12 November 2018

Intel: Why the US is allowing India to develop an Iranian port

Raheb Homavandi
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Even as it seeks to cut off Iran from the world economy, the Donald Trump administration acknowledged today that it will allow India to continue developing the Iranian port of Chabahar, an alternative South Asian trade route to the congested Suez Canal. The reason, in a word: Afghanistan.

Why it matters: While the United States seeks to isolate Iran, it’s trying not to choke off neighboring Afghanistan, which would benefit from an influx of food and medicines via a rail link that India is building to Chabahar. Some experts were quick to applaud today’s news. “Chabahar port can help America’s Indian and Afghan friends in a big way,” tweetedMichael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank.

PAKISTAN: Sectarian Groups Running Riot:

By R.M.Panda

The Minorities are not Safe:

Though Pakistan consists of many religious, ethno-linguistic minority groups, it continues to be dominated by fanatical sectarian groups with official blessings and making it intolerable for non Muslim minorities like Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Calash, Sikhs and the Parsis to survive.

The case of Ayesha Bibi is the most recent example. Under pressure of some sectarian groups, the Government is keeping Ayesha Bibi a Christian women, a mother of five children arrested under blasphemy law still in jail thus defying the Supreme Court’s order to release her immediately.

Pompeo approves sanctions exception for development of Iranian port to help Afghan economy


The Trump administration has approved a sanctions exemption for the development of Iran’s Chabahar Port, arguing the exemption will help grow Afghanistan’s economy.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the exception after the administration on Monday reimposed the last batch of sanctions that had previously been lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

“After extensive consideration, the secretary has provided for an exception from the imposition of certain sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) with respect to the development of Chabahar Port and the construction of an associated railway and for the shipment of non-sanctionable goods through the port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as Afghanistan’s continued imports of Iranian petroleum products,” a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday on background.

China Wants More Nuclear-Armed Submarines. Should Everyone Be Worried?


China releases no official information about its nuclear weapons stockpile. However, according to open-source research, China currently has fewer than 300 nuclear warheads.

China also has a wide range of nuclear weapon delivery systems. These are mostly ballistic missiles of various ranges, which can carry nuclear warheads to targets around the world.

Unlike those of the United States and Russia, it is commonly believed that China’s nuclear weapons are kept in storage and are not deployed on active alert in peacetime.

China’s overall nuclear arsenal is at least ten times smaller than those of the United States or Russia. Washington and Moscow each have around 4,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenals, plus thousands more that are retired and waiting to be dismantled.

Trump’s tough-love policy for China

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President Donald Trump is doing a huge favor for Chinese leader Xi Jinping — and he should keep doing it. His administration’s increasingly hard-nosed policies can steer China away from a course that is leading inevitably to outright conflict with the West. 

Avoiding a U.S.-China war would be a genuine win-win outcome, not another of the rhetorical charades that, up to now, have given China virtually all it wants in the economic, diplomatic and military realms — in return for few of the promised economic reforms and none of the anticipated political reform.

China's Corporate Espionage Looms Large in Its Battle With the U.S

A series of court documents and statements by U.S. government officials have highlighted China's corporate espionage efforts once more, suggesting that Beijing will continue to prioritize the theft of trade secrets. Building on their work in monitoring the activities of Chinese intelligence officers and hackers, U.S. agencies like the FBI and others are redoubling their efforts to oppose Beijing's spying activities.  As the espionage/counterespionage battle grows between the United States and China, U.S. companies and organizations operating in China could suffer the consequences, even if they do not consider themselves to be targets of spying. 

Xi Jinping promises to expand imports and lower tariffs


SHANGHAI -- President Xi Jinping on Monday promised to further open China to foreigners by expanding imports, lowering tariffs and relaxing market access -- an apparent bid to counter criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump and others regarding Beijing's trade and business practices.

In a speech at the opening ceremony of the China International Import Expo, Xi predicted the value of the country's "imported goods would reach $30 trillion, while imported services would top $10 trillion over the next 15 years."

Xi's remark comes amid heightened trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. The U.S. government has imposed tariffs on Chinese goods worth $250 billion. China has retaliated by imposing tariffs on American goods worth $110 billion.

Xi reiterated Beijing's stance to support global free trade systems. China, he said, will promote international cooperation on both bilateral and multilateral levels.

The Illusion of a Russia-China Alliance

By George Friedman

China is holding a weeklong event called the China International Import Expo in Shanghai this week meant to encourage trade, sell China as an import market and send the message that the Chinese economy is open for business. China’s motivation for doing this is obvious: It’s a nation dependent on exports, and American tariffs have decreased demand for its goods. In his opening address, President Xi Jinping stressed that China was prepared to open its markets even further to international trade – with the United States and the rest of the world. His remarks were clearly directed at the U.S., as he looks toward his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the G-20 meeting in Argentina later this month. But the conference has also raised questions about China’s relations with another country that’s experienced its own setbacks in U.S. relations: Russia. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at the expo that Moscow and Beijing are now closer than ever, and the Chinese emphatically agreed. Indeed, there has been much talk of a Russo-Chinese alliance, and the Shanghai extravaganza is a good opportunity to look closer at what this could mean.

Scott Kennedy: China’s Expensive Gamble on New-Energy Vehicles

By Scott Kennedy and Qiu Mingda

What’s a trillion dollars between friends? China can shock you with all sorts of numbers, from the size of the population to the length of its bridges, but one of the gaudiest figures emerged in late October with the announcement that China’s FAW Group, the country’s first car producer based in Changchun, received a line of credit from a group of Chinese banks of approximately 1 trillion yuan ($149 billion), the largest loan in automotive history. It should surprise no one that FAW does not necessarily need all of these funds right now and that it is a state-owned enterprise (SOE). The purpose of the announcement is to reassure FAW and other SOEs that despite the decline in auto sales this year, the government’s support will not waver.

This mindset runs through much of the Chinese government’s approach toward high-priority industries and companies. There is no better example than new energy vehicles (NEV). Beginning in the late 2000s, China identified NEVs powered by lithium-ion batteries as a “strategic emerging industry,” and it is one of the key sectors contained within the “Made in China 2025” high-tech development plan. The government hopes that NEVs will help the country go from a technological follower to a leader in the automobile sector, reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil, and improve air quality.

Henry Kissinger: China, US must reveal red lines to avoid conflict

That was Henry Kissinger’s advice to feuding world powers on Tuesday, as he warned Washington and Beijing an all-out conflict between them would destroy the current world order.

Speaking at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, the American former secretary of state, 95, who is widely respected for his prescient views on geopolitics, said it was inevitable that the world’s two biggest economies would “step on each others’ toes” as the Asian power continued to grow rapidly.

“The challenge is to maintain a fundamentally cooperative relationship amid inherent differences of approach,” Kissinger said.

He said: “It is essential for China and the United States to [talk] to each other about what the objectives are that they feel they must achieve and what the concessions are that they must not be asked to make, and the concessions each is willing to make.”

America accuses China of stealing aerospace trade secrets

by A.W. AND C.R. 

AIRLINES HAVE remarkably little choice about where to buy their airliners. The global market for big civil aircraft is dominated by two firms: Boeing of America and Airbus of Europe. China has long dreamed of breaking their stranglehold, and will be showing off its latest designs at the Zhuhai Airshow, which starts on November 6th. Many of these, such as the C919 airliner and a new stealth drone, bear more than a passing resemblance to rival models made by American firms. That suggests that the Chinese have found it harder than expected to develop its own aircraft from scratch. And a growing volume of evidence suggests that the Chinese are now resorting to cheating in order to catch up instead.

The Power of Affiliates: Which Islamic State Franchise Could Become the Most Capable?

by Colin P. Clarke
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With the Islamic State's caliphate in ruins, one of its affiliates could grow to become even more deadly and operationally capable than the core organization was during its peak in 2015. With ISIS franchise groups and affiliates across the globe, there is no shortage of contenders to supplant ISIS as the world's most dangerous terrorist group.

Many factors could fuel the rise of a new Islamic State (ISIS) offshoot, including the relative weakness of the security forces in the area where the terrorists are operating, so it is difficult to discern which affiliate could become the next major threat. Additionally, measuring the threat will require an intimate understanding of an affiliates' capabilities, the degree to which safe haven and sanctuary are available, and the relative ease with which the group can replenish its resources.

What's the Future of U.S. Support for the Saudi War in Yemen?

In recent days, high-ranking U.S. officials made their strongest coordinated public call for a pause in the civil war that has been raging in Yemen since late 2014. Rising concerns in the public sphere and U.S. Congress about the length and humanitarian toll of the war are motivating this sterner posture. Ultimately, though, Riyadh views U.S. aid for the Saudi-led military coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels as an important sign of alignment — the United States and Saudi Arabia share a common goal of containing Iran's influence in the Arabian Peninsula. The White House wants to continue extending its support to Saudi Arabia in Yemen to counter Iran and eliminate the missile threat posed by the Houthis. However, the civilian toll of combat and growing opposition will make that goal increasingly difficult to sustain politically.

What's Going on in Yemen?

Will Khashoggi's Killing Force Mohammed bin Salman to Cede Some Control?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is unlikely to be replaced as a result of the fallout over the slaying of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate. Still, the backlash against the crown prince could result in pressure to reduce his consolidation of power, as he has dispensed with the country's custom of reaching decisions by consensus in favor of concentrating power in his hands. As the Saudi kingdom continues to scramble to contain the crisis, other royals could attempt to maneuver behind the scenes. Questions remain about whether the crown prince's grip on power will slowly erode after the crisis ends as other royals try to cultivate their influence and power. 

A death in Turkey has set the Saudi royal family scrambling. The apparent murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the resulting international reactionhave embroiled Saudi Arabia, forcing the House of Saud to unite to address the backlash. King Salman has sent the powerful governor of Mecca, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, to Turkey to try to defuse tension over the killing, while also summoning the Saudi ambassador to the United States back to Riyadh.

Iranian Oil Sanctions: Myths and Realities of U.S. Energy Independence

by Amy Myers Jaffe

Renewed U.S. sanctions against Iranian oil exports kick in officially this week as part of the Trump administration’s decision to exit the Iranian nuclear deal. Estimations on how effective the sanctions have been is a relatively messy affair to date. Iran is expected to lose between 1 million to 1.5 million barrels a day in oil sales to Europe, Japan, South Korea, and India, with speculation that some of that oil might wind up instead in China or being repurposed in barter trade with Russia.

Iran accuses Israel of failed cyber attack

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s telecommunications minister accused Israel on Monday of a new cyber attack on its telecommunications infrastructure, and vowed to respond with legal action.

This followed comments from another official last week that Iran had uncovered a new generation of Stuxnet, a virus which was used against the country’s nuclear program more than a decade ago.

“The Zionist regime (Israel), with its record of using cyber weapons such as Stuxnet computer virus, launched a cyber attack on Iran on Monday to harm Iran’s communication infrastructures,” Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said.

“Thanks to our vigilant technical teams, it failed,” he said on Twitter. Iran would take legal action against Israel at international bodies, he added, without giving details.

The Ideologue’s Case Against Iran

By Jacob L. Shapiro

Imagine a country – a Muslim majority country, no less – that viewed the spread of jihadism as an existential threat, a threat so serious that it was willing to sacrifice its own people to defeat it. Assume that this country, with its large population, robust military and plentiful natural resources, was strong enough to keep the jihadists at bay. Assume, too, that this country was located in the heart of the Muslim world, ideally situated to project power into the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia – all of which are experiencing varying degrees of instability. Imagine finally that this country was also once a U.S. ally – a cornerstone of U.S. containment strategy against the Soviet Union during the Cold War – and could be again.

If it isn’t obvious yet, this is not an imaginary country. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran has confounded generations of U.S. policymakers. When World War II gave way to the Cold War, the U.S. understood just how strategically important Iran was. In 1953, worried that Iran’s newly elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, would ally with the Soviet Union, Washington (and London) supported a military coup that replaced Mossadegh with a puppet government that came to be seen by many Iranian people as illegitimate. It would take some time for the Iranians to rise up against it, but rise they did in 1979. A theocratic government has ruled ever since, and U.S.-Iranian relations have been defined by mutual hostility, marked by proxy wars, menacing threats and mutual recriminations.

The Coming Battle for European Civilization

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In the next weeks, months, and possibly years, I plan to write here and elsewhere about the European immigration crisis. Alongside global warming, and of course the possibility of nuclear war, it strikes me as the most critical issue for today’s West, one that can make reasonable people feel they have no future, that there is no point in having children, etc. Many good books dealing with different facets of the subject have been published. The intellectual debate about immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism in Europe is generally richer than in the United States, reflective of the fact that theirs is a genuine civilizational crisis, considerably more dire than ours.

Reimposing Iran Sanctions, Trump Places 3 Bets (One a Long Shot)

By David E. Sanger

WASHINGTON — As the United States reimposes severe economic sanctions on Iran early Monday, President Trump is placing a series of bets that he can not only change Iran’s behavior, but also use American economic power to bludgeon reluctant allies into joining him.

He is gambling that even as the United States seeks to cut off much of Iran’s oil revenue, the country will not dare restart its program to enrich nuclear fuel — the pathway to a bomb. He is also betting that while European nations criticize the White House for abandoning a landmark 2015 nuclear deal that they say was working, European banks, manufacturers and oil companies will not violate the sanctions and risk being cut off from the far larger American market.

Russia’s Air Force Wants To Use Robots As ‘Automated Forward Air Controllers’


Today’s smart bombs and artillery are astonishingly lethal. But for all their smartness, they need a pair of human eyes to tell the bombs where to hit. But that means those eyes—whether the forward air controllers (FACs) of Vietnam or the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) of today—have to get close enough to see the enemy. Which means the enemy can see them.

Hence Russia has an idea: have robots do the work and run the risks.

The Russian air force plans to develop automated forward air controllers, according to the newspaper Izvestia. They will include automated controllers on tracked ground robots and airborne controllers on drones.

“During battle, the air controller-robots will operate independently—more exactly, with minimal intervention by operators,” said the Izvestia article, translated by the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office in its October OE Watch magazine . “It will be required only when difficult irregular situations arise. Airborne and ground robots will get reconnaissance and guidance equipment. The standard apparatus will be able to detect a target, define its parameters, and relay the coordinates to a command post or to Aerospace Forces airplanes. The equipment will include a laser rangefinder, a high-resolution video camera, a thermal imager, and a navigation system.”

Don't be fooled by Democrats taking House of Representatives, America’s democracy is dying on the vine

C Christine Fair 

In America, democracy has never been but a dream deferred. The 'founding fathers' owned and raped those human beings they deemed subhuman because of their race; seized land from Native populations in what can only be described as genocide and believed that only white male landowners should vote.

America was literally founded upon white, Christian cis male supremacy. It has never atoned for its founding sins of slavery and genocide. In fact, many white Americans — including President Donald Trump — do not think doing so is even necessary. Meanwhile, the rest of us have been fighting and clawing for our rights since the founding of our republic. Republicans are seeking to steal the precious gains we have made in what can only be described as a war on democracy. Unfortunately, many Democrats though that this battle could be fought — and won — at the ballot box on 6 November. They were wrong for several reasons.

Olympic-Caliber Cybersecurity

by Cynthia Dion-Schwarz, Nathan Ryan, Julia A. Thompson, Erik Silfversten, Giacomo Persi Paoli
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Research Questions

What does the cybersecurity threat landscape of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics look like?

What lessons can be learned from previous Olympic Games?

Which actors pose a cybersecurity threat to Tokyo 2020, and what policy options can help planners mitigate these risks?

The Olympic Games are a target-rich environment for cyberattackers, drawing athletes, attendees, and media coverage from around the world. Japan's vision to become the most advanced urban technology metropolis in the world underpinned its bid to host the 2020 Olympics, but an increasing dependence on technology with each successive Olympic Games signals a shift toward an unpredictable, complex, and contested cyber threat environment. More than ever, security planners must consider the cybersecurity threat landscape if they are to effectively mitigate threats, apportion limited resources, and host a resilient, safe, and secure Olympic Games.


by Abby Cashman, Erin Weiss Kaya, and Joseph Thompson

What successful cybersecurity workplaces have in common

Today’s job market looks pretty good from the perspective of a qualified cyber professional. According to Cyberseek, there are more than 300,000 cybersecurity job openings in the U.S. right now, and the Center for Cyber Safety and Education predicts that by 2022 there will be a global cyber talent shortage of 1.8 million, and growing.

With so many openings, cyber professionals can afford to be choosy, holding out for positions and workplaces that meet their personal and professional needs. Working with the Federal Government and global organizations across multiple industry sectors, we’ve found that recruiters cannot rely on salary alone, and the work environment itself can actually play a powerful role in attracting and engaging the elite teams that true enterprise security demands.

Mitigating electromagnetic and radio-frequency interference

By Courtney E. Howard

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) — noise or disturbances over a very broad frequency spectrum — increasingly is becoming an important factor in modern electrical designs, says Jeremy Ferrell, standard product engineering manager at power electronics specialist VPT Inc. in Blacksburg, Va.

“The complexity of designs is growing at an exponential rate, causing a higher probability of interaction between circuit subsections,” Ferrell says. “If the emitted noise from each circuit interacts with one another, unintended results will occur.”

Aerospace and defense vehicles employ an ever-increasing amount of electronic and electrical systems, each of which can incorporate a growing number of components — and all are capable of emitting and succumbing to electrical and electronic noise.

The chief of naval research on AI: ‘If we don’t all dogpile on this thing, were going to find ourselves behind’

By: Jill Aitoro  

Rear Adm. David Hahn, the Chief of Naval Research, explained how artificial intelligence fits in the great power competition, and how the threat of China looms.

Most of us are comfortable with Suri, or Alexa, or “Hey, Google.” But many will tell you artificial intelligence and autonomy in the context of military operations is a whole a different animal.

That said, if you ask Rear Admiral David Hahn, one factor remains the same: the need for trust. Understand the algorithm and the consequences, he argues, but then relinquish (some) control.

He shared his vision of AI in the military in an interview following the Defense News Conference in September.

Much of the discussion around artificial intelligence and autonomy involves the proper role of machine versus human. Where do you stand?

“Sanctions are coming”— but Trump has no achievable end game for Iran

Suzanne Maloney

As the full brunt of American sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank snap back into place today, Tehran and the world are bracing for impact. The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign has already inflicted acute strains on Iran’s economy since the president’s decision six months ago to exit the 2015 nuclear deal. For the moment, Iran’s leadership is seeking to wait out the U.S. campaign, calculating that a show of endurance strengthens its hand by defying the administration’s narrative of its imminent collapse. Still, a prolonged standoff threatens far more damage for Iran at an appreciably precarious moment for the stability of the ruling system.

For its part, the Trump White House was practically giddy with anticipation as its self-imposed deadline approached for re-enacting the sanctions suspended by the nuclear deal. The White House trumpeted its application of the most intense economic warfare in modern times with a social media meme that likened President Donald Trump to a “Game of Thrones” character. It was a sophomoric, ego-driven stunt that only served to underscore the administration’s hubris in launching an assault against Iran that appears to have no achievable end game.

What Happens When the US Starts to ‘Defend Forward’ in Cyberspace?


A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Defense Department took the first step in executing its new “defend forward” doctrine in cyberspace. The Pentagon telegraphed this step in its new cyber strategy, which told Russia, China, and others that if they continue to conduct cyberspace operations against U.S. interests, the U.S. will push back by targeting their military cyberspace infrastructure and disrupting their operations.

Now the U.S. has warned Russian hackers that if they interfere in tomorrow’s midterm elections, there will be consequences. 

How does this step fit into broader cybersecurity strategy, and what are the next steps for the United States to take to defend itself? Soon enough the Pentagon may directly target foreign cyberspace infrastructure to blunt incoming attacks. It is the right posture — but it comes with risks. The country must make itself ready for what comes next.

Is the U.S. military ready for the threats it faces? Experts discuss

Adam Twardowski

The United States vastly outspends its rivals and allies on defense, but today experts debate whether that spending has delivered a military ready to confront the threats and challenges that the nation faces. On November 2, the Foreign Policy program at Brookings hosted an event to discuss the state of U.S. military readiness. Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon moderated a panel of experts, which included members of two branches of the military and two former civilian defense leaders.

Amid reports of aviation crashes, the periodic use of retired weapons, and worrying statistics about the availability of vessels in critical regions—and with defense spending recently increased to $716 billion—they discussed how the military is seeking to improve its readiness shortfalls while simultaneously investing in modern weapons and platforms.


Army to Launch Large-Scale "Major Warfare" TableTop Wargames

by Warrior Maven

Massive armored vehicle force-on-force mechanized warfare, air-ground attack and long-range weapons are all soon to be elements of combat vignettes taken up in major Army wargames, senior officials said.

“We are going to be doing table top wargames to see what kinds of things we will need in our platforms to counter threats,” Maj. Gen. Cummings, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior in an interview.

Wargames, according to senior Army officials who take part in them, pit friendly “blue” teams against “red” teams acting like major adversaries. The exercise can involve maps, intelligence data, terrain and geographic factors as well as specifics regarding whatever populations or countries are involved. They are often literally on a table top with nearby computers, simulations and methods of data analysis, or in some cases they can be as large as moving structures on the floor of a gymnasium.

The Sins of Celibacy

Alexander Stille

On August 25 Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò published an eleven-page letter in which he accused Pope Francis of ignoring and covering up evidence of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and called for his resignation. It was a declaration of civil war by the church’s conservative wing. Viganò is a former apostolic nuncio to the US, a prominent member of the Roman Curia—the central governing body of the Holy See—and one of the most skilled practitioners of brass-knuckle Vatican power politics. He was the central figure in the 2012 scandal that involved documents leaked by Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler, including letters Viganò wrote about corruption in Vatican finances, and that contributed to Benedict’s startling decision to abdicate the following year. Angry at not having been made a cardinal and alarmed by Francis’s supposedly liberal tendencies, Viganò seems determined to take out the pope.

AIR AND MISSILE DEFENSE AT A CROSSROADS: New Concepts and Technologies to Defend America’s Overseas Bases

Mark Gunzinger and Carl Rehberg address how DoD could take advantage of mature technologies to develop higher capacity and more cost-effective air and missile defenses for its overseas bases. It assesses the potential for a layered, distributed defense that integrates multiple new non-kinetic and kinetic systems to defeat salvo attacks.

Download full “AIR AND MISSILE DEFENSE AT A CROSSROADS: New Concepts and Technologies to Defend America’s Overseas Bases” report.