Archive for February, 2019

Oil Industry’s Poor Reputation Places Limits on Energy Security

The oil and gas sector of the energy industry has proven to be an effective resource for providing reliable and comfortable sources of energy to the majority of the world. The oil industry has continually increased efficiency over time and has brought countless people out of poverty and into modern life. However, there is also a growing belief among policymakers, regulators, and investors that the oil industry is nearing its end and has no future. Many believe that almost all cars will be fully electric in the near future and that the world will be run on almost anything but oil. Even if these claims end up holding ground the present still remains in the oil industry’s hands, the United States must strive to hold support in the industry for its own security. Not properly supporting and financing an industry a country is reliant upon, as the United States is with oil, is dangerous as it can lead to weakened energy security and overall national security.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/markvenables/2019/02/28/oil-industrys-poor-reputation-throws-a-dark-cloud-over-energy-security/#710b40d546ae

Daniel Kalke

Easing on Demands

Today, president Trump and Kim Jong-un have both arrived in HANOI, Vietnam for the second summit to discuss a successful relation with both countries. In this meeting Trump is meant to farther deliberate on the denuclearization of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, but seems that he is willing to accept a much lesser deal then he originally been preaching, stating that he will eliminate North Korea’s nuclear program. In just this past weekend Trump stated that,I don’t want to rush anybody,” and “As long as there is no testing, we’re happy” when addressing his stances on denuclearization. I have always been skeptical of North Korea agreeing to completely dismantle its nuclear program and I believe that Trump has come to realize this fact because the act would go against North Korea’s national interest. I also believe that as Trump is getting closer to Kim Jong-un, he is becoming lenient, trusting that both countries current friendly relationship will be enough to deter nuclear action in the future. Although, North Korea not completely meeting U.S demands is expected, the actions that Trump is displaying will have negative outcomes for U.S when dealing with North Korea because it may not take our demands very seriously knowing that U.S is not aiming to reach the hight of its demands of denuclearization and nor will other counties.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/26/world/asia/north-korea-summit-trump-kim.html

-Crystal

Kushner’s Middle East Peace Plan

A few weeks ago I posted about Jared Kushner’s plan to travel to the Middle East to propose his peace plan for Israel and Palestine. Although the contents of the plan still have not yet been released, it seems to be common knowledge that there will be an economic portion of the plan which is expected to include funding proposals for the Gaza Strip, which is largely in poverty. Apparently the Palestinians have already rejected the plan with President Mohammed Abbas saying he won’t negotiate with Trump after his decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognizing it as the capital. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu seems skeptical about the efficacy of the plan as well. I think financial incentives for peace seem like a great solution but if it involves Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for the return of occupied territories captured in the 1967 Middle East war, it seems unlikely given the tensions in the current environment.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/jared-kushner-heads-middle-east-promote-peace-plan-190224102141749.html

Europe Prepared to Rule Over 5G Cybersecurity

European government commissions have “warned the mobile industry to expect it to act over security concerns attached to Chinese network equipment makers”.  With the increase in cyber warfare especially in regards to Russia and China, European powers are preparing for the worst.  They want their 5G technology to be as a secure as possible to prevent any threat to European nations’ critical infrastructure.  European commissioner for digital economy and society stated that “when 5G services become mission critical 5G networks need to be secure”. There are many “concerns between the West and China [that] are being accelerated and pushed to the fore as the era of 5G network upgrades approach, as well as by ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China over trade”.  The fact of the matter is that 5G technology has extraordinary potential.  Europe is taking measures to prepare for its possible security concerns.  The United States, however, is doing the opposite.

It is imperative that our current presidential administration takes note of Europe’s latest tactics in regards to cyber security.  President Trump and his administration are on the brink of cyber war with China and Russia so it is in the best interest of all of the United States to secure our internet and technology the same way we would do to our borders.

Lucas Turney

https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/25/europe-is-prepared-to-rule-over-5g-cybersecurity/

Women who joined ISIS are Barred from Returning Home

In the wake of the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, many ISIS fighters have been captured. Among those are foreign citizens who fled to join ISIS. Now those who are citizens of foreign countries are being sent home for trial and punishment, while many former members are trying to return to their naturalized homes. However, many countries, including Britain and the US, have stated that they will not recognize the citizenship of ISIS fighters regardless of their citizenship status. Two cases have recently been in the news. In America, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that an Alabama woman who joined ISIS will not be allowed to return to the US. In Britain similar cases are occurring, practically revoking the citizenship of these ISIS fighters. While many citizens and politicians will see these actions as being practical and justified, there are many cases in which moral questions are raised and could lead to larger problems in trying to combat extremism in the Middle East and elsewhere. One case is Shamima Begum who has been denied return to her native UK. She joined ISIS when she was only 14 and is now 19 and has suffered an incredible amount in that time period being  This prompts questions about how to handle certain cases of returning ISIS fighters and if those who joined so young should be offered some leeway due to a lack of maturity and understanding. While banning citizens who joined ISIS from returning appears justified as it might deter people from joining, it could also be used as a propaganda tactic by terrorist cells around the world to prevent members from leaving or providing critical information. This issue is likely to be resolved with optics in mind. It is unlikely that Trump will allow citizens who joined ISIS to return. While this appears to be justified, the possible negative effects should not be ignored.

 

By Kyle Welty

 

Articles: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/uk-set-strip-teenage-isil-bride-shamima-begum-citizenship-190219193908614.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/britain-shamima-begum-return-home-190222141836986.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/pompeo-alabama-woman-joined-isil-return-190220205553875.html

 

 

The Politics of Defense

The Trump administration is expected to increase military spending in the upcoming 2020 fiscal budget. The is rumored to include the use temporary war funding accounts (designated for use under Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)*) to support the effort. Using this measure would allow the administration to work around federal government funding caps.

The move has garnered a lot of controversy. Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought defended the choice in a op-ed for Real Clear Politics. Vought believes this move works to provide greater access to defense funds, as utilizing OCO funds would allow the administration to concentrate more funding to defense without impeding on the ongoing debate of where discretionary spending should be allocated . He states that Democrats have “held defense spending hostage” in order to receive greater funding for domestic spending. However, others have adamantly opposed the proposed move, notably House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith. Smith released a statement calling the move a “mockery” of the federal budgeting system.

Overall, the response to this action has sparked a conversation on the role of defense spending in the grand scheme of U.S. interests and spending. It also solidifies the notion that Congress is not an insignificant player in the world of defense spending. It is easy to see that there are many areas in which the federal budget is put to waste. Defense spending should be among the top priorities for the United States’ budget; however, it is important to evaluate the allocation of defense funds. Could the government build up the military in a more efficient and fiscally responsible way? The answer is probably yes. First in consideration should be evaluating financial efficacy as it currently stands. We should look to see where potential adjustments could be made. ( Acknowledging that task is in and of itself difficult and is easier said than done, especially given the current uncertainty of within the department following the exit of Secretary Mattis.)

*OCO funds are supplemental to the defense budget. They are not a part of the Defense base budget. They work to cover the costs of Overseas Contingency Operations (for example, Munitions, fuel, and life support cost attributed to overseas contingency operations).

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/02/25/congress_must_join_the_president_in_cutting_spending_139568.html

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/02/25/white-house-plans-to-use-temporary-war-funds-to-shift-billions-into-the-militarys-budget/

By: Maeve R.

Secret US Sabotage of Iranian Missiles

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard announced on Sunday that enemies of Iran had attempted to sabotage their missiles. They claim that shipments of imported parts had been tampered with. The intent was to stop the missiles from reaching their targets by making them explode in midair. Without naming any countries, they stated that enemies “tried their best” to sabotage Iranian missiles, “but they couldn’t do a damn thing because we had seen this coming from the start.” This is particularly interesting because earlier this month a story broke in the NYT that a US led program has existed for years with the sole purpose of sabotaging Iranian rockets and missiles. The program apparently dates to the term of George W. Bush and has allegedly been ramped up since Trump took office. Trump claims that Iran’s space program is just a cover to expand their ballistic missiles capabilities, since the technology and launching system is almost identical. Iran is coming off two recent failed satellite launches in January and February. When it comes to orbital launches, Iran has a 67% failure rate over the last 11 years compared to a 5% failure rate for the rest of the world. The NYT story claimed there is no way to measure the success of the program, but I think those numbers speak for themselves. In addition, US forces in Baghdad claimed they recovered an undetonated Iranian missile with at least one faulty part in it. One of the most interesting aspects of the NYT article is how the US approaches sabotage. Their goal was to make small, undetectable modification to missile parts causing them to malfunction during flight. To do this the CIA needed to identify suppliers and subcontractors who supplied Iran with aerospace equipment. But Iran had been facing strict sanctions up until the JCPOA in 2015. This meant that conventional suppliers and subcontractors weren’t doing business with Iran. Tehran was getting the bulk of its equipment from “the black market and shadowy middlemen.” Former CIA officials claimed that infiltrating these shady organizations was relatively easy. So Iran can claim victory this week, but all signs indicate that the US program (whose existence the government won’t confirm) is having an impact.

  • David

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/iran-guards-enemies-sabotage-missiles-190224165533844.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/us/politics/iran-missile-launch-failures.html

Potential Modern “Cuban Missile” Situation?

In an article written about a broadcast on Russian television, it outlines the statements made by Putin that the state is ready for a “Cuban Missile-style crisis if the U.S. wanted one”. What followed was a map of target spots, including the Pentagon, several military bases and Trump’s retreat in Camp David, MD. This is a follow-up to the ongoing absence of a new deal that would replace the Intermediate-range Nuclear Arms Forces (INF) Treaty. These “threats” were made under the guidance that the U.S. has missiles in Europe, which it does not. However, this would be possible since there is no current treaty, either state could engage in basing nuclear weapons. The article also describes how these threats only strengthen NATO.

So far, these claims have been dismissed as “propaganda”, as the U.S. has not placed nuclear-capable missiles in the areas Putin believes. Furthermore, Putin himself has said that he does not want an arms race, as Russia has been pushing for a new deal. Kiselyov, one of the spokespeople involved, said that Russia is not “threatening anyone”, but they’re prepared to take action if a missile is deployed. While this may not be cause for concern in the present moment, the best thing for the U.S. to do, as stated in previous posts, is to negotiate a new treaty to end the madness. Russia does not want conflict, but is prepared for it. A new treaty would tie loose ends between the two powers and ensure further security, not only for the U.S., but for the allies of NATO as well.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nuclear-russia/after-putins-warning-russian-tv-lists-nuclear-targets-in-u-s-idUSKCN1QE1DM?feedType=RSS&

– Christina

Russian intelligence: Strategies from the Past

John Sipher, a former CIA station chief, with work 20+ plus years of work experience in Russia and Europe wrote an article yesterday on the Russian intelligence system and how it resists American intelligence organizations. According to Senate testimony by top intelligence officials, “Americans can expect Vladimir Putin’s Russia to continue its efforts to aggravate social, political, and racial tensions in the United States.” The events of the past couple years has illustrated, even to the casual observer, the intensification of Russia’s aggression towards the United States and her allies. Cyberwarfare is on example cited in article. The recent Russian interference in the American presidential election and 2018 midterms are the most obvious examples. Assassination is a weapon used by the KGB, and Cheka before them, to neutralize their enemies. In Salisbury, England, former Russian intelligence officer, Sergei Skripal was targeted in an unsuccessful attempt on his life.
In Sipher’s article he claims that the historical strategies that the Cheka, the Bolshevik-era intelligence organization, and later the KGB used against their enemies continue to inform Vladimir’s intelligence strategy. Sipher maintains that “rather than focusing on collecting and analyzing intelligence, they developed expertise in propaganda, agitation, subversion, repression, and deception and murder.” Russian intelligence still uses these tactics. According to Sipher, the only way to destabilize Russian tactics, the West must be united.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/24/opinion/putin-russia-security-services.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FCentral%20Intelligence%20Agency&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

-Emma

Trump administration plans to leave 400 troops in Syria

On Friday President Trump denied accusations that he was reversing course in Syria as he introduced plans to leave 400 American troops in the region two months after he claimed all U.S. forces would be coming home as soon as possible. The 400 remaining troops would be split between Kurdish-controlled areas and at the Tanf garrison in the southeast. European allies have declined requests to keep their troops in Syria if American forces fully withdraw. Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov has stated that Russia is “watching the evolution of the U.S. stance” with great interest. Russia’s military is known for providing military aid and airstrike support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia has since proposed that Assad’s Russian and Iranian assisted military forces take over the eastern third of the country which is currently controlled by the U.S. and its Kurdish allies, a proposal which is likely to see some heat from the U.S. going forward. In exchange for the  U.S. promising to leave 400 troops in the region, Senator Lindsey Graham has called upon our European allies to commit to sending a force of approximately 1,500 troops of their own to maintain stability in the region. I believe that it is important for us to maintain our presence until we can make a safe and clean exit out of Syria. It is imperative that we make sure Russia does not dominate the region and ISIS continues to be eradicated. I have a feeling that out allies will not rush to send their countrymen to die as the U.S. has decided to pull out of the region overall, but with the 400 or so troops staying behind as of now, perhaps it might be enough to warrant engagement by our European counterparts. 

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-administration-plans-to-leave-400-troops-in-syria/2019/02/22/20dd9c3e-36b5-11e9-854a-7a14d7fec96a_story.html?utm_term=.26a169acd5ca

 

– Alex

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