viernes, 4 de noviembre de 2016

Friday, November 4, 2016

Today's Insight

The Price of Turkish Posturing in Iraq | Fritz Lodge, The Cipher Brief
Over the past month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi have engaged in a swiftly escalating war of words over the presence of Turkish troops at the Bashiqa airbase in northern Iraq.

Expert Commentary

Erdogan and Abadi: Making a Mess |
 Aaron Stein, Resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council
It is an odd irony that Turkey is working to blunt Iranian influence in Iraq, yet the rhetoric that Erdogan uses ends up bolstering Iraqi officials linked to Iran. Erdogan has a domestic political incentive to “talk tough,” but his domestic considerations are undermining Turkish foreign policy.

Ankara's Influence: Asset or a Liability? | 
Aykan Erdemir, Senior Fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
The Turkish public is sensitive about the status of Mosul, both because the city was perceived to be part of the Turkish “homeland” until 1926 and because of the precarious status of its Turkmen population. Knowing this, Erdogan has lately been fanning the flames of jingoism and irredentism to unite nationalist voters behind his dream of a centralized presidential system.

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Dead Drop: November 4 |
JCS CHIEF-STAKES: Among the interesting emails stolen from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta’s gmail account and released to the world by WikiLeaks is this one. National Security Council official Christopher Kirchhoff wrote to Podesta on March 30, 2015 updating him on the pros and cons of four main candidates to become chairman of the JCS.  The players included then-Vice Chairman Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, USMC Commandant Joseph Dunford, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Mark Welsh, and PACOM Commander Admiral Sam Locklear. Kirchhoff describes Dunford (the eventual winner) as being viewed as “weak on strategic thinking” and Winnefeld as “often too abrasive to military and civilian leaders.”

Malaysia Pivots to China, but U.S. Counterterrorism Ties Stay Strong |
Mackenzie Weinger, The Cipher Brief
As Beijing and Washington continue to make their plays for influence in the region, Malaysia’s turn to China throws another damper on President Barack Obama’s stated pivot to Asia. But in the counterterrorism realm, the United States and Malaysia are working to maintain their close ties and relationship, a number of observers recently told The Cipher Brief.

The World is Watching: The American Election and Saudi Arabia |
Bennett Seftel, The Cipher Brief
As the Saudis have demonstrated, new leadership can bring abut unanticipated changes.   When King Salman Bin Abdulaziz ascended to the throne in January 2015, he quickly reorganized the country’s succession order and approved a more active foreign policy approach we are seeing today. Likewise, will new U.S. leadership introduce unforeseen changes in U.S.-Saudi dynamics?

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The Cipher Take

Two U.S. Service Members Killed in Afghanistan
Two U.S. Special Forces troops and more than 30 Afghans were killed during a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province. A joint U.S.-Afghan operation was underway, targeting Taliban commanders northeast of the city of Kunduz, when militants ambushed the U.S. and Afghan forces. Two senior Taliban commanders and 65 insurgents were also killed in the raid.

The Cipher Take:
Taliban militants overran the city of Kunduz last month but were driven out by U.S. and Afghan forces after ten days of fighting. Last fall, the Taliban held the city of Kunduz for 15 days before Afghan troops were able to retake it. Taliban orchestrated violence continues to plague Afghanistan and the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan is cause for grave concern for American policymakers. Recent reports have emerged that new, secret peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban officials are currently underway in Qatar, yet violence continues.

ISIS Leader Says No Retreat from Mosul
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released his first statement in almost year, telling his followers that there could be no retreat from Mosul and that they must carry out a "total war" against the forces moving into the city. The statement was released by ISIS' media wing al-Furqan and Baghdadi expressed confidence that ISIS would prevail over the advancing coalition. Currently, Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown, although he was rumored to have been injured by an air strike in April.

The Cipher Take:
In his more than 30-minute recording, Baghdadi urged ISIS fighters to hold their ground, warned Iraqi Sunnis not to trust the Shia-led Iraqi government, recalled past atrocities committed by Shia militias against Iraqi Sunnis, and called for fighters to attack Turkish forces as well as Saudi Arabia. The message is the first since Baghdadi was supposedly injured in an air strike; in it, he mentions the names of two recently killed ISIS commanders, demonstrating that the recording is indeed recent.

Shi'a Militias Move to Cut Mosul Off from Syria
According to Reuters, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) – largely Iran-backed Shi’a militias – pushed close to the Iraqi town of Tal Afar on Thursday. Tal Afar and the Muhalabiya district provide an access point into Mosul for ISIS soldiers and supplies from Syria; they also hold the most likely route of escape from Mosul once the battle there intensifies. By cutting off these routes, the PMF are hoping to completely encircle ISIS fighters in Mosul.

The Cipher Take:
Taking Tal Afar will be an important step in cutting off Mosul from communication with, and resupply from, ISIS strongholds in Syria. However, the fact that Shi’a PMF forces are leading the attack on Tal Afar is worrying. The PMF have a reputation for carrying out violent reprisals against Sunni – and other minority – towns that they occupy. What’s more, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that Turkish troops at the Bashiqa airbase in northern Iraq may be dispatched to prevent atrocities against Sunni communities in Iraq. Given the currently abysmal state of relations between Ankara and Baghdad, the conduct of PMF units in Tal Afar bears close watching.

Saad al Hariri Named Prime Minister in Lebanon
Lebanon’s newly elected President, Michel Aoun, asked Saad al Hariri to take the post of Prime Minister and form a new government on Thursday. This nomination marks the completion of a political deal between the Saudi-backed Hariri and Aoun, who is closely tied to Hezbollah. By ending the political crisis, which has plagued Lebanon for years, this deal will hopefully allow a new government to form and fill vital cabinet posts.

The Cipher Take:
This is good news for the country, which has been left without a president or a fully functioning government since May 2014. However, Aoun’s election suggests that the political balance within Lebanon has shifted even further towards Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite militia based in the country’s south. The posts of president, prime minister, and parliamentary speaker are respectively reserved for a Maronite Christian, a Sunni, and a Shi’a. Now that the Hezbollah-linked Aoun occupies the presidency, the political balance of power has shifted against Hariri and his Saudi backers.

Myanmar Police to Train and Arm Civilians in Religiously Divided Region
Police will begin training and arming non-Muslim civilians in Rakhine State, an area long troubled by violence between Buddhists and the Muslim Rohingya group. October was an especially violent month that saw hundreds killed in sectarian violence. Security forces have stated they wish to empower Buddhist civilians to protect themselves from Muslim militants and the training and equipment is available to “citizens only.” The Myanmar government does not recognize the Rohingya as a native ethnic group and therefore the 1.1 million Rohingya in Myanmar cannot become citizens.

The Cipher Take:
For decades, the government has refused to recognize the Rohingya as citizens and they have remained a people without a state. While Myanmar under new leader Aung San Suu Kyi has made strides to reconcile the conflicts between its many ethnic groups, the Rohingya have remained excluded from these negotiations. The group’s marginalization has precipitated much of the tension between it and Buddhist ethnic groups. This effort by the security forces to arm Buddhist citizens is likely to drive an even bigger wedge between the Muslims and non-Muslims. Reconciliation will remain a remote prospect.

NGO Conducts First Survey of Civilians in North Korea
An unnamed NGO working inside North Korea in partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) conducted a survey of 36 North Korean citizens on how they perceived the Kim Jong Un regime. The respondents were from all over the country and from different occupations. Nearly all respondents admitted that they have complaints about the regime and that they made jokes about the Kim regime in private.

The Cipher Take:
This is a very small sample size, but it is significant nonetheless. Victor Cha, the chair of Korea Studies at CSIS said: “It’s only 36 people, but it’s 36 people more than anyone else has surveyed in North Korea. The findings are modest, but they’re pretty insightful.” As the project continues, we can hope that a larger sample size can deliver even more insight into the reclusive nation. Since so little is known about the opinions of North Korean citizens currently residing in the DPRK, this sort of information is of particular use to U.S. and South Korean policymakers as well as NGOs who promote Korean unification and other reconciliation efforts.

Coordinated International Police Operation Targets Dark Net
Law enforcement agencies around the world have undertaken a coordinated operation, codenamed Operation Hyperion, targeting vendors and users of dark net marketplaces, resulting in the identification of thousands of individuals. New Zealand police and the FBI have suggested they have spoken with 150 individuals each; Canadian police have arrested an individual suspected of distributing narcotics internationally; and Swedish police have identified around 3,000 suspected buyers within their borders. U.S. agencies such as the Postal Inspection Service, CBP, IRS, ICE and ATF all coordinated with international partners from the U.K., Australia, Ireland, France, Spain and Finland in the operation.

The Cipher Take:
The Dark Net is a portion of the internet only accessible through encrypted browsers that ensure a user's anonymity through a series relay points around the globe. While such a place does serve a legitimate purpose for journalists, activists, and the security conscious, it also facilitates crime by hosting hidden service marketplaces. These illicit bazaars can peddle narcotics, child pornography, counterfeit documents and cash, weapons, secrets, and hacking toolkits. The FBI has previously deanonymized visitors to a child pornography vendor by installing malware through their browsers, leading to arrests. A major part of Operation Hyperion seems to be revealing the identities of vendors and buyers—a strategy of deterrence through intimidation intended to dissuade others from participating in the trade.

DDoS Attack Takes Liberia Off the Internet
Liberia has experienced massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks continuously over the past seven days. The attack flooded the country's sole fiber optic connected telecommunications company, Lonestar Cell MTN, with false internet traffic until it crashed, cutting off internet access to the entire country. The culprits behind the attack are unknown, but they were using Botnet 14—a Mirai-based botnet that piggy-backs off internet connected devices such as cameras, DVRs, and other household connected devices with weak login credentials.

The Cipher Take:
These attacks resemble the DDoS attack targeting DNS provider Dyn in October, which essentially shut down access to major websites like Twitter and the New York Times. While the Dyn attack flooded servers with over 1,100 gigabytes of data per second, the attacks in Liberia are still among the largest ever with around 600 gigabytes per second. Some fear attacks could reach up to 10 terabytes (10,000 gigabytes) per second—enough to halt internet access for any country.


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