Friday, May 29, 2015

Corruption as leading indicator of political instability

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Corruption is a leading indicator for political instability and 64 countries where fraud and bribery are widespread risk falling into violent upheaval, a global think tank said in a new report.
While anti-corruption researchers long have argued the corrosive power of corruption, its political impact has never before been measured globally.
By examining the linkage between corruption measures and peaceful societies, the research by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) based in Sydney finds strong statistical evidence that high and rising levels of corruption can undermine security, and that only small increases can cause civil unrest.
"The most striking aspect of this relationship is that there is a tipping point," said Aubrey Fox, U.S. executive director for the Australia-based group.
"This is enormously important for countries, because if you can, through incremental efforts, knock corruption below that tipping point and control it, you can avert the most difficult consequences," he said in a telephone interview. ...

bth: unfortunately I accidently lost the link to the original article.  I would wonder if it isn't just the absolute CPI index score but a change in it that has impact.

Exclusive: Russia masses heavy firepower on border with Ukraine - witness - Reuters

Russia's army is massing troops and hundreds of pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, a Reuters reporter saw this week.
Many of the vehicles have number plates and identifying marks removed while many of the servicemen had taken insignia off their fatigues. As such, they match the appearance of some of the forces spotted in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and its Western allies allege are covert Russian detachments.
The scene at the base on the Kuzminsky firing range, around 50 km (30 miles) from the border, offers some of the clearest evidence to date of what appeared to be a concerted Russian military build-up in the area....

Russia steps up propaganda push with online "Kremlin trolls" - AP

...St. Petersburg journalist Andrei Soshnikov, who was one of the first to report on the "troll factory," said about 400 people work in the building. A video he posted on YouTube this spring gave a rare glimpse inside the building; in one room trolls were shown sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at their computers. The operation moved into the building when it expanded in March 2014, the month Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and provoked the first round of Western economic sanctions.
Soshnikov, a reporter at the weekly Moi Rayon, or My Region, said there has been a new push in recent months to hire more English-speaking trolls as part of an effort to sway public opinion in the United States.
"All of a sudden, (they) switch on Russia Today and realize that this is a holy land, Obama is a bloody dictator and true freedom of speech exists only in Russia."...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

هذا مافعله الدواعش الجبناء بمصفى بيجي فديو جديد2015/5

Baiji refinery destroyed by ISIS?

If I understand correctly, this video posted to an ISIL propaganda sight shows the destruction of the Beiji refinery that ISIL was about to lose control of to government troops.  I thin it is significant that ISIL must have decided that they could not control the facility so destroyed it.  About half the gasoline refining capacity of Iraq went off line when the refinery was knocked off line, now the destruction looks very significant.

Putin just made Russian casualties in Ukraine officially secret - Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Thursday declared deaths of Russian soldiers during special operations carried out in peacetime to be classified as a state secret, a move that comes as Moscow stands accused of sending troops to fight in eastern Ukraine.
Putin, who has repeatedly denied any involvement of Russian troops in a pro-Russian separatist rebellion there, amended a decree that had previously classified as secret deaths of servicemen only during war time....

Read more:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Russian Army UAV Downed Near Donetsk In Ukraine

Special Forces reach the outskirts of Baiji refinery - SHAHFAQ

Shafaq News / The Regiment of the Special Forces of the Federal Police have arrived Baiji to participate in the liberalization process of the refinery, according to a security official.
The military Regiments have began progress towards Baiji two days ago in preparation for the start of the military operation to retake the refinery and secure it from ISIS terrorists.
More than 1,000 fighters from clans of the city are participating with these forces.

-bth: These guys broke at Ramadi.  On the other hand Baiji is more easily supplied and locally supported.

Report: Iran to cut another portion of gasoline subsidies -Daily Star

TEHRAN: Iran's state news agency is reporting the Islamic Republic will raise gasoline prices by some 40 percent as a result of cutting subsidies.
The IRNA report Monday said the new prices will take effect Tuesday morning. While previous attempts to raise prices have sparked dissent, last year's increase saw no major unrest.
IRNA said the price per liter for subsidized gasoline would be 10,000 rials (34 cents), up from 7,000 rials (24 cents). That's about a $1.28 gallon, compared to the average U.S. price of $2.66 a gallon.
Diesel fuel prices also will rise to 3,000 rials (9 cents) per liter.
Iran, an OPEC member, consumes 70 million liters (18.49 million gallons) of gasoline daily. In 2007, protesters rioted and damaged gas stations over prices increasing, with authorities arresting dozens.

bth: I suggest this is in response to a general refined petrol shortage in Iraq and lack of gasoline refining investment in Iran.  Beiji refinery is essentially knocked off line in Iraq and there has been a general lack of production capacity in Shia areas.  Imports from the Gulf States made up the shortfall.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Islamic State territory - Wheat Silos, Hydroelectric Dams, O&G Refineries and Pipelines

Where Islamic State gets its money

Institutionalizing management of water resources and systems is a realistic means for IS to expand its sources of funding and further legitimize itself among local populations. Unlike IS’s production of oil that (illegally) operates within a global market, water is a regional commodity that is largely dependent on the operation of local hydroelectric dams. For IS, these dams are “the most important strategic locations in the country,”says Shirouk al-Abayachi, a member of the Iraqi parliament and former adviser to the Ministry of Water Resources in Iraq. “They should be very well protected because they affect everything—economy, agriculture, basic human needs and security.”
In the ongoing conflict, the desire to command water is nothing new. IS’s quest to seize water infrastructure began in 2013 with the occupation of the Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest hydroelectric dam that supplies electricity to rebel and government territories, including the city of Aleppo. Advancing toward a hydraulic state during its invasion of Fallujah, IS effectively employed surrounding dams, canals, and reservoirs as weapons—denying water to areas outside of its territory and flooding the route of the approaching Iraqi army. And in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, IS exhausted water reserves and disrupted distribution networks, forcing residents to rely on untreated water sources and leading to the spread of waterborne diseases such as Hepatitis A and typhoid.
Although other actors, including the Bashir al-Assad regime and Syrian rebel groups, target water systems and strategically withhold aid, IS’s endeavors have the potential to inflict greater damage. This was evident in the organization’s occupation of the Mosul Dam, Iraq’s largest hydroelectric facility that supplies water and electricity to the majority of the country and is considered “the most dangerous dam in the world.”A 2006 U.S. military survey concluded that its collapse would release a twenty meter-high wave on the city of Mosul, which could destroy the city and kill over fifty thousand people. During its occupation, IS ultimately did not have sufficient forces to sustain its control, and the dam was reclaimed by Kurdish forces with the help of U.S. airstrikes in August 2014. While the annexation of the Mosul Dam did not end in a devastating collapse, IS sufficiently damaged the region by failing to perform basic state functions—reports claimed that the city experienced dire shortages of water and food, and near economic collapse during the occupation. IS did, however, employ destructive flooding in the April 25 seizure of the Tharthar Dam near Fallujah. U.S. intelligence reports suggest that IS has opened at least one of the dam’s gates to flood nearby areas following an attack which reportedly killed 127 Iraqi troops.
Source: “Key Iraqi dams taken or at risk of being taken by Islamic State,” BBC, September 7, 2014
Source: “Key Iraqi dams taken or at risk of being taken by Islamic State,” BBC, September 7, 2014
Reckless behavior in Fallujah, Raqqa, and Mosul are indications that IS does not possess the resources needed to employ soft power governance through the management of the region’s technologically intensive infrastructure. Unlike IS’s common forms of funding, such as cash from the plunder of antiquities and kidnappings for ransom, wealth accrued from the command of resources like oil and water is contingent upon infrastructural planning and a skilled workforce. Supervision of dams requires a highly specialized skill set, and, according to Russell Sticklor, a water researcher for CGIAR, “there is no indication that the Islamic State possesses it.”Rather than initiate its own civil workforce, IS has borrowed skilled labor from its predecessors—the Assad Regime and government in Bagdad continue to pay many engineers and skilled workers operating under IS supervision.

Here is also a good reference source for discussion of the economic infrastructure of Islamic State

IS attack zones, control zones and support zones with oil pipelines and refineries overlayed - Reuters May 22 2015

IS territorial map - May 24, 2015 - WaPo

Britain resigns as a world power - WaPo

Over the next few years, Britain’s army will shrink to about 80,000. A report from the Royal United Services Institute predicts that the number could get as low as 50,000, which, the Daily Telegraph points out, would be smaller than at any point since the 1770s — and, as David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy magazine notes, about the same size as the New York Police Department.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies concludes that over the past five years “the 8 percent to 9 percent decrease in the U.K. military defense budget . . . has led to a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction in conventional capability.” No wonder, then, that Britain has been a minor, reluctant ally in the airstrikes against the Islamic State. Britain’s 30-year-old Tornado fleet of planes is a generation behind the American F-22s it flies alongside. The Royal Navy, which once ruled the waves, operates without a single aircraft carrier (although two are under construction)....

-bth: So this would put them at 1/2 to 1/3 the size of the US Marine Corp.  Also it means that they have no ability to project power to even someplace like the Falklands.