16 July 2017

*** The U.S. Trusts In Technology

I might not have made it to work today without the help of a few tech companies. My phone, which runs Google's Android operating system, woke me up. I then used it to watch the news through my Google Chromecast on a television set and home theater system that I bought from Amazon. Driving to work, I listened to music that I'd purchased from Apple Inc. while using Google Maps to navigate the pervasive congestion on the roads of Austin, Texas. The first thing I did at work was to check my Twitter and Google email accounts on an Apple MacBook (likely containing some components that Stratfor's IT department got from Amazon). And that was just the start of the day.

Of course, I'm part of a generation that depends on technology perhaps more than its predecessors do. But the reality is that a handful of tech companies have become so ubiquitous in our daily lives that their devices and algorithms are nearly inescapable. Each of the companies has become a juggernaut in its corners of the market, and their collective role in geopolitics has steadily grown to the point that it's now practically cliche to say that big data is the new oil. The comparison is apt, though. As it was for oil companies before them - and for steel companies before that - the growth of tech firms, and the effective monopolies they've established in certain areas, are concerns that Washington will eventually have to address. The only questions are when and how.

*** In China, a Strategy Born of Weakness

By George Friedman

China’s actions so far in the ongoing North Korean affair have been ambiguous. In order to try to understand China’s strategy toward North Korea, it is necessary to understand China’s strategy in general. To do that, it is important to recognize the imperatives and constraints that drive the country.

First, we need to outline China’s basic geographical parts. The country has four buffer regions that are under its control. Tibet in the southwest has seen some instability and is vulnerable to outside influences. Xinjiang in the northwest is predominantly Muslim, with a significant insurgency but not one that threatens Chinese control. Inner Mongolia in the north is stable. Manchuria in the northeast is also stable and of all four buffers is the most integrated with the Chinese core. These last two regions are now dominated by the Han Chinese, China’s main ethnic group, but they are still distinct. When you look at a map of China, you will see that a good part of what we think of China is not ethnically Chinese.

Within Han China, there are also divisions. The population is concentrated in the east because western China has limited rainfall and can’t sustain very large populations. In this sense, China is actually a relatively narrow country, with an extremely dense population. The interests within Han China are also diverse, and this has frequently led to fragmentation and civil war.

*** The U.S. Charges Head-On Into the Gulf Crisis

The crisis in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has reached a turning point. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed an agreement on counterterrorism with the Qatari government July 11, the second day of a trip designed to diffuse the tension in the bloc. Though the content of the deal is vague, its message is clear: The United States has had enough of the feud between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the other. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will have to reassess their position in the dispute with Doha, much of which centered on Qatar's alleged support for terrorist organizations, in the wake of the memorandum of understanding. But even if the agreement hastens a resolution to the current conflict in the bloc, another one probably won't be too far behind.

When its members are on the same page, the GCC is a powerful union of mostly Arab, mostly Sunni countries with deep pockets and vast resources. Major powers such as the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Russia and China all want the bloc as an ally, both for the energy security the relationship could afford them and for the GCC's influence in the volatile Middle East. More often than not, though, the discord among the GCC's members overshadows their strategic alignment, as the latest diplomatic crisis in the bloc illustrates. The current feud is the most intense internecine dispute to arise in the GCC's 37-year history. Still, it's not the first, nor will it be the last.

** Tomorrow Soldier: How The Military Is Altering the Limits of Human Performance


Breakthroughs in biometric science mean future troops will fight with weapons that understand them — inside and out. 

Imagine a group of volunteers, their chests rigged with biophysical sensors, preparing for a mission in a military office building outfitted with cameras and microphones to capture everything they do. “We want to set up a living laboratory where we can actually pervasively sense people, continuously, for a long period of time. The goal is to do our best to quantify the person, the environment, and how the person is behaving in the environment,” Justin Brooks, a scientist at the Army Research Lab, or ARL, told me last year.

ARL was launching the Human Variability Project, essentially a military version of the reality-TV show Big Brother without the drama. The Project seeks to turn a wide variety of human biophysical signals into machine-readable data by outfitting humans and their environment with interactive sensors.

The Army is not alone. The Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and their special operations forces are also funding research to collect biophysical data from soldiers, sailors, Marines, and pilots. The goal is to improve troops’ performance by understanding what’s happening inside their bodies, down to how their experiences affect them on a genetic level. It’s not exactly genetically engineering soldiers into superhero Captain Americas; the U.S.military insists they have no intention of using biometric data science for anything like the genetic engineering of superior traits. But it’s close. The military is after the next best thing. 

India's Water-Energy Nexus

By Mohsin Amin and Simi Mehta

India experienced an unprecedented water crisis in early 2016 that also led to an energy crisis. Operators of the 2,100 megawatt (MW) Farakka coal-fired power plant in West Bengal shut down the entire plant due to a lack of water. This power station, which generates about 1.13 percent of all of India’s electricity coming from coal, was shut down for 12 consecutive days because of the water shortage.

In coal-fired power plants, water is used to produce steam to run the turbines and to condense the steam before it is returned to the boiler. A typical coal plant with a once-through condenser withdraws between 70 and 180 billion gallons of water per year, of which 0.36 to 1.1 billion gallons are not returned to the river, lake, or ocean which provided the water. During the 2016 crisis, the vast township on the Ganges River, where more than 1,000 families of Farakka plant workers live, ran out of water. Thousands of bottles of drinking water were distributed to residents, and fire engines rushed to the river to extract water for cooking and cleaning.

The 1,130 MW Parli power station in Maharashtra state has been shut down since July 2015 due to a lack of water. In 2010, Maharashtra’s state-owned utility, MahaGenco, also had to shut down several units of the 2,340 MW Chandrapur Thermal Power Station due to the impact of drought. This led to power outages across the populous state. The construction of the National Thermal Power Corporation’s Solapur power plant in Maharashtra has likewise been delayed due to huge question marks about where the plant will get water to run on.

'India has deployed troops in a third country for the first time to challenge China'

'This is potentially escalatory, as China does not believe that India has any basis for interfering in a bilateral dispute between China and one of its neighbours.'

M Taylor Fravel, an expert on China's border issues, weighed in on the standoff between that country and India at Dokalam over a dispute with a third country, Bhutan.

Dr Fravel, who has written a book titled Strong Borders, Secure Nation about China's various border disputes, offers no facile solutions to the issue, but suggests that both sides may be working under their own constraints: China may be trying to consolidate its position while Bhutan had to go to India, the only power capable of taking on China.

In the interview with P Rajendran, Dr Fravel, left, below, also pointed out where the media may have inadvertently muddied the waters by mixing up the locations and helping sow more confusion.

What do you think of the current situation involving India and China at Dokalam?

Could you compare the relative validity of the arguments by the two sides here?

Europe: Modi Has Done His Bit, The Ball Is In Their Court Now

Harsh V Pant

Modi has injected much needed pragmatism in a relationship which was adrift for quite some time. Now the ball is in Europe’s court.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Europe last month to galvanise India’s ties with key European powers as well as to keep the momentum of his past visit to Europe going. In what has now become his signature style, he touched upon key aspects of Indian foreign policy interests pertaining to each of the four nations—Germany, Russia, Spain and France—and tried to raise India’s profile in a part of the world which is getting consumed by its internal turmoil with each passing day. Despite Europe’s inward-looking foreign policy orientation at the moment, several aspects of Modi’s visit stand out which will help India over the long term.

The focus of Modi’s visit was clearly on boosting trade and economic ties with Europe. His unabashed selling of India as an investment destination is the most striking aspect of his outreach to the West. Unlike his predecessors, India now has a Prime Minister who is more in tune with global diplomacy than most of the foreign policy bureaucracy and commentariat in Delhi. One of the most important roles that leaders of major economies are expected to play in today’s day and age is that of a salesman. From Emmanuel Macron to Xi Jinping, from Theresa May to Angela Merkel, the first order of business for most governments today is to sell their countries as welcoming places for doing business. And Modi is a salesman par excellence.

Blocked At Doklam, What Will China Do Next? India Needs To Be Ready On Many Fronts

R Jagannathan

In the ongoing standoff between India and China at the Doklam Plateau near the Bhutan-Sikkim-Tibet trijunction, Indian troops have the edge in this specific geography. The Chinese are breathing fire and threatening war because the Indian army holds the high ground, and any actual military adventure will involve a huge loss of Chinese lives.

However, it is important for India to consider what else the Chinese may try to cause us damage, either for real or to reputation, since India seems unlikely to blink on Doklam. India considers domination of this area vital to security. If the Chinese occupy and control Doklam, their artillery can threaten the Siliguri corridor which connects India to the north-east.

To outthink the Chinese, we thus need to consider what else they may do to maintain their aggressive line, and to put us on the backfoot. We also need to consider our options for retaliation.

Like last year, when a citizen boycott against Chinese goods was gaining ground after it vetoed the declaration of Masood Azhar as a terrorist at the UN Security Council, this time too there are suggestions that mass resistance should be organised against imports from that country.

Kabul's Dostum Problem

By Catherine Putz

Whether Dostum is convicted or not, there will be anger and accusations that the rule of law has been cheated. 

Afghanistan’s First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum left the country in mid-May, ostensibly for medical treatment in Turkey. But there was another reason Dostum didn’t want to be in Afghanistan. Ahmad Ishchi, the former governor of Jowzjan and often described as Dostum’s political rival, accused the vice president of kidnapping, torture, and rape in December 2016, after Ishchi was reportedly beaten up and detained by Dostum and his men at a buzkashi match.

The bizarre incident, spurned on by Ishchi’s very public accusations and Dostum’s warlord reputation, led to domestic and international calls for a thorough investigation. In Kabul’s desperate search for even the semblance of rule of law, the government promised to deliver.

One Afghan MP, Abdul Raouf Enami, put the issue’s importance well back in December: “This is a sensitive issue and it is better for both sides that the issue should be probed by judicial centers without any interference… The allegations made against Dostum bring Afghanistan’s reputation into question. If these are wrong, Dostum’s reputation should be restored but if they proven to be true, government’s legitimacy will decrease.”

Pakistan Silences Its Critics

By Umer Ali

Criticizing the military, in print or social media, is increasingly dangerous in Pakistan. 

In May 2017, an officer from the counterterrorism department of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) called Taha Siddiqui – a journalist working with foreign media outlets – asking him to appear for an interrogation over his social media activity.

Siddiqui, refusing to appear, filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court, accusing the FIA of harassing him. Explaining the reason behind his reluctance to appear, Siddiqui wrote in the petition: “…there have been several reports in the press where such phone calls are made and once the person who is to be interrogated sets out to the FIA Headquarters, he is either picked up and disappeared or detained illegally.”

The court sought a response from the FIA, and directed its officials to stop harassing the journalist. Siddiqui’s counsel, Asma Jahangir, a renowned lawyer and activist, accused the FIA of treating her client as a terrorist, not a journalist. Siddiqui’s case has now been transferred to the cyber crime unit of the FIA.

'Land, kill and leave': How Australian special forces helped lose the war in Afghanistan

By C August Elliott

A blow has been dealt to the prestige of Australia's special forces with in-kind damages likely to follow for the reputation of the Australian Army as a whole.

At first, it might seem tempting to think of these kinds of events as isolated incidents that do not speak to a more widespread problem within the Army's special operations community. But misconduct on the battlefield also speaks to a wayward shift in a military force's broader operating culture.

Along with the Maywand District murders and the Panjywai massacre, what these new allegations levelled against Australian soldiers in Uruzgan will come to symbolise is the ultimate failure of Western militaries to adapt to a fight where the decisive battle was the human terrain.

Clear mission to protect the people

According to our military leaders, the reason for Australia's presence in Uruzgan province between 2001 and 2014 was to "clear, hold and build" a Taliban-free Afghanistan. Per counterinsurgency doctrine, by providing an enduring sense of physical security to local Afghans, the "hearts and minds" as well as the rifles and trigger-fingers of fighting-aged males in Uruzgan would eventually be won over.

China Sends Forces To 1st Military Base Abroad, In Djibouti

BEIJING — China on Tuesday dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces.

The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval pier in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.

It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.

China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China’s growing economic and political footprint.

China sends forces to 1st military base abroad, in Djibouti

BEIJING (AP) — China on Tuesday dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces.

The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval pier in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.

It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.

China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China’s growing economic and political footprint.

Djibouti is already home to the center of American operations in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, while France, Britain, Japan and other nations also maintain a military presence in the small but strategically located nation.

The Battle For Iraq Doesn’t End With Mosul—Or ISIS

Rathna K. Muralidharan

As the battle of Mosul reaches its end, President Trump must decide how to proceed in Iraq. Both the U.S. and Iraqi governments’ rhetoric indicate American troops will withdraw after Mosul has been recaptured. However, that would leave the country vulnerable to Iranian influence. U.S troops should remain in Iraq to secure its territory and government from external threats.

Iran has tried to increase its influence in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Tehran has extended its reach through Shi’a militias loyal to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei. These militias have fought alongside Iraqi security forces and Kurdish troops against ISIS to claim territory, not help civilians, and many of them have political wings that seek to align Iraq’s government with Iran’s political and religious structure.

Since 2016, the U.S. has invested over $10 billion and an additional $4.83 billion in the fiscal year 2017 budget to combat ISIS. Currently, there are more than 5,000 U.S. troops and 3,500 coalition advisers to train 65,000 Iraqi soldiers, police, Kurdish troops, and Sunni tribal fighters. The U.S. should continue to support the Iraqi government as it rebuilds. This will help regional partners and the U.S. protect their interests. If the U.S. withdraws, Baghdad may become a puppet of Tehran, making the rest of the region susceptible to Iranian control.

What Really Matters in the Middle East

By Jacob L. Shapiro

The fight against the Islamic State appears to be going well. On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Mosul after the city was finally retaken. The same day, the United States and Russia agreed to a cease-fire in southwestern Syria, ostensibly giving government forces and Syrian rebels a freer hand in fighting the Islamic State – not that the rebels have ever fought IS. Then on July 10, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead, as had been rumored a month ago.

These are welcome developments for the enemies of the Islamic State. But the fight is far from over.

Let’s take a look at each of these developments, starting with the liberation of Mosul. It took nearly nine months to dislodge IS from the city despite the fact that Iraqi security forces significantly outnumbered IS forces and were backed by the United States. (By comparison, it took IS only two weeks to take Mosul.) The difficulties of urban warfare surely account for the length of the battle of Mosul, but only up to a point. The Islamic State simply could not have lasted as long as it did without a fair amount of local support. Losing Mosul is ultimately a symbolic but tolerable defeat.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Insecure power grid leaves US vulnerable to Russian cyber threats

(NEW YORK) — While the U.S. and Russian presidents were amicably chatting in Hamburg last week, their governments have been sending less friendly signals about power grids.

The Washington Post reported in June that President Obama had issued orders to prepare options for an attack on the Russian electric power grid in response to Russian manipulation of the U.S. presidential election, but it is unlikely that the Russian government first learned about that order by reading the media accounts last month. It is far more probable that Moscow knew about the options presented to Obama months ago.

The U.S. may have wanted it that way. It may have been signaling to Putin that we could also do cyberattacks. Now Russia may have responded in kind, hacking into U.S. nuclear power plants and other aspects of the electrical power grids. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI jointly warned power companies last month of a series of (likely Russian) hacks that began in May, according to reports in The New York Times.

Your Guide to Russia’s Infrastructure Hacking Teams

Since reports first surfaced that hackers targeted more than a dozen American energy utilities, including a Kansas nuclear power plant, the cybersecurity community has dug into the surrounding evidence to determine the culprits. Without knowing the perpetrators, the campaign lends itself to a broad range of possibilities: a profit-seeking cybercriminal scheme, espionage, or the first steps of hacker-induced blackouts like the ones that have twice afflicted Ukraine in the last two years.

Over the past weekend, US officials solved at least part of that mystery, revealing to the Washington Post that the hackers behind the utility attacks worked for the Russian government. But that attribution raises a new question: Which of the Kremlin's hackers groups attempted the power grid intrusions?

Russia, after all, is perhaps the only nation in the world with multiple known hacker teams that have targeted energy utilities for years. Each has its own techniques, broader focus, and motivation—and deciphering which group is behind the attacks could help determine the intended endgame of this latest infrastructure hacking spree, too.

As the cybersecurity world's Kremlinologists seek those answers, here's what we know about the groups that may have pulled it off.

The Terrifying Truth Behind the U.S. Military

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, isn’t much of a state anymore.

The Iraqi military have retaken the city of Mosul. Kurdish forces are pushing into Raqqa, Syria… both with help and direction of the U.S. military.

Rather than cheering the possible defeat of this brutal and violent terrorist organization, I’m worried.

Not about ISIS, in particular, but about the state of the U.S. military. It’s taken us far too long to earn these victories.

I’ve been speaking with military experts and researching the U.S. defense industry for months. What I found was surprising…

The Pentagon Ponders The Threat Of Synthetic Bioweapons; The Next Global Pandemic Could Be Launched After Downloading The How-To From The Internet; ‘A Crack In Creation’

Eric Niiler has an article in today’s (July 10, 2017) WIRED.com with the title above, discussing the disruptive field of gene editing; and, the potential misuses of this emerging technology. Physicians, especially virologists, are always worried to some degree about where and when the next natural pandemic might emerge. But increasingly, some of the same individuals are beginning to speak louder and write more frequently about a potential pandemic being deliberately started by an individual or individuals, after genetically modifying an existing virus or bug, so that it becomes highly infectious; and, highly lethal.

Mr. Niiler writes that the u.S. is mostly prepared when it comes to dealing or confronting a natural, but nasty virus, or bug. He notes that “the Pentagon operates infectious disease labs and [global health] surveillance networks in places like Kenya, Georgia, and Thailand, as well as a giant research center, and vaccine-making unit just outside Washington D.C.,” at the U.S. Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), in Ft. Detrick, Maryland. “With some 200K troops deployed at bases in 171 countries,” Mr. Niiler wrote, it certainly behooves the Department of Defense to stay on top of emerging diseases that could pose an undue threat to their personnel. “But,” he adds, “Pentagon planners are starting to wonder what happens if the next deadly flu or hemorrhagic fever doesn’t come from a mosquito-infested jungle, or bat-crowded cave. With new gene-editing tools like Crispr-Cas9, state enemies [North Korea especially] could, theoretically, create unique organisms by mixing-and-matching bits of genetic information.”

Is It Ever a Good Idea to Arm Violent Nonstate Actors?

In May, President Donald Trump authorized a plan to arm the YPG, a Kurdish militia in Syria. A month later, the YPG and their Arab partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces began the fight to take the Syrian city of Raqqa back from the Islamic State. While the U.S., Russia and Jordan agreed to a ceasefire in southwest Syria that went into effect Sunday, the intense battle for Raqqa continues in the north of the country.

Turkey, a NATO ally and U.S. partner, is fiercely opposed to providing weapons to the YPG because Turkey considers the fighters to be terrorists. But the Pentagon insists arming the Kurdish fighters is essential to beating IS in Syria.

Is the Pentagon right that the benefits outweigh the risks? Is it ever a good idea to increase the lethality of violent nonstate actors? These are questions I address in my research on the long-term effects of providing such aid.

Security assistance as foreign policy

Arming Kurdish and Arab fighters with heavy machine guns, mortars and anti-tank weapons to support operations against IS is not an entirely new development. U.S. Special Forces have been training and equipping the Syrian Democratic Forces since at least 2015.

This is also just one recent example of U.S. security assistance to partner forces around the world. The United States is turning to this foreign policy tool with increasing frequency, but the U.S. has a long history of arming proxy forces in a wide range of locations around the world.

U.S. Military Spending: The Cost of Wars

By Anthony Cordesman

One of the striking aspects of American military power is how little serious attention is spent on examining the key elements of its total cost by war and mission, and the linkage between the use of resources and the presence of an effective strategy. For the last several decades, there has been little real effort to examine the costs of key missions and strategic commitments and the longer term trends in force planning and cost. Both the Executive Branch and the Congress have failed to reform any key aspect of the defense and foreign policy budgets to look beyond input budgeting by line item and by military service, and doing so on an annual basis.

The program budgeting and integrated force planning efforts pioneered towards the end of the Eisenhower Administration—and put into practice in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations—have decayed into hollow shells. The effort to create meaningful Future Year Defense Programs seem to have been given a final death blow by the Budget Control Act (BCA)—legislation originally designed to be so stupid that the Congress could not possibly accept it. Efforts to integrate net assessment with budget submissions were effectively killed by the Joint Staff decades earlier, during the Reagan Administration.
Critical Failures by Both the Executive Branch and Congress

Adapting in Stride: Fighting Tomorrow’s Battle Today

Editor’s Note: This is the next installment in our “Next War” series. The article is a contribution from a deployed unit, the Marines in Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, “Ripper.”

Somewhere in the Middle East, a marine from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, a unit known as the “Ripper,” stares anxiously across the six hundred meters of no man’s land towards the far berm. A friendly convoy of white Toyota pickups speeds toward his position. Suddenly, a shockwave reverberates in his head. Behind the vehicles, a fireball rises from the civilian camp on the other side of the berm. As the black smoke billows, the marine grabs the tablet he keeps in the guard tower and texts the quick reaction force. The Special Forces team in the Toyota convoy is returning to their isolated outpost guarded by marines, but they are not alone.

As the quick reaction force exits the forward operating base in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles to block the Islamic element in pursuit, a swarm of eight quadcopters comes over the berm behind the friendly convoy. Too small and moving too fast to engage with small arms, the marine zooms in on his tablet and snaps a few pictures of the swarm. Quickly, he forwards them across SEVENet, a communications network, to the Special Forces convoy. They have seen these models before. The quadcopters are carrying 40-millimeter grenades, but are susceptible to electronic attack. Luckily, a portable jamming device carried by the marines stops the quadcopters from electronically detonating as they fly past the camp.

The Strategist Six: Emma Sky

Welcome to The Strategist Six, a feature that provides a glimpse into the thinking of prominent academics, government officials, military officers, reporters and interesting individuals from around the world.

1. You commented recently that Palestinian disenfranchisement led to decades of terrorism and ‘that is nothing to what is going to happen now’. Given your deep immersion in the Middle Eastern situation, what’s likely to happen now?

In the 1990s, the Middle East peace process aimed to ensure that, within a decade, nobody would consider themselves a refugee. Since then, the number of refugees in the region has increased exponentially, with millions of Iraqis and Syrians displaced by international intervention and civil war.

The consequences of the dispossession of the Palestinians and the failure to resolve the conflict should serve as a warning to the international community. It led to neighbouring countries being destabilised and to acts of terrorism. The ongoing civil wars in the Middle East have created chaos and ungoverned space in which groups such as ISIS emerged. The conflict has brought misery to millions, radicalising some and forcing others to flee. Many suffer trauma and depression from losing family, friends and possessions. The consequences will be felt for generations.

The Economist explainsWhy is Okinawa blocking plans to build an American military base?

ON FRIDAY the assembly of Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost territory, is set to approve a new lawsuit to block construction of an American military base on the territory’s main island. Takeshi Onaga, the governor of Okinawa, accuses the Japanese government, which is building the base, of “barging forward recklessly” and wrecking the pristine environment of the quiet fishing village of Henoko on Okinawa’s main island. It is the latest salvo in a battle that has occupied Japan’s parliament and courts for two decades. The outcome could torpedo plans to build the offshore facility, set to be the greatest concentration of military power in East Asia.

A subtropical speck in the Pacific 1,600km from Tokyo, Okinawa shoulders the weight of Japan’s six-decade alliance with America. Local people live uneasily with nearly 30,000 American troops and dozens of military installations, including the American marines’ oldest jungle-warfare training unit. Okinawa was occupied by the Americans after the second world war until it was returned to Japan in the early 1970s. The savage battle to take the island in 1945 left up to 100,000 civilians dead, as well as 100,000 Japanese soldiers and 12,000 Americans. Many Okinawans believe they were sacrificed as a buffer between the invading Americans and the Japanese mainland. Generations have grown up since pledging “never again”.

Leveraging Blockchain Technology to Protect the National Security Industrial Base

ABSTRACT: Cyber-enabled economic warfare is not limited to the use of digital networks for surveillance, theft, and sabotage. An emerging national security challenge related to the globalization of manufacturing supply chains is the phenomenon of attacks in which substandard, counterfeit, or maliciously-modified electronic components are introduced into the hardware on which the national security industrial base (the “NSIB”) operates.[1] The focus of this work is not on physical countermeasures against infected electronics, but on harnessing blockchain technology to defeat the adversarial networks responsible for the attacks. The complexity of global economic institutions and processes produces an ocean of transactional data in which supply chain attackers can hide. Through blockchain technology, the structure of this data can be transformed to enable new kinds of forensics that can defeat these attacks at scale. This memo is a short-form discussion of the potential to transform legacy acquisitions systems via blockchain technology, along with an outline of pilot activities to initiate this transformation. The limitations of blockchain technology are also presented to ensure that expectations are properly aligned. A longer article that provides more depth and context for the issues raised herein will be published later.

Supply Chain Attacks as a Mode of Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare

WhatsApp, Google Will Take UPI Places, But These Godzillas Could Also Hijack The Glory

R Jagannathan
If NPCI is not to become an also-ran once the Googles get into the game, it needs a Godzilla of its own to partner.

Who is better for this job than State Bank of India?

The announcement that WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messenger application, has been approved by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to partner with many banks for making payments using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), is good news – and a cause for worry.

Google, Uber and Facebook are all in line to integrate UPI into their own payment apps, with Google awaiting a nod from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for using the interface to enable its Android Pay product. NPCI managing director is quoted by The Times of India as saying that “if players like Google and Facebook adopt UPI, this will push mass adoption of digital payments.”

It is certainly true that getting a global Godzilla to adopt your interface will take it places. As things stand, the UPI technology is used by 52 banks, and transactions worth Rs 3,067 crore were done using it last month (June). The Bhim app (Bharat Interface for Money), also built on the UPI, has 49 banks linked to it, and in June the transaction volumes were around Rs 1,486 crore.

Canada to wage offensive cyberwar

By Laurent Lafrance 

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has ordered the Canadian military and the country’s signals intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment or CSE, to collaborate in the development of cyberwar capabilities.

Last month, the Liberals presented a new defence policy aimed at giving the military the “hard power” to aggressively assert Canadian imperialist interests and ambitions around the globe. It calls for military spending to be hiked by more than 70 percent over the next decade, to $32.7 billion. This includes funds for an expanded fleet of fighter jets, 15 new warships, armed drones, and the recruitment of 5,000 additional military personnel. The new policy also says that the development of offensive cyberwar capabilities must be a top priority for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Toward this end, the defence policy paper calls for the creation of a new “Cyber Mission Assurance Program” as well as a new job category of “cyber operator” within the military in order to “significantly increase the number of military personnel dedicated to cyberwar functions.” The CAF also plans to use “reservists with specialized skill-sets” to fill elements of its new cyber force.


MAYBE YOU’VE NOTICED that today is a day of online protest. Or maybe you haven’t. Whether you realize that today marks a Day of Action in support of net neutrality depends entirely on what websites you visit—and how the companies behind those websites feel about the issue.

Organized by a coalition of pro-net neutrality non-profits, Wednesday's Day of Action stand in opposition to the FCC’s plans to reverse Title II, a set of legal frameworks that prevent internet service providers from exerting too much control over your internet experience. Without Title II, ISPs could potentially slow your internet speed based on the websites you visit, or block certain services and websites all together. Not cool.

In response, the collective internet has rolled out various calls to actions that urge site visitors to file public comments and write letters to Congress asking their representatives to keep net neutrality protections intact. All told, more than 100,000 websites, organizations, and individual internet denizens are taking part.

Some companies, it turns out, protest more effectively than others. While websites like Kickstarter and Reddit went all out with full-page takeovers and interactive graphics, others took a more nuanced approach. Here’s how they stack up, from most to least outspoken.

End-to-End Encryption is Key to Securing Government Databases

If the Internal Revenue Service's Data Retrieval Tool had used end-to-end encryption from the start, the federal government may have been able to avoid a privacy breach that ultimately occurred over the past year.

This tool allowed prospective students to transfer their tax return data to the Education Department for use in loan applications. Earlier this spring, the agency disabled it because identity thieves had used the tool to receive the personal financial data of potentially thousands of taxpayers in an effort to file fraudulent returns.

One of the key lessons from this breach is that deploying default end-to-end encryption should be a priority for all enterprises handling sensitive information, especially the government. Following the president’s recent cybersecurity executive order, which urges federal agencies to “move to the cloud,” properly securing data there is more critical than ever.

Because of a statutory quirk, the IRS could not transmit taxpayer information directly to the Education Department. Instead, the agency relied on loan seekers to obtain their tax return information themselves through the Data Retrieval Tool, and then include it in their applications.

Unfortunately, the IRS tool had flaws that allowed identity thieves to masquerade as loan applicants. These cyber criminals could use already stolen personal information to download their victims’ tax data and subsequently file fraudulent returns.

MCI and CSA Seek Public Feedback On Proposed Cybersecurity Bill

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) invite the public to provide feedback on the proposed Cybersecurity Bill. The public consultation exercise will run from 10 July to 3 August 2017. 

Fast-evolving cybersecurity landscape 

Cyber-attacks are getting increasingly frequent, sophisticated and impactful. Globally, we have also seen a surge in the number of cybersecurity incidents, such as ransomware, cyber theft, banking fraud, cyber espionage and disruptions to Internet services. In Singapore, the recent Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks targeting two of our universities, and the occurrence of the global WannaCry and Petya/Petna malware attacks which also reached our shores, serve as stark reminders of Singapore’s vulnerability to cyber threats. 

Around the world, attacks on systems that run utility plants, transportation networks, hospitals and other essential services are growing. Successful attacks can and have resulted in significant financial losses and disruptions to daily lives. Hence, the protection of our Critical Information Infrastructure[1](CIIs) which are necessary for the continuous delivery of Singapore’s essential services is a cornerstone of the proposed Bill.