viernes, 2 de diciembre de 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

China Opposes South Korea-Japan Intelligence Sharing Deal
On Wednesday, China’s defense ministry voiced its concerns over the newly minted agreement between South Korea and Japan that would see the two countries share intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile activities. A spokesman for the ministry said the deal promoted a “Cold War mentality” for Northeast Asia and went on to say that China would remain committed to protecting its ally North Korea as well as regional stability and security.

The Cipher Take:
Beijing is often wary of defense agreements in its immediate neighborhood, especially ones that concern North Korea. In addition to the intelligence agreement, Beijing has also been critical of the U.S.-South Korean deal to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea as a hedge against North Korean hostility. Though it is still willing to defend its prickly ally, Beijing has backed UN sanctions that target North Korea’s nuclear program. As North Korea advances its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles—which China has also labeled as a threat to regional stability—Beijing’s alliance with Pyongyang is becoming harder to justify.

Indian Supreme Court Mandates that All Cinemas Play the National Anthem
On Wednesday, India’s highest court ruled that all cinemas in the country must play the national anthem with an image of the Indian flag on the screen, and all in attendance must stand and listen. The court stated that all cinemas must comply within ten days and that the measure is meant to “instill a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.” The ruling also proclaimed that the anthem could not be played in “undesirable” or “disgraceful” places.

The Cipher Take:
This ruling is the latest example of the uptick in nationalism in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the measure is not without controversy. Critics say the ruling is anti-democratic and that it is part of the Modi government’s initiative to clamp down on free speech. It is not the Indian government’s only controversial policy recently levied: in an effort to limit the black market economy, Modi made a surprise announcement that eliminated the country’s two largest denominated bills. With little time to exchange bills, India’s citizens—many of whom keep savings in cash—had to scramble to banks or risk losing their livelihoods. However, Modi has never been one to shy away from controversial policies if he thinks the long term benefits are worth the price.

Dutch Government Calls to Freeze EU-Turkey Talks
The Dutch government added its voice to a number of EU countries calling to suspend Turkish accession talks with the EU in response to alleged human rights and civil rights abuses. The Netherlands, a founding member of the EU, suggested a 6-month delay until Turkey addresses these issues. Previously, the European Commission and major members, including Germany and France, have blocked requests from the European Parliament to censure Turkey.

The Cipher Take:
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said Wednesday that the Netherlands would seek to build an EU consensus around the issue of Turkish rights abuses, possibly signaling new momentum for a suspension of the talks. However, this will probably not matter terribly for Turkey’s actual chances of joining the Union. Though relations between Turkey and the EU have hit a new low, Ankara has been in these accession talks for over a decade. Moreover, European and EU Commission officials are wary of halting the negotiations and further destabilizing relations with Turkey for two reasons. First, they fear the consequence that such a move might have on the delicate migration deal signed with Ankara earlier this year and, second, they worry that the subsequent flow for Syrian migrants into Europe might further fuel a series of insurgent populist parties across the Union.

Russia Ready to Open Humanitarian Corridors
The Head of the UN’s Humanitarian Task Force for Syria, Jan Egeland, said on Thursday that Russia is ready to “sit down with our people there to discuss how we can use the four [humanitarian] corridors to evacuate people.” Over the past week, Syrian and allied ground forces, with Russian support, have made sudden gains in the battle for Aleppo, capturing nearly a third of the rebel-held east. The intensity of that offensive has compelled Aleppo’s remaining rebels to join under one umbrella group called “Jaish Halab” which continues to resist government advances. But relentless shelling and aerial bombing continues, and many civilians have been killed trying to flee the besieged city,

The Cipher Take:
Similar to Russia’s unilaterally imposed  “humanitarian pause” following a rising chorus of international criticism of bombing and human rights abuses in Syria, this new suggestion of humanitarian corridors should be taken with a grain of salt. The October ceasefire also included humanitarian corridors but they were not respected by either side, and the entire “pause” seems to have been little more than a delaying tactic in preparation for this final assault. However, UN officials say there are signs that these new corridors may be honored by both rebel and regime forces as humanitarian conditions for civilians within Aleppo have become truly dire. As for Aleppo’s rebels, they can do little besides hunker down and fight for their last major urban foothold in Syria. Expect intense fighting and rebel counteroffensives ahead.

Saudi Arabia Confirms Cyber Attack against Aviation Authority
The Saudi government confirmed that the country’s aviation agency was the target of a disruptive cyber attack in mid-November, where thousands of computers at the headquarters of the General Authority of Civil Aviation were damaged with a virus erasing critical data and  delaying the organization’s operations for several days. However, it seems operations at Saudi airports were not affected by the breach. Iranian state-sponsored hackers are believed to be behind the attack, but there has been no official attribution at this time.

The Cipher Take:
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been targeting each other with cyber attacks for nearly five years and both are entangled in proxy conflicts throughout the region. In 2012, Iran’s primary oil export terminal and the oil ministry’s headquarters in Tehran experienced computer issues. Four months later there was a cyber attack on Saudi Aramco with a computer virus known as a wiper, which erased three-quarters of the data on the Kingdom’s largest company’s computers—replacing the files with an image of a burning American flag. This most recent cyber attack on the Saudi aviation agency seems to be a version of the Shamoon wiper malware that targeted Saudi Aramco four years earlier. 


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