15 July 2014

Daily Iraq Situation Report

Iraq Situation Report
Institute for the Study of War
July 13, 2014

Ahmed Ali is the Iraq Team Lead and senior Iraq analyst at the Institute for the study of war.

Islamists have cornered commandos defending Iraq’s largest refinery

McClatchy Foreign Staff
July 9, 2014 

This image made from video posted on a pro-militant social media account on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke rising in the skyline during fighting between al-Qaida inspired militants and Iraqi security forces at the Beiji oli refinery in northern Iraq.

BAGHDAD — The fight for Iraq’s largest oil refinery has deteriorated into a tense standoff as 75 troops loyal to the government struggle to hold out in a small compound in the sprawling facility, surrounded by hundreds of radical Sunni Muslim militants.

Interviews with an Iraqi politician who’d been briefed on details of the siege and accounts from residents who live near the refinery indicate that the Islamic State’s fighters and their tribal allies now control virtually all of the 300-acre refinery at Baiji, with the exception of the compound, which contains the facility’s main switches and controls.

The Iraqi commandos are cut off from supplies and reinforcements, but the Islamic State has yet to launch a final assault, apparently because the militant group doesn’t want to cause irreparable harm to the refinery’s operating systems.

Despite the dire situation _ and the strategic importance of the refinery _ the Iraqi military is reluctant to send reinforcements or drop supplies from the air because of the risk that aircraft could be shot down, according to the interviews.

The politician asked not to be identified because he hasn’t been authorized to discuss the siege publicly. His version, however, closely tracked the accounts of witnesses who live near the refinery, providing the most detailed account so far of the crucial battle for Baiji.

Located about 155 miles north of Baghdad, the Baiji facility is crucial to Iraq’s economy _ three refineries that together are capable of refining 310,000 barrels per day.

The facility has been shut down since June 17 because of the siege.

Death Toll Rises as Israel Intensifies Offensive on Gaza

Israel has intensified strikes on Gaza as rockets continue to hit southern and central Israel. Dozens of rockets hit Israel on Thursday, though no deaths or injuries have been reported. According to the Israeli military, the Iron Dome intercepted 21 rockets on Wednesday. The Israeli military also reported it targeted 322 sites in Gaza overnight. According to the Palestinian health ministry 17 people, including a family and a number of children, were killed in strikes on a house and a café in Khan Younis. An estimated 80 Palestinians have been killed and 500 wounded in Gaza in the past three days. Meeting with Knesset members Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a cease-fire is not on the agenda. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the parties against escalation, saying, "The lives of countless innocent civilians and the peace process itself are in the balance." The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet for an emergency session to discuss the hostilities on Thursday.


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has selected Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura to replace Lakhdar Brahimi as the international mediator seeking to resolve the Syrian conflict. While Brahimi was the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, diplomats said de Mistura will be solely the U.N. envoy. An official announcement is expected Thursday. Meanwhile, Syrian government troops backed by Hezbollah fighters are continuing an advance into the northern city of Aleppo. According to a local resident activist, opposition forces control a 2.5 mile corridor in the north, and regime forces are close to being in a position to besiege an estimated 300,000 people.


• The International Atomic Energy Agency said it believes nuclear materials, that were used for scientific research at a Mosul university, that were seized by militants in Iraq, are "low grade" and do not pose a significant threat. 

• A U.S. appeals court has upheld a ruling ordering $1.75 billion in Iranian funds be paid to families of Americans killed in the 1983 attack on a U.S. Marine barracks in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. 

• The Kurdistan Regional Government has threatened to take legal action against buyers of Iraqi oil if it is not paid a share of the revenue from sales, after Baghdad cut the region's entitlements. 

Five myths about the Gaza crisis

By Aaron David Miller 
July 11

On day four of an Israeli offensive meant to stop attacks from Gaza, an Israeli gas station burns after being it by a Hamas rocket. In Gaza, four people are dead after early morning attacks. (Reuters)

Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has served as a Middle East adviser for Republican and Democratic secretaries of state. He is the author of the forthcoming “The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President.” 

Yes, Israelis and Palestinians have entered yet another violent round in their seemingly interminable conflict. How did they get into this mess? And, more important, how are they going to get out of it? As we watch the fighting escalate, here are five myths that need correcting. 

1.John Kerry’s failed peace process led to the crisis. 

There are many downsides to spending nine months trying to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement when one was never possible. But the notion, as some maintain, that the secretary of state’s bid for an agreement made America the “arsonist of the Middle East ” isn’t one of them. The horrific murders of three Israeli teens by Palestinian extremists, and the torture and murder of a young Palestinian by Israeli Jewish extremists, had nothing to do with Kerry or the ups and downs of the peace process. 

Kerry failed in April because Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas couldn’t or wouldn’t find common ground on the big sticking points, such as how to divide Jerusalem and how to handle Palestinian refugees. The kidnappings of the Israeli teens occurred in June, and if undertaken by a Hamas cell — independent or tied to Gaza — had a logic unrelated to Kerry’s effort. As did the revenge killing of the Palestinian teen by Israeli Jews. Even if Kerry had succeeded, extremists might have sought to derail the deal. In the spring of 1996, for example, Hamas conducted four suicide attacks in nine days, killing about 60 Israelis, in an effort to ensure that the Oslo peace process would not continue after an Israeli extremist assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. 

Fact or fiction? A collection from Outlook’s popular Five Myths series.

MYTH: Sanctions never work. “The most complete academic studies on the matter show that sanctions lead to concessions from the targeted government in one out of every three or four cases,” writes Daniel W. Drezner in “Five myths about sanctions. “That is a far cry from never working.” Here, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel leave a joint news conference at the White House in May. The leaders discussed additional sanctions to punish Russia for its incursion into Ukraine. Charles Dharapak/AP 

2.The Gaza crisis has a military solution. 

Gaza: The Human Dimension

JUL 11, 2014 

The new round of fighting in Gaza shows every sign of entrenching Israel and the Palestinians into hardline positions, making it impossible for Hamas to evolve into a movement that can accept Israel’s right to exist, making life even harder for the Palestinians in Gaza, and ending in a strategic stalemate than further reduces the prospects for any form of peaceful development.

It is difficult to see how the renewed fighting will bring peace or security to either side rather than leading to another cycle of instability, isolation of Gaza, or most likely bring about further rounds of fighting. At the same time, it seems pointless to try to put the blame on either side when progress can only take place if both sides can resolve enough of their differences to focus on what is happening to the population in the Gaza.

Tragic as the casualties in the fighting are, they are only a small part of a much greater and more enduring tragedy that affects Gaza’s entire population. Gaza faces massive demographic and economic challenges. As a result, it is steadily becoming more and more of a giant urban slum, and one that is dependent on outside aid for even minimal living conditions and where each new round of fighting makes things worse.

These issues are examined in detail in new report by the Burke Chair at CSIS that draws on US Census Bureau, CIA, IMF, and UN reporting to describe the human dimension of the conflict in Gaza. This report is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/140711_Gaza_Human_Dimension.pdf.

Israeli Airstrikes in Gaza Strip Hitting Greater Number of Unintended Civilian Targets

Steven Erlanger
New York Times
July 12, 2014

As Israel Hits Mosque and Clinic, Air Campaign’s Risks Come Home

After a night of Israeli bombing, Palestinians in Gaza City preparing to bury a Hamas member on Saturday. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip — As Israel’s air war against Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters in Gaza entered its sixth day on Saturday, a pair of bombings threw the difficulties of the campaign into painful relief: Israel bombed a mosque, which its aerial photos indicated was harboring a weapons cache, and a center for the handicapped, killing two handicapped patients and wounding three, as well as a caretaker.

The bombing of the center, the Mabaret Palestine Society here in northern Gaza, occurred just before dawn, when a missile crashed through the roof and exploded. Because it was the weekend, only five of the 19 severely handicapped residents were in residence, while the rest were with their families, said Jamila Elaiwa, who founded the center 20 years ago.

She spoke at Al Shifa hospital’s burn unit, while she was visiting the wounded, including Mai Hamada, 30, and Salwa Abu al-Qomssan, 53, the caretaker, both of them with severe burns, while two more patients were in intensive care. The dead were named as Ula Wisha, 31, and Suha Abusada, 39, whose family said had been born severely handicapped and unable to speak.

A Palestinian boy amid the remains of a rehabilitation center for the handicapped in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. Credit Wissam Nassar for The New York Times

Muhammad Abu al-Qomssan, 32, the caretaker’s eldest son, said that his mother “has a soft heart,” and felt fortunate to have found this new job only three weeks ago. She had been to pre-dawn prayers and told him she had arrived only a few minutes before the bomb struck, he said.

Ms. Elaiwa, 59, said that her center was well-known in the neighborhood and that it had been in the same building for almost a decade. She said she had no idea why it would be bombed. “No one lived there except us,” she said. “There was no one else in the building.”

At the site, neighbors picked through the rubble of modest medical equipment and scattered children’s books, from the small neighborhood children’s library Ms. Elaiwa ran. There was a seared copy of “Jane Eyre,” condensed, in English with Arabic translation, and an English-language copy of “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.”

Neighbors like Yasir Abu Shoodq, 32, stared up at the sky through the holes the missile cut through the roof and each floor before making a crater in the ground. Young children picked up the chunks of sharp steel from the crater and made off with them.

Asymmetric Warfare in Gaza

July 12, 2014 

The score, as of late Friday, in the contest being waged in the Gaza Strip and Israel was 114-0, with the side in the lead continuing to run up the score. This is not some nightmare of a Brazilian soccer fan, but instead the deaths of men, women, and children, more than three-quarters of them civilians, according to the United Nations humanitarian affairs office. All of them are Palestinians in the Gaza Strip; so far in this match no Palestinian rockets have killed any Israelis.

The term asymmetric warfare is commonly used, of course, but to refer to different techniques for inflicting violence for political purposes. What is going on now in Gaza is highly asymmetric in terms of the amount of death, injury, destruction, and overall misery being inflicted by one side on the other. Perhaps the usual use of the term asymmetric warfare has contributed to warping our ability to evaluate what has been going on in this conflict. There is a tendency to think of death inflicted overtly by an F-16, at least if it is operated by someone labeled an ally, as somehow more legitimate than whatever a clandestinely deployed rocket can inflict.

We have curious habits in how we regard symmetry and asymmetry in armed conflicts and especially the unending series of conflagrations between Israel and Palestinians. In contrast to the assumed asymmetry about the legitimacy of different ways of inflicting violence, in other respects we speak as if there is perfect symmetry. It has become de rigueur to criticize excesses on both sides, which of course there have been, and to appeal for reasonableness on both sides, which of course there should be.

In major, glaring respects, however, this conflict is highly asymmetric, and not only in one side's physical ability to inflict far greater destruction on the other side. The larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one in which the far more powerful actor is occupying (in the case of the West Bank) or strangling (in the case of the Gaza Strip) the other side. It is also a conflict in which for many years now, one side and its Arab backers have repeatedly indicated their willingness to make a complete peace as long as this side can have its own state on the small part of Palestine left after Israel's war of independence, while the other side, through its actions on the ground as well as statements of its leaders, indicates its intention to hold on to all the land it has captured through force of arms, save perhaps for some carefully controlled bantustans.

Speaking in symmetrical terms carries a sense, even if a false sense, of fairness and equanimity, and of getting beyond squabbles and trying to achieve peace and stability. Parents exhibit this tendency when they tell squabbling children that they don't care who started the argument and instead just want both kids to behave. One can sympathize with John Kerry, and other diplomats who have tried to do something about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if they feel the same way as parents.

Is Hamas Trying to Get Gazans Killed?

Jul 11, 2014 

Mahmoud Abbas, the sometimes moderate, often ineffectual leader of the Palestinian Authority, just asked his rivals in Hamas a question that other bewildered people are also asking: “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?”

The Gaza-based Hamas has recently fired more than 500 rockets at Israeli towns and cities. This has terrorized the citizenry, though caused few casualties, in large part because Israel is protected by the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

In reaction to these indiscriminately fired missiles, Israel has bombarded targets across Gaza, killing roughly 100 people so far. Compared with violent death rates in other parts of the Middle East, the number is small. (More than 170,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war to date.) But it is large enough to suggest an answer to Abbas’s question: Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.

The men who run Hamas, engineers and doctors and lawyers by training, are smart enough to understand that though they wish to bring about the annihilation of the Jewish state and to replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood state (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood), they are in no position to do so. Hamas is a militarily weak group, mostly friendless, that is firing rockets at the civilians of a powerful neighboring state.

The Israeli military has the operational capability to level the entire Gaza Strip in a day, if it so chooses. It is constrained by international pressure, by its own morality and by the understanding that the deaths of innocent Palestinians are not in its best political interest. The men who run Hamas -- the ones hiding in bunkers deep underground, the ones who send other people’s children to their deaths as suicide bombers -- also understand that their current campaign will not bring the end of Israel’s legitimacy as a state.

I’ve been struck, over the last few days, by the world’s indifference to Gaza’s fate. Perhaps this conflict has been demoted to the status of a Middle East sideshow by the cataclysms in Iraq and Syria. Perhaps even the most accommodationist European governments know that Israel is within its right to hunt down the people trying to kill its citizens. Regardless of the cause, Israel seems under less pressure than usual to curb its campaign.

There is no doubt that Hamas could protect Palestinian lives by ceasing its current campaign to end Israeli lives. The decision is Hamas’s. As the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said yesterday, "We face the risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza, with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable -- and preventable only if Hamas stops rocket firing."

I understand that this latest round in the never-ending Israel-Gaza war was, in many ways, a mistake. Israel was uninterested in an all-out confrontation with Hamas at the moment, and Hamas, which is trying to manage a threat to its control of Gaza from -- believe it or not -- groups even more radical and nihilistic than it is, is particularly ill-prepared to confront Israel.

CRISIS IN UKRAINEBlurred Lines Between War and Peace

July 11, 2014

Ukraine, Russia, and the West all have their own reasons for not calling the ongoing conflict a war, just as they all have different views of what would constitute an acceptable peace. 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has kicked off his “Peace Plan” by ending the ceasefire and resuming military actions against pro-Russian forces. True, he promises to continue negotiations with the separatists, but this looks more like an attempt to soothe an openly irritated Kremlin, as well as grumpy Berlin and Paris. War and Peace in Ukraine have now acquired a paradoxical dimension: Not all efforts to pursue another ceasefire would be a step in the direction of achieving a sustainable peace.

Once upon a time it had seemed that, by creating (EU and NATO) mechanisms to prevent wars, Europe had found a remedy to the problems that had plagued the continent over the course of the blood-soaked 20thcentury. But the events in Ukraine have exposed a fundamental flaw in these efforts that Europe, and the West as a whole, isn’t ready to deal with. The flaw is plain for all to see: Russia and Ukraine maintain diplomatic relations. They participate in international forums together. They cooperate on economic matters, albeit less actively now. People and goods cross the border. Their leaders talk on the telephone. And yet these countries are at war with one another, and this is not just a war of soft power (information warfare) but hard power as well. How else would you describe Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory than as a hard power conflict? How else to describe an armed struggle conducted on one side by Russian citizens, on Ukrainian territory, under Russian banners, with weapons and funding supplied by Russia? Dozens of paratroopers from the 45th Guards Spetsnaz airborne regiment have been buried recently in Moscow—where and why did they suddenly die in such numbers?

This is a war that no one wants to name as such. The West doesn’t want to call it war, since it would then have to take concrete measures against the aggressor, a nuclear state. Who would dare to do that? Ukraine isn’t ready to press the world to call the conflict a war out of fear of contradicting the West. And it’s quite clear why Russia wouldn’t want to acknowledge that it’s fighting a war: Moscow retains room for maneuver as long as the war goes undeclared, retaining the ability to switch out its aggressor’s hat for the peacemaker’s hat at will.

While the Kremlin will not recognize that Russia is at war with Ukraine, it won’t normalize relations with Kiev either. This blurring of the lines between war and peace when it comes to states parallels the blurring Putin has done within Russia itself, by turning to militarism and coercion to sustain the Russian System. The ongoing crisis merely represents the application of this model to Russia’s relations with Ukraine. And Ukraine isn’t an end in itself for Russia, but merely an instrument for the Kremlin. By destabilizing Ukraine, Russia is fighting a proxy war with the West. Putin has been perfectly candid about his reasons for wanting to do this, stating time and again that Russia is a unique civilization that seeks to contain the West not only inside Russia but outside it too.

The current developments should not come as a surprise to anyone. The blurring of the borders between war and peace occurred as Europe entered a phase after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that many have described as postmodern. This phase has been characterized by furtiveness on the part of the liberal democracies when it comes to living up to their principles in crafting policy: “Nothing’s sacred, everything is on the table,” Europe has seemed to say. After it lost its great rival and adversary, it no longer wished to focus any time or effort on preaching values. But the postmodern, transactional leaderships of Europe today find themselves poorly equipped to respond to the challenges posed by the Russian System, which is why their responses inevitably slide into accommodationism.

Europe's Free Ride on the American-Defense Gravy Train

July 13, 2014 

Recent Russian moves in Ukraine were the latest wake-up call for NATO's oldest members that they face real security threats. Will they step up to the plate? 

In the run-up to September's NATO summit in Wales, the Obama administration is sending decidedly mixed signals to its European allies, simultaneously demanding that they contribute more to their own security and signaling that they needn't bother.

In a joint press conference in Warsaw with his Polish counterpart last month, President Obama declared that, while America's commitment to Europe was unwavering, "every NATO member has to do its fair share," committing "a proportional amount" of resources to the common security. Defending against future threats is "going to require some joint capabilities that right now we don't have," the president urged, and investing in them is "going to require every NATO member to step up." He noted that "We have seen a decline steadily in European defense spending generally" and exhorted "that has to change."

The next day, defense secretary Chuck Hagel continued where his boss left off, observing, "I am troubled that many nations appear content for their defense spending to continue declining." "Europe still lives in a dangerous world," Hagel said. "A world where peace must still be underwritten by the credible deterrent of military power."

A couple weeks later, national security advisor Susan Rice chimed in. While "The United States' commitment to the security of our allies is sacrosanct and always backed by the full weight of our military might," she assured, "we expect our partners to shoulder their share of the burden of our collective security." She added, "Collective action doesn't mean the United States puts skin in the game while others stand on the sidelines cheering. Alliances are a two-way street, especially in hard times when alliances matter most." Accordingly, "we expect every ally to pull its full weight through increased investment in defense and upgrading our Alliance for the future. Europe needs to take defense spending seriously and meet NATO's benchmark—at least two percent of GDP—to keep our alliance strong and dynamic."

Alas, none of those statements mentioned consequences if the Germans and others don't step up.

Calls from America for European allies to pull their own weight, pay their fair share, be a security provider rather than a consumer, or at least meet their minimum commitment (once 3 percent of GDP, now 2 percent, and still unmet by the overwhelming number) have been predictably ignored since the 1970s, if not longer. With the end of the Cold War and the Alliance's original raison d'être, the argument has been even more difficult to make. The combination of the global recession, demographic challenges, and public weariness after a decade of fighting in Afghanistan made it impossible, with even stalwart allies like the United Kingdom making drastic cuts in defense spending.

U.S. Intelligence Community’s Chief of Counterintelligence Says Chinese Hackers Getting Smarter and Faster

J.J. Green
July 12, 2014

NCIX says Chinese hackers ‘getting faster and smarter’

WASHINGTON — “The average computer, fresh out of its packaging, can become infected within minutes of being plugged in. It can take longer to download software that protects a computer system than for a hacker to gain entry,” the National Security Agency says.

Millions of times a day, hackers linked to the Chinese and Russian governments and cyber criminals infiltrate U.S. government and business networks. And the new National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX) says it’s getting worse with each passing day.

"With the exponential increase in cyber capabilities, electronics and tradecraft, they’re getting faster and smarter about how they seek to steal our information, and we need to be faster and smarter about how we defend it," William Evanina said in an exclusive interview.

Evanina, a career FBI special agent who most recently served as the chief of CIA’s Counterespionage Group, became the NCIX on June 12.

Chinese hackers, he said, “are more active than they’ve ever been and they’re after whatever they can get.” Recent evidence shows they’ve targeted everything from blueprints for jet fighters to formulas for making windows.

"They want to be an economic world power, so anything that has to do with their economy, they will steal — from factory information, to bio-products, to manufacturing products to thermal engineering. Recently there was a case from Pittsburgh Corning Glass where they tried to steal (information on) thermal insulation in the windows," said Evanina.

In February, “Department of Defense networks were scanned, probed, spearfished and attacked with malware 41 million times,” said Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey during the retirement of former NSA director Keith Alexander in late-March. Each one of those attacks was repelled.

But just days earlier, in mid-March, the DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center “became aware of a potential intrusion of the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) network,” a DHS official told WTOP Thursday.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told WTOP, “We had the systems in place to detect the intrusion, we notified agencies with a range of capabilities to assess exactly what occurred and devised an immediate action plan to further secure the network with both short and long-term solutions.”

The hackers allegedly were after the records of employees applying for high-level security clearances. The number is estimated in the tens of thousands. The DHS official said, “At this time, neither OPM nor the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team have identified any loss of personally identifiable information.”

But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told WTOP the prognosis for the future is ominous, unless something changes.

How the CIA Partnered With Amazon and Changed Intelligence

July 11, 2014 

The intelligence community is about to get the equivalent of an adrenaline shot to the chest. This summer, a $600 million computing cloud developed by Amazon Web Services for the Central Intelligence Agency over the past year will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community. If the technology plays out as officials envision, it will usher in a new era of cooperation and coordination, allowing agencies to share information and services much more easily and avoid the kind of intelligence gaps that preceded the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

For the first time, agencies within the IC will be able to order a variety of on-demand computing and analytic services from the CIA and National Security Agency. What’s more, they’ll only pay for what they use.

Author Frank Konkel is the editorial events editor for Government Executive Media Group and a technology journalist for its publications. He writes about emerging technologies, privacy, cybersecurity, policy and other issues at the intersection of government and technology. He began writing about ... Full BioThe vision was first outlined in the IC Information Technology Enterprise plan championed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and IC Chief Information Officer Al Tarasiuk almost three years ago. Cloud computing is one of the core components of the strategy to help the IC discover, access and share critical information in an era of seemingly infinite data.

For the risk-averse intelligence community, the decision to go with a commercial cloud vendor is a radical departure from business as usual.

In 2011, while private companies were consolidating data centers in favor of the cloud and some civilian agencies began flirting with cloud variants like email as a service, a sometimes contentious debate among the intelligence community’s leadership took place.

As one former intelligence official with knowledge of the Amazon deal told Government Executive, “It took a lot of wrangling, but it was easy to see the vision if you laid it all out.”

The critical question was would the IC, led by the CIA, attempt to do cloud computing from within, or would it buy innovation?

Money was a factor, according to the intelligence official, but not the leading one. The government was spending more money on information technology within the IC than ever before. IT spending reached $8 billion in 2013, according to budget documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The CIA and other agencies feasibly could have spent billions of dollars standing up their own cloud infrastructure without raising many eyebrows in Congress, but the decision to purchase a single commercial solution came down primarily to two factors.

“What we were really looking at was time to mission and innovation,” the former intelligence official said. “The goal was, ‘Can we act like a large enterprise in the corporate world and buy the thing that we don’t have, can we catch up to the commercial cycle? Anybody can build a data center, but could we purchase something more?

“We decided we needed to buy innovation,” the former intelligence official said.
A Groundbreaking Deal 

The CIA’s first request for proposals from industry in mid-2012 was met with bid protests to the Government Accountability Office from Microsoft and AT&T, two early contenders for the contract. Those protests focused on the narrow specifications called for by the RFP. GAO did not issue a decision in either protest because the CIA reworked its request to address the companies’ complaint.

How social media and a little sleuthing turned up a Mao-era nuclear program.

JULY 8, 2014

Go to a conference about China's nuclear weapons and you will hear, over and over again, that China is not very transparent when it comes to its nuclear program. That's still true at a governmental level, but it is an increasingly outdated assessment of other aspects of Chinese society, especially in the age of social media. Western analysts have more access to information on these topics than they have ever had access to before, even if much of it is in Chinese. That has led to some startling discoveries.

For example, despite official secrecy about China's production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, my colleague Catherine Dill and I discovered an underground nuclear reactor that China attempted to construct near Yichang in Hubei province during the 1960s and 1970s.

The Yichang reactor is different from the never-finished underground nuclear reactor near Fuling, in Sichuan province, which the governmentopened to tourists a few years ago. The reactor at Fuling was a surprise when Chinese authorities publicized it, but it was still only an unfinished copy of one of China's above-ground nuclear reactors. The reactor at Yichang, on the other hand, is a totally different design. As far we can tell, the existence of the Yichang reactor has never been written about in English.

We can find no evidence in declassified documents that the U.S. intelligence community knew, or knows, about the existence of this site.We can find no evidence in declassified documents that the U.S. intelligence community knew, or knows, about the existence of this site.

We didn't start out looking for a secret underground nuclear reactor. I recently finished writing an Adelphi book for the International Institute for Strategic Studies on China's nuclear weapons program. My book makes extensive use of open sources. As part of the research, I was looking into part of China's nuclear industry called the "827 Plant." China has lots of factories associated with the nuclear industry, so an unidentified plant wasn't necessarily anything interesting.

I still wanted to know what role the 827 Plant played in China's early nuclear weapons program, even if it was boring. When we started looking into the 827 Plant, I hoped we might find something exciting, like an unknown fuel-cladding plant. (That's sarcasm, by the way. Not even nuclear-policy wonks think fuel-cladding plants are exciting.)

There is an enormous amount of open-source information available about China's nuclear programs. Of course, that information is encrypted in a kind of tonal and ideogrammatic code referred to as Chinese. But it is out there. I have to admit that my Chinese skills are pretty limited. I once made the mistake of joking with a Chinese friend that I can only order a beer and start a fistfight in Chinese, which pretty much makes me proficient in the language. He laughed and has now spent the past decade introducing me as a "proficient" speaker of Chinese, largely to make me tell that joke again and again. Fortunately, the Monterey Institute, where I work, has a large number of amazing students and researchers, such as Catherine Dill, with both language skills and expertise in proliferation who can compensate for my deficiencies.

Searching for any reference to the 827 Plant, Catherine and I found a lot of references on resumes of Chinese nuclear engineers online. Plenty of Homer Simpsons worked there through the early 1980s, before finding employment in the civilian nuclear power program.

Some of the Best Intelligence Out There Is Not From Secret Sources, But From Open Sources

Mike Hayden
Washington Times
July 10, 2014

HAYDEN: Some of the best intelligence is no secret at all — it’s social

That said, respondents were overweighted toward the more stable Kurdish north, reflecting Web disruptions caused by fighting and instability elsewhere — an interesting piece of intelligence in itself.

When asked whether they supported the government in Baghdad, some 70 percent of Shiites said they did — not surprising because this is the first Shiite-dominated government in Iraq in the modern era. Equally unsurprising, less than a third of Sunnis and Kurds backed what they have largely labeled a predatory regime.

Three-fourths of Shiites, two-thirds of Sunnis and half of all Kurds cared enough, however, to say that both Sunnis and Shiites should be in the government.

When asked about the wisdom of foreign intervention, no group reflected an absolute majority supporting American involvement and Sunnis (the likely targets of such an intervention) were firmly opposed (44 percent, with only 30 percent supporting). Surprisingly, a solid quarter of each group responded that they simply “didn’t know” when it came to whether or not they supported American action, perhaps a reflection of the level of crisis and of uncertainty in the country.

The prospect of Iranian action was even less popular. Even among Shiites, those supporting 
No one can question that politics in Baghdad’s Green Zone still matter and American intelligence will surely continue to work feverishly to ferret out questions like the intentions of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Does he intend to stay? At what cost? In the face of what opposition?

But in this crisis, the attitudes of average Iraqis — the “social intelligence” referenced in the INSA report — matter as well. Even a powerful country like our own cannot keep a state together if its inhabitants have already given up on it.

Whether or not Iraqis are committed to a unitary Iraqi state will likely be more decisive than any course of action Mr. al-Maliki might set, and American intelligence would be well advised to include this in its list of priority requirements.

• Gen. Michael Hayden is a former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency. He can be reached at mhayden@washingtontimes.com.

U.S. Planners Must Start Preparing for Strategic Disaster

July 9, 2014

The collapse of the Iraqi army as it faced an extremist onslaught shocked many Americans, particularly those who had worked hard to help create it. The $25 billion of American money and seven years of intense effort seemed wasted as four of Iraq's 14 divisions simply crumbled. In Washington, flustered policymakers and military leaders scrambled, searching for an effective response and trying to understand how the disaster happened. In the flurry of finger-pointing, pundits and politicians missed the bigger issue: The slow reaction to Iraq's failure is one more manifestation of a deep flaw in the way Americans think about security. 

The failure to plan for battlefield defeat and strategic catastrophe is not simply a shortfall of the Obama administration but is ingrained in the American strategic culture. Because Americans are an inherently optimistic people, their national security professionals, whether in the military or other branches of government, never expect disaster and thus fail to develop techniques and capabilities needed to respond to one. 

Take, for instance, military war games. While these cover a wide range of enemies, scenarios and locations, almost all follow the same pattern. They open with aggression of some sort against the United States or one of its partners. At first the enemy makes gains. But eventually the United States mobilizes its resources and national will, stops the aggression, then reverses it. Once the tide turns, it does so for good. In a broad sense, American strategy has institutionalized World War II, the "good war," into a universal model for major conflicts. 

Other U.S. government agencies follow suit and also avoid thinking about strategic catastrophe. They plan for how they might respond to political crises and humanitarian disasters, but like the military, they devote little or no time to developing an interagency response to a major battlefield defeat or the collapse of a key partner. There is an even greater vacuum at the level of grand strategy. No part of the government plans for how American society could be steeled and mobilized after a catastrophe.

Unfortunately, though, reality doesn't always stick to the preferred script. There is always the possibility of a major battlefield defeat or outright political collapse by an American partner or ally. Iraq today certainly demonstrates that. And a major military defeat of the United States itself, while less likely, is not impossible. The same is true of other forms of strategic catastrophes, whether on a 9/11 scale or even larger. Despite the best preparations, disaster can strike.

Because the United States prefers not to think in depth or plan for a major battlefield defeat or strategic catastrophe, it responds on the fly when forced to. Innovation can be a good thing, but relying on it is risky, particularly in national security strategy. The longer it takes to react to a defeat or catastrophe, the harder and costlier it will be. Opportunities are squandered while strategists flesh out options, policymakers debate them, and the people who will implement any strategic decisions mobilize, train and plan. Iraq in 2003 was a perfect example. Neither the U.S. military nor other government agencies had fully planned for the total collapse of public order and the security services, or for the challenge of recreating order and security in the face of armed opposition. Thus the United States failed to capitalize on the brief period between the removal of Saddam Hussein and the full outbreak of the insurgency. The price for this failure was great. 


July 10, 2014 

The war against naval factoids is a quagmire! A primary theater in this whack-a-mole struggle is the notion that America’s navy is “stronger” than the next X navies, and thus, we should rest easy about our republic’s strategic position in Eurasia. The usual figure given for X is 13, although a reputable commentator recently inflated it to 16. The latest purveyor of this claim is David Axe, the normally reliable proprietor of War Is Boring. On Tuesday,Axe contended, “By some measures, the U.S. Navy maintains a 13-navy standard. In other words, it can deploy as much combat power as the next 13 largest fleets combined.”

Nope, sorry. There is no benchmark whereby the U.S. Navy boasts more fighting strength than the next 13 fleets combined. Much heard during the2012 presidential campaign, the next-13-navies factoid refers to aggregate tonnage. In other words, it refers to how much the combined U.S. Navy displaces, aka weighs, relative to other navies. It assumes bigger and bulkier equals stronger. And indeed, by and large, U.S. Navy ships are bigger and bulkier than most foreign counterparts. They’re built to operate across the intercontinental distances they must traverse to reach the Western European, East Asian, and Indian Ocean rimlands. Far-flung voyages demand greater fuel, stores, and ammunition capacity. This constitutes an advantage over rival forces.

And an important one. But by no means should tonnage become shorthand for combat power. Weight isn’t everything — unless you think that obese 400-pound guy you saw lumbering down the Jersey Shore last weekend in a Speedo could whup Mike Tyson. Now assigning fighting ships to weight classes made some sense in the thrilling days of yesteryear. For instance, ramming was the standard tactic during the age of galley warfare. Lighter ships came off worse after being rammed by heavier ones. Nor could they inflict much damage on larger opponents by ramming. Smartly handled, bigger galleys were better.

Classing ships by tonnage also made some sense during the age of sail, when the size of a ship determined how many guns it could sport, and thus the weight of shot it could fling in close action. Even then, though, the composition of a ship’s battery of guns — not the simple number of cannon — determined its hitting power. In 1588, for instance, a fleet of smaller English ships festooned with long-range guns pummeled the behemoths of the Spanish Armada, whose guns were fewer in number, had shorter range, and disgorged smaller projectiles with less destructive potential. Precision English gunnery mauled the Armada from a distance, and commanders let weather take care of the rest. Again, size mattered. It wasn’t everything.

Even less so since the age of sail gave way to the age of steam. Before World War I, naval sage Julian S. Corbett was already bewailing the technological “revolution beyond all previous experience” that overtook navies during the era of armored steamers. Corbett’s lifetime saw the debut of new weaponry such as torpedoes and sea mines, along with small craft like torpedo boats and submarines to carry them. New weaponry helped nullify the battleship’s overpowering offensive and defensive strength. Increasingly, ships that displaced a fraction a battlewagon’s tonnage could inflict grave damage on these great ships — if not disable them altogether.

Q&A with departing Benning commander Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster

July 10, 2014

ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster talks with the Ledger-Enquirer for the Sunday interview. 07.03.14 ROBIN TRIMARCHI — rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com 

Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster is a combination of warrior, intellectual and leader. He was recently recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

McMaster earned a reputation for his 1997 book, "Dereliction of Duty," which questioned political and military leadership during Vietnam.

Dave Barno, a retired lieutenant general, described McMaster this way: "I watched senior Army generals argue over ways to end his career. But he dodged those bullets and will soon take over command of the Army's 'futures' center. After years as an outspoken critic, McMaster soon will be in the right place to help build the right Army for the nation."

McMaster has spent two years as commander of Fort Benning. He has been selected for promotion to lieutenant general, and has been reassigned to Fort Monroe, Va., where he will serve as the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, Training and Doctrine Command. He has been in charge of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning for two years. McMaster recently sat down with Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams.

Here are excerpts of the interview, with some of the questions edited for length and the order of some of the questions rearranged for clarity.

Talk a little bit about your tenure at Fort Benning. You were the first general to get the Maneuver Center as a whole. How has that gone?

Well, I really was quite fortunate to inherit the tremendous work from those who had gone before me, so, my predecessors at the Maneuver Center had brought together Infantry and Armor. And at first, there were some skeptics about it.

Some people thought the world might end when that happened on both sides. But what happened is the leaders who went before me built a tremendous team here -- a team that built trust between each other, and then saw the possibilities of Infantry and Armor working together in a sustained manner, and to develop this combined arms perspective. You know, in the U.S. Army we don't want a fair fight, and the way you make sure it's not a fair fight is you combine capabilities -- Infantry with Armor, mobile protective fire power, connecting effective reconnaissance operations, integrating fires and engineers and joint capabilities.

New U.S. Navy Intelligence Reports on Maritime Privacy and Threats to Shipping Available

July 12, 2014

The U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) has released its latest monthly unclassified reports on maritime piracy (focusing mostly on the activities of Somali and Nigerian pirates) and global threats to shipping from pirates.

15 Things the Next War Will Tell Us About America

By Joe Pappalardo

What will tomorrow's wars be like, and is the United States prepared to win them? PM canvassed experts to glimpse military trends to find answers.

More than 1000 US and Philippine Navy participate during a mock beach assault as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training.

Sherbien Dacalanio/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The next war will expose our gaps.

There is no doubt that the U.S. military is the best equipped, trained, and experienced force on the planet. Pundits like to point out that it’s better funded than any 10 other nations combined. But just because a nation spends more money than its adversaries doesn’t mean it will win a war, especially far from home. 

As the U.S. cuts defense spending, other nations like China and Russia have increased theirs. Their focus is on areas such as air defense and ship-killing missiles—the exact places where they can blunt America’s ability to project power. That’s why, despite a half-trillion dollars in spending, the United States military might face gaps in its capabilities during the next war. 

"The United States has relied on a Department of Defense that has had technological superiority for the better part of the post-World War II era," says Lan Shaffer, principal deputy for the assistant secretary of defense for defense research and engineering. "[That] technological superiority is now being challenged." The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, a review of Department of Defense strategy, acknowledges that a leaner U.S. military will see some of its advantages eroded. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, wrote in the document: "Our loss of depth across the force could reduce our ability to intimidate opponents from escalating conflict … Nearly any future conflict will occur on a much faster pace and on a more technically challenging battlefield." 

Some gaps are already appearing. Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told Congress this year that he does not have enough landing craft to conduct amphibious operations. The Marine Corps will shrink to 175,000 if the law that mandates 2016 sequestration is kept in place. If not, that number will dip to 182,000, a loss of 8000 Marines. The Army is shrinking its active-duty members by about 22 percent, shedding 125,000 soldiers. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told Congress that, by 2016, he "doubts that we could even execute one prolonged, multiphase operation that is extended over a period of time." 

It will vindicate the Pentagon’s focus on tech over troops. Or not.

The trend is to replace manpower with automation. Fewer warplanes will fly, and many of those that do will be unmanned. There will be fewer warships in the Navy’s fleet, and new ships will carry fewer crewmembers. Proven aircraft like the A-10 close-air-support warplanes and F-16 fighters will be retired, and replaced with fewer numbers of (untested) F-35 Lightning IIs.