18 October 2015

How The West Underestimated Russia’s Military Power


Focusing on shortcomings in equipment made Western military analysts underestimate Moscow’s military capacity.
By Franz-Stefan Gady, October 17, 2015

Russia’s military reforms have been misunderstood and its capabilities underestimated by the United States and Europe. That’s the conclusion of a newreport by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The Russian military’s tactical and operational weaknesses became most blatantly apparent to the Kremlin during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, when the U.S.-trained Georgian forces proved a much more agile and motivated adversary than expected.

As a consequence, Russia initiated the most far-reaching military (the “new look”) reforms since the 1930s divided up into three distinct phases, according to the ECFR study:

First, increasing professionalism by overhauling the education of personnel and cutting the number of conscripts; second, improving combat-readiness with a streamlined command structure and additional training exercises; and third, rearming and updating equipment.

The United States and Europe primarily focused on the third and still mostly incomplete aspect of these reforms, neglecting the substantial progress that was made in the first and second phases.

Almost unnoticed by observers, the Russian military addressed one of the biggest organizational weaknesses dating back to the Soviet and Czarist eras and introduced a new professionally trained non-commissioned officers (NCOs) corps dissolving the existing warrant officers system.

Mainstreaming a nuclear Pakistan

October 16, 2015 


ReutersU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) poses with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during their meeting in New York on September 27, 2015. 

India should offer conditional support to a civilian nuclear deal between the U.S. and Pakistan while insisting that Islamabad signs the ‘No-first-use treaty’ and clamps down on home-grown terror. It is in India’s interest to ensure that Pakistan’s nukes are under international supervision. 

What should New Delhi’s response be to a potential nuclear deal between the United States and Pakistan that could eventually mainstream the latter into the global nuclear order? New Delhi’s initial reactions to media reports about a possible deal indicate that it would unambiguously resist any such move by the United States. In a recent Washington Post column, David Ignatius wrote that “the United States might support an eventual waiver for Pakistan by the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which the United States is a member… the issue is being discussed quietly in the run-up to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington on October 22”. 

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs quickly responded to what Mr. Ignatius called a potential U.S.-Pak “diplomatic blockbuster” in the following words: “We’ve seen these reports and it is not for the first time this issue has surfaced. Whosoever is examining that particular dossier should be well-aware of Pakistan’s track record in the area of proliferation. When India got this particular deal it was on the basis of our own impeccable non-proliferation track record. That is the reason the U.S. gave us 123 Agreement in 2005 and that is why we got a NSG waiver in 2008. Pakistan’s track record is completely different, so we hope that will be taken into account in making any such decision”. 
The Ignatius piece should be seen in the context of a number of important developments which should be taken on board by India while evaluating the merits of Pakistan’s admission into the nuclear order. The NSG has been organising outreach meetings with Pakistan regarding nuclear exports for sometime now. Pakistan has also reached out to the international community to help end its status as a nuclear outcast and to be treated on par with India. 

Interview: Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama on the rise of China, East Asia tensions, and the role of the United States.
By Emanuel Pastreich
October 15, 2015

Francis Fukuyama is a leading American political scientist, political economist, and author best known for his books The End of History and the Last Man(1992) and the Origins of the Political Order. He serves as a Senior Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University.

We have to start with the simplest of questions. If we want to understand the challenges in East Asia today, we must first consider why it is that Asia has become so central in the global economy and why it plays an increasingly large role in global politics. How do you explain the enormous shift that we are witnessing today?

Well, there is a significant difference between the economic and the political spheres. Obviously, the biggest shift is to be observed in the economic realm. We can trace it back to the industrialization of China after the Cultural Revolution and rise of the four tigers: South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. But the shift in terms of political power is a much slower process than the economic shift.

Overall, Asia punches below its weight in terms of its ability to shape the rules for the global system and the direction that global governance is evolving towards. It is an issue of what Joseph Nye refers to as “soft power” – the ability of a nation to project ideas and concepts, build influential institutions and practices. The lag at the level of ideas is even more severe than the lag in terms of political power.

Prospect of civil nuclear deal with Pakistan unlikely: WH

Washington, Oct 16, 2015, PTI:
The prospect of a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan being talked about in the public domain is quite unlikely, the White House has said, but acknowledged that the US is in talks with Islamabad on issues related to nuclear safety and security.

"I know there's been a lot of public speculation about this (a civilian nuclear deal with Pakistan). In asking the same question to a lot of our folks here who are working on this issue, I would not be overly excited about the prospects of reaching the kind of agreement that is being speculated about publicly," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference yesterday.

"Pakistan's Prime Minister will be here next week to meet with the President, and I'm wondering if you can confirm for us that the US is, in fact, serious about trying to work out a civilian nuclear deal with Pakistan and whether this is something that will come up in the meeting," he was asked by a White House reporter.

At this point, the US has been engaged with Pakistan as well as the rest of the international community, on issues related to nuclear safety and security, Earnest said.

How Seymour Hersh's Bin Laden Theory Played Right Into The Hands Of The Pakistani Army

Posted: 15/10/2015 
American journalist Seymour Hersh, whose reporting of the 1969 My Lai massacre in Vietnam made him a legend, created some buzz with his latest story in the London Review of Books about the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.

The Obama administration lied about the details of Operation Geronimo, Hersh argues, and the mission was actually carried out with full assistance from the Pakistani army and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Hersh notes that President Barack Obama went public about the death of bin Laden right after the raid, betraying a promise to Pakistan to wait a week and stick to a predetermined script that bin Laden was killed in a remote region of Afghanistan by a drone strike. By spilling the beans and taking sole credit for the operation, Obama threw Pakistan under the bus. The United States, Hersh says, is a superpower programmed to act with arrogance and Obama wished to appear as a strong, cold-blooded leader to buttress his domestic standing before re-election.
"The apriorism on which Hersh's article rests is this: The United States lusts for power and Pakistan can be bought with enough money."

Unfortunately, Hersh's story, apart from being factually dubious, is based on a US-centric paradigm, as if Pakistan does not have its own politics and its complexities can be explained away by simply looking at internal US politics. What is even more striking is that, for an investigative journalist who likes to challenge state narratives, Hersh uncritically accepts the narrative of the Pakistani army and bases all his arguments on the premise provided by former ISI head Asad Durrani. The apriorism on which Hersh's article rests is this: The United States lusts for power and Pakistan can be bought with enough money. It is precisely this that makes Hersh's article dangerous and cynical. It offers absolutely nothing in the way of serious geo-political analysis.

The Definition of Insanity Is U.S. AfPak Strategy


The central problem confronting the United States in the region is no longer al Qaeda or the Taliban. It’s the Pakistan Army.


Donald Trump is right: America’s leaders are stupid. They’re nothing but a bunch of losers. Well, at least when it comes to Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s the only conclusion to be reached following two big developments this week.

The first was President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will decelerate its military drawdown from Afghanistan. Instead of preserving only a small force of about 1,000 troops, the new plan will station 9,800 in the country until 2016 and 5,500 into 2017. Their mission will be limited to training Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations. This will help promote, in Obama’s words, an “Afghan-led reconciliation process” leading to a “lasting political settlement” that will make Kabul “a stable and committed ally.”

If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. The new policy is at best a band-aid and — given the likely cost in blood and treasure — not a pain-free one. David Galula, the French military scholar who is the ideological godfather of the U.S. counterinsurgency, understood years ago that support from a neighboring country could easily sustain an insurgency. The U.S. mission in Afghanistan cannot succeed as long as the Pakistan Army continues to tolerate and sponsor the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other terrorist groups. The U.S. intelligence community has been saying precisely that for years.

Obama ignores generals’ advice on troop levels for unprecedented sixth time


By Rowan Scarborough - The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2015

In the end, President Obama was forced to listen to his generals — not his political instincts — on Afghanistan troop levels, and he decided to split the difference.
Mr. Obama is keeping 5,500 troops in Afghanistan beyond his presidency, about half the strength recommended by his top general in-country. It marks the sixth time he has rejected the advice of a ground commander on the force size in the long Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Military experts call that streak unprecedented for a commander in chief. 

Like the current 9,800 U.S. troops there, the drawdown force of 5,500 will maintain a noncombat stance in training Afghan forces and hunting al Qaeda terrorists, Mr. Obama said Thursday. Administration officials said the U.S. will spend about $14.6 billion a year to house the troops at a total of four bases in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Bagram — an increase over the estimated $10 billion annual cost of keeping a force at the U.S. Embassy in the Afghan capital.
The president had wanted to deliver a speech saying that all American troops were out of Afghanistan at the end of next year, as he did in 2011 for the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. But he was swayed by the dark picture of the Afghan conflict that the top brass has been drawing for him, and now Mr. Obama will pass the war onto the next president in 2017.

The battlefield facts delivered to the White House by Army Gen. John Campbell, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, and other generals:

• The Taliban mounted a ferocious offensive in the 2015 “fighting season” that took a heavy casualty toll on the shaky Afghan National Security Forces.
• Those forces stil lack competent leaders to win decisive battles without American troops to guide them.
• A new enemy has emerged, the ultraviolent Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) in a province next door to Kabul, the Afghan capital. This confronted the elected government with new security threats, especially the terrorist army’s trademark vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

Damn Lies! After 6 Years of the White House and Pentagon Saying the Afghan Army Can Control Its Country, Obama Admitted Today They Are Still Not Ready

Obama Announces Halt of U.S. Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Matthew Rosenberg and Michael D. Shear

New York Times, October 15, 2015

WASHINGTON — The United States will halt its military withdrawal fromAfghanistan and instead keep thousands of troops in the country through the end of his term in 2017, President Obama announced on Thursday, prolonging the American role in a war that has now stretched on for 14 years.

In a brief statement from the Roosevelt Room in the White House, Mr. Obama said he did not support the idea of “endless war” but was convinced that a prolonged American presence in Afghanistan was vital to that country’s future and to the national security of the United States.

“While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” said Mr. Obama, flanked by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his top military leaders. “I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

The current American force in Afghanistan of 9,800 troops will remain in place through most of 2016 under the administration’s revised plans, before dropping to about 5,500 at the end of next year or in early 2017, Mr. Obama said. He called it a “modest but meaningful expansion of our presence” in that country.

Russia Using Syria As Military Proving Ground for New Weapons and Tactics

Steven Lee Myers and Eric Schmitt

New York Times, October 15, 2015

WASHINGTON — Two weeks of air and missile strikes in Syria have given Western intelligence and military officials a deeper appreciation of the transformation that Russia’s military has undergone under President Vladimir V. Putin, showcasing its ability to conduct operations beyond its borders and providing a public demonstration of new weaponry, tactics and strategy.

The strikes have involved aircraft never before tested in combat, including the Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighter, which NATO calls the Fullback, and a ship-basedcruise missile fired more than 900 miles from the Caspian Sea, which, according to some analysts, surpasses the American equivalent in technological capability.

Russia’s jets have struck in support of Syrian ground troops advancing from areas under the control of the Syrian government, and might soon back an Iranian-led offensive that appeared to be forming in the northern province of Aleppo on Wednesday. That coordination reflects what American officials described as months of meticulous planning behind Russia’s first military campaign outside former Soviet borders since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.

China’s left-behind Little match children


Children bear a disproportionate share of the hidden cost of China’s growthOct 17th 2015 | BEIJING | 

TOWARDS the end of “Jude the Obscure”, Thomas Hardy’s final novel, comes one of the most harrowing scenes in English literature. Jude, an itinerant labourer struggling to feed his family, returns home to find his eldest son has hanged himself and his younger siblings from the coat hook on the back of the door. A note says “Done because we are too menny.”

In June this year China suffered a real-life variant of this terrible scene. In a rural part of Bijie township in Guizhou province, in south-west China, a brother and three sisters, the oldest 13, the youngest five, died by drinking pesticide. They had been living alone after their mother had disappeared and their father had migrated for work. The 13-year-old boy left a note saying, “It is time for me to go—death has been my dream for years.”

Three years before that, also in Bijie, five street children died of carbon-monoxide poisoning after they had clambered into a roadside dumpster and lit charcoal to keep themselves warm. Chinese social media drew parallels with the little match girl in Hans Christian Andersen’s story of that name: afraid to return home because she has not sold any matches, she freezes to death in the winter night, burning match after match because the light reminds her of her grandmother. It is a well known tale in China because it is taught in primary schools as an example of the uncaring nature of early capitalism.

China-Pak air drill in Tibet: Lessons for India?

Pushan Das

16 October 2015

This week India and China has started 'Hand In Hand', a joint counter-terrorism exercise at Kunming Military Academy, Yunnan. From India, 350 Naga Regiment personnel joined the People's Liberation Army's 14th Group Army. The 11-day exercise will focus on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. 

This will be the fifth such exercise in a series started in 2007. The drills are part of confidence-building measures put in place by both countries to address mistrust sprouting from regular standoffs along the disputed Line of Actual Control between India and China. 

China, however, is not playing war games with India alone. The Indian media largely missed the story about the recent Sino-Pakistani air exercise, dubbed Shaheen IV. In contrast to its confidence-building engagement with India, China held one the biggest and most complex air exercises inside the Tibet Autonomous Region 

As Beijing and Islamabad strengthen their relationship, New Delhi must consider the security implications of a greater Chinese influence in south Asia. 

The first Shaheen excercise was held in Pakistan in March 2011 while the second in China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in September 2013. The third episode again was in Pakistan - in its Punjab province - in May last year. 

This year, it is Tibet. The location has political signals, given India's asylum to the Dalai Lama and India's increasing co-operation in the Indian Ocean Region with the United States, Japan and Australia. 

Barack Obama and the Powell Doctrine, Reconsidered

Leaving troops in Afghanistan is the right thing to do. It is also a telling, sad legacy for the U.S. president.

President Barack Obama was elected to extricate the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a sad irony of his presidency that among his foremost foreign-policy legacies will be leaving American involvement in both countries as among the first and most complex challenges his successor will face.

The president’s decision to leave 5,500 troops in Afghanistan at least into the first year of the next president’s term of office was inevitable. The lessons of Iraq and the volatile situation on the ground in Afghanistan dictate it. It was also the right decision. To leave entirely would be to invite chaos, render America’s enormous investment a write-off, and likely leave the country a home to a new generation of violent extremists even more dangerous than the al Qaeda thugs that America entered Afghanistan to eradicate.

In reaching this decision, Obama is helping to put to rest one of the most often-cited aspects of the Powell Doctrine, the framework for considering American overseas interventions named after the former secretary of state. The doctrine traces its roots to Powell’s former boss, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and to the deep desire to avoid future Vietnams that dominated the thinking of American military planners in the wake of that debacle. One of its central precepts is that when America contemplates overseas use of force that an “exit strategy” is developed to avoid the prospect of being bogged down as in the so-called quagmire of the Indochina War.

It’s time to be a good neighbour

October 17, 2015 
APHUMANITARIAN CRISIS: "To India's claim that protesting ethnic groups inside Nepal were obstructing supplies, the Nepalis ask, how has the fuel supply resumed but internal protests continued?" Picture shows trucks stranded at Birganj, a town on the Nepal-India border, after hundreds of Madhesis protested against Nepal's new Constitution. 
As long as the Nepalis perceive the outcomes of the special relationship between India and Nepal to be unfair, it will be difficult to secure their cooperation. It is upto Mr. Modi to change that

It has been a difficult six months for the Nepali people. This week, they faced another humanitarian crisis because the flow of fuel and supplies from India stopped. Newspapers reported that hospitals and clinics ran out of supplies, restaurants and businesses closed, neighbours scrambled for firewood to cook and stay warm, and transportation shut down. They also questioned India’s claim that the protesting ethnic groups inside Nepal were obstructing supplies. How, they ask, has the fuel supply resumed but internal protests continued? Furthermore, a new government came to power in Nepal that seems less amenable to their dissenting views. So, was it all about India after all?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is believed to understand the concept of a shared South Asian “commons”, is seen as having missed a unique opportunity to unify the people of the region. The introduction of a new Constitution in Nepal presented a chance to alter the entrenched belief that the outcomes of India’s special relationship with Nepal will always be unfair. Instead, weeks of suffering from the ‘blockade’ have led the Nepalese to drown in suspicion: may be India didn’t like the new Constitution; it knew northern trade points were still damaged by the quake; it callously imposed a weeks-long blockade on their crippled country; the international community silently stayed on India’s good side; and once Nepal’s government agreed to change the Constitution, the blockade appeared to ease. Unfortunately for India, most Nepalis blame Prime Minister Modi, the public face of the Indian government in Nepal.

How Would Lawrence of Arabia Defeat the Islamic State?

Lessons from the early 20th century for the chaotic, modern Middle East.

A colleague of mine recently watched the Oscar-winning classic 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. His brief comment on its merits in regard to understanding the Middle East of today: a cynical shrug of his shoulders and the words “nothing has changed.”

Obviously, in the aggregate, a great deal has changed since the early 20th century, something of which he is actually quite aware. But there is a central grain of truth in his comment, which is that we could profitably spend some time looking at the life and times of Thomas Edward Lawrence, otherwise known to posterity as “Lawrence of Arabia.” From his story emerges some potentially helpful insights that could inform our badly constructed policy, such as it is, toward the region generally and Syria in particular.
Lawrence was born in Victorian England, and his parents moved to Oxford when he was a child. He intensely studied the Arab world there from 1907 to 1910, taking first-class honors in archaeology. He spent time excavating and traveling through the Near East in the run-up to World War I. In the months before the war’s outbreak, he surveyed the Negev Desert (strategically important, as an Ottoman army would have to cross it to attack British Egypt).

As the war began, he was recognized as what we would think of today as a highly qualified foreign area officer, with deep expertise in the Levant and both the Ottoman and Arab worlds. As was depicted in the rather sensationalized film, he played an important role in helping lead the Arabs’ revolt against their Ottoman overlords.
What can we learn from his experiences in what has today become an even worse theater of war than that which he faced? What would T.E. Lawrence tell us about how to approach the challenges we face today in the Levant and the Arab world?

Can Anyone Prevent a Third Intifada?


A wave of violence is spreading across Israel — and a leadership vacuum on both sides is allowing it to spiral out of control.


JERUSALEM — A pair of bodies on the pavement, covered in blood-spattered white sheets. Dozens of police officers sweeping through Jabal al-Mukaber, a rough neighborhood in East Jerusalem, searching cars and clashing with local youth. An emergency cabinet meeting to discuss home demolitions and closing the Palestinian parts of Israel’s “eternally reunited” capital to traffic.

It all feels grimly familiar. Last year, these same measures followed an assault on a Jerusalem synagogue that killed five people, the apex of a month of violence. On Tuesday, two attacks — one Palestinian man attacked pedestrians with an axe after driving his car into a bus stop; two others shot and stabbed passengers aboard a municipal bus — once again sent Israel into a state of panic. Three Israelis were killed, raising the death toll this month to seven, after more than 20 attacks. On Wednesday evening, an elderly woman was injured in a stabbing at Jerusalem’s central bus station, and a separate attack was foiled near the Old City.

Unlike last year, however, the violence has spread far beyond Jerusalem. Israelis have been stabbed on the street in Raanana, Hadera, and Afula — quiet cities, away from Israel’s contested borders, and hardly hotbeds of tension. The West Bank and Gaza have also seen sustained unrest, with 18 Palestinians killed in a week of protests, mostly by live fire from Israeli troops. The number of wounded now tops 1,400 people, according to medics. The entrances to several East Jerusalem neighborhoods have been blocked with checkpoints; hundreds of new security guards are being hired to protect buses in the capital.
Once again, politicians and pundits debate what to call it. On this matter, there is rare agreement between Ismail Haniyeh, the Gaza-based leader of Hamas, and Isaac Herzog, the Israeli opposition leader: Both say that we are witnessing the beginning of the Third Intifada.

Yet it is not like the previous two revolts, led respectively by civil society and militant groups. Palestinians are more geographically and politically divided than ever; there is nobody left to lead an uprising. Young people are driving the new wave of violence, most of them without criminal records or political affiliations. The attacks are random, almost spur of the moment, many inspired by videos of past incidents that are shared widely on social media.

“Whatever we’re calling it, it’s different than what we experienced in the past,” said Michael Herzog, a retired head of the Israeli army’s strategic division. “It’s carried by young people … it’s protracted, it’s not really organized, and it’s difficult to stop.”
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, lately seems to exist in a parallel universe. He spent a recent afternoon at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new commercial tower. On Monday, he welcomed the Indian president for a state visit, inking an agreement for cultural cooperation and accepting a big donation to something called the Palestinian Institute of Diplomacy.

But a few miles away from Abbas’s presidential palace, his Palestinian Authority risks losing control of the angry young men in the West Bank. Protesters have been fighting almost daily skirmishes with Israeli troops at the “DCO,” a checkpoint reserved for Palestinian officials and foreign dignitaries. It is normally well-protected by the PA’s security forces because it guards the entrance to Beit El, an Israeli settlement that houses the military office in charge of the occupied territories. Last week, however, the security forces vanished, leading to large clashes at which dozens of protesters have been hurt.

One masked teenager marveled that Abbas had stopped protecting his own checkpoint. “Ten years in his chair, and now he can barely control Ramallah,” he observed.
Indeed, while Abbas opposes violence and has turned down the rhetoric on official media, his voice carries little weight.

“The PA is more dysfunctional and unpopular than we’ve seen it in a long time,” Herzog said. “They’re trying to avoid a bigger explosion, but on the ground, there’s not much effect … young people definitely aren’t listening.”

Given the leadership vacuum in Ramallah, the crisis threatens to spin out of control. On Monday, a 13-year-old Palestinian stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli in East Jerusalem. A motorist quickly ran down the attacker. A video from the scene shows his body, sprawled on the bloodstained tracks of the city’s light rail; an angry crowd surrounds him, calling him a “son of a whore” and urging police to finish him off.

The video was widely shared on social media, sometimes with captions that omitted the stabbing and said wrongly that he had been “shot by settlers.” (Ironically, this clip, which did so much to inflame passions, was filmed by an Israeli.) Tuesday’s attacks followed hours later. One of the attackers, Bahaa Allyan, tweeted over the weekend, “Tell the PA, calm is in the hands of the people, and not the hands of any one of their leaders.”
Hamas has tried to ride the wave — but without jeopardizing its own position in Gaza. Hours after Haniyeh announced the start of the intifada on Friday, hundreds of Palestinian protesters converged on the heavily fortified border. Seven of them were shot dead by Israeli troops. Militants fired two rockets at Israel later that evening, and Israel’s retaliatory bombing killed a pregnant woman and her young daughter.

It was the deadliest escalation since the war between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, quickly warned Israel against “continuing this foolishness.” Hamas also declared the border a closed military zone to keep protesters away. By urging calm and not vowing retaliation, the group sent a clear message — we support the Third Intifada, just not here in Gaza.

The Israeli government has responded by deploying thousands of additional police and hundreds of soldiers in Jerusalem, installing checkpoints around Palestinian neighborhoods and accelerating the demolition of attackers’ homes. The lack of more sweeping measures, however, has been a major disappointment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s supporters. He was reelected in March largely on his security credentials: In a dangerous region, he was supposed to be the responsible adult, the shepherd capable of protecting his flock.

Yet there has been no major military offensive in the West Bank, no closure of East Jerusalem, and — perhaps most disappointing to his right-wing supporters — no binge of settlement construction. Rather than expanding Jewish access to the Temple Mount, a center of religious tensions in Jerusalem, he barred lawmakers from visiting.

“After 26 years living in the Muslim Quarter [of Jerusalem’s Old City], I have no doubt that they, the Arabs, interpret Jews not praying at Temple Mount as meaning that we are weak,” said Danny Robbins, 64, sitting at a memorial service for the victims of one attack in Jerusalem’s Old City. “When we stop building new homes in Jerusalem, that also encourages them. That has to change.”

A poll broadcast Saturday on Channel 2 found 73 percent of Jewish Israelis dissatisfied with the prime minister. Asked to name the most capable leader, a plurality, 22 percent, picked Avigdor Lieberman, the hawkish former foreign minister whose election slogan was “death penalty for terrorists.”

Applications for gun permits have surged; the deputy defense minister last week urged citizens to carry their weapons everywhere. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was photographed on the street last week brandishing his own. He showed up at the scene of a stabbing on Friday — sans carbine, this time — and made the case for a heavily armed public.

“Unlike in the West, Israel has well-trained citizens,” he said at an impromptu press conference. “They’re very mature.”
A few feet away from where Barkat was speaking, a group of neighborhood youth angrily stopped a beaten silver sedan. They thought the olive-skinned driver looked suspicious: “Arab? Are you an Arab?” Alarmed, he quickly reassured them that he was, in fact, Jewish, and they waved him off with a chorus of “Arabs are sons of whores!”

There have already been reprisal attacks, from angry mobs attacking Palestinian workers in Jerusalem to stones thrown at Red Crescent ambulances in the West Bank. A Jewish man who stabbed four Palestinians in Dimona last week justified himself by saying, “All Arabs are terrorists.” Residents of Afula assaulted Furat Nasser, an Arab correspondent for Israel’s Channel 2, while he was covering a stabbing; one of his crew was taken to the hospital. On Tuesday, a Jew even stabbed another Jew outside of Haifa, mistaking him for an Arab.
As the mood darkens, world leaders are nowhere to be found. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah helped to lower tensions last winter in personal meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas. This time, the White House has shown little interest in the situation, despite Kerry’s perfunctory phone calls over the weekend and his vague plans for a future visit.

In a sign of just how far this conflict has fallen from the world agenda, President Barack Obama did not mention Israel or Palestine once in his address to the United Nations last month. Admittedly, he spoke before the recent spike in violence, but his omission was widely noticed in both Jerusalem and Ramallah. With major powers fighting a proxy war in neighboring Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no longer looks so important.

Call it the Third Intifada, a “wave of terror,” or the “Jerusalem Awakening” — perhaps the best way to describe the violence is, simply, “the future.” Netanyahu has ruled the land for six years and seems to have no aspirations beyond indefinitely prolonging the status quo. Abbas is exhausted and isolated, and while he succeeded in raising the Palestinian flag outside the United Nations, that symbolic gesture brings Palestinians no closer to raising it over a capital in East Jerusalem.

The two men can seem like mirror images: unpopular, uninspired leaders who allowed the ailing two-state solution to die a slow death on their watch. A poll conducted last month found that 51 percent of Palestinians no longer believe in it, the highest number ever recorded. It also found, for the first time, that a majority want to dissolve the PA.

“The first intifada gave us the [Palestinian] Authority,” one young man in Jabal al-Mukaber said on Tuesday, dragging on a cigarette and glaring at the hastily erected Israeli checkpoint down the road. “The Third Intifada, maybe we’ll give it back.”

The Fog of Intelligence (Or How to Be Eternally “Caught Off Guard” in the Greater Middle East)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Headquarters of the National Security Agency on Fort Meade, Maryland. (Photo: Trevor Paglen)

That figure stunned me. I found it in the 12th paragraph of a front-page New York Timesstory about “senior commanders” at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) playing fast and loose with intelligence reports to give their air war against ISIS an unjustified sheen of success: “CENTCOM’s mammoth intelligence operation, with some 1,500 civilian, military, and contract analysts, is housed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, in a bay front building that has the look of a sterile government facility posing as a Spanish hacienda.”

Think about that. CENTCOM, one of six U.S. military commands that divide the planet up like a pie, has at least 1,500 intelligence analysts (military, civilian, and private contractors) all to itself. Let me repeat that: 1,500 of them. CENTCOM is essentially the country’s war command, responsible for most of the Greater Middle East, that expanse of now-chaotic territory filled with strife-torn and failing states that runs from Pakistan’s border to Egypt. That’s no small task and about it there is much to be known. Still, that figure should act like a flash of lightning, illuminating for a second an otherwise dark and stormy landscape.

And mind you, that’s just the analysts, not the full CENTCOM intelligence roster for which we have no figure at all. In other words, even if that 1,500 represents a full count of the command’s intelligence analysts, not just the ones at its Tampa headquarters but in the field at places like its enormous operation at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, CENTCOM still has almost half as many of them as military personnel on the ground in Iraq (3,500 at latest count). Now, try to imagine what those 1,500 analysts are doing, even for a command deep in a “quagmire” in Syria and Iraq, as President Obama recently dubbed it (though he was admittedly speaking about the Russians), as well as what looks like a failing war, 14 years later, in Afghanistan, and another in Yemen led by the Saudis but backed by Washington. Even given all of that, what in the world could they possibly be “analyzing”? Who at CENTCOM, in the Defense Intelligence Agency, or elsewhere has the time to attend to the reports and data flows that must be generated by 1,500 analysts?

Front in Russia’s Clash With NATO

October 14, 2015

German steel plant and Polish exchange said to be targeted
`They have let loose the hounds' as criminals grow brazen

Russian computer attacks have become more brazen and more destructive as the country grows increasingly at odds with the U.S. and European nations over military goals first in Ukraine and now Syria.

Along with reported computer breaches of a French TV network and the White House, a number of attacks now being attributed to Russian hackers and some not previously disclosed have riveted intelligence officials as relations with Russia have deteriorated. These targets include the Polish stock market, the U.S. House of Representatives, a German steel plant that suffered severe damage and The New York Times.

U.S. officials worry that any attempt by the Russian government to use vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure like global stock exchanges, power grids and airports as pressure points against the West could lead to a broader conflict, according to two people familiar with the debate inside government and who asked to not to be named when discussing intelligence matters. When NATO officials met last week, they voiced alarm about Russia’s rapid involvement in Syria, including the firing of cruise missiles, and vowed the biggest reinforcement of their collective defense since the end of the Cold War.

The Warsaw Stock Exchange is but one example of the heightened cyber-activity. Hackers who rifled the exchange last October, in a breach that set off alarms among Western intelligence agencies, proclaimed they were Muslim militants angry over Poland’s support for a bombing campaign against the Islamic State.

"It’s beginning," the group posted online in a file-sharing site called Pastebin, heavily used by the cyberunderground. "To be continued! Allahu Akbar!"

While stealing some data, the attackers also made dozens of client logins public, opening the exchange’s systems to additional chaos from cybercriminals of all stripes. It was sabotage by crowd-sourcing.

Pay No Attention to the Server Behind the Proxy: Mapping FinFisher’s Continuing Proliferation

October 15, 2015
Authors: Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Adam Senft, Irene Poetranto, and Sarah McKune

This post describes the results of Internet scanning we recently conducted to identify the users of FinFisher, a sophisticated and user-friendly spyware suite sold exclusively to governments. We devise a method for querying FinFisher’s “anonymizing proxies” to unmask the true location of the spyware’s master servers. Since the master servers are installed on the premises of FinFisher customers, tracing the servers allows us to identify which governments are likely using FinFisher. In some cases, we can trace the servers to specific entities inside a government by correlating our scan results with publicly available sources. Our results indicate 32 countries where at least one government entity is likely using the spyware suite, and we are further able to identify 10 entities by name. Despite the 2014 FinFisher breach, and subsequent disclosure of sensitive customer data, our scanning has detected more servers in more countries than ever before.

Executive Summary

FinFisher is a sophisticated computer spyware suite, written by Munich-based FinFisher GmbH, and sold exclusively to governments for intelligence and law enforcement purposes. Although marketed as a tool for fighting crime,1 the spyware has been involved in a number of high-profile surveillance abuses. Between 2010 and 2012, Bahrain’s government used FinFisher to monitor some of the country’s top law firms, journalists, activists, and opposition political leaders.2 Ethiopian dissidents in exile in the United Kingdom3 and the United States4 have also been infected with FinFisher spyware.

In 2012 and 2013, Citizen Lab researchers and collaborators,5 published several reports analyzing FinFisher spyware, and conducted scanning that identified FinFisher command and control (C&C) servers in a number of countries. In our previous research, we were not yet able to differentiate between FinFisher anonymizing proxies and master servers, a distinction that we make in this work.

When a government entity purchases FinFisher spyware, they receive a FinSpy Master—a C&C server that is installed on the entity’s premises.6 The entity may then set up anonymizing proxies (also referred to as “proxies” or “FinSpy Relays” in the FinFisher documentation), to obscure the location of their master. Infected computers communicate with the anonymizing proxy, which is “usually”7 set up on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) provider in a third country. The proxy then forwards communications between a victim’s computer and the Master server.

We first describe how we scanned the Internet for FinFisher servers and distinguished masters from proxies (Part 1: Fishing for FinFisher). We then outline our findings regarding 32 governments and 10 specific government entities that we believe are using FinFisher (Part 2: Country Findings). Finally, we highlight several cases that illuminate connections between different threat actors (Part 3: A Deeper Analysis of Several Cases), before concluding (Conclusion).

The Dyre Trojan and the Art of War

• OCTOBER 12, 2015 

Senior Security Strategist, Trusteer

Ori Bach is a product and risk management expert with 12 years of expertise in the financial services fraud and compliance space. He currently serves as Senior Security Strategist...

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

The immortal words of Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu were written in an age of sword and steel, but they hold true for modern cyber warfare. As security professionals combat various threats, they must look not only at the tactical abilities of malwaredeployed against them, but also at the strategy of the cyber opponent operating the malware.

While tactics such as the malware’s ability to steal sensitive information and avoid detection are fairly easy to observe through technical analysis, understanding an opponent’s strategy requires deeper intelligence and analysis.
The fraudsters behind the Dyre malware offer a great example of a cyber opponent combining superior tactics with superb strategy. While much has been written about the technical abilities of the Dyre Trojan in order to truly assess the nature of the threat, banks must also understand the Dyre fraudsters’ strategy of going after high-value targets and constantly penetrating new geographies, all while remaining stealthy.

New Details of Chinese Space Weapons

New details of Chinese space weapons revealed

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, October 14, 2015

A forthcoming report by the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission provides new details of China’s space-weapons programs, dubbed counterspace arms, that are aimed at destroying or jamming U.S. satellites and limiting American combat operations around the world.

China is pursuing a broad and robust array of counterspace capabilities, which includes direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, co-orbital anti-satellite systems, computer network operations, ground-based satellite jammers and directed energy weapons,” a late draft of the commission’s annual report states. “China’s nuclear arsenal also provides an inherent anti-satellite capability.”
China military planners expect to use a combination of kinetic, electronic and cyber attacks against satellites or ground support structures in a conflict.

Two direct-ascent missiles capable of hitting satellites in both lower and higher orbits are under development, the SC-19 and the DN-2. Anti-satellite missile tests were carried out as recently as last year.

Think Like the Enemy, Urges Zenko in New Book on Red Teams


October 15, 2015 

With the U.S. government still dealing with the fallout from the cyber theft of over twenty million personnel records in 2014—one of the largest data breaches in history—a new book from Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Senior Fellow Micah Zenko reveals how red teams might have helped avoid such a disaster.

Red teaming is a practice that employs professional skeptics and saboteurs to help organizations identify vulnerabilities, challenge assumptions, and anticipate threats. Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy is the first book to examine the work of these modern-day devil’s advocates across a broad range of fields, including the military, intelligence, and business sectors.

Zenko was one of the first civilians to attend the U.S. Army’s University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies, otherwise known as “Red Team University.” Drawing on seventeen little-known case studies and over two hundred interviews with professional red teamers, he delves into the history of red teams and lays out their six best practices. He explains how organizations have benefited from or abused red teaming, and what happened when others altogether ignored their red teams’ findings.

Zenko argues that policymakers, business leaders, military officers, and intelligence analysts can all gain from employing red teams. “An astonishing number of senior leaders are systemically incapable of identifying their organization’s most glaring and dangerous shortcomings,” he observes.

Net Assessment: Threats to Future Army Acquisitions

 October 10, 2015 

Joel Lawton and Phillip Serpico, edited by Barry Wardlaw


The Net Assessment Working Group, comprised of Army science and technology (S&T) experts, formed to compare planned S&T acquisitions and investments with emerging technologies. The purpose was to assist the Army in defining potential areas where future forces may be presented with “overmatch” technologies from adversaries that may impact future forces. In March 2015, Net Assessment Working Group participants identified the following: 1) Army mobility and protection assets are at risk from the proliferation and advances of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM); 2) Army aviation assets are facing an increasing threat from area denial (AD) strategies as well as a growing range of weapons; 3) Individual Soldiers are at risk from a general reliance on position, navigation, and timing (PNT) technologies and cognitive overload; 4) U.S. precision ammunition is at risk from jamming technologies that threaten the delivery of precision fires; 5) Army intelligence and electronic warfare (EW) systems are at risk from cover, camouflage, concealment, denial, and deception (C3D2) technologies and an inability to identify some advanced adversary EW systems: and 6) Combat Service Support is susceptible to the large resource requirements required to deploy and sustain Army forces where resources may be limited.


In the near-term, mid-term (2020-2030), and far-term (2030-2040) adversarial technological advances are expected to be wide-ranging and challenging for the U.S. Army to defend against.[i] In order to ensure the U.S. Army maintains its technological and competitive edge, it is important to categorize the potential for adversary advantage by capability portfolio management and equipment areas identified by the Long-Range Investment Requirements Analysis (LIRA) process. The LIRA is a "30 year long-range planning process" which includes the major investment areas (portfolios) of: Mission Command; Maneuver; Ammunition; Fires, Air, and Missile Defense; Protection/Chemical Biological Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE); Intelligence and Electronic Warfare (EW); Combat Service Support; Aviation; Soldier, and Mobility.[ii] Thus, the LIRA is a 30-year plan that depicts the “big picture,” linking “all capability gaps to S&T activity to fielding material, and every fielding operations, support and eventual disposal and/or replacement.”[iii]

Defense Science Board on Avoiding Strategic Surprise

Posted on Oct.14, 2015 i
The Department of Defense needs to take several steps in order to avoid “strategic surprise” by an adversary over the coming decade, according to a new study from the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory body.

Among those steps, “Counterintelligence must be enhanced with urgency.” See DSB Summer Study Report on Strategic Surprise, July 2015.

The Board called for “continuous monitoring” of cleared personnel who have access to particularly sensitive information. “The use of big data analytics could allow DoD to track anomalies in the behaviors of cleared personnel in order to thwart the insider threat.”

“Continuous monitoring” involves constant surveillance of an employee’s activities (especially online activities), and it goes beyond the “continuous evaluation” of potentially derogatory information that is an emerging part of the current insider threat program.

“Insider actions often generate suspicious indicators in multiple and organizationally separate domains–physical, personnel, and cyber security. The use of big data and creative analytics can be carefully tuned to the style and workflow of the particular organization and can help to audit for integrity as well as individual user legitimacy,” the DSB report said.

The DSB report broadly addressed opportunities and vulnerabilities in eight domains: countering nuclear proliferation; ballistic and cruise missile defense; space security; undersea warfare; cyber (“The Department should treat cyber as a military capability of the highest priority”); communications and positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT); counterintelligence; and logistics resilience.

To an outside reader, the DSB report seems one-dimensional and oddly disconnected from current realities. It does not consider whether the pursuit of any of its recommended courses of actions could have unintended consequences. It does not inquire whether there are high-level national policies that would make strategic surprise more or less likely. And it does not acknowledge the recurring failure of the budget process to produce a defense budget that is responsive to national requirements in a timely fashion.

Cyber Attacks Against Critical National Infrastructure Growing

October 15, 2015

Online Attacks on Infrastructure Are Increasing at a Worrying Pace

Nicole Perlroth, New York Times, October 15, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the last four years, foreign hackers have stolen source code and blueprints to the oil and water pipelines and power grid of the United States and have infiltrated the Department of Energy’s networks 150 times.

So what’s stopping them from shutting us down?
The phrase “cyber-Pearl Harbor” first appeared in the 1990s. For the last 20 years, policy makers have predicted catastrophic situations in which hackers blow up oil pipelines, contaminate the water supply, open the nation’s floodgates and send airplanes on collision courses by hacking air traffic control systems.

“They could, for example, derail passenger trains or, even more dangerous, derail trains loaded with lethal chemicals,” former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned in 2012. “They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”
It is getting harder to write off such predictions as fearmongering. The number of attacks against industrial control systems more than doubled to 675,186 in January 2014 from 163,228 in January 2013, according to Dell Security — most of those in the United States, Britain and Finland.
And in many cases, outages at airports and financial exchanges — like a computer outage that took down computers at airports across the country late Wednesday, including Kennedy International Airport in New York and Logan Airport in Boston — are never tied to hacks.

But it’s clear hackers are trying.

New Countries Joining the Cyberespionage Game

Despite exposure, new nations joining cyberespionage game 

Associated Press, October 15, 2015

LONDON (AP) — Researchers have identified a new group of smaller, poorer nations as users of spy software, suggesting that a recent series of leaks and lawsuits hasn’t deterred governments from investing in off-the-shelf cyberespionage products.
Internet watchdog group Citizen Lab said in a report published Thursday that it had found 33 “likely government users” of FinFisher, one of the world’s best-known purveyors of spyware. A cyberattack against FinFisher last year exposed reams of client information and other confidential data, but the report’s lead author Bill Marczak says the company appears to have weathered the breach.
“They seem to have a healthy client base, despite the fact that they were hacked and customer data was exposed,” he wrote in an email. “Far from observing a drop in FinFisher servers, we’re detecting more than ever before.”

FinFisher did not return messages seeking comment on the findings.

Like many malicious programs, FinFisher’s products works by infecting its targets’ computers and phones, copying messages, recording conversations and even activating webcams. Unlike most malicious programs, those behind FinFisher have business cards and badges.

U.S. Firms Fight Global Cyberweapon Deal


Officials can’t agree on the legal distinction between nefarious computer programs that spy on networks and the software that helps companies avoid hackers. Some believe there is no distinction. PHOTO: REUTERS
DAMIAN PALETTAOct. 15, 2015 

WASHINGTON—An international effort to prevent cyberweapons from reaching malicious regimes is at risk of coming apart amid objections from U.S. companies that claim it would upend the way they use and sell legitimate spyware.
In the wake of the Arab Spring uprising, the U.S. and 40 other nations decided that virtual weapons should be subject to the same export control rules that have been used on heavy or unconventional weaponry like tanks and chemical weapons.

But as the rules are still being written, it appears that cyber arms control is proving even harder than the traditional kind.
A central problem: Officials can’t agree on the legal distinction between nefarious computer programs that spy on networks and the software that helps companies avoid hackers. Some believe there is no distinction.

The debate has become so tangled that U.S. officials are considering whether to ask the 40 other countries involved—including Russia, France, and the U.K.—to rework the proposal, potentially delaying its implementation by at least a year.
“We have no idea what we are going to do,” said Kevin Wolf, assistant secretary at the Commerce Department—which has taken a lead role in drawing up the rules—at a briefing Thursday with executives from Google Inc., Dow Chemical Co., Texas Instruments Inc., and other firms.

Reliance Jio 4G launch to happen during next financial year

Telecom Lead,  October 16, 2015 
Telecom network operator Reliance Jio Infocomm today said it will start the commercial operations of 4G services during the next financial year.

The expectation of the industry was that the Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Jio will launch 4G LTE network this year when the RIL chairman earlier hinted that the $20 billion investment project will be ready for roll outs by the end of the current year.


# RIL to launch LYF branded smartphones
# Reliance Jio to start 4G services during next fiscal and not this year
# Reliance Jio to share 800MHz spectrum with Reliance Communications in 7 circles
# Reliance Jio to face limited competition from Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular
# Reliance Jio promises in-building coverage

Reliance Jio Infocomm will be facing the 4G network of Bharti Airtel, which took three years to reach 300 plus towns, Vodafone India, which will launch LTE in Bangalore and Mumbai this year, and Idea Cellular, which has limited 4G plans in 2016.

Reliance Jio today said it has substantially completed its network roll-out across the country. The company is currently testing and optimizing the network. Reliance Jio has rolled out and tested most of the business platforms in a limited use environment.

The telecom network operator has employed a large number of testers across India to facilitate extensive testing of network and business platforms.