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Monday, September 23, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190923



Russia and China Are Trying to Set the U.N.’s Rules on Cybercrime

At the United Nations General Assembly, the United States must push back against their agenda.

As world leaders gather in New York next week for another session of the United Nations General Assembly, they’ll have a number of pressing global security challenges on their minds. But on one key topic—cybercrime—the United States risks losing to Russia and China if it doesn’t have a clear strategy for pushing back against their attempts to prevail on the issue. By failing to articulate its own vision for cybersecurity, it would let two countries that have sponsored and harbored cybercriminals set the rules of the game.

The playing field has long been set in the competition to create the rules governing how countries deal with cybercrime. On one side, you have a global treaty, known as the Budapest Convention, which was drafted with strong support from the United States and its allies. The convention is the only legally binding international treaty that lays out common standards on cybercrime investigations and aims to boost cooperation among criminal justice systems around the globe in these cases. On the other side, you have Russia and China, two countries that have long been accused of sponsoring malicious cyberactivity themselves. These countries have refused to join the Budapest Convention and have instead called for a new global cybercrime treaty at the U.N.—one that they could presumably influence the drafting of...

RQ-4 Selected To Support Hypersonic Weapon Tests

A group of high-altitude RQ-4 unmanned aircraft systems will be drafted into service to support an upcoming series of hypersonic missile flight tests, the commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) says in an interview.

With Recent Terror Attacks, IS Expands Presence in Mozambique

Last week, militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) terror group stormed into a Christian village in northern Mozambique, burning houses and forcing residents to flee their homes, local reports said. A few days before that, militants entered another village in the same province, torching houses throughout the region. IS has claimed responsibility for both attacks via its social media outlets. The recent attacks in the southeast African country signals a growing presence of IS militants who have carried out similar attacks against the military and local residents in the Muslim-majority northern part of Mozambique...


Exclusive: Australia concluded China was behind hack on parliament, political parties – sources   

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian intelligence determined China was responsible for a cyber-attack on its national parliament and three largest political parties before the general election in May, five people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Australia’s cyber intelligence agency - the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) - concluded in March that China’s Ministry of State Security was responsible for the attack, the five people with direct knowledge of the findings of the investigation told Reuters.

The five sources declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. Reuters has not reviewed the classified report.

The report, which also included input from the Department of Foreign Affairs, recommended keeping the findings secret in order to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing, two of the people said. The Australian government has not disclosed who it believes was behind the attack or any details of the report...

Turkey to receive second batch of S-400 missile system this week

Ankara has gone ahead with its purchase of the Russian defence system despite threats of US sanctions…. Ankara received its first supply of S-400 missiles in July, despite a warning by the United States about possible sanctions. The acquisition of the highly-advanced air defence system has led to a standoff between Turkey and its NATO allies, especially the US. Deliveries of the system are set to continue until April 2020. One killed, two wounded in Israeli settlement bomb attack


Terrorism: Two arrested in bomb investigation released [UK]

Two men arrested by detectives investigating the attempted murder of police officers have been released unconditionally. A 39-year-old and 35-year-old had been arrested under the Terrorism Act following searches in the Lurgan and Craigavon areas. It is part of the investigation into the attempted murder of officers in County Armagh and County Fermanagh...




Reweighing the Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan

The Big Picture

The United States is looking to further draw down its involvement in Afghanistan as Washington focuses on its great power competitions. But fears that a withdrawal will leave a security vacuum Islamic State and al Qaeda extremists can fill have compelled the White House to negotiate an agreement with the Taliban over the past year.

On Sept. 7, U.S. President Donald Trump called off a nearly yearlong U.S. effort to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan — citing a recent attack that killed a U.S. soldier (among other victims) as proof of the insurgency's insincerity in peace efforts. The announcement has since halted U.S. efforts to continue its drawdown from its nearly 18-yearlong involvement in Afghanistan. The White House, however, has not deviated from its goal of forging a political settlement to end the conflict, which suggests talks will resume at some point. But even if the United States extracts a partial cease-fire and counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban in exchange for a troop withdrawal under a peace deal, the wider Afghan conflict will continue apace until the Taliban and Kabul agree to a nationwide cease-fire...

Israel Shouldn’t Worry About Ilhan Omar. It Should Worry About Xi Jinping.

China risks becoming a point of chronic contention between the United States and Israel.


Far be it from me to dismiss the hullaballoo surrounding Israel’s decision last month to bar two U.S. congresswomen from entering the country. After nearly 35 years of working on national-security issues in Washington, I’ve come to put a high premium on the strong bipartisan support that undergirds the U.S.-Israel alliance. Leaders in both countries bear a heavy responsibility to preserve and protect it. But once emotions have cooled, I find it hard to imagine that Israel’s sovereign decision to keep out two first-term legislators with such deep-seated animus toward the Jewish state really poses a serious threat to the Democratic Party’s long and venerable pro-Israel tradition.

Which is why, when I think about the future of relations between the United States and Israel, my mind these days turns far more to China than to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. How the United States and Israel address China’s rising power could be a source of either great peril or great promise for the broader relationship. Get it wrong, and China risks becoming a point of chronic contention. Get it right, and the challenge of dealing with China could boost U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, which is already deep and expansive, to a new level.

Immediate tensions over China arise from the dramatic shift in U.S.-China policy that the Trump administration signaled when it issued its first National Security Strategy in December 2017. For decades before Donald Trump became U.S. president, Washington has operated under the view that offering Beijing a steady stream of inducements and accommodations could make it a responsible stakeholder in the existing rules-based international system. But years of predatory economic policies, escalating militarism in the South and East China Seas, and deepening authoritarianism within China have put the lie to that dream. It turns out that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has its own dream—which doesn’t include being a junior partner in a U.S.-led order based on democracy and free markets. China’s ambition is not to be a subsidiary of Pax Americana, but to displace it in favor of a world where Beijing increasingly calls the shots, and where dictatorship and state-controlled economies are the norm...

Concerns Growing that China's Influence Operations Getting Bolder

Revelations that China has been using social media accounts to influence public opinion on continuing protests in Hong Kong are reinforcing warnings from U.S. intelligence that the battle for information dominance has been joined. Until now, much of the focus on been on Russia for its use of social media to meddle in a number of Western elections, including the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and, more recently, the 2018 congressional elections. But top U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly warned Russia is not alone, and that other U.S adversaries would be using lessons from Moscow's successes for their own purposes. No adversary, they
said, posed a bigger threat than China.


Iran test-fired new missile, says Revolutionary Guards commander

Iran has test-fired a new missile, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has said…. "Our country is always the arena for testing a variety of defence and strategic systems and these are non-stop movements towards the growth of our deterrent power," Major General Hossein Salami said on Saturday. "And yesterday was one of the successful days for this nation," he said, without providing more information about the missile...

Iran, Russia: Countries Agree on Non-SWIFT Alternatives for Bilateral Payment Transactions

What Happened: Iran and Russia will drop the financial messaging service SWIFT for bilateral payment transfers and use their domestic systems to protect themselves from third-party sanctions, the Financial Tribune reported Sept. 17.

Why It Matters: Moscow's and Tehran's decision to replace the SWIFT system is a notable sign of growing Iranian-Russian economic ties amid increased U.S. sanctions pressure against both countries. The Russian government has already stepped up its efforts to insulate its economy from U.S. exposure, including developing an alternative to SWIFT.

Background: The Belgium-based SWIFT announced in November 2018 that it would be cutting ties with Iranian banks following the U.S. decision to resume sanctions against Tehran




Israel Says It Struck Iranian ‘Killer Drones’ in Syria

Israeli warplanes struck targets in Syria where Iran was preparing to attack Israel using explosive-laden “killer drones,” Israel’s military said, and top commanders were on alert early Sunday to see how Iran might respond. In what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “major operational effort,” Israeli fighters hit the Syrian town of Aqraba, between downtown Damascus and the city’s airport, around 11 p.m. Saturday.
UN peacekeeping patrol filmed coming under attack by Hezb


North Korean Malicious Cyber Activity

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have identified two malware variants—referred to as ELECTRICFISH and BADCALL—used by the North Korean government. The U.S. Government refers to malicious cyber activity by the North Korean government as HIDDEN COBRA. CISA encourages users and administrators to review the HIDDEN COBRA - North Korean Malicious Cyber Activity page, which contains links to Malware Analysis Reports MAR-10135536-21 and MAR10135536-10, for more information.

North Korean state hackers target retired diplomats and military officials

In what appears to be the first attack of its kind, a North Korean state-sponsored hacking group has been targeting retired South Korean diplomats, government, and military officials. Targets of this recent campaign include former ambassadors, military generals, and retired members of South Korea's Foreign Ministry and Unification Ministry. The attacks occurred between mid-July and mid-August, and targeted officials' Gmail and Naver email accounts… At the technical level, the attacks were basic spear-phishing attempts. North Korean hackers sent emails which redirected victims to fake login pages, where attackers would log victims' account credentials...

South Korea Launches Military Exercise for Islets Also Claimed by Japan

South Korea on Sunday kicked off its biannual military exercises aimed at demonstrating control over a set of islets that are the source of a territorial dispute with Japan, a move that was likely to heighten tensions between Washington’s two key Asian allies. Relations between Seoul and Tokyo are already in their worst state in years as the two nations have engaged in a tit-for-tat escalation of tensions over historical and trade disputes.

Photos indicate North Korea may be building submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles

Satellite photos indicate North Korea is building a ballistic missile submarine and may be making preparations to test a submarine-launched missile, according to an analysis of the commercial images by experts at a Washington-based think tank. The photos of Sinpo South Shipyard taken Monday appear to confirm reports by North Korean state media of a “newly built submarine” inspected by the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, in July….
North Korea's new warheads could penetrate missile shield, says Japan

North Korea appears to be developing warheads to penetrate a missile shield defending

Japan, the country’s defence minister has said. Minister Takeshi Iwaya said on Tuesday Japan believed the rockets were a new short-range ballistic missile, pointing to their irregular trajectories, which theoretically could outsmart existing defence systems. Recent short-range missile tests by Pyongyang have stoked alarm in neighbouring Japan even as US president Donald Trump has dismissed the launches as unimportant.


Putin vows to respond after US missile test

President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military on Friday to work out a quid pro quo response after the test of a new U.S. missile banned under a now-defunct arms treaty. In Sunday’s test, a modified ground-launched version of a U.S. Navy Tomahawk cruise missile accurately struck its target more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) away. The test came after Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF)

Two Suspected IS Supporters Arrested In Russia's Tatarstan

A court in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan has arrested two men suspected of supporting the extremist group Islamic State and planning a terrorist attack. …On August 1 sent Ruslan Shamsutdinov and Ilshat Zainabutdinov to pretrial detention for two months. They were detained a day earlier and charged with propagating terrorism and recruiting for a terrorist group


Saudi Oil Infrastructure Offers a Target-Rich Environment for Iran


- Iran has recently focused on building up its missile capabilities, putting Saudi Arabia's critical infrastructure within its reach.

- Saudi air defenses have significant vulnerabilities to missile and air attacks by Iran, whether launched directly from Iran or via Iraq or Yemen.

- The Saudi oil and gas sector has numerous chokepoints Iran can target, and Iran could decide to expand its target set beyond the petroleum sector.

For years Iran has threatened that if it were no longer able to export oil because of U.S. sanctions, then no one else would be able to either. The Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Co.'s Abqaiq and Khurais oil processing complexes and two earlier attacks on the Saudi oil sector gave life to longstanding fears of Iranian attacks on Saudi critical infrastructure. Iran has clearly made the strategic decision to escalate its attacks against oil industry targets in the region in response to U.S. sanctions pressure and Washington's departure from the Iranian nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action...

The Big Picture

This Is the Moment That Decides the Future of the Middle East

If the United States is done fighting for Saudi Arabia’s oil, it's done fighting for the entire region.


Since the end of World War II, three core interests have shaped U.S. Middle East policy: ensuring the free flow of energy resources from the region, helping to maintain Israeli security, and making sure no state or group of states can challenge American power in a way that would put the other two interests at risk. In other words, aside from the strategic, historical, moral, and political reasons for the “special” U.S.-Israel relationship, oil is the reason why the United States is in the Middle East at all.

That’s why this moment—the aftermath of an attack on Saudi Arabia’s most significant crude-oil processing facilities—is so important. How the Trump administration responds will indicate whether U.S. elites still consider energy resources a core national interest and whether the United States truly is on its way out of the Middle East entirely, as so many in the region suspect.

When the story broke on Saturday morning that Saudi Arabia’s processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais were attacked and that the likely culprits were Houthis, the debate among foreign-policy experts quickly became about Saudi Arabia’s culpability for suffering in Yemen, how much influence Iran has with the Houthis, and whom the Saudis were actually fighting. These questions only intensified after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo specifically accused Iran of the attacks. Speculation was that Pompeo—an Iran hawk—was being too cute by half, directly blaming the Iranians though Tehran was likely only indirectly responsible. This is not an unreasonable position, given Iran’s long history of avoiding direct confrontation in favor of supplying proxies with money, technology, and weapons to do their dirty work around the region. Others agreed with Pompeo that the Iranian role was clear, a position that grew stronger as reports surfaced that cruise missiles were used in the attacks. It was a robust, if not always edifying discussion. It also does not really matter...

How an Aerial Barrage Cut Saudi Oil Production in Half

Tensions in the region spike as U.S. blames Iran.


Over the weekend, Saudi oil facilities were attacked by drones allegedly launched by Houthi rebels in Yemen, knocking off nearly half of Saudi oil production, spooking the Saudi stock market, and raising fears of a spike in both the price of oil and regional tensions. It’s one of the biggest attacks on global energy infrastructure in decades, but it’s still not clear if the damage will be short-lived and easily contained, or if it will weigh on the global economy for weeks to come and lead to further escalation in regional conflict.

What officially happened?

Houthi rebels in Yemen took credit for the strikes Saturday with multiple drones that damaged Saudi oil fields and Abqaiq, a key oil-processing facility in the eastern part of the country. The attack on the very heart of the global oil industry—Abqaiq processes about 7 million barrels of oil a day, or roughly 7 percent of the world’s crude output—made real what had been long considered by Saudi and Western security planners to be a nightmare scenario.

Saudi officials shut down more than 5 million barrels a day of oil-output capability, about half the kingdom’s daily production, while they put out the fires and assessed the damage; a formal report on the extent of the damage and the duration of any disruption is expected early next week, but Saudi oil officials told Reuters the outages could take weeks to repair.

The attacks follow other Houthi strikes on Saudi oil-pumping stations in May and a natural gas facility last month, part of the wider, yearslong conflict between Riyadh and rebellious forces in neighboring Yemen...


The Great Anti-China Tech Alliance
The United States and Europe will regret letting Beijing win the race to govern digital technology.


In these early days of the regulatory renaissance for digital technologies, China, Europe, and the United States are competing over whose image will be most reflected in market-defining rules and norms. Despite new lows in the trans-Atlantic relationship in the era of Trump, Europe and the United States still have far more in common with each other about how technology should be developed, deployed, and regulated than they do with China. With China pulling into the pole position in this race, it is time for the United States and Europe to forge a digital governance alliance.

The regulatory renaissance has many dimensions: data protection, cybersecurity, antitrust, and tax, to name a few. European initiatives in these domains—such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and antitrust investigations of major technology platforms—are relatively notorious and reasonably well understood. Their effects also reverberate well beyond Europe: GDPR, for example, is rapidly becoming a model law for other governments to follow for their own privacy regulatory measures. Europe has similar ambitions with respect to artificial intelligence governance...

US officials fear ransomware attack against 2020 election

The U.S. government plans to launch a program in roughly one month that narrowly focuses on protecting voter registration databases and systems ahead of the 2020 presidential election. These systems, which are widely used to validate the eligibility of voters before they cast ballots, were compromised in 2016 by Russian hackers seeking to collect information. Intelligence officials are concerned that foreign hackers in 2020 not only will target the databases but attempt to manipulate, disrupt or destroy the data, according to current and former U.S. officials. “We assess these systems as high risk,” said a senior U.S. official, because they are one of the few pieces of election technology regularly connected to the Internet...

It was sensitive data from a U.S. anti-terror program – and terrorists could have gotten to it for years…

The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation’s bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade…. The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack. The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.

From Soviet-Style C2 Approach To DARPA’s Mosaic
Sep 13, 2019 Graham Warwick and Steve Trimble | Aviation Week & Space Technology

The U.S.’ world-leading weapon systems are under pressure. They take decades and billions of dollars to develop, and more years and billions to upgrade to stay ahead of the threat. And potential adversaries are modernizing faster than ever.

The problem, argues DARPA, is that the U.S. has invested in dominant, monolithic platforms that are difficult to develop and upgrade. Efforts to extend the capabilities of these platforms by connecting them, call it network-centric warfare or system of systems, have created monolithic architectures that are even harder to develop and upgrade. This makes it challenging for the U.S. to respond quickly to new threats.

The Pentagon’s advanced research agency is championing a different approach: mosaic warfare. “Simply put, we are monolith-busters,” says Tim Grayson, director of its Strategic Technology Office. “System of systems and net-centricity were targeted at busting monolithic platforms. But everyone just aggregated those functions, tied them together in a vertically integrated platform-centric program. Most have not gone well. We’ve just replaced monolithic platforms with monolithic architectures...”


China’s Spies Are on the Offensive. Can the US Fend Them Off?

Recent events suggest Beijing has increased both the scope and the sophistication of its efforts to steal American secrets. In early 2017, Kevin Mallory was struggling financially. After years of drawing a government salary as a member of the military and as a CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency officer, he was behind on his mortgage and $230,000 in debt. Though he had, like many veteran intelligence officials, ventured into the private sector, where the pay can be considerably better, things still weren’t going well; his consulting business was floundering. Then, prosecutors said, he received a message on LinkedIn, where he had more than 500
connections. It had come from a Chinese recruiter with whom Mallory had five mutual connections. The recruiter, according to the message, worked for a think tank in China, where Mallory, who spoke fluent Mandarin, had been based for part of his career. The think tank, the recruiter said, was interested in Mallory’s foreign-policy expertise. The LinkedIn message led to a phone call with a man who called himself Michael Yang. According to the FBI, the initial conversations that would lead Mallory down a path of betrayal were conducted in the bland language of professional courtesy…. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in May; his lawyers plan to appeal the conviction. If Mallory’s story was unique, he’d just be a tragic example of a former intelligence officer gone astray. But in the past year, two other former U.S. intelligence officers pleaded guilty to espionage-related charges involving China. They are an alarming sign for the U.S. intelligence community, which sees China in the same tier as Russia as America’s top espionage threat...

Top Canadian police official charged with espionage offenses had access to international intelligence

A senior Canadian police intelligence official charged with espionage-related offenses had access secret information from both domestic and international allies it was confirmed Monday. Cameron Ortis is accused of multiple offenses under the Security of Information Act, as well as two sections of the country's Criminal Code, according to a statement from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). They include the "unauthorized communication of special operational information" and possession of a device "for surreptitiously communicating, obtaining or retaining information," the RCMP said

Exclusive: Russia carried out a 'stunning' breach of FBI communications system, escalating the spy game on U.S. soil

Zach Dorfman, Jenna McLaughlin and Sean D. NaylorReporters,Yahoo News•September 16, 2019

On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was giving nearly three dozen Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States and was seizing two rural East Coast estates owned by the Russian government. As the Russians burned papers and scrambled to pack their bags, the Kremlin protested the treatment of its diplomats, and denied that those compounds — sometimes known as the “dachas” — were anything more than vacation spots for their personnel.

The Obama administration’s public rationale for the expulsions and closures — the harshest U.S. diplomatic reprisals taken against Russia in several decades — was to retaliate for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But there was another critical, and secret, reason why those locations and diplomats were targeted.

Both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation’s capital, according to former U.S. officials. The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials. It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community...

Senior Canadian police intelligence officer arrested on suspicion of espionage

A senior official of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police intelligence unit has been arrested and charged with multiple charges, including espionage with foreign powers.

The RCMP member, identified as Cameron Ortis, was arrested Thursday in Ottawa, Canada, following an extensive national security investigation, Global News reported...

...Sources told Global News that Ortis is believed to have stolen “large quantities of information, which could compromise an untold number of investigations....”

...He faces up 33 years in prison if convicted.

In Countering a Creative Security Threat, Anticipation Is Key
By Scott Stewart VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor


- Because criminals, militants, spies and the like are ever resourceful, security personnel must overcome some of their traditional inflexibility in addressing threats to their companies.

- Focusing on trends in criminal tradecraft will help departments identify and prepare for the threats they are likely to face.

- Security departments can nip a potential attack in the bud if they can deny resourceful adversaries the ability to conduct surveillance at will.

The old adage "necessity is the mother of invention" is never truer than when it comes to crime. I spent most of last week in Chicago attending the annual ASIS International Global Security Exchange, chatting to colleagues old and new about the particular challenges they face. In doing so, something struck me: Whether it's criminals, militants, corporate spies or activist groups, every threat is adaptive and creative. And then the flip side of this realization also occurred to me: By nature, security people and the programs they create tend to be rigid and inflexible. After all, many security leaders come out of the military or law enforcement (or both, like me). And even those from different backgrounds tend to pick up many of the cultural traits of such institutions by working with and for people who have...


NYPD Investigates Potential Terror Threat Against Police Precinct

Police are asking for help in finding a man they want question about a terror threat in the Bronx. Investigators say the man walked into a mosque at 702 Rhinelander Avenue on Sunday and asked the imam for help in carrying out a terror attack on a police precinct. The man walked out after being ordered to leave the mosque...

Police raids find huge arms cache linked to Islamic terror group [UK]

Four men arrested in Coventry by counter-terrorism officers after rifle, silencer and ammunition found at two addresses…. A significant arms cache, including a sniper rifle, a silencer and tracer rounds linked to the banned terrorist group al-Muhajiroun have been found in Coventry, the Observer can reveal.


Northrop denies Boeing’s request to join ICBM replacement team: Northrop Grumman has rebuffed a request by Boeing to team up to develop America’s next intercontinental ballistic missile.

WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman has rebuffed a request by Boeing to team up to develop America’s next intercontinental ballistic missile, according to the latter company.

The attempt comes months after Boeing dropped out of the running to compete directly with Northrop on the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, which is expected to cost about $85 billion over the life of the program...

...In August 2017, Boeing and Northrop bested out Lockheed Martin to be the final two competitors on the program. But in July 2019, Boeing made the decision to drop out of the program, citing in part its belief that Northrop’s acquisition of solid-fueled rocket motor manufacturer Orbital ATK, now known as Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, gave the competitor an unfair advantage...

Monday, September 16, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190916



Trump says Taliban talks 'dead,' U.S. military to ramp up Afghanistan operations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump proclaimed talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders dead on Monday, while the general in charge said the U.S. military is likely to ramp up operations in Afghanistan to counter an increase in Taliban attacks.

Trump scrapped talks with the Taliban planned for Camp David, Maryland, over the weekend after an American soldier was killed by a suicide bomber in the capital Kabul last week.

“They’re dead. They’re dead. As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead,” Trump told reporters when asked about the talks as he left the White House for a trip to North Carolina.

Trump had hoped to cap months of U.S. negotiations with the Taliban militants, who control large parts of Afghanistan, with a secret meeting at Camp David that would include Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and was aimed at securing an agreement to pull U.S. troops out of America’s longest war of 18 years...

Calling In The Cavalry

This new system speeds close air support to soldiers on the ground​.

In a firefight, seconds matter.

That is especially true when it comes to calling in back-up in a tough situation. Raytheon and military researchers are bringing to the field an advanced system to allow troops on the battlefield to get air support faster than ever before. The system provides real-time information sharing, quick response and precise targeting.

Called Persistent Close Air Support, the system connects ground-based Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, often embedded with special operations units, with overhead aircraft to coordinate friendly-force identification, target correlation and to spot hostile forces with pinpoint precision.

“By getting information to our aircrews faster, PCAS reduces battlefield risks and fratricide,” said Ryan McLean, Raytheon PCAS program manager...


No Continent for Old Men
Africa has the world’s youngest population and its oldest leaders. If the next generation wants change, young Africans must abandon dreams of private-sector success and enter the political arena.

The idea that Africa’s youth bulge is the key to sustained economic growth—a so-called demographic dividend—is a popular talking point for aging African leaders who coopt such language in an effort to signal faith and optimism in the next generation. This was particularly evident in 2017, when African heads of state adopted “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth” as the year’s official theme for the African Union.

While gestures toward youth empowerment are welcome, one awkward fact stands out: Africa—the youngest continent in the world—plays host to some of the oldest and longest-serving political leaders. Africa—the youngest continent in the world—plays host to some of the oldest and longest-serving political leaders...

Elephant Hunts to Start in Botswana at Likely Discount to Rivals
By Antony Sguazzin September 11, 2019

Botswana is reintroducing elephant hunts and is likely to sell licenses to kill the animals at a discount to its neighbors. That could further inflame the controversy that’s threatening a $2 billion tourism industry after a five-year ban on hunting was lifted.

The government will auction licenses to hunting operators for the right to shoot an elephant but is yet to decide on the minimum price it will set, said Kitso Mokaila, the country’s environment minister. Botswana will allow the killing of 158 elephants in trophy hunts this year...


For China and Russia, Common Interests Make for Closer Security Ties
Military officials salute each other in a ceremony before Russia and China warships set out for a naval cooperation exercise.(YURI SMITYUK\TASS via Getty Images)


- To counter the United States in key Asian and European theaters, Russia and China will increase the size and scope of their joint military exercises in the coming months.

- Russia and China will also increase consultations with each other on internal security issues, including their shared desires to create a sovereign internet and manage unrest in Moscow and Hong Kong, respectively.

- But such cooperation will be limited by Russia and China's own strategic competition with one another, particularly in areas of overlapping influence such as Central Asia and the Russian Far East.

- In the longer term, Russia-China security ties will last only until the three great powers' triangular relationship inevitably shifts again, and prompts Moscow and Beijing to recalibrate their positions.

New environment minister says Japan should stop using nuclear power

Japan's Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi attends a news conference at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s newly installed environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, wants the country to close down nuclear reactors to avoid a repeat of the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011.

The comments by the son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, himself an anti-nuclear advocate, are likely to prove controversial in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which supports a return to nuclear power under new safety rules imposed after Fukushima.

“I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them,” Shinjiro Koizumi said at his first news conference late on Wednesday after he was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe...

Squeezed by debt and the US, Pakistan slows Belt and Road projects
'Even Beijing knows' things are on hold, experts say

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. left, speaks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a signing ceremony in Beijing, in April. © Reuters
KARACHI -- Facing a prolonged financial crisis, and trying to balance ties between China and the U.S., Pakistan's policymakers are slowing the pace of multibillion dollar projects under China's Belt and Road Initiative.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, launched in 2014, aims to build links between China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region and the port city of Gwadar in southern Pakistan. The total cost of the project is estimated at $60 billion.

According to Hassan Daud Butt, CPEC project director for the Pakistani government, many Phase-1 projects, including improvements to the port of Gwadar, power plants and road construction, are unfinished despite deadlines set for last year by the previous government. Nor has there been progress on Phase-2 projects, which include setting up special economic zones and industrial estates. The initial time table called for the zones to be up and running by 2020...


Deadly olive tree disease spreads to France

Two trees infected with subspecies of Xylella fastidiosa that killed 1m trees in Italy

A deadly disease estimated to have killed a million olive trees in Italy has spread to France.

The French agriculture ministry announced the discovery of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, known as olive tree leprosy, on two trees in the south of the country and said the infected trees would be destroyed to stop it spreading.

Ministry officials said the two decorative olives were found to have the same subspecies of the disease that killed an estimated 1m valuable ancient olive trees in Italy. All trees and plants vulnerable to the bacterium within a three-mile radius are to be destroyed and burned.

There is no known cure or prevention for the disease, which blocks the plant or trees’ ability to take up water. Michel Dessus, the president of the chamber of agriculture in the Alpes-Maritimes, where the two infected trees were discovered, said more tests were needed before swathes of vegetation were destroyed. “Cutting down trees more than a hundred years old needs to be thought about,” he told French television.

The disease, also called olive quick decline syndrome, which scientists believe affects more than 350 plant species, has also hit vineyards in north and south America. It was first detected in Europe in October 2013 when ancient olive trees in Puglia, Italy, began to die. Entire olive groves of more than 230,000 hectares have been cut down...


In Mexico, Violence Flares Up Again in the Border City of Nuevo Laredo


- Violence between the Cartel del Noreste and state police has been surging in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas state over the past two weeks.

- In response to these losses, CDN has threatened those that do business with security forces, prompting many gasoline stations to refuse to sell fuel to the authorities.

- Given running gunbattles involving automatic weapons and grenades, attacks on security forces and threats against businesses, those with interests in Nuevo Laredo should be on heightened alert until the wave of brutality subsides...


In the Demise of the Taliban Peace Talks, Russia Is the Winner

Even as it paints itself as an ally in Afghanistan, the Kremlin is busy undercutting Washington.


Over the weekend, the prospects of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban seemed to fall apart. That is a major setback, since it will likely delay a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and could lead to an escalated Taliban offensive on Afghan government-held territories. But one player—Russia—might benefit.

In an otherwise dark period for U.S.-Russian relations, Afghanistan seemed to have recently emerged as a rare bright spot for bilateral cooperation. After a visit to Moscow in May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described achieving a “reduction in violence” in Afghanistan as a shared interest of the United States and Russia. Dialogue between U.S. and Russian officials on Afghanistan, which was largely frozen after the collapse of the Northern Distribution Network—a rail network passing through Russia that supplied U.S. forces—in 2015 is now commonplace. Russia had even offered to act as a guarantor for any future U.S.-Taliban peace agreement. Although such a deal now seems to be off the table, Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, stated that he believes U.S.-Taliban peace talks are “suspended” but not “dead,” and he announced Moscow’s plans to consult with the United States on the future of the negotiations.

Although the de-escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia, which had risen last year due to Moscow’s alleged arms transfers to the Taliban, is a positive development, Russia should not be trusted as a partner in Afghanistan. The collapse of the U.S.-Taliban peace talks provides an opening for Russia to reassert its diplomatic presence in the country, and this prospect should concern U.S. policymakers. Russia’s subversion of the authority of Afghanistan’s internationally recognized government and propagation of disinformation about U.S. intentions in Afghanistan reveal that Moscow remains a dangerous adversary in the region...


A sudden surge in passenger car sales didn’t revive China’s cratering auto market
By Echo HuangJuly 10, 2019

China car sales continue to plunge in June even though back-to-back policy changes helped monthly passenger car sales grow for the first time in a year.

The country saw vehicle sales drop more than 12% in the first six months of 2019, which means the country is heading for an even worse year than it had last year, when it recorded its first annual decline since 1990.

China’s auto sales fell 9.6% to 2.04 million in June from a year ago, according to data released today (July 10) by the government-affiliated China Association of Automotive Manufacturers. China’s auto sales for the first half year reached 12.3 million...


Iran May Be Weak, But Its Strategy Is Working
By Reva Goujon VP of Global Analysis, Stratfor


- Iran's brazenness this summer is paying off: Washington continues to face a massive dilemma in trying to deter Tehran in the Persian Gulf, Iran has exposed U.S. President Donald Trump's extreme reticence toward war and France has offered the Islamic republic financial incentives in return for de-escalating tensions.

- The removal of national security adviser John Bolton — a hawk on Iran — from Trump's war Cabinet could provide more space for diplomacy, but unless Trump accedes to Iran's demand for some sanctions relief, there is little chance that the two countries will reach a breakthrough at this month's U.N. General Assembly in New York.

- With political pressures to rise in both Tehran and the White House heading into 2020 and Iran now more confident that Trump is intent on avoiding war, there is still potential for Tehran to resurrect its military threat in the Persian Gulf to break another stalemate...

Iran: Tehran Takes Another Hit at What Remains of the Nuclear Deal

The Big Picture

Over the past year, Iran has retaliated against tougher-than-ever U.S. sanctions by continuing to escalate its nuclear development activities. This approach helps Tehran build leverage for future talks, while also helping drum up Iran's domestic image as a sovereign nation that doesn't bow to pressure from the West.

Iran is moving forward, as promised, with its third phase of pulling back from commitments made under the 2015 nuclear deal, known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to limit the development of its nuclear energy program. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that starting Sept. 6, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran would suspend all the JCPOA limits related to research and development and the testing of centrifuges, including:

- Conducting R&D in a way that does not accumulate enriched uranium.

- Limiting R&D for uranium to only the IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges.

- Limiting mechanical testing of these centrifuges to two single centrifuges of each type.

- Halting research for other isotope separation technologies.

The first phase of Iran's gradual JCPOA suspension was announced in May, which saw Tehran increasing its stockpiles of low enriched uranium shortly thereafter. The second phase was then announced in July, with Iran saying it would increase its uranium enrichment beyond JCPOA limits. Tehran has warned that if Europe fails again to deliver financial relief to Iran as promised in the deal, it would take a fourth step to further reduce its nuclear commitments in another 60 days (or Nov. 5, 2019)...

U.S. says it has evidence Adrian Darya 1 oil transferred to Syria

in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has evidence that the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 has transferred its crude oil to the Syrian government, breaking assurances it gave not to sell crude to the country, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.

British commandos on July 4 seized the vessel, formerly named the Grace 1, on suspicion that it was en route to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. Gibraltar released it on Aug. 15 after getting written Iranian assurances that it would not discharge its 2.1 million barrels of oil in Syria...

How to Make a Lasting Deal With Iran

Maximum pressure won’t make Tehran capitulate. Letting it enhance its conventional military capabilities could convince it to rein in proxies and curb its nuclear and missile programs.


Despite the Trump administration’s assertions, it is increasingly clear that the maximum pressure approach deployed to force Iran to temper its behavior in the Middle East is not working. Iran has allegedly engaged in provocations in the Persian Gulf and has taken concrete steps to scale back its commitments to enrichment limitations under the 2015 nuclear deal. Meanwhile, it hasn’t limited its missile program and has doubled down on its reliance on nonstate actors throughout the region.

Tensions flared again in the Middle East late last month after Israel apparently launched strikes on Iranian forces and their proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. As this shadow war moves into the light of day, Israeli officials argue that these attacks are meant to curb Iran’s expanding regional influence through its support and training for nonstate actors—which is a growing threat from Israel’s perspective. The most recent exchange between Israel and Iran highlights the security challenges Iran poses to U.S. interests and partners in the region, and, more importantly, why the U.S. government needs a new and innovative strategy to effectively engage with Iran.

While the United States and its regional partners have legitimate concerns about Iran’s exploitation of nonstate actors, they don’t appear to understand Iran’s motivations. Thus, they have adopted policies that have proved ineffective and counterproductive.

Today, Washington is seeking to force Iran to forgo all three pillars of its deterrent capabilities: its nuclear program, its missile program, and its proxies.Washington is seeking to force Iran to forgo all three pillars of its deterrent capabilities: its nuclear program, its missile program, and its proxies. But from Tehran’s point of view, forgoing all deterrent capabilities would leave the regime defenseless and powerless. It is similar to asking North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons up front with only limited guarantees by the other parties. No state would compromise what it perceives as its means of survival for purely economic benefits....




Israeli Voters Don’t Care About the Economy. They Should.
Despite high inequality, lagging productivity, and serious long-term challenges, the current election campaign has barely mentioned economic policy.


When the economy of a country has faced excessive government intervention alongside high deficits, debt crises, inflation, and severe recessions in the past, as well as high cost of living and rampant inequality in the present, one would expect that economic policies would be the focus of an election campaign. But that’s not the case in Israel—a country where the economy continues to be a second- or even third-order issue. The main issue for Israelis voting on Sept. 17 is whether you’re for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or not.

Israel, now known as the “start-up nation” and an investment magnet for hundreds of leading global firms, was not always the envy of many. Over the past 70 years, the Israeli economy has gone through many rocky episodes.

From its beginning, Israel was known for having socialist-minded policies and institutions at its core: state-owned enterprises monopolizing certain industries, large cooperatives, very influential labor unions which were intertwined with the ruling party, as well as hundreds of collective farms known as kibbutzim which received state subsidies. Either directly or indirectly, through these institutions the government controlled many aspects of daily life.

While the Israeli citizen seems to care about the cost of living and inequality, the Israeli voter seems not to. When they enter the voting booth, other issues matter more.

The economy hit a wall following the global recession in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War: no growth, high inflation, and high levels of debt. It was Prime Minister Shimon Peres who came to the rescue and saved the Israeli economy when elected in 1984, through a stabilization program that became the first step in converting Israel into the free-market economy that it is today. Peres reduced government expenditures and allowed for the independence of the central bank. Further pro-market reforms continued in the years that followed.

Following the recession caused by the Second Intifada of 2000 to 2005, Netanyahu continued the reforms in his capacity as finance minister in the government of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu cut welfare programs and slashed taxes, incentivizing labor participation. These reforms arguably set the stage for stability and robust economic growth...

Israel's Netanyahu announces post-election plan to annex West Bank's Jordan Valley

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention on Tuesday to annex the Jordan Valley, a large swathe of the occupied West Bank, if he wins a closely contested election just a week away.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, Israel September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that “all signed agreements with Israel and the obligations resulting from them would end” if Netanyahu went through with the move.

Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war and Palestinians, who signed interim peace deals with Israel in the 1990s that include security cooperation, seek to make the area part of a future state.

Israeli political commentators saw Netanyahu’s declaration, in a speech broadcast live on Israel’s main TV channels, as a bid to siphon support away from far-right rivals who have long advocated annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank...


North Korea says it will resume talks but adds pressure with new launches

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea fired a new round of short-range projectiles on Tuesday, South Korean officials said, only hours after it signaled a new willingness to resume stalled denuclearization talks with the United States.

The launches were detected early in the morning by the South Korean military, which said they appeared to be short-range projectiles...


Russian police raid opposition activists' homes in 43 citiesAP NEWS

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA September 12, 2019

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shows his ballot as he arrives to vote during a city council election in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Residents of Russia's capital are voting in a city council election that is shadowed by a wave of protests that saw the biggest demonstrator turnout in seven years and a notably violent police response. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian police raided the homes and offices of supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 43 cities on Thursday, his close allies said.

So far, more than 200 raids have taken place across Russia from Vladivostok on the Pacific to Krasnodar in Russia’s south.

Police have also searched the home of Sergei Boyko, a Navalny associate who came second with nearly 20% of the vote in the mayoral election in Russia’s third-largest city of Novosibirsk last Sunday.

Navalny in a video message mocked authorities for the raids, comparing them to a crackdown on a drug cartel and vowed to keep up his work.

“We are not going to stop our work, don’t you worry about that,” he said, adding that authorities on Tuesday blocked bank accounts linked to Navalny’s political aspirations.

Police appear to be targeting those who were part of Navalny’s 2018 presidential election campaign. Though Navalny wasn’t allowed to run, his supporters in local election headquarters in dozens of Russian cities have grown in force, investigating high-level corruption and mobilizing supporters for opposition rallies...


What Bolton’s Departure Means for Israel

Some Israelis are worried it will leave them alone to confront Iran in the region.

TEL AVIV, Israel—The departure of National Security Advisor John Bolton from the U.S. administration on Tuesday has some Israelis worried that President Donald Trump would now pursue a more vigorous policy of detente with Iran, leaving Israel on its own to fight Iranian influence in the region, according to analysts.

Bolton had been one of the drivers of the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, which perfectly matched Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy toward Iran. But Trump has been signaling a shift over the past few weeks, including a willingness to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Any softening of the U.S. approach would mark a dramatic change in policy for the administration, which canceled the President Barack Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran last year and has steadily ratcheted up sanctions.

“What needs to worry us is that the last hurdle ahead of a historic reconciliation between the U.S. and Iran has been removed,” Gabi Ashkenazi, a former army chief of staff who is currently part of the centrist Blue and White party, told Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday. “I would be worried about the possibility that after this agreement between Iran and the Americans, Israel will be left on its own against Iran, something that all prime ministers before Netanyahu were very careful to avoid.”

Bloomberg reported yesterday that Trump decided to oust Bolton precisely over his opposition to easing sanctions against Iran, with an eye to a future meeting with Rouhani. In the Oval Office, Trump indicated Wednesday that he wasn’t seeking regime change in Iran, a goal Bolton has spent his career championing.

But Netanyahu downplayed the implications of Bolton’s departure.

“Look, the one who formally crafted the American policy was [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo … and President Trump of course. But I’m not getting into the personality changes in this administration,” he told Israeli Channel 20 in an interview. “So I am convinced, I have no doubts at all, that in any situation—with talks, without talks—President Trump and his administration will be very, very tough with Iran...”


Aerial view of Tencent's biggest data center under construction in a mountainous area of Guizhou province, on March 13, 2018.

China's data centers emit as much carbon as 21 million cars

By Julie Zaugg, CNN Business

Hong Kong (CNN Business)China's data centers produced 99 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, the equivalent of about 21 million cars on the road, according to a new report.

Data centers store electronic information like emails, photos and videos, and worldwide they consume between 3% and 5% of total global electricity, and rival the airline industry in terms of carbon emissions.
China's data center industry is among the world's largest and last year consumed just over 2% of the country's power, according to a report by Greenpeace and the North China Electric Power University...

Cyber Command's biggest VirusTotal upload looks to expose North Korean-linked malware

U.S. Cyber Command’s largest-ever upload to VirusTotal exposes malware linked with North Korean government hackers, according to security researchers.

Several of the malware samples have been tied to hackers from the so-called Lazarus Group, which the U.S. government has linked with the North Korean government. Specifically, the samples look to be what’s known as “HOPLIGHT,” a trojan that has been used to gather information on victims’ operating systems and uses a public SSL certificate for secure communications with attackers...


Intel & National Security Summit Explores Space and Cyber Issues

By David E. Hubler

Star Trek’s Captain Kirk was correct: Space is the final frontier. But that frontier is under attack from rogue nation-states, private cyber thieves, and bad non-state actors. Some are seeking financial gain, political influence or the disruption of the world’s most important communication medium; others, like the United States, are in a cyber war to protect the vital cyber interests of the nation and its allies.

Get started on your Homeland Security degree at American Military University.
With that mission in mind, cybersecurity experts from the military, federal government and private industry held their annual Intelligence and National Security Summit on September 4-5, co-hosted by AFCEA International and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) at National Harbor, Maryland...


18 Years After 9/11, Jihadism Remains a Global and Local Threat
By Scott Stewart VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor


- The jihadist movement has always consisted of various components, and has never had a unified ideology, theology or operational doctrine.

- While many franchise groups and grassroots jihadists operate under either the Islamic State or al Qaeda name, their operations are still largely independent and thus unaltered by any losses incurred by the two core organizations.

- This decentralized model means that jihadist militants continue to pose an array of threats both at the local and global level, and that security forces must keep the pressure on both levels to adequately thwart future attacks...


The U.S.-China Cold War Is a Myth
The 20th century’s great standoff doesn’t explain the emerging dynamic between Washington and Beijing.

This week, the U.S. Navy conducted drills with ships from Southeast Asian countries in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea—an apparent sign of Washington’s renewed interest in the region and in challenging China.

Close U.S. partners such as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have warned of growing tensions between the two superpowers and urged restraint by both sides. Washington has been deepening security and diplomatic relations in the region, even with former adversaries such as Vietnam, which has been locked in a tense maritime standoff with China since July.

In recent years, the notion of an emerging second Cold War, this time between the United States and China, has gained credence. As early as 1995, China scholar David Shambaugh warned of deteriorating relations in an article titled, “The United States and China: A New Cold War?” Last year, Cold War analyst Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon professor of government at the Harvard Kennedy School, warned of a “new cold war,” and articles published in the Economist, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, and across the mainstream media have built on this narrative. But the Cold War paradigm is not the best way to understand today’s strategic landscape. The Cold War paradigm is not the best way to understand today’s strategic landscape.

The security environment is far more benign than that of the Cold War, and middle powers—countries with more moderate power and influence—have far more agency to shape great-power competition to suit their interests. Southeast Asia is a prime case in point. The region was at the heart of the Cold War era’s so-called hot wars—calamitous U.S. interventions in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos that have shaped the outlooks of a generation of counterinsurgency and strategic analysts in Washington. Today, it sits at the geographic nexus of Chinese and U.S. influence, and is the site of emerging military friction. But the dynamics are very different...

Friday, September 13, 2019

One Ticket to Paradise....

Wasn't the music I was planning for today, but got some bad news this afternoon. Edward Joseph Mahoney, better known as Eddie Money, passed away from complications from heart valve surgery. Another of my bucket list items I won't be able to cross off. Was he the greatest singer or writer, no. But he was always out there, hard working, playing the clubs till the end. And I have to appreciate a former NYPD officer who found his passion and made it.

A few of his classics:

Another great one, gone too soon. RIP Eddie Money, and thanks for some good songs and memories. A bummer to the start of the weekend, hopefully it will get better.

Officer Down

Police Officer Steven James Brown
Port St. Lucie Police Department, Florida
End of Watch Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Age 40
Tour 14 years
Badge 352

Police Officer Steven Brown suffered a fatal heart attack after completing a third day of leading the Port St. Lucie Police Athletic League's Police Camp.

He was one of the camp leaders as part of his summertime duties as a school resource officer. The camp involved three days of strenuous outdoor activities including an obstacle course at the Navy UDT-SEAL Museum. Officer Brown collapsed after returning home at the end of his shift on June 12th.

Officer Brown had served with the Port St. Lucie Police Department for 14 years. He is survived by his wife, son, and daughter.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Julius Jamal "Jay" Dailey
Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Alabama
End of Watch Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Age 29
Tour 10 years
Badge 51-16
Incident Date Monday, June 10, 2019

Deputy Sheriff Jay Dailey was killed in a vehicle crash while responding a burglary in progress at 11:58 pm.

His patrol car left the roadway on a curve in the 1100 block of Highway 41 and overturned, causing him to suffer fatal injuries. He was extricated from the vehicle and transported to a local hospital where he passed away.

Deputy Dailey had served with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office for two years. He had previously served with the Alabama Department of Corrections, Thomasville Police Department, and Pine Hill Police Department for eight years. He is survived by his daughter.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Officer Down

Sergeant David Jones Fitzpatrick
The Colony Police Department, Texas

End of Watch Monday, June 10, 2019
Age 59
Tour 34 years, 9 months
Badge 171
Incident Date Friday, June 7, 2019

Sergeant David Fitzpatrick suffered a fatal heart attack after participating in the department's wellness program on June 7th, 2019.

He collapsed after returning to his office after working out. He was transported to a local hospital where he passed away on June 10th, 2019, without having regained consciousness.

Sergeant Fitzpatrick was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with The Colony Police Department for over 34 years. He is survived by his wife.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

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...