ASPI suggests
13 Nov 2015| and

Welcome back to ASPI Suggests after a week in which we paused to remember those who died or suffered for Australia’s cause in all wars and armed conflicts.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party is reported to have taken about 80% of declared seats in Myanmar’s first national election since the civilian government was introduced in 2011. The New Yorker looks at whether Suu Kyi—a celebrated symbol of democracy and Nobel Peace Prize laureate—and the NLD will be able to control the country’s military.

On a related note, the US Studies Centre this week released the first of its reports into the emerging US security partnerships in Southeast Asia, focusing on prospects for the development of a limited security partnership between Myanmar and the US (PDF). The USSC’s project will take Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia as case studies, with the Indonesian report set to be released next week—watch this space! Also on Southeast Asia, the East-West Center has published a short piece on how the new Guidelines for US–Japan Defense Cooperation will impact on the region, calling for the nations to strengthen their unity within ASEAN in the face of negative outcomes from major power dynamics in the Asia–Pacific.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will speak to an expected crowd of 55,000 at Wembley Stadium in London later today. After his Bharatiya Janata Party’s dismal loss in Bihar state elections earlier this week, it’ll be important that the rally shows strength and support for the politician as it’s broadcasted in India. And if all else fails, the rally will at the very least involve the largest fireworks display ever seen in the UK.

Looking to the Middle East, the Iraqi city of Sinjar fell under fire on Thursday as Kurdish Peshmerga forces backed by US Special Operations-coordinated airstrikes aimed to take the city back from ISIS. Sinjar is important both strategically and symbolically: recapturing it would disrupt the ISIS supply line that runs from Mosul to Raqqa, and it’s also the location where thousands of ethnic Yazidis were massacred and enslaved last year. For a good overview of the significance of the city and the offensive, take a look at this piece at The Wall Street Journal. For a longer look at the success Syrian Kurds have had in building a ‘quasi state that is astonishingly safe’, read Jonathan Steele at The New York Review of Books.

Over the past few weeks Ahmad Chalabi passed away, Tony Blair made a qualified apology on Iraq and George H. W. Bush told us what he really thinks about the service of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in his son’s administration. As it seems that everything old is new again, it should come as no surprise to hear that the Pentagon is expected to ‘this week’ announce a plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, as Obama again pushes to come good on his 2009 executive order to shutter the facility.

And with the New Year’s holiday period on the horizon, the Commander of the US Special Operations Command has continued the recent tradition of releasing his reading list for 2016. The collection ranges from tomes on leadership and strategy through to those that consider ‘The Threat’, intelligence and technology & innovation. Muck in here (PDF).


Brookings’ Will McCants, author of The ISIS Apocalypse: The history, strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State, was interviewed on CBC Radio this week, where he discussed the early life and rising power of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Listen to the conversation here (25 mins).

In the face of shifting power dynamics in the Asia–Pacific, Foreign Policy hosted an interesting debate (50 mins) between Rosa Brooks, Kori Schake, David Rothkopf and Ed Luce on whether or not the US is ceding its position as global innovation hegemon to the East, and who the US’ most important strategic partnerships of the future may be.


A VICE News filmmaker recently spent over a month shadowing the Syrian arm of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, as the group wages a battle against both Assad’s military and Islamic State. The documentary piece takes stock of Jabhat al-Nusra’s successes and challenges, and includes interviews with senior commanders on the subject of military doctrine.

This week saw the release of a new report, Working With a Rising India: A Joint Venture for the New Century, authored by the Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored Independent Task Force. The report was launched with a panel discussion and a Q&A, and is well worth a watch for those interested in the trajectory of the US–India ‘joint venture’. Catch up with the video here, and the full report here.


Canberra: Mark your calendar for next Tuesday 17 November so that you don’t miss Danielle Cave on the intersection between Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement. Sign up here.

On 23 November, DFAT chief Peter Varghese will deliver the 2015 John Gee Memorial Lecture on the topic of Australia and the challenge of weapons of mass destruction. Register online.