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Monday, January 10, 2022

What's Going On In The World Today 220110


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USA  

 

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

 

Biden pledged to restore the United States’ alliances. It’s been a bigger headache than he anticipated.

Jack DetschDecember 28, 2021, 7:00 AM 

U.S. President Joe Biden faced a turbulent world during his first year in office, with violence wracking the globe—from Ethiopia’s raging civil conflict to the haphazard and deadly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. But if there’s one constant refrain from Biden and his administration, it’s this: Foreign policy is easier with your friends.  

Biden started his tenure with a nearly nonstop telethon of calls to NATO allies and partners on China’s periphery in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, offering a velvet-gloved hand after former U.S. President Donald Trump treated the United States’ longstanding friends with a tiny iron fist.  

“America’s alliances are our greatest asset, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies and key partners once again,” Biden said in his first visit to the U.S. State Department in February… 

U.S. Naval Update Map: Jan. 6, 2022


AFRICA

 

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

 

ASIA

 

On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

 

... High in this corner of the Himalayas, an expanse of snowy peaks and glacier-fed rivers claimed by both China and India, a tense standoff between the two armies is spurring a flurry of infrastructure and military buildup that’s transforming one of the world’s most remote and inhospitable regions. On the Chinese side of the unmarked border, new helicopter pads, runways and railroads have been laid on the Tibetan plateau, according to satellite images and state media reports. On the Indian side, officials are rushing construction on the Zoji La tunnels, upgrading several strategic roads and unveiling new cell towers and landing strips. Both countries have deployed more military force to the border, with India diverting nearly 50,000 mountainous warfare troops there, according to current and former Indian military officials. In recent months, both militaries have publicized combat readiness drills to practice airlifting thousands of soldiers to the front lines at a moment’s notice…

 

Japan set to develop railguns to counter hypersonic missiles

Defense Ministry expects to have a bolstered intercept system by late 2020s

TOKYO -- The Japanese Defense Ministry will develop a means to intercept hostile missiles using magnetically powered projectiles, sources told Nikkei Asia, as the nation scurries to respond to the hypersonic weapons being developed by China, North Korea and Russia. 

The ministry is focusing on railgun technology that can launch projectiles with power generated when an electric current is applied to a magnetic field. The projectiles are faster than those shot from conventional intercept systems and can be fired continuously.

Together with long-range missiles, the next-generation system will provide Japan with multilayered intercept capabilities…

 

EUROPE  

 

Prosecutors use words of British ISIS militant against him

 

A British former member of the Islamic State has sought to minimize his role in the captivity of journalists and aid workers, several of whom were killed. But in 2018, court records show he told Department of Defense investigators he was intimately involved in ransom negotiations and privy to details of some hostages’ deaths. El Shafee Elsheikh, who is facing a January trial in Alexandria federal court, is accused of being part of a notorious quartet of ISIS hostage-takers, known as “The Beatles” because of their British accents

 

 

Finland in NATO? Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin both left open the possibility of the country joining NATO in the near-future in separate New Year addresses. While concluding that the country’s national security position was “stable,” Niinisto added that Finland’s “room to maneuver and freedom of choice also include the possibility of military alignment and of applying for NATO membership, should we ourselves so decide.” Barring a dramatic shift in public opinion, Finland is likely to remain outside the alliance, with only 26 percent of Finns supporting NATO membership in an October poll.

 

NORTH/SOUTH AMERICA 

 

ICE HSI, Brazilian Police Stop Neo-Nazi Plans for New Year’s Eve Mass-Casualty Attack

 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations worked with Brazilian authorities to stop neo-Nazis from planning and executing a mass-casualty attack on New Year’s Eve in São Paulo. According to Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security, four arrest warrants and 31 search-and-seizure warrants were executed Thursday ... as part of Operation Bergon, which targeted antisemites and neo-Nazis networking online and threatening acts of violence.... “While executing the search warrants, Brazil police found homemade explosives, weapons, Nazi paraphernalia, and detailed plans of future attacks,” ICE said of the raids. “One of the perpetrators later stated that he was planning to use these explosives during a New Year’s celebration in the state of São Paulo.”

 

Designation of al-Qaeda Network in Brazil

 

Al-Qa’ida and its regional affiliates continue to pose a threat to countries around the world. The United States is taking action today to stem the funding of this terrorist group by designating members of a Brazil-based network of al-Qa’ida-affiliated individuals and their companies as Specially Designated Global Terrorists…

 

AFGHANISTAN

 

Exclusive: U.N. proposing paying nearly $6 million to Taliban for security

 

The United Nations is proposing to pay nearly $6 million for protection in Afghanistan to Taliban-run Interior Ministry personnel, whose chief is under U.N. and U.S. sanctions and wanted by the FBI, according to a U.N. document and a source familiar with the matter. The proposed funds would be paid next year mostly to subsidize the monthly wages of Taliban fighters guarding U.N. facilities and to provide them a monthly food allowance under an expansion of an accord with the former U.S.-backed Afghan government, the document reviewed by Reuters shows…

 

U.S. authorizes certain transactions with Taliban to ease flow of aid to Afghanistan

 

The United States on Wednesday formally exempted U.S. and U.N. officials doing official business with the Taliban from U.S. sanctions in a decision aimed at easing the flow of aid to Afghanistan as it sinks deeper into a humanitarian crisis. It was was unclear, however, whether the move would clear the way for proposed U.N. payments of some $6 million to the Islamists for security…

 

Afghanistan: Suicide bombers given key role in new Taliban army

 

The Taliban are establishing a battalion of suicide attackers to serve in a new national army in Afghanistan. Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, announced plans for a special forces unit of suicide bombers hours after the defence ministry said it would set up a national army of 100,000 fighters. “Our mujahidin who are martyrdom brigades will also be part of the army but they will be special forces,” Mujahid told Radio Free Europe. “These forces will be under the control the Ministry of Defence and will be used for special operations.”

 

CHINA 

 

China’s Two-Ocean Strategy Puts India in a Pincer 

The Chinese foreign minister’s island hopping is the latest sign of contestation over the Indo-Pacific. 

C. Raja MohanJanuary 4, 2022, 10:46 AM

 

When Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi heads to Comoros, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka later this week after diplomatic visits on the African continent, it will highlight Beijing’s determination to gain a strategic foothold in these Indian Ocean island nations. In the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Wang will also continue to challenge India’s claim to primacy in South Asian waters—India’s own maritime backyard. 

Although it was the conflict along the Himalayan border that dominated India’s growing troubles with China over the last two years, Beijing has kept up relentless pressure on New Delhi with its overtures to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, including investment and security assistance. Despite some recent setbacks in its relations, China remains a force to be reckoned with in these two island republics, which India has long considered part of its sphere of influence in South Asia. 

If New Delhi theoretically benefits from geographic proximity, Beijing brings a lot more resources—economic and military—into play and exploits the natural tendency of small nations to seek to balance a dominant neighbor. What’s more, India’s proximity comes with its own problems: Close neighbors often have multiple disputes while a distant power can take a more strategic view of the relationship. The contestation between Asia’s two great powers in the Maldives and Sri Lanka has also become tightly intertwined with the latter two’s domestic politics, where competing political factions mobilize Indian or Chinese support.

  

France’s Shifting Relations with China 

The September announcement of the Australia-United Kingdom-United States security partnership (commonly known as AUKUS) shined a multi-billion dollar, nuclear-powered spotlight on the divergence between French and American approaches to China. The French government saw AUKUS as more evidence of the United States prioritizing military confrontation: In the words of one French minister, “The United States wants to confront China. The European Union wants to engage China.” On the other hand, some analysts have suggested that the perception that France is “too soft” on China motivated, even justified, Australia’s decision to seek a new source of submarines. In subsequent months, Paris and Washington have managed to turn the page on the AUKUS crisis and have agreed to a robust roadmapto strengthen their relationship. But doubts persist as to whether they’re on the same page about China…

 

IRAN

 

The Iran Nuclear Deal’s Long Year of Negotiations and Uncertainty

2021 saw a change in Iran’s government and on-again, off-again nuclear talks.

Cameron AbadiDecember 24, 2021, 7:00 AM

 

U.S. President Joe Biden’s plans for Iran were straightforward enough. He campaigned on restoring the Iran nuclear deal that had originally been negotiated when he was vice president under Barack Obama—and that then-President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. 

Reinstating the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), wasn’t entirely up to Biden, though. Iran also had a say—and it remains unclear what exactly its preferences are. 

The Iranian government’s composition changed dramatically over the course of 2021. It started the year with an administration led by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif—the very people responsible for reaching the deal with the United States in the first place..

 

A Last-Ditch Effort to Save the Iran Deal

The eighth round of nuclear talks kicks off this week in Vienna, with U.S. officials saying Iran has only weeks to play ball. 

Colum LynchDecember 28, 2021, 10:52 AM

 

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration opened big-power talks this week in Vienna to determine whether steady advances to Tehran’s nuclear program render the landmark Iran nuclear deal “a corpse that cannot be revived,” as one senior U.S. official recently put it to reporters, or if there’s still a chance to salvage the accord. 

The United States has cast the eighth and latest round of negotiations as a last chance for achieving a diplomatic settlement of its nuclear dispute with Iran. U.S. officials warn that the window for reviving the 2015 nuclear pact—known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—is nearly shut. Iran has weeks, not months, to strike a deal or curtail its nuclear activities to avoid facing the prospect of stepped-up coercive measures, from additional sanctions to the threat of military action, a senior U.S. official told Foreign Policy.

“Either we reach a deal quickly or they slow down their program,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity given the negotiations’ confidential nature. “If they do neither, [it’s] hard to see how [the] JCPOA survives past that period.”

“We’ve seen modest steps in recent weeks, but the Iranians are not working at a pace required to get a breakthrough in the coming weeks,” the U.S. official added.

 

Iran Insists Missing Video From Nuclear Site Lost Due To 'Sabotage'

 

Iran's Atomic Energy Organization has rejected that it is responsible for the loss of surveillance video from a centrifuge-parts-production site, suggesting that the data was lost due to an attack on the plant this summer. "The records were destroyed by an act of sabotage," the agency said in December 18 press statement after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had "doubts" about Iran's explanation for the missing video.

 

Iran: Navy Receives Refurbished Military Aircraft, Swimmer Delivery Vehicles And Destroyer

 

A number of overhauled military aircraft, swimmer delivery vehicles, and a destroyer that have been modernized by local experts joined the Iranian Navy’s fleet on Sunday. The equipment was handed over to Iranian naval forces during a ceremony joined by Deputy Chief of Iranian Army for Coordination Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani and other senior military figures in Iran’s southern port city of Bandar Abbas.

 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard holds military drill amid tension

 

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard staged a major military exercise across the country’s south on Monday amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, state TV reported. The Guard’s aerospace division, ground troops and naval forces joined in the five-day drill, the report said, with maritime forces set to maneuver in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow gateway for 20 percent of the world’s traded oil.

 

Iran Condom Ban Sparks Fears Of Disease, Unwanted Pregnancies, And A Black Market

 

Iran has passed a law banning the free, state-subsidized distribution of contraceptives in a bid to boost its population growth -- but the move has raised fears of catastrophic repercussions. Iran's government systematically cracks down on the free flow of information and those who speak to foreign media may be subject to persecution. For that reason, the identities of the interviewees are not disclosed and their faces are blurred or not shown

 

Iran believes that maneuvering missiles, drones will evade air defense

 

The Islamic Republic is seeking to improve its missile and drone capability to tap into the latest technology from Russia and China and learn how to get around the latest air-defense systems, according to Iranian military analysts who were cited in a long article published by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency. The interesting article was transparent in laying out where Tehran seeks to go next in its offensive military technology. Iran already has a plethora of drones and missiles and is seeking greater impact in the realm of space. Tehran now says it wants to learn from the experience of history how missiles have defeated air defense. “It should be noted that maneuvering ballistic warheads are just one step away from Hypersonic Gliding Vehicles (HGVs), which are now the cutting edge of missile technology in warheads,” the report said.

 

Iran space launch fails to put payloads into orbit, official says

 

Iran's space launch on Thursday failed to put its three payloads into orbit after the rocket was unable to reach the required speed, a defence ministry spokesman said in remarks carried on state television on Friday. The attempted launch, which came as indirect U.S.-Iran talks take place in Austria to try to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal, drew criticism from the United States, Germany and France…

 

Israeli Intelligence Estimate Iran Is 8 Weeks from Developing Nuclear Weapons

 

Israel's latest intelligence estimates that Iran is now six to eight weeks away from reaching the fissile material that would allow the development of a nuclear bomb. Still, it has not decided to move forward with that. Israeli broadcaster Kan 11 quoted security sources as saying that Tehran was able to reduce the timetable that allows it to be able to develop nuclear weapons. Currently, it can produce a quantity of 90 percent enriched uranium, the percentage required to begin making a nuclear bomb. However, the sources said that despite Iran's progress towards nuclear weapons, it took a decision to stop at this point, which would enable it to bargain during the ongoing negotiations in Vienna over its nuclear program…

 

Israel Changes Tack on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Israeli officials are showing more pragmatism about the possibility of a limited nuclear deal with Iran under the auspices of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. According to a Jan. 5 Axios report, the head of Israeli military intelligence told Israeli ministers during a Security Cabinet meeting on Jan. 2 that Israel would be "better off" if ongoing Iran nuclear talks actually produced a deal. Having at least part of the Israeli security establishment behind a potential deal would offer important support from a key regional power previously opposed to the 2015 JCPOA, which could help sustain any deal.

  • Then-Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu — who did not leave office until last year — and many members of his government were deeply opposed to the 2015 JCPOA based on Israel's assessment of the Iranian nuclear program's threat to Israel and the ongoing conflict between the two countries, which are among the Middle East's biggest adversaries. 

While a limited agreement is likely this year, the high stakes, complex talks could collapseJCPOA talks in Vienna are ongoing between Iran on one side and China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States on the other. Israeli officials have met repeatedly with U.S. officials on the issue in recent weeks. But redoubled Iranian demands for sanctions relief and more nuclear-related concessions since talks resumed in November 2021 after a five-month hiatus, as well as continued U.S. demands that non-nuclear issues also be discussed, have slowed the nuclear talks' progress…

 

IRAQ 

 

Two rockets hit Baghdad's fortified Green Zone - Iraqi state media

 

Two Katyusha rockets hit Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, Iraq's state news agency reported early on Sunday citing security forces. One rocket was destroyed in the air by the C-RAM defense system and the other landed near the zone's festivals arena damaging two cars, the report added. Security forces started an investigation to detect the launch site...

 

Iran, Iraq: Natural Gas Shortage Causes Disruptions in Baghdad

What Happened: Several power plants in Iraq's capital of Baghdad and other provinces stopped working temporarily after Iran suspended some natural gas exports to Iraq, Al Arabiya reported Dec. 29.

Why It Matters: Iran suspended natural gas exports to Iraq mainly because Iran is also facing increased domestic demand for natural gas and because Iraq does not reliably pay for its imports. Additionally, Iranian authorities could be using the suspension to pressure Iraq into including Iran-aligned politicians in its new government as formation talks continue in Baghdad. In Iraq, natural gas shortages were already upsetting residents in parts of Baghdad, which risks sparking protests. This domestic unrest will determine one of the priorities of Iraq's forthcoming government just before it comes into office.

Background: Iraq's electricity minister cited Iran’s reduction in exports of natural gas as the reason for gas and electricity shortages throughout Iraq. Iraq imports a substantial amount of electricity and natural gas from Iran but has been unable to reliably pay for the imports, causing Iran to suspend them on occasion.

 

 

Iraqi air force strikes Islamic State targets

 

The Iraqi air force conducted airstrikes against the Islamic State today following a flurry of attacks. Iraqi pilots using US-made F-16 fighter jets struck IS outside of Sadiyah in the Diyala province in northeastern Iraq. Iraqi army and police units discovered the bodies of IS fighters, M-16 rifles, destroyed sniper hideouts and more after the strikes, the Security Media Cell said....

 

ISRAEL

 

The Two-State Solution Is Dead—and Liberal Zionists Can’t Save It

 

The book “Haifa Republic” is a noble effort to salvage a worldview that no longer has anything to offer. 

Dimi ReiderDecember 31, 2021, 3:00 AM 

The two state-solution in Israel-Palestine is dead, and its erstwhile champions—liberal Zionists and foreign diplomats, mainly—are clinging to an obsolete political program, leaving the field wide open to the Israeli right and far right to shape reality as they please. 

These forces have already been shaping reality for a while, entrenching the military occupation and inextricably integrating the settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank with the economy and society of Israel proper. There’s no way now to deconstruct the settlement project without sending cracks running throughout Israel within its pre-1967 borders. To this extent, the liberal Zionist vision of partition has been outmaneuvered and defeated by its opponents. 

But liberal Zionism has also fallen victim to its own internal contradictions and double standards. It’s cardinal flaw and original sin: convincing itself that the cataclysm of 1948, when Israel’s nation state was entrenched through widespread and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, can be sidestepped by tidying up one of its aftershocks, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, by creating a Palestinian state on a mere 22 percent of historic Palestine’s territory. 

The Israeli right, meanwhile, has always insisted that the Palestinians’ fundamental contention was with the existence of Israel as established in 1948. While undoing 1948 is unthinkable and compromising merely on 1967 wouldn’t solve the problem, successive right-wing governments opted to contain the consequences, doing their utmost to strengthen the Israeli presence and the military’s control between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israel Defense Minister Warns of Greater Action Against Iran

 

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned of greater action against Iran, adding that it is “ possible and necessary” to put an end to Iran’s “foot-dragging” strategy in talks with world powers on its nuclear program. “We are deepening international cooperation, and I am certain that soon, both overt and covert actions will be expanded, by a variety of means,” Gantz said in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee….

 

Israel Changes Tack on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Israeli officials are showing more pragmatism about the possibility of a limited nuclear deal with Iran under the auspices of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. According to a Jan. 5 Axios report, the head of Israeli military intelligence told Israeli ministers during a Security Cabinet meeting on Jan. 2 that Israel would be "better off" if ongoing Iran nuclear talks actually produced a deal. Having at least part of the Israeli security establishment behind a potential deal would offer important support from a key regional power previously opposed to the 2015 JCPOA, which could help sustain any deal.

  • Then-Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu — who did not leave office until last year — and many members of his government were deeply opposed to the 2015 JCPOA based on Israel's assessment of the Iranian nuclear program's threat to Israel and the ongoing conflict between the two countries, which are among the Middle East's biggest adversaries.

While a limited agreement is likely this year, the high stakes, complex talks could collapseJCPOA talks in Vienna are ongoing between Iran on one side and China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States on the other. Israeli officials have met repeatedly with U.S. officials on the issue in recent weeks. But redoubled Iranian demands for sanctions relief and more nuclear-related concessions since talks resumed in November 2021 after a five-month hiatus, as well as continued U.S. demands that non-nuclear issues also be discussed, have slowed the nuclear talks' progress…

 

KOREAN PENINSULA  

 

South Korea’s defector. A South Korean defected to North Korea on Saturday, crossing the military demarcation line during the night, South Korean military officials confirmed. Roughly 30,000 North Koreans have defected south since an armistice brought the Korean War to a standstill, but a case of a South Korean making the opposite journey is extremely rare. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said they had informed their North Korean counterparts of the defection via a hotline but otherwise could not confirm the safety of the as yet unnamed South Korean.

  

North Korea fires missile as S.Korea breaks ground for 'peace' railway

 

North Korea fired what the United States said was a ballistic missile on Wednesday, just hours before South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a rail line he hopes will eventually connect the divided Korean peninsula. Nuclear-armed North Korea's first test launch since October underscored leader Kim Jong Un's New Year vow to bolster the military to counter an unstable international situation amid stalled talks with South Korea and the United States. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command called it a ballistic missile launch and the U.S. State Department condemned, it while repeating calls for renewed dialogue with North Korea…

 

RUSSIA

 

Four Scenarios for Rising Russia-Ukraine Tensions

Russia's buildup of troops along the Ukrainian border has reignited speculation regarding the future of the Donbas conflict and Moscow's intentions in eastern Ukraine more broadly. For now, the Kremlin's primary motivation is to increase its leverage in impending European security talks with the United States and NATO amid Moscow's push for "security guarantees." These concerns have been particularly acute amid Moscow's months-long expressions of dissatisfaction with the situation in Ukraine. But Moscow's opening position, which Russia's foreign ministry unveiled on Dec. 17, contains demands against NATO expansion to the former Soviet Union or even to develop bilateral military cooperation with these countries, both of which have already taken place and are non-starters for the alliance. The documents' unacceptable content and rapid disclosure by Russia are indicative of their use as an ultimatum, after which Moscow will likely conduct long-planned steps continuing its military buildup, threatening a hotter Donbas conflict, or possibly even conducting an invasion of Ukraine. 

Amid this backdrop, there are four main scenarios for the future of the conflict in Ukraine, starting from the most likely to the least likely…:

 

How the Kremlin Is Militarizing Russian Society

 

Stepping onto a podium in heavy boots and military fatigues at a ceremony outside Moscow, six teenagers accepted awards for an increasingly important discipline in Russia: patriotism. For days, students from around the country had competed in activities like map-reading, shooting and history quizzes. The contest was funded in part by the Kremlin, which has been making “military patriotic” education a priority. “Parents and children understand that this aggressive shell around us, it is tightening, it is hardening,” said Svyatoslav Omelchenko, a special forces veteran of the K.G.B. who founded Vympel, the group running the event. “We are doing all we can to make sure that children are aware of that and to get them ready to go and serve.” Over the past eight years, the Russian government has promoted the idea that the motherland is surrounded by enemies, filtering the concept through national institutions like schools, the military, the news media and the Orthodox Church…

 

Russia Doesn’t Have the Demographics for War

The 1990s collapse in birth rates still impacts Moscow’s ambitions. 

Brent PeabodyJanuary 3, 2022, 12:30 PM 

As Russia spent much of 2021 amassing troops on its Ukrainian border, an important headline almost escaped notice. While Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Ukraine, Russia suffered its largest natural population decline since World War II, losing 997,000 people in the yearlong period between October 2020 and September 2021. Although coronavirus casualties in Russia were severe—and probably highly underreported—this wasn’t a one-time anomaly. Instead, it was the opening shot of a longer-term trend that will manifest in earnest over the next decade. Russia is about to enter a prolonged and painful period of demographic decline at home—complicating its expansionist ambitions abroad. 

The roots of this demographic decline rest in the 1990s and the chaos wrought by Russia’s post-Soviet transition from a centrally planned economy to a capitalist, market-based one. The transition was characterized by economic turmoil, mass unemployment, and alcoholism, all of which combined to briefly give Russia one of the world’s lowest male life expectancies.. The most lasting impact, however, was the concurrent collapse in birthrates. From 1993 to 2007, the fertility rate (defined as the number of children a woman can be expected to have over the course of her lifetime) fell below 1.5, far below the 2.1 replacement rate needed to hold a population steady… 

Russia Struggles To Secure Its Rapidly Changing Eastern Frontier

Geography and demography will always compel Russia to prioritize its European frontier, but shifts in global economic and security dynamics have drawn Russia back into the Indo-Pacific, where Moscow is finding it has limited tools to maintain its strategic interests.  

Russia recently issued a set of demands to reset its frontier with NATO, effectively calling for NATO to withdraw to its 1997 position, stop any further eastward expansion, and contact Moscow before conducting any military exercises with countries along the Russian periphery. While the demands appeared bold (and have already been largely rejected by both NATO and the United States), they reflect the geopolitical realities that have long shaped Russia’s European and southward views and priorities. Left largely unaddressed in the current discussion are Russia’s views on the Arctic and its Far East, particularly Russia’s expanding relations in the Indo-Pacific. There, Moscow contends with a China that is both a necessary strategic partner and a challenger for Eurasian hegemony…  

MIDDLE EAST GENERAL

 

Saudi-led strikes halt aid flights into Yemen's rebel-held capital

 

UN aid flights into Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa have been halted by air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition which supports the government, an airport official said Tuesday. Because of coalition air strikes targeting the Huthi rebels, "the airport is no longer able to receive aircraft operated by the United Nations or international humanitarian organisations"....

 

CYBER ISSUES  

 

Startups and the Defense Department’s Compliance Labyrinth

In 2018, employees at Microsoft published a controversial letter arguing that the company should turn down a $10 billion business opportunity. The authors opposed Microsoft’s bid on the Defense Department’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract, arguing that they joined Microsoft to make a “positive impact on people and society,” not enhance the lethality of the U.S. military. That same year, a group of employees at Amazon followed suit lambasting their company’s support of surveillance technology for defense and homeland security purposes. Most notably, Google in 2019 terminated its artificial intelligence work for the department in Project Maven due to opposition from its employees. 

While these stories are troubling, for many American tech companies, especially small startups, the true barriers to cooperation with the Department of Defense lie not in a misguided techno-moralism but more in the department’s self-imposed bureaucratic barriers, especially its Byzantine cyber security compliance processes. In the department’s current approach to cyber security, confusing, overlapping requirements are continually added by bureaucratic actors such as the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment to an already lengthy set of requirements with insufficient care for usability and overall efficacy. This is not a new problem: Department of Defense senior leaders as well as those in the private sectorhave spent the better part of a decade stressing the need for better, more streamlined compliance and software development regulations in support of the national defense. Though ongoing adoption of Agile processes and development, security, and operations practices have led to incremental improvements, the epochal changes needed to keep up with near-peer adversaries remains elusive due to risk aversion and self-imposed institutional barriers.

 

For Iran, Ransomware Offers a Way to Attack the U.S. From Within

Iranian-backed hackers will increasingly carry out ransomware and encryption-based cyberattacks targeting U.S. and Israeli organizations, even as nuclear negotiations continue. And if those talks break down, Iran will be incentivized to launch more disruptive attacks. An Iranian threat actor, dubbed DEV-0270, was behind a ransomware attack against U.S.-based Cox Media Group over the summer, The Record reported Dec. 29 without providing a source. Live streams from Cox’s television and radio stations went down on June 3, which the company confirmed in October was caused by a ransomware attack. Iran’s involvement in the Cox incident, however, had not been widely reported until now, and follows months of warnings from both Microsoft and the U.S. government that Iranian threat actors are increasingly using ransomware in their attacks… 

 

INTEL/ESPIONAGE/SPYING GENERAL  

 

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT  

 

TERRORISM  

 

IntelBrief: The Islamic State Continues to Mutate, Defying Efforts to Stamp it Out

 

With much of the focus recently on Islamic State Khorasan (ISK) and the threat it poses in Afghanistan, there has been less attention paid to the activities of the Islamic State core, still scattered across the Levant. Led by a low-profile leader, Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, also known as Hajji Abdallah, Islamic State has been quietly rebuilding its networks at the local level in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, attacks have waned considerably, with the weakest operational tempo at any point in the past several years, a trend that first emerged in September. Within Iraq, attacks remain centered around the same geographic areas, including Anbar, Nineveh, Salahuddin, Diyala, Erbil, and Kirkuk. Despite the less aggressive pace of attacks in recent months, a report from the Department of Defense’s Inspector General on Operation Inherent Resolve suggested that Islamic State attacks were displaying a “higher level of operational maturity.” This could suggest that the dip in attacks is directly related to a broader operational evolution, focused on fewer attacks, but ones that are more sophisticated in their planning and execution…

 

Neither Local, Nor Transnational, But Both: The Islamic State in Congo

 

The Allied Democratic Forces, a militant group in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has become part of the Islamic State, and Uganda has sent troops into Congo after a series of bombings in Kampala. The ADF’s local-transnational hybrid nature, and the shifts in capacity they have brought, complicate efforts to effectively confront the group. In April 2019, Islamic State propaganda channels began issuing claims of attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a long-standing Islamist rebel group operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Taking many by surprise, the seeming integration of the ADF into the Islamic State’s network of affiliated local insurgencies as a branch of its “Central Africa Province” has generated sustained debate over the veracity, nature, and policy implications of the relationship between the ADF and the Islamic State. As the ADF continues to expand its areas of operation in Congo, displace tens of thousands, attract recruits from across the region, and use its Congolese holdings to stage attacks abroad, understanding these ties and their implications is a critical foundation for understanding the ADF’s trajectory, its impact on Congo and the region, and appropriate policy responses. ... Analysts have questioned the depth of ties between the Islamic State’s central leadership and its ostensible local affiliate, have critiqued an emphasis on those ties given the limited command and control of the ADF by the Islamic State’s central leadership, and have argued that framing the ADF as an Islamic State affiliate essentializes a group born more of local and regional circumstances than the global Salafist-jihadist movement…

 

Engineer pleads guilty to terrorism for LA train derailment

 

An train engineer who intentionally derailed a locomotive near a U.S. Navy hospital ship that was deployed in Los Angeles harbor to help during the COVID-19 pandemic pleaded guilty Thursday to committing a terrorist attack. Eduardo Moreno, 45, who worked at the Port of Los Angeles, acknowledged in his plea agreement that on March 31, 2020, he drove a locomotive at full speed off the end of the tracks near where the Mercy was docked because he believed it might be involved in a sinister conspiracy, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement. Nobody was hurt but the derailment caused about $700,000 in damages. The train also spilled fuel that required a hazardous-materials cleanup...

 

Bowling Green Man Arrested on Multiple Terrorism Charges [KY]

 

A federal court in Kentucky unsealed an indictment today charging a dual U.S.-Bosnian citizen with providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. The defendant is also charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS and receiving military type training from ISIS..... As alleged, after joining ISIS, Ramic attended an ISIS training camp where he received weapons and physical training and fired an AK-47. The FBI obtained photographs of Ramic in ISIS territory which depict him wearing camouflage clothing and standing in front of a pickup truck outfitted with an anti-aircraft gun and the ISIS flag. A second photograph of Ramic depicts him holding a rifle...

 

MISC  

 

... GOP governors ... Pentagon has no authority to punish unvaccinated National Guardsmen

 

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott asserted the Pentagon has no authority to punish unvaccinated members of the state National Guard, joining other Republican governors who have called on Defense Secretary ... to withdraw or otherwise nullify the military's Covid-19 vaccine mandate.... Abbott wrote that the commander of the Texas National Guard -- under the governor's executive order -- "will not punish any guardsmen" for not getting vaccinated, adding that it was "unconscionable" that the military would threaten to withhold federal dollars for unvaccinated members of the guard or discharge service members from the unit…

 

Click ‘Like’, Get Punished Under Pentagon’s New Anti-Extremism Policy

 

Service members could be punished for “liking” extremist content online under a new extension to the Pentagon’s anti-extremism policy that was prompted by the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. The policy is the result of a review launched by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin shortly after he took office in January. The review aimed to discover the extent of extremism within the ranks, and to look at how the Pentagon can balance privacy rights with the need to prevent people who espouse extremist views from serving in uniform. The new policy, a revision of DOD Instruction 1325.06, introduces the department’s first rules that specifically govern troops’ activities on social media, said a senior defense official ....

 

At Least 458 U.S. Crimes Tied to Extremism Involved Veterans, Active Duty Troops

The “underlying factors are not going away,” says one researcher. 

Tara CoppDecember 17, 2021

 

The number of people with military backgrounds who committed criminal acts motivated by extremist views has jumped during the last ten years, according to new research at the University of Maryland. Without intervention, experts worry, those numbers will continue to rise. 

What they want to do is get ahead of the problem, and increase outreach to this new generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to get them engaged and supported to prevent any allure of extremist groups from taking hold… 

…START’s latest report, released Wednesday, identifies 458 people with military backgrounds who were either arrested, charged, or indicted after committing criminal acts that were motivated by extremist political, economic, social, or religious goals since 1990. 

That total includes 107 veterans and 11 others with military ties, including “one active-duty Marine, two Army Reservists, two Army National Guard members, two Marine Reservists, two Civil Air Patrol Cadets, and one member of the Army and one member of the Air Force who enlisted after January 6, 2021,” the study found…

 

New reforms target U.S. military’s missing weapons problem

The Department of Defense is overhauling how it keeps track of its guns and explosives, and Congress is requiring more accountability from the Pentagon — responses to an Associated Press investigation that showed lost or stolen military weapons were reaching America’s streets. ... The Pentagon will now have to give lawmakers an annual report on weapons loss and security under the National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress approved this month…

 

Why the U.S. Military Isn’t Ready for Civil War

A significant portion of Americans seek the destruction of political authority. What if they succeed? 

Stephen MarcheJanuary 4, 2022, 3:51 PM

 

The unimaginable has become reality in the United States. Buffoonish mobs desecrating the U.S. Capitol building, tanks parading down the streets of Washington, running battles between protesters and militias, armed rebels attempting to kidnap sitting governors, uncertainty about the peaceful transition of power—if you read about them in another country, you would think a civil war had already begun. The basic truth is the United States might be on the brink of such a war today. Americans must now take the proposition seriously, not just as a political warning but as a probable military scenario—and a potential catastrophe. 

The United States, of course, is not just any country—it is the world’s most enduring democracy and largest economy. But ever fewer Americans believe its size and power are going to save it anymore. In the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s election, Thomas E. Ricks for Foreign Policy asked a group of national security experts to assess the chances of a civil war over the next 10 to 15 years. The consensus stood at 35 percent. A 2019 poll from Georgetown University asked registered voters how close to the “edge of a civil war” the country was, on a scale from 0 to 100. The mean of their answers was 67.23, so almost exactly two-thirds of the way… 

 

2. Staffing Shortages on the High Seas  

by Elisabeth Braw, columnist at Foreign Policy and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute 

In 2022, I’ll be watching seafarer recruitment. “What an incredibly narrow subject to watch,” you might say. Not so. Ships transport 80 percent of the world’s trade by volume, which translates into 1.5 tons of goods delivered to each person on the planet every year. Without maritime shipping, we’d simply not receive most of the items we depend on every day. 

But while shipping has been experiencing phenomenal growth as a result of globalization, people have become less willing to go to sea. People in the West, that is. Today’s more than 50,000 ships are crewed primarily by citizens of China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Russia, and Ukraine. India, too, ranks among the top suppliers of seafarers. Every country, especially the world’s most advanced economies, depends on these countries’ seafarers to transport vital goods. 

Even before COVID-19, the shipping industry was battling staffing challenges. And what if seafarers, who must still endure longer-than-normal stays on their ships because pandemic-weary countries won’t let them disembark, decide they’ve had enough? If even one-tenth of the world’s estimated 1.6 million seafarers were to quit, the world would experience massive supply chain disruptions. The Ever Given’s misfortune in the Suez Canal in March 2021 and the delays at the Port of Los Angeles portend what that might look like. 

For us ordinary citizens, shipping is out of sight, out of mind. Indeed, seafarers’ lives don’t interest most of us (well, except for that whole sea shanty TikTok trend that suddenly exploded around this time last year). But in 2022, I’ll intently be watching seafarer recruitment and retention—and so should everyone else who depends on their services, because few crises would affect us more than a seafarer recruitment one. 

Remarkable, isn’t it, how people who get so little attention have the power to make our lives extremely convenient or extremely miserable?

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