22 August 2014

Tibet railways to form 'triangle defense' for PLA

Staff Reporter 

A train enters Xigaze Station on the newly inaugurated Lhasa-Xigaze Railway, Aug. 16. 

The Lhasa-Xigaze Railway and the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway will help Chinese military deployments and resource allocations in southern Tibet and enhance Beijing's control over the country's border with India, China's nationalistic tabloid Global Times reports.

Trains began running on the Lhasa-Xigaze Railway on Aug. 16, shortening the travel time between Lhasa and Xigaze to around two hours. The link allows the PLA to respond quickly and transport supplies to southwestern Tibet in a contingency. The 253-km railroad on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is said to be the most costly railway ever built at 50,000 yuan (US$8,100) per meter as it situated at over 4,000 meters above sea level and requires many bridges and tunnels to cross the mountainous terrain.

Officials responsible for Tibet's economy said the railway will significantly boost the region's tourism industry.

The other link, the Lhasa-Nyingchi line, is set to begin construction before the end of this year and to be completed by 2018. The line will be 433 kilometers in length and trains may reach speeds of 160 km/hr, will transport both passengers and goods and be used by civilians and the military. It will form a reverse V-shape defense with the Lhasa-Xigaze Railway in southern Tibet and enhance the PLA's mobility in the Himalayas.

From the Indian perspective, India Today reported that China will further expand the railways to Nepal and Bhutan to increase its control over the border with India and be used as bargaining chips in border issues.

Global Times confirmed that the two railways will extend to Yadong county, which neighbors Bhutan and the Indian state of Sikkim and Nyalam county at the border with Nepal.

Why the Islamic State Is a Greater Threat Than Al-Qaida Before 9/11 Read more: The Spy Who Told Me: Serious Terrorist Threat Posed by the Islamic State | C-Notes | OZY

By John McLaughlin
Aug. 18, 2014
Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard near Makhmur, south of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, after Islamic State insurgents withdrew.

The End of the Beginning
Why the Islamic State Is a Greater Threat Than Al-Qaida Before 9/11

Why you should care

Because the Islamic State already possesses the money, territory and networks that al-Qaida itself could never manage to acquire.

Unless defeated, the Islamic State (IS) taking root in Iraq will be a greater threat to the United States over the long run than al-Qaida was before 9/11.

Before al-Qaida’s 9/11 attacks, that organization had only two advantages. First, it had stealth; although U.S. intelligence in 2001 had confidence al-Qaida was preparing some kind of major attack on the U.S., we had not yet penetrated the organization sufficiently to know its specific targets or its timing.

IS has achieved something that the core al-Qaida leadership still can only dream about: It actually controls territory.

Second, al-Qaida had a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to plot and plan securely, the U.S. having attacked it only once with cruise missiles prior to 2001 — to little effect.

Today, the Islamic State enjoys many more advantages. Attacking the U.S. is not its top priority at the moment, but there can be little doubt this is among its ambitions — and something it can realistically contemplate.

Four things give IS the capability, reach, allies and motive:

First, IS has achieved something that the core al-Qaida leadership still can only dream about: It actually controls territory. Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida was merely a guest in an Afghanistan governed by the Taliban from 1996 to 2001. IS, by contrast, is actually the government in vast stretches of Iraq and Syria — more than 400 miles end to end, roughly from Aleppo in Syria and across Iraq to the outskirts of Baghdad. While its atrocities are well-documented, it is also in many areas providing a variety of social services to populations, such as electricity and water.

And with these accomplishments and the call to join its so-called “Islamic caliphate,” it is doing another thing al-Qaida failed to do — projecting a positive vision of the future for many Sunni Muslims.
Peshmerga fighter guard positioned on the front line of fighting with Islamic State militants 20 kilometers east of Mosul, on Aug. 18, 2014

No Winners in Unhinged, Disintegrating Syria

It’s time to accept that the Syrian Arab Republic established in 1946 is no more. In its place totter small regions with constantly fluctuating communal and geographical boundaries. Within those temporary enclaves, some leaders attempt to maintain or expand influence by force and ideology; others try to do so by bringing safety, food, shelter, and fuel to people caught up in havoc. Rebels of disparate religious, political, and ethnic shades—some backed by Saudi and Gulf Arab money, others inspired by nationalistic ideologies—shuffle the conflagration and the persons caught up in it back and forth as they fight to the bitter end against the Syrian army and militias like Hezbollah, who are buttressed by Iranian and Russian resources. Yet all sides are losing, for stability is gone in Syria and from there instability is rippling outward.

Since the civil war began in March 2011, the Syrian population of 18 million has experienced 10 percent negative growth, at least 160,000 deaths according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (the United Nations stopped countingwhen the toll hit 100,000), approximately 6.5 million internal displacements, and 3 million refugees seeking safe haven in nearby countries. In an immediate sense, the Syrian people are the greatest losers. The tragedy that has dislocated or killed more than half of them is the strongest indicator of the nation having become permanently defunct, with neither democratic nor authoritarian forces rising to help.

President Bashar al-Assad now maintains sporadic control over only one-quarter of Syria’s original 71,000 square miles. Even his capital city, Damascus, lies in ruins, and the Alawite ethno-religious community to which he belongs, and which were once 13 percent of the population, is fighting for survival. By terrorizing combatants and non-combatants alike with chlorine gas and bombs made of shrapnel and sections of oil pipeline, Assad, who recently had himself reelected in a sham vote, has ensured that Sunnis, who account for 74 percent of Syrians, will not compromise with him or his Baath party. Assad’s increasing dependence on Shiite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanon’s Hezbollah is stripping him of the last semblance of independence while deepening the sectarian divide that abetted ripping Syria apart. Assad is already seeing his allies cutting off weapons supplies to his regime. He now must fear as well that foreign patrons may conclude his usefulness has been outlived, and move to find a replacement—just as Tehran did in Iraq when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki failed to hold that nation together politically, ethno-religiously, or militarily. With or without Assad, the Alawites are likely to find themselves with no place to go except the environs around the Mediterranean port cities of Tartus and Latakia, and there attempt to recreate the state they enjoyed briefly from 1920 to 1936 under the French Mandate for Syria. Yet even there they will find Sunni foes on three sides.

Kurds, who make up 10 percent of the population, are consolidating their hold over northeastern Syria. They stand alongside their kinsfolk in northern Iraq, who now control oil fields and infrastructure, and those in eastern Turkey, who seek independence from the government in Ankara. Indeed, national borders no longer divide Kurdish communities in Iraq and Syria; boundaries separating them from relatives within Turkey are beginning to dissolve too. Faced with attacks from other rebel groups like the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS), these Kurdish communities began consolidating a fighting force of men and women—to defeat not only the jihadists but to hold the Syrian and Iraqi armies at bay. Of all the groups involved in the struggle for Syrian territory, Kurds appear the most likely to carve out and maintain a viable nation in conjunction with territory already autonomous in Iraq. Yet Kurdish aspirations for independence face serious backlash not only from Turkey and Iran, which do not intend to have a new ethno-nationalist nation on their borders, but also from rivals within Syria and Iraq, especially jihadist groups. Indeed even as they make strides toward independence, Kurds are finding that Islamic State fighters are encroaching upon their southern flanks by targeting villages militarily and disenchanted youth ideologically. Despite their years of training, the Kurdish Peshmerga fighting forces have modest resources, dated weaponry, and a tribal elite often out of touch with the rest of society. As a result, their fighters and civilian members have taken a pounding in both Syria and Iraq. An additional complication is that its coalition includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which was designated a terrorist organization in 2002.

Caliphate of Fear: The Curse of the Islamic State


In Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State's "caliphate" has already become a reality. All women in the city are required to wear the niqab veil and pants are banned. Thieves have their hands hacked off and opponents are publicly crucified or beheaded, with the images of these horrific acts then posted on social networks.

The few hair salons that are still open are required to black out the pictures of women on the packaging for hair dye solutions. Weddings are only permitted to take place without music. And at livestock markets, the hindquarters of goats and sheep must be covered in order to prevent men from viewing their genitalia and having uncomely thoughts.

Any person caught out on the street during the five daily prayer times is risking his or her life.

The jihadists with the Islamic State, or IS, are acting out their fantasies of omnipotence in the name of God. They're murdering, torturing and forcing families to give their daughters away for marriage to Islamist fighters coming in from abroad. One girl whose family agreed to marry her off took her own life.

In Syria, IS militants and their predecessors have killed countless people in recent years, and over 160,000 in total have died during the Syrian civil war. Yet it is only now that the world is waking up, now that the conflict has spilled into Iraq, where the Islamic State also appears to be spreading its tentacles without much resistance.

Pictures were needed in order for the international community to understand the scale of the horror unfolding in Iraq and just how inhumanely the Islamic State terrorist militia is acting. Images allowed the global community to become witnesses to the plight of the Yazidis, followers of one of the world's most obscure religions, as they were forced to flee into the mountains, begging for help as they died of thirst. In the eyes of the IS fanatics, the Yazidis are "devil worshippers," people who deserve to die.

It was only this threat of genocide that moved the global community to act. Countries around the world quickly united in the battle against IS, by far the world's most brutal, most successful -- and most sinister -- jihadist troop.

In recent weeks, IS fighters managed to drive out the peshmerga fighters of the Kurdish Autonomous Government of Iraq with disturbing ease. In some cases the Kurdish soldiers, previously considered the best Iraq has to offer, didn't even resist. The IS threat has even brought rapprochement between the peshmerga and the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), who had long been enemies.

A Common Enemy for the US and Iran

Poland Is Back in Iraq

Eastern European country delivers aid to Irbil

A Polish C-130 cargo plane arrived in Irbil over the weekend of Aug. 16 carrying eight tons of humanitarian aid. Six years after quitting the U.S.-led occupation force in Iraq, the Poles are back in the embattled country.

The weekend delivery includes “food, tents, blankets, camp beds, sleeping bags and first aid kits,” according to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Warsaw said the assistance specifically is for “victims of religious persecution and ethnic cleansing, including Christians and Yezidis, who have found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.”

These minority groups have already suffered atrocities at the hands of Sunni Islamic State extremists. These insurgents are fighting to establish a fundamentalist caliphate across Syria and Iraq.

Unspecified humanitarian organizations will distribute the aid, likely with the help of Kurdish forces. The Peshmerga already are rushing supplies to refugees, including thousands of Yezidis still stranded on Mount Sinjar.

The shipment comes only days after European Union foreign ministers decided openly to support the Kurds. Europe’s highest diplomats have authorized member states to send weapons and military gear, as well as humanitarian supplies.

Polish personnel unload aid in Irbil, Iraq. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs photo

Iraq Crisis: Will Politics Deliver More After Military Response This Time?

By: Elie Abouaoun
June 17, 2014

Just six months ago, I was having a traditional Iraqi dinner with a friend in a building overlooking the Tigris River. But this was no ordinary Iraqi, and our surroundings were hardly luxurious. My friend is a senior Iraqi intelligence officer and a close aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the setting was his bunker-like office in a heavily guarded military compound in Baghdad. Security threats left us no choice.

People leaving areas controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria wait to clear the Khazer checkpoint between Mosul and Erbil in Iraq, June 14, 2014. Photo Credit: The New York Times/ Bryan Denton

Our conversation quickly turned to the escalating security and political turmoil in Iraq. “The conflict in Syria is our major concern,” he told me. “The groups are moving freely between Syria and Iraq and are building up forces in some areas in Iraq where we expect more troubles. We think of this as an existential threat, and all our energy is focused now on curbing the expansion of these movements.”

Unfortunately, “all” the energy turned out to be mainly focused on military efforts rather than the desperately needed political accommodation that might have headed off the downward spiral we see in Iraq today. But it’s not too late – in fact, it’s even more urgent -- to think about the political approach needed now to ensure that any potential military counter-offensive will be sustainable this time.

Despite those huge military and security efforts, the question is why the militant group Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) still was able to conquer a geographical space as large as North Carolina? It is an achievement that no non-state player in the region had been able to claim before.

Although there certainly are various factors at play, including regional dynamics such as the competition between primarily Shia Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, groups like ISIL cannot operate so freely in an environment of public hostility toward them. So, does the fact that they’ve swept easily across northern Iraq mean that the Sunnis of Al-Anbar, Nineveh, Salah El-Dine, Diyala and other provinces are all supporters of ISIL? Are they all terrorists? Certainly not.

Disrupting Terrorist Safe Havens

August 18, 2014
Smoke rises during clashes between Kurdish peshmerga troops and militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIL, on the outskirts of Sinjar

The numbers are murky, but up to several thousand foreign fighters from the West, including as many as 100 from the United States, have joined jihadist fronts in Syria and Iraq. Some will be killed in the ongoing violence. Some will choose to remain in Syria and Iraq. Some will become disillusioned.

But others will return to the United States and Europe blooded in battle, experienced in military operations and determined to recruit others to continue their violent campaigns at home.

Their return raises important questions of intelligence and prosecution strategy. But there is an even bigger question. Syria and Iraq provide safe havens where terrorists can train recruits, openly communicate, fire weapons, practice bomb-making skills, develop contacts for future operations and reinforce their commitment to jihad.

The bigger question, then, is how to disrupt those safe havens. The answer lies in a balanced approach that makes the business of terrorist planning and training difficult without entangling U.S. forces in new conflicts and angering the very populations the United States seeks to assist.

A purely defensive strategy is too dangerous, some argue, saying that the United States would be playing too close to its own goalposts by depending entirely on intelligence efforts to identify fighters returning from Syria before they arrive in the United States, or to detect their terrorist plots before they execute an attack. This line of reasoning suggests that the United States should take the fight to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), preventing it from consolidating its safe havens by attacking its leadership in Iraq and Syria, disrupting its command and control, scattering its militants and degrading its operational capability.

President Obama has approved U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, but only in order "to prevent a humanitarian disaster and protect American citizens." Still, this will have the collateral benefit of assisting Kurdish fighters and indirectly Iraqi government forces. The initial attacks appear aimed at protecting refugees on Mount Sinjar and Erbil, a city in northern Iraq that has become a sanctuary for Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities fleeing ISIS.

From the Ashes of Iraq: Mesopotamia Rises Again

August 20, 2014 

"The ancient cauldron returns and decades of warring tribes and dynasties likely await."

The dissolution of the colonial creation named "Iraq" is now almost complete. Perhaps what comes next is a return to the past; not a brutal Islamic “caliphate,” but something more basic.

Today, Mesopotamia is reappearing. The term is a Greek word meaning “the land between the two rivers.” The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are the defining features, each arising in mountains far to the north of Baghdad. The rivers and their annual floods defined the landscape, the cycle of life and the worldview of civilizations. The deserts to the west and the mountains to the east and far north provided rough boundaries and were liminal spaces related to the center, but yet separate and apart, sunbaked and dangerous. Inside Mesopotamia was a cauldron.

From the Sumerians of the third millennium BCE through the Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations of the second and first millennia BCE, to the Abbasids of the eighth century CE and until the arrival of the British in the early twentieth century, the space calledMesopotamia was the container for civilizations that rose and collapsed. Cultures invented writing and built the first cities, growing and shrinking in response to changing river courses and global climate. They conquered and were conquered, traded with surrounding regions, and formed a baggy but recognizable whole—what we call Mesopotamian civilization.

Internal distinctions were paramount. Babylonia in the south was dominated by the rivers and the annual flood, irrigation agriculture and seemingly unrelenting heat and mud. Assyria in the northern, rain-fed zone sat amidst undulating plains and foothills. Culturally, Babylonia was older and more developed, the “heartland of cities” going back to 4000 BCE, a primacy that Assyria acknowledged even in periods when they dominated the south. By and large, both shared the same deities and myths, the same aggressive tendencies, and the same fear and loathing of surrounding regions. But competition, warfare and repression were constant.

For inhabitants, that is to say the kings and priests whose thoughts we read on clay tablets many millennia later, Mesopotamia the whole, a unity of north and south, was an ideal—the supreme prize, something overseen by the gods—to be aspired to and claimed by quotidian rulers. But, much like the idea of “Iraq,” it was conceptual, rather than practical. The south often dominated the north and vice versa, but never for very long.

Iraq clock ticks for Obama

By Kristina Wong 

President Obama has less than 30 days before he has to withdraw the first 275 U.S. troops ordered to Iraq under the War Powers Resolution, though legal experts say numerous loopholes give the White House a great deal of flexibility on that timetable. 

Under the resolution, a president can only commit U.S. troops to “hostilities” for 60 days, plus a 30-day withdrawal period, if there is no congressional approval to use military force or a declaration of war. 

That clock is rapidly winding down. 

Legal experts say Obama could still take a number of steps to keep U.S. forces in Iraq even if the 90-day window closes for the first batch of 275 troops ordered to the country, however. 

The resolution — which was intended to prevent mission creep after the Vietnam War — is written so loosely, a number of legal scholars say that it has no practical effect on constraining the president. 

Obama has ordered airstrikes in Iraq and sent hundreds of troops to the country to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

The first 275 troops were sent in mid-June, and the deadline for bringing them back is fast approaching. 

Each time the president commits forces to a new mission, however, a notification to Congress can reset the 90-day clock, giving the administration broad latitude. 

The flexibility in the resolution has led to calls from lawmakers in both parties for Congress to take action. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are among the public officials who have said Congress should vote on whether to take action in Iraq. 

Such a vote before November's midterm elections is one members of both parties likely want to avoid. 

Anti-war sentiment in the United States remains high, but leaders in both parties are wary of binding Obama's hands with ISIS. 

Since June 16, President Obama has authorized the deployment of 775 U.S. troops to Iraq after fighters with ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. 

Obama has submitted five separate reports to Congress, updating lawmakers on additional deployments and new military missions, which have gone from humanitarian airdrops for Iraqi refugees to airstrikes to help local forces recapture the country’s largest dam. 

Sunk, Scrapped or Saved: The Fate of America’s Aircraft Carriers

August 19, 2014

USS Constellation (CV-64). US Navy Photo

American aircraft carriers at their peak are the queens of the high seas, outclassing even America’s nearest peer competitors. They’re the anchors of U.S. seapower, and have a commensurate price tag, costing billions of dollars to build and thousands of sailors to man.

But even the proudest ships outlive their military usefulness — and sometimes they’re barely worth the trouble to tear them down.

USS Constellation (CV-64) will be the latest carrier to meet the scrappers. The Navy announced in July that it plans to pay International Shipbreaking, a company in Texas, $3 million to rip the vessel apart. According to the Kitsap Sun, the sea service decided it would cost too much to turn it into a museum, and no other countries were interested in buying the 1,073-foot, 61,981-ton vessel.

The “Connie” is receiving a fond send-off at ports along its journey, which Foss, the maritime company hired to drag Constellation to her last reward, is tracking through a blog. Many of her well wishers are sailors who served on the 53-year-old ship during the Vietnam War.

Constellation was deployed to the Tonkin Bay and her air wing flew reconnaissance missions over Laos in the 1960s and served off Vietnam repeatedly through the early 1970s. Later in life, she helped enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq in 1995. She hasn’t sailed since being mothballed in 2003.

USS Saratoga returns from Operation Desert Storm. US Navy Photo

The Tower of Boom

Everything about this nuclear war test tower was extraordinary

For more than 40 years, the BREN Tower at the U.S. government’s atomic warfare playground in Nevada held the record as the tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi River.

Its 1,527-foot height topped the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. Few structures—among them North Dakota’s KVLY-TV Mast, New York’s World Trade Center, Chicago’s Sears Tower and Toronto’s CN Tower—stood taller on North America’s soil.

The BREN Tower’s stature was the result of an unusual requirement. Its height equaled the detonation altitude of Little Boy—the first nuclear weapon—when it exploded above downtown Hiroshima.

The tower allowed American and Japanese scientists to precisely simulate the radiation exposure of thousands of atom bomb survivors.

Although scientists scrutinized the aftermath of the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs, wartime circumstances and catastrophic damage left many uncertainties about the effects of radiation on the people exposed to the bombings.

Twenty years after the explosion, the U.S. government set out on a major experiment to carefully measure the dosages Hiroshima victims received from the blast. In 1962, scientists from the Atomic Energy Commission with assistance from Japan began a multi-year study of Hiroshima radiation exposure at the Nevada Test Site.

To assist the experiment, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a small, unshielded nuclear reactor which NTS engineers mounted atop the huge spindly tower.

The experiment’s title gave the tower its name—Bare Reactor Experiment-Nevada, or BREN.

The BREN Tower. Department of Energy photo(Tower of radiation)


By E. Lincoln Bonner,NDU Press

Marines monitor aircraft and ground troops for information to pass to combat elements, Operation Javelin Thrust (U. S. Marine Corps/ Chelsea Flowers) 

In 2008, Russian military forces, supported by cyber attacks, rapidly defeated opposing Georgian forces and seized territory later traded in exchange for Georgia’s granting greater autonomy to pro-Russian governments in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Cyber power is the ability to exploit cyberspace to create advantages and influence events, and cyberspace is the interdependent and interconnected networks of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum where information is created, stored, modified, exchanged, and exploited.1

The 2008 Russia-Georgia war marks the only public incidence of cyber power integrated with traditional kinetic military operations. To date, however, little attention has been paid regarding how to integrate cyber power into conventional military operations. Rather, research has tended to focus on the independent use of cyber power for espionage and as a means of strategic attack to punish and/or compel a state to do one’s will.

This article addresses this research gap by focusing on how cyber power can best be integrated into joint warfare to fight and win the Nation’s wars. Using the Russia-Georgia war as an illustrative case, this article argues that the principal value of integrating cyber power into a joint military campaign is that it compels the enemy to make mistakes by performing three main warfighting tasks: reconnaissance, superiority, and interdiction. It begins with a description of how cyber power’s main warfighting tasks support kinetic operations by degrading/disrupting the enemy decision cycle.

The cyber aspects of the Russia-Georgia war are then analyzed to show how pro-Russian forces employed cyber power to degrade the Georgian decision cycle in support of kinetic military operations. Finally, implications for present and future integration of cyber power into joint warfare are discussed.
Reconnaissance, Superiority, and Interdiction

Cyber power has evolved similarly to early airpower and will likely make contributions to joint warfare now and into the foreseeable future, namely to conduct cyber reconnaissance, gain and maintain cyber superiority, and conduct cyber interdiction.

In World War I, the advantages of aerial reconnaissance gave birth to the battle for air superiority. Aerial reconnaissance “warned of any movement or change in the enemy camp, and with few exceptions it foretold the enemy’s offensive and helped guarantee that it would fail.”2 As a result, the requirement emerged to gain and maintain air superiority, thereby securing the information advantage flowing from aerial observation. Despite its value to effective land operations, aerial reconnaissance could not directly degrade or defeat enemy operations.

The Struggle for the Levant: Geopolitical Battles and the Quest for Stability

AUG 19, 2014

The US and its allies compete with Iran in a steadily more unsettled and uncertain Levant and Middle East. The political upheavals in the Middle East, economic and demographic pressures, sectarian struggles and extremism, ethnic and tribal conflicts and tensions all combine to produce complex patterns of competition. The civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, and the internal upheavals in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon all interact and all affect the competition between the US and Iran.

The Burke Chair is circulating a review draft on US and Iranian strategic competition in the Levant. This study shows that the United States faced an increasing level of instability across the Levant, which in turn affected every key aspect of US competition with Iran in the broader Middle East and North Africa. It asks how do the US and Iran compete in the Levant, where do they compete, and what are the forces and constraints that shaped this contest in the past, present, and possibly in the future? 

The study is entitled The Struggle for the Levant: Geopolitical Battles and the Quest for Stability and is available on the CSIS web site at:

The study examines how the US and Iran compete in the Levant, where they compete, and what forces and constraints that shape their competition:

The first chapter of this report introduces the analysis.

The second explores US and Iranian interests in the Levant.

The third chapter addresses how the US and Iran compete by considering the conventional military balance in the Levant.

One Norton Security Suite

Symantec Is Ditching Antivirus for an All-in- 

The Mac version of Norton Security.

Screenshot from the Norton Security Beta. 

In May, Symantec's senior vice president for information security, Brian Dye, said something kind of amazing. He bluntly stated that antivirus is dead. But he hadn't gone totally rogue, in spite of the fact that he works for an IT security company best-known for its antivirus products. Symantec as a whole was preparing to shift gears. Now Norton Security is here.

If you've always been kind of confused by the difference between Norton Antivirus, Norton Internet Security and Norton 360 (which comes in Multi-Device and Premier Edition versions) you will never have to learn! That's because Norton Security is an effort to merge Norton products into one subscription service. Instead of paying for different components to protect against different things, it'll all be there in one place.

You'll be able to register as many as five devices on your Norton account across desktop and mobile—Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS will all be supported. And if you want cloud storage for backups you can pay more for Norton Security with Backup. That's it.

Norton Security is still in beta, but CNET reports that the ballpark for pricing is around $80 to $100, comparable to current Norton offerings. Hopefully the new product will be a step toward taking cybersecurity out of the dark ages for home users, and providing easier access to new techniques as cyberdefense strategies continue to evolve. It can't be more annoying than the old Norton. 

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

Agencies stalk the insider threat

By William Jackson 
Aug 19, 2014 

With cyberspace now recognized as a military domain alongside land, sea, air and space, nations are gearing up to wage war and defend themselves with equal demonstrations of power and technology against enemies in the cyber domain. 

With cyberwar comes the threat of new forms of espionage, as well as sabotage conducted within both the information systems and control systems that form the interface between the physical and cyber worlds. Security, both physical and cyber, traditionally has been outward facing. But espionage and sabotage often are the domains of the trusted insider, the agent operating from within.

Recent years have produced front-page examples of both types of activity. Edward Snowden, working as a contractor within the National Security Agency, used his position to gather and export sensitive data from the agency. Before that, the Stuxnet worm worked quietly within the control systems of an Iranian industrial facility to physically damage equipment. In 2012, a cyberattack on the Saudi Aramco oil company erased data on corporate computers.

This insider threat, coupled with the blurring of the network perimeter by ubiquitous Internet access, requires a new type of defense.

“That barrier is gone,” said Ken Ammon, chief strategy officer for the access security company Xceedium. “Identity is the new perimeter.”

For both government and private sector organizations, the tools for protecting information and control systems must have the visibility to see, identify, track and understand the behavior of those inside its networks.

IT and data systems

The growing insider threat has been recognized in recent years in a series of presidential executive orders. EO 13467, signed in 2008 by President George W. Bush, created a unified security clearance structure for workers and contractors with access to classified information and sensitive facilities.

EO 13549, signed by President Obama in 2010, safeguards classified information shared by the federal government with state, local and tribal partners as well as with the private sector.

This recognition has helped put the government in the lead in the battle against insiders, said Michael Crouse, director of insider threat strategies for Raytheon. “They are starting to put budget against this threat,” he said. “If you don’t have a budget, nothing gets done.”

The insider threat includes not only malicious behavior but also bad judgment. “Sometimes people do make honest mistakes,” Crouse said, and organizations must distinguish between the malicious and the accidental in their incident response. Being able to see precursor behavior to an incident helps in making this distinction and also can identify behavior that can predict an attack.

Raytheon’s SureView is a host-based endpoint monitoring tool that helps with this task. The product has been around for about 10 years, and in the last few years customers have begun asking for more features with ability to distinguish user behavior as well as device configuration, Crouse said.

Because user visibility generates large amounts of data, automation is necessary to help with analysis. Role-based access policies and established profiles of normal behavior for each role allow automated analysis tools to flag behavior that falls outside the established norm.

Identity management is a precursor for any effective access policy, and in this area government has taken the lead with its civilian Personal Identity Verification cards and its military counterpart, the DOD Common Access Card. These smart ID cards enable strong multifactor authentication that can provide more clarity of user activity.

Pitfalls of privilege

US researchers uncover Pak cyber espionage group targeting India with suspected Govt links

August 20, 2014 

US based researchers have uncovered an Islamabad based cyber espionage group that targets India and is suspected to have direct links with the Pakistani government.
The group, which has been tracked by a joint research team for over a year, is believed to have sent out malware that infects targeted computers in India for key documents and files that are then routed back to Pakistan through a complex online web.

While Pakistan cyber groups have been targeting Indian entities for years, what sets this new report by the FireEye labs and CyberSquared Inc's Threat Connect Intelligence Research Team (TCIRT) apart is the fact that the group is suspected to have direct contact with the Pakistan government, pointing to a larger possible state sponsored effort.

The report titled `Operation Arachnophobia' reveals that the Islamabad based Tranchulas Company is suspected to have initiated the `Bitterbug' malware that is spread through documents that have a key Indian target group. There is little information however in the report on the extent of damage that malware has done to Indian entities.

The malware, which has the ability to identify specific files on the target computer, has been spread through documents like a report last year on the `then-recent death of "Sarabjit Singh"', the Indian national who had been imprisoned in Pakistan on espionage charges as well as an `Indian Government pension memorandum'.

Other documents that were used to spread the bug included a document on the arrest and indictment of diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York in December last year. 

The researchers indicate that it is highly probable that Tranchulas is connected to the Pakistan government. "It is likely that Tranchulas provides services to the Pakistani government. The offensive cyber initiative services offered by Tranchulas is offered to "national-level cyber security programs" suggesting a commercial demand from "national-level" customers," the report says.

The bug, the report elaborates is directed at India. "Operation Arachnophobia consists of an apparent targeted exploitation campaign, dating back to early 2013, using the BITTERBUG malware family and seemingly directed against entities involved in India-Pakistan issues," the report says, adding that it can `confidently point to many characteristics of a Pakistan-based cyber exploitation effort that is probably directed against Indian targets or those who are involved in India-Pakistan issues'.

How it works:

The BITTERBUG uses India specific documents and files to infect a computer. This can range from a document on the Khobragade affair to a report on Sarabjit Singh and Indian government circulars.

Once in the system, the BITTERBUG scans for files with extensions like .doc, .ppt, .xls, .pdf, .docx, .pptx, .pps, .xlsx .

A file list containing all documents is then generated.

After this a message is sent to the attacker that the computer is compromised. The files are then exported to Islamabad based cyber company.


By Michael J. Meese,NDU Press

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Pablo Perez provides security during training to counter improvised explosive devices on Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 3, 2013. Perez, a rifleman, is assigned to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline 

On February 13, 1989, General Colin Powell, who was in a transition between National Security Advisor and Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, addressed the reality of strategy: “All of the sophisticated talk about grand strategy is helpful, but show me your budgets and and I will tell you what your strategy is.”1 What General Powell meant is that the definition of the U.S. role in the world and its strategic goals flow from budgets, not the other way around.

This paper fleshes out General Powell’s observation by focusing on the means part of the ends, ways, and means of strategy in order to explain how austerity affects force planning and strategy. By first examining budget reductions as a general matter, the paper describes today’s austere U.S. budgetary environment. It concludes with the current strategic options that will likely characterize the contemporary discussion of strategy and force planning.\

Decremental Spending

The defense budget system works most smoothly, of course, when budgets are growing, not shrinking.2 In the 63 years of Department of Defense (DOD) budgets, the budget grew in 49 of those years.3 With one year’s budget providing the base from which the next year’s increase takes off, increasing budgets do not demand strategic reassessments. Budget debates concentrate on where best to allocate any incremental increases. Decreasing budgets obviously are more challenging than increasing budgets.They require the articulation of a strategy,but that rarely happens, and even more rarely does strategy shape budgets. Rather, bureaucratic infighting tends to result in across-the-board, rather than tailored, budget cuts. With decremental spending, there is rarely an obvious reduction of strategic ends to guide the reduction in means. As budget expert Allen Schick explains, “Decrementalism diverges from incrementalism in at least three significant ways.

Decremental budgeting is redistributive rather than distributive; it is less stable than incremental decisions; and it generates more conflict.”4

As a practical matter, budgeting in austere times is different because of the budgetary context in which decision are made. With an increasing budget, advocates of particular programs argue for increases to those programs from the overall increase to the budget.

If successful, in the following year they can ask for still more funding; alternatively, programs that were not favored previously may receive additional funding in the following year’s increment to compensate for smaller, earlier increases. In contrast, with a decreasing budget, a reduction that is taken in one year may not insulate a particular Service or program from continued or in- creased reductions in the future. Quite the contrary, if a program survived with a 10 percent cut last year, the reduced level is the new starting point for next year’s budget negotiation. This places a premium on defense leaders understanding the long-term budgetary conditions as defining a reality in which, they hope, strategy can be made realistic. Strategy involves far more than budgets. But budgets consume attention.


By Gotobhaya Rajapaksa,NDU Press

Sri Lanka sunset 

Sri Lanka is one of the most peaceful and stable countries in the world today. Its citizens enjoy the benefits of peace and have complete freedom and countless opportunities to build better futures for themselves. At the same time, Sri Lanka faces potential threats from various sources. Guarding against these threats and ensuring the safety of the nation is the first duty of the government, because national security is the foundation of freedom and prosperity. As such, the government needs to be fully aware of all the issues that impact the country in areas such as defense, foreign policy, economic affairs and internal law and order. It must formulate a comprehensive national security strategy to deal with them.

A viable national security strategy must constantly align ends with means, goals with resources, and objectives with the tools required to accomplish them. The strategy needs to be aligned with the aspirations of the people, and it must have public support. Ideally, if comprehensive security is to be ensured, it requires the achievement of national cohesion, political and economic stability, the elimination of terrorism, the countering of extremism, and the formulation of effective responses to external challenges. The government must make every effort to keep aware of a continually changing situation and take appropriate action in response to new developments and challenges. It is only then that the safety of the nation can be assured.

This article on Sri Lanka’s national security concerns examines the following areas: 
Sri Lanka’s overall national security context; 
The primary threats to Sri Lanka’s national security at present; and, 
The strategies being formulated in response to these threats. 
The Context of National Security in Sri Lanka

In the early years of independence, national security did not need to be a primary concern of the government of Ceylon. As an independent dominion of Great Britain, and as a non-aligned nation with excellent relationships within and outside the region, Ceylon faced few pressing threats. As a result, the attention given to national security was minimal, as was the emphasis placed on the country’s defense apparatus. The military was largely ceremonial. It only had to assist the government on occasions when there were issues such as public sector work stoppages or riots. The need to strengthen law enforcement and the armed forces to protect the nation against internal or external threats was not seen as a pressing concern. The attempted coup d’état in 1962 further reduced the attention given to the defense apparatus by the government.

Fearing that a strong military would be a threat to democracy, as had been the case in some neighboring countries during this period, funding for the armed forces was drastically reduced and recruitments curtailed.


By Jeffrey Becker

U.S. Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter takes off from forward staging base USS Ponce during International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 13 (DOD/T. Scot Cregan) 

As “location, location, location” is the central truth that unlocks the mysteries of property valuation, so context, context, context decodes the origins, meaning, character and consequences of warfare.1

The future is never fully knowable. Making sense of the changing security environment and what it means for the future joint force depends on our collective ability to discern and select those key environmental conditions that influence how conflict is conducted. Appropriate mental models of the future require a coherent view of what issues are important, the relationship between causes and effects within these issues, and understanding how a diverse set of issues may be linked or otherwise connected. Without these structured mental models—that is, theories of what attributes of the environment are important in war—military change seems to be a ceaseless flow of disconnected, causeless happenstance and chaos.2 For the defense futurist, this leads to the unenviable position in which terms such as uncertainty and complexity are among the few guideposts for developing tomorrow’s joint force capabilities.

To prepare the joint force for the future, however, these terms are wholly inadequate. As General James Mattis, USMC, noted in The Joint Operating Environment 2010 (JOE), “it is impossible to predict precisely how challenges will emerge and what form they might take. Nevertheless, it is absolutely vital to try to frame the strategic and operational contexts of the future in order to glimpse the possible environments” where joint forces might be employed.3 The JOE was the last attempt to present a coherent picture of the operational contexts that future joint forces would likely encounter and should prepare to address. An operational context anticipates a broad set of military challenges that are not limited to particular adversaries and “stock” planning scenarios.

In his Chairman’s Strategic Direction to the Joint Force and in numerous written speeches and congressional testimony, General Martin Dempsey has repeatedly challenged the joint force to adapt to a dangerous and unpredictable security environment.4 However, we have not collectively developed a mechanism that provides the necessary level of understanding to bridge the yawning intellectual gap that exists between observing and projecting individual trends within the international environment and developing a set of sharp, focused military challenges that will lead to a successful joint force. If we are to build a force that can be, in the Chairman’s words, built and presented and molded effectively to context, we must understand what context truly means.5

Less armor, but more protection? The new, high-tech push to improve military vehicles

August 19 

This artist’s rendering was released by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in an attempt to explain its Ground X-Vehicle Technology program. It seeks to protect vehicles better from explosions without increasing armor. (Image released by DARPA) 

When insurgents began laying improvised explosive devices by the dozen in Iraq to kill U.S. troops in 2004, no immediate answer was available. Soldiers and Marines responded by hanging any kind of scrap metal they could find to better protect their Humvees. But “Hillbilly armor,” as thetroops sometimes called it, weighed the vehicles down, made them prone to rollovers and still didn’t cover the bottom sides of the vehicle most exposed to a blast. 

The Pentagon’s fight to keep the weight down on vehicles has never really ended. To fight off IEDs, it eventually fielded MRAPs, short for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. The beefy trucks have an armored V-shaped hull that deflects roadside blasts, and are credited with saving thousands of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even the smallest ones still weigh in excess of 25,000 pounds, and are prone to rollovers that kill troops

These artist’s renderings were released by the Defense Advanced Projects Agency in an attempt to explain its Ground X-Vehicle Technology program. (Image released by DARPA) 

This artist’s rendering was released by the Defense Advanced Projects Agency in an attempt to explain its Ground X-Vehicle Technology program. It seeks to protect vehicles better from explosions without increasing armor. (Image released by DARPA) 

With all that in mind, a Pentagon agency has launched a new, high-tech effort to protect troops while reducing armor. The Ground X-Vehicle Technology Program is investigating options available to improve both the mobility of military vehicles and the safety for troops inside. The goals, expressed here by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, appear to be a tall order: 
Reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 percent 
Reduce onboard crew needed to operate a vehicle by 50 percent 
Increase vehicle speed by 100 percent 
Access 95 percent of all terrain 
Reduce the enemy’s ability to detect and target an approaching vehicle 

DARPA says that some ways to reach those goals could include “radically enhanced mobility,” figuring out ways to autonomously dodge threats and re-position armor, and improving situational awareness for troops inside the vehicle. The agency also wants to explore making it more difficult for adversaries to see and hear the vehicle. 

Despite the program’s futuristic goals, DARPA says it plans to develop technology for the program over two years after initial contracts are awarded around April 2015. 

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.