15 October 2018

The Reality of Armed, Commercial Drones

October 13, 2018 
The combination of availability and munition capability makes the armament of commercial drones a significant civilian and military concern.
Motivated by the threat of terrorist drones, the House recently approved the “ Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018 ” and the Senate is expected to follow suit. The bill allows Homeland Security and the Justice Department to detect, track, and even destroy an unmanned aircraft. This law comes on the heels of the drone-based assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. By refashioning a surveillance drone to include munition capability, this attack highlights the ability of state and non-state actors to repurpose commercial drones into a DIY armed drone. As a result, security forces both inside and outside of the military must be prepared for this reality.

The old distinction between armed and reconnaissance drones is rapidly diminishing; while it used to be that only large, military-specific drones were armed, smaller commercial and hobbyist drones are increasingly capable of carrying munition. As the Venezuela incident demonstrates, hobbyist, commercial UAVs are readily available and demonstrably capable of conducting limited attacks, not just on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, but in a public assassination attempts. The technology is dual-use, so it has commercial and civilian applications in addition to military ones. Gradually, organizations outside of the military are purchasing traditionally commercial UAVs for various purposes including law enforcement and disaster relief. With the increased demand, private sector companies are incentivized to improve the technology’s capabilities to expand their markets and profits.

Security in a World of Physically Capable Computers

It's no secret that computers are insecure. Stories like the recent Facebook hack, the Equifax hackand the hacking of government agencies are remarkable for how unremarkable they really are. They might make headlines for a few days, but they're just the newsworthy tip of a very large iceberg.
The risks are about to get worse, because computers are being embedded into physical devices and will affect lives, not just our data. Security is not a problem the market will solve. The government needs to step in and regulate this increasingly dangerous space.

The primary reason computers are insecure is that most buyers aren't willing to pay -- in money, features, or time to market -- for security to be built into the products and services they want. As a result, we are stuck with hackable internet protocols, computers that are riddled with vulnerabilities and networks that are easily penetrated.
We have accepted this tenuous situation because, for a very long time, computer security has mostly been about data. Banking data stored by financial institutions might be important, but nobody dies when it's stolen. Facebook account data might be important, but again, nobody dies when it's stolen. Regardless of how bad these hacks are, it has historically been cheaper to accept the results than to fix the problems. But the nature of how we use computers is changing, and that comes with greater security risks.

Russia has been cultivating ties with the Taliban to increase its influence in Afghanistan three decades after Moscow’s humiliating defeat there helped hasten the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Russian engagement with the militants drew attention, and some flak, when the Kremlin invited Taliban representatives to Moscow for a meeting in September. That invitation was rescinded — at least temporarily — after the Afghan government objected, saying it must take the lead in any talks.

But the diplomatic kerfuffle laid bare the Kremlin’s effort to reassert itself in Afghanistan, an initiative that has included discreet contacts with Taliban leaders and a military buildup along the country’s northern edge.

Moscow has also sought to reclaim its role as regional power broker, convening secret discussions with the United States, Iran, Pakistan, India and China and seeking to ensure any finale to the conflict suits Russian interests…

Maldives: India should not rest on its oars


Following President Abdulla Yameen’s surprise defeat in the Maldivian election, the air of self-congratulation that pervades in New Delhi risks obscuring the challenges. India ought to learn from its experience with Sri Lanka, where China has retained its influence and leverage even after authoritarian President Mahinda Rajapaksa was thrown out by voters in early 2015. In the Maldives, China may be down, but it’s not out and could, as in Sri Lanka, re-establish its clout through debt-trap diplomacy.
The Maldivian archipelago, despite its tiny population, is of key importance to Indian security, given that it sits astride critical sea lanes through which much of India’s shipping passes. From the Indian naval station on the Lakshadweep island of Minicoy, the Maldives’ northernmost Thuraakunu Island is just 100 kilometers away.

The election victory of opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih against an increasingly autocratic Yameen cannot by itself roll back the deep strategic inroads China made during the incumbent president’s rule. To be sure, the outcome represents a triumph of Indian patience. Had India militarily intervened in the Maldives, it could have provoked a nationalistic backlash and strengthened Islamist forces in a country that has supplied the world’s highest per-capita number of foreign fighters to terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Why suppress right to historical knowledge?

Thursday, 11 October 2018 | Claude Arpi

While India has touched benchmarks in many fields, the fact that the Government continues to confiscate modern Indian history not only demonstrates immaturity but shows lack of self-confidence

One of the biggest failures of the present Government has been its ignorance of the importance of post-Independence history. Four years after it was elected to bring about some transparency, hardly anything has changed in this field. Take for example the VK Krishna Menon Papers, held at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML); they are still kept under wraps and remain inaccessible to researchers and scholars.

The situation is so ridiculous that when the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru published a large corpus of historical documents (more than 300 pages) related to Zhou Enlai’s visit in India in April 1960, the crucial meetings with Menon were unavailable. Why should the fact that Menon often humiliated competent Armed Forces’ officers, in some cases with the backing of the Prime Minister, be kept secret?

In many ways, Menon with his well-known arrogance and brashness was responsible for the debacle against China in 1962, but nothing has been done to unearth the ‘truth’. Why has the Government not bothered to open the Krishna Menon Papers? The reality is that very few politicians or bureaucrats are interested in modern history (it has sadly been true for all Governments since Independence); the distant past of the Mahabharata is perhaps too attractive.

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Gamble; Will it Bring the World to China?

October 12, 2018
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China is using its influence to build a global economic network for trade and development, with itself as the driver. China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative—known as OBOR as well as the Belt and Road Initiative, and unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013—has been touted as the blueprint for this new global vision. Beijing’s aspirations are clear in its claims to want to reshape world commerce through new trade routes and transportation links. 

Yet even as China gears up to rain hundreds of billions of dollars on projects spanning Asia, Europe and Africa in the years ahead, it is far from clear what its vision is, or how it will make this plan a success. As a business-led initiative, OBOR looks like an obvious win-win for all involved. Most of the countries expected to receive Chinese investment badly need new infrastructure, but lack the financing and know-how to build it alone. And with growth slowing at home, China needs other markets for its homemade steel and cement, as well as construction contracts for its companies and workers. 
But in making investments abroad, China’s record is far from perfect. China stands to reap handsome rewards, helping many "One Belt, One Road" countries develop in the process. But unless Beijing reconsiders its approach in light of past missteps, it could set itself up for more failed investments and future diplomatic troubles. 

The Bugs in the Architecture of China’s ‘Belt and Road’

Five years after Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced the Belt and Road Initiative to the world, the ambitious multitrillion-dollar infrastructure scheme is experiencing major growing pains. Months of harsh media scrutiny, criticism from the United States and Europe, some surprising grumbling domestically, and backtracking from key partner countries have put a dent in what had been promoted as a seamless chain of China-funded transportation and development projects spreading out across the Asian continent. Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative now faces skepticism in the country that has been its most enthusiastic cheerleader and most willing testing ground: Pakistan.

Marine Commandant On Female Infantry: ‘You’re A Marine, Do Your Job’

By JARED KELLER on October 12, 2018
With women slowly trickling into Marine Corps combat arms positions, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has a simple message on the matter: Just do your damn job.
“You have to be qualified,” Neller told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday when asked about the gender integration in occupational specialties previously closed to women. “You’re a Marine, do your job.”
There are just 27 female Marines serving in infantry military occupational specialties, a spokeswoman for the Corps’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs confirmed to Task & Purpose on Friday. The breakdown is one officer, and 26 enlisted Marines.

When asked about the relatively slow pace of integration compared to the Army (where, Marine Corps Times notes, nearly 800 women are serving in previously-closed combat arms jobs compared to the Corps), Neller was unsurprised.
“I didn’t think there would be a lot and the numbers we’ve gotten so far are small,” Neller told reporters, adding that when it comes to boosting female candidates for to combat arms jobs. “We don’t go out there to recruit anybody.”
This is an unsurprising mindset. “The Corps, while not immune from some of the racial and discriminatory issues facing the nation, generally sees its members as only one thing: Marines,” as Marine combat vets Mariko & Caesar Kalinowski IV recently wrote in Task & Purpose. “To the Marines, personal attributes or preferences always take a backseat to the needs of the Corps.”
Neller’s comment came weeks after Secretary of Defense Mattis toldreporters that the “jury was out” on the effectiveness of female infantry.
“The military has got to have officers who look at this with a great deal of objectivity and at the same time remember our natural inclination to have this open to all,” he said. “But we cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense.”

The Trump Administration Has Escalated Its Conflict with China Even Further. Here’s What Needs to Happen to Stay Out of War

By JAMES STAVRIDIS, October 10, 2018

Admiral Stavridis (Ret.) was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and is an Operating Executive at The Carlyle Group.
Those preoccupied last week with concerns over the effect Justice Brett Kavanaugh would have on the Supreme Court for decades were actually, it turns out, being too near-sighted — as the Trump Administration made a move that could significantly affect an international relationship that will last centuries. In a little-noticed pivot, the Administration set up China as the major geopolitical opponent of the United States in no uncertain terms, led by a speech from Vice President Mike Pence. This change in position — not to be confused with the far more benign “Pacific Pivot” of the Obama Administration — has set off alarm bells ringing from Tokyo to Melbourne.

We are seeing China bursting with new power and political purpose in global economics (with the one-belt, one-road strategy); aggressive political strategies aimed at hold-out democratic enclaves like Hong Kong and Taiwan; deep cultural accomplishment (featuring a dynamic film industry and a powerful state-sponsored sports culture); a muscular control over international Chinese figures (arresting the head of Interpol and a globally famous film star); and a far more assertive approach in international organizations (including creating the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). The recent reports of China’s inclusion of intelligence devices into internationally sourced motherboards is a dramatic indicator of their intent to increase their control of global cyber supply chain — the real Silk Road of the 21st century. And having spent much of my long naval career in the Pacific, it is fascinating to watch China transform from the third-rate naval power of a couple of decades ago to a robust, highly capable maritime foe — one that has integrated offensive cyber warfare into their training and readiness far more effectively than the United States.

An End to the War in Afghanistan

For the first time in history, Afghanistan's neighbors have joint interests in seeing the country become stable.
As violence from Taliban attacks in Afghanistan remains unabated, and the hoped for ceasefire during Eid al-Adha did not materialize, it is worth reflecting on how ripe the conditions are for peace are in Afghanistan and how a rare geopolitical window of opportunity has opened up for the more powerful countries that regularly intervene in Afghanistan.
The Taliban came close to agreeing to another ceasefire, deciding against doing so only to attempt to demonstrate that the stepped-up bombing campaign of the United States and its NATO allies was not forcing the terrorist group to the negotiating table. There had been ample expectation on both sides that they could agree upon a brief truce that offered the prospect of prisoner releases and possibly more.

After all, an unprecedented breakthrough ceasefire occurred as recently as the end of Ramadan in June. In a series of dramatic moves and scenes, rank and file Taliban fighters across the country entered Afghan cities and appeared to engage in spontaneous gestures of peace and national camaraderie. Taliban fighters were filmed kibitzing with Afghan soldiers, eating candy and ice cream in public squares, and even taking selfies with those they had previously tormented, including women—not only in Kabul, but up and down the country.
These scenes took nearly everyone by surprise. They helped to create a fresh understanding that after nearly two decades of a civil war/insurgency the Taliban, the government, and the Afghan people are apparently poised to adopt some form of peace—if to varying degrees. Skeptics remain, however, for this year also happens to constitute the bloodiest year since the 2001 initiation of the conflict when measured in terms of civilian deaths.

India and the Dalai Lama's Successor

October 09, 2018 

'While wishing the Tibetan leader a long and healthy life, one can hope for a 'selection' of the Tibetan leader in the Indian Himalayas.'
'It is vital for Tibetan Buddhism, but it is also in India's political interests,' says Claude Arpi.

Recently, an article titled 'The Dalai Lama has chosen his successor' appeared on an Indian Web site.
Tibet watchers did not take the content seriously because the same author had earlier announced the Dalai Lama's imminent death.
One has just to look at the report of the Dalai Lama's recent visit to Europe to understand that the Tibetan leader's health is fine even if he may have less energy than a few decades ago.
Who of his age would not?
However, the Dalai Lama's succession is a subject which concerns India as the religious leader took refuge in this country in March 1959 and more than a lakh of his followers live in India today.
Whether the Dalai Lama decides not to reincarnate (which is doubtful), or to take a new body or else to 'emanate' during his own life time into a young child, Delhi and the people of India are personally and politically concerned.
In this sense only, the article cited above is relevant.
While the situation around his 'return' is rather unclear, the Dalai Lama remains a rock of serenity, virtues and stability in the chaotic world of Tibetan Buddhism.
It is not necessary to mention here the scandals which have recently rocked the Tibetan Buddhist world, with some so-called high Lamas being accused of sexual misbehavour and debauchery.

US Foolish To Start Another Cold War, Says Jack Ma

By Kalinga Seneviratne

U.S. will suffer more from the current trade war with China, warned Alibaba founder Jack Ma addressing over 1000 business leaders, government officials and economic experts from Malaysia and across the region attending the China Conference here on October 10-11. He added that America has been growing and unemployment has been on the decline, even with the deficit in the trade balance with China.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited the huge trade deficit with China as the reason for putting up tariff walls against Chinese goods. Ma warned that such trade wars could cause problems for anyone who trades with China or the U.S.

“This trade war is going to be long (and) solution will come from technology,” warned Ma, who spoke via a teleconferencing link from overseas. “We need to work together to solve problems,” he added.
Ma, who founded what is today the world’s largest e-commerce platform, pointed out that while governments in Asia are embracing technology, Europe is trying to regulate it. “In Europe people worry about how to control the Internet. Asia is different, governments are embracing technology,” said Ma. “Today Asia has a big advantage in Internet competence.”


Seeking to inject new energy into the long-stalled Afghan peace process, the top American diplomat charged with helping find a way to end the war has met with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, officials and a Taliban source said on Saturday.

The Friday meeting between the American diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Taliban was the second time that senior American officials have met with Taliban representatives in Qatar since the White House ordered direct talks this summer in the hopes of jump-starting the peace process. On Saturday, Mr. Khalilzad flew to Kabul to meet with the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani.

The Taliban have long demanded that they meet with Americans directly instead of the Afghan government, which has made Afghan leaders wary of being sidelined in the process. Western diplomats have described the Americans’ direct contact with the Taliban as “talks before talks” that could then grow into negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government…

Washington’s Silent War against Hezbollah in Latin America

by Joseph M. Humire, The Hill, October 08, 2018

On July 11, 2018, the government of Argentina took its first action against Hezbollah by freezing the financial assets of 14 individuals belonging to the Barakat clan in South America. Last week, Brazilian Federal Police arrested the leader of this clan, Assad Ahmad Barakat, who was sanctioned by U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 2004 and is considered one of Hezbollah’s most important financiers. These recent actions against Hezbollah in Latin America signal a shift in the priorities of regional governments, with Washington’s help.

Hezbollah’s presence in a sub-region of South America known as the Tri-Border Area (TBA), at the crossroads of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, long has been known to regional authorities, but recently factors have prompted action. One element was the June 2017 extradition from Ciudad Del Este to Miami of Lebanese-Paraguayan Ali Issa Chamas, for shipping cocaine through U.S. ports and airports.

Many circumstances contribute to a high-level extradition but, fundamentally, both nations need the political will to carry out this type of operation. The Obama administration repeatedly failed to extradite Hezbollah operatives when given the opportunity. For example, Obama’s Department of Justice and State Department failed in 2011 to bring Syrian-Venezuelan drug trafficker Walid Makled to the United States after he provided significant evidence of Hezbollah’s ties to Venezuelan officials shipping drugs to Europe and America. And, in 2016, Ali Fayad, a Lebanese-Ukrainian arms dealer charged in a New York court with “conspiracy to kill officers and employees of the United States,” was released from prison in the Czech Republic and returned to Lebanon.

America Must Realize It Has No Say in Syria's Future

The reality on the ground is that there is no good reason for a continued U.S. military presence.
Damascus is large and busy, as befits Syria’s capital. The city hosts the nation’s elite and is filled with government buildings and security forces. President Bashar al-Assad’s image adorns virtually every street. There is no doubt who is in charge.
But drive just a few minutes, and you enter a neighborhood only recently recovered after bitter fighting. Wrecked buildings stand as silent sentinels amid a sea of rubble. The carnage of seven years of horrid civil war reached even Damascus.

At long last, the conflict is winding down. Assad has won, and Washington has lost. However, the war’s impact will linger for years, perhaps decades. I just spent a week in the war-ravaged state (at my organization’s expense). America’s approach has been a disastrous failure.
Like Lebanon decades ago, the Syria conflict was an unusually complicated civil war. The fighting was brutal all around, with multiple warring forces to blame for an estimated half-million deaths. Indeed, past casualty breakdowns, admittedly of unknown accuracy, reported more combat than civilian deaths and more government than insurgent deaths.
Assad survived because he had—and still has—serious, even fervent support. He receives strong backing from his fellow Alawites, a minority sect and Shia offshoot. They commonly display pictures of him and speak of his humanitarian virtues. Other religious minorities, such as Christians, also tend to support his government. They saw the U.S.-inspired revolution in Iraq and didn’t like the ending. After all, even an American occupation didn’t prevent sectarian cleansing and slaughter, and many of the survivors fled to Syria.

How U.S.-China Disputes on Trade, Taiwan, and the South China Sea Are Driven by Washington’s New Generation


OCTOBER 10, 2018

As the trade war commences between the United States and China, many Western commentators are noting that Beijing can blame itself for a lot of the tension rising in economics and beyond. China’s authoritarian and mercantilist drift at home and aggressiveness abroad are discrediting American advocates of engagement and bolstering proponents of a new cold war across a broad political spectrum.

One aspect of this transition in relations that I have not seen noticed by my Chinese friends is something that was driven home to me vividly this past summer during seminars with officials who recently left the US government. An important generational milestone has been passed without drawing attention to itself.

Across the American government, in every agency and regardless of party identification, those with experience with pre-reform China have retired and been replaced by much younger officials with no personal memory of the “three communiqués” that are the foundation of US-China relations. They did not witness Deng Xiaoping’s “hide and bide” low-key approach to foreign affairs. They did not see how the Chinese people escaped the extremes of the Cultural Revolution.
Most serving American officials today have worked on China-related issues for about 10 years or less. The China they know started with the eye-popping Beijing Olympics in 2008, not with Nixon’s bold trip to open relations with an impoverished, backward nation. The context is not that of Nixon, seeking to counter the Soviet Union while extricating the US from Vietnam, but of a strong, rising China striving to reshape Asia at American expense.

The Cold War Choice (with China)

October 13, 2018 
Americans need to insist that they have choices for how to manage geopolitical power struggles apart from the status quo reflexive military defense.
The current atmosphere in U.S.-China relations recalls the early years of America’s long confrontation with the Soviet Union—and not only because the phrase “cold war” is increasingly used with abandon. Then, as now, a conciliatory Washington, DC consensus was breaking apart in the face of apparent Eurasian treachery. Then, as now, U.S. government policies and pronouncements began to reflect and respond to the requirements of confrontation, rather than cooperation. And yet, as a newly adversarial poise crystallizes in the bipartisan collective consciousness of the Beltway, it is worth highlighting a crucial difference: back then, Americans had a clearer choice.

Between the end of World War II in 1945 and the start of the Korean War in 1950, America retained an institutional bias against interventionism. The Truman Doctrine, George Kennan’s “X Article,” Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri, and Secretary of State George Marshall’s Harvard University speech outlining the European Recovery Program were rhetorical volleys designed to provoke nationwide debate and spur a traditionally insular political system to assume long-term international responsibilities. Concurrently, prominent political figures voiced skepticism of foreign entanglements. On the left Henry Wallace, FDR’s second vice president and Harry Truman’s first commerce secretary, publicly broke with the White House over its confrontational policies toward the USSR. On the right Senator Robert Taft of Ohio nearly won the 1952 Republican presidential nomination on a platform of non-interventionism and opposition to NATO.


by Colin P. Clarke

Although the Islamic State has lost nearly 98 percent of the territory it once controlled, the group is ripe for a comeback in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq and Syria. The main reason is its existing war chest, coupled with its skill at developing new streams of revenue. The Islamic State used to mostly rely on the territory it controlled, including cities and urban strongholds, to amass billions of dollars through extortion, taxation, robbery, and the sale of pilfered oil. But the group has proven that it is capable of making money even without controlling large population centers.

During the apogee of its territorial control in 2015, the Islamic State accrued nearly $6 billion, making it by far the wealthiest terrorist group in history. How could a militant group compile the equivalent of a nation-state’s gross domestic product? When it did hold territory, the Islamic State primarily generated its wealth from three main sources: oil and gas, which totaled about $500 million in 2015, mostly through internal sales; taxation and extortion, which garnered approximately $360 million in 2015; and the 2014 looting of Mosul, during which the Islamic State stole about $500 million from bank vaults…

Going Full Circle For Growth And The Planet

The business case for making our economy more sustainable is clear. Globally, transitioning to a circular economy – where materials are reused, re-manufactured or recycled-could significantly reduce carbon emissions and deliver over US$1 trillion in material cost savings by 2025. The benefits for Asia and the Pacific would be huge. But to make this happen, the region needs to reconcile its need for economic growth with its ambition for sustainable business.

Today, the way we consume is wasteful. We extract resources, use them to produce goods and services, often wastefully, and then sell them and discard them. However, resources can only stretch so far. By 2050, the global population will reach 10 billion. In the next decade, 2.5 billion new middle-class consumers will enter the fray. If we are to meet their demands and protect the planet, we must disconnect prosperity and well-being from inefficient resource use and extraction. And create a circular economy, making the shift to extending product lifetimes, reusing and recycling in order to turn waste into wealth.

These imperatives underpin the 5th Green Industry Conference held in Bangkok this week, hosted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Royal Thai government. High-level policymakers, captains of industry and scientists gathered to discuss solutions on how to engineer waste and pollution out of our economy, keep products and materials in use for longer and regenerate the natural system in which we live.

Russian cyber sins and storms

Cyber-espionage is business as usual for most great-power governments - so why the growing storm of indignation directed at Russia's cyber activities? 

The foreign secretary of the United Kingdom Jeremy Hunt and the National Cyber Security Centre recently accused Russia of ‘reckless and indiscriminate’ cyber-attacks. Just last week, the Dutch authorities announced that they caught and expelled (last April) four Russian hackers with diplomatic passports attempting to snoop on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The French Foreign Ministry’s policy planning staff and the official think tank of the French Ministry of Defence published a major report a few weeks ago on Russian cyber and disinformation campaigns in France. And the United States continue their official investigation of Russia cyber operations designed to shape the 2016 presidential elections there and issued a third round of indictments against Russian cyber-operatives in recent days.
While the chorus of voices accusing Russia of cyber sins is loud, quieter – but no less widespread – sceptical mutterings are questioning the wave of indignation itself: is Russia really so special? Are not the Chinese, the Americans or the French involved in similar activities? Why is there less indignation with China’s cyber activities than with Russia’s? And ultimately, why are we so sure Russia is to blame at all?
Is Cyber-Russia so special?
If one is to understand if and to what extent Russia’s cyber activities are different from those of China or the US, let us start by making a distinction between three related, but distinct phenomena: cyber-espionage; (dis)information campaigns that draw on cyber-espionage; and cyber-attacks with real life consequences (in the physical world).

Can Re-Imposition Of US Sanctions On Iran Cause Any Disruption In Oil Trade? – OpEd

With November 4, 2018, the date for re-imposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran drawing closer, uncertainty about how much of global oil supply will be affected is running high. Mixed signals are coming from some of Iran’s biggest oil customers. Analysts fear that uncertainty is likely to linger on even after the sanctions become effective. There is a need to understand the motive behind the US decision.
There is growing consensus that the US decision is based on achieving three key objectives: 1) weakening Iran economically to stop it from becoming a regional power. Both the US and Israel have learnt that an economically strong Iran is the biggest hurdle in maintaining their hegemony in the region, 2) by creating rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the US also succeed in selling more arms to Saudi Arabia, which has been brainwashed to an extent where the monarch considers Iran a bigger threat as compared to Israel and 3) the biggest beneficiary of high oil price is the US that has attained the status of largest oil producing country.

According to energy sector analysts, if crude price plunge below US$50/barrel most of the US shale companies will go bankrupt. It is on record that in the past when crude price touched US$147/barrel the number of active rigs rose to around 1,600. When the price plunged to less than US$40/barrel the number of active rigs declined to less than 600.
One of the objectives of western media is to keep the level of uncertainty high by promoting geopolitical crises. By keeping level of uncertainty high, speculators are facilitated and one thing has been proved without any doubt that even the hawkish statements of the US present keeps oil prices volatile.

Why Do Middle East Studies Academics Want to Hide ISIS Documents?

Source Link

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

October 08, 2018

Original title: "Why Is the Middle East Studies Association Trying to Stop the Online Publication of Islamic State Documents?"

Why would the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the primary umbrella organization for the field of Middle East studies, oppose the New York Times partnering with George Washington University (GWU)’s Program On Extremism to produce a public archive of the thousands of Islamic State (ISIS) documents the newspaper retrieved from northern Iraq? 

Analysis based on solid evidence, after all, is far superior to speculation and guesswork that may be proven erroneous. While there are many media articles about ISIS and propaganda material from the group itself, there is a deficiency of internal documents in the open-source realm for researchers to use in order to understand the inner workings of ISIS’s state project during the peak of its power. 

I have a personal stake in this debate: as a researcher of Iraqi origin, I have aimed to help scholars and others with my own archive of over 1,000 ISIS documents. My work inspired Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, who obtained the collection for the newspaper, and I helped her verify many of the documents in question.


by Hassan Hassan

Abstract: With the collapse of the Islamic State’s territorial caliphate, the global jihadi movement is in a state of flux. But rather than being about to enter a period of mergers or takeovers, the global jihadi movement for the foreseeable future is likely to be led by two distinct and rival groups. While the relative fortunes of the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida have oscillated in recent years, developments in the jihadi environment in Syria have hardened longstanding differences between them in doctrine and approach. Neither group is on the brink of fracturing nor likely to accept the legitimacy of the other in the coming years. And this will sustain the divide.

Introduction: Michèle Coninsx was appointed Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on August 11, 2017. Ms. Coninsx took up her functions on November 2, 2017. Prior to her position at the United Nations, Ms. Coninsx was President of Eurojust—the European Union agency tasked with dealing with judicial cooperation in criminal matters—2012-2017, after having served as its vice president for five years. In addition, Ms. Coninsx was National Member for Belgium at Eurojust and Chair of Eurojust’s Counter-Terrorism Team. Before joining Eurojust, Ms. Coninsx was a Federal Prosecutor (Magistrat Fédéral) in Belgium dealing with terrorism and organized crime. She served for nine years as an expert in aviation security for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

DHS, FBI chiefs say cyber inflects every security and criminal threat

By Derek B. Johnson, Oct 11, 2018

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told senators at an Oct. 10 hearing that globally pervasive internet connectivity not only makes the U.S. and its allies more susceptible to cyberattacks, it also makes it easier for terrorist organizations and transnational criminal groups to coordinate and recruit new followers, while leaving the country more susceptible to foreign influence operations online.
Nielsen also said that threats from nation-state adversaries like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are at the highest levels since the Cold War, largely but not exclusively due to leveraging cyber to conduct espionage and influence operations and disrupt services.

Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, agreed, telling the committee in his opening statement that "virtually every national security and criminal threat the bureau faces is cyber-based or technologically facilitated."
Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee pressed Nielsen to square President Donald Trump's comments that China is seeking to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections with her statement last week that her agency has seen no indication that any foreign power is actively working to disrupt election infrastructure.