25 June 2015

Indian Army chasing pipe dreams forever

June 25, 2015 
Overambitious norms in Qualitative Requirements are largely responsible for the alarming equipment shortage that the forces face today.

The Indian Army recently dispatched a global Request for Information (RfI) for a multi-purpose Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV), which has generated much mirth in military-industrial circles, for its sheer ridiculousness and operational folly.

The Army’s request is for an FRCV that will not only serve as a ‘medium’-sized main battle tank to replace the Army’s ageing fleet of licence-built Russian T-72s but also as a ‘light-tracked and wheeled tank’, built on the same platform. In layman terms, this is like asking for a Humvee and a Maruti 800 on the same platform. Hopefully, the document will be either withdrawn or amended before its July 31 deadline.

Foreign Service must remain elitist

June 25, 2015

As the Indian Foreign Service is already a shadow of its former self, India should not fritter away its strengths by diluting its specialised and professional character

Whether at the time of uncertainty over foreign policy before the Lok Sabha elections, or after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reinvigoration of foreign policy, foreign service reforms have focussed on expansion, lateral entry of officers and general dilution of the service’s elitist character. But no attention is given to the fact that the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is already a shadow of its former self, and does not appeal to civil service aspirants. Most of those who join the IFS are those who did not qualify for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). If IFS has to perform effectively, its elitism should be preserved, its attractiveness enhanced, and it should be brought to the centre of international relations as it was originally intended to be.

Delhi And The Deal

Prem Shankar Jha
June 25, 2015 

An extraordinary event occurred in Washington a few weeks ago. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) held a “special event” to enable two speakers to formally announce the end of a 75-year enmity between their countries. They were Anwar Majed Eshki, a retired Saudi general, and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN.

This unlikely pair has come together due to the threat they perceive from an unshackled Iran. Their purpose was to warn the US that pursuing the nuclear deal with Iran would estrange it not only from Israel but all its staunchest allies in the Arab world. This was apparent from the seven-point plan for peace and stability in the Middle East that Eshki unveiled. Its first point was achieving peace between Israel and the Arabs. Its second was “regime-change in Iran”. Three of the remaining five proposals added up to a militarisation of the Gulf to face the threat from Iran.

India's Myanmar Raid Won't Deter Pakistani Terrorism

June 23, 2015
Source Link

India won't be able to deter terrorists from Pakistan—who want to attack India no matter what—because no militant group is fully controlled by Pakistan.

Consider the complexity of South Asia’s security dynamics: the other week India conducts a well-publicized commando assault on ethno-nationalist separatists sheltering in its eastern neighbor of Myanmar. But the deterrent signal the Indian government wants to send is really directed westward, at Pakistan and the religiously-inspired militants who have taken root there.

The Myanmar raid has sparked a lively debate inside India over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approach to national security and his more muscular posture on cross-border terrorism. But left unaddressed in the din is the most important question: Is the deterrent signal New Delhi wants Islamabad to absorb all that relevant to the gravest terrorist threats India faces from that direction?


June 23, 2015

Peter Mattis’ explanation of what one should read to be anexpert on China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) made me wonder: What might a similar list look like for India-watchers? Western interest in India’s armed forces is considerably slighter, largely because India looms far smaller in U.S. strategic thinking and is viewed as a potential partner rather than probable military adversary. But there’s a large and growing volume of writing on Indian military affairs, almost all of it in English, with cutting-edge books or articles appearing every month. So where should one begin?

Each service has its own doctrine and/or strategy — most recently the army in 2004, the navy in 2007 (remarkably, it is not available online), and the air force in 2012 (the official link is — perhaps aptly — perpetually broken, but you can get it here) — but these are of limited use, not least because they’re not written in close coordination with other services or with a coherent national military strategy in mind. So most analyses depend on secondary texts, occasional statements by serving officers, and writing by retirees.

Pakistan Heat Wave Death Toll Above 600

Power cuts and Ramadan fasting are seen as immediate causes, but poor governance and weak infrastructure are to blame.
A heat wave over the weekend in southern Pakistan has resulted in the deaths of more than 600 people, according to a senior Pakistani health official. The heat wave has been accompanied by power cuts, yielding fans and air conditioners useless. It also comes during the first weeks of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month in which the devout fast during daylight hours. Many also abstain from drinking water while fasting as well.

May and June are typically the hottest months in the region before the monsoon season dampens the heat. Average highs in Karachi in June are historically around 94.6°F (34.8°C), but over the weekend temperatures in Pakistan’s largest city reached 113°F (45°C). The hottest temperature ever recording in Karachi was 118.04°F (47.8°C) in May 1938, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department. The heat wave extends beyond Sindh province, though the massive size of Karachi makes it the site of most of the deaths reported. PMD noted on its website ticker that the city of Turbat, which is in southwestern Pakistan towards the Iranian border, would reach 120.2°F (49°C) today.

Are the Taliban on the Verge of Capturing the Afghan City of Kunduz?

June 22, 2015

Taliban and Afghan Government Dispute Status of Kunduz

KABUL, Afghanistan — After Taliban insurgents said Sunday that they were on the verge of taking their first city, Kunduz in the far north of Afghanistan, officials there expressed alarm as residents began to flee the area. But the central government in Kabul said there was no cause for concern.

The Afghan government also announced Sunday that it had retaken the administrative center of Yamgan District, in northern Badakhshan Province, from the Taliban. But that only deepened the government’s credibility problem because just a week earlier officials in Kabul had claimed that they had already retaken Yamgan.

Some officials, including the Interior Ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, earlier denied that Yamgan had even fallen.


Hawk-eye: Maroof Raza

India’s recent attack on militant groups operating out of camps in Myanmar, has created considerable excitement within sections of the India’s strategic affairs community, the media and politicians of opposition parties, all of them questioning the wisdom of the NDA government for going public with details of this ‘covert’ operation and for stating that this was a message to our neighbours (read Pakistan). Both these points need to be addressed before we examine other issues.

To begin with this wasn’t a covert operation in the classic sense. It was a special forces military operation, like the US did to eliminate Osama bin Laden. These are kept secret till their execution. Didn’t President Obama himself announce the elimination of Osama bin Laden? A ‘covert operation’ needn’t ever be announced nor admitted- like the Israelis are known to undertake- and their possibilities are endless.

The point to understand is that this operation was meant to convey a message at several levels. For the military it was meant to be morale booster, since there were complaints that politicians in New Delhi didn’t care for soldiers, where they were dead or alive. For India’s masses it was a message that the Modi government’s promises of a muscular foreign policy, was now there to see. And for India’s neighbours, both in the east and west, the message is that India had now adopted a new approach towards cross border attacks.

Beijing’s Master Plan for the South China Sea

JUNE 23, 2015

China has far greater ambitions for the region than just reclaiming some tiny islands.

In late 2013, Beijing started taking a very different approach to sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea — although few outside China noticed the change. Instead of directly confronting the other regional claimant states, Beijing began the rapid consolidation of, and construction on, the maritime features already under its control. And it did so on a scale and pace befitting China’s impressive engineering prowess.

Much of the outside world only realized this approach in early 2015, after several high-profile U.S. think tanks published high-resolution satellite images showing the extraordinary progress of China’s island construction, including military facilities and runways, which could extend Beijing’s military reach over the contested waters. This worried Southeast Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, because their claims to parts of the South China Sea overlap with China’s, and because they fear Beijing’s island construction threatens their security. It worries Washington as well: In May, the U.S. government vowed to assert freedom of navigation by sending military assets to Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea. And in late May, in Singapore, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called for “an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants” — in other words, China.

Russia and China's Moment: Exploiting America's Weakness

While Washington debates where to focus its energy, Beijing and Moscow are looking for new ways to capitalize on its indecisiveness.

Vladimir Putin has recently made a number of statements about Russia's military posture—from promising to match any U.S. deployment of equipment and personnel in Central-Eastern Europe to pledging major increases in Russia's nuclear force. Should we treat his comments as mere posturing, or be concerned that we are on the verge of returning to Cold War–era conventional and nuclear arms races? And if the latter, isn't that a particularly risky strategy for the Russian government? The Russian economy is in no position to take on a burden of seeking military parity with the United States—an exercise that ultimately helped to bankrupt the Soviet Union, which had a much greater resource base to work from.

Hunt for Deep Panda Intensifies in Trenches of US-China Cyberwar

22 June 2015

Security researchers have many names for the hacking group that is one of the suspects for the cyber-attack on the US government's Office of Personnel Management: PinkPanther, KungFu Kittens, Group 72 and, most famously, Deep Panda. But to Jared Myers and colleagues at cyber-security company RSA, it is called Shell Crew, and Myers' team is one of the few who has watched it mid-assault - and eventually repulsed it.

Myers' account of a months-long battle with the group illustrates the challenges governments and companies face in defending against hackers that researchers believe are linked to the Chinese government - a charge Beijing denies.

"The Shell Crew is an extremely efficient and talented group," Myers said in an interview. Shell Crew, or Deep Panda, are one of several hacking groups that Western cyber-security companies have accused of hacking into US and other countries' networks and stealing government, defence and industrial documents.The attack on the OPM computers, revealed this month, compromised the data of 4 million current and former federal employees, raising US suspicions that Chinese hackers were building huge databases that could be used to recruit spies.

How China and the United States Can Learn to Get Along

June 24, 2015
Source Link

A review of Lyle J. Goldstein's new book, Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry.

Great Britain long reigned as the globe’s greatest maritime power, determined to maintain a navy as strong as those of its next two competitors combined. The policy succeeded against such competitors as France and Spain.

However, by the end of the 19th century, Britain’s industrial revolution had run its course and two emerging powers ended London’s economic primacy. After violently breaking away from its colonial master, the United States overspread the North American continent and expanded beyond. Recently united Germany pressed to make up for lost time and achieve its place “in the sun.” Britain could not contain them as well as its traditional European rivals.

China Invests in the World

Chinese outward FDI is growing by leaps and bounds, spurred by Beijing’s economic strategy.
China’s outward foreign direct investment (FDI) for the first five months of 2015 was up nearly 50 percent from the same period in 2014, a Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson said last week. According to Shen Danyang, as cited by People’s Daily, China’s non-financial investments in foreign markets totaled more than 278 billion RMB ($45 billion) from January to May of 2015 – up 47.4 percent year-on-year.

China’s total outward FDI has skyrocketed over the last 10 years, going from a mere $5.5 billion in 2004 to $101 billion in 2013, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. Recently, the trend of expanding outward FDI has accompanied falling inward FDI rates, as China’s economic growth slows. This has led China’s Commerce Ministry to predict that China will be “a net outbound investment country” in 2016.

Planning for the Obama-Xi Summit

On January 28, 1979, Mr. Deng Xiaoping, then China’s vice premier, started his nine-day official visit to the United States, the first such visit by a top Chinese leader since the founding of the People’s Republic. There are many memorable moments from his tour, but the most iconic is undoubtedly when he put on a ten-gallon cowboy hat and waved to the audience in a Texas rodeo. That moment humanized Chinese leaders, who had been demonized by American leaders and mass media for nearly two decades. It was China’s first “charm offensive” to win over the hearts and minds of Americans — and certainly a very successful one by any standard.

A book detailing Deng’s historic visit was published in 2011 and was turned into a documentary, Mr. Deng Goes to Washington, which premiered on May 12, 2015. It could be a pure coincidence that the movie came out just four months before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the United States. Regardless, one may still wonder if he can replicate the wonders of Deng Xiaoping and leave a lasting imprint on the collective memories of the bilateral relationship.

The South China Sea Needs South Korea

June 24, 2015

Why Seoul can no longer stay on the sidelines of maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

U.S. officials have recently called on South Korea to play a role in the South China Sea, and for good reason. As a middle power South Korea has an interest, opportunity, and obligation to help keep its neighborhood stable, and that means opposing coercive approaches to regional disputes wherever they arise, especially in the South China Sea.

South Korea has a long history of being victimized by great power competition. It sees itself as a recurring pawn in great power politics, giving rise to a famous proverb in South Korea that roughly translates to “In a fight among whales, it’s the shrimp’s back that gets broken (teojinda).” In Korean though, the term teojinda is an emotionally violent expression akin to bursting or breaking. This emotion-laden notion of an existence as a shrimp among whales is part of the Korean worldview and shapes its strategic culture.

Let's Be Real: The South China Sea Is a US-China Issue

The South China Sea is increasingly central to the overall state of U.S.-China relations.

On June 18, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel offered a press preview of the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue (S&ED) now taking place in Washington, D.C. During the briefing Russel fielded a question about U.S. efforts to reduce tensions with China in the South China Sea. His response was surprising: “As important as [the] South China Sea is … it’s not fundamentally an issue between the U.S. and China.”

While Washington has long sought to avoid entanglement in the complex territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it has had plenty of “issues” with Chinese behavior there. Yet such concerns may pale in comparison to growing discord over a new Chinese initiative to build artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago. Although these “land reclamation” projects are now nearing an end, the episode has provoked new U.S. concerns about freedom navigation and risks drawing Washington more firmly into the South China Sea milieu than ever before.

Doomed: Saudi Arabia Will Fail in Yemen

"Saudi Arabia’s futile air campaign is a further demonstration of the limits of airpower in general, and in South Arabia specifically."

As the warring Yemeni parties gather for preliminary peace talks in Geneva, Saudi Arabia continues its unrelenting bombing campaign against the tribes of the Houthi movement. For two and a half months, the air forces of the Saudi coalition have targeted military sites, homes and businesses affiliated with the Houthi movement, as well as the palaces and residences of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his political allies. Yet, as the Houthis sit down at the negotiating table this week, their domestic political and strategic position has not been greatly affected by this extensive bombing. Saudi Arabia’s futile air campaign is a further demonstration of the limits of airpower in general, and in South Arabia specifically.

Russia Is Already Developing New Fifth-Generation Submarines

June 23, 2015
Source Link

Fresh off building the fourth-generation Yasen-class submarines, Russia is already developing a fifth-generation submarine.

Vladimir Dorofeyev, CEO of Russia’s Malakhit Marine Engineering Design Bureau, told TASS last week that "The work on the fifth generation of submarines is already underway. The project will be implemented after the Yasen nuclear submarine construction project is completed.” 

This was subsequently confirmed by Admiral Viktor Chirkov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy. Speaking at the Army 2015 international military and technical forum in Moscow last Wednesday, Chirkov said that “In order to avoid pauses and standstill, we have started design work on developing submarines of the next, i.e. fifth generation.”

Both men said the submarines would be built within the Russian shipbuilding program through 2050, although they did not have a precise estimate of when the boats would first be launched.

This Is What Russia Really Wants

June 24, 2015
"I am absolutely sure that Russia is not going to yield anything," Andranik Migranyan told an audience at the Center for the National Interest.

With the European Union extending sanctions for a further six months, relations between Russia and the West remain tense. The annexation of Crimea, coupled with the continued conflict in eastern Ukraine, has convinced many in Europe and the United States that a more aggressive posture toward Moscow is imperative. But is there a different path open to both that could eventually lead to a more amicable relationship?

Andranik Migranyan, a prominent foreign policy expert and the head of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a think-tank sponsored by the Russian government, appeared at the Center for the National Interest to offer some valedictory remarks about U.S.-Russia relations before he returns to Moscow. A veteran observer of the United States, he expressed confidence that Moscow will eventually persuade Washington to recognize and acknowledge it as a great power. “If you are resolute and determined to resist, in the end, America,” he said, will come around. That was true in “Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, now in Ukraine. You must resist until the last.” According to Migranyan, “I am absolutely sure that Russia is not going to yield anything. Russia has its interests, which are very clearly formulated.”

The New Saudi-Russian Axis: Should America Worry?

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince made a surprise visit to Russia last week, meeting with President Putin on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Mohammed bin Salman’s visit—and his invitation to Putin to visit the King—only adds to speculation that, after several years of frozen relations, Saudi-Russian cooperation is finally improving.

This is good news: though a friendlier Saudi-Russian relationship raises some concerns for the United States, it may just be the key to a more stable and peaceful Middle East.

The meeting produced six agreementson issues such as civilian nuclear power and energy production. Announcements of the agreement’s contents were vague, and final details may not be known until Putin’s upcoming trip to the Kingdom. Possible areas of cooperation included space exploration, infrastructure development, and trade, all of which would boost the Russian economy.

What Borders Mean to Europe

JUNE 23, 2015

Europe today is a continent of borders. The second-smallest continent in the world has more than 50 distinct, sovereign nation-states. Many of these are part of the European Union. At the core of the EU project is an effort to reduce the power and significance of these borders without actually abolishing them — in theory, an achievable goal. But history is not kind to theoretical solutions.

Today, Europe faces three converging crises that are ultimately about national borders, what they mean and who controls them. These crises appear distinct: Immigration from the Islamic world, the Greek economic predicament, and the conflict in Ukraine would seem to have little to do with each other. But in fact they all derive, in different ways, from the question of what borders mean.

Europe's borders have been the foundation of both its political morality and its historical catastrophes. The European Enlightenment argued against multinational monarchies and for sovereign nation-states, which were understood to be the territories in which nations existed. Nations came to be defined as groupings of humans who shared a common history, language, set of values and religion — in short, a common culture into which they were born. These groups had the right of national self-determination, the authority to determine their style of government and the people who governed. Above all, these nations lived in a place, and that place had clear boundaries.

Lower oil prices but more renewables: What’s going on?

byScott Nyquist
June 2015

Not that long ago, the plunge in oil prices that has occurred over the past year would have been to renewables what kryptonite was to Superman, as the Financial Times put it.1 Not any more. Yes, it’s true that American investors would have been better off putting their money into the S&P 500 from April 2014 to April 2015 than in clean-tech funds. That was the period that saw oil prices drop from almost $100 to less than $50 a barrel, before recovering a bit. But in the first quarter of 2015, many clean-tech funds handily outperformed the S&P. Moreover, the sector did not see a wave of bankruptcies and pullbacks like the one that scarred it a decade ago, when a glut of Chinese manufacturing drove dozens of solar companies into oblivion. In fact, global clean-energy investments increased 17 percent in 2014, reaching $270 billion, reversing two years of declines. While government-policy support remains crucial, renewable companies also did well raising money in the markets; equity investment rose 54 percent in 2014.

Finishing the TPP: It’s Not Just About the US Congress

With all the attention on Capitol Hill, some perspective is needed on the endgame.

Much of the commentary on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in recent weeks has understandably focused on the U.S. Congress, where the Obama administration has been working hard to get the necessary votes to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as “fast-track.” But even as we wait to see whether Washington can get its act together on TPP, a mammoth free trade agreement which represents nearly 40 percent of global GDP, it is also important to remember what it will take for all twelve TPP countries – not just the United States legislature – to get the agreement past the finish line.

Congress’ approval of TPA will of course be an essential step to get things through. TPA is important because it would effectively ensure that Congress can only have an up-or-down vote on the pact, rather than opening up and amending specific provisions which could delay or kill the deal. But beyond Washington, securing TPA is also important for the other 11 countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – as well. This is not just a question of American credibility, which Singapore’s foreign minister K Shanmugam emphasized quite starkly during his visit to Washington last week. Some of these countries had understandably been waiting to see if TPA will be approved to lock in what has been agreed to so far before buckling down for the final stretch of negotiations.

Former Israeli Intelligence Official Yossi Alpher Talks About Israeli Secret Operations

Ronen Bergman
June 21, 2015

The officer who saw behind the top-secret curtain

In the mid-1960s, Lieutenant Yossi Alpher served as a junior officer in one of the Israel Defense Forces’ most classified units – the Military Intelligence unit responsible for liaising with Israel’s other intelligence bodies, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad.

He was entrusted with a secret task: “I had to go under the cover of darkness to the Israel Air Forces’ Tel-Nof base,” he recalls during an interview, “and meticulously check through huge piles of military equipment, and weapons and ammunition in particular, to ensure they bore no distinguishing Israeli marks – no IDF symbol, no Hebrew letters, nothing that would be able to link the equipment to us even if someone were to go through it with a fine-tooth comb.”

How America Broke Its Drone Force


The Pentagon’s generals amassed an unmanned armada. Then they ran it into the ground. 

In a tent at Nellis Air Force Base on the northern edge of Las Vegas, the officer in charge of a U.S. Air Force drone unit strolled into a meeting with the 20 or so pilots and sensor operators under his command. It was in the winter of 2005-2006, and the officer just wanted to try out some ideas he had for boosting unit morale, he recalled later in a conversation with an Air Force historian. 

But it was too late. The drone crews from the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron were already “so bitter and angry,” the flight commander remembered. And when he opened his mouth, the drone operators actually booed. 

Why Iran's Past Nuclear Actions Matter

June 23, 2015
It would be fair to say that the past year-and-a-half of nuclear talks with Iran has not been America’s finest negotiating hour. But even by the comparatively low standards of U.S. diplomacy to date, the collapse of the American position in recent days has been nothing short of breathtaking.

Roughly a week ago, the White House began walking back the dog on the issue of PMDs: the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear effort that have been carried out so far by the regime in Tehran. That topic has been hotly debated for years, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, has identified nearly a dozen potential PMD activities—ranging from bomb designs to the development of nuclear detonators—that Iran needs to explain fully. So far, however, the Islamic Republic has done nothing of the sort, as the IAEA itself complained publicly back in March.

Kazakhstan's Nuclear Fuel Bank: A New Nonproliferation Tool

June 23, 2015
A fuel bank will not be a nonproliferation panacea, but it will have a significant impact on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

With attention riveted on negotiations to constrain Iran’s nuclear activities, a recent development with significant implications for curbing global nuclear threats is receiving less attention than it deserves.

In mid-June, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved an agreement with Kazakhstan to allow it to host an Agency-controlled nuclear fuel bank as early as 2017.

Kazakhstan, which still grapples with its legacy of hosting the Soviet nuclear weapons test site and other weapons-related facilities, has embraced the role of a nonproliferation good citizen under the long-running leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Also playing key roles are investor Warren Buffett, who put up $50 million through the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the United States, EU, UAE, Kuwaiti, Norwegian, and Kazakh governments, who jointly contributed more than $100 million.

Why America Can't Stop Russia's Hybrid Warfare

June 23, 2015
In important respects, America's inability to counter Russia's hybrid tactics may have less to do with Moscow’s approach than our own.
Hybrid warfare—the term applied to Russia’s particular approach to irregular warfare in Ukraine—is the threat du jour in international security affairs. Unfortunately, by focusing attention on Moscow’s purported deviousness and cunning, and conflating the annexation of Crimea with the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions, it avoids examining the real reasons for the Kremlin’s successes (and failures). Both deserve greater scrutiny.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea was shockingly effective—and bloodless—and it is appropriate that it should provoke thinking, analysis, debate and even constructing new models (or giving greater attention to existing ones) to explain it. Nevertheless, since we might see more such irregular warfare in the future, we should insist on greater precision and honesty in our conversations.

Newly Identified Spyware System Attacking Government and Military Computers in Southeast Asia

June 23, 2015

Cyber-Espionage Operation Attacking Governments in Southeast Asia Uncovered

Researchers from Palo Alto Networks recently spotted one cyber-espionage campaign which was attacking military and government agencies within Southeast Asia, published securityweek.com, June 16, 2015.

Researchers state they nicknamed the gang behind the campaign ‘Lotus Blossom,’ as well as that considering the targets it selected along with the persistency of its attacks, the campaign possibly is state-backed. The attack, which has been ongoing since 3-yrs, has over 50 separate attempts associated with it.

“Operation Lotus Blossom” tries to steal national data from the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam.

A 42-unit team of Palo Alto reports that the gang employs spear phishing assaults for contaminating its targets, usually delivering one malevolent office file as well as decoy file having material that would interest the victim or relate to his occupation. Securityweek.com published this.

Beyond Propaganda How authoritarian regimes are learning to engineer human souls in the age of Facebook.

JUNE 23, 2015

This essay is adapted from the first in a series of publications by the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum on the politics of information in the 21st century.

Pity the poor propagandist! Back in the 20th century, it was a lot easier to control an authoritarian country’s hearts and minds. All domestic media could be directed out of a government office. Foreign media could be jammed. Borders were sealed, and your population couldn’t witness the successes of a rival system. You had a clear narrative with at least a theoretically enticing vision of social justice or national superiority, one strong enough to fend off the seductions of liberal democracy and capitalism. Anyone who disagreed could be isolated, silenced, and suppressed.

Those were the halcyon days of what the Chinese call “thought work” — and Soviets called the “engineering of human souls.” And until recently, it seemed as if they were gone forever. Today’s smart phones and laptops mean any citizen can be their own little media center. Borders are more open. Western films, cars, and search engines permeate virtually everywhere. All regimes are experimenting with at least some version of capitalism, which theoretically means that everyone has more in common.

Syria's Electronic Armies

By Juliana Ruhfus
18 Jun 2015 

Over the last four years as the Syrian uprising has grown into a full-blown civil war, a sinister parallel conflict has been fought out in cyberspace, with combatants wielding bytes and software rather than guns as they have battled for supremacy on Syria's internet frontline.

But the consequences of this secret cyber war have been real and deadly - particularly for opponents of the Assad regime who have been targeted for arrest and torture as a consequence of personal information gleaned from their email traffic.

In some cases even the military plans of crucial rebel offensives had been hacked. But the opposition has been busy too, leaking President Bashar al-Assad's embarrassing personal correspondence and eavesdropping on government troop deployments amid much else.

‘Await your annihilation’: The cyber war coming to you from your nearest screen

JUNE 24, 2015

YOU’RE on your computer, messaging friends through Facebook or Twitter.

Then it flashes up your screen. “AWAIT YOUR ANNIHILATION”.

This isn’t a scene from a Matrix reboot, it’s an act of war on the world’s largest battleground: the internet.

Terrorists, rebels and government forces have adopted digital media as their newest weapon. It has become a frighteningly powerful force for both good and evil, as dangerous as bullets or bombs.

“These electronic soldiers can be based anywhere in the world and still impact on battles and peoples’ lives,”Al Jazeera senior reporter Juliana Ruhfus toldnews.com.au, after conducting an investigation into virtual militants.

US Navy pays out millions to Microsoft to keep running Windows XP

By Nick Heath 
June 23, 2015

Deal with Microsoft will allow the US Navy to continue running the 14-year-old OS. 
The US Navy has agreed to pay Microsoft at least $9m to help secure computers running Windows XP after it failed to replace the aged OS before support ended.

The deal will see Microsoft provide critical hotfixes and software patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Server 2003 for a maximum of three years.

The navy runs a number of "legacy applications" that require Windows XP, which it is in the process of replacing.

That sounds like a big number, but how tough will it really be to hit that target? 

Microsoft discontinued support for Microsoft XP, Microsoft Office 2003, and Microsoft Exchange 2003 in April 2014 and for Microsoft Server 2003 a few months later.


The spy unit responsible for some of the United Kingdom’s most controversial tactics of surveillance, online propaganda and deceit focuses extensively on traditional law enforcement and domestic activities — even though officials typically justify its activities by emphasizing foreign intelligence and counterterrorism operations.

Documents published today by The Intercept demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers “extremist,” Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud and financial scams.


June 23, 2015

On Wednesday, June 17, Reuters reported tersely that the White House “continues to have confidence” in the beleaguered Office of Personnel Management (OPM) chief Katherine Archuleta. This came on the heels of new information that, among other things, the devastating OPM hack may have had something to do with OPM running high-end systems coded in a semi-obsolete programming language without built-in support for modern security practices. Or that OPM gave root system access (for those that don’t speak UNIX, root is privileged system access authority) to foreign contractors in China. No matter, the White House has “confidence” in the woman thatignored a direct warning from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) cataloging key vulnerabilities in OPM systems, and who also happens to have worked as the national political director for President Obama’s re-election campaign.


Defense Information Systems Agency Strategic Plan 2015-2020 http://www.disa.mil/News/Stories/2015/~/media/Files/DISA/About/Strategic-Plan.pdf

Report on Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan (June 2015) http://www.defense.gov/pubs/June_1225_Report_Final.pdf

Leadership Openings an Opportunity for Carter

By Aaron Mehta
June 23, 2015 

It's the widely acknowledged truth about his time as secretary of defense — a new president takes office in January 2017, likely bringing along a handpicked new leader for the Pentagon.
For Carter, that means any hope of implementing his reform agenda needs to happen quickly, in a building that top DoD officials often complain is designed to oppose efficiency.

But it's worth noting that he does have one advantage in any attempt to shape the future of the Pentagon: Over the course of his roughly two years in office, Carter will have a say in an unusually large number of top positions, including the entirety of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And that may be where his biggest chance to affect the Pentagon lies.

Carter is "looking to the long term, because he understands these people will be around past the administration," a former Pentagon official told Defense News. "People say he doesn't have time to make a huge impact on the DoD. I totally reject that. Just from these personnel decisions, he's going to have a fundamental impact."

The Grand Dilemma: What Is the Most Dangerous Threat to America?

June 24, 2015
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From ISIS and Iran, to China and Russia, which threat should America focus on?

In formulating its defense policy, the United States has to face four separate security challenges simultaneously: China, Russia, Iran, and Sunni jihadism. This is very different from the Cold War era when, although America faced security problems in many parts of the globe, there was one overarching challenge that it confronted throughout the world: the Soviet Union.

The Soviet threat during the Cold War was undoubtedly much greater than any of the four threats that America now faces. The Soviet Union was a global threat, while Russia, China, Iran, and Sunni jihadists are mainly regional threats. Nevertheless, dealing with four separate threats is much more complicated than dealing with just one.

Is This Country the Sino-Pak JF-17 Fighter’s First Customer?

The mystery continues: one media source claims that the JF-17 has been sold, another denies it.
According to Pakistani media reports quoted in Want China Times, Sri Lanka has decided to acquire the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft. This would make it the first international customer of the fighter jet.

Sri Lanka plans to acquire 18 to 24 planes with the first deliveries beginning in 2017, Pakistan-based92NewsHD reports. The article additionally notes that first rumors about a possible sale occurred earlier this month when a photo of the office of a Sri Lankan air force commander revealed a scale model of the JF-17.

The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) already operates some Chinese-made aircraft, including seven Chengdu F-7 (license-built MIG-21), nine Harbin Y-12 turboprop military transport, plus one Chengdu F-7 and five Hongdu JL-8 jet trainers. Additionally, the SLAF has ordered two Xian MA 60 transport planes from China’s Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation.