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Monday, September 9, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190909


US Wargames to Try Out Concepts for Fighting China, Russia


Joint Staff-led exercises will test new communications gear and new ideas for getting past “industrial-age” synchronization of forces.

A series of September and November wargames led by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff will evaluate new battle plans for fighting China and Russia, Pentagon officials say.

“What we don’t have is a concept that accurately and with rigor describes how the services will fight again..



American Bases in Japan Are Sitting Ducks


When it comes to Japan, U.S. President Donald Trump’s opinion is well known: The Japanese are freeloaders. This has been clear since his early days on the campaign trail in 2016, when he declared that if the Japanese “don’t take care of us properly, if they don’t respect us enough to take care of us properly, then you know what’s going to have to happen? … They’re going to have to defend themselves.” The meaning of “take care of properly” has become clearer in recent months: The White House has drawn up demands for “cost plus 50”—or the full cost of hosting American servicemen, plus a 50 percent premium.

There is nothing wrong with pressuring the Japanese to commit more to the forces that protect them. But a financial focus distracts from more urgent problems in the U.S.-Japanese alliance—most importantly, Japan’s determination to cordon off the troops they host onto a small number of easily attacked bases. If changes to American basing are not made, the United States does not just risk being cheated, but defeated...

Pakistan successfully tests night launch of surface to surface ballistic missile Ghaznavi: ISPR

Dawn.comAugust 29, 2019

Pakistan has successfully carried out the night training launch of Ghaznavi, a surface to surface ballistic missile, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said on Thursday.

The missile "is capable of delivering multiple types of warheads up to 290 kilometres", said Maj Gen Ghafoor via a tweet, which also included a video of the launch.

According to DG ISPR, the president and prime minister "conveyed appreciation to the team and congratulations to the nation" for the successful testing of the missile.

Earlier in May, Pakistan conducted a successful training launch of Shaheen-II, a surface-to-surface ballistic missile.




Mexico’s new drug war may be worse than old one

Mexico’s drug war appears to be back — and it may be worse this time around than in the bloody years of the government’s 2006-2012 offensive against drug cartels. Back then, the worst of the violence was confined to a few cities. Now it is spread out throughout the country. Once it was not uncommon for gangs to kill adults but leave children unharmed. Now, the killing of children alongside their parents has become all too frequent. Perhaps the most disconcerting change: Bloody cartel violence outraged Mexicans and captured international attention for the drug war, which saw 27,000 homicides during its peak in 2011. Today, even though the number of Mexico’s homicides soared to near 35,000 last year, the bloodshed seems to draw less attention and indignation.


Taliban Car Bomb Kills 16 in Kabul, Wounds 119

The Taliban on Tuesday defended their suicide bombing of an international compound in the Afghan capital that killed at least 16 civilians and wounded 119 people, just hours after a U.S. envoy said he and the militant group had reached a deal “in principle” to end America’s longest war. Angry Kabul residents whose homes were shredded in the explosion climbed over the buckled blast wall and set fire to part of the compound, a frequent Taliban target. Thick smoke rose from the Green Village, home to several foreign organizations and guesthouses, whose location has become a peril to nearby local residents as well.


China slams US warship for 'provocative' transit through South China Sea…

China hit back at the U.S. on Wednesday after a Navy warship sailed near disputed islands China has claimed as its own in the South China Sea, calling the action “provocative” and a sign of “maritime hegemony.” The USS Wayne E. Meyer guided-missile destroyer conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation and sailed within 12 nautical miles, or 14 miles, off Fiery Cross and Mischief reefs, both part of the Spratly Islands archipelago that China has militarized. Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claimed some of the islands.


Department Sanctions Tehran's Space Program

What Happened: The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions against the Iranian Space Agency, the Iranian Space Research Center and the Iranian Astronautics Research Institute on Sept. 3 by adding them to its list of Specially Designated Nationals.

Why It Matters: The United States argues that Iran is using its space program as a cover to develop ballistic missiles due to the dual-use nature of aerospace technology. Tehran is already developing short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles, while its aerospace program is laying some of the groundwork for the future development of its ballistic missiles.

Background: The new U.S. sanctions against Iran come roughly a week after Tehran attempted its third space launch of the year. That launch, however, was unsuccessful, resulting in heavy damage at the Imam Khomeini National Space Center.

Iran, Russia: Foreign Ministers Meet in Moscow, Discuss JCPOA
What Happened: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Sept. 2 to discuss the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, AFP reported. In the meantime, Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said Aug. 30 that Iran would officially join a free trade area with the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union in late October.

Why It Matters: Russia has been attempting to increase its relations with Iran as part of its strategy to diversify global ties amid its ongoing standoff with the West. Although Moscow has stopped short of offering Tehran direct military assistance, it continues to back Iran diplomatically on its stance toward the JCPOA and U.S. sanctions.

Background: Iran's naval chief, Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, visited Moscow on July 29 to sign a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation with the Russian Defense Ministry. During the visit, Khanzadi said both countries were planning to hold joint naval drills before the end of the year.

US cyberattack brought down Iranian database used to target ships in Persian Gulf:

Iran is still feeling the pain after U.S. cyber military forces brought down a database used by its Revolutionary Guard Corps to target ships in the Persian Gulf, hours after the Islamic Republic shot down an American drone, officials say. The retaliatory cyberattack on June 20 focused on a system that Iran uses to determine which oil tankers and marine traffic it should go after, a senior U.S. official told the New York Times. As of Thursday, Iran has yet to recover all of the data lost in the attack and is trying to restore military communication networks linked to the database, the newspaper added...


ISIS, Weakened, Finds New Bombers: Cows Wearing Explosive Vests
By Alissa J. Rubin

The Islamic State has been reluctant to use humans to carry bombs because of the group’s reduced numbers, so it has tried out a new tactic: Bovine suicide bombers.

Residents of Al Islah, Iraq, on Saturday said they had witnessed “a strange” sight: two cows harnessed to explosive vests roving the northern side of the village, according to Col. Ghalib Al-Atyia, the spokesman for the police commander in Diyala Province.

The animals wandered into the outskirts of the community, and when they seemed close to houses, the bombs were detonated remotely, killing the cows, and damaging nearby houses, but not harming any people, Colonel Al-Atyia said...

Iraq: Popular Mobilization Forces to Establish Air Force Directorate, Official Says

What Happened: Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces will establish an air force directorate, according to the group's deputy head, NAS News reported Sept. 4.

Why It Matters: Establishing an air force in Iraq separate from the federal government's military branch would underscore the Popular Mobilization Forces' defiance against the Iraqi government. The announcement comes after a series of suspicious explosions at the militia's facilities across the country in recent weeks that some group officials blamed on the Israeli government.

Background: Many of the militia's units receive Iranian backing and financing, and the militias already have their own parallel command-and-control structure separate from the Iraqi military, although Baghdad has recently been attempting to rein in the group and increase the government's control.


Hezbollah Readies for Next War Against Israel

Despite a pause in hostilities, militia fighters and experts believe the two sides could stumble into their first all-out conflict since 2006.

BEKAA VALLEY, Lebanon—Hilal stretched his legs in a plastic chair on the veranda outside his house, close to a Hezbollah military base in Hermel, Lebanon. Even in late summer, the night air here has a crisp edge to it, and stars dot the sky above the rust-red hills that separate the country from neighboring Syria.

But despite his posture, Hilal, who like other Hezbollah fighters interviewed by Foreign Policy asked that his name be changed, was anything but relaxed. An ivory-handled revolver shimmered on his hip. He pointed to where the hills crest into the horizon not far from his home.

“Can you see all those mountains?” he asked. “All of this area is full of missiles. They are all under preparation. Every day, we bring in and deploy them. We have received instructions not to wait for orders [to fire]. At any minute, or any bullet, the guys will not wait.”

Hilal, a missile operator, is one of several Hezbollah fighters in eastern Bekaa Valley who told Foreign Policy during a recent reporting trip that they are preparing for the possibility of the first major outbreak of war with Israel in 13 years. This follows the recent decision by a newly aggressive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to breach an unspoken agreement not to hit Hezbollah in its home country. On Aug. 25, the day after Israel killed two Hezbollah members in a strike against targets in Syria alleged by the Israeli government to be sites where Iran-linked forces were preparing a so-called killer drone attack against the Jewish state, that red line was crossed when an Israeli drone exploded near the Hezbollah media office in Dahieh, a sprawling neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Beirut largely controlled by the group...

Israel thwarts Iranian 'killer drone' attack

Israel said Sunday it thwarted a major attack by Iranian “killer drones” operating from an air base in Syria, and officials warned Tehran that its forces are not safe anywhere in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter. “I have directed that our forces be prepared for any scenario. We will continue to take determined and responsible action against Iran and its proxies for the security of Israel.”


South Korean Ministry Seeks Development Budget Surge

Entering a new five-year defense planning period, the South Korean defense ministry wants to kick things off with a 20.7% surge in the budget for indigenous weapon development in 2020. The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-X fighter program is a key reason for the rise. The 3.9 trillion won ($3.3 billion) of proposed development funding next year would be part of a defense budget of 50.15 trillion won, up 7.4% from 2019, according to the ministry’s request. Acquisition and..


Russia: Shareholders Give Final Approval for LNG Development Project in the Arctic

What Happened: Russian energy firm Novatek and other global oil companies have approved the final investment decision for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Russia's Gydan Peninsula, World Oil reported Sept. 5. Meanwhile, the shareholders of the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project are looking to construct an LNG plant in Russia's Far Eastern port of De-Kastri.

Why It Matters: Both projects are notable milestones in Russia's strategy to secure an additional 10 percent of the global LNG market within the next 10 years. Growing demand in China, India and other countries will help Moscow to achieve its goal, although Russia will face growing U.S. competition in global LNG markets.

Background: Russia has recently been attempting to develop its energy resources in the Arctic by offering tax breaks to its energy giants, such as Rosneft and Gazprom, for committing to energy projects in the area.


Israel: IDF Releases Imagery of Alleged Hezbollah Missile Development Site in Lebanon

What Happened: Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has released aerial images of what it identified as a Hezbollah missile development site in the eastern Lebanese city of Nabi Sheet, Haaretz reported Sept. 3. The Israeli military added that equipment and missiles at the facility had recently been moved to civilian areas throughout the country, including Beirut.

Why It Matters: Releasing aerial imagery of a potential Hezbollah site could pave the way for additional Israeli airstrikes against the group in Lebanon, which could trigger a broader conflict between Hezbollah, Israel and potentially Iranian units in Syria. Israel has long been attempting to interdict missile shipments from Iran through Syria and Iraq to Lebanon, but a potential shift of Hezbollah's production capability into Lebanon itself could increase the group's ability to target Israel.

Background: Hezbollah and the Lebanese government have blamed Israel for airstrikes in eastern Lebanon and Beirut on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah later said the group would shoot down Israeli aircraft over Lebanon and threatened additional attacks if Israel attacks Lebanon again.

Israel claims to uncover Hezbollah missile plant in Lebanon

Hezbollah denies having precision-guided missile production sites in Lebanon, but says it possesses such weapons…. In a statement accompanied by satellite images, the Israeli military said on Tuesday that Hezbollah, with Iranian assistance, had brought specialised equipment to a weapons factory near the village of al-Nabi Shaith, in the Bekaa Valley, with the intention to set up a production line for precision-guided missiles.


Facebook Meets With FBI to Discuss 2020 Election Security
By Kurt Wagner

Executives from Facebook Inc. and Google met with U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday to discuss the technology industry’s security efforts leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, according to a person familiar with the talks.

The gathering, which is taking place at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, included staff members from the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the person, who asked not to be named because the talks haven’t been publicly disclosed. Representatives from Twitter Inc. and Microsoft Corp. were also in attendance.

The full-day meetings were arranged to discuss how tech companies like Facebook are preparing for election-related security issues, including government-backed online disinformation campaigns similar to the one Russia orchestrated ahead of the 2016 U.S. election. In June, a senior Trump administration official told reporters that Russia, China, and Iran are all trying to influence public opinion ahead of the 2020 elections. Facebook has taken down coordinated influence campaigns originating from all three countries in the past year...

How AI Will Predict Chinese and Russian Moves in the Pacific


HONOLULU—On the site of the most infamous sneak attack in American history, U.S. Pacific Air Forces is collating tens of millions of radar contacts and other data in a bid to stave off a latter-day surprise — and even reveal the adversary’s weaknesses.

Airmen and researchers at PACAF’s Pearl Harbor headquarters are using the data — as old as a year and as new as real-time — to draw up a portrait of normal air traffic in the vast Pacific region. Ultimately, that should make it easier to spot abnormal events, such as an impending attack, the deputy chief of PACAF’s C3 Integration Division said at the Defense One-Nextgov Genius Machines event here last Tuesday.

“If you’ve got six months, eight months, a year’s worth of data, you start to understand what the pattern looks like,” Lt. Col. Ryan Raber said. “Here’s what I know is ‘normal.’ Then we start to pick out the data points that are abnormal. What does abnormal look like? And then we start to focus on those and figure out what they mean to us. Is that adversary aircraft preparing for something? Are they just off their air route? What’s going on with that specific data?”

The goal is to use artificial intelligence to compress a process that now takes days into just minutes...


Germany mum on Russian killing suspect's reported spy links

The German government says it's aware of reports that the suspect in a brazen daylight killing in the heart of Berlin may have had ties to Russian intelligence, but wouldn't comment further on the case Monday. A 48-year-old Russian was arrested shortly after the fatal shooting of a 40-year-old Georgian in the German capital last month.


Sources: Man Arrested for Planning Terrorist Attack in Queens">According to law enforcement sources, a terrorist plot in Queens has been foiled and a teenager is under arrest.

…19-year-old Awais Chudhary—a U.S. citizen who was born in Pakistan—was planning a bombing or stabbing attack in the borough. He allegedly recorded videos and took photos of the Flushing Bay Promenade and the World’s Fair Marina in preparation for the attack. Sources say he asked an undercover cop to teach him how to build a
bomb and also allegedly ordered a knife, mask, gloves and planned to record the attack. Rondell Henry Indicted On Terror Charge In Alleged ISIS-Inspired Plot

A Maryland man accused of planning an ISIS-inspired attack at the National Harbor has been indicted on a terrorism-related charge…

According to the indictment released on Wednesday, Henry “did knowingly attempt to provide material support and resources, including personnel (specifically himself) and services, to a foreign terrorist organization — mainly ISIS.”

Ohio woman pleads guilty to plotting terror attack on Toledo bar

An Ohio woman pleaded guilty to conspiring to launch a terrorist attack on a Toledo bar, the Justice Department announced Thursday. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio said Elizabeth Lecron had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists and another count of transporting explosives in interstate commerce.

Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again

Eighteen years after 9/11, the terrorist group has found a new home—and rediscovered its old mission.

Eighteen years have passed since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and al Qaeda is worse for the wear. The terrorist organization looks remarkably different today than the group that killed thousands of U.S. citizens on American soil. Intensive counterterrorism pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan has left behind an aging and increasingly disconnected central leadership. The emergence of the Islamic State as a peer competitor, meanwhile, has left al Qaeda with a brand that, at times, has struggled to compete for global jihadist primacy.

With the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in bad health and isolated, most likely somewhere in Pakistan, and Hamza bin Laden, who may have been next in line, recently reported killed, al Qaeda’s most dedicated members seem to understand that its best chance to remain relevant is through its ongoing presence in Syria. To capitalize on the opportunities that the Syrian civil war has presented to al Qaeda, the group began moving significant assets from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Levant in September 2014. This shift in the center of the group’s gravity constitutes a major change and one with implications still not fully understood by counterterrorism officials worldwide. After two turbulent decades following its most spectacular mission, al Qaeda has settled down and is again intensely focused on attacking the West.

Following the death of the group’s founder Osama bin Laden in 2011 and the onset of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings, al Qaeda began to embrace a changed strategy. Terrorism scholars widely observed that al Qaeda began pursuing more limited strategic goals with a focus on localism and incrementalism. This strategic shift was widely dubbed “controlled pragmatism” and “strategic patience.” Al Qaeda seemed to be “quietly and patiently rebuilding” itself while deliberately letting the Islamic State bear the brunt of the West’s counterterrorism campaign...

Climate Activist Group Taking Aim at Air Travel

- To target air travel, climate activist group Extinction Rebellion will need to develop tactics that don't endanger aircraft and don't lead to serious penalties for protesters.

- The group may try to imitate the techniques used by demonstrators in Hong Kong to shut down the international airport there.

- XR may also target the unsecured part of the airport by blocking entrances, security checkpoints and check-in counters.

Warmer Arctic Makes for Hotter Geopolitics
By Rodger Baker
Senior VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor

- Technological advancements and the warming temperatures have the potential to open up new transit routes in the Arctic and make the region’s oil and mineral resources more accessible.
- This is driving more far-flung countries like China to stake their claim in the new economic and strategic opportunities that melting ice is gradually uncovering.
- As a result, the Arctic's governance is beginning to diversify beyond the European and North American powers that have long dominated the region’s political order...

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