Archive for November, 2019

Impeachment Friction is Exactly What Russia Wanted

The increasing divide and growing hostility arising from the ongoing impeachment inquiry is exactly what Russia had hoped for. With tensions amplifying as part of the inquiry, Russia has a window to exploit division within the United States.”This is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for,” according to Fiona Hill, a former top Russia expert for the White House, “That they would pit one side of our electorate against the other, that they would pit one party against the other.” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine is slated to meet with Putin in Paris next month. Donald Trump is not expected to attend.

Russia is notorious for preying on countries in volatile situations- they did so to the U.S. during the 2018 election and with other politically charged issues like the NFL protests. Any disunity that may arise as a result of the impeachment inquiry has the potential to degrade the United States’ voice on the international stage. This issues moves beyond our borders; it is not just domestic, as Russia has shown.

Eva W.

Does Trump Have the Wrong Korea in Mind?

Trump is seemingly showing favorability to appease North Korea rather than South Korea by his recent actions. Trump is demanding that South Korea increase its contribution for 28,000 U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula to nearly $5 billion, compared to the current $1 billion. If they don’t pay up, Trump is threatening to remove the troops, leaving South Korea more vulnerable to the threat of North Korea. Trump also decided to postpone a joint military drill with South Korea. Both of these actions has angered South Korea, and reasonably so. As expected, North Korea does not see this as enough of an effort by the U.S. to resume negotiations. By doing this, Trump is giving North Korea what they want, while Kim Jong Un continues to show no desire to lower his demands and work with the U.S. This also makes it harder for the U.S. to control the threat of North Korea in the future as our allies are not going to want to help us if we tarnish our personal relationships with them. Further, North Korea will no longer have to worry about the collective action of multiple countries putting pressure on them. In other words, if North Korea perceives that our diplomatic relations are falling apart, they know that we will be too preoccupied with repairing relationships with our allies to worry about Kim Jong Un continuing to test his nuclear weapons. Instead, Trump should place harsher demands on North Korea and increase relations with South Korea, rather than the other way around.


China could ‘turn off power’ in the Philippines, senate hears

The head of the National Transmission Corporation confirmed the possibility during a senate session. China has part-owned the Philippines’ national grid since 2009 – leading one senator to question whether China’s “hegemonic ambitions” posed a security threat to the Philippines.

“We have given our grid – although 40% it appears – to a foreign corporation that has interests that collide with our country in the West Philippine Sea,” said Senator Richard Gordon, using the Philippine name for the eastern parts of the South China Sea.
The senate heard that – although the power could be switched off remotely – the Philippines could restore it within 24 to 48 hours.

Sen Hontiveros asked about reports that “only foreign engineers are able to troubleshoot…and actually control the NGCP’s power transmission network” because of a system located in Nanjing, China. She also asked about manuals appearing in a “Chinese language”. Sen Gatchalian said Filipinos were in control of the transmission line and that manuals had been translated to English.

I believe this is a direct threat to the Philippines and mirrors the threat European countries such as Germany face with energy reliances on Russia. This incident also raises the question of the threat of Chinese ownership in private firms around the globe. How long will it be before the west has to intervene in Chinese foreign investment.

Al Qaeda + ISIS

Flag of Jihad.svg

ISIS flag                                             al-Qaeda flag

Are al-Qaeda and ISIS showing partnership? This thought popped into my head after it was confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hiding in a compound in Barisha in Idlib province. Idlib Province is enemy territory for ISIS. Idlib is a province controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaeda affiliate and sworn enemy of Baghdadi’s jihadist group. Because Baghdadi was hiding in enemy territory the article raises the question was Baghdadi’s ISIS working with Zawahiri’s al-Qaeda. The article says that  “ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria disagree ideologically, but now they face a common existential threat from the U.S. and Russia. So, I believe al-Baghdadi ended up in Idlib by striking a deal with Huras al-Din and other groups that are active there,” Kinno said.

Al Qaeda is the mother of ISIS but there has been a deep division between al-Qaeda leadership and ISIS with Baghdadi and Zawahiri having their differences. Although I do not believe that al-Qaeda and ISIS are working together I am open to the possibility that I could be wrong on this. I am very open to the possibility that al-Qaeda still loves ISIS and is sympathetic towards the Islamic State’s jihad against the crusaders. If Baghdadi’s presence inside of enemy territory is a sign of small solidarity and the future realignment between the two groups, it would be terrible for others. A potential al-Qaeda and ISIS merger is a threat that needs to be taken seriously. Such a merger has the potential of crippling the civilized world and would be very bad news for the rest of the world’s security. These groups are a major threat to American security separately, it’s scary to think of what they could accomplish if they were to create a jihadi supergroup.

Christopher T

Al-Baghdadi had internet connnection

Recently a Dubai-based Al-Aan TV has claimed that al-Baghdadi had internet connection. The internet connection was established at the hideout earlier this year and it was last used 12 hours before the fateful special ops raid that resulted in the death of al-Baghdadi.

This information is important because it raises questions about assumptions US government may have made when looking for al-Baghdadi. It was publicly assumed that terrorists’ leaders such as al-Baghdadi would isolate themselves and not use internet, out of concerns for being found by the US government. If these publicly held assumptions we echoed by the US government and the IC, then the government and the IC need to question these assumptions and red team different ways terrorists’ leaders can remain undiscovered without being isolated.
Kuljeet S.

CDC Report Shows Growing Danger of Superbugs

A new report from the CDC has classified five drug-resistant superbugs as urgent threats, two more than the last report in 2013. These bacteria are becoming increasingly able to overcome antibiotics and adapt to treatment. Approximately 35,000 deaths occur each year because of one of these infections. There has also been a rise in infections within communities, which has made the spread of superbugs harder to contain, and the mutations more difficult to predict and treat.

The United States needs to lead the way in formulating a plan to treat antibiotic-resistant superbugs. There needs to be a consensus of treatment, starting with doctors writing fewer unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics, it’s estimated that roughly 1/3 of these prescriptions aren’t needed. The U.S. also needs to fund research into better diagnostic testing, so that doctors will be more able to treat their patients without over-medicating them. Antibiotics are also being overused in animals, which can harm human resistance.



US Ends Sanction Waivers On Iran Nuclear Plant

The United States announced earlier Monday that there would not be any more sanction waivers on Iran’s Fordow plant. By ending this, the United States would be ending a key policy of the original nuclear deal. What this move by the United States is intended to do is discourage any effort by the Russians to gain an advantage of this facility. The Fordow facility was meant to be a civilian research center but is at risk of being transformed into a nuclear-powered site for enrichment via the Russians. With new activity by Iran at the Fordow facility, resulted in action taken by Secretary of State Pompeo in order to hold Iran accountable.

The security implications for the United States is dire, as these waivers have proven to be beneficial. The Trump administration saw the benefits of the deal, which sharply expanded access for international inspectors and Iran complied with this part of the deal. The security element that has the potential to affect Iran is there continuation for disavowing the deal in 2015. The UN found that Iran had large amounts of heavy water — which can be used to create plutonium for nuclear weapons as an alternative to enriched uranium. Iran has accused the UN of hypocrisy. This situation will only continue to spiral out of control.

Theo S.

Duterte Threatens His VP

Just days after receiving her “drug tsar” post as it has been coined, President Duterte warns Vice President Robredo that she could be removed from the post if she shared state secrets with foreign individuals. Robredo does believe that international help, such as the UN and the ICC should come in if the government refuses to change track and stop police abuse. Salvador Panelo said that revealing state secrets to foreign individuals, he argues could be damaging to the welfare of the Filipino people. Duterte said in an interview that he would fire Robredo as the co-chair of the inter drug agency if she shared classified information because certain matters should stay within the government.

I think that Duterte is walking a very dangerous line when it comes to politics. It seems he wants to put down anyone who is challenging him and threatening his policies. In my opinion, he’ll face backlash from the Philippines as well as from the international community if Robredo is outed from office. Robredo is attempting to fix the problems plaguing the Philippines in a humanistic way by getting to the root of the problem which is looking to combat the issue from a health and social perspective.


Can open source intelligence combat Russian disinformation in the Baltics?

A new report from the Atlantic Council discusses how joint NATO Intelligence can combat Russian disinformation campaigns. ‘Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — three ex-Soviet states that face the most direct threat from Russia of any NATO member.’ There is only so much the alliance can do militarily before Russia responds but nearly unlimited options in terms of counter intelligence. Russian hybrid warfare relies not just on its armed forces but on population behavior and control, the best example of this is seen in the eastern Ukraine since 2014. Being able to identify early warning signs of Russian misinformation will be key in the defense of the Baltic States. Increasing OSINT capabilities in the future through machine learning and artificial intelligence will be important in achieving this goal faster and more effectively.

The United States should also be paying close attention to this strategy as well. It is clear that Russian disinformation campaigns are occurring in the United States and will not stop on their own. It is difficult to take specific action against Russia in these cases as most of these disinformation operations are farmed out to third parties which gives the Kremlin plausible deniability.

-Reavis L.

Russia’s New Hold over Syria


A pair of Russian attack helicopters was spotted in the northern city of Qamishli, Syria on Thursday, followed only moments later by an American military convoy that was transporting supplies into Syria. Following this scene, Russia confirmed later that day that it plans to begin constructing a new base in the region. The building of this base is occurring right under the nose of the United States, as we have boots on the ground in the area. In the day prior to these events, President Trump claimed that the ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish forces was holding. However, these actions by Russia say quite the contrary.

The ongoing situation in Syria is anything but stable. Through Donald Trump claims that the country is in order, this could not be further from the truth. It is no secret that Russia has been involved with the Syrian situation for years- Russia has supported the Assad regime for upwards of 8 years. The presence of attack helicopters and construction of a new base, however, elevates the severity of the Syrian issue. The United States should view this as a threat to security, especially with American soldiers still in the region.

Eva W.

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