17 January 2020

China Steps Up Its Information War in Taiwan

By Rush Doshi 

On January 11, Taiwanese voters will elect a new president and parliament. The election pits incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) against Han Kuo-yu, the mayor of the southern city of Kaohsiung, and his opposition Kuomintang (KMT). But the vote is about more than that. It is a battle over the island’s relationship with China—a contest between those advocating for more distance from the mainland and those calling for less.

Joining Tsai and Han in that contest is a third, unofficial contestant: Beijing. The Chinese government has undertaken a vast information influence campaign designed to support its favored candidates and sow distrust in Taiwan’s democracy.

China’s efforts go far beyond spreading disinformation and stale state propaganda. Beijing’s ambition is to shape the production, dissemination, and consumption of information in Taiwan. And as my colleagues and I argue in a forthcoming Brookings report, these efforts foreshadow a sophisticated strategy to influence every stage of the global information supply chain, from the people who produce content to the institutions that publish it and the platforms that deliver it directly to consumers. Democracies around the world should pay close attention to what happens in Taiwan’s election—for their own journalists, media companies, and platforms are fast becoming the focus of similar efforts by Beijing.

South China Sea: Malaysia, Indonesia And Vietnam Beat China At Its Own Game

Panos Mourdoukoutas
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Malaysia has joined Indonesia and Vietnam to beat China at its own game in the South China Sea (SCS): The use of lawfare to settle disputes.

That's according to Dr. Namrata Goswami, the Senior Analyst, and Author.

Goswami is referring to Malaysia's decision last December to extend its continental shelf by submitting a petition to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).

"I believe Malaysia took China by strategic surprise when it submitted a legal petition to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, aimed primarily at staking its sovereign claims to the northern portions of the disputed SCS water," she says. "Malaysia, at present occupies about five of the Spratly (islands) and lays claim to 12. Any claim on the SCS and its islands is challenged by China as per its unilaterally imposed nine-dash line, that stretches nearly 2, 000 km from its shores, close to the 200 nautical miles territorial waters of Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines."

Taking on China Requires a Strengthened Workforce

By Rep. Jim Banks

During my time in the Navy Reserves I saw the impressive capabilities the Defense Department could deliver to our men and women at the frontlines. It has seen enormous successes during the past several years: the fifth-generation capabilities of the F-35, the elaborate network of our satellite communication systems and advanced undersea detection capabilities. I am proud of our military and want to ensure that it is prepared for the future fight.

However, I’ve also seen some of the department’s weaknesses during my time in the Navy and now in Congress. Many of these weaknesses revolve around thick government bureaucracies and inefficiencies.

For example, according to the department’s own 2019 Digital Modernization Strategy, it maintains 10,000 information technology systems at a staggering cost of more than $46.4 billion annually, as requested for fiscal year 2019. Several of these systems are outdated and ill-managed, creating a self-imposed burden in the task of effective communication security.

China, Indonesia square-off in South China Sea

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Amid a brewing maritime standoff, Indonesian President Joko Widodo flew to the Natuna Islands on Wednesday (January 8) to underline how seriously his administration takes China’s recent provocations in the southern reaches of the South China Sea.

While some of Widodo’s senior ministers initially sought to play down the tensions, his government has pressed ahead in dispatching warships and jet fighters to the energy and fishery-rich region, which Indonesia has unilaterally renamed the North Natuna Sea.

China has claimed implausibly the area is part of its “traditional fishing grounds”, as defined in its controversial nine-dash line map that dates back to the early 1900s and encompasses as much as 90% of the South China Sea.

Before today’s tour of the main Natuna Besar island, Widodo had declared the issue “non-negotiable.” “There is no such thing as bargaining about our sovereignty, about our country’s territories,” he said, echoing a previous statement from political coordinating minister Mohamad Mahfud.

Hong Kong Protests Could Spark a Stronger U.S.-China Accord

By James Stavridis

James Stavridis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of NATO, and dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is also an operating executive consultant at the Carlyle Group and chairs the board of counselors at McLarty Associates.

Six months of civil unrest in Hong Kong has, obviously, created a crisis for the Chinese government. Less obviously, it has created a real conundrum for the U.S. government.

Two weeks ago, in an overwhelming election victory for the opposition, nearly 90% of district council seats went to resistance candidates. While that body has little real power, the symbolic value was significant. And on Sunday, an estimated 800,000 residents turned out to protest — reversing a gradual string of less-massive demonstrations since they began in June — which is stunning given that Hong Kong’s population is only around 7 million. The protesters have coalesced around their “five demands,” and they don’t appear to be backing down.

George W. Bush’s disastrous Iraq war paved the way for China’s rise. Is Trump about to make the same mistake?

Minxin Pei

US President Donald Trump’s decision to order the  assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander, has raised the spectre, albeit still distant, of all-out war between the United States and the Islamic Republic. There is only one winner in this situation: China. 

With Trump’s latest blunder, history may not be repeating itself, but it is certainly rhyming. When George W. Bush began his presidency in January 2001, his neoconservative advisers identified China as the biggest long-term threat to the US. So his administration labelled China a “strategic competitor” and set to work on containing America’s Asian rival.
In April 2001 – the same month that a US Navy spy plane 
accidentally collided with a Chinese fighter jet while on a routine surveillance mission over the South China Sea – the US announced the sale of a weapons package to Taiwan over Chinese protests. Bilateral relations plunged to their lowest point since the normalisation of diplomatic ties in 1979.

‘National pride is at stake.’ Russia, China, United States race to build hypersonic weapons

By Richard Stone

High in the sky over northwestern China, a wedge-shaped unmanned vehicle separated from a rocket. Coasting along at up to Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound, the Xingkong-2 “waverider” hypersonic cruise missile (HCM) bobbed and weaved through the stratosphere, surfing on its own shock waves. At least that’s how the weapon’s developer, the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, described the August 2018 test. (China did not release any video footage.) The HCM’s speed and maneuverability, crowed the Communist Party’s Global Times, would enable the new weapon to “break through any current generation anti-missile defense system.”

For decades, the U.S. military—and its adversaries—have coveted missiles that travel at hypersonic speed, generally defined as Mach 5 or greater. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) meet that definition when they re-enter the atmosphere from space. But because they arc along a predictable ballistic path, like a bullet, they lack the element of surprise. In contrast, hypersonic weapons such as China’s waverider maneuver aerodynamically, enabling them to dodge defenses and keep an adversary guessing about the target.

Iran’s next move

Daniel L. Byman

Iran’s initial retaliation for the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani seems, for now, limited to a missile attack on two Iraqi bases that housed U.S. forces on Wednesday. The missiles killed no one, but Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaimed them a “slap in the face” for the United States. Iran’s actions and rhetoric are widely seen as a way for Iran to save face domestically while avoiding actions that would lead to a military spiral. President Donald Trump, for his part, declared that Iran is “standing down” and signaled that the United States had no desire for further military escalation.

Let’s hope the crisis is over, but there’s good reason to fear it’s not. Iranian leaders may bide their time, seeking to serve their revenge cold and ensure that the ultimate response is more bloody and better serves their interests. Even if Iran currently plans not to escalate, further U.S. action or changes in the region might lead it to target the United State again.

How might Iran respond the next time?


Lee Fang

SINCE FRIDAY, a loud chorus of voices has appeared in the media to celebrate President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a move that has sparked renewed tension in the Middle East, a new deployment of U.S. forces, and predictions of increased military spending.

Many of the pundits who appeared on national television or were quoted in major publications to praise the president’s actions have undisclosed ties to the defense industry — the only domestic industry that stands to gain from increased violence.

Jack Keane, a retired Army general, appeared on Fox News and NPR over the last three days to praise Trump for the strike on Suleimani. “The president acted responsibly,” Keane said during an appearance with Fox News host Lou Dobbs. “It should have happened a long time ago.” Keane has worked for military companies, including General Dynamics and Blackwater, and currently serves as a partner at SCP Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in defense contractors.

Van Hipp, chair of the lobbying firm American Defense International, which represents more than two dozen defense contractors — including Raytheon, Palantir, and General Atomics, the manufacturer of the MQ-9 Reaper drone used in the Suleimani slaying — published an opinion column on Fox News’s website praising Trump and suggesting increased pressure on the Iranian government.

Iran Is Expanding Its Online Disinformation Operations

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Iran is charging ahead with new online efforts to sway public opinion as tensions simmer with the United States, experts say. So how good is Iran at online influence campaigning and what do those campaigns look like?

The first thing to know is that Iran’s no Russia, whose online disinformation campaigns in 2016 brought the field into mainstream public discussion. Tehran’s operators are less sophisticated, less well-funded, and less focused on achieving electoral political outcomes. But they can have a big effect, particularly in the Middle East, where Iranian influence efforts have affected operations against ISIS and endangered U.S. troops.

Alireza Nader, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, described Iran’s online efforts as “not equal to Russia, perhaps, but nevertheless dangerous. The regime is known for its hacking capabilities and spends a considerable amount of resources trying to shape discourse on social media. This is something I’ve noticed myself on Twitter.” He says “I’m seeing a huge propaganda push by the regime after Soleimani was killed.”

How Heightened U.S.-Iran Conflict Plays to Russia’s Advantage

Candace Rondeaux
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The assassination of Iran’s top military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, raises a lot of questions about what an all-out war between the United States and Iran might look like. The simple answer is that it will be bad, but how bad may depend as much on Russia as it does on the U.S. and Iran.

If there is one player in the dangerous drama unfolding in the Middle East with the ability to flip the script, it’s Russian President Vladimir Putin. Five years ago, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, dismissed Russia as a “regional power” capable at most of menacing weaker neighbors like Ukraine. Today, Putin appears to be making a convincing case that when it comes to influencing security in the Middle East, Russia, not the U.S., is now the indispensable nation. ...

The only winner of the US-Iran showdown is Russia

Strobe Talbott and Maggie Tennis

The heightened tensions between the United States and Iran over the killing of Qassem Soleimani offer Russia another opportunity to increase its influence in the Middle East, argue Strobe Talbott and Maggie Tennis. This article originally appeared in Slate.

Hours before Iran launched a missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq, Vladimir Putin visited Syria to huddle with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad over the mounting U.S.-Iran crisis. Russia has repeatedly condemned the U.S. airstrikes that killed Iranian Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani. It’s fair to assume that leaders in Moscow are seeking to turn the situation to their advantage.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have deteriorated since the onset of the Syrian conflict and even more so since President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. At the same time, Russia and Iran have grown closer through military cooperation in Syria. Moscow’s expanding influence in Syria suggests that a conflict between the United States and Iran could advance Russia’s power and reputation in the region. At the very least, Russia will be able to paint the United States as an erratic aggressor, leading regional actors and international allies to question cooperation with Washington.

Iran May Have the S-400 in All But Name; What Russia Really Delivered in 2016 and Why it Matters

In the late 2000s, amid growing threats from the United States and its allies of direct military intervention, Iran's armed forces placed an order for Russia’s S-300 advanced surface to air missile system to strengthen its air defences. Understanding the importance of air superiority to Western military doctrine, as demonstrated in numerous conflicts from the Korean War to the Gulf War, Iran’s military leadership realised the importance in investing in anti access area denial (A2AD) systems capable of protecting the country’s airspace from Western fighters and bombers. This would have the effect both of deterring Western military action and, should a war take place, of allowing Iran to better protect itself and more effectively wage a defensive war. The contract to provide multiple batteries, valued at approximately $800 million dollars, was cancelled in 2010 and deliveries of the missile system were frozen by then Russian President Dimitri Medvedev. President Medvedev’s administration, differing from that of his predecessor Vladimir Putin, sought reconciliation with the Western Bloc and showed itself to be far more willing to accede to American and European demands regarding the West’s strategic interests on a number of occasions - of which cancellation of the S-300 delivery was one notable example. In response to Russia’s freezing of the contract, Iran sought to take legal action against Russia to gain compensation for what it deemed an illegal breach of contract. Compensation was never paid, but the contract was restored following President Putin’s return to the presidency 2012. Russia also provided Iran with assistance in upgrading its older air defence systems, including the 2K12 KuB and S-200.

How Iran Can Still Use Cyber and Drone Technology to Attack the U.S.

By Sophie Bushwick 

On Wednesday morning, in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of military leader Qasem Soleimani, Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. This action marks the most direct Iranian attack on the U.S. in almost 40 years.

Early reports suggest Iran may have intentionally avoided loss of life in the attack in an attempt to make a statement—and to address anger among its public—without escalating the situation in a way that would lead to a large-scale military confrontation. President Donald Trump stated that no Americans had died in the attack, and he announced no new military actions. Whether the current crisis calms down or boils over, however, hostilities are likely to continue to at least simmer. To learn more about the technology at Iran’s disposal and how the nation is using it against the U.S., Scientific American spoke with Chris Meserole, a fellow in foreign policy and expert in artificial intelligence and emerging technology at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.–based think tank.

What are precision-guided weapons such as ballistic missiles and drones capable of?

Iran Is Expanding Its Online Disinformation Operations

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Iran is charging ahead with new online efforts to sway public opinion as tensions simmer with the United States, experts say. So how good is Iran at online influence campaigning and what do those campaigns look like?

The first thing to know is that Iran’s no Russia, whose online disinformation campaigns in 2016 brought the field into mainstream public discussion. Tehran’s operators are less sophisticated, less well-funded, and less focused on achieving electoral political outcomes. But they can have a big effect, particularly in the Middle East, where Iranian influence efforts have affected operations against ISIS and endangered U.S. troops.

Alireza Nader, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, described Iran’s online efforts as “not equal to Russia, perhaps, but nevertheless dangerous. The regime is known for its hacking capabilities and spends a considerable amount of resources trying to shape discourse on social media. This is something I’ve noticed myself on Twitter.” He says “I’m seeing a huge propaganda push by the regime after Soleimani was killed.”


Alex Deep

Qassem Soleimani led an organization that, according to Pentagon estimates, killed about six hundred American service members in Iraq since 2003. Leaders of other groups similarly responsible for the deaths of Americans have met similar ends: Osama bin Laden, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and several members of the Haqqani family to name a few. The decision to kill the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Quds Force is part of a broader US policy to deter Iranian activities that threaten US interests and the forces that work to achieve those interests. Yet in this regard, the United States faces a fundamental misalignment of ends and means. US officials continue to demand that Iran halts its support to Shia proxies in the Middle East, its development of more advanced ballistic missiles, and its potential pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the same time, US actions do not link strategically to these objectives; in fact, many might actually embolden and strengthen the domestic political elements in Iran who want to expand those very activities. While Qassem Soleimani is not Franz Ferdinand and World War III is certainly not on the horizon, there’s a strong possibility that this strike, aimed at curtailing certain Iranian activities, will have the opposite effect.

From Desert Storm to Soleimani: how US drone warfare has evolved

Iranian commander’s killing opens a new chapter in use of unmanned aerial vehicles Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Helen Warrell in London JANUARY 9 2020Print this page85 The assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most senior general, in an attack by a US Reaper drone last week caused surprise. Over the past two decades, the US use of drones has escalated significantly, but the elimination of Soleimani was the first time the US had used the technology to kill another country’s senior military commander on foreign soil. The MQ-9 drone used in the strike, fitted with Hellfire missiles, is deadly because of its combination of stealth, ability to fly higher than a commercial aircraft and capacity for carrying significant firepower. 

Under the 2008-2016 administration of Barack Obama, drone strikes proliferated as a way of fighting the counter-insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan without risking military personnel on dangerous air missions. More recently, President Donald Trump has extended the use of drones beyond traditional conflict zones as the war on terror has been broadened into Yemen and Somalia. The US administration has shown itself willing to use the precision capability of drones to carry out assassinations. The escalatory nature of the attack on Soleimani, however, caught Washington’s friends and foes by surprise and marks a new chapter in the US drone wars. Below are some milestones in drone use over the past 20 years: 1991 Drones first emerge in military use as a means of surveillance. During the first Gulf war, the US begins regularly using its Pioneer and Pointer drones for surveillance, including conducting aerial patrols along the Saudi-Kuwait border. 

The Complicated Geopolitics of U.S. Oil Sanctions on Iran

by Amy M. Jaffe

It is often said, perhaps with some hyperbole, that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers was the best hope for conflict resolution in the Middle East. Its architect John Kerry argues instead that the 2015 deal’s limited parameter of closing Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon is sufficient on the merits. The Trump administration is taking a different view, focusing on Iran’s escalating threats to U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Those threats, which have included missile, drone, and cyberattacks on Saudi oil facilities, are looming large over the global economy because they are squarely influencing the volatility of the price of oil. One could argue that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iranian deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has injected an even higher degree of risk into oil markets, where traders now feel that the chances of Mideast conflict resolution are lower.

But, the Trump administration could argue otherwise. From its perspective, the United States extended to Iran $6 billion in frozen funds, opened the door for a flood of spare parts to be shipped into Iran’s suffering oil and petrochemical sector, and looked the other way while European companies rushed in for commercial deals. In exchange, it’s true, Iran began to implement the terms of JCPOA, but as Secretary of State Pompeo laid out in a major speech on the subject, the nuclear deal has failed to turn down the heat on the wide range of conflicts plaguing the Mideast region.

How countries in conflict, like Iran and the US, still talk to each other

Klaus W. Larres
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Even countries that have broken ties with each other need to communicate in times of crisis and war.

That includes the U.S. and Iran, which have not had an official way to talk directly to each other since President Jimmy Carter cut off diplomatic and consular relations in April 1980, as part of the Tehran embassy hostage crisis. The link has never been restored.

But international diplomacy has found an ingenious solution to the problem of communication between countries that have broken ties.

A third country, often a neutral nation, acts as a go-between, called the “protecting power.” For many years, for example, the Swedish have performed this role, acting on behalf of the United States in North Korea. The Swedish Embassy in Beijing has been the intermediary between North Korea and other foreign countries which do not entertain diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Switzerland and its embassy in Tehran have played the same role between the U.S. and Iran. Since May 21, 1980, they have been the protecting power for the U.S. in Iran.

Iran’s Options in a Showdown with America Are All Bad


Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2008 (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)Trump governs the tempo of the confrontation.

After losing its top strategist, military commander, and arch-terrorist, Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian theocracy is weighing responses.

One, Iran can quiet down and cease military provocations.

After attacking tankers off its coast, destroying an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, shooting down a U.S. drone, and being responsible for the killing and wounding of Americans in Iraq, Iran could now keep quiet.

It might accept that its strategy of escalation has failed to lead to any quantifiable advantage. Trump did not prove a passive “Twitter tiger,” as his critics mocked. Instead, he upped the stakes to Iran’s disadvantage and existential danger.

Eight Reasons Why the United States and Iraq Still Need Each Other

David Pollock

A host of crucial multilateral interests are baked into the U.S. presence, from keeping the Islamic State down, to protecting vulnerable regional allies, to preventing Iran from taking Iraq's oil revenues.

The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has brought the tensions in U.S.-Iraqi relations to a boil, with militia factions strong-arming a parliamentary resolution on American troop withdrawal and various European allies contemplating departures of their own. Before they sign the divorce papers, however, officials in Baghdad and Washington should consider the many reasons why staying together is best for both them and the Middle East.


A continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, modest as it may be, is essential to ensure the enduring defeat of the Islamic State. Conversely, if Soleimani’s death leads to the withdrawal of U.S. troops involved in local operations against the group, it would constitute a major blow to the fight against terrorism. Even after the Islamic State lost the last vestige of its territorial caliphate in March 2019, it was still able to conduct 867 terrorist operations in Iraq alone during the remainder of the year. The quantity and severity of such attacks would surely rise in the absence of U.S. and allied military pressure. Ongoing operations against the group’s equally active vestiges in Syria would be fatally undermined as well. The UN estimates that the Islamic State still has up to $300 million in reserves to sustain its terrorist campaign, and Kurdish officials note that the group is now reorganized underground in Iraq with “better techniques and better tactics.”

How a Journalist in Kyiv Responded to the Downing of a Ukrainian Passenger Plane

By Masha Gessen
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Angelina Kariakina had barely slept, in the early hours of January 8th, when her phone rang. Kariakina is the editor-in-chief of Hromadske.TV, Ukraine’s independent, collectively run online-and-satellite-based television station, and before she fell asleep, she had been coördinating Hromadske’s coverage of Iranian missile strikes against U.S. air bases. Now, a colleague who was on vacation in a country a few time zones ahead of Ukraine was calling to say that a Ukrainian passenger plane had crashed soon after takeoff from the Tehran airport. Kariakina got up and started reporting.

Kariakina, who is thirty-four, was in a unique position to report the story and grasp its context. She was, until very recently, married to an Iranian-born Ukrainian citizen, and lived briefly in Tehran, in 2008 and 2009. Her father and an entire community of family friends are pilots.

She called her father first. The crash was being reported as an accident—an early theory had it that an engine had caught on fire right after takeoff. This would have been the first fatal accident in the twenty-seven-year history of Ukraine’s national carrier, Ukraine International Airlines. Her father immediately questioned the official version. He said that a Boeing 737, which he had flown, can stay in the air for up to half an hour with one of its engines on fire, giving the pilots enough time for two attempts at landing. Kariakina made more calls—to family friends—and they affirmed her father’s opinion. She also learned that the crew included three experienced pilots. She began to suspect that the plane had been shot down, but she felt that Hromadske couldn’t advance this theory until an official source did. (Iran has since admitted to mistakenly shooting down the plane, killing a hundred and seventy-six passengers.)

When climate activism and nationalism collide

Kemal Derviş

There is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that this decade will be the last window for humanity to change the current global trajectory of carbon dioxide emissions so that the world can get close to zero net emissions by around 2050, and thus avoid potentially catastrophic climate risks. But although the massive technological and economic changes required to achieve this goal are well understood, their political implications are rarely discussed.

While climate activists have built an impressive international movement, broadening their political support and crossing borders, the nationalist narrative has been gaining ground in domestic politics around the world. Its central message—that the world consists of nation-states in relentless competition with one another—stands in sharp contrast to the climate movement’s “one planet” emphasis on human solidarity. And these two trends are on a collision course.

Although greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions do not respect political borders, and climate change affects all parts of the planet, the impact of global warming is decidedly not uniform. An average global temperature increase of 2°C will create extreme heat stress in India and Africa. Similarly, although rising sea levels will threaten lower-lying areas around the world, and more extreme weather events will affect almost everyone, already poor and vulnerable populations are especially at risk. Another inherently international aspect of the problem is carbon leakage as a result of trade. While GHGs are emitted in one country by the production of, say, steel, it is the use of that steel in importing countries that “causes” the emissions in the exporting country.

How Not to Operate a Surface-to-Air Missile Battery

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It’s getting clearer that the Ukrainian airliner that crashed in Tehran on Wednesday was shot down by an Iranian missile. It’s far from clear whether Iranian forces mistook the plane for an enemy aircraft, shot it down intentionally, or perhaps allowed an air defense system to fire autonomously. 

American officials said Thursday that launch detection satellites and other intelligence showed that Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was downed by an Iranian missile minutes after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran. All 176 people aboard the Boeing 737-800 were killed.

“What’s bizarre about it being a mistake, is that not only was this an airliner that’s operating at medium altitude, it was departing from the nearby airport in Iran leaving the country, not descending into the country from outside of the country,” said David Deptula, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general who was principal attack planner for Operation Desert Storm. “You scratch your head and go, ‘Holy cow, how could this happen?’”

The incident occurred just hours after Iran fired 16 missiles at U.S. forces based in Iraq.

How to Save the Open Skies Treaty


The multilateral arms control agreement that allows countries to fly unarmed surveillance aircraft over each other’s territory cannot afford to be torn up—but only a big transatlantic effort can save it.

2019 was a bumpy ride for arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation (ADN). And no wonder.

Attention was on Russia’s continuing violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Rightly so, as the illegally developed, tested, and fielded Russian SSC-8 missiles are mobile, easy to hide, and able to reach European cities with limited warning time. The agreement’s demise on August 2, 2019, further eroded the global ADN architecture.

In the meantime, on the sidelines of a larger post-INF debate, another discussion has erupted over the Open Skies Treaty (OST). The treaty, previously known exclusively to ADN pundits, is having its fifteen minutes of fame due to the fact that the United States is currently reassessing its engagement with it.


By Bryan Clark, Whitney M. McNamara, and Timothy A. Walton
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The explosion of mobile communications and emerging Internet of Things are turning the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) into an increasingly crowded place. The advent of 5G, which needs wide swaths of spectrum in multiple frequency ranges to achieve high data rates, will only intensify this trend and create more conflicts between commercial and government users. The challenge of spectrum management and control will be acute for militaries, which depend almost entirely on the EMS for sensing and communications.

The American military is particularly affected by a congested EMS. U.S. forces deploy the most advanced networks of sensors and precision-guided munitions, relying on them for almost all operations. Adversaries like China and Russia have exploited this dependence during the last decade by developing and fielding a comprehensive array of electronic warfare (EW) systems to contest the spectrum.

Donald Trump reminds the west why it liked US leadership

Those who grumbled about Pax Americana are being confronted with the alternative JANAN GANESH Add to myFT Donald Trump at a rally in Minneapolis. Perversely, the America First president could bequeath his successor a world that is keener on US leadership than it was before © AFP Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Janan Ganesh OCTOBER 16 2019Print this page Our favourite memories are actually memories of memories. Each time we recall an event or an era, another coat of varnish goes on until the original is romanticised out of all recognition. And so a relationship that was fractious at the time slowly turns into the defining love of our life. Nothing has gained more from this mental alchemy than the world before 2016. The rules-based order, as it was seldom known back then, is now remembered as an airtight fraternity of like-minded nations, tragically gone to seed. It has become a prelapsarian Eden. 

The frequency with which countries chafed at US leadership gets rather lost in the reverie. It is as though France never left Nato’s command structure in 1966. It is as though West Germany did not court its communist East, to some US disquiet, soon after. The city-clogging protests against presidents Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, the grousing about the Washington consensus: these are revised away. The world resented American omnipresence before it complained about American dereliction. Inadvertently, Donald Trump is forcing the end of this ambivalence. The more the US president unwinds his country’s external commitments, the more other nations see the resultant damage to the global commons. His decision to expose Kurds in Syria to Turkish forces has been the most clarifying moment of all. But there have been others, over trade and climate change. Countries with historic qualms about US power are going through a chastening education in life without it. 

The World’s Next Energy Bonanza

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The fracking of shale gas may have substantially shifted the global energy landscape, but another hydrocarbon resource—oceanic methane hydrates—has the possibility to do even more to change the picture. Formed only under the unusual combination of low temperatures and high pressure under the ocean subsurface and in permafrost regions at high latitudes, the potential of these hydrates is truly extraordinary. Depending on economics and technology, they could potentially supply the world with more than 1 million exajoules of energy, equivalent to thousands of years of current global energy demand. And they are nearing commercial production, with some ventures looking to be only half a decade away. That’s why it is time now to think about how to govern their use.

Ocean hydrates consist of methane—essentially natural gas—trapped in icelike cages called clathrates on the ocean floor. Originally discovered in the mid-20th century, the hydrates have long been a focus of national energy research programs. Recently, key demonstration projects have shown that producing natural gas for energy use from hydrates is technically feasible. And Canada, China, Japan, and the United States have all begun testing extraction processes. The race is on.

'The Brexit Drama Is a Bitter Lesson for Populists'

Markus Becker , Peter Müller und Martin Knobbe

Von der Leyen: The "United States of Europe" is a project for my children. The path to that goal is a long one. All member states will have to be ready to contribute to deeper integration. In my generation, the priority is that of putting Europe in a strong position. I want to further develop the leadership role in areas like climate policy and digitalization, for example.

DER SPIEGEL: You have said that Europe must be more self-confident on the world stage and have referred to the EU executive under your leadership as the "geopolitical Commission." What would you like to achieve?

Von der Leyen: Europe is in a strong position as an economic power, and we are seen around the world as a defender of the rule of law. But there are also moments when Europe must take strong, rapid action. We have to better prepare ourselves for those moments. Six years ago, Mali faced collapse in the face of terror, and there was a political will in Europe to do something to help. But we didn't have the necessary structures. If the French hadn't forcefully intervened, Mali would have ceased playing its role as a stabilizing element in the Sahel region.

How tensions with Iran could test a new cyber strategy

Mark Pomerleau

In 2018, the Department of Defense began following a new philosophy for cyber operations to better protect U.S. networks and infrastructure.

Known as “defend forward,” the approach allows U.S. cyber forces to be active in foreign network outside the United States to either act against adversaries or warn allies of impending cyber activity that they’ve observed on foreign networks.

This is the story of how, in two short years, a new cybersecurity strategy has forced the national security community to rethink cyber operations and how "persistent engagment" will work.

After the U.S. military killed an Iranian general in a Jan. 2 drone strike and after national security experts said they expect Iran might take some retaliatory action through cyber operations, the specter of increased cyber attacks against U.S. networks puts Cyber Command and its new approach front and center.