18 July 2017

*** A corruption crisis rocks the most dangerous country in the world

Bruce Riedel

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in deep political trouble arising from a corruption scandal over his family fortune. The 67-year-old Sharif is in his third term as prime minister, having served twice in the 1990s before a decade in exile in Saudi Arabia. He has struggled to keep the army under civilian control throughout and unsuccessfully sought to reduce tensions with India. Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world, where terrorists and nuclear weapons overlap.


The corruption scandal emerged more than a year ago, when the so-called Panama Papers were leaked from an offshore law firm in Panama. Investigators found that Sharif’s family had sizable amounts of money and assets in London, including four luxury flats that allegedly had been purchased with illegal proceeds. This week, a Joint Investigation Tribunal concluded that the family had assets far beyond their income and recommended the case to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, is accused of producing fraudulent documents as well, including one that allegedly uses a type font that was only available after the date on the document. His sons are also under a cloud of suspicion.

*** Art of the Possible Restructuring the Defense Relationship with Pakistan

By Stephen Tankel
Source Link

Pakistan is not a front-burner issue for the administration of President Donald Trump, but it remains a major contributor to the security challenges facing the United States in South Asia. This is most immediately felt in Afghanistan, where President Trump is considering sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops on top of the almost 10,000 already there.1 There is considerable frustration with Pakistan on Capitol Hill and among career officials in the executive branch over the country’s ongoing support for various militant groups, including the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, and production of tactical nuclear weapons.2 Members of Congress and committee staff are thinking through how to reform the U.S.-Pakistan defense relationship. Several prescriptive reports and articles, including one by the author, have argued the United States should consider a tougher line with Pakistan.3

There are no silver bullets when it comes to Pakistan, whose behavior has implications for the United States beyond Afghanistan. Rather than attempt to alter Pakistan’s behavior radically in the near term – something that has proven impossible, thus far – the aim should be to optimize the rate of return on the relationship while avoiding a rupture. This report seeks to inform the debate over Pakistan in two ways. First, instead of advocating the current practice of putting unrealistic conditions on large assistance packages, this report posits a more focused and realistic policy of positive conditionality. It also discusses how changes in assistance could be paired with escalatory coercion. Second, discussions about Pakistan often revolve around how hard and on which issues to push without delving into the actual policy reforms necessary to implement changes. This report broadly outlines how the legislative and executive branches could implement recommended policy changes. 

Out of my mind: The opportunity in Kashmir

by Meghnad Desai 

The surprise in Kashmir is not the death of pilgrims caught in the crossfire between militants and the forces trying to maintain law and order. Attacks have become routine, the reactions are predictable and the sequel will be the same as always — nothing will change. The new development this time has been that the separatists of the Hurriyat came out to condemn the killings. They put their names out publicly for their opposition to the attack on the pilgrims to Amarnath to be known.

The Kashmir tragedy has been so routinised and so predictable that nothing ever surprises any longer. The same actions and reactions take place. Every killing of a jihadist is followed by a huge crowd turning out for the funeral, and then more attacks. Hardliners want more to be killed and the moderates want more dialogue.

The first thing to learn from the latest events is that the jihadists are not the same as the Hurriyat. The jihadists are outsiders; if not actually from across the border. They have no loyalty to Kashmir or India. That is not the situation with the Hurriyat. They care for Kashmir. They have a desire for autonomy. Azadi does not mean breaking with India but autonomy for Kashmir in local matters. Kashmir raises such strong reactions that those who are in India, at a distance from Kashmir, want to label this as treason.

Exercise Malabar: China Factor

By Commodore R. S. Vasan IN (Retd.)

From the Staging Port Chennai

The gathering of the top brass along with the crew members from the participating ships which assembled in Chennai for Malabar 2017 exuded great warmth and synergy during all the events in the run up to the exercise. During a reception on July 11th evening on board INS Jalashwa in Chennai rare bonhomie, the spirit of camaraderie and friendship was evident in abundance. The Task Force Commander of the Nimitz group Rear Admiral William Byrne, Jr enthusiastically said that “There are tall ships that will sail, there are small ships that will sail and all those from the three nations will work together in a spirit of friendship during Malabar2017”. Admiral Byrne also had an interesting phrase about China when he said, “China is a potential friend”. It is significant that it was the same seventh fleet at that time led by Enterprise that manoeuvred in the Bay of Bengal in 1971 to bring pressure on the Indian Navy during the war to liberate Bangladesh. Recently, some of the units of that fleet were repaired in India. The changing nature of strategic alliances, geopolitics, the rise of China and India have all transformed the global strategic equations notably in the maritime domain. There has been a constant value added to the relations at the political, strategic, economic and military level notably between the USA, Japan and India. All the three fleet commanders emphasised the need for collaborative and collective efforts in the maritime domain to face the new challenges to effectively contribute to maritime stability and security.

Doklam standoff: Why China wants India to stop defending Bhutan

Prabhash K Dutta

The site of ongoing standoff in Doklam area lies on the Bhutan-China border and India is in the picture only due to its security arrangement with Thimphu.

With both India and China refusing to back off from Doklam area in Bhutan, the stand-off between the two armies is nowhere near its end. India and China have mobilised their troops in thousands in the region to put pressure on the other side.

The site of ongoing standoff in Doklam area lies on the Bhutan-China border and India is in the picture only due to its security arrangement with Thimphu. Bhutan, after issuing demarche to China, requested the Indian Army to help in checking Chinese incursion in the area in the name of road construction.

Bhutan is the only neighbour of China which does not have a diplomatic relation with Beijing. China has been a bully to Bhutan forcing it to make concessions in its territorial jurisdiction. The root cause of the present military tension between India and China lies in the border disputes between Bhutan and China.


Bhutan shares about 470 km-long boundary with China in the west and north while India surrounds Bhutan for 605 km in the east, south and west. China has overlapping claims on or along Bhutan border in seven pockets including the one along Arunachal Pradesh-Bhutan border near Tawang.

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

R Jagannathan

India does have some levers against China, especially in trade, but before we use them, we need to be ready for Chinese mischief elsewhere.

We should brace for impact in four areas.

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

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

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

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

Indian nuclear forces, 2017

Hans M. Kristensen; Robert S. Norris

India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal, with at least four new weapon systems now under development to complement or replace existing nuclear-capable aircraft, land-based delivery systems, and sea-based systems. India is estimated to have produced enough plutonium for 150–200 nuclear warheads but has likely produced only 120–130. Nonetheless, additional plutonium will be required to produce warheads for missiles now under development, and India is reportedly building two new plutonium production facilities. India’s nuclear strategy, which has traditionally focused on Pakistan, now appears to place increased emphasis on China. 

India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal with development of several new nuclear weapon systems. We estimate India currently operates seven nuclear-capable systems: two aircraft, four land-based ballistic missiles, and one sea-based ballistic missile. At least four more systems are in development. The development program is in a dynamic phase, with long-range land- and sea-based missiles emerging for possible deployment within the next decade.

What Trump's Afghanistan Policy Means for India

By Sourina Bej

The Trump administration seems to expect more Indian involvement in Afghanistan. Is that wise? 

Beyond the friendly diktats and signature hugs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Unites States on June 25 and 26 had some overlooked signals on the future of Afghanistan policy. With the United States still mulling over its new direction, India has much to consider when it comes to President Donald Trump’s Af-Pak policy.

The joint statement concluded during Modi’s visit emphasized the need for development in Afghanistan and was appreciative of Indian efforts in this regard. The statement also announced that Washington would co-sponsor the India-Afghanistan Export, Trade and Investment Fair in September 2017. Yet Trump has also indicated such support that would require considerable participation from India in bringing what the statement called “increased stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.”

Is India ready for deep security engagement in Afghanistan? Will this be required as Trump’s Af-Pak policy is unveiled?

Dictatorship and Democracy in Israel and Pakistan

Pranay Kotasthane

Israel was the talk of the Indian towns last week. For the first time, an Indian Prime Minister paid a visit to Israel. This, after India recognised Israel in 1950 and accorded the ties full diplomatic status in 1992.

Obviously, the talk about Israel occupied Facebook walls as well. In one such interesting conversation, a few learned folks were discussing this: the two religious States — Israel and Pakistan—were both created for the explicit purpose of securing a homeland for religious minorities. Given their preoccupation with security, the military-security establishment occupied a key position in the politics of the two States. Yet, what can explain this fundamental difference: while Pakistan has had several bouts of rule by military dictatorship, Israel has steadfastly retained electoral democracy?

This is an interesting question. Now, the similarities between Israel and Pakistan are well documented. Faisal Devji’s 2013 book Muslim Zion argues that

Like Israel, Pakistan came into being through the migration of a minority population, inhabiting a vast subcontinent, who abandoned old lands in which they feared persecution to settle in a new homeland. Just as Israel is the world’s sole Jewish state, Pakistan is the only country to be established in the name of Islam.

Defiant and defensive, Suu Kyi struggles to bridge Myanmar's divisions

YANGON Aung San Suu Kyi's first anniversary as Myanmar's de facto leader should have been the celebration of a glorious beginning. The year started with the handover of power on March 30, 2016, by the military-backed government of President Thein Sein to her National League for Democracy. Months earlier, the NLD had swept national elections, winning nearly 80% of contested parliamentary seats.

Yet the state counselor, as composed and elegantly attired as ever, displayed a curious blend of defiance, defensiveness and rare humility on her government's anniversary. In a televised address from Naypyitaw, the capital, she acknowledged public criticism of issues ranging from the inexperience of cabinet ministers to human rights and a perceived lack of economic progress. But one year was "not a very long time," she said. "When we speak of changing the system, we need to understand that it involves changing the old system that has been deeply entrenched in our society for over 50 years."

Her stance reflected the extraordinary divide in the country today, which has seen widespread public euphoria surrounding the NLD's rise shift into a more tentative mood. While activists and media have complained bitterly about backsliding on issues such as freedom of speech, the business community and other elites have slammed bureaucratic holdups and ministerial incompetence as well as delays in key legislation.

Can China and America avoid war?

Dominic Cummings

Every day on his way to work at Harvard, Professor Allison wondered how the reconstruction of the bridge over Boston’s Charles River could take years while in China bigger bridges are replaced in days. His book tells the extraordinary story of China’s transformation since Deng abandoned Mao’s catastrophic Stalinism, and considers whether the story will end in war between China and America.

China erects skyscrapers in weeks while Parliament delays Heathrow expansion for over a decade. The EU discusses dumb rules made 60 years ago while China produces a Greece-sized economy every 16 weeks. China’s economy doubles roughly every seven years; it is already the size of America’s and will likely dwarf it in 20 years. More serious than Europe, it invests this growth in education and technology from genetic engineering to artificial intelligence.

Allison analyses the formidable President Xi, who has known real suffering and is very different to western leaders obsessed with the frivolous spin cycles of domestic politics. Xi’s goal is to ensure that China’s renaissance returns it to its position as the richest, strongest and most advanced culture on earth. Allison asks: will the US-China relationship repeat the dynamics between Athens and Sparta that led to war in 431 bc or might it resemble the story of the British-American alliance in the 20th century?

Dealing with China

The traditional Chinese model of international relations. Image: Wikimedia Commons/PhiLiP/Kanbun.

The standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on some remote Himalayan slopes on their common frontiers with Bhutan is like a good bowl of pepper rasam, tom-yum soup or shot of wasabi. It serves to clear our physical and mental channels.

China is competing with the United States for nothing short of global primacy. It already wants everyone to acknowledge its dominance.

One of our foremost experts feels that Xi Jinping wants China to “arrive” as early as 2020. At such a moment in history, India’s interests are best served by being a “swing power” — pursuing better bilateral relations with the big two than they have with each other, and swinging our support from one to the other depending on where our interests lie. This can’t be had for the asking — we need to cultivate the capacity to inflict pleasure and pain on both the United States and China.

China’s Uighur Muslims Struggle Under ‘Police State’

Beijing says the restrictions and heavy police presence seek to control the spread of Islamic extremism and separatist movements, but analysts warn that Xinjiang is becoming an open air prison.

WORSHIPPERS quietly passed through metal detectors as they entered the central mosque in China’s far western city of Kashgar under the stern gaze of stone-faced police officers.

The increasingly strict curbs imposed on the mostly Muslim Uighur population have stifled life in the tense Xinjiang region, where beards are partially banned and no one is allowed to pray in public.

For years, the square outside the mosque in Kashgar was packed with teeming crowds as worshippers jostled for space to unroll their prayer rugs and celebrate the end of Ramazan. But no longer.

This year, an eerie silence hung over the plaza outside the imposing prayer hall as devotees gathered to mark the end of a month of fasting ─ the lowest turnout in a generation according to residents.

How Saudi Arabia Botched Its Campaign Against Qatar

By Bassima Alghussein and Jeffrey A. Stacey

The diplomatic and economic blockade of Qatar by its neighbors has plunged the Middle East into further discord. On June 5, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates announced a complete boycott of Qatar, accusing the country of aiding regional terrorist groups. However, the primary reason for the condemnation is Qatar’s relationship with Iran.

The conflict has rapidly come to a head. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) gave Qatar a deadline of July 2 for meeting 13 demands, ranging from ending relations with Iran to closing down the Al-Jazeera TV station. Not one of the demands was ever likely to have been met; in fact, many of them were based on false premises about Qatar’s behavior to begin with.

Because Qatar complied with none of the GCC’s demands, the gambit’s lack of coherence is being laid bare. Without a plan B, immediate escalation is unlikely to transpire. Instead, it is probable that both sides will go forward for the time being in a state of mutual diplomatic paralysis. The GCC may apply additional token “sanctions,” but neither side is likely to back down soon; the stare-down will continue apace.

Pentagon Studies Weapons That Can Read Users’ Mind


NEWSEUM: The troops of tomorrow may be able to pull the trigger using only their minds. As artificially intelligent drones, hacking, jamming, and missiles accelerate the pace of combat, some of the military’s leading scientists are studying how mere humans can keep up with the incredible speed of cyber warfare, missiles and other threats.

One option: Bypass crude physical controls — triggers, throttles, keyboards — and plug the computer directly into the human brain. In one DARPA experiment, a quadriplegic first controlled an artificial limb and then flew a flight simulator. Future systems might monitor the users’ nervous system and compensate for stress, fatigue, or injury. Is this the path to what the Pentagon calls human-machine teaming?

This is an unnerving scenario for those humans, like Stephen Hawking, who mistrust artificial intelligence. If your nightmare scenario is robots getting out of control, “let’s teach them to read our minds!” is probably not your preferred solution. It sounds more like the beginning of a movie where cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger goes back in time to kill someone.

Russia's Cold War Super Weapon (Put Lasers on Everything It Can)

Sebastien Roblin

After more than a half century of development, the U.S. military is finally close to fielding an array of laser weapons for defense against missiles, drones and small vehicles. However, the Soviet Union also researched laser weapons for decades, and developed an astounding variety of them, ranging from laser pistols, threedifferent laser tanks and a laser-armed spaceship.

Lasers direct photons (light particles) into a coherent beam, and though most military lasers today are used to designate targets and measure distances and so forth, a sufficiently powerful laser can cause a destructive buildup of thermal energy. Depending on their design, lasers project may visible or invisible rays—the latter is typical for most combat lasers—though the point affected by a high-energy laser is likely to emit a visible effect.

In theory, laser weapons could prove exceptionally accurate, fast hitting—it’s hard to beat the speed of light!—and inexpensive to shoot compared to a missile or cannon shell. Until recently, however, they have proven impractical due to the bulky power and cooling units they require, their limited range and difficulty in damaging well-shielded targets.

A Window Into Russia's Military Mind?

Russia’s large-scale military exercise to be conducted in September can provide critical insight for NATO allies seeking to improve their readiness posture against an increasingly revanchist Russia, according to an Estonian defense official.

“Russians train exactly as they intend to fight, thus Zapad will give up ample information on their military and political thinking as it is right now,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for defense policy at Estonia’s Ministry of Defense, said at the Atlantic Council on July 11. According to Prikk, “we don’t consider this year’s Zapad exercise in itself to be a direct threat to us [NATO] or a cover for an attack, but we have to keep in mind that the Russians have the nasty habit of hiding their actual military endeavors behind exercises.”

“We have to be calm, vigilant, flexible,” in the months leading up to and following Zapad 2017, said Prikk.

In September, Russia will conduct a joint military exercise with Belarus—Zapad. Based on initial indications and past Zapads, the exercise, which will take place in Belarus, will assess the readiness of Russia’s military across many forces—land, sea, and air—and test a range of capabilities—not only conventional, but also cyber and nuclear, within a particular set of scenarios. This will be the first Zapad exercise since 2013. Zapad, which is also the Russian word for “west,” will take place against the backdrop of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, ongoing war in Ukraine, military intervention in Syria, and meddling in the US and French presidential elections.

Israel’s Secret Arab Allies


TEL AVIV — United States and Israeli officials seem convinced that a regional peace agreement between Israel and the Arab world may be in the offing. On his recent trip to the Middle East, President Trump said that a “new level of partnership is possible and will happen — one that will bring greater safety to this region, greater security to the United States and greater prosperity to the world.” The main stumbling block remains the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an emotive issue that still carries strategic weight in Arab capitals. Yet the president isn’t completely wrong. Across the Middle East these days, often away from the headlines, Israel finds itself deeply involved in Arab wars.

The clearest manifestation of what is frequently called “the new Middle East” can be found in Syria. Mr. Trump himself infamously alluded to Israel’s strategic reach when he told visiting Russian diplomats about information obtained by covert Israeli intelligence operations against the Islamic State. According to subsequent reports, Israeli military intelligence had hacked into the computer networks of Islamic State bomb makers in Syria. A few weeks later, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel was intensifying its security and intelligence cooperation with Jordan in southern Syria to stave off Iranian gains in the area.

AI, people, and society

In an essay about his science fiction, Isaac Asimov reflected that “it became very common…to picture robots as dangerous devices that invariably destroyed their creators.” He rejected this view and formulated the “laws of robotics,” aimed at ensuring the safety and benevolence of robotic systems. Asimov's stories about the relationship between people and robots were only a few years old when the phrase “artificial intelligence” (AI) was used for the first time in a 1955 proposal for a study on using computers to “…solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans.” Over the half-century since that study, AI has matured into subdisciplines that have yielded a constellation of methods that enable perception, learning, reasoning, and natural language understanding.

“Excitement about AI has been tempered by concerns about potential downsides.”

Growing exuberance about AI has come in the wake of surprising jumps in the accuracy of machine pattern recognition using methods referred to as “deep learning.” The advances have put new capabilities in the hands of consumers, including speech-to-speech translation and semi-autonomous driving. Yet, many hard challenges persist—and AI scientists remain mystified by numerous capabilities of human intellect.

Why America’s Mighty Military Doesn't Always Dominate the Battlefield

Dave Majumdar

The United States Navy’s recent shoot down of a Syrian Arab Air Force Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter near the town of Tabqah over Syria is illustrative of a truth in modern warfare: Weapons do not always work as advertised.

During the engagement between a pair of Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets—flying off the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)—and the Fitter, advanced U.S. air-to-air missiles were decoyed at short-range. Indeed, as wasreported by CNN, the Super Hornets first attacked the antiquated early-1970s vintage Su-22 strike aircraft with an infrared-guided Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder.

Though the Pentagon has not released any details, the Sidewinder was likely an AIM-9X, the latest iteration of the long-serving weapon that features high off-boresight capability. Though the F/A-18E pilot fired the Sidewinder from about half a mile away—very short range even for an AIM-9 shot—the weapon was decoyed by the Russian-built Su-22’s flares. The Navy pilot reengaged with a Raytheon AIM-120C AMRAAM—a considerably more expensive and much longer-ranged active radar guided weapon—to dispatch the antiquated Fitter.

The question one might ask is: How did the Su-22 pilot decoy the AIM-9 with flares given the modern Sidewinder’s advanced imaging focal plane array infrared seeker?

Beyond Checkers and Chess: What Junior Leaders Can Do to Develop Strategic Thinking

Charles A. Flynn and Lorenzo Ruiz

“He who considers present affairs and ancient ones readily understands that all cities and all peoples have the same desires and the same traits and that they always have had them.”[1] —Niccolo Machiavelli

In a recent article, "Big Picture, Not Details, Key When Eyeing Future," General David Perkins describes how the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is tackling the task of preparing the Army for future warfare. He calls for a shift in strategy to “encompass more than delivering decisive battlefield firepower.”[2] Perkins describes this shift as one from playing checkers to playing chess, characterizing the complexities and requirements of future warfare. While the character of war is indeed increasing in complexity, the essence of strategy in warfare remains unchanged. Strategy remains a sum of the ways to apply means to achieve ends, and as General Perkins recognized, it involves so much more than decisive battlefield firepower.

Some political and military leaders tend to think about war in terms of three hierarchical levels: the tactical, the operational, and the strategic, often displayed as a pyramid and customarily correspond to hierarchical levels in a military chain of command. These models place junior leaders at the lower or tactical level, and rightly so. However, the levels of war are also limiting because they draw divisions between interacting constructs. A more appropriate view shown in Figure 1 is what Michael Handel calls, a “complex model of interaction.”[3] This approach proposes that each level of war can influence the others, inferring more fluidity than a hierarchical view. For this reason, while junior leaders should master and live in the tactical realm, they must simultaneously think and understand the operational and strategic environments.

Figure 1: Michael Handel’s Complex Model of Interaction

New Study Warns Aircraft Carriers May Be Obsolete (Thanks to Russia and China)

Michael Peck

Inexpensive Russian and Chinese weapons, such as cyberwar and antiship missiles, threaten the West’s reliance on expensive arms such as aircraft carriers.

“China and Russia appear to have focused many (but not all) their efforts on being able to put at risk the key Western assets that are large, few in number and expensive,” reads a recent study by the Royal United Services Institute, a British military think tank.

“Western governments have become acutely aware of the problems of this financial imbalance in the counterinsurgency context, when they found themselves using weapons costing $70,000, sometimes fired from aircraft that cost $30,000 an hour to fly, to destroy a Toyota pick-up vehicle that might be optimistically valued at $10,000,” the report went on. “Missiles costing (much) less than half a million pounds [$642,000] a unit could at least disable a British aircraft carrier that costs more than £3 billion [$3.9 billion]. Indeed, a salvo of ten such missiles would cost less than $5 million.”

The British report is in response to America’s Third Offset Strategy, the Pentagon’s search for ways to maintain U.S. military superiority amid the rise of asymmetric warfare. The ability of a missile or a computer virus to destroy or disable expensive Cold War–era weapons like aircraft carriers or tanks, or the satellites and computer networks that support them, has left U.S. planners grappling with how to devise new capabilities while rendering older weapons less vulnerable.

Inequality and Armed Conflict: Evidence and Policy Recommendations

The data analysts in this article confirm a common belief – i.e., the onset and recurrence of armed conflict is likely where high inter-group inequalities exist. Indeed, groups that have strong shared identities, a collective perception of ill treatment, and opportunities to take up arms are likely to use violence to rectify existing inequalities. In response, policy makers should take concrete measures to ensure the fair distribution of public goods and more.

Research shows that the onset and recurrence of armed conflict is likely where high inter-group inequalities exist. Groups that have strong shared identities, a collective perception of ill treatment, and opportunities to take up arms are likely to use violence to rectify existing inequalities. Policy makers can take concrete steps to reduce group-level inequalities through measures that share political and economic power between groups, ensure the fair distribution of public goods and services, and recognize cultural identities.

Brief Points 

Inequalities can provoke and prolong conflict as well as its recurrence in fragile settings. 

Strong group identities coupled with salient grievances can inspire violence. 

Both objective and subjective inequalities are important predictors of conflict onset. 

Effective policies need to address underlying sources of inequality. 

Private Email of Top U.S. Russia Intelligence Official Hacked


On Tuesday morning, a hacker going by the name Johnnie Walker sent a group email to an unknown number of recipients claiming to have a trove of emails from the private account of a U.S. intelligence official.

“The U.S. State Department officer’s email has been hacked,” the email announced, and included at least two years’ worth of personal emails from the private Gmail account of a State Department official working in the secretive intelligence arm of the State Department focusing on Russia.

The sender said the archive included exchanges between the official and “CIA officers and other intelligence agencies, mainstream media, NGOs, and international funds” that would “give you evidence of who is responsible for agenda formation in many countries worldwide, especially where the situation is insecure.”

The official involved is in a senior position in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, according to a 2017 department directory. Even though the official’s name is public, Foreign Policy is not identifying him at the department’s request, citing security concerns.

Failure of UN group on international cyber law ‘not positive,’ says Canadian expert

Howard Solomon

International law experts worry that the recent failure of a United Nations Group of Government Experts to reach unanimity on cyber law may lead to more state-backed online assaults.

“It’s certainly not positive this has happened, when you’re getting down to whether international law even applies (in cyberspace),” Kenneth Watkin, a retired Brigadier-General and former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces said in an interview Monday.

The failed session could prompt some countries to think the ambiguity in international law has increased their flexibility in launching cyber probes against perceived enemies.

Watkin, an expert on the law of armed conflict, was careful to refrain from saying the failed session could lead to more “attacks,” noting that word has a certain meaning in international law. Instead he prefers to use the word “activity.”

“It certainly doesn’t mean there will be less,” he added.

But he also believes countries that were part of the Group of Government Experts (GGE) will continue talking. Many, he added, may follow international law or accepted norms of behavior in cyberspace, such as not launching a computer attack that damages critical infrastructure.

WikiLeaks Publishes More Stolen CIA Spyware Documents

AJ Dellinger

Wikileaks published another set of documents Thursday. The latest release of files purportedly from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) details a piece of malicious software for Android devices.

The malware, referred to as Highrise, can redirect or intercept text messages sent to a target’s phone, allowing a CIA agent to access it before it lands in the inbox of the person it was intended for.

According to the description provided by Wikileaks, HighRise acts as a proxy server for text messages, bouncing the messages to internet “listening posts” that allow an agent to intercept them.

While the malicious software provides the CIA with a powerful snooping tool, there is a major limitation to Highrise. The malware has to be installed onto a device manually rather than remotely, so an agent would have to physically have contact with the device of the victim in order to infect the handset.

Worse Than NSA: The NGA Is A Multibillion Dollar Private Surveillance Network

Dominic Bertolami

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, is an obscure spy agency. Former President Barack Obama found a way to launch wars without having to go through Congress using the NGA. Now, President Donald Trump is expected to further explore this multibillion-dollar surveillance network.

Like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), the NGA is an intelligence agency. It happens to also serve as a combat support institutionthat functions under the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

The NGA has a more expensive headquarters than the CIA at the cost of $1.4 billion located in Springfield, VA. The NGA bought an extra 99 acres in St. Louis, building additional structures that cost taxpayers an extra $1.75 billion.

The NGA became one of the most obscure intelligence agencies because it relies on the work of drones using money from the Obama administration to analyze images and videos captured by drones in the Middle East.

Can Terrorists Beat The U.S. Laptop Ban, Screening Technologies?

Late last month, the Department of Homeland Security initiated new security measures for all international commercial flights bound to the United States, a move that could potentially lead to either the lifting or expansion of the laptop ban currently in place for direct flights of foreign airlines from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. The Cipher Brief spoke with Robert Bunker, a Non-Resident Fellow for Counter-Terrorism at TRENDS Research & Advisory, about the terrorism developments that lead to the laptop ban in the first place, and why the DHS might have since changed course from its original stance.

The Cipher Brief: Traditionally, civil aviation has been the target of terrorist attacks. Could you explain why this might be and what measures airlines have taken, particularly against explosives?

Robert Bunker: Passenger airliner disasters – unintentional, intentional, or simple acts of god – have in the past and even still now result in immediate worldwide news coverage. Since terrorism represents a form of “disruptive targeting” aimed at changing governmental policies and/or societal norms by generating terror – derived from feelings of fear and ambiguity related to future threat potentials – in the leadership of targeted states and their populations, civil aviation makes for an ideal target set to communicate the effects of such attacks.

Is the Strategic Corporal on Your Twitter Feed?

By Trey Herr; Melissa K. Griffith

When did your Facebook page become a weapon? The dissemination of targeted information and propaganda has been an enduring characteristic of local and international politics, yet Western discussions of cybersecurity have historically given it comparatively little emphasis. This changed with Russian efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 U.S. election. These efforts were neither the first nor the last but certainly one of the most dramatic instances of information as a tool of conflict in recent memory.

In trying to structure an evaluation of information operations like Russia’s work to undermine confidence in the recent U.S. presidential election, analysts face the challenge of the strategic corporal in a more dramatic fashion: tactical behaviors can rapidly have strategic effects. Much as the actions of a corporal interacting with an angry crowd can resonate across oceans, a few users reposting on Twitter can spiral into a campaign of rumor and falsehood that shakes the faith of an electorate.

Failure of UN group on international cyber law ‘not positive,’ says Canadian expert

Howard Solomon

International law experts worry that the recent failure of a United Nations Group of Government Experts to reach unanimity on cyber law may lead to more state-backed online assaults.

“It’s certainly not positive this has happened, when you’re getting down to whether international law even applies (in cyberspace),” Kenneth Watkin, a retired Brigadier-General and former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces said in an interview Monday.

The failed session could prompt some countries to think the ambiguity in international law has increased their flexibility in launching cyber probes against perceived enemies.

Watkin, an expert on the law of armed conflict, was careful to refrain from saying the failed session could lead to more “attacks,” noting that word has a certain meaning in international law. Instead he prefers to use the word “activity.”

“It certainly doesn’t mean there will be less,” he added.

But he also believes countries that were part of the Group of Government Experts (GGE) will continue talking. Many, he added, may follow international law or accepted norms of behavior in cyberspace, such as not launching a computer attack that damages critical infrastructure.