No immediate relief for Jaya, bail plea adjourned to Oct 6

jayalalithaa

Bangalore: AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa will have to remain in jail till October 6 with the Karnataka High Court adjourning her plea seeking bail and challenging her conviction in the disproportionate assets case.

As the matter came up, G Bhavani Singh, who was the Special Public Prosecutor in the Special Court on the disproportionate assets case, told the judge that he had not yet received any official notification appointing him as the SPP for the criminal appeal filed in the High Court.

Singh sought more time, at which point vacation bench judge Justice Rathnakala posted the matter for hearing on October 6.

In her petitions seeking immediate bail and challenging her sentence, Jayalalithaa has maintained that the charges of amassing wealth against her were false and that she had acquired property through legal means.

Jayalalitha has also contended that the trial court has overlooked several judgements and has not considered the binding nature of various income tax orders and decisions of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, which had accepted the income and the level of expenditure pleaded by her.

The former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s aide Sasikala, her relatives V N Sudhakaran, disowned foster son of the former Chief Minister, and Ilavarasi have also moved the High Court seeking bail and challenging their conviction.

In the verdict that cost Jayalalithaa the Chief Minister’s job and disqualified her from being an MLA, the judge had also slapped a staggering fine of Rs 100 crore on her and Rs 10 crore each on the three other accused persons.

In her appeal, Jayalalithaa pleaded for suspension of the conviction and the sentence and also refused to pay the Rs 100 crore fine imposed on her.

The hearing came up before the vacation bench as the High Court is on Dasara holidays from September 29 to October 6.

(PTI)

Syria: How the U.S lost its war within hours

Barack Obama, Oslo, Norway Photo: Sandy Young/Getty Images

Barack Obama, Oslo, Norway Photo: Sandy Young/Getty Images

– by Scott Lucas, EA WorldView

Wednesday morning’s statement from US Central Command was — unsurprisingly — buoyant. The US and allies from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Jordan had launched attacks the previous day inside Syria, with 14 airstrikes and 47 Tomahawk missiles. Multiple targets of the Islamic State had been hit in northern and eastern Syria, including “fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks, and armed vehicles”.

Central Command promised, “The U.S. military will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against this terrorist group.”

Behind the confident assessment, Central Command did not point to — and presumably did not recognize — reality: with those initial strikes, the US had probably already lost its belated intervention in the 42-month Syrian conflict.

The military did not mention that the greatest casualties of the first night’s attacks had not been suffered by the Islamic State, which had moved most of its forces before the arrival of the warplanes. Instead, the US had struck hardest on two locations of the Islamist insurgents Jabhat al-Nusra, killing more than 70 fighters and civilians in Idlib and Aleppo Provinces.

Central Command cloaked those attacks in the final two paragraphs of its statement:

Separately, the United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qa’ida veterans — sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group — who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations. These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets.

In total, U.S. Central Command conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets west of Aleppo to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.

Many in the US media eagerly ran with this presentation of a necessary attack on evil plotters — who had only surfaced a week earlier in headline declaration by American intelligence services — planning a toothpaste-tube bomb on an airliner.

But inside Syria, that declaration carried little weight with many civilians, as well as the opposition and insurgency. Already angered that the US — which had stepped away from intervention a year earlier after the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attacks — was again sparing the President and his military, these groups reacted with bitter statements and large protests on Friday.

The suspicion is that if the US is serious about confronting the Islamic State, it is also — without any acknowledgement, and possibly through deception — attacking a faction which has part of the Syrian insurgency for more than two years. The sentiment was summarized in posters and chants that, while Washington had stayed away, the fighters of Jabhat al-Nusra had defended those facing the ground and aerial assaults of the Assad regime.

And even if that sentiment could be set aside, the question remained: what exactly was the strategy behind the US assault on the Islamic State? Insurgent commanders and opposition leaders said the US — which had told Israel, Syria’s ally Iran, and the Assad regime of the imminent strikes — had seen no reason to coordinate operations with the “moderate” insurgents whom it is supposedly supporting. So the Islamic State could move freely on the ground, not only evading the aerial assault but pressing its own offensives such as the attack on the Kurdish center of Kobane in northern Syria.

Attacks on Jabhat al-Nusra and the Mysterious “Khorasan Group”

There was a strange disconnect on Tuesday between the headline news of US airstrikes and claims seeping through social media. Videos and photographs showed that the greatest damage had been suffered in the village of Kafar Daryan in Idlib Province in northwest Syria. There were images of slain civilians, with others in the rubble of demolished buildings.

The mystery was that, while Jabhat al-Nusra members were killed by the US missiles, there were no Islamic State fighters in the village. Indeed, there have been no ISIS units in Idlib Province since they were pushed out by insurgents early year.

And Kafar Daryan was not the only target beyond the Americans’ official cause of hitting the Islamic State. Even deadlier — though almost unnoticed, because there was no video — was an attack on the Aleppo suburb of al-Muhandiseen. The Local Coordination Committee said more than 50 Jabhat al-Nusra fighters died.

None of this was noted in Central Command’s statement that it hit eight targets “west of Aleppo”. So what was the US doing with attacks beyond its initial declared aim of hitting the Islamic State?

As the US military’s PR strategy made clear, the answer was the “Khorasan Group”. Unnamed US officials primed the media even before Central Command issued its statement:

Administration officials said Tuesday they have been watching the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida cell in Syria, for years….Intelligence showed that the Khorasan Group was in the final stages of plotting attacks against the U.S. and Europe, most likely an attempt to blow up an airplane in flight.

“An intelligence source with knowledge of the matter told CNN” that plots against the US had been discovered over the past week, including “a bomb made of a non-metallic device like a toothpaste container or clothes dipped in explosive material”.

Indeed, the set-up for the US attack had been made more than a week earlier. On September 13, the Associated Press ran a story fed by “American officials”:

While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation.

Five days later, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, told a conference, “There is potentially yet another threat to the homeland,” similar to that posed by the Islamic State.

If you read past the mainstream media, there was a curiosity about the US campaign as its first missiles were fired: leading experts on Al Qa’eda and jihadists were questioning the US Government’s timing and presentation. Washington, they said, had merely slapped a label on some fighters who had professed allegiance to Al Qa’eda and had come from Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight with Jabhat al-Nusra.

One of the few public mentions of the “Khorasan Group” before last week backs up Zelin’s remarks. Peter Bergen, writing for CNN, briefly said:

According to both British counterterrorism officials and U.S. intelligence officials, senior al Qaeda members based in Pakistan have traveled to Syria to direct operations there. They are known as the Khorasan group. Khorasan is an ancient term for an Islamic empire that once incorporated what is now Afghanistan.

Unnamed US officials only fuelled the scepticism as they pressed their case through the week. One official said the threat from the Khorasan Group was “imminent”, but another denied this as “there were no known targets or attacks expected in the next few weeks”.

The officials said that the Group was led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a Kuwaiti who was “Al Qa’eda’s senior leader in Iran” before he moved to Syria in 2013 to fight with Jabhat al-Nusra. The State Department’s designation of al-Fadhli says he was “among the few trusted Al Qa’eda operatives who received advance notification” of the attacks of September 11, 2001 — even though he was only 20 at the time. Now, the US sources said, “Al Qa’eda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri dispatched this deputy to recruit those Western fighters, who have a better chance of escaping scrutiny at airports and could place bombs onto planes”.

For someone who is supposedly a high-level Al Qa’eda operative in Syria, there is little public information on al-Fadhli. One of the lengthiest reports is in the Arab Times in March, based on “informed sources”. The Yemeni supposedly played a role in the decision of Al Qa’eda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s decision to support Jabhat al-Nusra in 2013 when the Islamic State challenged it for leadership of the jihadist movement. Yet does this establish that al-Fadhli was planning a terror attack on the US? The Arab Times offers no evidence and makes the bizarre assertion that the Yemeni and Al Qa’eda were acting on behalf of Iran: 

The most important objective is to use Al Qa’eda’s world terror cells to target Western nations particularly the United States of America, in case [Iran’s] nuclear facilities face any kind of military strikes from the US or Israel. [The sources] revealed that Iran believes Al-Qa’eda’s terror cells are the most important asset that can be used in either secret or open negotiations with the United States. Iran offered to train al-Qaeda elements on how to use bombs, and provided some financial support and safe refuge as part of an agreement that was reached in 2009, which resulted in the execution of the related agendas.

The report is further shaken by its assertion that al-Fadhli was directing activities not only against the Islamic State and the Assad regime, but also against the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front — both of whom were fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra against Syrian forces.

The stories, beginning with the Associated Press “Al-Qaida’s Syrian Cell Alarms US” on September 13, also invoked the name of Ibrahim al-Asiri, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s master bomb-maker” — but without establishing that al-Asiri had ever stepped foot inside Syria or had been in contact with al-Fadhli.

Whether or not al-Fadhli and a “Khorasan Group” were planning terror attacks, what matters is the perception — and the perception of many inside Syria is that the claim was just a pretext for the Americans to strike their real target: Jabhat al-Nusra.

So What’s Wrong With Hitting Jabhat al-Nusra?

One might claim that, even if the US was being deceptive in refusing to declare its real intention, the attack on Jabhat al-Nusra makes sense. After all, the group has been listed as a terrorist organization by the US since late 2012. Its leadership is linked to Al Qa’eda, even if it has pursued a local fight against the Assad regime, working with Syrian organizations and communities. Before spring 2013, it was connected with the Islamic State.

The problem is that this case was not made effectively inside Syria. A series of opposition and insurgent groups — from the “moderates” whom the US has said it wants to promote to the Islamic Front to independent brigades — castigated the US airstrikes as counter-productive. Rallies on the day after the attack bluntly set out the sentiment of some Syrians: “Jabhat al-Nusra came to support us, when the whole world abandoned us.”

See Syria Daily, Sept 24: US Missiles Hit Insurgents, Kill Civilians, Upset the Opposition The US might have the simple formula of “moderates” v. “extremists”, but the reality is that Jabhat al-Nusra is part of the insurgency, even if it is formally kept as some distance because of Washington’s position.

So that means the attack on the group is considered an attack on the insurgents. The point was made, directly or indirectly, by the US-backed Supreme Military Council, the General Staff of the US-backed Free Syrian Army, the US-backed Harakat Hazm Brigade, the faction Jaish al-Mujahideen, and the Islamic Front, as well as Jabhat al-Nusra.

A “moderate” insurgent source inside Syria summarized, “The US strategy? How about turning possible coalition partners on the ground into sceptics, if not enemies, with the first wave of missiles?” Firing from the Air, Losing on the Ground The anger at the US airstrikes was compounded by Washington’s failure — whether deliberate policy or an oversight — to connect its operations with the situation on the ground. The US informed Israel, Syria’s ally Iran, and the Assad regime of the impending attacks, but did not see fit to mention them to insurgents. That meant that even those US attacks which hit the Islamic State struck far from the key frontlines. An article by McClatchy News gave one example:

There are now 10 groups fighting [the Islamic State] north of Aleppo, near the town of Mare, but the U.S. and its allies “offered very little ammunition support, no information, no air cover, and no collaboration in military plans and tactics – nothing,” said Colonel Hassan Hamadi.

Far from being crippled by the airstrikes, the Islamic State simply took their fighters and their offensives elsewhere. While the US-led coalition hit Raqqa, the largest city held by the jihadists, they moved more forces to the assault on the Kurdish center of Kobane near the Turkish center — where there were no coalition attacks until last weekend.

So, far from being a coherent operation to “degrade” the Islamic State, the opposition saw no connection between the aerial campaign and the declared Obama Administration effort for $500 million to arm and train “moderate” insurgents. Indeed, even as the planes flew, that effort receded: the head of the American military, General Martin Dempsey, said it would be many months before even 5,000 insurgents — a fraction of the fighters inside Syria — were completely trained and equipped.

An Alternate US Strategy?

Given the shredding of any US strategy — if there was one to work with insurgents, one can only search for alternatives.

Perhaps the US believes it can “contain” the Islamic State with airstrikes alone?

If so, the approach flies in the face of the experience in Iraq next door, where the jihadists are only being pushed back when aerial operations support ground attacks. Washington has not set out how the Islamic State can be held back from further advances, such as the possible takeover of Kobane, let alone be removed from bases of powers such as Raqqa and Deir Ez Zor — two of the seven largest cities in Syria.

Perhaps the Obama Administration envisage a refashioned “moderate” insurgency as the ground component of the strategy?

Washington’s rhetoric, as it pressed for the $500 million from Congress, set out this line; however, it was quickly erased by Dempsey’s “clarification” on what armament and training meant in practice.

President Obama’s interview on Sunday night was an effective admission that the strategy is a non-starter: “There is a moderate Syrian opposition, but right now, it doesn’t control much territory. They are being squeezed between [the Islamic State] on the one hand and the Assad regime on the other.”

That leaves one other option: could the US see the Syrian military as the ground force to check the Islamic State?

Publicly the Administration is not pointing to any consideration of the option. Obama continued to tag Damascus as a “barbaric regime” in his speech last week at the UN, and he repeated the formula last night that President Assad would have to step aside in a political transition.

Still, the biggest cheerleader for the US-led airstrikes is the Assad regime. Damascus switched within 48 hours from opposition to intervention to a welcoming of the attacks, and its caution is being replaced with an acceptance of operations not only by the US but also Gulf States and Europeans — provided, of course, they are strictly focused on the Islamic State.

In practice, the Assad regime is indicating that there does not have to be a formal commitment for an alternate US strategy. It is quite happy to accept an American approach which takes on its recent enemy of the Islamic State, as well as its longer-term foe of the insurgency — or, at least, parts of it.

Bolstering Extremists?

That welcome from Damascus does not constitute a US “victory”, of course, but it is as good as Washington can get after a week of its campaign.

And even that will not be much in the weeks to come. For Washington, far from containing the “extremists”, may have bolstered the threat that it has been generating in the media as well as facing on the ground.

The declaration of the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, is not a declaration of war on the US. It is not close to a renewed “alliance” with the Islamic State, despite the misguided headlines in some media outlets. As an EA analyst framed al-Joulani’s message this morning, “Well, brother Barack, if you rethink your approach and consider the possible backfiring from it, then you’re safe from that backfire.”

However, an insurgency which has been alienated by the US attacks gives significant relief to the Islamic State, which can rest assured that it will not face a coordinated challenge as it does in Iraq. It may even give them more recruits: even if al-Joulani stands aside from reconciliation, individual Jabhat al-Nusra units and fighters — and indeed those of other elements in the insurgency — may join the jihadists out of anger against America.

And while most insurgents will not pursue that option, they are likely to conclude that there is no prospect of working with the US against the Islamic State, let alone the Assad regime.

As a leader of the Islamic Front said this weekend:

We have been calling for these sorts of attacks for three years and when they finally come they don’t help us. People have lost faith.

U.S-led raids hit grain silos in Syria, kill workers: monitor

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014.  REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Handout

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Handout

– by Sylvia Westall and Andrew Heavens, Reuters

Beirut: U.S.-led air strikes hit grain silos and other targets in Islamic State-controlled territory in northern and eastern Syria overnight, killing civilians and wounding militants, a group monitoring the war said on Monday.

The aircraft may have mistaken the mills and grain storage areas in the northern Syrian town of Manbij for an Islamic State base, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. There was no immediate comment from Washington.

The United States has targeted Islamic State and other fighters in Syria since last week with the help of Arab allies, and in Iraq since last month. It aims to damage and destroy the bases, forces and supply lines of the al Qaeda offshoot which has captured large areas of both countries.

The strikes in Manbij appeared to have killed only civilians, not fighters, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory which gathers information from sources in Syria.

“These were the workers at the silos. They provide food for the people,” he said. He could not give a number of casualties and it was not immediately possible to verify the information.

Manbij sits between Aleppo city in the west and the town of Kobani on the northern border with Turkey, which Islamic State has been trying to capture from Kurdish forces, forcing tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to flee over the frontier.

Syria’s army also carried out air raids in Aleppo province overnight, targeting areas east of Aleppo city with barrel bombs and other projectiles, the Observatory said. The army also carried out air strikes in Hama in western Syria.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been battling Islamist fighters around Aleppo, which is held by a number of groups in Syria’s war

In eastern Syria, U.S.-led forces bombed a gas plant controlled by the Islamic State outside Deir al-Zor city, wounding several of the militant group’s fighters, the Observatory said.

The United States has said it wants strikes to target oil facilities held by Islamic State to try to stem a source of revenues for the group.

The raid hit Kuniko gas plant, which feeds a power station in Homs that provides several provinces with electricity and powers oil fields generators, the Observatory said.

U.S.-led warplanes also hit areas of Hasaka city in the north east and the outskirts of Raqqa city in the north, which is Islamic State’s stronghold.

Jerusalem Archbishop: Israeli aggression on Al-Aqsa targets Muslims and Christians

The Bishop stressed that the continuous Zionist aggression is targeting 'both Muslims and Christians, as well as all formations of the Arab nation'

The Bishop stressed that the continuous Zionist aggression is targeting ‘both Muslims and Christians, as well as all formations of the Arab nation’

– by Middle East Monitor

Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem Atallah Hanna said on Tuesday that the Israeli aggression on Al-Aqsa Mosque is an aggression on both Muslims and Christians, Jordanian newspaper Addustour reported.

In a recorded speech broadcast during a celebration in Jordan entitled “Resistance is the way to liberate land and return” organised to celebrate Gaza’s “victory”, Atallah said: “It was planned that I be with you here, but the Israeli occupation prevented me.”

He added: “Targeting the Gaza Strip means targeting Jerusalem and all the Palestinian lands.” He hailed the Palestinian unity and called for more harmony among Palestinians in order to be able to face the occupation’s policies which are aimed at Judaising Jerusalem and erasing the Palestinian identity.

The Bishop stressed that the continuous Zionist aggression is targeting “both Muslims and Christians, as well as all formations of the Arab nation.”

Atallah reiterated the importance of solidarity with the Gaza Strip, Amman, Jerusalem and all Arab cities, noting that “all wounds are the same and all suffering is the same as long as the aim is the same.”

Imad Momani, head of Al-Zarqa city where the celebration was held, said that the “Gaza Battle” was a “lesson” for the Zionists. Gaza, which represented the “most wonderful legend in the history”, was a “burial” site for the Zionists.

He hailed the Jordanian staff at the Jordanian Field Hospital which was setup in Gaza at the end of the Israeli assault on the Strip in 2008/2009. He also hailed the King of Jordan who asked for the hospital to be setup.

Momani called on all Jordanians to take the Gazans as an example as to how to fight the “monstrous” Israeli occupation.

First U.S drone strike in seven months hits Somalia

African Union and Somali troops advance on al Shabaab positions (UN Photo/Tobin Jones)

African Union and Somali troops advance on al Shabaab positions (UN Photo/Tobin Jones)

– by Joseph Cox and Jack Serle, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

A US drone strike hit Somalia, the first in seven months, in an attack aimed at killing al Shabaab leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane.

The attack killed “six al Shabaab officers” but it is not clear if Godane was among them, said Abdullahi Abukar, executive director of the Somali Human Rights Association (SOHRA).

Sohra monitors human rights abuses and records casualties from the ongoing conflict in Lower Shabelle, where the strike hit. It destroyed an encampment and at least one vehicle in an area heavily under al Shabaab control.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed it was a US military operation, telling reporters: “actionable intelligence led us to that site where we believe [Godane] was” and “we certainly believe that we hit what we were aiming at”. However he would not confirm who, if anyone, had been killed.

The spokesman said drones and conventional aircraft flown by US special forces “destroyed an encampment and a vehicle using several Hellfire missiles and laser-guided missiles”.

An al Shabaab spokesman declined to say whether Godane was among the six militants killed.

An unnamed Somali intelligence source was similarly cautious, telling the Associated Press Godane “might have been killed along with other militants”.

The attack was the sixth confirmed US drone strike reported in Somalia. There have been at least eight other confirmed US operations in the country – including naval bombardments and special forces operations.

Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair, originally trained to be an accountantbefore joining Itihad al Islamiya, a now defunct armed group.

After fighting in Afghanistan, he became involved in what would later become al Shabaab becoming its leader in 2007. The US government is offering up to $7m as a reward for information about his whereabouts.

Godane has been targeted at least two other times by US forces, according to figures maintained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Two of these were drone strikes, one in 2011 and another earlier this year.

The US may have tried to capture Godane in October 2013, in a failed amphibious assault on a compound in southern Somalia. However there are several conflicting accounts of this operation, and the true target remains unclear.

The first US operation against Godane was in 2003, according to the Bureau’s data. It was a CIA surveillance operation against several people, including Godane.

Godane was also said to be the target of a January 2014 Kenyan air strike that killed 57 alleged al Shabaab militants.

The Fake terror threat used to justify bombing Syria

khorasan

– by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept

As the Obama Administration prepared to bomb Syria without congressional or U.N. authorization, it faced two problems. The first was the difficulty of sustaining public support for a new years-long war against ISIS, a group that clearly posed no imminent threat to the “homeland.” A second was the lack of legal justification for launching a new bombing campaign with no viable claim of self-defense or U.N. approval.

The solution to both problems was found in the wholesale concoction of a brand new terror threat that was branded “The Khorasan Group.” After spending weeks depicting ISIS as an unprecedented threat — too radical even for Al Qaeda! — administration officials suddenly began spoon-feeding their favorite media organizations and national security journalists tales of a secret group that was even scarier and more threatening than ISIS, one that posed a direct and immediate threat to the American Homeland. Seemingly out of nowhere, a new terror group was created in media lore.

The unveiling of this new group was performed in a September 13 article by the Associated Press, who cited unnamed U.S. officials to warn of this new shadowy, worse-than-ISIS terror group:

While the Islamic State group [ISIS] is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

AP warned Americans that “the fear is that the Khorasan militants will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.” It explained that although ISIS has received most of the attention, the Khorasan Group “is considered the more immediate threat.”

The genesis of the name was itself scary: “Khorasan refers to a province under the Islamic caliphate, or religious empire, of old that included parts of Afghanistan.” AP depicted the U.S. officials who were feeding them the narrative as engaging in some sort of act of brave, unauthorized truth-telling: “Many U.S. officials interviewed for this story would not be quoted by name talking about what they said was highly classified intelligence.”

On the morning of September 18, CBS News broadcast a segment that is as pure war propaganda as it gets: directly linking the soon-to-arrive U.S. bombing campaign in Syria to the need to protect Americans from being exploded in civilian jets by Khorasan. With ominous voice tones, the host narrated:

This morning we are learning of a new and growing terror threat coming out of Syria. It’s an Al Qaeda cell you probably never heard of. Nearly everything about them is classified. Bob Orr is in Washington with new information on a group some consider more  dangerous than ISIS.

Orr then announced that while ISIS is “dominating headlines and terrorist propaganda,” Orr’s “sources” warn of “a more immediate threat to the U.S. Homeland.” As Orr spoke, CBS flashed alternating video showing scary Muslims in Syria and innocent westerners waiting in line at airports, as he intoned that U.S. officials have ordered “enhanced screening” for “hidden explosives.” This is all coming, Orr explained, from  ”an emerging threat in Syria” where “hardened terrorists” are building “hard to detect bombs.”

The U.S. government, Orr explained, is trying to keep this all a secret; they won’t even mention the group’s name in public out of security concerns! But Orr was there to reveal the truth, as his “sources confirm the Al Qaeda cell goes by the name Khorasan.” And they’re “developing fresh plots to attack U.S. aviation.”

Later that day, Obama administration officials began publicly touting the group, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned starkly: “In terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.” Then followed an avalanche of uncritical media reports detailing this Supreme Threat, excitingly citing anonymous officials as though they had uncovered a big secret the government was trying to conceal.

On September 20, The New York Times devoted a long article to strongly hyping the Khorasan Group. Headlined “U.S. Suspects More Direct Threats Beyond ISIS,” the article began by announcing that U.S. officials believe a different group other than ISIS “posed a more direct threat to America and Europe.” Specifically:

American officials said that the group called Khorasan had emerged in the past year as the cell in Syria that may be the most intent on hitting the United States or its installations overseas with a terror attack. The officials said that the group is led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a senior Qaeda operative who, according to the State Department, was so close to Bin Laden that he was among a small group of people who knew about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks before they were launched.

Again, the threat they posed reached all the way to the U.S.: “Members of the cell are said to be particularly interested in devising terror plots using concealed explosives.”

This Khorasan-attacking-Americans alarm spread quickly and explosively in the landscape of U.S. national security reporting. The Daily Beast‘s Eli Lake warned on September 23 — the day after the first U.S. bombs fell in Syria — that “American analysts had pieced together detailed information on a pending attack from an outfit that informally called itself ‘the Khorasan Group’ to use hard-to-detect explosives on American and European airliners.” He added even more ominously: “The planning from the Khorasan Group … suggests at least an aspiration to launch more-coordinated and larger attacks on the West in the style of the 9/11 attacks from 2001″ (days later, Lake, along with Josh Rogin, actually claimed that“Iran has long been harboring senior al Qaeda, al Nusra, and so-called Khorasan Group leaders as part of its complicated strategy to influence the region”).

On the day of the bombing campaign, NBC News’ Richard Engel tweeted this:

That tweet linked to an NBC Nightly News report in which anchor Brian Williams introduced Khorasan with a graphic declaring it “The New Enemy,” and Engel went on to explain that the group is “considered a threat to the U.S. because, U.S. intelligence officials say, it wants to bring down airplanes with explosives.”

Once the bombing campaign was underway, ISIS — the original theme of the attack — largely faded into the background, as Obama officials and media allies aggressively touted attacks on Khorasan leaders and the disruption of its American-targeting plots. On the first day of the bombing, The Washington Post announced that “the United States also pounded a little-known but well-resourced al-Qaeda cell that some American officials fear could pose a direct threat to the United States.” It explained:

The Pentagon said in a statement early Tuesday that the United States conducted eight strikes west of Aleppo against the cell, called the Khorasan Group, targeting its “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building and command and control facilities.”

The same day, CNN claimed that “among the targets of U.S. strikes across Syria early Tuesday was the Khorasan Group.” The bombing campaign in Syria was thus magically transformed into an act of pure self-defense, given that ”the group was actively plotting against a U.S. homeland target and Western targets, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday.” The bevy of anonymous sources cited by CNN had a hard time keep their stories straight:

The official said the group posed an “imminent” threat. Another U.S. official later said the threat was not imminent in the sense that there were no known targets or attacks expected in the next few weeks.

The plots were believed to be in an advanced stage, the second U.S. official said. There were indications that the militants had obtained materials and were working on new improvised explosive devices that would be hard to detect, including common hand-held electronic devices and airplane carry-on items such as toiletries.

Nonetheless, what was clear was that this group had to be bombed in Syria to save American lives, as the terrorist group even planned to conceal explosive devices in toothpaste or flammable clothing as a means to target U.S. airliners. The day following the first bombings, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed: “We hit them last night out of a concern that they were getting close to an execution date of some of the plans that we have seen.”

CNN’s supremely stenographic Pentagon reporter, Barbara Starr, went on air as videos of shiny new American fighter jets and the Syria bombing were shown and explained that this was all necessary to stop a Khorasan attack very close to being carried out against the west:

What we are hearing from a senior US official is the reason they struck Khorasan right now is they had intelligence that the group — of Al Qaeda veterans — was in the stages of planning an attack against the US homeland and/or an attack against a target in Europe, and the information indicated Khorasan was well on its way — perhaps in its final stages — of planning that attack.

All of that laid the fear-producing groundwork for President Obama to claim self-defense when he announced the bombing campaign on September 23 with this boast: “Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

The very next day, a Pentagon official claimed a U.S. airstrike killed “the Khorasan leader,” and just a few days after that, U.S. media outlets celebrated what they said was the admission by jihadi social media accounts that “the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Khorasan group was killed in a U.S. air strike in Syria.”

But once it served its purpose of justifying the start of the bombing campaign in Syria, the Khorasan narrative simply evaporated as quickly as it materialized. Foreign Policy‘s Shane Harris, with two other writers, was one of the first to question whether the “threat” was anywhere near what it had been depicted to be:

But according to the top U.S. counterterrorism official, as well as Obama himself, there is “no credible information” that the militants of the Islamic State were planning to attack inside the United States. Although the group could pose a domestic terrorism threat if left unchecked, any plot it tried launching today would be “limited in scope” and “nothing like a 9/11-scale attack,” Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in remarks at the Brookings Institution earlier this month. That would suggest that Khorasan doesn’t have the capability either, even if it’s working to develop it.

“Khorasan has the desire to attack, though we’re not sure their capabilities match their desire,” a senior U.S. counterterrorism official told Foreign Policy.

On September 25, The New York Times — just days after hyping the Khorasan threat to the homeland — wrote that “the group’s evolution from obscurity to infamy has been sudden.” And the paper of record began, for the first time, to note how little evidence actually existed for all those claims about the imminent threats posed to the homeland:

American officials have given differing accounts about just how close the group was to mounting an attack, and about what chance any plot had of success. One senior American official on Wednesday described the Khorasan plotting as “aspirational” and said that there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works.

Literally within a matter of days, we went from “perhaps in its final stages of planning its attack” (CNN) to “plotting as ‘aspirational’” and “there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works” (NYT).

Late last week, Associated Press’ Ken Dilanian — the first to unveil the new Khorasan Product in mid-September — published a new story explaining that just days after bombing “Khorasan” targets in Syria, high-ranking U.S. officials seemingly backed off all their previous claims of an “imminent” threat from the group. Headlined “U.S. Officials Offer More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat,” it noted that “several U.S. officials told reporters this week that the group was in the final stages of planning an attack on the West, leaving the impression that such an attack was about to happen.” But now:

Senior U.S. officials offered a more nuanced picture Thursday of the threat they believe is posed by an al-Qaida cell in Syria targeted in military strikes this week, even as they defended the decision to attack the militants.

James Comey, the FBI director, and Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, each acknowledged that the U.S. did not have precise intelligence about where or when the cell, known as the Khorasan Group, would attempt to strike a Western target. . . .

Kirby, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said, “I don’t know that we can pin that down to a day or month or week or six months….We can have this debate about whether it was valid to hit them or not, or whether it was too soon or too late…We hit them. And I don’t think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes.”

Regarding claims that an attack was “imminent,” Comey said: “I don’t know exactly what that word means…’imminent’” — a rather consequential admission given that said imminence was used as the justification for launching military action in the first place.

Even more remarkable, it turns out the very existence of an actual “Khorasan Group” was to some degree an invention of the American government. NBC’s Engel, the day after he reported on the U.S. government’s claims about the group for Nightly News, seemed to have serious second thoughts about the group’s existence, tweeting:

Indeed, a Nexis search for the group found almost no mentions of its name prior to the September 13 AP article based on anonymous officials. There was one oblique reference to it in a July 31 CNN op-ed by Peter Bergen. The other mention was an article in the LA Times from two weeks earlier about Pakistan which mentioned the group’s name as something quite different than how it’s being used now: as “the intelligence wing of the powerful Pakistani Taliban faction led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur.” Tim Shorrock noted that the name appears in a 2011 hacked Stratfor email published by WikiLeaks, referencing a Dawn article that depicts them as a Pakistan-based group which was fighting against and “expelled by” (not “led by”) Bahadur.

There are serious questions about whether the Khorasan Group even exists in any meaningful or identifiable manner. Aki Peritz, a CIA counterterrorism official until 2009, told Time: “I’d certainly never heard of this group while working at the agency,” while Obama’s former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said: ”We used the term [Khorasan] inside the government, we don’t know where it came from….All I know is that they don’t call themselves that.” As The Intercept was finalizing this article, former terrorism federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wrote in National Review that the group was a scam: “You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan … had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.”

What happened here is all-too-familiar. The Obama administration needed propagandistic and legal rationale for bombing yet another predominantly Muslim country. While emotions over the ISIS beheading videos were high, they were not enough to sustain a lengthy new war.

So after spending weeks promoting ISIS as Worse Than Al Qaeda™, they unveiled a new, never-before-heard-of group that was Worse Than ISIS™. Overnight, as the first bombs on Syria fell, the endlessly helpful U.S. media mindlessly circulated the script they were given: this new group was composed of “hardened terrorists,” posed an “imminent” threat to the U.S. homeland, was in the “final stages” of plots to take down U.S. civilian aircraft, and could “launch more-coordinated and larger attacks on the West in the style of the 9/11 attacks from 2001.””

As usual, anonymity was granted to U.S. officials to make these claims. As usual, there was almost no evidence for any of this. Nonetheless, American media outlets — eager, as always, to justify American wars — spewed all of this with very little skepticism. Worse, they did it by pretending that the U.S. government was trying not to talk about all of this — too secret! — but they, as intrepid, digging journalists, managed to unearth it from their courageous “sources.” Once the damage was done, the evidence quickly emerged about what a sham this all was. But, as always with these government/media propaganda campaigns, the truth emerges only when it’s impotent.

Muslim woman bashed, thrown from a moving train in a horrific racist attack

Photo: William West via Getty Images.

Photo: William West via Getty Images.

– by Pedestrian

Melbourne: This is starting to get way out of hand. Yesterday afternoon, a Melbourne woman – who just so happened to be of Muslim appearance – was viciously bashed by what appears to have been a complete racist scumbag, and subsequently forced off a moving train as it approached a station in the city’s north.

According to police, the 26 year-old victim was standing near the doors of an outbound Upfield train as it was approaching Batman station in the northern suburb of Coburg. At that point, another woman has approached her and commenced hurling racial abuse. Shortly thereafter, the attacker grabbed her victim by the hair and neck, and repeatedly forced her head into the wall of the carriage. As the train pulled into the station, she then managed to open the doors before forcing the woman out and onto the platform as the train was pulling to a stop.

Without a word of a lie, that is an actual thing that happened to someone who, by all accounts, was simply minding their own business.

The woman was assisted by two men who came to the victim’s aid – police are calling for them, and any other witnesses, to come forward.

The racist stain of a human who is alleged to have perpetrated this cowardly act of bullshit is said to be – unsurprisingly – caucasian, around 177cm tall, solid build, short brown hair and light-coloured eyebrows. She was wearing baggy jeans, a puffy black hooded top, and runners.

If you happened to have seen this particular incident, or are ever in the position where you witness a similar incident, for pete’s sake speak up. There’s always more good people than there are dickheads. They are the true unwanted minority. Use your voice. Stamp this shit out. It’s not a good look for anyone.

Eleven Congresspersons urge Obama to discuss protection of religious minorities with PM Modi

Increase in violence against Christians and Muslims cited as concern, while Congressional panel holds a briefing on 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.

Modi-protest-us

Washington D.C: Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and to defending India’s secular tradition, has welcomed a letter to President Obama by eleven members of Congress, urging him to discuss “religions inclusion and the protection of religious minorities in India,” during his meeting with Prime Minister Modi on Monday, September 28.

The letter draws the President’s attention to the fact that “there has been an increase in violence against Muslims and Christians in the first hundred days of Prime Minister Modi’s term,” and that such violence “echoes the deadly 2002 riots in Gujarat, which happened while Prime Minister Modi was chief minister of the region.

In a separate development, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a briefing on the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres in Delhi, in which over 3,000 Sikhs were killed and thousands more injured. Titled “Thirty Years of Impunity: The November 1984 anti-Sikh Pogroms in India,” the hearing will be held onSeptember 30, 2014, and will discuss “India’s failure to prosecute the architects of the pogroms.

The lawmakers’ letter to President Obama also comes on the heels of massive protests outside Madison Square Garden organized by the Alliance for Justice and Accountability, during Mr. Modi’s speech to Indian Americans. These developments reflect continued concerns in the US and across the world, about the state of human rights and religious freedom in India.

In addition to the 11 member letter by Congress released today, Congressman Mike Honda had earlier written to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to support the inclusion of human rights and religious freedom in the US-India Strategic Dialogues where Mr. Modi is to meet with the President today. Quoting the US Commission for International Religious Freedom 2014 Annual Report, Rep. Honda had noted the increase in religiously motivated violence in India. Acknowledging that some positive steps had been taken towards religious minorities, the letter noted that “periodic outbreaks of large-scale communal violence continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable religious minorities in India; especially impacting women and girls.

All of us who cherish India’s traditionally inclusive society, understand the level of concern about the threats to secularism and pluralism in India, ” said Dr. Raja Swamy, a CAG spokesperson. “The first 100 days of Mr. Modi’s tenure as PM have shown that such concern is justified and has gained added urgency, ” added Dr. Swamy.

Reflecting the growing intolerance, both in India as well as the diaspora, reports indicate veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai was assaulted by a mob of Modi supporters outside Madison Square Garden on Sunday, September 28. The provocation was Mr. Sardesai’s willingness to pay attention to a protester who wished to express his views, and clarify reasons for protesting.

India can be a strong democracy only when dissent is given its space, and the freedom of the press is respected,” said Dr. Shaik Ubaid, another CAG spokesperson.

CAG appeals to President Obama to respond to the concerns expressed by the eleven Congresspersons as well as Rep. Honda, and to accept their recommendation on his imminent meeting with PM Modi. Without international attention on the growing intolerance in India, millions of Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and other minorities will continue to see a steady erosion of their religious freedom and civil liberties.

CAG is a broad-based coalition representing a diverse cross section of the religious and political spectrum of the Indian diaspora, including Hindu and other faith-based organizations. The coalition is committed to democracy, pluralism and to the preservation of the idea of India.

Imperialism and the Ebola catastrophe

ebola

– by Patrick Martin, Global Research

“The present [Ebola] epidemic is exceptionally large, not primarily because of biologic characteristics of the virus, but in part because of the attributes of the affected populations, the condition of the health systems, and because control efforts have been insufficient to halt the spread of infection.” – Dr. Christopher Dye, director of strategy, World Health Organization

In the understated words of a health professional, this is a diagnosis, not just of the Ebola catastrophe, but of the failure of capitalism as a world system. Thousands have died and millions are at risk because the social conditions in the affected countries, long oppressed and exploited by the imperialist powers, have made adequate treatment of the outbreak impossible.

Ebola is a well-understood disease, spread only through direct contact with bodily fluids, and almost self-limiting in isolated rural areas because it usually kills victims before they can transmit the virus to many other people. The cumulative death toll from all previous outbreaks of Ebola was barely 2,500 people—a number exceeded in only three months by the current outbreak.

The epidemic began in rural Guinea before spreading to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. In Liberia, for the first time, Ebola became an urban and not a rural phenomenon, and the capital Monrovia is the first large city to experience such an outbreak, with terrible consequences.

In all three countries, the local health care systems have collapsed under the impact of the epidemic. In Sierra Leone, for example, the country’s only large children’s hospital has been forced to close after a child was diagnosed as suffering from Ebola. In Liberia, there are only a few hundred treatment beds available, meaning that most victims stay home and are cared for by family members, who then become infected.

These three countries are among the poorest in the world, ranking 161st (Sierra Leone), 176th (Guinea) and 181st (Liberia) in per capita GDP according to the 2013 World Bank listing (185 countries total). The combined health care spending of the three countries is only $900 million, a pitiful $45 per head.

Their people live in misery, but the countries themselves are rich in natural resources that have been ruthlessly exploited by major corporations and the imperialist powers that enforce their interests.

Liberia (founded by freed American slaves, and a de facto US colony) has vast resources of iron ore and palm oil, and Firestone (now Bridgestone) has operated the world’s largest rubber plantation there since 1926. Sierra Leone, a former British colony, is a top-ten diamond producer, with large reserves of rutile, a titanium-based ore. Guinea, a former French colony, has iron ore, diamonds, uranium, gold and an astonishing half of the world’s total reserves of bauxite, from which aluminum is derived. The Australian-Canadian firm Rio Tinto Alcan and Dadco Alumina of Germany dominate bauxite extraction in Guinea.

In the past three decades, all three countries have been ravaged by civil wars, coups and ethnic massacres, with their ruling elites fighting to control sources of raw materials to sell to the giant Western corporations amid increasingly difficult economic conditions on the world market. The imperialist powers directly intervened, with British and UN troops occupying Sierra Leone and the US Marines landing in Liberia.

It was the combined effect of decades of imperialist exploitation and intervention, exacerbated by the global economic crisis that erupted in 2008, which created the conditions for the present health catastrophe. When the Ebola virus made its way out of isolated jungle areas where the borders of the three countries come together, the resistance of the social organism to the epidemic was as weak as the resistance of the individual human organism to the attack of the virus.

A worst-case estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasts 1.4 million cases by the end of January. With a 70 percent mortality rate, the Ebola outbreak could account for nearly a million deaths by early 2015. Moreover, as a new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine warns, the transformed role of the Ebola virus means that it could “become endemic among the human population of West Africa, a prospect that has never previously been contemplated.” In other words, Ebola could become a permanent feature of West Africa, with incalculable consequences for social and economic life throughout the region.

Against that backdrop, Thursday’s session of the United Nations General Assembly, devoted to the Ebola crisis, was a further demonstration that there will be no serious response from the major powers.

So far there has been a tiny influx of aid from the wealthy countries, the mobilization of a few hundred dedicated volunteer doctors and nurses—many now dead or withdrawn for fear of infection—and, inevitably, the Obama administration’s decision to send thousands of troops.

These soldiers have no expertise in Ebola and their only contact with the local population is likely to be shooting down victims and their panic-stricken families demanding treatment. Washington’s major concern is that the epidemic could destabilize its political stooges like Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and threaten the profit interests of major corporations.

President Obama, in his third address to the UN in three days, admitted the failure of the world response: “We are not moving fast enough. We are not doing enough … people are not putting in the kinds of resources that are necessary to put a stop to this epidemic.”

The combined total of all aid donations to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea barely tops $1 billion, and that is pledges, not actual deliveries of supplies, equipment and healthcare personnel. Contrast that to the billions made available by the imperialist powers, and their allies among the Gulf monarchies, for the new war in Syria and Iraq, let alone the hundreds of billions squandered on wars in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan and the trillions made available for the bailout of the banks and other financial institutions in the 2008 crash.

From the standpoint of world imperialism, the value of this region lies in the mineral wealth under the ground. The lives of the human beings who inhabit the territory are entirely secondary. As the epidemic spreads, the local people will be regarded more as an obstacle than a labor force, and their extermination will begin to be regarded as a necessary cost of doing business.

Why 'Make in India' is an anachronism

MakeInIndia

– by Prasanto K. Roy

Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious campaign to turn India into a global manufacturing hub plans aims to develop infrastructure and make it easier for companies to do business. The hope is to bump up manufacturing from 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 25 percent.

But the challenges were highlighted by a seemingly small gaffe: The program was launched with brochures distributed on a smart-looking USB flash drives that was made in China.

India imports two-thirds of its electronics, mostly from China. So does much of the world, including the US. The most American of products, from the world’s most valuable company, Apple, is famously designed in California, made in China.

Both manufacturing and services now span enormous global networks, with pockets of strong expertise (like India, in services) supplying to the world.

And so, the enormous spend and resources for “Make in India” would give better returns elsewhere. Such as in our services industry. Or in building up a ecosystem for renewable-energy services and products, so that by 2020, India can dominate that sector.

Here’re five reasons why:

Manufacturing (like services) is a globally-collaborative exercise today involving product design, software, hardware, and testing. The value lies in design, IP and software, and not in manufacturing. Apple manufactures almost all of its products outside the US, mostly in China. But its Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn makes 3 percent margin while Apple, in California, makes 30 percent margin. Value is where IP, design and software are. Not where manufacturing happens.

“Make in India” needs enormous investments in the ecosystem for a gradual build-up. “Local manufacturing” objectives are often an afterthought in India. India’s Aakash tablet — “the world’s cheapest” — was once purely an education project that got delayed and derailed by the “make in India” objective.

The education objective got diluted as focus shifted to manufacturing. But the ecosystem didn’t exist: No single contract manufacturer could supply even a fifth of the numbers required. While the private-brand equivalent Ubislate was made in China and was sold in large numbers in India, the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) Aakash got delayed, and, with the change of government, its fate is uncertain.

Tech manufacturing is no longer dependent on abundant cheap labour as much as other factors, especially capital. For years, India tried to woo Intel and others to set up chipmaking. The most persistent wooing happened when Dayanadhi Maran was IT minister. But, instead of “India” the focus became Tamil Nadu. Now, chip fabs don’t require cheap labour. They need enormous capital investment, subsidised electricity, clean water and silicon, and qualified engineers. India lost the Intel chip fab to Vietnam.

India is now offering a 25 percent subsidy on capital spend and other breaks, for chip fabs, and two fabs are in the works: One near Delhi by a consortium including IBM, and the other in Gujarat, involving STMicroelectronics.

Manufacturing for exports is high-risk, with traditional sectors also approaching a tip-over point in automation beyond which it makes more sense for the West to source locally. Textile manufacturing is returning in pockets from India to the US, because it’s cheaper to make the fabric there in automated mills, there’s better control, and even the overall cost of making full garments isn’t that much higher.

The clothing company American Giant used to buy fabric from India: Now it says it’s cheaper in the US, and the total cost of making a jacket is only about a fifth higher in the US than in India. As the NYT reported the company has switched from a supplier in Haryana to one in South Carolina, where they found the control, quality and timeline justifies the 20 percent higher spend. China has also been facing the displacement of labour in its factories.

There are way more jobs in services than in manufacturing. Wherever you build up competence, there’s a global services opportunity. Whether in software for banking, or services for the space age-launching satellites and sending orbiters to the planets. And services generate enormous number of jobs. Even with increasing automation in services, newer jobs are created.

We are, however, slow to capitalize on global trends, especially when they go against the current grain of business, or when manufacturing may appear to face off with services. India is the world’s BPO back office. But it continues to train hundreds of thousands of youngsters in BPO areas, while the trend is toward increasing automation of both voice (IVRS and voice recognition) and non-voice processes.

The opportunity of the future lies in using our knowledge to design systems and software that will disrupt our own BPO services industry. If we don’t do it, someone else will — an American or European tech company, probably using Indian developers. In this example, the Indian BPO industry will get disrupted anyway, and we won’t get the technology upside.

Our few manufacturing success stories of recent decades, such as in automobiles, show the direction: Target local market first, invest in infrastructure, build up the ecosystem. It’s a very long haul, and in a competitive global marketplace, it’s a tough road. The money is better spent elsewhere.

Prasanto K. Roy is a technology analyst.

(IANS)