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Monday, February 4, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190204



The INF Treaty Is Dead. Is New START Next?

Experts worry about a new arms race after U.S. withdrawal from nuclear pact.

The U.S. decision to withdraw from a nuclear arms treaty with Russia that was a cornerstone of European security in the post-Cold War era could erode other arms control agreements even as it enhances Washington’s ability to respond to growing threats from both Russia and China, according to analysts.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday announced the withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, in what was a long-expected decision by President Donald Trump’s administration.

“For years, Russia has violated the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty without remorse,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “It does no good to sign an agreement if a party’s not going to comply with it.”

While experts and Western officials broadly agree Russia is violating the treaty, they are split on whether the Trump administration’s decision to scrap it is a good idea. NATO supported the U.S. decision, saying in a statement released shortly after Pompeo’s remarks that Russia “continues to deny its INF Treaty violation, refuses to provide any credible response, and has taken no demonstrable steps toward returning to full and verifiable compliance...”

...Bell and other proponents of arms control fear that the Trump administration will feel emboldened to scrap other treaties, particularly the New START agreement. Signed in 2011, the strategic arms treaty limits the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads and delivery systems, and it is due to expire in early 2021 unless Washington and Moscow agree to extend it. Most analysts are in agreement that Russia is adhering to the New START treaty...

...Some experts also say the withdrawal could help the United States stave off China’s growing conventional military power in Asia. Since China has never been a signatory of the INF Treaty, it has been able to build up a vast arsenal of nonnuclear weapons, such as the DF-21 “carrier killer,” that now threaten freedom of navigation in the Pacific.

With the United States released from the treaty’s constraints, it could begin to match China’s growing intermediate-range conventional force arsenal. Experts said a U.S. buildup would likely include mobile, ground-launched ballistic missiles operated by the U.S. Army and stationed on islands in the Pacific Ocean.

“China [and] Iran, for that matter, are not bound by the treaty,” said the senior administration official on the phone call with reporters. “We cannot be the only country bound by a treaty.”

Indeed, last year the then-commander of U.S. Pacific Command warned that the United States’ adherence to the INF Treaty has already eroded its lead in the region...

Trump’s Muscular New Plan to Fend Off Russian and Chinese Missiles

The U.S. president rolled out the most ambitious missile defense strategy since the end of the Cold War.

The United States is seeking potentially the most serious expansion of its missile defense capabilities since the Cold War, with President Donald Trump putting his weight behind an ambitious new plan that explicitly states America’s intent to defeat missiles fired from Russia or China.

In his fifth visit to the Pentagon since he took office two years ago, Trump rolled out the results of the administration’s long-delayed Missile Defense Review, which was initially anticipated by the end of 2017. Putting his presidential clout behind the new strategy, Trump tied a stronger missile defense posture to his long-promised wall along the southern border, saying that, as president, his first duty is “the defense of the country.”

“All over, foreign adversaries—competitors and rogue regimes—are steadily enhancing their missile arsenals,” Trump said in an address at the Pentagon auditorium. “I will accept nothing less for our nation than the best, most cutting-edge missile defense systems.”

The review reflects a more aggressive U.S. position on missile threats. Where previous missile defense reviews focused primarily on rogue states such as North Korea or Iran, the 2019 strategy explicitly addresses threats from Russia and China. The report notes that if deterrence and diplomacy fail and a conflict begins, the United States will target an adversary’s missiles even before they are launched.

“Missile defense necessarily includes missile offense,” said Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan during the rollout event.

As part of the new strategy, the Department of Defense will focus on tighter integration of offensive attack capabilities—both U.S. and allied forces—with existing missile defenses, with the goal of detecting and shooting down an incoming missile much earlier in its flight, according to the report. The document also stresses that regional missile defense systems, such as the THAAD battery in South Korea or the Aegis Weapon System mounted on cruisers and destroyers all over the world, are mobile and can be rushed to conflict zones.

Another key piece is adapting existing systems to strike enemy threats prior to or during a missile launch. The U.S. military is currently testing the possibility that the F-35 fighter jet, which has a state-of-the-art sensor system that can track boosting missiles, could be equipped with an interceptor capable of shooting down an adversary’s ballistic missile in its boost phase—as it is launching.

The review also for the first time addresses the threat of cruise missiles—which are maneuverable and thus much harder to detect, track, and defeat than missiles with a ballistic trajectory—and hypersonic glide vehicles, which are lofted into the atmosphere and glide down more than five times faster than the speed of sound. The decision to include cruise and hypersonic missiles in addition to traditional ballistic threats is directly in response to Russia’s and China’s recent development of these types of weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin has in recent months touted a nuclear-powered cruise missile, an underwater nuclear drone, and an “invulnerable” hypersonic weapon...

US Air Force’s plan to launch light-attack aircraft competition is now deferred indefinitely

WASHINGTON — The start of a competition to provide light-attack aircraft for the U.S. Air Force has been postponed for the foreseeable future, as the service decides the way forward for additional experiments, the Air Force’s No. 2 civilian said Friday.

The Air Force started evaluating light-attack plane offerings in 2017 and was set to release a request for proposals in December 2018 to potentially lead to a program of record. But the service is not ready to commit to a program just yet, and wants to continue the experimentation phase, Under Secretary of the Air Force Matt Donovan told reporters after an Air Force Association event.

"We're going to broaden the scope a little bit,” he said, potentially alluding for the possibility of new aircraft types to enter the competition.

Asked if this meant the two aircraft positioned by the Air Force as potential contenders for a contract — the Sierra Nevada Corp.-Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, and the Textron AT-6 Wolverine — were no longer in the running, Donovan responded: “We’re not excluding anything.”

The Air Force’s decision is a somewhat surprising one. The light-attack experiment began with four aircraft involved in flight tests at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico: the A-29 and AT-6, but also Textron’s Scorpion jet and L3’s AT-802L Longsword.

The AT-6 and A-29 moved onto the second phase of experiments in 2018, which were mostly centered around the planes’ maintainability and network capability...

After years fighting terrorism, the SEALs turn their eyes toward fighting big wars

ARLINGTON, Va. — After spending the better part of the past two decades supporting wars in a desert region, the U.S. Navy is starting to bring the SEALs back into the fold as it faces threats from major powers such as China and Russia.

The Navy is incorporating its elite special warfare teams into strategic calculations for every potential major power combat scenario, from China and Russia to Iran and North Korea, said Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran in a round-table with reporters at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.

The movement toward reconnecting with the blue water force (the Navy’s regular ships, aircraft and submarine forces) started under former Naval Special Warfare Command head Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who retired in 2016. The effort has continued to grow under subsequent commanders, said Moran.

“It’s to the point now where we include them in all of our exercises, our war games, our tabletops — because as much as it is their chance to ‘re-blue,’ it’s our chance to reconnect from the blue side," he added. “We’ve grown used to not having them in a lot of those situations. Now as we’ve done the tabletops, the exercises and the war games, we see: ‘Wow, there is some great capability here that can set the conditions for the kind of operations in every single one of those campaigns.’ And that will continue to grow, I think.”...




In Trump’s World, Nukes Are Self-Defense

As the Japan-U.S. alliance weakens, could Tokyo drop its nuclear weapons ban?

Facing the reality of a nuclear North Korea, worsening relations with ostensible ally South Korea, and an unpredictable partner in Washington, Japan’s government is ramping up its military defenses, shedding many of its postwar taboos. Could the ban on nuclear weapons also be sent to the scrap heap at the same time as the country gets a real army? The idea seems far-fetched, but Japan is increasingly alone in a fast-changing Asian security environment.

Since the advent of the atomic age, Japan has sat comfortably under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, a key element in a defense alliance that is often touted by both U.S. and Japanese officials as the strongest in the world. The treaty, first signed in 1951, provides U.S. security guarantees for a country that had renounced the use of force in its post-World War II constitution, which was largely drafted by Japan’s U.S. occupiers. In exchange, Japan is home to extensive U.S. military bases that have helped to project power into the center of East Asia. The alliance seemed unbreakable. But that was before Donald Trump became U.S. president—a leader ostensibly willing to put everything on the table, with a view of Japan seemingly stuck in the 1980s.

From the cost of military bases to the chronic trade deficit, Trump’s statements have Japanese officials privately worried that the United States might take rash action that would have been unthinkable in previous administrations—such as a deal with North Korea that leaves Japan exposed.

Cementing the warming personal relations between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump were recent comments from Kim ahead of their planned February summit.

“Kim Jong Un said that we will believe in President Trump’s positive way of thinking, wait with patience and in good faith and, together with the U.S., advance step by step toward the goal to be reached by the two countries,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said last Thursday.

The problem for Japan is what that might mean for its security. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News last week that “Chairman Kim continues to assure the president of the United States he is intent on denuclearization”—but promises of denuclearization on one side of the Sea of Japan are prompting backroom talk of going the opposite way on the other.

That would be a huge step. The only country to have seen firsthand the devastation of atomic weapons, Japan has long held a no-nukes policy based on three principles: nonpossession, nonproduction, and nonintroduction of nuclear weapons. It has been a leading force at the United Nations for nonproliferation and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons...

...Yet from a technical standpoint, experts agree that acquiring nuclear weapons would be fairly easy for Japan, taking anywhere from six months to a few years. It has stockpiles from its nuclear power plants of 47 tons of plutonium, enough for around 6,000 nuclear warheads, and the rockets developed for its civilian space program could be rebadged for military purposes. Experts say, however, that developing a full-fledged operational deterrent would be much more complex and much more expensive.

Japan defense scholars also stress that a decision to go nuclear would face a number of political and geopolitical issues, chief among them domestic public opinion. “While there has been a modest increase in support for an enhanced conventional defense force, there is no sign of public support for acquiring nuclear weapons and is in fact at its lowest level ever,” said Corey Wallace, an Asia-Pacific security expert and fellow in the Graduate School of East Asian Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. He also notes that China would be firmly opposed, with fairly serious repercussions on relations that have been improving in recent years...




EU Offers Up a Meager Workaround to U.S. Iran Sanctions

The new vehicle will do little to ease Iran’s economic pain, though it should help humanitarian trade.

After months of trying, the European Union on Thursday finally announced a scheme to partially sidestep the Trump administration’s renewed sanctions on Iran, a bid by Europe to quiet the death rattles of the Iran nuclear deal. But the initiative, of modest economic value if big political symbolism, is unlikely to do much to placate Tehran’s pleas for economic dividends from staying in the deal.

Led by Germany, France, and the U.K.—the three European countries most involved in drafting the 2015 nuclear deal—Europe formally launched INSTEX, a special financial vehicle designed to enable Iran to keep trading with European firms despite Washington’s ban on doing business with the country. The new organization—to be headquartered in France, run by a German, and supervised by the British—will start out enabling trade only in humanitarian items, including food, medicine, and medical devices, diplomats said.

The eventual hope is that the new organization gets buy-in from more EU member states and that it can eventually expand its trade to other items, such as energy and industrial goods. But that depends on the willingness of European firms, especially big ones, to risk U.S. sanctions by doing business with Tehran.

The modest scope of INSTEX, as it finally emerged, stands in sharp contrast to Europe’s original vision for the body. The so-called Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges was meant to prop up the nuclear deal after the U.S. withdrawal last year by allowing Iran to barter oil for European industrial goods without having to use U.S. dollars or go through the U.S. financial system. But those ambitious visions of bucking U.S. financial dominance were undermined by big business itself, wary of falling afoul of the U.S. Treasury. Big European firms that for years champed at the bit to gain (or regain) access to the Iranian market have shown little interest in thwarting the Trump administration, for example, and many have bailed out altogether.

“There’s little sign that major European companies, especially those with significant U.S. exposure, could be convinced to invest in Iran” through the new entity, said Jake Reynolds, a Middle East expert at Wallbrook, a London-based global risk consultancy. “For many companies, the possibility of being blocked from their U.S. customers outweighs any opportunities in the Iranian market.”

And the new initiative comes at a time when Europe’s attitude toward Iran is hardening, after a recent long-range missile test that rattled policymakers and a series of assassinations on European soil that soured relations between many European countries and Tehran. The painful road to INSTEX reflects Europe’s desire to push back against Tehran’s more disruptive behavior while still standing up to U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal, with which Iran has fully complied.

“Despite recent Europe-Iran tensions, European leaders remain committed to upholding the deal as a pillar of their Middle East policy,” Reynolds said.

U.S. officials appeared to shrug off the new European device. A White House spokesperson said that “the United States questions the efficacy of the [special purpose vehicle] and remains committed to fully enforcing its sanctions on the Iranian regime.” A U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Germany warned that companies engaging in “sanctionable activity involving Iran risk severe consequences” but said the new organization would not in any way affect the U.S. campaign to apply maximum financial pressure on Iran.

That might be because the new entity will offer modest, if welcome, benefits for the Iranian economy and people by initially facilitating only trade in food and medicine. Those items are meant to be allowed into Iran even under U.S. sanctions, but many banks are so leery of violating Treasury rules on doing business with Iran that even permitted transactions had suffered.

“It’s not a ‘circumvention’ of U.S. sanctions or anything like that, since all this trade is permitted,” said Brian O’Toole, a former U.S. sanctions official at the Treasury Department who is now at the Atlantic Council...


It’s Time to Trust the Taliban

Afghanistan’s jihadi insurgents are ready to give America what it wants: defeat without humiliation.

In the peace process now underway with the Afghan Taliban, one-and-a-half significant U.S. interests are at stake. The “half” is the only real hang-up to signing a deal and bringing home American troops right now.

For Afghans, of course, the stakes in the present war are different and infinitely higher than for Americans, for whom the only vital interest is also the easiest to achieve: a Taliban agreement not to host international terrorists themselves and to do their utmost to prevent Afghanistan from once again being used as a base for terrorism against the West in general and the United States in particular.

One can be confident that the Taliban would not only agree to this but also follow through on the agreement. It’s not just because Taliban supporters and interlocutors, in public statements and private conversations (including my own), have almost universally, if grimly, acknowledged that hosting al Qaeda in the run-up to 9/11 was a dreadful mistake that cost them their rule over Afghanistan. It’s also because the Taliban are now engaged in a bitter fight with the forces of the Islamic State (who most certainly are anti-Western international terrorists) for control of parts of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s role as an enemy of the Islamic State (as well as prudent preparation for the possible collapse of the U.S.-backed order in Kabul) has led Russia and China to launch talks with the Taliban.

Finally, while the Pakistani military has backed the Afghan Taliban as a client movement against Indian influence in Afghanistan, it has absolutely no interest in encouraging a repeat of 9/11 and the disasters that followed for Pakistan. And if Pakistanis did have any such intention, their Chinese backers (with their own worries about Islamist extremism in Xinjiang) would deter them very strongly.

The second real U.S. interest in the process is what is called in Washington “credibility” but which is better known by its older and more honest name, “prestige”—in this case, the avoidance of obvious and humiliating defeat, which would undermine respect for U.S. strength and embolden U.S. enemies elsewhere. As a U.S. general told me a decade ago, he and his colleagues could not say what victory would look like in Afghanistan, but they could all say what defeat would look like. It would look like Saigon in 1975. In the case of Afghanistan, this would most probably however take the form not of outright Taliban victory but of the collapse of the Afghan state, followed by Taliban victory over large areas and deepened and permanent civil war with other ethnic forces.

Apart from prestige, there is also a concrete U.S. interest in preventing such an outcome. Such a full-scale civil war would lead to a greatly increased flow of Afghan refugees to Europe. Given what happened because of the Syrian refugee crisis, this could deal a death blow to liberal democracy in Europe, and the resulting European nationalist backlash would crush the entire image of U.S.-led democracy in the world. To prevent it, however, would require agreement with and major concessions to Turkey and Iran, undermining America’s geopolitical position in the Middle East...

Afghan Government Control Over Country Falters, U.S. Report Says

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government’s control of its country declined late last year, in terms of both territory and population, according to a United States government report released Thursday.

The report, by the agency of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or Sigar, said that as of Oct. 31, the Afghan government controlled territory on which 63.5 percent of its population lived, a decrease of 1.7 percent from the previous quarter, while gains by the Taliban insurgency gave it control over territory that is home to 10.8 percent of the population.

The agency’s statistics are based on data provided by the American military under a mandate to report to Congress quarterly.

In addition, the Afghan government lost control of seven more districts during the last quarter, meaning that only 53.8 percent of districts were “controlled or influenced” by the government, while 12.3 percent of the districts were under insurgent control or influence and 33.9 percent of districts were contested. Afghanistan’s 407 districts are the basic unit of local governance.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, whose agency issued the report, said in an interview, “It’s like moving the goal posts, something we’ve seen a lot of over the last few years.”

In response to the report, the American military said that such metrics, which have been compiled quarterly for many years, were no longer important and might be based on faulty analysis.

“Measures of population control are not indicative of effectiveness of the South Asia strategy or of progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan, particularly in the wake of the appointment of U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation (SRAR) Zalmay Khalilzad,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The military also said there was “uncertainty” and “subjectivity” in the data used to analyze population control.

Mr. Sopko said that was the first time the military had criticized its own data on population control, which he said appeared to be a response to the increasingly pessimistic picture of government control...


Pentagon Confirms China Will Have A New Tactical Bomber

Jan 21, 2019 Bradley Perrett and Steve Trimble | Aviation Week & Space Technology

In World War II, a fighter-bomber was a fighter that could bomb. They can all bomb now, so the term has fallen out of use—except in China, where it is used for strike aircraft with high flight performance but no serious air-to-air capability.

That is a good clue to the nature of a forthcoming Chinese tactical bomber. Emergence of this type, a smaller companion to the Xian H-20 strategic bomber, has long been rumored but is only now discussed by the Pentagon—which variously calls it a medium-range bomber, a tactical bomber and, tellingly, a fighter-bomber. The terminology, a few scant details and the likely choice of engines suggest that the aircraft will be conceptually similar to the retired U.S. F-111, but maybe a lot bigger and perhaps presenting a serious threat to air targets.

This new Chinese aircraft and the H-20 will “probably” not be initially operational before 2025, says the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in its annual China Military Power report, released on Jan. 15. They will both be stealthy, it adds, though that feature almost goes without saying these days and is in any case imprecisely defined...

The aircraft will probably not be operational before 2025

It appears to have a secondary air-to-air mission..

China tests 'Guam killer' missile it says can strike moving warships

China's military has test-fired its DF-26 intermediate ballistic missile, which reportedly has the capacity to strike moving warships.

- China says the missiles are capable of striking moving aircraft carriers

- The DF-26's range could also allow it to strike the US territory of Guam
- Footage of the missile test did not show it hitting any targets

The missile is nicknamed the "Guam killer" because US military bases on the Pacific island are within its range.

Chinese state media reported that the tests were conducted in an undisclosed location in China's north-west.

Beijing announced that it had deployed the missiles to a desert area in that region earlier this month, one day after a US freedom of navigation exercise in a section of the South China Sea that Beijing claims is its territory.

Footage of the test broadcast on state television showed the missiles being launched into the air, as well as close-up images of its design, but did not feature the weapons striking any targets.

However experts cited by state media tabloid the Global Times said the tests proved the missiles were capable of hitting moving aircraft carriers.

They told the paper that the missile's "double-cone structure", as well as the "information network connected to the warhead" — which could include a variety of radar and satellite systems — would allow the moving target's location to be constantly updated.

China's Ministry of National Defence has previously said the DF-26 missiles were capable of carrying conventional nuclear warheads.

The missiles are believed to be able to strike targets up to 4,500 kilometres away, putting the Pacific island of Guam in range. The US territory hosts Air Force and Navy bases...


EU agency says Iran likely to step up cyber espionage

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Iran is likely to expand its cyber espionage activities as its relations with Western powers worsen, the European Union digital security agency said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo
Iranian hackers are behind several cyber attacks and online disinformation campaigns in recent years as the country tries to strengthen its clout in the Middle East and beyond, a Reuters Special Report published in November found.

This month the European Union imposed its first sanctions on Iran since world powers agreed a 2015 nuclear deal with Teheran, in a reaction to Iran’s ballistic missile tests and assassination plots on European soil.

“Newly imposed sanctions on Iran are likely to push the country to intensify state-sponsored cyber threat activities in pursuit of its geopolitical and strategic objectives at a regional level,” the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) said in a report...




Israel Blocks Iran Cyber-attacks 'Daily': Netanyahu

Israel Flag with Cyber

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused arch-foe Iran of regularly launching cyber-attacks on Israel that the Jewish state blocks each day.

"Iran attacks Israel on a daily basis," he told a cyber conference in Tel Aviv. "We monitor these attacks, we see these attacks and we foil these attacks all the time."

The head of Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency is reported to have warned that Israel was bracing for a state-driven cyber intervention in its April 9 general election.

"Any country can be attacked today with cyber-attacks and every country needs the combination of a national cyber defence effort and a robust cyber security industry," Netanyahu said.

"I think Israel has that... in ways that are in many ways unmatched," he said.

Earlier this month, Israel carried out an air strike on what it said were Iranian targets in Syria, after a missile attack from Syria it blamed on Iran.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air raids in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and advanced arms deliveries to Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Army simulates attack on gas rigs in most complex naval drill in decades

Army simulates attack on gas rigs in most complex naval drill in decades
Gunships fire missiles at cargo freighter acting as enemy vessel in massive exercise meant to prepare for attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah

The Israel Navy this week simulated an attack on the country’s natural gas platforms, including a live-fire test of sea-to-sea missiles to destroy an “enemy ship,” the military said Thursday.

Four Sa’ar-4.5 model corvettes participated in the week-long naval exercise, dubbed “Raging Sea,” which ended on Thursday.

The military said it was the most complex naval drill in decades.

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The exercise included missiles fired from four ships simultaneously at an old cargo freighter acting as an enemy vessel.

“We simulated an enemy ship coming to harm our strategic facilities and, with coordination at sea and in the air, we destroyed it,” said Col. Guy Goldfarb, commander of the navy’s gunships.

Terror groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip have both threatened to attack Israel’s natural gas platforms.

Israel has in recent years transformed into a major gas exporter after major reserves of the resource were discovered in its waters in the Mediterranean.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited an under construction rig site in the Leviathan gas field, some 125 kilometers (80 miles) west of the Israeli port city of Haifa.

“Completion of the Leviathan gas platform and the pumping of gas from this field later in the year is a critical component of the strategic, energy, economic and diplomatic strength of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

The navy said the cargo ship sunk in the exercise — the Eyal, which was due to be scrapped — was meant to simulate an enemy ship transporting fighters to a natural gas platform in order to blow it up.

The Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles used in the exercise were fired from four Sa’ar corvettes at the same time, from a distance of approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles)...


Reports of “Secret” North Korean Missile Bases: Much Ado about Not Much

Daniel R. DePetrisJanuary 28, 2019

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have now agreed to meet for their second summit late next month—perhaps in Vietnam. The announcement from the White House was a welcome shot in the arm to a diplomatic process that has been stuck in neutral since Trump and Kim’s first summit in Singapore last June. Shortly thereafter, US Special Representative Stephen Biegun met for the first time with his North Korean colleague, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, presumably to nail down the agenda for the upcoming summit. Negotiations, or at least the prospects of a more stable diplomatic process, are being reinforced by preparatory work behind the scenes.

This is why the substance and timing of the latest report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), entitled Undeclared North Korea: The Sino-ri Missile Operating Base and Strategic Force Facilities, is regrettable. Like previous CSIS studies on this facility, the report creates a misleading narrative about North Korean motives, intentions and actions at a time when the brittle US-DPRK diplomatic process is struggling to gain altitude. Even more disturbing than the report’s central thesis of North Korean deceit and deception is the media narrative surrounding its release. With on-air reporters speculating about Pyongyang’s deception, the American people are being led to the premature—perhaps even unwarranted—conclusion that Kim Jong Un is up to his old tricks and that diplomacy with North Korea is at best a waste of time and at worst a trap he is laying to take the president to the cleaners...






The U.S. Has Wasted Billions of Dollars on Failed Arab Armies

Military cooperation with Middle East allies can work—if Washington rethinks its premises.

The United States has spent 70 years and tens of billions of dollars training Arab militaries—with almost nothing to show for all the effort.

Time and again, America’s Arab allies have failed to live up to martial expectations. The U.S.-trained Egyptian Armed Forces performed miserably in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. If anything, they did somewhat better under Soviet tutelage in the 1973 October War. The U.S.-trained Iraqi Army collapsed when attacked by a couple thousand Islamic State zealots in 2014. The U.S.-trained Saudi military fell flat on its face when it intervened in Yemen in 2015, and it has become badly stuck there.

If the United States is going to stay involved in the Middle East, it has to rethink the way it engages with Arab militaries. Ambitious dreams of engaged, modernized militaries must be replaced with more realistic plans that build on the real strengths of allies, instead of forcing soldiers into a mold that their societies and culture have left them grossly unsuited for. Otherwise Washington will keep pouring money down the drain—and its Arab allies will keep failing.

This is not just embarrassing. For decades, U.S. military training was a critical element of alliances with allies in the Middle East, designed to demonstrate commitment to their security and give them the ability to help America protect their countries. In recent years, Americans have begun to eye an exit from the Middle East, but few want to walk away and have Iran, Hezbollah, the Islamic State, al Qaeda, or other U.S. enemies take over as the United States departs. In an ideal world, America would leave behind strong Arab allies, able to defend themselves from their common foes. But that seems as far away today as it did when the United States first started training Arab armed forces back in the 1950s...


US Navy moves toward unleashing killer robot ships on the world’s oceans

WASHINGTON — The world’s largest navy has spent the last few years feeling like it was being put in check.

China and Russia have heavily invested in anti-access technologies aimed at holding its main force-projection assets — aircraft carriers — at risk. Now the U.S. Navy and the upper ranks of the military are preparing to take back control of the game board, and it’s looking to unmanned technologies to help.

The U.S. surface fleet has for the past few years sought to flip the script on actors such as China. The fleet aimed to move from a role of simply defending the carrier to going on the offensive.

The goal was to spread out over a wide area to strain Chinese intelligence and reconnaissance assets and thereby exercise a degree of sea control in places such as the South and East China seas that China seeks to deny with long-range, anti-ship missiles and an ever-growing fleet.

Initially, the push was to add big surface combatants to hold down the Navy’s hefty commitments for peacetime presence while maintaining enough firepower to both defend themselves and project power in an anti-access environment.

The Navy plans to spend this year taking the first few steps into a markedly different future, which, if it comes to pass, will upend how the fleet has fought since the Cold War. And it all starts with something that might seem counterintuitive: It’s looking to get smaller.

“Today, I have a requirement for 104 large surface combatants in the force structure assessment; I have 52 small surface combatants,” said Surface Warfare Director Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall. “That’s a little upside down. Should I push out here and have more small platforms? I think the future fleet architecture study has intimated ‘yes,’ and our war gaming shows there is value in that.”

The paradigm shift is moving the fleet away from platforms like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers — enormous, tightly packed ships bristling with capabilities, weapons and sensors, but enormously expensive to build, maintain and upgrade.

“It’s a shift in mindset that says, instead of putting as much stuff on the ship for as much money as I have, you start thinking in a different way,” Boxall said in a December interview. “You start saying: ‘How small can my platform be to get everything I need to be on it?’

“We want everything to be only as big as it needs to be. You make it smaller and more distributable, given all dollars being about equal. And when I look at the force, I think: ‘Where can we use unmanned so that I can push it to a smaller platform?’ ”

The Navy is getting ready to find out.

Inside Boxall’s OPNAV N96 shop, officials are preparing a request for information from industry for two new classes of manned or optionally manned warships: a medium sensor platform along the lines of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Sea Hunter, and a large unmanned surface combatant able to carry sensors and weapons — an unmanned ship on a scale never yet attempted...

Justice Dept. Alerting Victims of North Korean Botnet Infections

US officials disrupt North Korea's Joanap attack infrastructure.
The US Department of Justice today announced that it is notifying US victims whose computers are infected with malware used by North Korea to build out its massive Joanap botnet.

Joanap is a major attack infrastructure used by North Korea for cyberattack campaigns. The botnet is made up of Windows-based machines worldwide.

"The search warrants and court orders announced today as part of our efforts to eradicate this botnet are just one of the many tools we will use to prevent cybercriminals from using botnets to stage damaging computer intrusions," said United States Attorney Nick Hanna.

The search warrant gave the FBI and Air Force permission to sinkhole infected machines and map the botnet's scope. The FBI also is working with foreign governments to alert victims in their countries.

Cyberattacks: China and Russia can disrupt US power networks warns intelligence report

Countries could launch damaging attacks against gas pipelines and electricity grid, says assessment.

Both China and Russia now have the capabilities to launch cyberattacks that could at least temporarily disrupt US critical infrastructure such as gas pipelines or power networks, according to intelligence officials.

The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community is a document published each year, which itemises the significant threats to the US and its allies.

It said that currently China and Russia pose the greatest espionage and cyberattack threats to the US but also warned that other adversaries and strategic competitors will increasingly build and integrate cyber espionage, attack, and influence capabilities into their efforts to influence US policies.

It warned that rivals to the US have experimented with growing capabilities to "shape and alter the information and systems" that the country relies on...


Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community. January 29, 2019.

Threats to US national security will expand and diversify in the coming year, driven in part by China and Russia as they respectively compete more intensely with the United States and its traditional allies and partners. This competition cuts across all domains, involves a race for technological and military superiority, and is increasingly about values. Russia and China seek to shape the international system and regional security dynamics and exert influence over the politics and economies of states in all regions of the world and especially in their respective backyards.

- China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s, and the relationship is likely to strengthen in the coming year as some of their interests and threat perceptions converge, particularly regarding perceived US unilateralism and interventionism and Western promotion of democratic values and human rights.

- As China and Russia seek to expand their global influence, they are eroding once well- established security norms and increasing the risk of regional conflicts, particularly in the Middle East and East Asia.

- At the same time, some US allies and partners are seeking greater independence from Washington in response to their perceptions of changing US policies on security and trade and are becoming more open to new bilateral and multilateral partnerships.

- The post-World War II international system is coming under increasing strain amid continuing cyber and WMD proliferation threats, competition in space, and regional conflicts. Among the disturbing trends are hostile states and actors’ intensifying online efforts to influence and interfere with elections here and abroad and their use of chemical weapons.
- Terrorism too will continue to be a top threat to US and partner interests worldwide, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. The development and application of new technologies will introduce both risks and opportunities, and the US economy will be challenged by slower global economic growth and growing threats to US economic competitiveness.

- Migration is likely to continue to fuel social and interstate tensions globally, while drugs and transnational organized crime take a toll on US public health and safety. Political turbulence is rising in many regions as governance erodes and states confront growing public health and environmental threats. Issues as diverse as Iran’s adversarial behavior, deepening turbulence in Afghanistan, and the rise of nationalism in Europe all will stoke tensions.

Long-Range Emerging Threats Facing the United States

Threats to U.S. national security continue to evolve with technological, economic, and social changes. Federal agencies identified 26 long-term threats within 4 categories:
1) Adversaries' Political and Military Advancements—e.g., China's increasing ability to match the U.S. military's strength.
2) Dual-Use Technologies—e.g., self-driving cars might be developed for private use, but militaries can use them too.
3) Weapons—advances in weapons technology, e.g., cyberweapons.
4) Events and Demographic Changes—e.g., infectious disease outbreaks.

Homegrown Violent Extremist Mobilization Indicators - 2019 [DNI]

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) emphasize that many of the indicators described herein may involve constitutionally protected activities and might be insignificant on their own. However, when observed in combination with other suspicious behaviors, these indicators may raise suspicion in a reasonable person and constitute a basis for reporting. Law enforcement action should not be taken solely based on the exercise of constitutionally protected rights, or on the apparent or actual race, ethnicity, national origin or religion of the subject, or on any combination of these factors. Individuals are encouraged to contact law enforcement if, based on these indicators and the situational context, they suspect an individual is mobilizing to violence.


Exclusive: Iraqi scientist says he helped ISIS make chemical weapons

In the weeks after his city fell to the Islamic State, Iraqi scientist Suleiman al-Afari sat in his deserted government office and waited for the day when the terrorists would show up.

The black-clad militants who had seized Mosul in 2014 were making their way through each of its bureaucracies, rounding up workers and managers who had not yet fled the city and pressing them into service. When his turn came, Afari, then a 49-year-old geologist with Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Minerals, hoped his new bosses would simply let him keep his job. To his surprise, they offered him a new one:

Help us make chemical weapons, the Islamic State’s emissaries said.

Afari knew little about the subject, but he accepted the assignment. And so began his 15-month stint supervising the manufacture of lethal toxins for the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

“Do I regret it? I don’t know if I’d use that word,” said Afari, who was captured by U.S. and Kurdish soldiers in 2016 and is now a prisoner in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region. He frowned, his fingers flicking a gray-stubbled cheek.

“They had become the government and we now worked for them,” he said. “We wanted to work so we could get paid.”

The Islamic State began a program in 2014 to make chemical weapons using both chlorine and a World War I-era toxin known as sulfur mustard. (The Washington Post)

Afari, who is 52 now and on death row, recounted his recruitment and life under the Islamic State in a rare interview inside the fortresslike headquarters of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Counterterrorism Department. An affable, neatly groomed man, Afari is among the few known participants in the Islamic State’s chemical weapons program to be captured alive.

He described in matter-of-fact detail the terrorist group’s successful attempts to make sulfur mustard — a first-generation chemical weapon that inflicted tens of thousands of casualties during World War I — as part of an ambitious, little-understood effort to create novel weapons and delivery systems to defend the Islamic State’s territory and terrorize its opponents. His account was confirmed and augmented by U.S. and Kurdish officials who participated in missions to destroy the Islamic State’s weapons plants and to kill or capture its senior leaders...


Stratolaunch Terminates Rocket Engine, Launcher Programs

Jan 19, 2019 Guy Norris | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

LOS ANGELES -- Air launch space company Stratolaunch has abandoned development of a family of dedicated launchers and PGA rocket engines destined for deployment from the company’s very large carrier aircraft currently poised for first flight at Mojave, California.

The shocking move comes just weeks after Stratolaunch achieved the first long-duration runs on its ”PGA” rocket engine’s pre-burner in tests at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi-and only three months after the death of Stratolaunch founder Paul Allen. Described by Stratolaunch leaders as “the world’s most efficient hydrogen engine,” the PGA was expected to begin full-scale testing in 2020 and was to power a family of launchers unveiled by the company.

Although Stratolaunch has given no explanation for the abrupt cancellation of the ambitious project, development costs are thought to have risen steeply as testing accelerated. The company says only that “we are streamlining operations, focusing on the aircraft and our ability to support a demonstration launch of the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launch vehicle. We are immensely proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to first flight in 2019.”

The Stratolaunch launcher family was to be based on a pair of modular expendable rockets, the first of which was a medium launch vehicle (MLV) capable of transporting 7,400 lb. (3,400 kg) to a 400-km circular orbit at 28.5 deg. inclination and targeted for first flight in 2022. The larger version, the MLV-heavy, consisted of three MLV cores and was designed to carry 13,230 lb. (6,000 kg) to a similar orbit. The vehicles were all due to be powered by the same basic PGA engine. The project also included a medium payload reusable space plane, dubbed Black Ice, which was expected to follow later in the 2020s...

The U.S. Sought to Derail Michelle Bachelet’s Bid for Top U.N. Human Rights Job

The Trump administration was troubled by her views on abortion, Israel, and Latin America.

The Trump administration mounted an unsuccessful campaign last year to derail the appointment of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, claiming her political views on Israel were troubling and citing photographs in which she appeared alongside “Latin American dictators.”

The effort was documented in a confidential Sept. 6 memo that Nikki Haley, then-U.S. ambassador to United Nations, wrote to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, detailing U.S. and Israeli objections to Bachelet’s appointment and the manner in which her selection was handled.

In the memo, which was reviewed by Foreign Policy, Haley complained that questions Washington had raised repeatedly about Bachelet’s political qualifications for the job were ignored. While the memo does not say that the United States explicitly called on the U.N. to block Bachelet’s appointment, it makes clear that Washington firmly opposed it and tried to stall the hiring process until it could make its case.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations declined to address the specific claims in the memo, but a spokesperson from the mission said U.S. concerns with Bachelet’s nomination were not new. “We appropriately expressed these concerns in addition to our concerns with her appointment process as we would for any high-level U.N. appointee—through direct, private communications with the secretary-general’s office,” the spokesperson said.

A State Department spokesman added that “it should come as no surprise that the United States assesses carefully the qualification of individuals considered for senior U.N. positions. All U.N. member states do so according to their own interests, and none should apologize for it.”

The campaign against Bachelet came at a time when the Trump administration was growing increasingly hostile to U.N. human rights institutions, which it complains are biased against Israel and draw excessive attention to human rights abuses by the United States.

The U.N. scrutinizes the human rights records of all of its member states.

The United States has frequently clashed with previous U.N. high commissioners, including Bachelet’s immediate predecessor, Jordan’s Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who regularly criticized President Donald Trump’s verbal attacks on journalists and migrants...

Report: China, Russia, Others Developing Super-EMP Bombs

A new Congressional report claims China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran are making nuclear bombs powerful enough to create super-electromagnetic pulse (EMP) waves that can destroy electronics over wide swaths of land.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, the countries have nuclear EMP weapons built into their military plans.

"Nuclear EMP attack is part of the military doctrines, plans, and exercises of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran for a revolutionary new way of warfare against military forces and civilian critical infrastructures by cyber, sabotage, and EMP," reads the report from the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack.

"This new way of warfare is called many things by many nations: In Russia, China, and Iran it is called Sixth Generation Warfare, Non-Contact Warfare, Electronic Warfare, Total Information Warfare, and Cyber Warfare."

The nuclear bombs being developed, according to the report, could take out all electronics, ranging from computers and cell phones to entire electric grids, over several hundred miles.

The EMP attacks would involve detonating nuclear weapons far above the ground, which would then send EMP pulses to the Earth and knock offline all electronics in their path.

"A single nuclear weapon can potentially make an EMP attack against a target the size of North America," the report reads. "Any nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 30 kilometers or higher will generate a potentially catastrophic EMP."

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