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RAISE ACT; GOP slash legal immigration, issues new guidelines on green cards

Washington – President Donald Trump, along with GOP senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, announced new proposals on legal immigration yesterday. The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act prioritizes skill and merit, to ensure prospective incomers are highly-skilled, economically self-sufficient, and contributing members of the economy.

“This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and puts America first,” Trump said during an event Wednesday in the White House’s Roosevelt Room.

This announcement comes as no surprise as Trump had extensively campaigned on protecting borders and American workers from legal and illegal immigration. Although the administration in its early days has been focusing on combating illegal immigration, specifically, violent illegal immigrants, the proposed GOP plan will only affect policy specific to Green Cards.

Green Cards are permanent residency cards that allow the holder(s) to become non-citizens, who can enter/exit the country as per their will and seek employment as well. There have been reports of widespread abuse of such programs, and the new proposed plan aims to revamp the current issuance and appraisal guidelines.

Perdue and Cotton’s legislation would replace the current process for obtaining legal permanent residency, or green cards, creating a skills-based point system for employment visas. The bill would also eliminate the preference for U.S. residents’ extended and adult family members, while maintaining priority for their spouses and minor children. Overall, immigration would be slashed 41 percent in the legislation’s first year and 50 percent in its 10th, according to projection models cited by the bill’s sponsors.

Additionally, the bill would create a new points-based system for applicants seeking to become legal permanent residents, favoring those who can speak English, have high-paying job offers, can financially support themselves and offer skills that would contribute to the U.S. economy. These individuals will also be disqualified from welfare payments for a period of time, ensuring decreased dependency on state support.

Critics have indicated otherwise, noting recent immigration trends don’t appear to have hurt wages significantly. They also point towards faster economic growth because of competition spurred by an increased pool in the workforce. The bill’s supporters counter by claiming such reform will make the US more competitive as it will raise wages and create jobs.

Despite the noise, there is a long way to go until this proposal becomes law. The RAISE Act is bound to evolve as Congress deliberates and conferences on the fine points of the bill. To many people’s surprise, the much-debated and misused H-1B or H-2B visas are not targeted under such a legislation. Still, tech companies and executives have already voiced their concerns, citing uncertainty for their workers. Outside the tech community, many have a 50-50 view on such legislation. Experts believe a switch to a merit-based system is only reasonable and definitely in the US interest. However, deep cuts to the total number of legal immigrants are counter-productive. This might defeat the purpose of switching to a merit-based system and makes little sense to then limit the number of new highly-skilled workers.

Source: AP and Reuters . Image courtesy: Washington ExaminerThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

H-1B Program under the Trump Administration

A central pillar of President Donald Trump’s manifesto was increased focus on ‘buying and hiring American’. The President was extremely vocal in his criticism of foreign workers’ programs, specifically the H-1B visa program. Additionally, he also questioned the effectiveness of a lottery-based system as opposed to a meritocratic system, which would focus on keeping the brightest talents, a system which has shown great results in other advanced economies like Canada and Australia.

Advocates of the program are quick to point to the successes enjoyed by the American economy thanks to foreign worker’s coming in and taking up jobs that Americans are either not interested in or are not qualified for. The H-1B program may even be described as a staple for certain industries. Specifically, the tech industry, where highly educated workers, with most holding master’s degrees or higher, are found in abundance. These are high-quality, high-paying jobs, with average compensations of $92,317 in the first six months of 2017.

There is no denying that the H-1B visa is an essential cog in the American economy. Visa holders can be found conducting some of the most basic day-to-day work and even in the higher echelons of the decision-making chain. Today especially, many of the top CEOs and other top members of the hierarchy were previously holders of one of the foreign worker programs. Perhaps even more importantly, many such visa holders have gone on to become employers, hiring Americans in the process and creating jobs for the economy.

That being said, it is flawed to assume the H-1B program comes without faults and frauds. Many companies resort to unfair tactics to game the system and gain advantages in the lottery. Visa hoarding, the practice of applying for excessive visas for future use, is one the most central issues. Similarly, excessive reliance solely on foreign labor and off-site workers unfairly thwarts opportunities for the domestic workforce.

While there have been no new legislative guidances from Washington yet, Trump’s electoral victory certainly raised uncertainty for many corporations that may rely on the worker program, including the ones that might really need it. This year, according to USCIS data released last week, the government has received more than 300,000 H-1B petitions, almost 100,000 less compared to last year – a clear indicator of the government cracking down on fraud, pushing employers to pursue fair and legal tactics.

Lower approval rates can also be observed. In 2016, USCIS approved 87% of the applications. This year, it’s been a little more than 58%. This lower approval rate may not be necessarily be permanent however. This year’s application process has not ended yet. But the USCIS is now rigorously following up with applicants, requesting additional information and legal paperworks. Premium processing, which allows for expedited reviewing of documents, has also been suspended in order to comprehensively process applications.

It seems while the White House continues to address more pressing issues, for a lack of a better term, it has, for now, taken a more subtle approach to counter fraud in the H-1B system. Before the law changes, the existing process has been made more thorough.

Source: Polly Mosendz and Lance Lambert of Bloomberg. Image courtesy: QuartzThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

Modi at G20: Highlights from Hamburg

Hamburg, Germany – Prime Minister Modi arrived in Hamburg during the late hours of July 6th for the 2017 G20 summit. This annual summit sees world leaders addressing and discussing issues pertaining to the economy, trade, markets, among others. Founded in 1999, G20 has been an important platform for the world’s emerging economies. It represents about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global GDP, and over 75% of global trade. This year however, the summit was being overshadowed by the massive swaths of protesters, at least in the media. Reports put the tally of protesters around 13,000, which included black-clad anarchists as well. The police had to resort to water canons, tear gas and pepper spray to finally stop the protests.

In the wake of the summit, tensions seemed high as well. Apart from the lurking US-Russia ‘encounter’, across the pond, India too had its own set of sticking points. One very public one was China. So much so that Modi and Xi never met during the summit. They shared the room during BRICS meetings and other events, but there were no substantial face-to-face encounters that led to potential consensus.

Modi also participated in the leaders’ retreat and the sessions on Global Growth and Trade and on Sustainable Development, Climate and Energy. Although counter-terrorism and economic reforms remained at the forefront of the discussions, the summit also saw issues like free and open trade, climate change, migration, sustainable development and global stability being given great importance.

Modi also held pre-planned meetings on sidelines of the summit with Argentina, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, the UK and Vietnam,

The 2017 G20, especially in its buildup, was dominated by US-led and/or protestor-led headlines. From the much-awaited handshake between Trump and Putin (turns out handshakes can only be so exciting) to FLOTUS being ‘trapped’ in her room, many other developments slipped below the radar. Somethings to keep in mind – Modi was extremely vocal about defeating terrorism. On several occasions, the PM portrayed such violent ideologies as purveyors of destruction, who don’t have rational understandings. Modi also engaged his counter-parts and held ‘productive’ talks with many of them. More details on that to follow. Modi might not have dominated headlines, but at such events you might not want to either.

Source: NDTV. Image courtesy: Indian ExpressThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

Modi in Israel

Tel Aviv – As Prime Minister Modi makes a historic visit, Indo-Israeli ties poised to be reaching “ground-breaking” heights. Some historical perspective – India had voted against the partition of Palestine in 1947, followed by raising objection to Palestine’s induction as a UN member. Although India recognized the Jewish nation formally in 1950, it wasn’t until 1992 that full diplomatic ties were established. Since, Israeli representatives have visited New Delhi. But, President Mukherjee (2015) and Modi (current) were the firsts to reciprocate.

Modi was welcomed on the tarmac by Prime Minister Netanyahu and deputy chief of the Knesset. This was followed by a ceremony where the Israeli PM openly welcomed this newly found friendship. Watch full speech below.

Israel is a key bridge in shaping of Indian foreign policy and more specifically in Indo-American policy. Modi’s foreign excursions might draw criticism at home, but they are calculated and informed moves. Patching a severed relationship with Israel, shortly after striking an amicable cord with Trump shows a clear intent. Further, pivoting to a “non-security”-based partnership, as opposed to the earlier defense-based partnership with Israel that led to some frictions, shows adaptability and the inclination to work with the right partners.

Modi and Netanyahu displayed a clear sense of fondness and admiration for each other. They seemed particularly inspired by each others policies and initiatives as well. While Netanyahu left no stone unturned in voicing his ‘love’ for India, Modi went even further. During his address, he made a particularly touching reference, especially for Netanyahu. Modi recalled how Tuesday marked the 41st century of Jonathan Netanyahu (the PM’s brother) losing his life in a counter-terrorism operation. This struck a personal chord with the Israeli PM and a clear acknowledgement that India and Israel face similar threats, according to Netanyahu’s office.

Source: Suhasini Haidar of The Hindu. Image courtesy: The Times of IsraelThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

GM CEO Mary Barra Has a New Plan to Get More Girls Interested in STEM

GM CEO Mary Barra announced a pledge of $850,000, for program that encourage young women and minorities to gain STEM skill. Four non-profits – Black Girls Code,, Digital Promise and Institute of Play – will be the recipients of this funding, with a mission to bring more girls into STEM fields and careers.

Barra holds such investments in high importance because of the evolution of certain industries. The automotive industry, for example, is being transitioned into a more tech-led field, with great advancements in electric and self-driving cars.

She believes such initiatives greatly develop students’ and teachers’ capabilities and will help ready students for futures in technical fields.

Barra wants to see young women gaining the skills they need to not just work at GM, but to “give them the opportunity to sit at the senior leadership table.”

And for young girls considering a career in STEM, Barra has a simple piece of advice: “Don’t take yourself out of the game before the game starts,” she says.

Source: Madeline Farber of Fortune. Image courtesy: AAUWThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

Modi and Trump meet: What and what not to expect

Washington – Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally landed in Washington during the late hours of Sunday. What also followed was an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Modi revisited his earlier trip to the US, which was surrounded by great fanfare and an address to a joint-session of the US Congress. A new relationship that overcame the “hesitations of history” and started blossoming under President Obama, is now seen moving towards a deeper and stronger partnership extending beyond ‘the Beltway and Raisina Hill’ according to the Prime Minister. A year later her returns “confident in the growing convergence between our two nations.”

This is the first time Trump and Modi will meet. Although this meeting is not being designated as an ‘official visit’, certain crucial issues will surely be discussed. Modi is seen as a torch-bearer for a ‘New India’. Since assuming office, he has cut regulation, introduced historic tax reform, escalated the extent and number of countries with which India has had bilateral ties, and injected a fresh sense of enthusiasm for India on an international level. This has been made evident by his relentless zest to meet world leaders and develop ways for increased foreign investment and security ties. If Modi will use a similar strategy to court Trump remains to be seen.

Trump has been unpredictable since taking office. How he handles the summit and his relationship with Modi is a good question as any. What is clear is that both leaders see eye-to-eye on certain key issues. Considering today’s uncertain global economic landscape, the conversation (at least publicly) might be limited to the same. Modi’s objective in this is simple – establish a strong foundation with Trump, build a rapport, garner mutual trust, and seek clarity on what to expect from this relationship. This won’t be hard as Modi is certain to bring up issues that hit home with the President.


Modi and Trump are two peas in a pod when it comes to radical Islamic terrorism. They hold a central doctrine that dictates a strong and robust position against violent extremism. Any public address is sure to address this key issue and will see both leaders denounce such ideologues that preach hate and murder. Their joint-determination to eradicate terror might even take up the central spotlight of the summit. However, this same issue could cause friction in the future as Trump might expect Modi to join the fight against ISIS, while Modi might seek reciprocity by demanding stricter action against Pakistan.


With tension soaring higher than ever in the region, thanks mostly to North Korea, the two leaders are going to drastically overhaul their playbook. During his 2016 campaign, Trump identified China and its excessive maritime activities as a challenge for sovereignty of surrounding nations. India too has had worries with increased Chinese naval activity in the Indian ocean, with a Chinese submarine docking in Sri Lanka in 2014.

However, with the rise of a nuclear North Korea, the US has been leaning on China. This gives India’s neighbors political ammunition and will act as a buffer for any US-India led approaches. Only China can play a mediating role with the rogue regime in Pyongyang. Although Trump and Modi are almost equally apprehensive of a China with increasing political and economical clout, any measures to balance Beijing’s regional activity will have to be subtle (22 surveillance-drones-subtle) and maybe even delayed. A consensus might not materialize in practice, but Modi and Trump will surely appreciate another area of cooperation.


One thing is for sure – New Delhi is Kabul’s closest ally in the region. A place that has been ravaged by war and destabilization, Modi and Trump will surely discuss how to ‘solve Afghanistan’. Trump ordered a comprehensive policy review of Afghanistan, where 8,000 US troops continue to be stationed. Modi has opted for a different approach. He has engaged with the government in Kabul and offered economic relief to fight insurgency in the area. What is uncertain is how Trump views New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan and whether a shift in US policy will place more responsibility on India.

Indians in America

Recent attacks in the US, especially on immigrant communities are being increasingly reported in the news. Reports of attacks on Indian Americans have gained attention too. Trump has been criticized for not only maintaining relative silence about it, but been blamed to have incited such instances because of his rhetoric. The Indian American community has been worried with recent spikes and voiced their concerns. Given the fears of the diaspora and the crucial role played by them, Modi might be so inclined to remind Trump of the threats being faced by Indian Americans.

Define the Relationship?

For years India and US have been labelled as ‘strategic partners’. The usual – “largest democracy and the oldest democracy” – can be overheard in political corridors of Washington or New Delhi. Peel the onion however, and little can be made of this ‘strategic’ element. Both countries view this partnership differently  – one that is continuous in theory but not in practice. Modi will be careful in bringing this up. He understand Trump’s fondness with reciprocity. To that avail, Modi will carefully assess possibilities for their future. For anything to materialize, the summit will have to be more transaction-based than strategy-based.

Paris Accord, Economics, and H-1B

While the two leaders share many beliefs and have even expressed appreciation for each other, there are areas that will be best left unaddressed. While withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump noted the special ‘concessions’ countries like India and China enjoyed in the ‘unfair’ agreement. Although both leaders show an appreciation for clean energy, the Paris Accord can safely be considered a no-go zone.

Another area of potential friction is Trump’s ‘American First’ program and Modi’s ‘Make in India’. Both leaders have called up on companies and businesses to operate in their respective countries, by incentivizing and providing tax advantages. Add to this the growing controversy with non-immigrant work visas like the H-1B, and we have a major irritant on our hands. Both leaders understand the importance played by foreign skilled-workers in the US but they also are sure to understand the need for reform in the program. Modi is best to leave such a domestic issue that is seemingly close to Trump’s heart, off the table entirely.

All-in-all this meeting can be categorized as a ‘first date’. Both leaders share a fondness for each other but will be guarded in their own ways. For India and the US to continue regional and strategic partnerships, it is imperative the two leaders get comfortable with each other. They are both action and results oriented and that’s what talks should focus on.

Image courtesy: QuartzThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

Saudi Succession: Who is the new crown prince Mohammed bin Salman?

Riyadh – In the early hours of June 21, a massive announcement was made in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. King Salman named his son as his heir to the throne. Many believed Mohammed bin Nayef, who was spearheading the battle against al-Qaeda, would be in the ascendancy. Nayef has enjoyed warm relations with the United States and serves as the interior minister of Saudi Arabia.

The announcement, as unexpected as it might have been, is not surprising considering the relations between the king and the now-crown prince. Unlike his other half-brothers who have built independent careers, Prince Mohammed has worked in close proximity with his father. After completing his bachelors in law, he started working for the Bureau of Experts – an advisory body on legal issues. He then went onto work for Riyadh’s governor and started building interests in defense.

Today, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, enjoys a reputation as a bold reformer. Some of his policy pillars include weaning the kingdom off oil, driving an incisive and aggressive foreign policy against arch-rival Iran, and a higher degree of autonomy for women in Islam. It is no doubt that the crown prince represents a cultural u-turn, one that would transfer power to a much younger generation, in what has historically been a highly patriarchal society. Perhaps that is why younger Saudi have applauded the announcement, while the older conservatives remain skeptic.

Mohammed’s Meteoric Rise

Two years ago, not many knew who the crown prince was. It was widely rumored that he didn’t enjoy particularly warm relations with the former King Abdullah. But when Salman became the crown prince in 2012, he named Prince Mohammed as the Chief of Court. This was the turning point. Then in 2015, following King Abdullah’s death and his father’s ascension, Prince Mohammed was named the deputy crown prince and also the new defense minister.

He also heads the Council for Economic Development Affairs – a pivotal body that oversses all elements of policy that touch on the economy or social issues like education and health. He is also  the chair of the board of Aramco – the world’s most valuable company. The crown prince has enjoyed an extreme level of trust and also influence.

Confrontational, Not Consensual

Prince Mohammed is believed to be the primary decision-maker behind engaging in Yemen and severing links with Qatar. Both decisions show an aggressive approach in the region, contrary to the kingdom’s past strategy. Iran’s growing influence in the region is seen as infringement in Riyadh. Adding to that the Obama administration’s concessions to Iran, the Sunni kingdom has ramped up activity and in a more hawkish way.


As the potentially youngest ruler of the kingdom, Prince Mohammed represents a breath of fresh air. His cultural ideas and relatively liberal philosophy has been embraced by the younger generation of Saudis. But in a hyper-conservative society, many remain wary of what this might mean.

For many Saudis, economic reforms have come and gone with little to show for them. Limited results in a rapidly transforming society raise eyebrows among the older conservatives. They fear the fabric of society won’t be able to handle change at such pace.

Even outside the kingdom, concerns are brewing. Prince Mohammed represents a bold leader, but perhaps an unpredictable one. Although he has shown a drive to bring rapid advance and modernize policy on matters like energy and economy, some allies remain on their toes. There is widespread skepticism as to whether his hardline stance will be bolstered as king, or whether he’ll take a back seat. Either way, his unpredictability remains.

Among the younger Saudis however, he is touted and applauded. His Vision 2030 plan shows a keen eye for the future. He also established a think-tank that focuses on improving education, arts, and quality of life. He also enjoys great support from women in Saudi Arabia. An increased role for women in the economy and in the culture represents a dramatic shift from earlier generations – one that is garnering great support.

The kingdom of Saud is an all critical one – not just in regional affairs but in global terms. As the youngest ever ruler of this powerful kingdom, who represents a burgeoning modernity, Prince Mohammed has an ideal platform to launch himself from. If he is successful in balancing his liberal and conservative ideas, he will enjoy the throne for many many years.

Image courtesy: NBC NewsThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

A look at Syria’s conflict, as mutual enemies close in on IS

Beirut – As Iraqi forces and other fighters engage the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, cracks within this coalition are starting to appear.

This was particularly evident on Sunday when the US shot down a Syrian plane that had allegedly targeted American-allied Krudish forces. This prompted Moscow to issue a warning for any US-led coalition planes flying west of the Euphrates river.

On the ground, things are moving as well. Out to the east, near the border with Iraq, Assad’s forces have joined hands with Iranian-backed militias. This has established a strong presence against the Islamic State and a vital land-based corridor with Tehran.

As the Islamic State continues to lose territory, all proxies involved are rushing to gain control of the conflict-ridden areas of the Levant. A closer look at the players involved and where things stand today:

Bashar al-Assad

Wary of the Arab spring, Assad left no stones unturned in maintaining his family’s 40-year rule over Syria.  By any means necessary, he has somehow maintained ‘control’ over five of the biggest cities in Syria. His next move could see him eyeing Deir el-Zour in the east, held under IS control since 2014. This would ensure a link with Iraq in the immediate east and help regain control of natural gas and mineral reserves. As Assad moves east, tensions with US-led partners might brew more trouble.


Iran has stood by Assad even as the latter has been almost completely isolated and denounced by the international community. By providing pro-government militias and injecting billions of dollars, Iran has a key interest in keeping the Syrian economy from collapsing. Sunday’s airstrikes in the east conducted by Iran show a new intent on Iran’s front. After ISIS claimed responsibility for attacks in Tehran earlier this month, these airstrikes were a first for the Iranians. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard went a step further ahead, saying it was sending a broader message its rivals Saudi Arabia and the United States.


Russia has perhaps been the strongest pillar of support of Assad. Since 2015, it has followed a relentless air-campaign against the Islamic State and rebels in Syria. Human rights groups have condemned these campaigns on several occasions, citing increasing civilian casualties; use of cluster-bombs and other similar munitions; and, for Russia’s support of a brutal government.

Moscow’s air campaign is even more troubling considering the US and allied forces are fighting different battles. Crowded skies have already seen instances of friction, and with the battle converging in the east, tensions could run extremely high.

United States

Washington seems to have put a lot of its chips on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. As the Islamic State, initially an extremist-insurgency in Iraq, gathered pace in its early years, the Iraqi Kurds were one of the initial groups that led the fight against the IS. Today, along with air support, the US has also provided special operation forces and combat advisors to the SDF.

The Trump White House, which initially didn’t see Assad’s removal as a strategic priority, changed stance following Assad’s second chemical strike. Although the Trump administration remains wary of regime change anywhere, it has escalated its efforts to oust the brutal dictator. Many anti-government rebels travel to Jordan for training and the US is backing them in the east.

Syria’s Kurds

The SDF has been a key, and more importantly an effective, player in the region. It drove IS fighters from Northern Syria and has been identified as perhaps the most important partner in the fight against IS.

Its progress however has prompted concerns from Turkey. The Turks have long blamed Kurdish militia for the decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey. There have also been instances where the two have clashed in recent months. The US has created a buffer between them to avoid further escalation.

Opposition Forces

What started as a wave in the Arab spring has quickly escalated into one of the most brutal and deadly wars in recent memory. When rebels walked into Damascus hoping to topple Assad, there was little expectation that it would blow up into a complicated proxy war. Today, rebels have been confined to the northwest and the south. They remain scattered and also divided. While portions of the rebels are allied with extreme forces like al-Qaeda, it remains unclear what the future will hold for them. Further, with the presence of powerful forces in the area (US, Russia, Iran, etc.), Syria’s fate seems to be slipping away from their hands. And who knows, that might actually be a good thing.

Original article source: Philip Issa of AP. Image courtesy: Military TimesThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

How to Deal With North Korea

North Korea has been a pariah state for more than half a century. Since the end of the Korean war in 1953, the Kim family has placed itself as the premiership of rulers of a cut-off and deprived state. Make no mistake, the people of North Korea are completely blinded by beliefs enforced upon them, and sidelined by priorities decided by the Supreme Leader – Kim Jong Un, today.

As 2016 elections heated up in the US, very few (if any) would have projected North Korea to be a threat of this magnitude. Today, Pyongyang is making strides towards developing a nuclear-tipped inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). Such capacity would enable North Korea to target Los Angeles, for example, in just about 30 minutes. Analysts now believe Kim will have his weapon before Trump completes his 4-year term. Trump has already shown intent to avoid such a possibility. He has courted the Chinese to pressurize the Kim regime. He has escalated military presence in the region. And, some reports even suggest a high number of cybersabotage operations to render the weapons and/or systems useless.

Preventing the Kim dynasty from developing and housing nuclear weapons has long been a priority of American administrations. Tensions seemed to have subsided when Bill Clinton signed an agreement with with DPRK in 1994. But following their first test in 2006 and 4 more under the Obama years, reports of recent and escalating tests have prompted strong responses from the White House. “Looking for trouble” and “it won’t happen” are the phrases that echo in the corridors of the White House when asked about prospects of the DPRK.

Trump has one big advantage dealing with North Korea when compared to his predecessors – fresh eyes. Having said that, he must realize a harsh truth: There are no good options for dealing with North Korea. The social hierarchy of North Korea has been adopted for generations and ingrained itself in the fabric of everyday society. This myth that the Korea and the Kim family are the same is entirely based on the promise of standing up to an evil adversary. DPRK obtaining weapons only strengthens that narrative, and hence, Kim’s position. Further, since DPRK citizens remain oblivious to outside forces that may affect their daily living, any diplomatic tools are rendered useless. The US has a newfound friend in China, but to assume Beijing’s truest motivations, can be challenge in its own.

The US has continued to take leadership still. Many experts believe it has a robust cyber program that aims at sabotaging any North Korean efforts. Last year, as reported by the New York Times,  88% of intermediate-range tests concluded in failure. Although its difficult to pinpoint the exact reason, such a high failure-rate suggests sabotage. But failure is a part of developing missiles. The Kim dynasty has learned from its mistakes and continues on this dangerous path.

Ever-closer to a complete and operational nuclear arsenal, years of development of conventional weapons, and little to no consideration of his own people, has given Kim Jong Un a scary platform to conduct the orchestra. Geographically, Pyongyang enjoys a buffer. With US allies like Japan, South Korea, and now China being surrounded by this adversary, any moves might raise serious questions. Kim might have shown a ruthless attitude but it would be a mistake to judge him stupid. These factors make for a challenging defense strategy.

How should the United States proceed?

Having spoken with a wide array of political, military, and strategic experts in different relevant fields, Bowden notes there are 4 broad strategies.

  1. Prevention: Decapitating strikes that eliminate threats emanating from North Korea. This includes military installations, nuclear arsenals, and the leadership and members of the Kim dynasty.
  2. Turning the screws: Limited/series of surgical strikes using naval assets and special forces. The balance needs to one of significant damage but incisive enough to avoid being percieved as a preventional strike. Such a strategy will leave Kim Jong Un in power but will be aimed at the total abandonment of nuclear pursuits.
  3. Decapitation: Ousting Kim and his inner circle, either by assassination or moderating with inside forces to replace him with a more rational and centrist regime.
  4. Acceptance: The toughest option, one that will accept such hostile actions, without checking any continuing efforts to develop more weapons.

Bowden explores the effectiveness and plausibility of these options in further detail in his full article. Continue reading here.

Original article source: Mark Bowden of The Atlantic. Image courtesy: RFIThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.

Comey hearing: The good, the bad, the ugly

Washington – Sacked FBI Director James Comey has been the talk of the town since his premature firing in the early weeks of May. Since, Comey’s memos and reports from unnamed sources have been shedding light (and in some cases, fantasies) on what may have caused President Trump to relieve the director of his duties. Trump, who early in his tenure assured Comey of his position, has been bombarded with criticism. While the White House claims they were unhappy with the progress of the Russia probe, critics of POTUS have been quick to speculate the worst.

Yesterday however, Comey candidly answered many tough questions from both sides of the aisle. Let’s revisit the highlights from yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

The facts so far:

  • The investigation was started under former President Barack Obama in July of 2016, following the attack on the DNC. A full report was submitted to the White House in early January of 2017.
  • Report found that Russia tried to undermine the American electoral process by resorting to cyber tactics, engaging social media “trolls’, and using state-funded media to sway public opinion.
  • No evidence points to an actual change of votes.
  • Comey’s firing has had no impact on slowing down or stopping the Russia probe, including investigations into possible ‘collusion’.
  • Trump was made aware in January of 2017 that he personally is not under investigation. Upon repeated requests, this fact was not made public by the FBI.
  • Comey shed light on the infamous runway meeting between former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton. In a rather stunning scene, Comey revealed that Lynch had asked him to refer to the Clinton investigation as a ‘matter’, and not an ‘investigation’. Comey confirmed that was his reasoning to call a presser and lay out the facts the FBI had learned.
  • Comey also commented on the several stories that are being leaked and published in leading news outlets. He remarked how many stories with no credibility or accuracy have appeared in these outlets . He went on to state that often times the people who know the facts are not talking and the ones who don’t, are. The FBI does not comment on stories and hence any report published cannot be debunked or confirmed by the bureau. In such an instance, the FBI just lets it be.
  • And finally, Comey himself leaked a memo to the press. The memo claims that President asked Comey for his ‘loyalty’. While the duo settled for ‘honest loyalty’, Comey was sure that this memo, in the public sphere, ought to prompt the appointment of a Special Counsel.

Throughout his hearing Comey remained level-headed and answered several, but not all, questions. Many prompted responses of a classified nature, which were unsuitable for an open hearing. Having said that, the committee went all out on the former director and Comey faced some truly incisive questions. In addition, his written testimony provides a timeline and progression of events based on his interactions with Trump.

What remains clear is that there is practically no evidence (yet) that the president ‘obstructed justice’. An experienced former federal prosecutor himself, Comey refused to comment on whether he thinks Trump broke the law. “That’s Bob Mueller job”, he noted.

The crucial question remains – as to what Trump meant when he told the FBI director, “I hope you can let this go”, with regards to Michael Flynn’s investigation. During the hearing, Comey confessed this was “a very disturbing thing, very troubling.”

Mr. Trump’s defenders suggested the President knows how to give an order and that his remark fell short of that. Some even argue, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, that the President is new to town and continues to operate as a CEO while he learns the art of the Oval Office. Mr. Comey said he couldn’t come up with an instance in which someone was convicted of obstruction of justice over the use of word “hope” in similar circumstances.

 Image courtesy: WSJThis news summary is compiled and published by the IndoAmerican Center staff.