martes, 29 de noviembre de 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today's Insight

Obama's Legacy on Russia and China: Making the Grade | Will Edwards, The Cipher Brief
As President Obama wraps up his final days in office, presidential watchers are evaluating how well he performed, wonder what his legacy will be, and how events could have transpired differently.

Expert Commentary

Obama Failed to Understand Putin |
 Rob Dannenberg, Former Head of Global Security, Goldman Sachs
In the intervening seven years since the Clinton reset, it should be clear President Barack Obama was never advised or chose to ignore counsel that would have helped him understand, and perhaps interact and influence more effectively, his major geopolitical adversary, Putin.

Did Mideast Crises Hamper Obama's Asia Pivot? | 
Christina Lin, Fellow, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Washington needs a better response to China-led initiatives than attempting to lead a boycott, especially when allies see benefits in participation.

Today's Column: Fine Print

A Challenging Four Years for the Media | Walter Pincus, The Cipher Brief
This Trump presidency is going to test our democratic institutions, not just Congress and the Judiciary, but also the so-called mainstream media that in the past was referred to as the Fourth Estate.


The Cipher Brief Daily Podcast
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15 Minutes
15 Minutes is a weekly interview podcast with the biggest names in the global security space.

This week, The Cipher Brief's Executive Producer and Reporter Leone Lakhani sits down with Ambassador Dennis Ross, Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior Middle East Adviser to three U.S. Presidents. She talks to him about President Barack Obama’s legacy in the Middle East, and the challenges facing the next administration.
Listen to 15 Minutes with Ambassador Dennis Ross

Don't Miss On The Cipher Brief

China's Economy: Great Power, Great Responsibility |
Fritz Lodge, The Cipher Brief
Driven by export-led growth and massive state investments in manufacturing and infrastructure, China had enjoyed a period of scorching GDP growth at an average of 10 percent a year. However, that growth has now stuttered to roughly seven percent and, as the country’s upward trajectory flattens, wide gaps have begun to emerge in the Chinese economic model.

The Global Debate Over the Legality of Drones Continues |
Bennett Seftel, The Cipher Brief
While lethal U.S. drone strikes have successfully removed many key terrorists from the battlefield, the legal justifications for such actions remains a heavily debated topic in the United States and globally.

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The Cipher Take

Iraqi Parliament Legitimizes Shiite Militia
The Iraqi Parliament passed a controversial law to legitimize the majority–Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) as a separate military corps. The PMF have played a large role in Iraq’s battle against ISIS, but have been accused of committing human rights violations against liberated Sunni populations and reportedly have deep political and military connections to Iran. Sunni lawmakers boycotted the vote in protest; on Monday, prominent Sunni politician Khamis Khanjar told Reuters that continued PMF participation in the ongoing Mosul offensive could lead to a new split between Sunni and Shiite Iraq.

The Cipher Take:
The passing of this law, as the PMF continue their advance to the west of Mosul, is a worrying sign for the future of a politically unified Iraq. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to intervene in response to any perceived atrocities in Mosul or the surrounding areas. Even if this does not happen, majority-Sunni populations in northern Iraq are unlikely to accept a significant PMF presence. If the central government does not try to reach out to these populations, Baghdad will find it near-impossible to unify northern Iraq even after ISIS’ defeat.

Syrian Forces Continue Aleppo Offensive
On Monday, Syrian government forces and their allies continued to advance against Syrian rebel positions in eastern Aleppo. Under cover of intense shelling and aerial bombardment, regime forces have already captured roughly a quarter of the rebel–held districts in eastern Aleppo. The bulk of opposition forces have retreated and remain under intense pressure from Syrian and Russian bombardment.

The Cipher Take:
Following this success, an Assad victory in Aleppo seems highly likely. Regime forces have not only recaptured significant territory, they have also managed to effectively cut off the northern and southern regions of eastern Aleppo from one another. Assad is working to consolidate a contiguous government-controlled bloc of territory in the populous central coastal regions of Syria. Without a foothold in any of the country’s major urban centers, the opposition dream of toppling Assad will be all but dead.

Obama Expands AUMF Scope to Include Al Shabaab
In a letter set to be disclosed to Congress next month, the Obama Administration reportedly expanded the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to cover al Shabaab, a terrorist group operating in the Horn of Africa. The administration now includes al Shabaab as part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized against the perpetrators of 9/11.

The Cipher Take:
This move is meant to shore up the legal basis for an intensifying campaign of airstrikes and counterterrorism operations conducted in the Horn of Africa in support of African Union and Somali government forces. Since 2001, U.S. presidents have relied on the AUMF, passed one week after the 9/11 attacks, as the legal basis for U.S. drone strikes against al Qaeda operatives around the world. In Somalia, the United States had long taken the position that individual leaders of al Shabaab had sufficient ties to al Qaeda to make them legitimate wartime targets, but it had debated whether al Shabaab as an organization itself should be included, particularly as the group emerged years after the AUMF was passed.

Israeli Airstrike Kills ISIS Militants Near Border with Syria
An Israeli air strike killed four ISIS gunmen after they fired at Israeli troops patrolling along the Israeli-Syrian border. The gunfire came from a vehicle driving along the Syrian side of border and the fighters were identified as members of the ISIS-affiliated Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades (YMB), a group based in southern Syria.

The Cipher Take:
Founded in 2012, the YMB was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department in June, one month after it pledged allegiance to ISIS.  The YMB is known for conducting kidnapping operations targeting UN personnel along Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan. Israel has responded to errant fire from the Syrian civil war in the past, but exchanges of fire with gunmen along the Israeli-Syria border have been relatively rare.

South Korea: Park Offers to Resign as Protests Grow
Amidst growing scandal and massive protests, South Korea’s President Park Geun Hye said Tuesday that she would be willing to resign "if the governing and opposition parties inform me of the way to minimize the confusion and vacuum in state affairs and ensure a stable transfer of power." Organizers behind the protest last Saturday claim it reached 1.5 million people. While Seoul police peg the number closer to 270,000, it is still the largest in 5 straight weeks of protests.

The Cipher Take:
Opposition leaders have rejected Ms. Park's offer, saying it was merely an attempt to avoid impeachment. Prosecutors wish to question Park over her relationship with Choi Soon-sil, a friend and confidante recently arrested for defrauding Korean companies for as much as $70 million. President Park has previously admitted that she showed classified documents to Choi, who was not allowed to see or give advice about such information. It has inflamed a citizenry that has never shied away from protesting government scandal. However, under South Korean law, the president cannot be indicted - she must be impeached and removed from office first; opposition politicians plan to call for a vote to do just that on Friday. A long slog lies ahead for Korean politics.

Italy's Monte dei Paschi Bank Rescue Plan Faces Risk
Monte dei Paschi – a Tuscan bank facing an imminent debt crisis – said on Monday that its 5 billion Euro rescue plan is under threat. That plan aims to convert subordinated bonds (lower-ranking debt) into equity to raise the 5 billion Euros necessary to save the troubled lender. However, the bank’s statement noted that instability caused by a “No” vote in Italy’s upcoming constitutional referendum – often referred to as Italy’s “Brexit moment” – might undermine this debt swap.

The Cipher Take:
Monte dei Paschi fared the worst out of any other bank in EU stress tests this July, and it is unlikely to emerge from financial distress anytime soon. However, it is not alone - seven other major lenders are faltering and Italian banks hold over a third of all bad loans across the EU. Strict EU regulations prevent the Italian government from bailing out its banks except in the most extreme circumstances; instead, the bank’s investors, including ordinary depositors, must take the loss on bad debt. If the rescue plan fails and a “No” vote on Italy’s referendum spooks the market, Monte dei Paschi’s problem could become Italy’s, and the EU’s, crisis.

The Cipher Take:
Ransomware is malicious software that breaches a network—often through a downloaded file—and encrypts shared resources such as drives, folders, files, printers, and serial ports, rendering them inaccessible. The attackers will then release, or unencrypt, the data once a ransom payment has been made—often through a crypto-currency like bitcoin. The anonymous email provided by the hacker is hosted on Russian servers, and the malware used is believed to be a variant of HDDCryptor, which uses disk-level commercial tools to encrypt hard drives.


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