jueves, 19 de enero de 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Today's Insight

South Korea's Presidential Crisis: Is Democracy Stuck in Park? | Will Edwards, The Cipher Brief
Since it declared independence in 1948, the Republic of Korea, now in its sixth iteration, has shifted between democracy and authoritarian rule...despite the reforms that brought about the Sixth Republic, democratic progress is not guaranteed.

Expert Commentary

Impeaching the Queen, Korean Style | 
Won-ho Park, Associate Professor of Political Science, Seoul National University
If the court rules for the impeachment, a by-election must occur under law within 60 days to choose the next president.  Without any transition period, the president-elect would be sworn into the office the day after being declared the winner of the election.  If the court rules against the impeachment, Park will return to office to what is left of her presidency, in which case the election is scheduled to take place in December.

Pyongyang Will Take Advantage of South Korea's Political Vacuum |
 Eunjung Lim, Lecturer, Korea Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS
From South Korea’s point of view, the year of 2016 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years since the armistice of the Korean War was signed in 1953. North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests on January 6 and September 9 respectively, and it continued testing various types of ballistic missiles, more than twenty times in 2016 alone. 

The Cipher Take

Syrian Islamist Group Will Not Join Talks
Ahrar al Sham, one of the most powerful rebel groups in Syria, said on Wednesday that it would not attend Russian and Turkish-brokered peace talks set to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan on January 23. Most other rebels said that they would join the peace talks on Monday, with the caveat that they would only discuss ceasefire provisions and humanitarian issues, not a political resolution. Ahrar al Sham claims that its refusal to attend the talks is a response to continued violations of the countrywide ceasefire, which took effect on December 29, by Syrian government forces. They also said, however, that they might support a favorable compromise negotiated by the opposition groups that will attend the meeting.

The Cipher Take:
Although Ahrar says that it could accept a favorable result from the Astana negotiations, their refusal to attend the talks is still a major blow to the summit’s legitimacy. The fact that talks are going forward is a sign that, despite ceasefire violations by the Syrian government, peace talks in Astana will be able to move forward. However, Ahrar’s absence and the fact that the rebel delegation will not discuss a wider political resolution with Damascus could undermine the talks. In addition, the role of currently excluded groups like the Kurdish PYD or the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly Al Nusra Front) still remains unclear. On the other side of the table, Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his Iranian allies will be loath to pursue serious compromise, even at Russia’s urging. The road to peace in Syria remains narrow and difficult.

Eastern Mosul Liberated
Lieutenant-General Talib Shaghati announced on Wednesday that Iraqi forces had successfully liberated almost all of the eastern half of Mosul. Carried out by Iraqi Counterterrorism Services (CTS), regular army, and national police units, the operation was met by fierce ISIS resistance. Some fighting in northeastern Mosul continued Wednesday as regular Army troops cleared areas along the Tigris river, which bisects the city. However, said Shaghati, “today we celebrate…the liberation of the eastern bank of Mosul.”

The Cipher Take:
Victory in eastern Mosul has come slower than previously expected due to steadfast resistance by ISIS fighters, snipers, and suicide bombers. But, after pausing the offensive to regroup and receive reinforcements last December, Iraqi forces have made steady gains, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi claims that the liberation of western Mosul will soon follow. However, the most critical battle is not the one currently being fought against ISIS, but rather the political battle for the city’s future that will follow. Turkish-backed, Iran-backed, and central government actors in northern Iraq will all be vying for political power in Iraq’s second largest city once ISIS is driven out.

Istanbul Attacker Received Direct Orders from ISIS
Abdulkadir Masharipov, an Uzbek national who is the main suspect in the New Year's Eve attack at Istanbul’s Reina nightclub reportedly told Turkish authorities that he acted on direct orders from ISIS in Syria. He also said that he changed his target at the last minute to avoid heavy security. Masharipov was apprehended on Monday in Esenyurt, a suburb of Istanbul, along with another man and three women.

The Cipher Take:
Masharipov reportedly told authorities that he had initially been told to attack Istanbul’s popular Taksim Square area based on instructions from Raqqa, ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria. As ISIS continues to lose territory in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, the group is likely to double down on its external operations and its efforts to disseminate its propaganda to inspire lone-wolf attacks, particularly in Turkey and throughout Europe.

Commander of PACOM Comments on ISIS at International Security Dialogue
On Wednesday, Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) discussed the threat of ISIS militants returning to their home countries as ISIS territory shrinks, stating, “it’s not a theory. It’s real. In the past year alone, ISIL has made its murderous intentions clear in places like Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and the United States.”

The Cipher Take:
The threat of ISIS members returning home is a very real and unpredictable one. As the terrorist organization loses ground, it will likely change its strategy towards surprise attacks worldwide. But the risks posed to the countries of South and Southeast Asia vary greatly: some, like India, have robust counterterrorism forces whereas others, such as Bangladesh, are in the nascent stages of developing counterterrorism capabilities. For its part, the United States cooperates with and provides assistance to many countries in the region, like the Philippines, in order to prevent or respond to terrorism.

PACOM Commander Also Comments on the South China Sea
In the same forum, ADM Harris went on to discuss the U.S. stance on China’s construction and militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea: “we will not allow the shared domains to be closed down unilaterally -- no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea.”

The Cipher Take:
Harris’s comments on the South China Sea are consistent with the United States’ longstanding policy regarding it and other maritime regions. However, Rex Tillerson, President-elect Trump’s pick for secretary of state, made comments in his recent confirmation hearing that took that stance one step further, and have the potential to escalate the U.S. stance on the South China Sea: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.” Once Trump takes office, determining whether U.S. policy on this issue will change or remain the same will be one of his most important foreign policy decisions.

Israel Deploys New Missile Defense System
Israel has deployed its new Arrow 3 missile defense system, which will extend its defense against incoming ballistic missiles all the way to outer space. As part of the system, Arrow 3 missiles will fly into space, where warheads will detach and subsequently track and strike their targets. The system was U.S.-funded and jointly developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing prior to being handed over to the Israeli Air Force.

The Cipher Take:
Israel has previously implemented two defense systems to shoot down incoming missiles. The most well-known, Iron Dome, is a short-range interceptor that has been used to shoot down incoming missiles from the Gaza Strip. A second system, the Arrow 2, is designed to intercept projectiles both high and low within the atmosphere. The Arrow 3 system is meant to protect against incoming nuclear, biological, or chemical missiles that may be launched from Iran or other regional adversaries. Israel is currently developing another system, known as David's Sling, to shoot down lower-altitude missiles, such as those in the arsenal of Hezbollah.

Russia Extends Snowden's Asylum
The spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, confirmed that Edward Snowden has received an extension on his residence permit in Russia under political asylum. The announcement was made in a public Facebook post; in her comments, Zakharova responded to a column written by the former acting director of the CIA Michael Morell in the Cipher Brief.

The Cipher Take:
This is the second time Snowden’s asylum has been extended since he first arrived in Moscow in 2013. Now, as confirmed by Snowden’s lawyers, it seems that his asylum status has been extended for another three years, giving him the legal grounds to apply for Russian citizenship after he has spent a total of five years living on Russian territory.

Assange Flip-Flops Following Manning's Commuted Sentence
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, previously indicated that he would allow himself to be taken to the United States should the Obama administration grant Chelsea Manning clemency. Last September, WikiLeaks tweeted: “If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to U.S. prison in exchange—despite its clear unlawfulness,” a statement reiterated earlier this month. On Tuesday, in an action that appears to be unrelated to Assange’s proposed deal, President Obama announced plans to commute Manning’s sentence; she will be released in May. WikiLeaks followed up by tweeting “Assange is still happy to come to the US provided all his rights are guaranteed despite White House now saying Manning was not quid-quo-pro.”  However, his lawyer has since indicated Assange will in fact not do so, as Manning will not be released immediately, but rather in May.

The Cipher Take:
Ultimately, Assange’s claim to move to a U.S. trial was somewhat meaningless in the first place, as the charges against him are for sexual assault in Sweden, and the U.S. has yet to charge him or file an extradition request. Manning, however, is the more interesting story. The former U.S. Army private did not have a specific story to tell via the leaks, but rather indiscriminately burned files onto CDs—revealing major security vulnerabilities that could have been used for espionage instead—and handed them to a publication outlet. Though Manning’s leak was among the largest breaches in U.S. history, the Pentagon’s Information Review Task Force that investigated the fallout of the disclosures concluded that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases. However, the State Department did have to relocate diplomats due to the breach and some of the Afghan war logs were found in the digital files of Osama bin Laden. The original 35-year sentence given to Manning was reportedly made intentionally harsh in order to to deter future leaks, but critics have pointed out that it may have contributed to Edward Snowden’s decision to flee the country rather than face the same fate—winning him martyr status among many. Former leaders of the U.S. military and intelligence communities have reacted strongly to the commutation, warning it sets a dangerous precedent for those trusted with the nation’s secrets – particularly in an increasingly digital age.  For the reaction of The Cipher Brief’s Network of Experts, read more here.

Upcoming Cipher Brief Events

Foreign Influance, Domestic Division: Russia, the 2016 Election, and the Intelligence Community | Thursday, January 26, Washington, D.C.
Please join our high-level intelligence panel that includes Rob Richer, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, and John Sipher who combined, have over 80 years of service with the CIA. Some key points they will be discussing are; the current state of relations with Moscow and the likelihood of an improvement in those relations under President-Elect Donald Trump.

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