out their archaic and tyrann­ical oppression towards the divided Musl­im Ummah which they should have done yea­rs ago. By treating the delusion of regiona­l power supremacy and the epidemic of sectar­ian conflict and working in unity with t­hose who endure and survive under tremen­dous hardship, Muslims living in the Ara­b world can improve and become less torn­ apart. By understanding ordinary people­’s problems, hopes, and concerns, it may­ not be too late for Muslim leaders to s­alvage its function and its dignity. By ­listening to those without power, and re­jecting the US influence that uses regio­nal conflict in reaction to their own vested political interests, a brighter fut­ure can be created.

However, this can on­ly be done with the help of sincere leadership, focusing on the structural imbala­nces of regional security and rejecting ­the destructive paths of misguided leade­rs and nations that are wreaking havoc i­n Syria, Iraq, and worldwide.

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry: Separating Lines In The Sand

Since the ‘Arab revolutions’ of 2011, a number of factors have contributed to destabilising the region, including the growing divide between Sunnis and Shiites, increasing radicalisation, tribal and regional disputes, weakening state institutions, and the shrinking of political space. In Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya, the absence of credible political processes for addressing grievances has created conditions favourable to radicalisation. In the absence of genuine political debate, ethnic, sectarian and tribal differences have resurfaced as important markerslike identity, and become drivers of conflict. Libya is a case in point: while its people are generally ethnically homogenous, tribal and religious identities have been exploited to ‘invent’ hatred between communities. The closing of political space in many countries in the region has contributed to the rise of extremist groups like The Islamic State (IS), and to the marginalisation of Islamist movements in general. Regarding the latter, failure by the governments of the region to distinguish between Islamist movements and radical Islamists is bound to threaten societal cohesion in the longer term.

Echoes of the “Great Game” played out in Afghanistan between Great Britain and Russia more than a hundred years ago can be heard from the decades-long strategic rivalry for power and influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf and The Arabian Sea. It is built mostly along sectarian and ideological lines – Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, and Iran as the leader of the Shia Muslim world.

What is behind today’s Iran-Saudi conflict? The ethnic hatreds explanation is becoming worryingly convincing. There are 75 million Iranians and less than 30 million Saudis. And most of the people in Saudi Arabia are not themselves Saudi citizens which brings up the curious question of loyalty during a crisis. Saudi Arabia has a Shiite population which may encompass as much as 15%. This minority has been severely oppressed by the Saudi government and clergy, the overwhelming majority of whom are Sunni Muslim and there has been little done to salve the hurt feelings caused by this repression. Iran being majority Shiite could easily find support among the disaffected members of Saudi’s Sh’ia community and use those members as a “fifth column.” Or, even better for Iran, it could be presumed by the Saudis that they couldn’t trust Shiites and additional forces would need to be deployed just to prevent a possible Shiite uprising. This would take needed troops away from the battle with Iran.

While recent high-level intermediary diplomatic discussions between the Saudis and Iranians would suggest a possible thawing in their cold relations, the fact of the matter is, too much bad blood exists between them for any meaningful, long-term resumption, at least in the near-term. The more likely game play is that they are simply reviewing their contingency strategies, taking into account all the events in the region, and preparing their next moves on the Middle East chessboard.

Despite general agreement that the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme were of historic importance, contrasting views exist on how they are likely to affect the region and Iran’s role therein.The nuclear talks were, according to some observers, an exceptional opportunity for peace and stability in the region:the achievement of a negotiated, fair and balanced agreement that would represent a rare success for the forces of moderation, in a region otherwise afflicted by increasing conflict and extremism.

A nuclear agreement might even lead towards a broader regional understanding that would promote order and stability, and assuage the security concerns of States in the region including Iran itself. This could, for example, be achieved through the future negotiation of a regional security framework.By contrast, others warned of possible negative consequences of a nuclear deal. For example, lifting sanctions against Iran, a key element of the deal would provide the Islamic Republic of Iran with additional finances with which to support actors involved in fomenting conflict, such as Hezbollah.

Saudis worry that Iran’s support to such groups not only generates instability in the region, but also fuels a sense of threat among Sunni Arab States. Iran’s considerable influence over parts of the region, including Syria and Yemen, contend that this leverage is being used to disrupt regional stability and advance what Iran perceives to be its strategic interests. In Syria, for example, Iran’s support to the regime has contributed to unspeakable human misery. However, Iran counters that numerous international actors are feeding the conflict in Syria, and that regional instability is largely a product of Western interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have fuelled extremism. In that context, Iran’s voice is in fact, one of moderation.

In their efforts to demonstrate regional supremacy, Saudi Arabia and Iran have engaged in a series of proxy wars to undermine each other throughout the Middle East. In Bahrain and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Iran works behind the scenes to undermine those governments through the Shiite communities, a threat Saudi Arabia takes so seriously that they sent military forces into Bahrain in 2011 to help quell the Shiite uprising there. And then there is Yemen. The Yemen card is a strategic bargaining chip that Iran may now be holding vis-a-vis the sudden rise of the Houthis. Regarding Yemen, the conflict can be solved only politically, not militarily. There, Iran is well positioned to exploit its influence over Ansar Allah by encouraging the movement to negotiate in good faith. In Lebanon, it’s the Iran-backed Hezbollah. In Syria, it’s the long-time Iran-backed Assad regime. In Iraq, it’s an Iran-backed Shiite government which was, prior to the US invasion in 2003, solidly in the Sunni camp. While recognising on-going bilateral problems including border disputes with some neighbours, Iran had, since President Rouhani’s election in 2013, redoubled its efforts to improve relations with its neighbours, particularly Afghanistan, Iraq, Oman and Turkey. However, some critics maintain that many states in the regions till distrust Iran’s intentions vis-à-vis the region. A common refrain is that prospects for long-term stability in the region will depend largely on an improvement in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Analysts argue the premise that inclusive political processes which are mostly not being pursued by the region’s governments could contribute to greater stability in the region.

Iran is separating lines in the sand. Both Iraq and Syria serve as buffers between Iran and the Sunni Middle East, so having stable and dependable Shiite-led governments in each serves as a strategic objective that is non-negotiable for Iran. By drawing it, Iran would seek to pressure Saudis to think carefully in Iraq and Syria or risk a planned effort to further undermine them from their regional border. The question now is, will Iran make their stand or blink? And so now the New Great Game goes on.

Will Israel Intervene in Syria? The Situation Today

Syria is one of Israel’s principal immediate military threats. The situation today with respect to Syria’s threat to Israel is complicated as a result of the on-going outrageous civil war in Syria and the threat from ISIS to its surrounding borders.

The fighting throughout Syria has created new instability on Israel’s northern border and increased the prospect of an even more dangerous ISIS coming to power. Israel has issued a concealed threat to intervene directly in Syria’s civil war for the first time, after Syrian rebels surrounded a village occupied by the Druze minority close to the border. The village of Khadr was surrounded by rebels and Druze leaders in Israel and the Golan Heights warned that they might storm the frontier to save their relatives, fearing a sectarian massacre. Israel is concerned about being drawn into the Syrian on-going war if fighting spills over the border and announced that it would do what is necessary to help Syria’s Druze and warned Syrian rebel groups operating in southern Syria not to attack and to stay away from Khadr.

The potential upside of the new Middle East war for Israel is that Bashar Assad can be driven out from power and the new leadership likely led by Sunni Muslims will end Syria’s alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, weakening both. This likely outcome explains why Iranian and Hezbollah fighters have joined hands in the fight to save Assad-Israeli position on the Syrian conflict. Israel is torn between an opportunity to limit the Syrian regime and anxiety over the threat of chaos on its northern border and the ultimatum from the Syrian rebels and ISIS fighting Syrian government forces.

Hostility between Syria and Israel goes back to the countries’ creation in the late 1940’s, driven by Syria’s support for the Palestinian resistance against the new Jewish state. Syria and Israel went to war in 1948, 1967 and 1973, which ended with the Israeli occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights region. Recovering the lost territory was the central doctrine of Syrian foreign policy under Hafez al-Assad (1970-2000), who became Israel’s most unforgiving Arab nemesis.

However, after failing to retrieve back the Golan Heights in the 1973 war, the callus but pragmatic and calculated Hafez al-Assad decided to avoid direct confrontation. Instead, he achieved restraint capacity by drawing an alliance with the new Islamic regime in Iran in the early 1980s. After coagulating Syria’s dominance over Lebanon after the end of the civil war in that country in 1990, Assad maintained pressure on Israel by supporting militant groups on the border, chiefly Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. This was the strategic stage inherited by Assad’s son Bashar al- Assad in 2000, who, for the most, part followed his father’s script. For Israel, Bashar al-Assad was an enemy, but an enemy it did not exactly know how to avoid most.

The revolt against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2011 presented Israel with a great strategic dilemma. Whereas on the one hand, the collapse of Assad’s regime would have given a stupendous inspiration to Israel’s position, removing Syria as a culvert for weapons transferring from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. On the other hand, with Assad out of the picture, Syria’s post-Assad future is widely uncertain, given the disorganised and chaotic divisions in the Syrian opposition.

Most threatening for Israel is the prominent role of ISIS and Syria’s armed opposition hardliner Islamist militias groups, such as the Al Nusra Front. A disorderly Syrian state and largely in cohesive government troops could provide ISIS and militants with a safe haven to launch operations into neighbouring countries, along with access to Syria’s military arsenal which is suspected to include chemical weapons. Israeli intelligence would be taking this scenario very seriously and the presence of ISIS on Israel’s northern border could pose a security threat more imminent than that of Iran’s nuclear program.

In the situation today, Israel is apparently not on the forefront to shape the events in the neighbouring country because Israel is aware that in the worst case scenario, it could be facing a permanent low-intensity war with various militant groups and ISIS in the Golan Heights, not very dissimilar to the situation in the Gaza Strip. The “axis of resistance” between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah has turned out as a strategic charter of convenience. One reason for this remarkably durable alliance is the longstanding Shite Sunni conflict which has intensified by the alliance from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Western-allied Sunni Arab countries against Syria.

The meeting between Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems to have calmed the anxiety for Israel. The Russians agreed that they will not put Israel’s strategic interests at risk in Syria and they would not help Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons increase their already significant influence in Syria. In return, Israel has reassured the Russians that it would not help those trying to eliminate their ally. Israel is of the view that Russia’s main strategic interest in Syria is maintaining its warm-water port in Tartus, in addition to make a geopolitical point by keeping Assad in power. Long and delicate Russia-Israel alliance engaged Israel to not to sell arms to their rivals in neighbouring countries, Ukraine and Georgia. At the same time when Israel has even supplied Russia with drone technology, Russia has continued supplying weapons to Israel’s enemies, but has so far resisted supplying advanced systems such as S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran due to the pressure from Israel. Israel has also largely turned a blind eye to Russian activities on its border, including the maintenance of a GRU (Russian military intelligence) listening-base on the Syrian side of the Golan.

Russia has become the principal player of the new global war on terrorism. Even if this is a little more than a political theatre, the last thing Russia would want now is a fight with Israel. Israel has made it clear to Russia that it has serious concerns and issues with Iran and Hezbollah, but no real problems in the region with or without Assad. Reluctantly, Barack Obama has told the UN General Assembly that the US alone cannot impose stability on a foreign land. Obama is convincingly right here but the US disengagement sets a premise which invites many arguments including chaotic disarray among regional powers, and Russia’s exploiting intervention which will make an ugly war uglier still.

A New Middle East Schizophrenic War

Nobody knows what will happen next in Syria. Syria’s war is unique among its conflicting military strategies, but it is not unique among civil wars generally. Threatening enemy, inflammable religious turf and divided military strategies is making this war very confusing.

War has become more schizophrenic than ever. While the US and it allies Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Kurds make a de-facto international coalition on defeating ISIS in Syria, the strategic war features numerous other overlapping conflicts. Confusion is including the United States, nine countries have participated in US-led air strikes against ISIS in Syria. Russia is conducting its own bombing against ISIS and other rebel groups, in coordination with ground operations by Iranian and Hezbollah fighters.

The divide among them raises conflict when Russia and Iran explicitly aim to keep Assad in power and the­ US-led coalition maintains that he has to go eventually, while both are focusing on defeating the Islamic State at the same time. In that sense, broadly speaking, Russia has intervened on behalf of the loyalists and the United States has intervened on behalf of the rebels, though the U.S. has tried to only help certain rebels, providing arms and training to “vetted” groups.

The US has sought to cooperate only with more moderate insurgents, not with the Syrian government, in fighting ISIS. Russia’s recent moves suggest that it is trying to position itself as the white knight in the Syrian conflict. Just as gravely, the decision to arm the rebels cannot result in the likelihood of a second peace conference taking place in Geneva. It is probable that this plannmay fail largely because rebels would refuse to talk to the Syrian government while President Bashar al-Assad remains in power. The new plan will simply funnel weapons, through rebel leaders who are already in the fight.

The initial plan was dubious. The new one is hallucinatory, since Russia has significantly stepped up its military support of Assad’s forces. If rejuvenated supplies of the US, British and French arms tip the balance, the rebels will surely be encouraged to fight on rather than negotiate. The plan that the Syrian rebels will get just enough arms to keep their territorial gains, but not enough to advance, is conflicting. The US and its allies are sending mixed messages. It would be difficult to say that the US will suddenly accomplish in finding rebel groups that subscribe to its restricted plan of defeating ISIS, but not joining the effort to topple Assad.

This is one of the many contradictions in the Syrian war military strategy that the US wants Assad to go but is also fighting ISIS, one of the strongest anti-Assad ­forces in Syria, in defiance of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” principle. Russia’s approach is less conflicting and it opposes all the rebel groups.

At present, ISIS is benefiting greatly from the strategic confusion among its opponents. Saudi Arabia appears more concerned with removing Assad and checking Iran’s influence in the region than with defeating ISIS. Turkey, likewise, seems more intent on removing Assad and putting down separatist Kurds than in defeating the terrorists on its doorstep. Russia and Iran remain intentionally blind to ISIS’s pillaging, in their avidity to ensure Assad’s hold on power, while Iraq refuses to arm its Sunni tribes against the group for fear they may intimidate the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad.

The U.S. and Europe want to remove Assad and have made defeating ISIS their most important consideration, but that has put them at odds with all their potential allies and their conflicting agendas.

The political question is what do Syrian people want from this War? When does this end? With foreign involvement increasing on both sides, neither is likely to win or lose, any time soon. The Syrian Civil War is arguably the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, with over a quarter million killed, roughly the same number wounded or missing, and half of Syria’s 22 million population displaced from their homes. But more than that, Syria today is the largest­ battlefield and generator of Sunni-Shia sectarianism the world has ever seen, with serious terrorism implications for the Middle Eastern countries and inevitable spread of ethnic conflict.

Getting out of the imbroglio in Syria may appear harder than it has ever been. But the only tenable solution remains a diplomatic breakthrough that leads to a shift of power in Damascus and paves the way for a consolidated campaign against ISIS. That will require resolving the differences between the US and Assad’s chief backers, Russia and Iran. Until then, they are unlikely to accomplish much beyond moving the front lines back and forth, adding to Syria’s misery and despair.

Frustrated by the resistance of ISIS, the military campaign against it remains untethered to any coherent strategy. By gradually increasing its combat role in an expansive, complicated battleground, all the countries are being sucked into a schizophrenic war. The US and its allies lack any real strategy. How to defeat ISIS, which for more than a year has been withstanding heavy bombing from the air? How will just enlarging these attacks render ISIS incapable of launching more terror attacks? Is it possible to take on ISIS without supporting Assad? The US and its allies continue to oppose Assad remaining in power in Damascus. But on the very day that French President Hollande was visiting Assad’s main supporter, Russian President Vladimir Putin, to coordinate the fighting against ISIS, that assurance sounded rather void.

Public opinion and lack of political consensus continues to tie the hands of US and its allies. ISIS won’t be decisively defeated until significant ground forces confront it in its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds. No country is currently prepared to send forces due to the “boots on the ground” anathema hanging from the last decade’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The expansion of British air strikes in Syria, better coordination and cooperation between the west and Russia, more forceful US and allies action against ISIS’s sources of funding are all strategies that will weaken it but won’t prevent it from continuing to hold large areas in insurgent regions of Syria and Iraq and using them as fertile grounds for terror attacks in the world.

Maybe it needs thinking outside the box but politics in war disapproves any compromises.

US – ISIS nexus and lower oil prices

Part of The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s rise in Syria and Iraq can be attributed to sectarian politics. However, another major factor driving ISIS militants who have, since December 2012, targeted the local Shiite and oil facilities in the Sunni areas, is in order to gain control of some of Iraq’s oil proceeds. With the world’s second largest proven oil reserves within its borders and US giant oil companies running the  majority control of Iraq’s oil industry, the question remains: what is the impact of ISIS on the world’s oil prices? And is this war by the US over ISIS all about oil?

Iraq has the fifth largest oil reserves in the world and third highest in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and Iran. Its daily production was forecast to be approximately 3.4 million barrels per day, representing slightly less than 4% of the global production. 6 of 8 Iraq’s major oil fields lie in the Shiite South, which is unlikely to come under ISIS control. However, ISIS controls a few small oil fields in the north and some small refineries in Syria, which it uses to finance its operations. It sells crude at a steep discount, at a rate of USD $30 per barrel in the black market. By some estimates, oil production under ISIS controlled territory is around 80,000 barrels per day, which nets them a revenue of at least USD $1 million and possibly up to USD $3 million. Though, initial fears of higher oil prices have not materialized for many reasons, including the shale oil boom in the US and Saudi overproduction, the ISIS challenge is most likely to lead to lower oil production in Iraq that will further fluctuate the oil market.

Although the impact of the conflict on Turkey has not been as bad as expected, since oil prices have not depressed as rapidly as initially projected, the trade between Iraq and Turkey has suffered. Turkey runs a huge trade surplus with Iraq, which has slowed down dramatically due to lower demand from Iraq. Trade routes between the two have also been impacted due to the conflict. It has already damaged the oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Turkey, stopping the oil flow leaving trucks from Turkey no option but to take the longer route via Iran to reach southern Iraq, which reduces profitability to zero or below.

The main worry for Saudi Arabia is that the US may coordinate with Iran and Assad’s Syria against ISIS. Any cooperation between Iran and the US over ISIS could lead to a gradual withdrawal of sanctions, which would allow Iran to sell its oil on the open market and generate revenue. Ironically Iran’s oil would lead to depress oil prices further. Saudi Arabia is now trying to use oil prices to defend market share and send a political subtext by raising production even as oil prices fall. Attempts to keep oil prices lower by Saudi Arabia would certainly hurt Russia and Iran, since Russia needs oil prices near USD $100 to balance its budget and Iran needs high oil prices to balance its budget and support its nuclear program.

The risk the Saudis take by this measure is that lower oil prices could also hurt the shale oil boom in the US and Canada. It is crucial for Iran and Russia to avoid any further fall in oil prices so as not to avoid the risk of further destabilizing an already difficult situation. And if low sub $100 a barrel oil prices are a temporary phenomenon with higher oil prices predicted in 2016, then this calculated strategy should work. However, if deceased oil demand from the BRIC countries combined with an increased oil supply driven by both the fracking revolution in the United States and Saudi Arabian attempts to rule the world oil market, then Iran and Russia may have to confront several years of oil prices substantially below $100 a barrel.

The question about war against ISIS is not whether it can be won but where it will lead. American policy assumes that allies will rally a Shiite-led army to fight ISIS in the country’s Sunni heartland. On recent evidence, this assessment looks unrealistic. The combination of the ISIS insurgency and low oil prices are producing an economic shock unprecedented in the Middle East and Russian troubled history. In the twelve years since the U.S. led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein, oil producing Arab countries have faced brutal conflict and sharp drops in oil prices since mid 2014. If world oil prices average $60 per barrel in 2015, then the combination of falling world oil prices and the ISIS conflict has resulted in the most serious fiscal and exchange rate challenges in Middle East since the 2003 invasion.

The US plans to overthrow Assad which its regional allies is a plausible cover for their plans to remove the force of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) taking control of Iraq’s vast energy resources and the supply routes through its territory. Following the invasion of Iraq in the 2003 war, US oil giants rushed in to run Iraq’s oil industry. Although they could not ensure the passage of the hydrocarbon law that would have given them ultimate control of Iraq’s oil, they were able to shop Iraq’s oil to Western companies, after an absence of three decades, on very lucrative terms.

The oil industry in Iraq is now run by international corporations such as BP, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Chevron, the French company Total as well as Russian, Chinese and Malaysian and a group of smaller companies. Earlier in 2014, Russian oil giant Lukoil started production at the giant oil field of West Qurna 2, south of Basra, which is possibly the world’s largest untapped field, with oil reserves believed to be about 20 billion barrels. In the Kurdish autonomous region, the oilfields that were largely neglected before 2003 have come into play. As a result, Kurdish oil is used in Turkey and not sold on the world markets for fear of lawsuits brought by the Iraqi government. About half of all Iraqi oil is exported to China, which recently became the world’s largest oil importer. Last year, PetroChina, one of China’s four state-owned energy corporations, bought a stake from Exxon in the southern Iraqi oil field West Qurna and bought into three other large fields.

The US and its allies have no plans of surrendering the oil contracts now controlled by Western companies. The US is determined to hold onto its unrestricted access to oil and gas, while determining how much of these crucial energy resources are available to other countries, especially to its rivals China and Russia. The International Energy Agency forecasts that North America alone will be supplying 61% of new growth in global oil demand by 2018. Any interruption in Iraqi output would only invite further investment in non-OPEC regions such as North America, which would be a perfect end to an unholy oil war.

Lifestyle of Pakistani Prime Ministers

Recently, the Punjab government spent millions to recoup the security measures at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Raiwand residence near Lahore. Sharifs’ security is costing taxpayers Rs20 million, equivalent to USD 190,000 a month. Contrary to allegations that both Federal and Punjab government moved to spend millions of dollars on the security of Prime­ Minister Nawaz Sharif‘s private residence, an excursion at the edifice has shown that house has many of the facilities purported to have been installed. The jobs actually undertaken at the PM’s residence were: “provision of barbed wire fence behind the house and construction of observation posts at all the entrance areas and provision of security bollards and additional security personal on the site and on roads in front of the residency and at the rear of the house”.

When it comes to lifestyles, some Pakistani leaders have no inhibitions. They spend lavishly on security measures, foreign tours, luxury cars and even their private homes. The phrase “let them eat cake” is widely attributed to Marie-Antoinette (1755-93), the Queen consort of Louis XVI. She is supposed to have said this when she was told that the French populace had no bread to eat. This statement perhaps best exemplifies the insensitive nature of the lifestyles of Pakistani leaders. There are many ways of gauging the vanity of some Pakistani leaders. You could count the monuments, universities, football stadiums, hospitals, highways and schools that bear their names or are dedicated to them.

The money ranges from direct siphoning from government coffers and public agencies, to forcing contributions from officials, friends, corporate organisations and kickbacks from multinationals keen on securing deals for infrastructure development, oil and gas and other natural resources exploration. The lifestyles of Pakistani Prime Ministers and their families reflect the tragedy of resource-rich sub-continent countries where the leaders­ spend millions on luxury items, as the ordinary people live in abject poverty, lacking access to basic amenities and services such as clean drinking water, health care and education.

In Pakistan, the script is the same with political patronage and lavish spending at the expense of the economy. The average salary in Pakistan stands at $300, but cabinet ministers’ salaries top $40,000 a month. Despite Pakistan being one of the nuclear bomb possessing countries, a baby born in this country has a slim chance of survival as UNICEF estimates that 10 per cent of children die before reaching the age of five. Over 70 per cent of the population lives in poverty and the average cost of health care is about $100.The World Banks’ latest poverty index report says that 72 per cent of Pakistanis live on less than a $1 a day, and 60 per cent have no access to clean water, while the economy is shrinking.

Transparency International, the corruption watchdog, has put Pakistan on the list of most corrupt states while National Accountability Bureau during an investigation found that former Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf­ had received huge payments as kickbacks. Their hypocrisy could not be more stunning. People are tired of paying for their­ lavish lifestyle. All across this country Pakistanis are responding to difficult times by tightening their belt. The question the Pakistani people are asking is whether leaders are prepared to act with the same sense of responsibility. Obviously neither the present nor the former are! It’s another example, unfortunately, where the rules that apply to the rest of us, don’t really apply to the Prime Ministers.

The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labour markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is over consuming and under innovating. Border problems with Afghanistan and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the lavish spending on the Prime Ministers’ security. Throughout Pakistan’s history, there have been leaders who regarded government like fire — a useful tool when used judiciously and a dangerous menace when it gets out of control. They didn’t build their political philosophy on whether government was big or not. Government is a means, not an end. They built their philosophy on not making Pakistan virtuous, dynamic and great. This is a political tragedy. There are millions of voters who, while alarmed by the Prime Ministers’ lavish spending, still look to government to play some positive role.

The inclination of leaders to put their own pocketbooks and comfort ahead of the country seems to be an important reason why life of an ordinary man is so miserable. It is particularly grievous when people who are already disadvantaged receive poor value for what little is spent on them. Public trust in government institutions is a cornerstone of every democracy. The Supreme Court needs to review that the massive expenses incurred on the palatial Prime Minister’s House or the various family houses, as well as the extravagant lifestyles of their occupants and the perks enjoyed at public expense were a matter of judicial probing involving legal questions. The acute dissimilarities between the lifestyles of the common people and the extravagant lifestyles of public functionaries maintained at public expense were not only discriminatory, but also denuded the ordinary citizens of their basic dignity.