28 June 2017

***Stories about Saudi Arabia reveal mysteries of the world’s most powerful kingdom

Nicolas Pelham

Summary: Yesterday’s news from Saudi Arabia reminds us about the importance of that little but rich and powerful nation, and how little we know about it. Here are two great articles giving fascinating glimpses into that strange and mysterious land. This is a follow-up to yesterday’s Today the Saudis got a new Crown Prince. Stratfor explains how this might rock the region.
The desert dream.

Elliott Abrams (bio) explains why this event is important. If this succession is successful, Saudi Arabia will change in two ways. First it will have a stable government for several decades. Second, it will have a young ruler.

“The Saudi system has had brother succeed brother …. Naturally, as his sons succeeded each other more or less in order of age, each successor was older than his predecessor; as noted, Salman was 79 when he became king. So the system has produced geriatric rule for decades now, while the Saudi population grew younger and younger. The CIA World Factbook says the median age in the kingdom is now just 27. And now the kingdom will have a ruler from those younger generations — for the first time ever. …


When firewalls, network-monitoring services, and antivirus software aren’t enough, there’s always been one surefire way to protect computers that control sensitive operations like power grids and water pumps: cut them off from the internet entirely. But new documents published by WikiLeaks on June 22 suggest that even when such extreme measures are taken, no computer is safe from motivated, well-resourced hackers.

The 11 documents describe a piece of software called “Brutal Kangaroo,” a set of tools built for infiltrating isolated, “air-gapped” computers by targeting internet-connected networks within the same organization. It’s the latest publication in the “Vault 7” series of leaked documents, which describe myriad hacking tools WikiLeaks says belong to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

** Crowded Waters in Southeast Asia

By Phillip Orchard

Cooperation among Southeast Asian states has never come easy, but the surge of Islamist militancy in the region is encouraging Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to give it another try.

This week, the three countries formally launched trilateral patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas — a vast expanse that has become a hub of piracy, militancy and smuggling. They have discussed the possibility since 2016, when the Abu Sayyaf, a jihadist group aligned with the Islamic State, conducted a string of kidnappings in the Sulu Archipelago. Whatever differences that may have impeded the patrols, however, were put aside during the siege of Marawi city, a provincial capital in the restive Philippine region of Mindanao.

Of course, the patrols alone will not rid the Philippines or its neighbors of jihadists. The same issues that have routinely hindered collective action throughout Southeast Asia will limit the scope of the program, if not undermine its effectiveness altogether. But the initiative does amount to a step toward regional integration, even as it proves the indispensability of the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia — playing directly into U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific.

** Cell Phones Have Changed the Conduct of Warfare and Counter-Terrorism

As of 2017 two-thirds of the world population is using cell phones. That’s five billion people with cell phones and many of them with more than one. The gr0wth in cell phone use has been phenomenal. There were one billion users in 2003, two billion in in 2007, three billion by 2010 and four billion by 2013.

The rapid spread of cell phones had the most impact in poor countries with few phones of any kind and little or no Internet use. The cell phone became simultaneously the first phone and personal computer most people got their hands on because by 2008 most cell phones were both. In the poorest countries many people used texting (it’s cheaper) most of the time but their cell phones give them an unprecedented ability to send, and receive information, to or from anywhere in the world. This has brought on many changes.

The cell phone was more than a social revolution. These cheap and compact devices phones revolutionized life and culture in poor countries. Before cell phones came along few people in poor nations had phones because landline (traditional cooper wire) networks were expensive to build and operate. It was even worse because these telephone networks were usually government monopolies and the government officials were corrupt and inept. Cell phone networks were cheaper to set up and in poor countries the governments generally let foreign operators come in, after paying the usual bribes and learned that, so far at least, it was best to leave them alone. Cell phones proved to be far more popular than local rulers expected and became too popular to mess with.

* Defense Strategy And The Iron Triangle Of Painful Tradeoffs

By Kathleen Hicks

The Defense Department has begun its development of a new defense strategy, and outside observers are atwitter, or should I say, aTwitter. Having been involved in more security strategy efforts than is healthy for any human, I have empathy for those charged with strategy development in today’s chaotic Washington environment. When it comes to strategy development, it can often feel that, as the French say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

A defense strategy is an approach that ties together the goals, approaches, and resources (people, technology, dollars, etc.) that can best advance priority interests by exploiting opportunities and overcoming challenges. It must account for, and in some cases seek to shape, a complex and dynamic backdrop of American domestic politics and economic realities as well as developments in operational concepts and technology, demography and workforce, and of course geopolitics.

Modi and Trump Meeting Will Set the Tone for US-India Relations

 Walter Lohman

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Washington, D.C. to meet President Donald Trump face-to-face for the first time. While one cannot expect too much in terms of “deliverables,” there are specific things that should be discussed by the leaders, if not for any other reason than to establish a sense of direction and priority in the relationship. US-India relations have been on a relatively positive trajectory through the last three American administrations. This meeting will point to its potential and focus going forward. 

Washington’s outreach to India has been facilitated by a geopolitical calculation that a strong India is good for regional stability, and therefore, good for U.S. global interests. The perfect case in point is the 2008 US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. Business opportunity may have been an important engine behind its approval by Congress, but this was

Eye On China, India Plans Infrastructure Boost In Andaman And Nicobar Islands

Jyotika Sood

India to invest around Rs 3,000 crore to improve connectivity at Andaman and Nicobar islands, as China aims to expand its naval reach.

India is pulling out all stops to develop infrastructure in Andaman and Nicobar islands, given the strategic importance of the islands.

State-run National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) has been tasked with building bridges and roads at an investment of around Rs 3,000 crore.

Better infrastructure will help India secure its territory and protect its trade routes even as China aims to expand its naval reach. India’s only tri-service command is established in Andaman and Nicobar at the entrance to the Malacca Strait, the world’s busiest shipping route.

America Must Confront Pakistan's Support of Afghan-Based Terrorism

Javid Ahmad

Kabul is mourning after a spate of deadly attacks over the past few weeks, including a truck bomb that killed nearly 150 people in the capital’s diplomatic district. These security setbacks have plunged Kabul into a crisis. The Pakistan-based Haqqani Network was behind the gruesome truck bomb that carried 1,500 kilograms of explosives, according to the Afghanistan’s CIA-backed intelligence agency. The Haqqani Network has been active for over thirty years and has conducted similar signature strikes in Afghanistan in the past to inflict fear. Due to the many civilian casualties the Kabul attack caused, the network has denied involvement to ensure the group maintains its grassroots support.

The group’s leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was one of the jihadi leaders who settled in Miramshah, a town in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, in the 1970s before the Soviet invaded Afghanistan. Besides its base in Miramshah, the Haqqanis maintained a strong presence in eastern Afghanistan. At the time, the senior Haqqani sought to overthrow former Afghan president Daoud Khan’s regime. Khan was a nationalist who resisted regional meddling in Afghan affairs.

China Weaponized North Korea. Will It Now Disarm It?

By Gordon G. Chang

“The two sides reaffirm their commitment to achieving the goal of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization and maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the United States and China stated on Friday.

Beijing has always maintained it supported North Korea’s “denuclearization,” but the statement, echoing the position of the administration of George W. Bush, is nonetheless surprisingly strong.

What motivated Beijing to join in announcing such a strong position?

Perhaps we should give some credit to the Trump administration. After all, the statement followed the first-ever session of the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, held Wednesday in Washington.

At the Dialogue, U.S. officials, led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, worked hard to persuade their Chinese counterparts they had to do more to disarm North Korea, China’s client state and only formal ally.

US, China agree once more to denuclearize North Korea

F. Trance

The United States and #china have once again agreed to join hands to denuclearize North Korea. This is after Chinese diplomats and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in Washington on Saturday to discuss possible avenues of cooperation to ease the tension in the Korean peninsula, report by Daily Mail stated.

What did China and the US agree upon now?

Since the start of the Korean crisis after Trump took office, ties with China slowly cooled. The United States hoped during the onset of the crisis that China would step up and rein in its regional ally back to the diplomatic table. China on the other hand, didn't show any aggressive actions to "discipline" the belligerent state.

It continued limited trade with Pyongyang, which is enough for the rogue state to keep afloat while vigorously pursuing a ballistic and nuclear program.

The Demographic Timebomb: A Rapidly Aging Population

Partner Perspectives are a collection of high-quality analyses and commentary produced by organizations around the world. Though Stratfor does not necessarily endorse the views expressed here — and may even disagree with them — we respect the rigorous and innovative thought that their unique points of view inspire.

Editor's Note

At Stratfor, we often look at how demographic shifts impact the economic outlook and geopolitical imperatives of countries around the world. Here, our partners at Visual Capitalist do the same as they explore the economic challenges created by a rapidly aging global population.

With record-high amounts of student debt, questionable job prospects, and too much avocado toast in their bellies, many millennials already feel like they are getting the short end of the stick.

Charles Krauthammer: It's the end of the beginning in the great Muslim civil war

Charles Krauthammer

It might appear a mindless mess, but the outlines are clear: the Muslim civil war, centred in Syria, is approaching its post-Islamic State phase. It's the end of the beginning 

The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter-bomber. Iran launches missiles into eastern Syria. Russia threatens to attack coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates. What is going on?

It might appear a mindless mess, but the outlines are clear. The great Muslim civil war, centred in Syria, is approaching its post-Islamic State phase. It’s the end of the beginning. The parties are maneuvering to shape what comes next.

It’s Europe, 1945, when the war was still raging against Nazi Germany, but everyone already knew the outcome. The maneuvering was largely between the approaching victors — the Soviet Union and the Western democracies — to determine postwar boundaries and spheres of influence.

The Origins and Evolution of ISIS in Libya

This report examines the pre-history, birth, expansion, consolidation and dispersal of ISIS in Libya. It concludes that 1) the group’s brutality in the country was a huge mistake on its part; 2) the Libyan State’s collapse did indeed lead to ISIS’ rise; and 3) the group subsequently thrived in marginalized communities or areas where the central government had never devolved power. Given this rough-and-tumble context, the report closes by recommending six ways anti-ISIS stakeholders should continue their fight against the murderous group.


Jason Pack, Rhiannon Smith, Karim Mezran 



Ukraine Hit by Massive Cyber Attack


Ukraine was hit — and hit hard — by hackers on Tuesday, with government institutions, the main airport, the state power distributor, and banks all being affected.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko posted a photo of his computer to Twitter, saying that every government computer was similarly dark.
The Ukrainian central bank blamed a virus, and said in a statement, “As a result of these cyber attacks these banks are having difficulties with client services and carrying out banking operations.”

Ukraine’s official Twitter account tweeted out a meme in response.

To which Ukraine’s parliament replied:

The attacks did not hit just Ukraine — Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk said it, too, was attacked, as was Russian oil giant Rosneft, though its core business was not impacted.

The Great Unravelling: Four Doomsday Scenarios for Europe´s Russia Policy

Europe has managed to remain united against Russia since the latter invaded Ukraine in 2014. However, Gustav Gressel and Fredrik Wesslau worry that this resolve could unravel if 1) the EU decides to enforce the Russian interpretation of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine; 2) Brussels succumbs to ‘Ukraine fatigue’ and accepts the status quo; 3) the US disengages from Ukraiine and ends its sanctions on Russia; and 4) a Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin reach a “grand bargain” that shatters EU unity and allows Russia to bring Ukraine back into its sphere of influence. Here are the details

Despite all odds, Europe has managed to remain united and firm on its policy towards Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in 2014. But what are the forces that could undermine this policy and what would be the consequences of such an unravelling? This paper presents four doomsday scenarios for how Europe’s policy towards Russia could collapse. 
The scenarios outlined in this paper are: (1) the EU decides to enforce the Russian interpretation of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine; (2) the EU succumbs to Ukraine fatigue and accepts the status quo, including another frozen conflict in the neighbourhood; (3) the US disengages from Ukraine and ends sanctions on Russia, throwing European policy into disarray; and (4) a “grand power bargain” between Trump and Putin shatters EU unity and allows Russia to bring Ukraine into its sphere of influence

MiG-35, Russia’s New 4th-Gen Light Fighter, Readies for Comba

SALON DU BOURGET, France — The next addition to Russia’s roster of fighter jets that bridge fourth- and fifth-generation technology may join units as soon as 2019, officials with the MiG Corporation told Military.com here at the Paris Air Show.

The MiG-35, designed to replace MiG-29s rounding out their fourth decade in service, was absent from Paris but will be featured at the MAKS international airshow near Moscow in July as engineers finalize testing on the aircraft, said Anastasia Kravchenko, public relations director for MiG. Still to be determined is whether the fighter will be featured in a static display or aerial demo, she said.

MiG was already courting customers for the aircraft at the show, and Kravchenko said while she couldn’t name many of the countries, the company has received interest from south and southeast Asia, Latin America, and near neighbors to Russia such as Kazakhstan.

SOF Operational Design and Strategic Education for the 21st Century Warrior-Scholar

by Tony Rivera and Robert Schafer


In August of 2011 a special working group was assembled at the Pinewood Campus of the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) on MacDill, Air Force Base in Florida. In attendance were “Eleven participants from various SOF and academic backgrounds... the SOF Chairs from PME institutions; Senior Fellows from the JSOU Strategic Studies Department; and other academic and strategic thinkers with an interest in SOF’s strategic utility.”[1] The attendees were given three very difficult questions to answer: What is Special Operations Forces (SOF) power? What is the theory and art of SOF power? How can SOF power be better implemented by civilian leadership? “The workgroup confirmed the Special Operations community lacks a unifying theory and associated literature on how Special Operations fit into national security policy even as preference for their use as an instrument of national policy increases.”[2] The recommendations were thoughtful, serious, and worthy of further consideration. What was striking, however, was the virtual absence of the mention of SOF Operational Design.

The United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) has been taking the lead in answering some of these questions through their development of SOF Operational Design. SOF Operational Design emerged from the work done by the J-7 Operational Design Planner’s Handbook[3] and the School of Advanced Military Studies’ Art of Design curriculum—a curriculum that embraces the complex adaptive nature of the battlefield and the operational environment. “These continually emerging realities require adaptive leadership techniques, new strategic and tactical cognitive approaches, and organizational learning methodologies to keep pace with the multiple adversaries who are confronting our country. These lethal assemblages have a strategic perspective and are using asymmetric

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump head for clash at G20 summit

A clash between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump appears unavoidable after Germany signalled that it will make climate change, free trade and the management of forced mass global migration the key themes of the G20 summit in Hamburg next week.

The G20 summit brings together the world’s biggest economies, representing 85% of global gross domestic product (GDP), and Merkel’s chosen agenda looks likely to maximise American isolation while attempting to minimise disunity amongst others.

The meeting, which is set to be the scene of large-scale street protests, will also mark the first meeting between Trump and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as world leaders.

Trump has already rowed with Europe once over climate change and refugees at the G7 summit in Italy, and now looks set to repeat the experience in Hamburg but on a bigger stage, as India and China join in the criticism of Washington.

Modern Information Warfare Hits Us All. Hard.

2016 was just the latest in #cyberwar; and #informationwarfare attacks where even bills were introduced in Congress. It has been ongoing as long as there have been digital mediums and technologies; and information distribution technology. My company saw it happening last year and got more and more concerned as the election grew closer. We literally wrote letters to people in government, people at the DNC and elsewhere, basically yelling as loudly as we could that the #USA was being cyber and information warfare attacked.

As a cyber security, and weaponized information expert - it was all too clear what was happening. It has left a feeling of being sick in the stomach for a year now, and this feeling has not abated. Because it has not ended. For millions of Americans and millions of people around the world too.

The Unites States is witnessing both the worst and best it can show at once. The worst by all the traitors amongst us: those pretending we were not just victims of a non lethal act of war.

MQ-9B drone sale for India to be OK’d

Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department is in the final stages of clearing the sale of 22 MQ-9 drones to India, with an expectation that U.S. President Donald Trump will announce the sale during the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi, who will meet with Trump for the first time on June 26, is expected to discuss a wide range of topics, including terrorism and visas, but is poised to walk away with an offer to purchase the unarmed MQ-9B Guardian design produced by General Atomics.

The Guardian design is a variant of the Predator B drone, equipped with several radar systems specifically useful for maritime searches. 

“We are pleased that the U.S. government has cleared the way for the sale of the MQ-9B Guardian to the Indian Government,” said Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, in a statement to Defense News. “Guardian provides the endurance and capability required to significantly enhance India’s sovereign maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is standing by to support the US and Indian Governments throughout this process” 

Missile Threats Surging Worldwide, U.S. Defense Study Finds

Tony Capaccio and Larry Liebert

Technology for ballistic and cruise missiles is advancing in countries from North Korea and Iran to Russia and China, increasing potential threats to the U.S. even if they don’t carry nuclear warheads, according to a new Pentagon report.

“Many countries view ballistic and cruise missile systems as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” defense intelligence agencies said in the report obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of its release. “Many ballistic and cruise missiles are armed with weapons of mass destruction. However, numerous types of ballistic and cruise missiles have achieved dramatic improvements in accuracy that allow them to be used effectively with conventional warheads.”

The report comes as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks a way to stop North Korea’s drive to develop a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. mainland. While citing the ballistic missile programs being pursued by Kim Jong Un’s regime in Pyongyang and by Iran, the study describes a broader proliferation of missiles, advanced technology and launch options.

Commando Raids On ISIS Yield Vital Data In Shadowy War

By Eric Schmi

WASHINGTON — One late afternoon in April, helicopter-borne American commandos intercepted a vehicle in southeastern Syria carrying a close associate of the Islamic State’s supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The associate, Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, was a rare prize whom United States Special Operations forces had been tracking for months: a midlevel but highly trusted operative skilled in raising money; spiriting insurgent leaders out of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s besieged capital in Syria; and plotting attacks against the West. Captured alive, Mr. Uzbeki could be an intelligence bonanza. Federal prosecutors had already begun preparing criminal charges against him for possible prosecution in the United States.

As the commandos swooped in, however, a firefight broke out. Mr. Uzbeki, a combat-hardened veteran of shadow wars in Syria and Pakistan, died in the gun battle, thwarting the military’s hopes of extracting from him any information about Islamic State operations, leaders and strategy.

Electronic Warfare ‘Growing’; Joint Airborne EW Study Underway


ARLINGTON: After two decades of neglect, electronic warfare is — slowly — on the mend, the Pentagon’s Deputy Director for EW said yesterday. That includes a growing budget, a new (classified) strategy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, increased interest from the leaders of all four armed services, and, most immediately, an ongoing joint study of future jamming aircraft.

“Give me about a month, maybe two,” and he’ll have a lot more clarity on what’s called the Analysis of Alternatives for Joint Airborne Electronic Attack, William Conley told the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute.

Some backstory on why this matters: Electronic warfare is the art and science of detecting, deceiving, and disrupting enemy radio-frequency (RF) transmissions — and since everything from wireless networks to radar relies on the RF spectrum, EW can make or break a modern military. After the Cold War, however, even though the Russians retained much of the old Soviet EW arsenal, the US Army and Air Force largely divested theirs. The Air Force in particular retired its last high- performance jamming aircraft, the EF-111 Raven, in 1998 — a small number of EC-130H turboprops remain in service — and largely ceded EW to Navy squadrons. For its own investments, the Air Force bet on stealth aircraft, the F-22 and F-35, that it deemed so undetectable they wouldn’t need Navy EW airplanes jamming enemy radar on their behalf, as one 4-star told Colin as recently as 2014.

Secret Government Report: Chelsea Manning Leaks Caused No Real Harm

Jason Leopold

In the seven years since WikiLeaks published the largest leak of classified documents in history, the federal government has said they caused enormous damage to national security.

But a secret, 107-page report, prepared by a Department of Defense task force and newly obtained by BuzzFeed News, tells a starkly different story: It says the disclosures were largely insignificant and did not cause any real harm to US interests.

Regarding the hundreds of thousands of Iraq-related military documents and State Department cables provided by the Army private Chelsea Manning, the report assessed “with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former U.S. leadership in Iraq.”

The heavily redacted report also determined that a different set of documents published the same year, relating to the US war in Afghanistan, would not result in “significant impact” to US operations. It did, however, have the potential to cause “serious damage” to “intelligence sources, informants and the Afghan population,” and US and NATO intelligence collection efforts. The most significant impact of the leaks, the report concluded, would likely be on the lives of “cooperative Afghans, Iraqis, and other foreign interlocutors.”

Technology Helps The Lawless Find Digital Safe Spaces

by Scott Stewart

Advancements in digital encryption will soon put the communications of terrorists and other criminals beyond the reach of law enforcement. And in the wake of the London Bridge attack on June 3, United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to work with democratic governments on cyberspace regulations to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorist planning.

The press and privacy advocates criticized her when she suggested that internet encryption was providing "safe spaces" for terrorists to operate.

During interviews with U.S., British and other media outlets after the attack, several journalists asked me what I thought of May's statement, half expecting me to pile on the criticism. Unfortunately, I couldn't, because in many ways I agree with what she's saying. Through digital encryption, terrorists and other criminals will soon have absolute privacy in the digital world - something they've never been able to enjoy in the physical world. The safe spaces, or dark holes, provided by encryption are helping organizations to recruit and equip grassroots terrorist operatives and to direct other operatives with an unprecedented level of security and impunity.

Under Fire: Cipher Brief Wargame Shows Difficulty of Deterrence in Cyberspace


It’s Labor Day, September 4, 2017, and the National Security Agency has just intercepted communications between the senior leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the militant purveyors of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and employees of the Iranian companies ITSecTeam and Mersad. The communications reveal future disruptive cyber attacks against U.S. public and private institutions, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Reserve, as well as a other cryptic targets in the financial sector.

The intercepted communications also mention Iranian command and control servers with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in Turkey, France, South Korea, and Russia. The attack is scheduled to take place later in the month at an unspecified time and date, but little else is known. The New York Times has gotten wind of the crisis, publishing a story that the President of the United States has been briefed on the imminent threat. 

Allying Public and Private Forces on the Front Lines of Cybersecurity


Few security challenges muddle the distinction between government and business roles as those emanating from cyberspace. National security issues no longer remain solely under the purview of government agencies, and companies continue to find themselves in the sights of foreign adversaries.

Moreover, attacks against commercial products have geopolitical ramifications. Software and hardware companies are at the root of voting technology, a foundation of modern democracies, and everyday electronic devices – designed by private companies, but used by all – are compromised by hostile entities to steal, destabilize, and misguide. Diplomacy, espionage, business, and war are now ingrained with commercially created and maintained digital technology and the vivid line between private interests and public security is dwindling.

Information sharing between government and the businesses at the frontline of the virtual battlefield has always been a key component of further strengthening a country's resilience to hacking campaigns by foreign governments, criminals, and hacktivists. Combining the forensic evidence of attacks against private companies, particularly those running a country’s critical infrastructure, with actionable intelligence sourced using the relegated powers of government is needed to better manage cybersecurity risks.