3 August 2016

** The Threat to America’s Electrical Grid Is Much Bigger Than You Can Possibly Imagine

JULY 31, 2016 

But it’s not Russian hackers you should be worried about. 

Greetings from the front. The cyberwar continues. Our operatives continue to hit infrastructure targets around the globe. In June alone we conducted 44 ops, hitting targets in 26 U.S. states and six countries total. Each operation impacted as many 15,000 people and lasted for up to four and half hours. Of course that’s just our unclassified operations; the actual number of power outages our operatives have caused is 10 times that number.

As we continue to wreak havoc on your electric infrastructure, your policymakers and cyberwar hawks are rattling sabers, worried about online attacks from nation-states, completely ignoring the threats that successfully target your power grid every day. The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, and even the esteemed Ted Koppel talk about “cybergeddon,” trillion-dollar risks, and when — not if — a massive cyberattack on the U.S. electric power grid will occur. Even President Obama is worried. In the meantime, we quietly go about our work, disrupting power generation and transmission across the globe.

To date there has been exactly one, just one, power outage that can be attributed to some sort of cyberattack by a nation-state. Last December, someone (many people say directed by the Russian government, but there really isn’t enough evidence to support that accusation) hit up to six different power companies in Ukraine with a coordinated malware and DDoS attack. This definitely wasn’t a random lone hacker in a basement; this took months of planning and coordinated effort. It sounds scary but the outages only lasted a few hours and affected around 80,000 residences. We have caused far bigger and longer outages all by ourselves.

** Is the Indian IT services dream coming to an end?

July 27, 2016

As their world is becoming increasingly disrupted by the cloud and artificial intelligence, Indian outfits will have to evolve into something higher up the value chain to survive. 

Technology, or ways to implement it, was once transformed by labour due to Indian firms, but now labour is largely and rapidly being made irrelevant by new technology. (Image: Infosys) 

In a few decades, the world witnessed the beginning of a large disruption in the arena of IT services pioneered by Indian companies, such as Infosys and TCS, where cheap but skilled technology labour in India was relied upon to fashion technology solutions for US and European companies.

These users are taking SaaS to a new level, improving the business of delivering IT services -- and in moving IT support and change management from a cost center to a proactive IT knowledge asset. 

Modi’s 4-Nation African Visit: India-South Africa Defence Cooperation

By Monish Gulati
02 Aug , 2016

During his visit to South Africa (SA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw potential in ramping up cooperation in trade and investment, especially in areas of minerals, mining, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and information technology. He was, however, more enthusiastic about partnering SA in the field of defence and security – “both, at the level of industry and for our strategic and security needs”. He indicated that the Indian defence sector which is witnessing a complete transformation and offers exciting opportunities for collaboration, recently had its norms relaxed to allow 100 per cent FDI. 

Modi felt that Indian and SA defence companies could also “pool their capacities to jointly develop or manufacture defence equipment and platforms”. A move, not just to meet mutual defence requirements, but also to respond to regional and global demand, Modi had suggested. However, given the historical cooperation, the Indian prime minister remarks actually called upon Indian and South African companies to ‘step-up and scale-up’ their cooperation in the defence sector.

SA Defence Industry

The SA defence industry dates back to the apartheid regime when its rapid development was propelled by two important factors: battling a domestic insurgency and circumventing the mandatory arms embargo imposed by the UN in 1977. The industry shaped up in the 1980s to reach a stage where its technical, design and production abilities are today considered one of the most advanced in the non-Western world.

While the SA defence industry has become increasingly a part of the global arms industry, including acting as subcontractors and supplying military components for foreign systems, it also holds its ground in a few niche areas such as, light armoured vehicles and anti-tank missiles. SA currently supplies weapons and other military equipment to several countries across the world; from the US to China to Sweden and Zambia. The Middle East is a large customer of SA military hardware, ordering missiles, artillery and armoured vehicles many of which are being fielded in the on-going Yemen conflict. In India, the armed forces and the armed police forces would recall their association with the SA supplied mine protected vehicle (MPV), Casspir.

India-SA Collaboration

How IAF Firepower Severely Dented Pakistan’s Psyche During The Kargil War

By Rakesh Krishnan Simha
02 Aug , 2016

On 12 June 1999, Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz hastily arrived in New Delhi, ostensibly to discuss ways of ending the Kargil War. Aziz, who deeply resents India, had landed with a single agenda – he implored India to “stop its airstrikes”.

Here was a conservative hawk, who is known to attack India in the most vicious manner, begging New Delhi to call off the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) round-the-clock barrage on Pakistani positions. You don’t get more desperate than that.

Aziz’s desperation was a result of the incredible display of firepower that the IAF – in tandem with the Indian Army’s 24/7 artillery barrage – had brought to bear on the Pakistanis. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16s had been repeatedly buzzed by India’s MiG-29s, and the PAF pilots had simply refused to offer combat. This had allowed the Indian Army and the IAF’s ground attack jets to blast away with impunity.

Aziz hadn’t come to buy peace; he had come to buy time, and Pakistan Army lives. It wasn’t ‘international’ (read American) pressure that made him dash to New Delhi but the desire to save the Pakistani military establishment from a humiliating 1971 war-like defeat. Had Aziz known that India was hours away from bombing Pakistan, he would have probably offered Baluchistan in exchange.

The IAF over Kargil

China-India-Myanmar: The Forgotten Frontier

By Air Cmdr PC Chopra
02 Aug , 2016

The large porous and underdeveloped border could also be turned into a border of peace and progress. The pro-democracy movement and Myanmar’s integration with Western economies, would give a much needed push towards studying Western concepts and learning English. As such, India needs to open, near the Indo-Myanmar border, a large number of schools, colleges and a university specialising in teaching English and democratic concepts and shared cultures. Students with special passes should be able to just walk over and attend classes in India. The area is especially suited for Myanmar’s citizens near and around the capital Naypyidaw in Northern Myanmar, where the need is greatest. This matter needs to be pursued with the present government on priority. This would enhance India’s soft power status as also protect her interests.

The history of this region is a saga of independence movements, military dictatorships, insurgencies, externally sponsored low intensity armed conflicts and tribal uprisings…

Very few officials in the corridors of power in New Delhi know anything about Walong, the Easternmost town of India on the tri-junction of the China-India-Myanmar border. It was the scene of fierce fighting during the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. Lesser still, the powers that be in Delhi do not know that the distance from New Delhi to Walong is greater than the distance from Walong to Bangkok and Hanoi. New and exciting developments, opportunities missed and made, are taking place in this region. A new network of roads, railway lines, airstrips and air-corridors are being planned, developed and strengthened. This will have a profound effect on the future of India and its ‘Look East’ policy. These developments will also have far reaching consequences on the defence of these far flung borders, bring us face to face with China and Myanmar and herald a defence and economic transformation in the region. The author has flown more than a thousand hours in the area and landed at all the helipads, airstrips, airfields, Indian Air Force stations, army formations and knows the area like the palm of his hand.

India Is On Its Way To Establishing An Unaccountable Higher Judiciary

August 1, 2016

We are nowhere near an agreement between the executive and judiciary on how to appoint or remove judges in future.

The bone of contention is essentially this: whether the government should have any say at all in rejecting some choices of the court collegium, on grounds of national security or corruption. 

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the members of the collegium want to not only decide who should be appointed, but who should not be appointed.

It is nearly 10 months since the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), a law passed by overwhelming majorities in both the Parliament and over half the state assemblies. But, we are nowhere near an agreement between the executive and judiciary on how to appoint or remove judges in future.

It is easy to dismiss this as another instance of the usual tensions between elected representatives and judges, who are there to interpret the constitution, but we would be wrong. It may be an ego tussle, but it is also a case of judicial unaccountability.

Conscious of the fact that it had effectively overruled the people of India in a case (i.e., NJAC) in which it was itself an interested party, the five-judge Constitutional Bench—headed by Justice J.S. Khehar— offered a minor sop to the executive to prepare the “memorandum of procedure” on judicial appointments. In other words, judges will still hold all the high cards and decide who they will appoint as fellow judges, but the government can decide the procedure. Surprisingly, the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) is going back and forth between the law ministry and the judiciary, and still not finding consensus.

'Headley can teach us a lot about terrorism'

August 01, 2016 

'India simply wasn't prepared for the fact that a natural-born American could be organising a major terror plot in their country. And they didn't look for people like him.'
'Headley is one of the most complex and interesting terrorists of the last many years.'

Danish investigative journalist Kaare Sørensen has covered international affairs, Islamic terrorism, surveillance, intelligence agencies and subsequently the foiled Copenhagen/Aarhus 2009-2010 attack.

The journalist journeyed to Pakistan, Yemen, Iran and Egypt, spent more than 1,000 hours over a little less than four years working on his book, The Mind of A Terrorist: David Headley, the Mumbai Massacre, and His European Revenge, which traces the crimes and life of the diabolic Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley.

In the concluding part of his interview to Rediff.com's Vaihayasi Pande Daniel, Sørensen explains why David Headley is one of his dangerous kind. 

IMAGE: The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, November 26, 2008. Photograph: Reuters

Beyond Cartographic Assertion: A Roadmap on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

August 01, 2016

Most of India’s geopolitical vexations stem from a contested northern periphery, entailing disputes born either in the aftermath of independence or inherited from British rule. Principal among these is the region of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Soon after independence, a huge portion of J&K’s territory was bifurcated from the rest of the princely state as a result of the Pakistan-aided assault conducted in these regions during 1947-48. Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) refers to those parts of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) that continue to be under Pakistan’s control. It comprises the so-called ‘Azad’ Jammu and Kashmir (‘AJK’), and Gilgit Baltistan, which latter was referred to as the Northern Areas by the government of Pakistan until 2009. India stakes a claim on these territories by virtue of the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on 26 October 1947. 

In consonance with India’s official position on J&K, the Survey of India map, considered the official and by far the most authentic source of determining India’s geographical extent, shows PoK (as it existed during British rule) as part of the Indian state of J&K and thus as an integral part of India. Apart from PoK, the Survey of India map also shows as Indian territory the Trans-Karakoram Tract (previously part of PoK) and Aksai Chin, both of which are currently under China’s control. 
The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016 

Elections in PoK and Protests in Kashmir Valley: The Linkage

July 28, 2016

Burhan Wani’s death on July 8 occurred just before the elections in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Expectedly, election rhetoric from all concerned political parties, including the ruling Pakistan Muslim League ­Nawaz (PML­N), and the opposition, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and others, contained passionate eulogies for the ‘martyr’ Burhan Wani, and re­runs of the usual Pakistani litany of Indian atrocities and human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a cabinet meeting on July 15 in which he declared Pakistan’s unstinting support for the Kashmiris’ “just struggle for self-determination.”1 Interestingly, he announced Islamabad’s intention to observe July 19 as a “Black Day”, which was swiftly postponed to July 21, to coincide with elections in PoK. In a campaign speech in Islamabad, he asserted that Pakistan was and will continue to be a stakeholder in Kashmir, which could not be considered India’s internal matter. Nawaz Sharif was echoed by the Pakistani establishment. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary requested the Islamabad-based Ambassadors of the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, which comprises Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Niger, to raise their voice against “the blatant human rights violations” of Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley.2 Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaz Aziz stated on July 25, in reply to Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement that Burhan Wani was considered to be a terrorist by India, thus: “Let us not forget, that not long ago the British labelled Indian freedom fighters as traitors and terrorists because at that time India was considered an integral part of the British Empire.”3 While the intention to rile India, especially in international fora, is always an objective with Pakistan, the political mileage that Nawaz Sharif and the PML­N has extracted from this situation in the past two weeks needs to be evaluated and factored. 

South China Sea: It's Not Just About the Rocks, It's Also About the Fish

August 1, 2016

The South China Sea remains politically roiled. It has been almost a month since the UN Tribunal’s announcement. Chinese rhetoric attacks both court and verdict, military demonstrations continue and ASEAN’s foreign ministersissued a decidedly equivocal statement following their meeting. Secretary of State John Kerry’s request for a reference to the decision of the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration failed. China’s diplomatic efforts to moot the verdict, and by extension moot the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), achieved an early success. This dispute now enters a new—and not especially encouraging—phase.

China’s nationalist ambitions mandate the recovery of lost territory, specifically including islands, rocks and low-tide elevations deemed—by China—to be Chinese from ancient times. The July 12 judgment by the UN Tribunal was a stunning rebuke to this goal.

All nations on the East and South China Sea littoral and the United States are directly affected. But the stakes of the affected nations vary widely, as do capabilities and vulnerabilities. Standing alone there is little hope that the nations of the region can come to an acceptable, viable and enduring solution. The gaps among various national interests, stakes and capabilities must somehow be bridged.

Can China Really Ignore International Law?

August 1, 2016

In a recent essay, eminent political scientist Graham Allison downplays international criticism of China’s blatant rejection of an unfavorable legal verdict at The Hague. By pointing out the unlawful behavior of status quo powers, his article gives the misleading impression that China’s noncompliance to the international court’s decision is essentially normal.

“[N]one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have ever accepted any international court’s ruling when (in their view) it infringed their sovereignty or national security interests,” Allison argues. “Thus, when China rejects the Court’s decision in this case, it will be doing just what the other great powers have repeatedly done for decades.”

Allison also fell short of mentioning some key facts as far as great powers’ compliance with international arbitration is concerned. For instance, it was not the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that decided on the Philippines’ complaint against China,but an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Article 287, Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The PCA only serves as a registry.

Such seemingly minute legal facts inform the nature and implications of the Philippines’ landmark lawfare against China. Crucially, Allison didn’t mention that there have been encouraging instances whereby major powers rejected arbitration, and subsequently an unfavorable verdict, but still ended up complying with it anyway. After all, even for great powers, which aspire to leadership and seek respect and predictability in the international system, ignoring international arbitration carries immense costs.

More Than Meets the Eye

Former FBI Agent Admits Working for China

August 1, 2016

The federal authorities on Monday secured a guilty plea from a longtime employee of theFederal Bureau of Investigation accused of lying about his relationship with a Chinese technology company and various Chinese associates, including some people with ties to the Chinese government.
The government charged that the F.B.I. employee, Kun Shan Chun, had “expressed a willingness to facilitate the passage of sensitive United States government information” to his Chinese associates, including some with connections to the Chinese government.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said that Mr. Chun had also made a series of false statements to the bureau regarding his contact with these Chinese nationals and a firm based in China, Zhuhai Kolion Technology Company, “as part of a longstanding and concerted effort to conceal these relationships.”
Mr. Chun, who is known as Joey and who works in the F.B.I.’s New York office, pleaded guilty on Monday before a federal magistrate judge in Manhattan to one count of acting in the United States as an agent of China. The count carries a maximum term of 10 years.

Mr. Chun, 46, had been charged with four counts, according to the complaint, including making false statements in a written questionnaire submitted to the F.B.I. in connection with his security clearance.

Chinese hackers take down Vietnam airport systems

August 1, 2016

A group of hackers linked to China have allegedly compromised systems at major Vietnamese airports. 

Chinese hackers have reportedly compromised announcement systems at major airports in Vietnam.
Such attacks, albeit unusual, can cause chaos at important transport hubs across the world and potentially prompt delays, flight cancellations, and even heightened security alerts, considering how many terrorism-related attacks are now occurring worldwide.

According to local media Tuoi Tre News, on Friday, flight information screens at both Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City were compromised, resulting in the display of profanity and offensive messages in English against Vietnam and the Philippines. Glitches and errors were also noticed at other airports.

The Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Nhat confirmed the attack, claiming that law enforcement managed to block the cyberattackers from causing further damage.

However, many airlines operating out of 21 airports in the country were forced to shut down check-in counters and switch to manual methods to keep flights on schedule.

"All Internet systems have been switched off so we had to do everything by hand," one Tan Son Nhat airport airline attendant told the publication.

Erdogan’s Purge of the Trkish Military

By: Jennifer Cafarella with Elizabeth Sercombe and Charles Vallee
August 1, 2016

Partial Assessment of Turkey’s Post-Coup Attempt Military Purge

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ongoing military purge is not merely a response to a coup, but an aggressive restructure, rebranding, and reorientation of the Turkish military. Erdogan began to purge the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) after elements of it launched an unsuccessful coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Turkish security forces detained nearly 10,000 service members including 143general officers and admirals in the first week, totaling over 1/3 of the officer corps. Erdogan justified his crackdown on a counterterrorism basis, claiming to remove members of exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen’s movement, which Turkish authorities have designatedas the “Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).” He has also dismissed, and in some cases arrested, tens of thousands of judges, civil society members, and academics, and he closed down dozens of newspapers. The extent of Erdogan’s purge and his use of a counterterrorism justification demonstrate his intent to use the coup attempt as an excuse to transform the Turkish military into a source of personal power and eliminate sources of dissent in Turkey.

The current military purge is part of an ongoing campaign by Erdogan to eliminate threats to his Islamist regime. The Turkish military historically has a secular culture and views itself as a protector of the post-Ataturk democratic society. Erdogan thus views the military as a threat to his vision of an Islamist autocracy and has taken steps to eliminate it since 2007. He dismissed 400 Turkish officers including 37 generals and admirals in response to alleged coup conspiracies between 2007 and 2010, prompting the resignation of the Chief of the General Staff and the Commanders of the Turkish Navy, Land Force, and Air Force. About half of the Brigadier Generals and Rear Admirals removed this month were promoted to their rank after the initial purges. Erdogan’s aggressive measures after the recent failed coup attempt indicates that he likely seeks to finish his long-time campaign through this final purge.

U.S. Airstrikes Hit ISIS Targets in Libya

August 1, 2016

US launches airstrikes targeting IS in Libya

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States launched multiple airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Libya on Monday, opening a new, more persistent front against the group at the request of the United Nations-backed government, Libyan and U.S. officials said.

Fayez Serraj, the head of Libya’s U.N.-brokered presidency council, said in a televised statement that American warplanes attacked the IS bastion of Sirte on the Mediterranean in northern Libya. No U.S. ground forces will be deployed, he said.

The precision strikes, which targeted an Islamic State tank and vehicles, come amid growing concerns about the group’s increased threat to Europe and its ability to inspire attacks across the region, even though its numbers have been shrinking because of attacks from local forces and allied international troops.

“The presidency council, as the general army commander, has made a request for direct U.S. support to carry out specific airstrikes,” Serraj said. “The first strikes started today in positions in Sirte, causing major casualties.”

The strikes mark the start of a more intense American role in the fight against IS in Libya, as the U.S. steps in to assist the fragile, U.N.-backed government. They were the first strikes by the U.S. on the group in Libya since February.


AUGUST 1, 2016

Turkey’s tortured relationship with the West seems to be reaching a crisis point. The botched coup attempt of July 15and the reaction in the aftermath have exposed a widening emotional chasm between Ankara and its Western allies. A conviction is strengthening among many in Turkey that the United States was behind the violent attempt to overthrow the Turkish government. Unfolding events are feeding poisonous conspiracy theories, however fantastical, which Turks of all ideological persuasions find seductive. The thwarted coup has triggered some virulent anti-Americanism – always latent in Turkey but now increasingly on the surface.

For many in Turkey – and not just supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — the response to the putsch by Western government officials has felt tepid. They complain that few of their Western allies have paid solidarity visits in the aftermath of the bloody military uprising, despite the fact that in a night of carnage 250 people were killed, parliament was bombed from the air, and cities across the country were terrorized by low flying jets. In a response now as reliable as the salivation of Pavlov’s Dog, E.U. foreign ministers have issued little more than stern warnings to Turkey about rights violations. Urging Ankara not to abandon the principles of democracy and the rule of law, the content of these messages may have been right, but their timing within hours of the coup attempt has jarred with the local mood.

After years of President Erdogan’s anti-democratic crackdown and relentless slamming of the West, the lack of empathy among Europeans and Americans is understandable. But it also misses the point. Many Turks sense a failure in the West to recognize how much worse things could have been if the military had taken over. This perceived blind spot diminishes allies’ leverage on Turkey, and plays into the hands of the dark conspiracy theories circulating about the West’s role in what happened on July 15.

Nobody Knows Who'll Be in Charge after Oman's 'Founding Father'

July 31, 2016 

The sultan has no brothers, no wife, no sons and no clear successor.

In the 1860s, while the United States was fighting a savage civil war, the Omani empire was reaching its zenith. At one point, Oman’s reach stretched from southern Persia, across the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa, to what is today much of Somalia, the Kenyan coast and south to Zanzibar. Muscat, controlled by the Portuguese in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, had become a pivotal Indian Ocean capital.

Muscat’s writ runs far more shallowly today, but the sparsely populated country still punches above its weight in international affairs. Under the thirty-six-year leadership of Qaboos bin Said Al Said, Oman has become a quiet diplomatic power throughout the region, lowering sectarian tensions and brokering discreet contacts among the United States and other regional actors. Omani diplomats, equally at ease in Washington and Tehran, were crucial to bringing together U.S. and Iranian negotiators as early as 2009, paving the way for the early first steps of the landmark nuclear energy deal between Iran’s Islamic Republic and the P5+1 governments inked earlier last year. Presumably with Iran’s encouragement, Oman also last year hosted peace talks between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels who now control much of Yemen.

A Soft-Power Star on the Edge of Arabia

How Russia Is Courting the Gulf

August 1, 2016

Since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, relations between Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council have deteriorated sharply due to disagreements between both actors over the future of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Russia has strongly supported Assad, claiming that his Baathist regime is a bulwark against Islamic extremism. By contrast, the Saudi-led GCC has actively supported Assad’s ouster, as his demise would reduce Iran’s regional influence. This discord, combined with a Russian-Saudi oil-price war, has caused many Middle East experts to argue that Russia-GCC relations are at a historic nadir.

A closer examination of geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East reveals that growing perceptions of a crisis in Russia-GCC relations are misplaced. In fact, a credible case can be made that Russia’s geopolitical influence and soft power in the Persian Gulf has increased since the start of President Vladimir Putin’s third term in 2012. Through stronger investment linkages and diplomatic overtures, Russia has attempted to carve out a more prominent geopolitical role in the Persian Gulf. Russia is unlikely to threaten Saudi Arabia’s hegemony over the GCC bloc. But stronger relations between Moscow and Saudi Arabia’s closest allies have caused some GCC countries to be more receptive to Russia’s calls for a political solution in Syria. Saudi Arabia’s fear of being isolated from the Arab world’s consensus could cause Riyadh to eventually soften its belligerent anti-Assad approach and diplomatically reengage with Russia. This scenario differs dramatically from the Russian-Saudi collision course predicted by many regional analysts.

Notwithstanding their disagreements over Syria, Russia has strengthened economic ties with Qatar, the UAE, Oman and Kuwait to balance against Saudi Arabia’s hegemony in the Persian Gulf. These economic linkages have been successful in resolving long-standing disputes that have impeded cooperation between Russia and the Gulf states for decades.

Russia Deploys Its Latest SIGINT Spyplane to Syria

David Cenciotti
August 1, 2016

Russia’s most advanced spyplane has deployed to Syria again

The Tu-214R is the most modern Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft.

Equipped with sensors to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) missions as well as with all-weather radar systems and electro-optical sensors that produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground the special mission aircraft, the aircraft can fly multiple intelligence gathering missions: it can intercept and analyse signals emitted by targeted systems (radars, aircraft, radios, combat vehicles, mobile phones etc) while collecting imagery that can be used to identify and pinpoint the enemy forces, even if these are camouflaged or hidden.

Built by KAPO (Kazan Aircraft Production Association) and flown from the company’s airfield in Kazan, the Tu-214R registered RA-64514, serial number 42305014, the second of the two examples of this kind of aircraft built under contract with Russia’s Ministry of Defense (the other being serialled RA-64511), deployed to Latakia airbase in Syria, between Feb. 15 and 29, 2016.

Profile of the Russian Hacking Machine

Andrei Soldatov
August 1, 2016

Cyber Showdown: How Russian Hacking Works

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked about Russia’s potential involvement in the recent hack of Democratic National Committee emails, he appeared genuinely surprised, just stopping short of giving a four-letter word in response. Indeed, the most amazing thing in this rapidly escalating showdown between Russia and the United States is that Lavrov was probably not acting. Apparently, he had not been consulted.

Since the annexation of Crimea, something strange has happened in the Russian government’s handling of sensitive issues, both inside and outside of the country. Many Western diplomats noted that the Russian Foreign Ministry is no longer in charge of defining policy for Ukraine or Syria. Inside of the country, meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has replaced politicians in key government offices with his own bodyguards. Regional governors are so stupefied by the purges the Kremlin started last September (there are already three governors under arrest) that they refrain from doing anything in the regions they are supposed to be in charge of.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton looks at a computer screen during a campaign stop at Atomic Object company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S. March 7, 2016.Only Putin and his entourage can make decisions, and there always seems to be someone in the group with a ready solution when Putin faces another pressing issue. The more sensitive the matter for the Kremlin, the more drastic the ideas tend to be. The U.S. elections are the most sensitive of all. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is seen as a tough and uncompromising adversary. The common assumption is that with Clinton in the White House, sanctions on Russia will remain in place. The Kremlin also believes that Clinton, as secretary of state, supported the protests in Moscow in 2011–12. For Putin, this is reason enough to go on the offensive.


August 1, 2016 
Many decades inspire in our popular American memory a certain nostalgia and romanticism. Think of the “roaring ‘20s,” the national purpose and sacrifice of the 1940s, the unity and prosperity of the 1950s, the social revolutions and artistic creativity of the 1960s, or the national renewal of the 1980s.

In contrast, the 1930s is not a decade that inspires much nostalgia. Globally, it was a decade of protectionism and isolationism, authoritarianism and demagoguery, racism and religious bigotry, utopian ideologies and totalitarian genocides, grandiose promises and cruel realities. It saw Europe torn asunder by militarist dictators using threats of violence and eventually unprovoked force to pursue territorial aggrandizement and plunge the continent into war, all while the United States was bitterly divided and demoralized at home, uncertain in its posture abroad. Intellectuals and many policymakers then adopted “crisis” as their watchword, and not without good reason. The 1930s witnessed much more than just mere policy failures and political differences. The very values and institutions of democracy, capitalism, and a peaceful and stable international order themselves faced a crisis of public trust and legitimacy.

Eighty years later, what do we have to do with this dismal decade? More than we might think. It is the era that best explains what Donald Trump represents. Though he was not even alive at the time, Trump embodies the worst ideological commitments and impulses of the 1930s. Various efforts by pundits, scholars, and politicians to compare Trump to a particular leader — whetherBenito Mussolini, Silvio Berlusconi, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Joseph McCarthy, Charles Lindbergh, Father Charles Coughlin, or George Wallace — all ultimately fall short. For analogies with individuals, the dissimilarities eclipse the similarities. Instead of being seen as a latter-day incarnation of any one prior historical figure, Trump is best understood as embodying the ethos of an era.

US army War College

 by Dr. M. Chris Mason 
Strategic Insights 

You can access our ongoing podcast series "SSI Live" with our own Dr. John R. Deni. President Barack Obama announced his decision to slow the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, leaving 8,400 troops there until the end of his term. Media accounts characterized this as a vote of confidence in Afghanistan's Government, but also an acknowledgement that U.S. efforts to build an Afghan force capable of securing the entire country have fallen short. Will the slower drawdown strengthen U.S. efforts at nation-building in Afghanistan? Is nation-building even possible there or elsewhere? Dr. Deni invited his SSI colleague, Dr. Chris Mason, to discuss Mason's newest publication, a Parametersarticle entitled "Nation-Building is an Oxymoron," as well as last week's announcement on the slowed drawdown. Find this and all other podcasts here and be sure to subscribe. 

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2016 - 2017 KSIL (Draft) 

A Purge Is a Purge Is a Purge

By Jacob L. Shapiro 
Aug. 1, 2016 

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics. 

Four major global powers are in the midst of different types of purges. 

Coups may be going out of style, but purges are in vogue. Some of the world’s most powerful countries are in the midst of purges that reach deep into their political, military and security structures. Chinese President Xi Jinping calls it an anti-corruption campaign, and it has targeted everything from regional governments to vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has reorganized his various security and intelligence services, is cracking down on corruption and cleaning house in some parts of the military. In Turkey, whether you want to call it a counter-coup or President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan taking advantage of the situation to eliminate what he refers to as the “parallel state,” the crackdown is wide ranging. In the U.S., we simply call it “elections.”

A purge can be a sign of strength, a sign of weakness or both. Some purges help to clear the road toward consolidating power. Other purges can so cripple a country’s institutional powers that the short-term benefits give way to disorder and chaos.

Russia-US Rapproachment- A Strategic Imperative:

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Russia and United States estranged relationship impinges on global security and stability with China as a ‘revisionist power’ being the major beneficiary of this estrangement and with vested interests in sustaining this trust-deficit.

Strategic rapprochement between Russia and the United States can fully materialise only when both these global bipolar powers shun playing the ‘China Card’ against each other. Russia and the United States must recognise that any Chinese diplomacy or policy initiatives aimed at currying favours from either Russia or the United States are only ‘temporising moves’ awaiting the full materialisation of its military power by 2020 at the earliest. That could be the earliest that China can throw a military gauntlet against the United States.

Russia needs to recognise the strategic reality that the Russia-China relationship is not a cemented relationship based on enduring strategic convergences. United States too needs to recognise that China as a revisionist power chiefly aims to engineer initially the United States exit from the Western Pacific which is already in evidence. China’s end-game is to prompt the United States abandonment of the Asia Pacific so that Asia is left at the mercy of Chinese dictates. In sum, by such strategies China aims to create a new bi-polar global power structure and thereby emerge as United States ‘strategic equal.’

U.S. Assistance to the Middle East Is Drying Up When the Region Needs It Most

Stephen McInerney
July 18, 2016 

U.S. Assistance to the Middle East Is Drying Up When the Region Needs It Most

At the beginning of the Arab uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, President Obama declared that the United States would stand with those fighting for human rights and democracy. The rhetoric from him and senior officials raised hopes in the Arab world that important and overdue changes to U.S. policy were imminent.

Since then, transformations have occurred. After a brief period of optimism that widespread democracy would take hold, authoritarian regimes have reasserted themselves with draconian laws targeting civil society. The already limited space for civil organizations, especially pro-democracy groups, is shrinking across the region—most dramatically in Egypt, but also in Jordan, Libya, and Morocco.

During this critical time, Obama’s promise of support couldn’t be more vital. And yet, against the backdrop of declining democracy and increasing repression, U.S. support has been inconsistent, half-hearted, and not backed up by meaningful pressure on the authoritarian allies of the United States. On occasion, the administration has taken stands through private messages or public statements condemning specific crackdowns against civil society. But it has largely failed to follow its words with action.

Do COTS pose a threat? Rand says yes

July 12, 2016 

There is no doubt technology has aided intelligence collection and military operations in the post-9/11 years. However, many of these commercial and open-source technologies and capabilities can be used to potentially stymie military or intelligence operations, according to a Rand Corporation report.

These technologies, the report notes, “are persistent and are dual-use, which means that they can benefit society or harm it. Although they are intended for commercial purposes, such as learning about shoppers’ preferences and finding new markets, they can easily be used by police and security services to identify and track criminals, terrorists, insurgents and spies.”

Technologies including mobile communication devices, commercial GPS and commercial unmanned aircraft have the potential to “disrupt military intelligence operations and to jeopardize the plans, actions, and security of the war fighter. In turn, the intelligence officer, the war fighter, and others who often live and work on the margins and in the gaps of society can use many of these same technologies to skirt government control, as well as to enhance the effectiveness of their operations,” the report states. These technologies are utilized best in urban environments with the primary purpose of tracking individuals and patterns of behavior.

Cover: A Rapidly Changing Urban Environment Read Online A Rapidly Changing Urban Environment How Commercial Technologies Can Affect Military Intelligence Operations

A Rapidly Changing Urban Environment
How Commercial Technologies Can Affect Military Intelligence Operations

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Technical Details » 

Commonplace commercial technologies can be combined and used in unique ways to reshape an urban environment and disrupt how we live and work, in the United States and abroad. The technologies are not new but are becoming ubiquitous and are being used in new ways. The technologies highlight a democratizing trend that gives more people the freedom and power to use any number of new, commercially available technologies to innovate and to challenge existing government rules and community practices. This democratizing trend, however, comes at a cost to privacy, security, and secrecy and is changing the way people interact socially and politically. It is changing the way we conduct business, diplomacy, intelligence operations, and war, the future of which is likely to be increasingly urban in nature.

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