Asia’s energy security

By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy

As Asia’s rising powers seek to sustain growth and ensure stability, energy security has moved to the forefront of Asian geopolitics. The recent visit by China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar was as much about ensuring energy security for China as it was about China playing a role in maintaining political stability in the Middle East. The visit came against the backdrop of the growing threat of United States-led oil-export sanctions against Iran and China’s need to secure alternative sources of oil and gas. But its unstated purpose was to bolster China’s rising profile in the Persian Gulf and the Muslim world.

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Where the road ends, the Taliban begins

As international security forces prepare to depart from Afghanistan, the latest Adelphi book examines the country’s ability to tackle its security problems, overcome corruption and revive its devastated economy. The government faces daunting challenges, ranging from insurgency and cross-border terrorism to the difficulty of reconciling Taliban figures and combatants into a political settlement. It must also cope with persistent regional instability, with its neighbours tempted to step up their interference in Afghan affairs.

The book also contains a chapter dedicated to maps and infographics explaining key demographic, military and economic issues. In this free sample map, we show how the international community has worked together to help develop Afghanistan’s transport infrastructure despite the ever present threat of IEDs and insurgent attacks.

‘For those of us who care about the importance of Afghanistan and worry about its future and thus for our own safety, this book makes fascinating and essential reading.’ Lord Robertson, former Secretary-General of NATO 

The book will be launched in London on Wednesday January 11 at 12.30-13.30.  Read more

Myanmar: Coming in from the cold?

People in Aung San Suu Kyi masks (by lewishamdreamer from Flickr used under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) By Oliver Elliott, Editorial Assistant
Could it be the beginning of the end for the sanctions regime on Myanmar? Yesterday Australia became the first country to loosen sanctions with the easing of travel and financial restrictions on some of the country’s leadership. Although only a tentative first step, the move comes as part of a broader push by the West to recognise and reward the reforms being enacted by Myanmar’s government.In December, Hillary Clinton made the first visit to the country by a US Secretary of State in five decades, offering to loosen some restrictions on international financial assistance and development programmes if the current rate of reform is maintained. She also suggested that the US might be willing to consider easing sanctions, which currently include an arms embargo, travel restrictions on political leaders and ban on any American individual or organisation doing new business with the country. Just a month later, British Foreign Secretary William Hague made his own equally historic trip to offer rewards in return for further reform. A few Western businesses are already anticipating a return to Myanmar in the near future.

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America’s new strategic guidance

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announces the new defense strategy. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett By James Hackett, Editor of The Military Balance and Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

It is a nervous time for the US military and defence-aerospace industry. The US’ new strategic guidance document released last week, entitled ‘Sustaining US leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense’, set out plans to resize US forces for smaller-scale operations. The extent of cuts will not be clear until the president’s budget submission at the end of January but the guidance provides us with an insight into the strategic context within which these decisions will be made.

With the Pentagon planning for over $450bn in cuts over the next ten years, it was widely expected that the review of defence priorities would reflect ‘a moment of transition’ for the US military. Beyond the need to meet the savings noted in the Budget Control Act, the end of the US military presence in Iraq, the drawdown in Afghanistan, the death of Osama Bin Laden and continuing actions against al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been major drivers in the rethink of strategic priorities.

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Nigeria’s emergency response to growing violence

Nigerian soldiers. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication (By Specialist 1st Class Michael Larson (RELEASED)By Virginia Comolli, Research Analyst

On Christmas Day bomb attacks on two churches in the centre of Nigeria and towns in the northern state of Yobe killed 42 people and wounded several more. The group which claimed responsibility was Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic sect which has terrorised the country with attacks and killings since the early 2000s with the supposed goal of establishing sharia law.

Since 2009 Nigeria has witnessed an overall steep increase in Islamist violence that has spread from the northern states and threatened the capital Abuja and other areas in the country’s central region, known as the Middle Belt. Boko Haram has become the most high profile of these Islamist groups- causing over 450 casualties in 2011.

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How serious are Iran’s threats?

USS Scout in the Strait of Hormuz; US DoD photoIISS’s Michael Elleman has just been interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman at, who writes that: ‘Tensions have heightened between Tehran and Washington in the strategic Strait of Hormuz following increased sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran test-fired missiles and has threatened to close the strait.  This is to signal to the United States and its neighbors in the region that Iran has a deterrent capacity, says Michael Elleman, a leading expert on Iran’s missile development. The threats are also aimed at bolstering leadership domestically, he adds. Elleman says while there has been no evidence since 2003 of Iran developing a nuclear weapons program:  ‘Iran certainly is making tremendous headway in developing a range of ballistic missiles that could threaten the cities throughout the Gulf and in Israel.”

Read the full interview at the Council on Foreign Relations


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