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Monday, September 2, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190902



5 times in history enemies shot down a US drone, By: Cal Pringle

A Navy Global Hawk drone was shot down by Iran on June 20, 2019. (Erik Hildebrandt / Navy)
On Aug. 20, the United States linked the downing of an MQ-9 Reaper over Yemen by Houthi forces to Iran. Iran has supplied Houthi fighters with weapons and missiles in the past and the attack on the Reaper, reported by CNN, follows a summer of forces exchanging fires and downing drones.

Most notably, this summer included the June 20 shoot-down of a U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk over the Strait of Hormuz by Iran. But these events are not entirely uncommon.

Unmanned aircraft have been a part of U.S. military operations since World War II and have led to leaps and bounds in mission capabilities. Drones allow the armed forces to undertake missions that would be too risky or impossible with manned aircraft, and uncertainty as to their presence in future military conflict is all but guaranteed. Countries around the world will increasingly operate on the drone axis, developing capabilities to both employ and combat against drones. After the expensive, high-profile destruction of a Global Hawk in Iran, some historical context of the destruction of U.S. drones by hostile forces is in order...

With that recent context, here is a retrospective of U.S. drones shot down by enemy forces...

One Small Step for Trump’s Space Force

The United States officially resurrects U.S. Space Command, but the fight for a Space Force is not yet done.

The United States on Thursday reestablished U.S. Space Command as the military’s operational arm in space, but the fate of President Donald Trump’s promised “Space Force” is still up in the air.

The original U.S. Space Command, created in 1985 to coordinate the space operations of the different armed services, was disbanded in 2002 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The new version is the first step in the Trump administration’s response to China and Russia’s emerging capability to disrupt U.S. space operations—through electronic jamming, shooting down satellites, and more...




U.S., Japan: A Trade Deal Offers Welcome Relief for U.S. Corn and Wheat Producers

The Big Picture

The White House's ongoing negotiations with Japan have provided a relative bright spot amid the host of trade wars the United States has now embroiled itself in — the largest and most volatile being with China. Tokyo and Washington are now slated to have a concrete trade agreement on the table by late September, carrying with it the potential for a boost in Japanese purchases of U.S. agricultural exports.

What Happened

On Aug. 25, U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced an agreement in principle for a trade deal to be signed around the next U.N. General Assembly session on Sept. 24. While many of the details remain unknown, under the reported framework, the deal would put U.S. agricultural access to Japan on par with the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement, including up to $7 billion worth of U.S. products such as beef, pork, dairy, wine and ethanol.

Crucially for the White House, Trump noted that Japan will also make unspecified large purchases of U.S. wheat and corn. For Japan's part, its main goal in trade talks has been to avoid the blow of a threatened 25 percent U.S. automotive tariff, with a secondary hope of greater access to the U.S. market for industrial goods. But while the framework deal would reportedly lower industrial tariffs on unspecified Japanese products, it most notably would not include automobiles. Neither side has confirmed whether or not Tokyo will now be exempted from the White House's automotive tariff threat. According to leaks, Washington's existing 2.5 percent tariff on Japanese automotive exports is slated for a separate discussion between the two countries..

Japan, U.S.: Countries Reach Framework for Trade Deal, Reports Say

- What Happened: Japan and the United States have agreed on a framework for a trade agreement that will reportedly leave U.S. tariffs on Japanese automotive imports in place, while Tokyo will lower its duties on beef and pork imports from the United States, Reuters reported Aug. 23. According to Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, working-level talks between both sides will continue to work out the details of the agreement.

- Why It Matters: If confirmed, the agreement would give U.S. President Donald Trump a political victory as he's been seeking to gain greater access for U.S. agricultural products to Japanese markets.

- Background: The United States and Japan entered bilateral talks toward reaching a trade deal in late 2018 after Washington threatened to impose steep tariffs on automotive imports from Japan.




26 killed in fiery attack on bar in southern Mexico

Gang members burst into a bar, blocked all the exits and then started a fire that killed 26 people and injured about a dozen others, Mexican officials said Wednesday.

Authorities said the attack in the Gulf coast city of Coatzacoalcos late Tuesday apparently was overseen by a man who had been recently arrested but released.

"The criminals went in, closed the doors, the emergency exits, and set fire to the place," President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at his daily morning news conference.

Veracruz state police said the attack targeted the "Bar Caballo Blanco," or "White Horse Bar." It advertised "quality, security and service," private rooms for $7.50 "all night," ''sexy girls" and a pole dance contest.

It is located just off a busy commercial street in Coatzacoalcos, a city whose main industry has long been oil and oil refining.

On Wednesday afternoon, relatives of the victims gathered anxiously outside state prosecutors' offices with photos that could be used to identify their loved ones...


Khalilzad Edges Closer to Pact With Taliban

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghan reconciliation, is on the verge of an agreement with the Taliban that would pave the way for the withdrawal of some 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees that the war-wracked nation would not be used as a haven for international terrorism, according to diplomatic sources.

Khalilzad will now mount a final push to persuade Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, to accept the agreement ahead of the country’s Sept. 28 presidential election. If a deal is clinched, the United States will hold a signing ceremony with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, before an audience of representatives from key world powers, including from the region, Europe, and possibly China and Russia...


Casting an Eye on the Belt and Road Initiative

It's billed as the new Silk Road, but China's Belt and Road Initiative is much more ambitious than that, as countries on every continent have signed up to partner with Beijing on massive infrastructure projects. From Jamaica to New Zealand and Pakistan to Uruguay, countries have rushed to get their hands on some of the $70 billion in investments and $400 billion in loans that China is dangling to attract potential partners...

Photos reveal progress on China’s largest amphibious assault ship

By: Mike Yeo

Chinese naval officers march pass Tiananmen Square during the National Day parade in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2009. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP)
MELBOURNE, Australia — Recent photos reveal the construction of China’s largest amphibious assault ship is progressing at a shipyard in the metropolis of Shanghai, as the country strives to plug gaps in its military’s amphibious capabilities.

One photo, taken from a boat sailing on the Huangpu River, which runs through Shanghai, eastern China, shows the main bridge structure has recently been joined to the hull of the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship.

Other photos taken from surrounding buildings and within China State Shipbuilding Corporation’s Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard have also been posted online, with one taken from the rear showing the configuration of the stern elevator and part of the well dock...

Exclusive: China denies Qingdao port visit for U.S. warship amid tensions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China has denied a request for a U.S. Navy warship to visit the Chinese port city of Qingdao in recent days, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on Tuesday, at a time of tense ties between the world’s two largest economies.

This marks at least the second time China has denied a request by the United States this month, having earlier rejected a request for two U.S. Navy ships to visit Hong Kong, as the political crisis in the former British colony deepened.

The defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the destroyer was supposed to visit on Sunday but China denied the request prior to that...

U.S. military warships have occasionally made visits to China, most recently in 2017, the defense official said. The last U.S. Navy ship to visit Qingdao was the destroyer Benfold in 2016.


Trump Unlikely to Support Macron’s Plan to Revive Iran Deal

By Helene Fouquet and Nick Wadhams August 24, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron pitched U.S. President Donald Trump on a plan to end the standoff over the Iran nuclear deal -- by allowing Iran to sell oil for a limited period of time in exchange for returning to talks and to compliance with the agreement.

The proposal was described by a French official after Macron and Trump sat down to an impromptu lunch that stretched for two hours at the Group of Seven Summit in Biarritz, France. A senior U.S. official termed the plan a non-starter.

The U.S. in the past has resisted any compromise that allowed Iran to resume selling oil, which is sharply restricted by U.S. sanctions. That’s why ending the impasse and putting the deal back together is so difficult: Iran’s No. 1 demand to come back to the bargaining table is that it be allowed to sell oil to help its struggling economy.

The French official described a plan that would occur in two phases. Iran would be allowed to sell some volume of its oil in exchange for a series of commitments: return to compliance with the existing agreement, find ways to lower tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a spate of tanker seizures, and return to structured talks on missiles, regional issues and what happens after 2025, when the current agreement is set to expire...

Iranian Rocket Launch Ends In Failure, Imagery Shows

Satellite imagery shared exclusively with NPR shows that an Iranian rocket appears to have exploded on the launch pad Thursday.

The imagery from the commercial company Planet and shared via the Middlebury Institute of International Studies shows smoke billowing from the pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran. The pad had been given a fresh coat of paint in recent days, and numerous vehicles had been spotted around the site in preparation for the launch attempt...

U.S. Cyberattack Hurt Iran’s Ability to Target Oil Tankers, Officials Say

WASHINGTON — A secret cyberattack against Iran in June wiped out a critical database used by Iran’s paramilitary arm to plot attacks against oil tankers and degraded Tehran’s ability to covertly target shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, at least temporarily, according to senior American officials.

Iran is still trying to recover information destroyed in the June 20 attack and restart some of the computer systems — including military communications networks — taken offline, the officials said.

Senior officials discussed the results of the strike in part to quell doubts within the Trump administration about whether the benefits of the operation outweighed the cost — lost intelligence and lost access to a critical network used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s paramilitary forces.

The United States and Iran have long been involved in an undeclared cyberconflict, one carefully calibrated to remain in the gray zone between war and peace. The June 20 strike was a critical attack in that ongoing battle, officials said, and it went forward even after President Trump called off a retaliatory airstrike that day after Iran shot down an American drone...


How a Proxy War Could Blow Up Iraq—Again
With the country barely stabilizing after 16 years of conflict, war-weary Iraqis fear a new eruption of attacks by the U.S. and Israel against Iranian-backed forces inside the country.
BY PESHA MAGID | AUGUST 28, 2019, 5:01 PM

BAGHDAD—When a mysterious drone strike killed two members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) on Sunday—and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that his country might be involved—it was only the latest sign to war-weary Iraqis that they can’t get a break. Just as they’re getting on their feet, Iraq is becoming a battleground for foreigners once again.

The PMF is an amalgam of paramilitary brigades, many of which are linked to Iran, that helped to oust the Islamic State from Iraq in late 2017. Since then, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, under pressure from Washington, has sought to integrate the brigades into the Iraqi armed forces in hopes of finally stabilizing a country torn by 16 years of nearly nonstop conflict since the U.S. invasion in 2003...


The Israel-Iran Shadow War Escalates and Breaks Into the Open
By David M. Halbfinger, Ben Hubbard and Ronen Bergman

JERUSALEM — Israel has carried out a series of attacks across the Middle East in recent weeks to prevent Iran from equipping its Arab allies with precision-guided missiles, drones and other sophisticated weapons that could challenge Israel’s defenses.

The attacks represent a new escalation in the shadow war between Iran and Israel, which has broken into the open and threatens to set off a wider confrontation.

In one 18-hour period over the weekend, an Israeli airstrike killed two Iranian-trained militants in Syria, a drone set off a blast near a Hezbollah office in Beirut’s southern suburbs and an airstrike in Qaim, Iraq, killed a commander of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia.

Israel accuses Iran of trying to establish an overland arms-supply line through Iraq and northern Syria to Lebanon. The attacks, only one of which Israel has publicly acknowledged, were aimed at stopping Iran and signaling to its proxies that Israel will not tolerate a fleet of smart missiles on its borders, officials and analysts said.

Israel, Lebanon: Hezbollah Preparing 'Calculated Strike' Against Israel After Drone Incident, Sources Say

What Happened: Hezbollah is planning a "calculated strike" against Israel to retaliate against what it claims were two Israeli drones armed with explosives that crashed Aug. 25 in Beirut, according to sources close to the group, Reuters reported Aug. 27.

Why It Matters: Although Hezbollah is reportedly planning a limited response to avoid escalating tensions with Israel, the scope and scale of the group's retaliation will determine whether the incident remains isolated or spirals into a broader conflict.

Background: Israel has been striking Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria for multiple years to interdict arms shipments and supplies from Iran to Lebanon, but has been warier about striking in Lebanon itself. The two drones that crashed in a southern suburb of Beirut under unclear circumstances over the weekend prompted Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to threaten retaliation against Israel.


North Korea: 2 Short-Range Ballistic Missiles Fired Into Sea of Japan Aug 24, 2019

- What Happened: North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles from its east coast into the Sea of Japan early on Aug. 24 local time, according to Japan's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Yonhap reported.

- Why It Matters: The timing of the launch is notable as it comes just after the conclusion of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills. Although the test marks Pyongyang's seventh launch in recent weeks, all fall within North Korean promises to the United States that it will refrain from longer-range tests.

- Background: U.S.-North Korean outreach made little progress in recent weeks despite a surprise summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader at the Demilitarized Zone and a letter by Kim to Trump saying talks could continue after the conclusion of U.S.-South Korean drills.


Russia's New Arms Give the U.S. Room for Pause

- The recent failure of a Russian Burevestnik missile test highlights the numerous deficiencies in the weapon's development, yet Russia will continue to prioritize the development of the missile and other offensive strategic weapon systems.

- In so doing, Russia will aim to boost its deterrence and negate U.S. missile defense capabilities as much as possible.

- Because the Kremlin has prioritized the operational deployment of some programs — despite the technical challenges they face — the United States will be forced to upgrade its overall missile defense systems and strategic capabilities.

The incident itself had immediate and drastic effects: five dead and a spike in radiation that was up to 16 times higher than normal. But the larger fallout from the Aug. 8 explosion of a nuclear-powered cruise missile on Russia's White Sea coast has drawn renewed attention to the development of some of the country's newest, high-tech strategic weapons. The development of the weapon in question fits into Moscow's broader effort to maintain its nuclear deterrent. While Russia's ambitions are pushing the boundaries of its capabilities in some of these projects — to even deadly results, as the most recent case demonstrates — the overall effort will undoubtedly force the United States into a response...

Russia: National Guard Launches Countrywide Riot Police Recruitment Drive

What Happened: The Russian National Guard has launched a nationwide recruitment drive for anti-riot forces in Moscow, The Moscow Times reported Aug. 27.

Why It Matters: Moscow's new recruitment push reflects the Russian government's anticipation of renewed demonstrations and potential unrest during and after upcoming regional elections on Sept. 8.

Background: Protesters have been gathering in Moscow since July to demonstrate against a decision by local authorities to bar opposition candidates from running in regional elections.


The Saudi Monarchy Catches Up With Its Millennials

By Ryan Bohl

If you subscribe to the official narrative, Saudi Arabia is evolving with the times. The monarchy, after all, has adjusted its stance on women's rights, broadened cultural experiences and softened taboos that would have once led to lethal consequences for those breaking them.

Yet in many ways, the monarchy is just catching up with its younger generations of Saudis, rather than shepherding them into new mindsets. Members of those generations, especially the ones born after 1980 (including heir apparent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, born in 1985), have shared experiences that have fundamentally shaped worldviews — moving them out of alignment with the conservative clerics who, until recently, most defined the kingdom's moral and cultural compass...

The UAE Revisits Its Foreign Policy Goals With New Tactics

- The Emiratis are repositioning themselves to decrease the likelihood that their actions will trigger a general war with Iran, even as they cannot control all the other factors that could ignite such a conflict.

- The country's pullback from Yemen represents an adjustment to the diplomatic, political and military risks of its intervention, but Abu Dhabi will not abandon its overall strategy to either reduce Iran's influence in Yemen or combat Sunni extremists there.
- Because it is highly dependent on the Trump administration's goodwill amid Congress' hostility, the United Arab Emirates will only have a finite window of opportunity to shore up its relationship with the United States.

The goals haven't changed, but the methods of achieving them have, at least as far as the United Arab Emirates is concerned regarding foreign policy. In recent weeks, Abu Dhabi has raised eyebrows by conducting a partial pullout from its war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, while at the same time pursuing low-level maritime talks with Tehran to manage its relations with its great regional nemesis...


Follow the Digital Silk Road
China’s tech prowess offers business opportunities – but also security concerns – for Southeast Asian nations. So how will the United States respond?
By BRIAN HARDING Apr 1, 2019

Southeast Asia is home to many of China’s most high-profile Belt and Road Initiative projects, including Kyaukpyu port in Myanmar, a high-speed railway in northern Laos and nowstalled rail and pipeline projects in Malaysia. While these physical infrastructure projects have attracted widespread attention, China’s involvement in the region’s digital infrastructure has been far less examined despite holding the potential to have even greater strategic importance in the coming years.

Southeast Asia’s rapidly growing economies, buoyed by young populations living in some of the world’s most digitized societies, offer tremendous business opportunities for information and communication technology (ICT) companies from around the world. However, Southeast Asia’s strategic importance for China, the United States, Japan and others, and the advantages that will come with control over data flows, mean that the region’s decisions on digital infrastructure and Internet governance will have implications that far transcend business outcomes. The United States, Japan and other countries have begun to focus considerable attention on this issue, but the challenge of competing with China in an environment in which its companies enjoy substantial advantages over competitors due in part to government support is daunting...

China’s Next Naval Target Is the Internet’s Underwater Cables

Worried about Huawei’s 5G? Wait till it gets into the game for 95 percent of all data and voice traffic.

By James Stavridis

As the West considers the threat posed by China’s naval ambitions, there is a natural tendency to place overarching attention on the South China Sea. This is understandable: Consolidating it would provide Beijing with a huge windfall of oil and natural gas, and a potential chokehold over up to 40 percent of the world’s shipping.

But this is only the most obvious manifestation of Chinese maritime strategy. Another key element, one that’s far harder to discern, is Beijing’s increasing influence in constructing and repairing the undersea cables that move virtually all the information on the internet. To understand the totality of China’s “Great Game” at sea, you have to look down to the ocean floor.

While people tend think of satellites and cell towers as the heart of the internet, the most vital component is the 380 submerged cables that carry more than 95 percent of all data and voice traffic between the continents. They were built largely by the U.S. and its allies, ensuring that (from a Western perspective, at least) they were “cleanly” installed without built-in espionage capability available to our opponents. U.S. internet giants including Google, Facebook and Amazon are leasing or buying vast stretches of cables from the mostly private consortia of telecom operators that constructed them.

But now the Chinese conglomerate Huawei Technologies, the leading firm working to deliver 5G telephony networks globally, has gone to sea. Under its Huawei Marine Networks component, it is constructing or improving nearly 100 submarine cables around the world. Last year it completed a cable stretching nearly 4,000 miles from Brazil to Cameroon. (The cable is partly owned by China Unicom, a state-controlled telecom operator.) Rivals claim that Chinese firms are able to lowball the bidding because they receive subsidies from Beijing...




Examining Whether the Terrorism Label Applies to Antifa

By Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor

- Antifa is an umbrella movement comprised of people of various ideologies who are united in their opposition to white supremacism, neo-Nazism and fascism.

- Nevertheless, elements that often participate in antifa actions, such as anarchists, do condone and participate in terrorism and political violence.

- White supremacist groups intentionally hold rallies in left-leaning cities like Portland, Oregon, in hopes of sparking antifa violence, as they believe such action generates publicity and sympathy for their cause...

Employees Can Be the Biggest Threat — and Asset — for Workplace Security Programs

By Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor

- The intimate knowledge that insiders have of an organization's security programs, policies and procedures put them in a position to cause significant damage, whether by conducting an act of workplace violence, corporate espionage or another crime.

- Insider threat actors can include current employees, former employees, contractors, service providers or someone working for a business partner (such as a web-hosting service).

- While security teams may provide leadership on the issue, protecting against insider threats is really a corporatewide responsibility.

- It's not enough to continuously monitor employees; all staff members at an organization should also know how to recognize suspicious behaviors and who should be informed of them.

For companies and other organizations, sometimes the biggest threat comes from within. An "insider" is generally someone with intimate knowledge of a facility being targeted, as well as natural covers for status and action that an "outsider" would lack. But beyond knowing the ins and outs of a facility and having a reason to be there, an insider can also develop a detailed understanding of internal security programs, policies and procedures to help them plan and conduct their crime...


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