HSBC: Security Breach Exposes Account, Transaction Data

Unauthorized users accessed HSBC accounts between Oct. 4 and 14, the bank reports in a letter to customers. 

HSBC Bank has informed account holders of a data breach affecting an undisclosed number of users, the organization reported this week. In a letter (Check Below) sent to customers and the California Attorney General’s Office, it states online accounts were compromised from Oct. 4 to 14.

The bank reports compromised information may include full names, mailing and email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, transaction histories, payee account data, statement histories, and account numbers, types, and balances.

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HSBC suspended access to affected accounts and is contacting victims about changing their online credentials. It says it has improved its authentication process for HSBC Personal Internet Banking and is offering customers a complimentary, year-long subscription to Identity Guard, which they can use to monitor accounts for credit fraud and malicious activity.

Data leaks caused by negligent third-party providers are increasingly common, says High-Tech Bridge founder and CEO Ilia Kolochenko. Oftentimes, large businesses deploy demo systems to production and forget about them, leaving data and systems vulnerable. Abandoned US-based Web systems containing customer data could be a possible attack vector.

HSBC’s response has been prompt and technically adequate, he explains, but there is still potential for consequences. “This will, however, unlikely exonerate them from private lawsuits and, perhaps, even a class action by disgruntled customers and privacy watchdogs,” Kolochenko says.

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HSBC Letter

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2018/11/06/hsbc-bank-usa-admits-breach-exposing-account-numbers-and-transaction-history/#488922d85af3

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ALLAH ARMY: “SIRILANKA” TALKS

 

Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake took over as the 22nd Commander of the Sri Lankan Army in June 2017. The conduct of the army in the past, during the island’s civil war that it ended by defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009, and its contentious presence and role in the country’s Tamil-majority north and east since then continue to dominate the discourse around post-war resettlement and reconciliation. Amidst growing calls from the Tamil political leadership and the people for demilitarisation of the war-scarred areas, what is the army’s role and vision as Sri Lanka tries transitioning into peace?

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SWITZERLAND NEST OF SPIES

https://tp.srgssr.ch/p/inline?urn=urn:swi:video:44423580&locale=en

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IS-linked media validation after IED attack in Isulan, Mindanao on August 28 may inspire further local militant plots – Philippines Alert

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“WINTER” Religious IDF Commander Promoted to Military Secretary of Defense Minister – July 27, 2018

Defense Minsiter Avigdor Lieberman, taking into advisement the recommendation of the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot, decided to appoint Brigadiere General Ofer Winter to the position of Military Secretary to the Minister of Defense. This appointment replaces  Brig. Gen. Yair Kolus who served in that capacity ofver the past few years. – Yeshiva World News

Winter currently serves as the Chief Officer of the Central Command Headquarters in the IDF. Previously, he was the head of the Givati brigade where he created and developed the Charedi infantry unit known as Tomer. He also served as the commander of the northern section of the Gaza periphery, the head of brigade 646, chief officer of the Duvdevan special forces unit, and the chief officer of the Gadsar special forces unit in Givati. Under Winter, the Duvdevani special forces were deployed for the first time in a live conflict in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.

Lieberman tweeted the following shortly after the decision: “I have decided to appoint Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter as my Military Secretary. I am certain that a proven and experienced quality officer such as him will assist me greatly,”

Winter was recently overlooked for an appointment to the new position of Military Secretary for the Prime Minister, a position he coveted, and believed, according to some reports in the Israeli media, that he was passed over due to the fact that he is religious. Following the disappointment, he told associates that if he would no longer be able to grow in his career, then he would be forced to leave the IDF.

Winter is 47 years old, married and a father of eight children. Winter previously gained notoriety when he wrote in a letter to his soldiers the following statement which inflamed the left-wing politicos in Israel. “History has chosen us to spearhead the fighting against the terrorist ‘Gazan’ enemy which abuses, blasphemes and curses the God of Israel’s defense forces,”

Since then, Winter’s career has stagnated, and he believed that this most recent disappointment was due to that same glass-ceiling which he had struck. However, the new appointment opened up new career paths and possibilities for the high-ranking religious officer.

In his famed letter, Winter also wrote: “I cast my eyes heavenward and call out with you: “Shema Yisroel, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad. Hashem, G-d of Israel, please pave the way that we are to go and fight for your nation Am Yisroel against an enemy that blasphemes your name successful.”

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The Solberetsky. The Bellingcat and The Insider managed to confirm the involvement of Petrov and Boshirov in the special services

Солберецкие. The Bellingcat и The Insider удалось подтвердить причастность Петрова и Боширова к спецслужбам

 

A joint investigation of The Bellingcat and The Insider has made it possible to establish that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, suspected by Britain of the poisoning of the Violins, are indeed officers of the Russian special services.

This is confirmed by a number of documents, as well as direct and indirect evidence. Today we publish the first part of the investigation, the full version of which will appear early next week.

“Do not give information. Top secret”

If you look at the data of Alexander Petrov in the FMS database, it seems that he was “born” in 2009. That is, according to the passport, he was born on July 13, 1979 in the city of Kotlas, but in reality there are no traces of his presence in this world until 2009, when he was issued this passport. In ordinary FMS files on “mere mortals” there are notes on obtaining other national and foreign passports, the facts of registration at different addresses. In Petrov’s file there is nothing of this. His passport in 2009, he received “in return for the spoiled,” and the dossier listed the number of this “spoiled” passport, which never existed in nature.

Солберецкие. The Bellingcat и The Insider удалось подтвердить причастность Петрова и Боширова к спецслужбам

On the file with the passport data the stamp of “data not to give” appears:

Солберецкие. The Bellingcat и The Insider удалось подтвердить причастность Петрова и Боширова к спецслужбам

A file with a biography is empty: except for the stamp “information not to give” it is only the signature “ss” (top secret)

Солберецкие. The Bellingcat и The Insider удалось подтвердить причастность Петрова и Боширова к спецслужбам

On the file with the passport data the stamp of “data not to give” appears:

It is curious that in the residence of Alexander Petrov used to live another man with the name Petrov, whose passport data is different.

Strange passports

According to the data on the registration of passengers on the flight (the document is available to The Bellingcat and The Insider), the numbers of Boshirov and Petrov’s passports differ by only one figure (Boshirov’s passport ends at 1294, Petrov’s at 1297). And in the FMS database, where the “mere mortals” of the passport are indicated, for some reason Boshirova and Petrova do not have these passports.

By the way, from the registration data it follows that both “tourists” bought tickets the day before the departure, on the 1 st day (there are no data on the reservation in the database, which happens when the ticket is purchased and registration is made in one session, and this is possible only one day before departure) : this contradicts their words that the trip was planned in advance. Whence such rush – it is possible to assume: hardly earlier in this day tickets to London were bought by Julia Skripal. It is unlikely that this coincidence: it is possible that the “tourists” thought that this might somehow affect their plans, and decided to hurry.

No less interesting are Russian passports. Firstly, they were issued to the Federal Migration Service 770001 in the city of Moscow – “ordinary mortals” do not receive passports there. Passports in this FMS receive either privileged persons for a bribe (for them this is a synonym for “criminal” numbers of the car), or representatives of the security forces.

For example, a former deputy chairman of Rosneft, Eduard Khudainatov, a media manager Sergei Lisovsky (a member of the United Russia General Council), a passport in this FSB was received by Colonel Alexander Emets, deputy chief of the logistics department of the Moscow Interior Ministry’s logistics department, ex-head of the General Directorate of the threat Interior Ministry Vyacheslav Trubnikov and other significant personalities. There are among the recipients of passports in this FMS and strange persons with a secret biography, not present in any social networks: probably the same “tourists” as Petrov and Boshirov.

It is also interesting that if you change the last digit in the passport Petrov or Boshirova, then you will again find people with strange questionnaires, with incomplete addresses (for example, without an apartment) – and absent in any social networks and databases.

 

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Pakistan: Allah, Army and America continue to remain relevant

By Col (Dr) Tej Kumar Tikoo (Retd.) Date : 21 Apr , 2016

 

 

 

 

History of Pakistan since its independence has been one of a vassal state, mostly of the U.S., which used its (Pakistan’s) pre-eminent geo-strategic location during the cold war, to its advantage. Pakistan, besides facilitating the U.S. in keeping a close watch on the two communists giants, also helped America in keeping a hawk eye on the happenings in the Mediterranean, West Asia and the Gulf. This close clinch between the two seemingly incompatible countries, for most of the initial four decades after Pakistan’s creation, ensured that it not only survived as a nation, but became strong enough to threaten India, even going to war with it in 1965.

However, with the America’s own relations with China improving subsequently, and Europe becoming a far more important theatre of big power play geo-politically, the United States would have had little use for Pakistan. But Allah had something else in mind to ensure that America stayed as a steadfast friend. This happened immediately when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The third ‘A’ of those who run Pakistan, i.e., its Army (America and Allah, being the other two), was at hand to ensure that Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1978, was turned into an opportunity to its own advantage. Gen Zia-ul-Haq, the new dictator of Pakistan, turned the Pakistan-American clinch into a bear hug. The close cooperation between the two countries during this entire phase of soviet occupation of Afghanistan, was such that during a press conference in Washington DC, Zia-ul-Haq, in the presence of Ronald Reagan said, “Our hearts beat in unison.”

Pakistan took full advantage of being a frontline state in the U.S and its allies’ war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It got everything it wanted; military hardware, dollars in abundance and international support for many of its policies which would, otherwise, have been frowned upon by the international community. Developing nuclear weapons and starting insurgency in Punjab and Kashmir, being just the two of these.

After the Soviet armies were thrown out of Afghanistan, the Taliban, products of ISI run refugee camps of Peshawar during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, gained power in the war-torn Afghanistan. America, having already achieved its objective of throwing the Soviet armies out of Afghanistan and freeing most of Eastern Europe from the Soviet control and breaking the Soviet Union, now lost interest in South Asia.

Pakistan’s role as a strategic ally had little use in the changed geo-political calculation in a unipolar world, of which the U.S. was now the only super power. But Allah wished otherwise. The Taliban, now ruling Afghanistan, hosted Osama bin Laden, who created Al Qaeda, which hit the U.S. on 9/11, in the biggest terrorist strike to take place on the American soil. Despite enormous pressure exerted on the Taliban and their mentor, Pakistan, the U.S. was unable to get the custody of their nemesis, Osama, the prime suspect in the 9/11 strike on the World Trade Towers in New York.

Under American threat of being “reduced to stone age”, Gen Musharraf, the new dictator of Pakistan, had to give up on their blue-eyed boys, the Taliban. Thereafter, America invaded Afghanistan, using Pakistan’s proximity to the latter and its knowledge of the Taliban network to its advantage.

Thus, Pakistan once again became a ‘Stalwart Ally’, as Gen Collin Powel, the U.S. Secretary of State, put it. For the next over decade and a half, Pakistan, once again, got bailed out economically and militarily by the U.S., even though reluctantly this time.

In the meantime, Pakistan continued to develop its relations with its all weather friend, China; both strategically, as also economically. Development of Gwadar as a trading and military port on the mouth of the strategically important Gulf, extending the Karakoram Highway, cutting right through Pakistan, till the Gwadar port, and cooperation in the nuclear field ensured that Pakistan remained an entity in the existing geo-political environment in the post 9/11 world.

Pakistan’s notorious ISI, with the help of CIA and Saudi Intelligence agencies, created and sustained the huge terrorist infrastructure to ostensibly fight Soviets in Afghanistan. However, on the quiet, it also spread terrorism in India’s Punjab and later created insurgency situation in Jammu and Kashmir and still later, carried out terrorist strikes in mainland India. This has been going on since middle of eighties and continues till date. As a matter of fact, this policy has now become part of the Pakistan’s state diplomacy, in that, some terrorist groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are treated as strategic assets by Pakistan in its confrontation with India.

Nevertheless, such a policy has had two detrimental effects on Pakistan. Firstly, it came to be widely seen as a sponsor of terror worldwide and became a pariah state and secondly, it gave rise to numerous terrorist groups within Pakistan, which refused to toe the ISI line.

Some extreme religious groups like Lashkar-e-jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba (both Sunni militant groups, who have been targeting Shias and other non-Muslim groups in Pakistan and have killed many of them during the past two decades) and the breakaway faction of Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP- who have repeatedly struck against the existing state set up in Pakistan) have destabilised the Pakistani society by indulging in grave human rights violations (attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, just to quote one such strike). Even the most prosperous and progressive state of Pakistan, i.e., Punjab, has not been spared by these terrorist groups.

Though theoretically, ISI has been trying to sell the theory of differentiating between good terrorist and bad terrorist, but in practical terms this differentiation has not worked. Today, when Pakistan says that “it, itself is a victim of terrorism”, it must realise that it is situation that Pakistan has itself created.

After the Peshawar attack on the Army Public School, in which over 150 innocent children were slain in a most barbaric manner, the all powerful Army decided to launch a crackdown on the militant groups. The fact that most of the children killed were Army wards, did contribute to such decision making. It is a moot point whether such a crackdown would have been launched had the children belonged to non-military families.

Nevertheless, in the subsequent crack down, two types of militant groups were targeted. The first one was the TTP and its allies who were and are in the forefront of anti-Pakistan militancy; the second one included the sectarian religious groups who have been targeting Shias/Christians and people belonging to other minorities. The latter are wholly driven by their desire to wipe out those whom they consider Kafir or apostates.

Nearly three hundred terrorists, whose death sentences were held in abeyance, have been hanged till now. This included the killer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. In its campaign against such sectarian militant groups, some important leaders of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba too were killed in encounters.

Despite huge protests against such killings, Pakistan’s powerful Army continued their relentless operations against these militant groups, including in Punjab.

However, the policy of leaving Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad untouched during these operations, has once again confirmed that as far as these groups are concerned, Pakistan is unwilling to change its long held policy, i.e., state sponsored terror against India will continue to be a part of its state policy and to achieve that objective, Pakistan will continue to treat these anti-Indian terror groups as strategic assets.

Pakistan is therefore, unwilling to accept that it has to eliminate all forms of terrorism, root and branch, and not treat some of them as strategic assets for future use against India. These double standards are at the root of the existing dilemma that Pakistan faces.

India’s reaction has been on the expected lines. Its policy towards Pakistan is based on the assumption that the elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, will deliver on its promises; be it Mumbai, Pathankot or granting MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status to India. But like most prime ministers before him, Narendra Modi too is likely to eat a humble pie. Pakistan’s foreign policy is dictated by the General Headquarters at Rawalpindi and not by its foreign office at Islamabad.

In fact, the present government put a great deal of its reputation at stake by going out of its way to placate the elected government in Pakistan. But the recent events have confirmed that the present Army Chief, Gen Raheel Sharrief, is determined to use the powerful Army to sidetrack the elected government, particularly when it comes to Pakistan’s policies towards India, Afghanistan and the U.S. The fact is that ever since its creation, Pakistan has rarely had a civilian government which did not have the powerful Army breathing down its neck – i.e., when the Army did not rule directly.

In the eighties, due to the patronage showered on them by the military dictator, Gen Zia-ul-Haq, the radical Islamic parties too became powerful and were co-opted into the governance of the country at certain levels. This made them disproportionately powerful, compared to the actual support they enjoyed among the masses. However, as a consequence, it also contributed to the radicalization of Pakistani society, thus posing a serious threat to the very fabric of the Pakistan’s inter-provincial cohesion.

But now, it appears that the present Army Chief is unwilling to share power with these parties and has, therefore, gone after them. Needless to say, it has created a piquant situation in the country. The Islamist parties have turned against the government, further leading to enhanced levels of violence directed at State machinery, some sectarian groups and minorities.

With Army launching an all out offensive in Baluchistan, FATA and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, fissiparous tendencies in many provinces have further accentuated. Baluchistan is far from being quiet; Even in PoJK voices of dissent have become shriller and recent events indicate that clamour for Azadi has grown there; TTP is nowhere near annihilation and democratic institutions are getting emasculated with every passing day.

In the meanwhile, the U.S. continues to patronise Pakistan by supplying modern aircraft and weaponry in the hope that somehow these supplies will keep it floating, as the former has no stomach for creating another Iraq for itself. It is, of course, a different matter that it is India that will get adversely impacted by the arming of Pakistan. But the U.S. thinks that India can manage such a situation in view of the expanding Indo-U.S. strategic cooperation. As far as China is concerned, its cooperation with Pakistan is strictly in keeping with its (China’s) national interests. It is using Pakistan to outflank India, gaining access to the Gulf through Gwadar and establishing a foot hold in PoJK, so important for it to protect the Karakoram Highway.

Before the arrival of Daesh (IS) on the scene, nearly every terrorist strike in the world had a Pakistani connection; be it the terrorists themselves, their training, logistics or funding, etc. But Pakistan’s continued relevance due to reasons mentioned above, ensured that it got away with its Shenanigans. Today, as far as the international community is concerned, its focus has shifted from Pakistan to IS (Daesh). Therefore, as of now, Pakistan is no more than a lesser liability than the IS, unless another terrorist strike, having Pakistan connection, brings it back into international glare. As far as India is concerned, Mumbais and Pathankots will continue to occur so long as Pakistan continues to use terrorism as a state policy. India has to live with this headache.

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When “MEDIA BECOMES ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE…………”

POLITICUSUSA_ According to Boston 7 News, “There is an increased police presence at The Boston Globe’s headquarters after a bomb threat was made against the newspaper Thursday in wake of a tweet that was sent out by President Trump, officials said.”

The president sent out this tweet Thursday morning after the Globeand hundreds of other newspapers defended the free press in a series of editorials:

The Boston Globe, which was sold to the the Failing New York Times for 1.3 BILLION DOLLARS (plus 800 million dollars in losses & investment), or 2.1 BILLION DOLLARS, was then sold by the Times for 1 DOLLAR. Now the Globe is in COLLUSION with other papers on free press. PROVE IT!

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“Sergey Alexandrovich”:” We Are Smarter, Stronger and More Determined’-Der Spiegel Online

SPIEGEL: Sergey Alexandrovich, NATO is boosting its presence in Eastern Europe in reaction to recent Russian advances. Western politicians have warned that the two sides could stumble into a situation that might result in war. Are such warnings excessive?-Christian Neef

Karaganov: I was already speaking of a prewar situation eight years ago.

SPIEGEL: When the war in Georgia broke out.

Karaganov: Even then, trust between the great powers was trending toward zero. Russia began rearming its army and, since then, the situation has worsened considerably. We warned NATO against approaching the borders of Ukraine because that would create a situation that we cannot accept. Russia has stopped the Western advance in this direction and hopefully that means that the danger of a large war in Europe has been eliminated in the medium term. But the propaganda that is now circulating is reminiscent of the period preceding a new war.

SPIEGEL: You are hopefully referring to Russia.

Karaganov: The Russian media is more reserved than Western media. Though you have to understand that Russia is very sensitive about defense. We have to be prepared for everything. That is the source of this occasionally massive amount of propaganda. But what is the West doing? It is doing nothing but vilifying Russia; it believes that we are threatening to attack. The situation is comparable to the crisis at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s.

SPIEGEL: You are referring to the stationing of Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missiles and the American reaction?

Karaganov: Europe felt weak at the time and was afraid that the Americans might leave the continent. But the Soviet Union, though it had already become rotten internally, felt militarily strong and undertook the foolishness of deploying the SS-20 missiles. The result was a completely pointless crisis. Today, it is the other way around. Now, fears in countries like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are to be allayed by NATO stationing weapons there. But that doesn’t help them; we interpret that as a provocation. In a crisis, we will destroy exactly these weapons. Russia will never again fight on its own territory …

SPIEGEL: …Rather, if I understand you correctly, you will pursue the strategy of forward defense.

Karaganov: NATO is now 800 kilometers (497 miles) closer to the Russian border, weapons are completely different, strategic stability in Europe is shifting. Everything is much worse than it was 30 or 40 years ago.

SPIEGEL: Russian politicians, including President Vladimir Putin, are trying to convince their population that the West wants war in order to fragment Russia. But that’s absurd.

Karaganov: Certainly there has been some exaggeration. But American politicians have openly said that the sanctions are aimed at bringing about regime change in Russia. That’s aggressive enough.

SPIEGEL: The evening news on Russian television seems to be even further removed from reality. Even a Moscow-based newspaper recently wrote of the “illusion of an external threat.”

Karaganov: The political elite in Russia don’t want domestic reform, they aren’t ready for it. As such, they welcome an external threat. You have to remember that Russia rests on two national concepts: defense and sovereignty. We approach the question of security much more reverentially than other countries do.

SPIEGEL: Your council has presented foreign and defense policy premises that speak of reclaiming a position of leadership in the world. Russia, the message is clear, does not want to see its power eroded. But what proposals have you put forth?

Karaganov: We want to prevent further destabilization in the world. And we want the status of being a great power: We unfortunately cannot relinquish that. In the last 300 years, this status has become a part of our genetic makeup. We want to be the heart of greater Eurasia, a region of peace and cooperation. The subcontinent of Europe will also belong to this Eurasia.

SPIEGEL: Europeans see current Russian policy as being rather enigmatic. The intentions of the leadership in Moscow are unclear.

Karaganov: We currently find ourselves in a situation where we don’t trust you in the least, after all of the disappointments of recent years. And we are reacting accordingly. There is such a thing as tactical surprise. You should know that we are smarter, stronger and more determined.

SPIEGEL: The partial Russian withdrawal from Syria was a surprise, for example. You intentionally left the West guessing how many troops you were withdrawing and whether you would secretly redeploy some of them. Such tactics don’t exactly create trust.

Karaganov: That was masterful, that was fantastic. We take advantage of our preeminence in this area. Russians aren’t good at haggling, they aren’t passionate about business. But they are outstanding fighters. In Europe, you have a different political system, one that is unable to adapt to the challenges of the new world. The German chancellor said that our president lives in a different world. I believe he lives in a very real world.

SPIEGEL: It has been difficult to ignore the Russian pleasure at the problems Europe is currently facing. Why is that?

Karaganov: Many of my colleagues view our European partners with derision and I always warn them not to be cocky and arrogant. Some among the European elite have sought out confrontation with us. As a consequence, we won’t help Europe, although we could do so when it comes to the refugee question. A joint closure of borders would be essential. In this regard, the Russians would be 10 times more effective than the Europeans. Instead, you have tried to make a deal with Turkey. That is a disgrace. In the face of our problems with Turkey, we have pursued a clear, hard political line — with success.

SPIEGEL: You have said that you are disappointed with Europe because it has betrayed its Christian ideals. In the 1990s, Russia wanted to be part of Europe — but the Europe of Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle.

Karaganov: The majority of Europeans want that Europe too. For the next decades, Europe will not be a model that is attractive to Russia.

SPIEGEL: In its premises, your council demanded the use of military power when “important interests of the country are clearly” threatened. Ukraine was such an instance?

Karaganov: Yes. Or a concentration of troops that we felt posed the risk of war.

SPIEGEL: The stationing of NATO units in the Baltics isn’t sufficient?

Karaganov: This chatter that we intend to attack the Baltics is idiotic. Why is NATO stationing weapons and equipment there? Imagine what would happen to them in the case of a crisis. The help offered by NATO is not symbolic help for the Baltic states. It is a provocation. If NATO initiates an encroachment — against a nuclear power like ourselves — it will be punished.

SPIEGEL: On Wednesday, the NATO-Russia Council is to meet for the second time since the Crimean crisis. You also don’t think that a resumption of this dialogue platform is worthwhile?

Karaganov: It is no longer a legitimate body. Plus, NATO has become a qualitatively different alliance. When we began the dialogue with NATO, it was a defensive alliance of democratic powers. But then, the NATO-Russia Council served as cover for and the legalization of NATO expansion. When we really needed it — in 2008 and 2014 — it wasn’t there.

SPIEGEL: You mean during the Georgian war and the Ukraine conflict. In papers issued by your council, terms like national dignity, courage and honor often appear. Are those political categories?

Karaganov: They are essential Russian values. In Putin’s world, and in mine, it is inconceivable that women be harassed and raped in public.

SPIEGEL: Are you referring to the sexual assaults that took place in Cologne on New Year’s Eve?

Karaganov: If men were to do something like that in Russia, they would be killed. The mistake is that Germans and Russians haven’t spoken seriously about their own values in the last 25 years — or they didn’t want to understand each other on the topic. During Soviet times, we too claimed there were only universal values, just as the West is doing now. It scares me when the Europeans demand more and more democracy. It sounds like times past, when people here demanded more and more socialism.

SPIEGEL: Where do you think Russian foreign policy has gone wrong?

Karaganov: In recent years, we didn’t have a political strategy for dealing with our immediate neighbors, the former Soviet republics. We didn’t understand what was really happening there. The only thing we did was subsidize these countries and buy their elite — with money that was then stolen, likely together. As a result, it wasn’t possible to prevent the Ukraine conflict. The second problem: Our politics was focused for too long on fixing past mistakes — fixing the mistakes made in the 1990s.

SPIEGEL: In the Russian press, there has been some conjecture that Russia will send out signals of rapprochement following parliamentary elections in September. Is such conjecture justified?

Karaganov: We believe that Russia is morally in the right. There won’t be any fundamental concessions coming from our side. Psychologically, Russia has now become a Eurasian power — I was one of the intellectual fathers of the eastward pivot. But now I am of the opinion that we shouldn’t turn away from Europe. We have to find ways to revitalize our relations.

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Maria Butina: “Welcome To Russia Comrad”

Krypt3ia

AGENT OF INFLUENCE:

The arrest of Maria Butina, the poor man’s Anna Chapman has opened a whole new avenue of investigation by the amateur spy hunters as well as the professionals this week. As it turns out, Maria had been under surveillance for a while and a known quantity to the FBI/DOJ as well for some time. Butina was even in the news cycles back in 2016 attached in stories to Alexander Torshin, a Russian Oligarch cum Bratva/Mobster with ties to the FSB and to Putin. This however did not make her a household name and in effect many people in the media were caught off guard I think when the feds arrested her and presented the affidavit in court on her FARA violations and flight risk potential.

Butina had been a fixture in 2015-2016 with the NRA circles and in fact it seems that she and Torshin had been a part of a plot to funnel money to the NRA as well as attempt to garner access to the Trump campaign/admin as well as others in the Republican party vis a vis entree from the NRA itself and a certain person 1, in the affidavit. Person one turns out to be Paul Erickson, an alleged master of the political universe in his own mind. He and Butina had been living together and it has become clear that it was a task that Butina felt she had to carry out to complete her mission per conversations the feds have picked up during their surveillance of her.

It seems that Butina, and Torshin with the help of Erickson and one other person yet unnamed, were able to potentially funnel money through the NRA to the Trump campaign and to the tune of 30 million dollars. With this access and her machinations to meet and greet as many players as possible (a list was provided by Erickson it seems to hit up with his direction) they would also have access and influence over CPAC, the conservative political action group as well. With this kind of access it seems that perhaps, with more information to come to confirm this, Russia had an access and influence campaign that changed the Republican platforms stance on Russia to be more along the lines of what Trump is evincing today.

Poor Man’s Anna Chapman:

After all the information started coming out post the affidavit’s publication online it then became an interesting rabbit hole to go down and see just how this operation was carried out and with what skill. After looking at things myself I am going to say here that I do not believe this was a well thought out operation that was being run by the likes of the SVR nor the FSB. I think that this was a condoned and “let’s see what happens” kind of operation that was a sideshow to the main events of the influence operations by the GRU and SVR that we are all dealing with today. I say this for a few reasons;

1) Torshin is connected to the FSB but he is not FSB: He in fact likely is an asset of the FSB much like some mobsters have been to the CIA in the past.

2) Torshin and Butina’s utter lack of OPSEC leaves me to believe that this was not a managed operation by the FSB/SVR/GRU because plainly it was so inept

3) Butina seems to be a clean skin (i.e. no history as an operative) but does have a backstop story of being a Russian business owner. She isn’t really a classic kind of “illegal” because she did not have a cover identity and paperwork like the illegals busted back in 2010 who were actually trained in tradecraft and sent here undercover.

In fact the absolutely poor OPSEC with which these two carried out communications online and off is a sign to me that there were no official handlers to the operation. If there were then they were negligent to the point of idiocy. There is even an amusing exchange between Butina and Torshin about being on a phone call and it being insecure where Butina recommends using WhatsApp but it is not clear if Torshin could handle using it and that they went silent so to speak. It seems overall that they did not and the feds have quite a bit of material on them both.

Add to this the fact that they carried a lot of these conversations in email and on facebook and Twitter and you can see a clear pattern of lack of tradecraft as opposed to what we have all seen come out of the indictments recently of the GRU operation against the DCCC and DNC as well as the disinformation operations. So once again I am gonna call it as amateur hour with a side of Anna Chapman Sparrow wannabe syndrome. This can also be reinforced with Torshin’s comments on how Butina is like and or had surpassed Anna in her operations.

A Noisy Operation:

What Maria Butina lacked in tradecraft, she easily made up for in ability to entice 54 year olds like Erickson with sex and access though. It seems that she played on this quite a bit and thought of herself as the next Anna super spy given all these photos she had taken by Oleg Volk, a photographer with a gun fetish in Tennessee. Her portfolio there is all guns all the time and since she was playing the part of a Russian NRA right to bear arms supporter it all fit the greater theme. However, even with her sex appeal and her playfulness, she managed to not be overly subtle either and her connections to Torshin were pretty clear. The media and certain people in the government noticed and asked for her to be investigated as well as her connections to the NRA.

As you can see from the text here she was a known quantity but all of these people around her did nothing to report her. They all just went along with the money and the possible access to her and Russia via Torshin. It really amazes me how people can just eschew all ethics and morals when large sums of money are being handed to them in order to further their own cause. As for the Republicans and the access there, like I said above I believe there is much more yet to come on her connections to individuals and the movements of money from them to NRA to Trump. I look forward to more of this coming out and in fact a little teaser yesterday was that a new player showed up at court for Butina’s hearing on being a flight risk.

That new player is a prosecutor who’s specialty is with trials concerning espionage. It turns out that though she has been arrested on FARA issues, she may in fact be later charged with espionage given that this prosecutor has shown up. It is also interesting that during the hearing there were two guys from the Russian consulate there and the reason that Butina was remanded without bail was the concern that she had packed all her things, moved money overseas, and that the consulate folks looked like they were planning an exfil if she was let go.

Giggity.

Players Yet To Be Named:

I also have to wonder who Person 2 is as well as others out there who had connections and or friendships with Butina. They all must be shitting bricks right about now I would think. One of those people mentioned in the articles I got in my OSINT searches was Cleta Mitchell. I looked her up and wouldn’t you know it, she is involved on the International Foundation for Electoral Systems board as well as seems to have raised the alarm about Russia, the NRA, and money and access being funneled from it to Trump.

I guess she saw it all up close and personal…

I wonder when we will have some more names added to the list and perhaps some indictments or at the least subpoena’s served on this matter. Overall though, this case could be a lynch pin for the Mueller investigation in a couple of ways. Certainly there is the money angle, and Mueller is following the money most certainly. The players here could end up helping the investigation for immunity as well. However, the big thing for me is that in this net of collusion and money, we may see even more republicans touched by this case. It seems pretty clear that the Republicans changed their attitudes toward Russia after the money spigot opened and perhaps this NRA money funnel and perhaps to CPAC will crack open and give us some answers on why people like Nunes and Gowdy for instance, are so available to subverting the constitution in favor of Trump and Russia.

Perhaps they are trying to hide their guilt because, gee, there’s kompromat on them as well.

Maybe some pics of Butina, guns, and naked senators somewhere…

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North Korea’s dispersed and hidden weapons complex highlights the challenge of denuclearization

The warheads — at least 20 in number, and perhaps as many as 60 — remain for now in their bunkers, somewhere in the rugged hills north of Pyongyang. Until today, there has been no public pledge from North Korea to dismantle them, or to allow inspectors to see them, or even to disclose where they are kept. —Joby Warrick

Work continues daily in the country’s radiochemistry lab near Yongbyon, where plutonium for new bombs is extracted from spent fuel rods. Just across a small river from the lab, testing continues on a 20-megawatt reactor capable of producing nuclear fuel for scores of additional bombs.

The facilities are among hundreds that exist across a North Korean weapons complex that has shown itself capable not only of making sophisticated nuclear and chemical weapons, but also of expertly hiding them from public view. It is why weapons experts around the world expressed astonishment Wednesday at President Trump’s claim that the danger posed by Pyongyang’s decades-long weapons buildup had been effectively eliminated — that there was, as Trump wrote in a Twitter posting, “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

While the U.S.-North Korean summit may have lessened the immediate risk of a war, the elimination of the North Korean threat is at best a distant prospect, according to weapons experts and veterans of past negotiations with Pyongyang. Such an achievement would require difficult negotiations, years of dismantling and verification, and — perhaps most important — a profound change in the behavior of a state with a long history of cheating and deception on its past commitments, analysts said.

Hours after Trump’s declaration of victory at the Singapore summit, some derided the notion of a suddenly defanged North Korea as naive and perhaps even delusional.

“North Korea’s capabilities today are no different than they were a week ago,” said Robert Einhorn, a Brookings Institution scholar and formerly a State Department arms-control official under Republican and Democratic administrations. Einhorn, who sat across the table from North Korean negotiators during previous talks on restraining the country’s missile program, said the elimination of the North Korean nuclear threat had occurred so far only within a “parallel universe” inside the president’s mind.

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2017 Independent Intelligence review

Michael L’Estrange, Stephen Merchant

Description

The 2017 independent review of the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) has prepared findings and recommendations on the AIC and related issues below in a classified report for the government, along with this unclassified version of that report.

The review focused on the Office of National Assessments, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation.

It examined the relationship and engagement between those agencies and the members of the broader National Intelligence Community, including the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.

The review considered, among other things:

  • how the key aspects of our security environment and the nature of security threats have changed in recent times, including as a result of technological advancements, and how they are likely to change further over the coming ten years or so
  • how effectively the AIC serves (and is positioned to serve) Australian national interests and the needs of Australian policy makers
  • whether the AIC is structured appropriately, including in ensuring effective coordination and contestability
  • whether the AIC is resourced appropriately, including to ensure the right balance of resources across the AIC and that agency resources are properly matched against national security priorities, and the impact of the efficiency dividend
  • whether legislative changes are needed, including to the Intelligence Services Act 2001
  • whether capability gaps, including technological, are emerging and how these might be met, noting potential efficiencies and that any new proposals would need to be consistent with the Government’s overall fiscal strategy
  • the effectiveness of current oversight and evaluation arrangements
    the development path of overseas intelligence partners and lessons for Australia

READ FULL. REPORT  2017-Independent-Intelligence-Review-2

 

 

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CHAINSOFF GOES DIGITAL PAYMENT

Digital Downloads

DATA References on Dark Web, Cyber Intelligence, Cyber Crime, Cyber Threat, Cultural Intelligence, Military and Defense marketing data, etc… Something that I’ve worked on for many years. Available now online, 10$ for each download down

$10.00

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An Assessment of the Islamic State in 2018

By all accounts, the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is virtually over — save for a few mopping-up operations. In December 2017, the Iraqi government declared that, after almost four years of fighting, ISIS had been defeated and no longer controlled any Iraqi towns. _Joseph V. Micallef

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the same declaration and announced that some Russian troops will soon be withdrawn from Syria, although it does not appear that any withdrawal has yet occurred.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also announced, on several occasions, that he will soon withdraw the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops and special operationsforces from Syria, although the Pentagon continues to claim that there is no specific timetable for a withdrawal.

THE WAR AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE

According to the Pentagon, ISIS has been expelled from 99 percent of the territory it controlled in June 2014. As of June 2018, ISIS controlled a small triangle of territory south of Deir ez-Zor and to the west of the Euphrates Valley; a pocket in Iraq west of Al Hadar; and a third pocket east of Al Suwar, along the Syrian-Iraqi border.

In addition, much of its senior leadership, including many of its most experienced field commanders, have been killed or captured, although its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains at large. His death has been announced on several occasions, most recently by Russian military forces but, in the absence of any confirmation, he is presumed to still be alive.

According to unconfirmed reports, the Pentagon has been given six additional months, possibly longer, to finish final operations against ISIS in eastern Syria. It’s estimated that the ISIS militants in the two remaining pockets number several hundred fighters. With little prospect of escape, they are expected to fight tenaciously.

In the meantime, over the month of May, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) renewed their offensive against ISIS militants along the Syrian-Iraqi border. Called Operation Roundup, the operation is designed to capture or kill jihadist fighters in the ISIS pocket that abuts into territory controlled by the SDF in eastern Syria.

At the same time, Iraqi forces have moved in to seal off the Iraqi border area, and Iraqi air forces have launched attacks across a 30-mile front along the Iraq border. French special forces have also been deployed to support the SDF.

The offensive occurred while Turkish military forces and Kurdish militia were at a standoff over Turkish plans to take control of the town of Manbij and while Turkish military units, supported by various affiliated militia units, were taking control of the Kurdish-controlled canton, or district, of Afrin.

The transfer of some Kurdish fighters to Afrin led to a temporary suspension in the SDF’s campaign against the Islamic State.

Notwithstanding the above progress, however, Islamic State forces retook some territory in May that had been previously seized by Syrian military forces around the city of Deir ez-Zor. Four Russian soldiers and 43 insurgents were reported killed as a result of those attacks.

There were conflicting reports on the scope of the casualties, however. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights placed the death toll at 76 Syrian Army troops and 25 ISIS militants.

The international coalition against the Islamic State has also made significant progress in shutting down ISIS’ propaganda machine. Although these operations are conducted by civilian police forces rather than the military, they are an important component in the continuing war against ISIS.

In April, a joint U.S.-EU law enforcement operation conducted by police forces from the U.S., U.K., Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, the Netherlands and Romania took down a range of Islamic State media outlets and the servers they use to distribute their propaganda across the internet.

Among the targets were Amaq, the ISIS media outlet used to broadcast confirmation of attacks, as well as other media channels such as Bayan radio, and the Halumu and Nashir news services. The operation also resulted in identifying domain registrars and domain names used by ISIS as well as the administrators behind its media outlets.

The operation, the third such strike against the Islamic State’s internet presence, was the most extensive so far. Notwithstanding its success, however, ISIS has shown a remarkable resiliency and, in the past, has succeeded in restoring its web presence. The cyber war against the Islamic State is as relentless and as long term as the ground war against its militants.

SITREP: ISLAMIC STATE

As anticipated by many analysts, the rollback of the territory under its control has not destroyed the Islamic State, but simply caused it to revert back to its roots as an insurgency.

Unlike 2014, however, when its attacks were almost entirely in Iraq and Syria, it is now demonstrating a broad, though usually low-level, attack capability that spans virtually the entire globe.

In May, ISIS militants were implicated in a series of three bombings of Christian churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city. The attacks were a family affair by Dita and Puji Kuswanti and their four children, aged 9 to 18. The attacks, which killed 13 people, were the deadliest since the Bali car bombings that killed 23 people in 2005.

ISIS took credit for the attack, although it is believed the attackers were actually part of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). JAD is led by Aman Abdurrahman, a vocal proponent of ISIS in Indonesia.

The next day, another family, this time of five people, carried out an attack against a police security checkpoint in Surabaya. Four police officers and six civilians were injured. Four of the five bombers were killed; the fifth, an 8-year-old child, survived the bombing but was injured.

In Libya, ISIS militants staged an attack against the offices of Libya’s Electoral Commission in Tripoli, killing at least 13 people. The Islamic State was also suspected in a car bomb attack in Alexandria against Gen. Mostafa al-Nimr, the city’s head of security. The attack killed two Egyptian policemen.

Elsewhere, Islamic State militants attacked a voter registration center in central Kabul that killed approximately six dozen Afghanis and several western journalists. The attack occurred within the city’s heavily protected ring of steel, where many government offices and foreign embassies are located.

The broad reach of Islamic State was also underscored by the arrest in Brazil of eleven ISIS supporters charged with attempting to organize a jihadist cell, as well as arrests in Australia, South Africa and London.

This pattern of random, small-scale, localized attacks has increasingly become the norm for the Islamic State. These attacks are carried out by militants who have been radicalized by either ISIS or another jihadist organization without any direct support or direction from the leadership of Islamic State. It is not clear to what extent ISIS even has knowledge of these attacks before they are carried out.

When ISIS first declared the establishment of its caliphate, dozens of jihadist movements rushed to affiliate themselves with it and declare their allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Many were formally recognized as “provinces” of the Islamic State regardless of how much physical territory they actually controlled.

Significantly, none of these organizations has renounced its ties to the Islamic State, even as ISIS’ territorial reach has been largely rolled back. Moreover, a revitalized al-Qaida has steadily been building out its international network. It has heavily promoted Osama bin-Laden’s son, Hamza bin-Laden, as his successor and positioned itself to absorb ISIS supporters into its own ranks.

ISIS has not mounted a significant military operation since the attack on the southern Philippine city of Marawi, on the island of Mindanao, a year ago. The siege, which lasted several months, was carried out by the Maute Group, an ISIS-affiliated jihadist organization.

Maute is a separate organization from the Moro Liberation Front, a jihadist group that has been fighting with the Philippine government for decades and has also voiced support for the Islamic State.

The siege left the center of the city of 50,000 inhabitants largely destroyed and displaced about one-quarter of the town’s population. About 1,000 civilians were killed. Even now, a year after the siege was lifted, residents have not been allowed to return home except to retrieve personal possessions.

Concurrently, ISIS has moved aggressively to make up its lost revenues by expanding into the international narcotics trade. ISIS militants have been implicated in the smuggling of marijuana and hashish from the Balkans into Europe.

They are also believed to be challenging the Taliban’s control over the Afghan heroin trade, and there are reports they may also be involved in the smuggling of South American cocaine, via West Africa, across the Sahara into Europe.

Every major international jihadist organization is now involved with the illegal narcotics trade and is developing broad links to criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking. This union of terrorism and narcotics, so-called narco-terrorism, is an unprecedented development and one of the defining features of international terrorism in the 21st century.

THE FUTURE OF JIHADISM

There are two key operational texts that explain the jihadist mindset and have underscored the international jihadist movement. Both remain deadly relevant, and both emphasize that jihadism is a long-term struggle against the United States and its allies.

The al-Qaida operational text for jihadists is titled Management of Savagery. The text lays out a strategy of creating or capitalizing on regions of chaos or savagery where political and administrative controls have broken down to establish al-Qaida branches.

Those branches would join together to proclaim a worldwide caliphate that would be triggered by the collapse of the Saudi monarchy and al-Qaida gaining control of the Islamic world’s religious capital of Mecca.

It calls for continuing the jihadist struggle against the West, while biding patience until the time is ripe for the establishment of a new caliphate. While violence by militants continues to be encouraged, the group has avoided large, high-profile attacks like the one on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, recognizing that such attacks will only trigger an escalation in the American effort to eradicate the organization.

In al-Qaida’s analysis, the Islamic State’s declaration of a caliphate was premature as the West had not been weakened sufficiently to permit a caliphate being established and defended from attacks by the U.S. and its allies.

From al-Qaida’s perspective, the “regions of savagery” have exploded significantly since the attack in September 2001. At that time, the group was limited to Afghanistan and Somalia. Today, they have been joined by Iraq, Syria, Libya, northern Nigeria, Yemen, and a broad band of sub-Saharan Africa from Mauritania to Somalia. In addition, significant political vacuums have emerged in certain regions of countries like the Philippines, Tunisia and Indonesia.

The ISIS text, called the Fiqh al-Dima or The Jurisprudence of Blood, is a Salafist-inspired work that lays out both the purported Quranic justification of the Islamic State’s actions as well as a practical “how-to manual” for jihadists. Termed the jihadist bible, the text is intended to validate the horrific acts perpetrated by ISIS militants, from beheading to the taking of slaves.

The manual openly advocates the “indiscriminate killing of warring infidels” and beseeches its supporters to “kill them, fight them by every means that may snatch away their souls, drive their spirits from their bodies, cleanse the earth from their filth and removing their scourge from mankind, whatever the means may be.”

The text was used to indoctrinate and radicalize the 5,000 to 10,000 western Muslims that joined the Islamic State and continues to serve as the basis of ISIS’ recruitment and indoctrination. Its call for random, indiscriminate acts of violence has become the pattern of ISIS-inspired attacks around the world.

AN ASSESSMENT

The fight against the Islamic State is far from over. At the very least, the cyber war to take down its digital presence will continue unabated, ebbing and flowing as each successive attempt by ISIS to re-establish its digital caliphate is taken down by Western police agencies.

While the role of military forces fighting ISIS will likely diminish in the next six to nine months, special operations forces will continue to be involved in supporting anti-Jihadist groups around the world.

The continued growth of ISIS-affiliated militants in Afghanistan may at some point result in a broader U.S. role in fighting ISIS there. It is likely that large-scale, localized attacks, like the siege of Marawi last year, will continue to crop up.

In the meantime, ISIS-inspired, low-level, ad hoc attacks against civilians will continue. Such attacks are difficult to anticipate or prevent. Moreover, they will continue regardless of what happens to ISIS.

They are destined to be an ongoing feature of modern life.

— The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

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“Q”: Merkel Connected To Hitler…

“Q” posted a few times about Merkel.

“Q” ‘s Latest post strongly indicates that the research was correct, espacially regarding her real parents and Hitler.

 

 

Merkel is connected in the Q posts with:

1. immigration problem in Germany / Europe

2. Hitler

3. Deepstate / Cabal Pupet

       Russian Archives 

According to documents from the former German secret service (Stasi), current German chancellor Angela Merkel is the daughter of Adolf Hitler, reports Pravda.rs.

Stasi’s documents reveal German Chancellor Angela Merkel is Hitler’s successor – she was born in 1954, the official date of her birth is July 17th, however per documents available in the archives of the Russian KGB, Merkel’s real birth date is July 20th, 1954. Merkel has the same birthday as Adolf Hitler, reports Pravda.rs.

Details of Angela Merkel’s birth are written in the memoirs of Dr. Karl Clauberg, also known as the angel of death who after WW2 was prosecuted and convicted of war crimes.

For his experiments on civilians, Dr. Clauberg was first jailed by the Russians and served a seven year prison sentence. However, he was freed in exchange for secret Stasi documents. It was then that the Russians found out of Hitler’s frozen sperm and Clauberg’s technique for artificial insemination, reports Pravda.rs.

Little is known of Hitler’s father who changed his last name. He was the son of Solomon Rotschild and his mistress Maria Ana Schicklgruber.

According to Stasi documents it was Dr. Clauberg who brought Eva Braun from Western to Eastern Germany. Initially, she was selected as a surrogate mother, the one that will carry Hitler’s child.

Once Clauberg was released by the Soviets, he went back to Western Germany to work on the artificial insemination which resulted in the birth of Angela Merkel in 1954. Shortly after this Dr. Clauberg was suddenly picked up and jailed by US authorities in Western Germany. In 1955 he died in his cell from an alleged heart attack while awaiting his trial. With Dr. Clauberg’s death, it remained unknown who the surrogate mother was, at the same time the man who performed the deed, the main witness was now gone.

World Domination

After Merkel’s birth, Russia, USA and the Vatican made a deal that the Catholic Church who already had great relationship with Germany’s Lutheran Church would be the appointed guardians. At that time, Merkel’s birthdate was tweaked by three days and given a name Angela Dorothea Kasner, reports Pravda.rs. For a fake father was chosen Horst Kasner, a priest at the Lutheran Church, while her mother was certain Herulind, a German and English teacher.

One of the agreement between the three sides was that Merkel will become powerful internationally.

n 1977 Angela Kasner married a physicist and changed her last name to Merkel. She was appointed the new chancellor of Germany shortly after Joseph Ratzinger became the new pope, as per the three page agreement between the US, Russia and the Vatican.

Merkel had a short lived marriage, she divorced in 1982, however kept the last name.

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Speculations Rise Over Cost of Denuclearization

A study estimates that the direct costs could total about $5 billion – Choi He-suk , KoreaHerald

With the US-North Korea summit set for June 12, questions over who will shoulder the cost of denuclearization are rising.

Publicly, the cost of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and who will cover it, has yet to be discussed by the concerned countries.

According to one estimate, the cost of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program could be at least five times higher than that of Ukraine.

This pool photo shows the demolition of North Korea`s Punggye-ri nuclear test site on May 24, 2018. (Yonhap)

In the 1990s, the US offered Ukraine $175 million to help cover the cost of dismantling its nuclear arsenal. At the time, Ukraine reportedly had over 1,800 nuclear warheads produced before the fall of the Soviet Union. The overall cost, borne by the international community, is estimated to be about $460 million.

A recent study by Kwon Hyuk-chul of Kookmin University suggests that the overall costs, those arising from dismantling of weapons to indirect costs such as economic aid, would come to about $20 billion.

Of the total, Kwon estimates that the direct costs — dismantling existing nuclear weapons and disabling research facilities — would come to about $5 billion, spread out over a number of years.

Despite US President Donald Trump’s comments that North Korea appears open to denuclearizing quickly, experts say that the process will likely take years.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Yong-chol, Trump said that he believes that North Korea is open to denuclearizing quickly.

“Well, I think they want to do that. I know they want to do that,” he said when asked if he thinks North Korea will denuclearize “all at once.”

A recent study from Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, however, suggests that a complete denuclearization would require 10 years or more to achieve.

The study suggests a comprehensive roadmap that covers all phases of denuclearization from stopping tests to redirecting North Korean personnel involved in the nuclear weapons program.

According to reports, South Korean intelligence community estimates that North Korea’s nuclear weapons workforce stands at about 3,000 individuals including 200 experts of the field.

The cost of denuclearization, however, will not end with dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The Moon Jae-in administration, which played the role of a matchmaker between Pyongyang and Washington, hopes to go beyond denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

While the US has hinted at economic aid and allowing private sector investment in the North, Trump recently noted that much of the burden will have to be shouldered by Seoul.

“No, I don’t think the United States is going to have to spend. I think South Korea will do it. I think China — I think, frankly, China will help out,” Trump said in response to the question whether he will offer economic aid at his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

He went on to say that Japan will also shoulder some of the economic aid, stressing that the US will not be “spending a lot of money.”

According to a report by London-based investment firm Eurizon SLJ Capital, achieving denuclearization and lasting peace on the peninsula could require as much as $2 trillion over the course of 10 years. The model assumes reunification of the Koreas, and uses the model of German unification.

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A conversation with ex illuminati insider Ronald Bernard and Sacha Stone

 

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Watch Korean Central TV Video of Unofficial visit of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in China.

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N.Korea: Kim Jong Un Reinstates Female ‘Pleasure Squads’ for Sexual Service

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is reportedly following in the creepy footsteps of his father by founding a “pleasure squad” of young women to demonstrate his “sexual power.” –  TheDailyDot

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that the group, called Gippeumjo, was disbanded following the 2011 death of Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, and sent to work at summer villas owned by the Kim family.

The younger Kim apparently developed a taste for the group’s talents while being treated for gout last year.

The women, who were reportedly handpicked by Kim’s advisors, are currently undergoing security training at a hotel in the capital city of Pyongyang.

While the practice of keeping sex slaves has never officially been confirmed, like most of the secretive state’s other outrageous oddities, many defectors have testified to its existence.

Lee Il-nam, who attended private school with Kim in Geneva, said that the “satisfaction team” traditionally serviced not only the nation’s ruler, but also the senior leadership circle.

The girls retire at the age of 25 and sign a pledge of secrecy, apparently in their own blood, “in return for money and gifts.”

It’s unclear how Kim’s wife Ri Sol-ju, who gave birth to his daughter in 2010, feels about the idea.

In 2010, Marie Claire published the harrowing account of a 15-year-old girl who was “recruited” into one such group while Kim’s father was still in power.

“Refusal was not an option,” the article said. “Any attempt at dissent, or to defect, was an offence punishable by death.”

Once chosen, the new recruits undertake a rigorous training regimen. For six months, each young woman is assigned to one of Kim Jong-il’s many luxurious villas and palaces around the country – including his lavish secret lair underneath Mount Baekdusan on the border with China.

Many pleasure squad ingenues are sent overseas to perfect their song, dance and massage skills and then typically, if they are chosen by Kim Jong-il for full admittance into the cadre, are required to sign a pledge of allegiance in their own blood. They are then inducted into one of the teams.

“This has been going on under three generations of the Kim family ruling North Korea,” Professor Toshimitsu Shigemura of Tokyo’s Waseda University told the Telegraph, “and it has become a tradition that is also a demonstration of the leader’s power over his people and his sexual power.”

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North Korea reported to have destroyed nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri

Dagyum Ji and Oliver Hotham 

North Korea on Thursday dismantled its nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri, the Associated Press reported, in a public event attended by 30 international journalists.

Further details on the demolition are expected in the next few hours, with initial reports from South Korean press pool members who attended the event saying its decommissioning began at 1100 and continued until 1617 local time.

“North Korea destroyed at least three nuclear tunnels, observation buildings, a metal foundry and living quarters at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site,” CNN reported with a Punggye-ri byline.

“Before the explosions, the journalists said they were invited to view the explosives rigged in the tunnels, before moving a safe distance away to witness their detonation,” the report added.

It remains unclear whether DPRK leader Kim Jong Un attended the event.

A press delegation featuring journalists from AP, CNN, CBS, Sky News, RT, and others departed from Beijing Capital Airport on Tuesday to witness the site’s demolition.

The following day saw eight reporters from South Korea’s News 1 and MBC join them – following days of uncertainty on whether Pyongyang would grant ROK press access to the event.

The South Korean reporters departed from Seoul Air Base around midday on Wednesday, taking a chartered flight direct to Wonsan – the second such flight this year.

A group of reporters reportedly left a hotel at around 1800 local time yesterday and headed to Wonsan Station, with their train believed to depart for the nuclear test site around an hour later.

North Korea first announced it would dismantle its “nuclear test site in the country’s northern side” following a meeting of the country’s ruling party in late April.

That plan was later confirmed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in during talks with Kim Jong Un on April 27, during which the DPRK leader reportedly said he would invite international press and experts to the event.

“To disclose it to the international community in a transparent manner, [Kim] unveiled [the plan] to invite South Korean and U.S. experts and journalists to North Korea,” a senior official at the ROK presidential office said at the time.

The DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this month said Pyongyang would invite international journalists to witness the dismantling of its northern nuclear test ground, without making any mention of the attendance of experts.

No experts were reportedly in attendance on Thursday – a move which will likely raise questions about the verifiability of the site’s destruction.

Executive Director of the Arms Control Association Daryl G. Kimball on Thursday welcomed the move, though said having press at the event was “not sufficient to ensure nuclear testing won’t occur again.”

Monitoring by Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CBTO) and North Korean ratification of the CBT were “logical next steps,” he added.

Thursday’s event has drawn parallels with the DPRK’s 2008 demolition of the cooling tower of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, during which officials from the U.S. State Department and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) watched the blast from the stand around one km away from the cooling tower.

Punggye-ri nuclear test ground in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province

Punggye-ri — until Thursday the world’s only known active nuclear test site — has been the location of all six of North Korea’s nuclear tests since the country’s first in October 2006.

The country tested further nuclear devices in May 2009, February 2013, and January and September 2016.

The northern nuclear test ground is reportedly comprised of four tunnels, with the east portal believed to be where the North conducted its 2006 test. It is believed to be no longer usable.

The DPRK’s five subsequent nuclear tests are believed to have been conducted at the north portal, while the other two have never been used.

The country’s most recent test was in September last year, when the North claimed that it “successfully carried out” the test of a hydrogen bomb that could be placed on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un two months later declared the completion of his country’s state nuclear force.

One long-time North Korea watcher said the demolition of the test site was largely a symbolic exercise to build trust ahead of a planned DPRK-U.S. summit next month.

“It’s good as both a confidence-building measure and a piece of good political theater,” Andrei Lankov, director of the Korea Risk Group – which owns and operates NK News – said.

“The real significance is somewhat doubtful because the nuclear test site is not a particularly important part of their nuclear weapons development structure. If necessary, it could be relatively easily and cheaply built anew in a different place,” he continued.

“But it was meant to be a goodwill gesture and a signal which will also make a good TV picture, which is very important nowadays.”

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Thursday said that the dismantlement of the nuclear test ground would the North’s “first measure” towards denuclearization.

“We are expecting that the action can serve as the opportunity for the complete denuclearization,” ministry spokesperson Noh Kyu-duk said at a regular news briefing.

Noh said Seoul believes there will be the discussion on follow-up measures to be taken by international organizations, including the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

A press officer at the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) told NK News that the agency had not detected any seismic waves as of 1520 local time on Thursday, adding that they weren’t sure seismic waves caused by the dismantlement of the nuclear test ground were strong enough to be detected.

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N.Korea: Channeling Foreign Information Technology, Information to Regime Goals

Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive: December 2003 Archives

Pyongyang is working with Koreans abroad and other foreign partners in information
technology (IT) ventures, sending software developers overseas for exposure to international trends, granting scientists access to foreign data, and developing new sources of overseas information in a bid to develop the economy. Cellular telephones and Web pages are accessible to some North Koreans, while foreigners in Pyongyang have access to foreign television news and an Internet café. While such steps are opening windows on the world, however, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) officials are largely limiting such exposure to areas required for economic development. Moreover, they are applying IT tools to develop new means of indoctrinating the public in North Korea and reaching audiences overseas.

 Working With Foreign Partners in IT Ventures North Korea is promoting cooperative ventures with foreign partners to develop IT, which DPRK media have repeatedly described as a priority area in science and technology.

An editorial in the 10 November 2003 issue of the party newspaper Nodong Sinmun, for example, named IT as the first of three technical fields, along with nanotechnology and bio-engineering, to which “primary efforts should be directed.”

North Korean media suggest that officials have grasped the potential of leveraging IT for national development. A recent article in the government’s newspaper asserted that

(1) “IT trade surpasses the automobile and crude oil industries” and

(2) “IT goods are more favorable in developing countries than they are in the developed nations” (Minju Choson, 7 March).

ROK analysts, such as those who compiled a survey of Pyongyang’s IT industry (Puhkan-ui IT Hyonhwang-mit Nambuk Kyoryu Hyomnyok Pangan, 1 January), have suggested that DPRK policies for promoting a domestic IT industry reflect the nation’s lack of capital, dearth of natural resources, and relative abundance of technical talent.

Hoonnet.com CEO Kim Pom-hun, whose extensive experience in North Korea includes residence in Pyongyang from December 2001 to October 2002, has assessed North Korean IT manpower as resembling “an open mine with the world’s best reserves of high-quality ore” (Wolgan Choson, 1 January).

Pyongyang is partnering with Koreans in South Korea, Japan, and China, as well as Chinese, in ventures to develop both software and hardware, including:

• The Morning-Panda Joint Venture Company in Pyongyang, a partnership between North Korea’s Electronic Products Development Company and China’s Panda Electronic Group, which began making computers in late 2002.

• The Pyongyang Informatics Center (PIC) and South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology (PUST), which are cooperating to develop virtual reality technology. In addition:

• The ROK’s Hanabiz.com and PIC launched the Hana Program Center in Dandong, China, in August 2001 (http://hanabiz.com/history.html) for joint software development and training of DPRK programmers.

• IMRI—ROK manufacturer of computer peripherals—and CGS—a Tokyo-based software company affiliated with the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (GAKRJ, a.k.a. Chosen Soren)—joined hands in July 2000 to form UNIKOTECH (Unification of Korea Technologies) to develop and market software. Both partners maintain links to North Korean IT enterprises.

• The ROK’s Samsung Electronics and the DPRK’s Korea Computer Center (KCC) have been developing software together at a Samsung research center in Beijing since March 2000 (Chonja Sinmun, 15 October). Venturing Overseas To acquire information on foreign IT trends and to promote their domestic industry, North Koreans have begun venturing overseas in recent years.

• State Software Industry General Bureau Director Han U-ch’ol led a DPRK delegation in late September 2003 to the China International Software and Information Service Fair in Dalian. The North Koreans joined specialists from China and South Korea in describing conditions in their respective IT industries and calling for mutual cooperation. Participants from China and the two Koreas expanded on the theme of cooperation at the IT Exchange Symposium, sponsored by the Dalian Information Industry Association, Pyongyang’s State Software Industry General Bureau, and Seoul’s Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Dalian Alios Technical Consulting, a company run by Chinese Korean Yi Sung-nam, hosted the exchange (www.kotra.or.kr, 15 October, http://hanabiz.com, 9 October).

• Pyongyang opened, in April 2002 in Beijing, its first foreign exhibition of DPRK software products developed by Kim Il-song University, Korea Computer Center (KCC), PIC, and other centers of software development (DPRK Korea Infobank, 16 May 2002).

• KCC Deputy Chief Technician Kim Ki-ch’ol led a delegation of DPRK computer technicians to the World PC Expo 2001, held in September 2001 outside Tokyo. KCC has worked with Digiko Soft—a company run by a Korean resident of Japan—to develop commercial software. Through Digiko Soft, the expo was the first show in Japan “of computer software developed in [North] Korea” (Choson Sinbo, 22 October, 1 October 2001).

• KCC computer programmers Chong Song-hwa and Sim Song-ho won first place in August 2003 in a world championship software competition of go—an Asian game of strategy—held in Japan. KCC teams have visited Japan and China on at least eight occasions since 1997 to compete in program contests for go, taking first prize three times.

Gaining Access to Foreign Data North Korea has been acquiring foreign technical information from a variety of sources in recent years, benefiting from developments in technology, warming ties between the Koreas, and longstanding sympathies of many Korean residents in Japan.

Limiting Information to Technical Areas, Harnessing IT for Domestic Indoctrination and
Foreign Propaganda Development of the nation, rather than empowerment of the individual, appears to be driving DPRK efforts to develop domestic IT infrastructure and industry. Officials, scientists, and traders can now access and exchange information pertinent to their duties within the domestic Kwangmyong Intranet. Those with a “need to know” can even surf the worldwide Web for the latest foreign data. While Kim Chong-il reportedly watches CNN and NHK satellite broadcasts (Kin Seinichi no Ryorinin, 30 June) and supposedly surfs the Internet, the public has no such freedom to learn of the outside world without the filter of official propaganda.

Indeed, Pyongyang is using IT to indoctrinate the public and put its propaganda before foreign audiences. In addition to studying the party line through regular group reading of Nodong Sinmun in hard copy, a practice for indoctrinating members of work units throughout North Korea, the installation of computer networks now brings the newspaper to some workplaces on line, as the photograph below shows:
Moreover, Pyongyang has put its propaganda on the Internet.

Authorities have held the annual Pyongyang International Scientific and Technological Book Exhibition since 2001, bringing foreign vendors and organizations related to S&T publications to North Korea (KCNA, 18 August).

The Trade and Economy Institute, advertised as North Korea’s “sole consulting service provider” on international trade, has been exchanging information with “many countries via Internet” since September 2002 (Foreign Trade of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 1 April).

According to PUST President Pak Ch’an-mo, who has extensive DPRK contacts in academic and scientific circles, North Korea has been purchasing technical books from amazon.com and from South Korea (Kwahak-kwa Kisul, 1 April).

Pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan have long sent technical literature to North Korea.

ROK organizations, including PUST and IT publisher youngjin.com, have been donating technical publications on IT in recent years to DPRK counterparts as a means of earning good will and contributing to the eventual unification of Korea (Chonja Sinmun, 11 August). Cell Phones, Web Pages, and NHK Within North Korea, the advance of IT technology has been suggested by a number of recent developments:

Approximately 3,000 residents of Pyongyang and Nason have reportedly purchased cell phone service since November 2002 (The People’s Korea, 1 March).

Installation of a nationwide optical-fiber cable network in 2000, launch of the Kwangmyong 2000 Intranet the same year, and establishment of computer networks have made available domestic access to extensive technical databases maintained by the Central Scientific and Technological Information Agency, the Grand People’s Study House, and other repositories of technical information.

Via North Korea’s Silibank Web site (www.silibank.com), established in Shenyang, China, in September 2001, registered foreign users can exchange e-mails with DPRK members.

In August 2002, Kim Pom-hun, CEO of the ROK IT company Hoonnet.com, opened an
Internet café in Pyongyang, the only place in North Korea for the public to access the
Internet. Most customers of the service, which uses an optical cable linking Pyongyang
and Shanghai via Sinuiju, are foreign diplomatic officials or international agency
staffers; steep fees reportedly keep most Koreans from going on line (Wolgan Choson, 1
January).

Foreign guests in Pyongyang hotels have had access to foreign news broadcasts of
Britain’s BBC and Japan’s NHK since May 2003, according to a Japanese television
report (TBS Television, 2 September).

KCNA offers Pyongyang’s line in English, Korean, and Spanish at a Web site in Japan at
http://www.kcna.co.jp.

News and views of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and its
affiliated organizations appear on the group’s site at http://www.chongryon.com.

DPRK media, including newspapers Minju Choson and Nodong Sinmun, have appeared
on sites originating in China, such as http://www.dprkorea.com and http://www.uriminzokkiri.com

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RUSSIA HAS 2 BATTERIES CLOSE TO AL-LAQABAH – INTELLIPUS

has two separate batteries in place for S-400 SA-21 GROWLER strategic SAMs. One is located in the hills just west of Al-Laqbah.  April 8, 2018

Operators and other versions

Map with S-300 operators in blue and former operators in red

A S-300 of the Bulgarian Air Force

Russian S-300PMU2 during the Victory Day Parade 2009

The S-300 is mainly used in Eastern Europe and Asia although sources are inconsistent about which countries possess the system.

  •  Algeria– 4/8[89]battalions of S-300PMU2 were ordered in 2006
  •  Armenia– S-300PS (SA-10)
  •  Azerbaijanbought two S-300PMU-2/SA-20B SAM battalions in 2010
  •  Belarus– S-300PS systems delivered from Russia in 2007 to replace older S-300 model in Belarusian inventory.[93]Four divisions of S-300 missiles to be delivered in 2014.
  •  Bulgaria– ten S-300 launchers, divided into two units with five launchers each.
  •  People’s Republic of China– China was the first customer of S-300PMU-2.[16]China also built the HQ-15with the maximum range upgraded from 150 to 200 km (93 to 124 mi). The total number of the S-300PMU/1/2 and HQ-15/18 batteries in PLA are approximately 40 and 60 respectively, as of 2008. The total number of the missiles is well above 1,600, with about 300 launcher platforms.[96]Five such SAM battalions are deployed and in active duty around Beijing region, six battalions in Taiwan strait region and the rest in major cities like Shanghai, Chengdu and Dalian. Two Rif (SA-N-6) systems were purchased in 2002 for the Chinese Navy for the Type 051C destroyers. By 2011, it had obtained 15 battalions (4 systems) S-300PMU-2.
  •  Egypt– The S-300VM “Antey-2500” missile system was ordered in 2014, as part of a multi-billion Egyptian-Russian arms deal signed later that year. The $1 billion contract comprises 4 batteries, a command post and other external elements. In 2015, Russia started delivering the system components, Egyptian soldiers began their training in Russian training centers.[102]By the end of 2017, all batteries were delivered to Egypt.[ Russia is in talks with Egypt on the delivery of additional Antey-2500 systems.
  •  Greece[105]– S-300 PMU1 system acquired after the Cyprus Missile Crisisand operated by HAFon Creteconsisting of 1 Battallions/4 batteries/16 launchers / 80 missiles.[106]. Greece first fired an S-300 during the White Eagle 2013 military exercise, which was the first time it was used since it had been bought 14 years earlier.
  •  IndiaS-300air defence platforms (from Russia).[108][109]
  •  Iran– Originally purchased in 2007, Iran’s S-300 order was blocked until April 2015 when the Kremlin lifted its self-imposed ban on the sale due to international lifting of some sanctions against Iran. The country purchased and received an unknown number of S-300 (probably the S-300PMU2 system, a modified version of the S-300PMU1[110]) in 2016, it was fully tested and implemented in 2017. Iran received four S-300PMU2 batteries from Russia in 2016, each consisting of a 96L6E target acquisition radar, a 30N6E2 target engagement radar, and four 5P85TE2 towed transporter-erector-launchers (TELs). These systems are supported by two 64N6E2 battle management radars and linked using FL-95 antenna masts. Iran also owns an unknown number of a domestically produced Bavar 373, developed before the arrival of Russian S-300 system.
  •  Kazakhstan– 10 battalions after the refurbishment (PS – version)[113](2009 or later), 5 free of charge (2014),[114]and 5 free of charge (2015)
  •  North Korea
  •  Russia– All variations. Russian Air Defence Forces, (part of the Russian Air Force), /(1900 (S-300PT/PS/PMU, 200 S-300V/S-300V1 in 2010 year))[118]2000 in total launchers.[119]All production in 1994 (actually 1990) or older, all the complexes S-300PM have been repairing and upgrading (Favorite-S).[120]S-300P/PT have been retired before 2008, some S-300PS in service, but were to be retired in 2012–2013 Modernization of all version S-300P to the version S-300PM1 was to end in 2014. Resource of each taken increased by 5 years. PM 1 continued to version PM 2.[121]By 2015 S-300V4 was to have been delivered. Modernization of all S-300V to the version S-300V4 was to end in 2012.
  •  Slovakia– One battery S-300PMU and 48 missiles type 5V55R inherited from Czechoslovakia. 3 missiles were fired during exercise in Bulgaria in 2015.[124]
  •  Syria– Own, official government data – there in 2013 (literally – the individual components are placed),[125]a total of 6 was ordered, 1 (V family) has been sold in Egypt.[a]A battery of Russian S-300V4 air defense missile launchers has been transported to Syria, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. Its stated purpose is to defend a Russian naval base and warships.
  •  Ukraine– S-300PS, S-300PMU, S-300V and others. Only six systems have been repaired since 2004; as a result only 40% of Ukrainian S-300 systems were in good condition prior to 2014.[133]The crisis with Russiaresulted in a program of accelerated modernisation,[134]with at least 4 batteries overhauled in the period 2014-15. 34 launchers remained in the Crimeaafter its 2014 annexation by Russia.
  •  Venezuela– Ordered 2 battalions of S-300VM“Antey-2500”, delivered in May 2012.
  •  Vietnam– Bought two S-300PMU-1 for nearly $300 million.[138]and RLS 96L6 after 2009[129][139]Bought S-300 PMU-2 in 2012.
  •  Czechoslovakia– One battalion created in 1990. Passed to Slovakia in 1993.
  •  East Germany– Passed on to West German Army.
  •  Germany– Retired after re-unification.
  •  Georgia
  •  Moldova
  •  Turkmenistan
  •  United States– S-300P purchased from Belarus (1994). The system was devoid of electronics. S300V was purchased in Russia officially in the 1990s (complete set (except for 9S32 GRILL PAN multi-channel guidance radar)). Also acquired from Croatia.
  •  Uzbekistan

Cancelled

SOURCES: Wikipedia

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DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0 is reportedly a member of Russian military intelligence

VOX-Jen KirbyMar 22,–Guccifer 2.0, the supposed lone hacker of Democratic National Committee emails, just so happens to be an agent of Russian intelligence, the Daily Beast reports.

The Daily Beast’s Spencer Ackerman and Kevin Poulsen reconfirmed what US intelligence had conjectured: that Guccifer 2.0 was not the lone Romanian hacker he claimed to be, and was instead a front for the Russian military intelligence agency known as GRU.

But Ackerman and Poulsen add to this narrative: Guccifer 2.0 is a specific (but still unnamed) Russian military intelligence officer. It turns out the hacker who caused chaos in the United States elections made a small but critical error that allowed US investigators to trace his identity:

But on one occasion, The Daily Beast has learned, Guccifer failed to activate the VPN client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company, according to a source familiar with the government’s Guccifer investigation. Twitter and WordPress were Guccifer 2.0’s favored outlets. Neither company would comment for this story, and Guccifer did not respond to a direct message on Twitter.

Working off the IP address, U.S. investigators identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow. (The Daily Beast’s sources did not disclose which particular officer worked as Guccifer.)

The Guccifer 2.0 revelation is a big deal for a few reasons:

1) It piles on to the evidence that Russia attempted to interfere in the US elections.

2) It raises more questions about the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, given the well-documented chats between Guccifer 2.0 and Trump adviser and surrogate Roger Stone.

3) Finally, it could mark a development in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, though Mueller’s office declined to comment for the Daily Beast’s story.

Attributing Guccifer 2.0 to Russian military intelligence means Mueller can charge someone

In February, Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals tied to the Internet Research Agency, accusing them of spreading propaganda to interference and influence the US elections. It’s highly unlikely that those Russians will ever see the inside of a US courtroom, but the indictments laid out a compelling case against the Kremlin.

Those indictments did not tackle other elements of Russia alleged cyber campaign against the US, including the hack of the DNC and the subsequent email dumps released by WikiLeaks. But if US authorities have attributed Guccifer 2.0 to a specific member of Russian military intelligence, Mueller likely has the ability to charge him or her.

The Daily Beast reports that Mueller has, in fact, taken over the investigation into Guccifer 2.0, and has brought the investigators who tracked the officer down onto his team.

It’s unclear what, if anything, might come next. But it will be much harder for Trump, or his defenders, to blame the hack on just “a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” That goes for Stone, who tried to push the narrative that Guccifer 2.0 was a random dude, not the Russians, and released messages the two exchanged to debunk the Kremlin connection.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other top law enforcement officials are hosting a press conference Friday morning to cover a “major cyber law enforcement announcement.” It is reportedly not related to Mueller’s investigation, but the timing sure is interesting.

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How Israel Rules The World Of Cyber Security-Full Episode

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Petition: Tim Cook : #Stop Removing Iranian Apps from the @AppStore · Change.org

Dear Mr. Cook,

Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc.

We’re sending you this petition from Iran, a country in which Apple iOS devices are actively being used by around 6 Million people. More than 11% of our smartphones are iPhones and this makes Iran one of Apple’s biggest markets in the MENA region. In a country which the average monthly wage is around $470, people are paying $850 for a brand new iPhone.

Having hundreds of talented iOS developers in Iran, there have been many widely successful Iranian applications on the App Store. Unfortunately, we have always been facing serious problems using international or even domestic applications via App Store. Namely, the “Error 1009” which has been bugging every Iranian iOS owner for a very long time now. It often prevents users with an Iranian IP address from doing almost anything with their devices [It even includes updating the existing applications].

But recently these unkind actions by Apple Inc. has been taken to a whole new level. Iranian iOS application owners have been receiving a message stating that:

“We are unable to include your app, [App’s name] on the App Store. Under the U.S. sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute, or do business with apps or developers connected to certain U.S. embargoed countries.

This area of law is complex and constantly changing. If the existing restrictions shift, we encourage you to resubmit your app for inclusion on the App Store. “

Many of Iran’s most famous startups have been removed from the App Store due to this new policy in place. Digikala and Snapp are examples of startups affected by the new policy. Former one is Iran’s largest e-commerce platform with millions of users and later one is a localized version of Uber with more than hundred thousands of drivers in 5 largest cities of Iran. This, will have drastic effects on the startup ecosystem and economy. On one hand, we are losing touch with our most needed application and services and on the other hand, it might cause many jobs to be lost.

Today, the digital world is no longer limited to a set of computers connected to each other. It’s everywhere. We, the people of Iran, believe that the soul of technology transcends every policy set in the world. The global village vision for this world was achieved through nothing but technology and Apple has always been on the forefront of this globalization. Yet surprisingly, Apple is now bordering access to one of the most used technology platforms in the world.

We are asking you Mr. Cook, to recognize our rights as Apple customers. Please stop removing Iranian applications from App Store and lift policies that are limiting our access to the products and services offered via Apple’s platforms by people of the world, for the people of the world.

Sincerely yours,

Iranian residents of global village

Cc’d to Mr. Javad Zarif – Iran Foreign Affairs Minister.

————————————

Persian Translation

————————————

آقای کوک عزیز

مدیرعامل شرکت اپل

ما این تقاضا را از ایران برای شما ارسال میکنیم. کشوری که محصولات اپل توسط 6 میلیون نفر مورد استفاده قرار میگیرند. بیش از 11% از گوشی‌های هوشمند مورد استفاده در ایران آیفون هست و این موضوع ایران را به یکی از بزرگترین بازارهای اپل در منطقه خاورمیانه تبدیل کرده است. کشوری که میانگین درآمد ماهانه حدود 470 دلار است و مردم برای خرید یک گوشی نو آیفون 850 دلار میپردازند.

وجود صدها برنامه نویس مستعد iOS در ایران باعث شده که اپلیکیشن‌های موفق زیادی در اپ‌استور قرار بگیرند اما متاسفانه ما همیشه با مشکلات جدی در استفاده از اپلیکیشن‌های بین المللی و حتی داخلی از طریق اپ‌استور روبر هستیم. ارور 1009 یکی از شناخته شده ترین این مشکلات است که مدتهاست باعث آزار کاربران ایرانی شده است که اغلب از هرگونه فعالیت کاربران ایرانی جلوگیری میکند.

اما اخیراً اقدامات غیر دوستانه اپل وارد مرحله جدیدی شده است و صاحبان اپلیکیشن‌های ایرانی با پیامی با شرح زیر روبرو شده‌اند:

“متاسفانه ما قادر به قرار دادن اپلیکیشن شما در اپ‌استور نیستیم. تحت قوانین تحریم ایالات متحده اپ‌استور نمی‌تواند میزبانی، توزیع و یا انجام کسب و کار با برنامه‌ها یا توسعه دهندگان متصل به کشورهای ممنوعه داشته باشد.

این حوزه قانون پیچیده و دائما در حال تغییر است. اگر محدودیت های موجود تغییر می کند، شما را تشویق می کنیم تا برنامه خود را برای ورود به اپ‌استور مجدد ارسال کنید.”

بر اساس این تفسیر جدید از قانون تعداد زیادی از استارتاپ‌های معروف ایران درحال حذف شدن از اپ‌استور هستند. دیجیکالا و اسنپ مثالهایی از این استارتاپ‌ها هستند. دیجیکالا بزرگترین فروشگاه آنلاین ایران با میلیونها کاربر و اسنپ نسخه ایرانی اوبر با بیش از صد هزار راننده در 5 شهر بزرگ کشور. این موضوع تاثیر زیادی برروی اکوسیستم و اقتصاد استارتاپ‌ها میگذارد. ازیک سو درحال از دست دادن اپلیکیشن‌های مورد نیازمان هستیم و از سوی دیگر این موضوع می‌تواند باعث از دست رفتن تعداد زیادی شغل شود.

امروز دنیای دیجیتال دیگر محدود به ارتباط تعداد محدودی کامپیوتر نیست. تکنولوژی در همه جا هست و ما مردم ایران باور داریم که روح تکنولوژی فراتر از قوانین جهان است. دهکده جهانی چشم‌اندازی بود که بوسیله چیزی بجز تکنولوژی بوجود نیامد و اپل همیشه در خط مقدم این جهانی سازی بوده است. شگفت‌آور است اپل امروز مشغول مرز کشی در دسترسی به یکی از تکنولوژی‌هایی است که بیشترین استفاده‌ را در دنیا دارد.

آقای کوک ما از شما می‌خواهیم که حقوق مشتریان اپل در ایران را به رسمیت بشناسید. لطفاً به حذف شدن اپلیکیشن‌های ایرانی از اپ‌استور خاتمه دهید و دسترسی ما به پلتفورم اپل برای استفاده از سرویس‌هایی که توسط مردم دنیا برای مردم دنیا ساخته شده‌اند به حالت عادی باز گردانید.

با احترام

ساکنان ایرانی دهکده جهانی

رونوشت: محمد جواد ظریف – وزیر امور خارجه ایران

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Japan Coast Guard Sinks North Korean Spy Ship – 2015

This is resurfaced footage from the Battle of Amami-Ōshima, also known as the Spy Ship Incident in the Southwest Sea of Kyūshū in 2001! A North Korean Spy Ship was sunk there by Japan after a six-hour confrontation between the Japanese Coast Guard and an armed North Korean vessel, which took place near the island of Amami-Ōshima, in the East China Sea. The encounter ended in the sinking of the North Korean vessel, which the Japanese authorities later announced was determined to have been a spy craft. The encounter took place outside Japanese territorial waters, but within the exclusive economic zone, an area extending 200 miles from Japanese land, within which Japan can claim exclusive rights to fishing and mineral resources. The 15 North Korean sailors who manned the ship were left to perish in the East China Sea.

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Michael Cohen: A Modern Mafioso

Before he became President Trump’s self-styled consigliere, Michael Cohen made a fortune in the taxi business.
The Daily Beast Michael Daly

So, he certainly had the means and the ability to have hopped a cab down to Manhattan federal court on Friday morning to answer a judge’s queries regarding what appeared to be Trumpian exaggerations.

Instead, Cohen remained uptown, chatting with the president on the phone and lounging with friends in the springtime sun outside his luxury Manhattan hotel. He did this even though the prosecution had filed papers attesting that it had established probable cause to believe he had committed multiple federal crimes.

The president’s lawyer left his own lawyer, Todd Harrison, to explain to a dubious Judge Kimba Wood how he figured that the FBI had seized “thousands, if not millions” of documents from “multiple clients” when it executed search warrants at Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and safety deposit box last Monday.

Harrison made that claim while seeking a temporary restraining order to get prosecutors to hold off on examining the materials the FBI had seized. The suggestion was that the sheer volume of the material and the number of cases they involved placed attorney-client privilege in jeopardy.

Unless, Cohen’s lawyers said, they had a hand in deciding which materials should be excluded.  Sure.

In their response papers, the prosecutors countered, “Cohen is not a criminal defense attorney… and is being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings. Based on information gathered in the investigation to date… Cohen has exceedingly few clients and a low volume of potentially privileged communications”.

The prosecutors added, “Cohen has told at least one witness that he has only client – President Trump.”

And Cohen’s HUGE case with Trump may not fall under constitutional safeguards.

“There is reason to doubt that even communications with his only publicly identified client regarding payments to Stephanie Clifford, who is also known as Stormy Daniels, would be protected by attorney-client privilege,” the prosecutors wrote.

Trump himself had helped make that possible.

“Among other things, President Trump has publicly denied knowing that Cohen paid Clifford, and suggested to reporters that they had to ‘ask Michael’ about the payment,” the court papers say.

Cohen may well learn the hard way that there is no such thing as consigliere-client privilege.

The prosecution’s submission also called into Cohen’s contention regarding the number of documents. The judge asked Cohen’s lawyer how he came by that estimate. Harrison had no immediately clear answer.

“How do you know there are thousands if you can’t answer my question?” Wood inquired.

“That is our best understanding,” Harrison said.

Wood was not going to leave it there. The president to whom Cohen has sworn his undying loyalty may deal in unending lies and exaggeration, but Manhattan federal court remains a realm of truth.

“How did you get that understanding?” Wood asked.

“Discussion in the defense team” Harrison said.

“Really,” Wood said. “Who in the defense team?”

“Judge, I’m not prepared to get into discussion of the defense team,” Harrison said. “That’s an approximation. I don’t have the exact number for you. It might be less than a thousand. I don’t know for sure.”

“What I need to know is whether you had a basis as an officer of the court to tell me there are ‘thousands and thousands of privileged documents,’” Wood said.

As 3 p.m. approached, Wood called a recess, saying she wanted a list of Cohen’s clients when the hearing resumed at 4 pm.

“I can’t do that by 4 o’clock,” Harrison said.

“I believe you can, so I want you to try,” Wood replied.

Harrison could have gotten on his cellphone to Cohen, who could have just cabbed it down to the courthouse and provided the judge with a list of his clients, along with a more authoritative estimate of the number of documents involved.

But Cohen stayed uptown and was photographed sitting outside Loews Regency Hotel with some pals who were smoking cigars. He does not look exactly carefree in the picture, but he also does not look like a man who fully appreciates the import of a prosecution document that repeatedly indicates that he faces more than one kind of serious trouble.

“The searches are the result of a months-long investigation into Cohen, and seek evidence of crimes, many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney, but rather relate to Cohen’s own business dealings,” the document says.

Note the plural “crimes” and the word “many.”

Back down at the courthouse, the hugeness of the case had become apparent in the trembling hands of the manifestly un-Trumplike attorney, Joanna Hendon, who had been retained to represent his interests at the hearing. She spoke to the court before the break of “the exceptional nature of my client.”

“What’s at stake?” she asked. “The viability of this prosecution. It has to be done right. He is the president of the United States.”

When the court reconvened at 4 pm. Harrison said he had been unable to assemble a full and reliable list of clients.

“Do you have access to your client over the weekend?” Wood asked.

Maybe Harrison was unaware that Cohen was at almost that very moment being photographed chilling in the sunshine uptown.

“I believe I’ll have access to him over the weekend,” Harrison said.

Wood said that she intended to make the client roster public. That may include fellow GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy, for whom Cohen allegedly arranged a $1.6 million payment for a former playmate who had become pregnant.

Wood allowed that she would redact from the list those clients whose very names would make clear the nature of their case. Wood said she understood concerns regarding the privacy of the clients in question if indeed there were more than one. She did not add that she had once had her own personal life muddied and smeared by the New York Post.

At the time, she had already become well known. President Clinton had moved to nominate her for attorney general only to reconsider after it turned out she had hired an undocumented immigrant as a nanny. The previous nominee, Zoe Baird, had been dropped for her own nanny trouble, the whole thing being called Nannygate even though such hires were not then illegal.

Wood now sits on the bench as a decent person made better by adversity. She is a judge who is not judgmental, but judicious. She is also a believer in fact.

“Your inability to answer these questions suggests that Mr. Cohen should be in court next time,” Wood said.

So, on Monday afternoon, the self-styled consigliere will be in the courthouse from which any number of actual gangsters have been sent to prison.

But hey, maybe along with calling Cohen on Friday to “check in,” Trump was giving his consigliere an unspoken message by pardoning Scooter Libby, the former consigliere to Dick Cheney turned convict for perjury.

One thing Trump would not want would be for Cohen to become so much like a real modern Mafioso that he turns rat.

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Chief of Main Operational Directorate Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy holds briefing in National Centre for State Defence Control

Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

17.03.2018-Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy and spokesman of the Russian Defence Ministry Major General Igor Konashenkov held briefing in the National Centre for State Defence Control.

According to Sergei Rudskoy, in late February, situation in the Eastern Ghouta, suburbs of Damascus, has been complicated due to actions of the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization and other armed formations joined to it. These armed formations activated military actions against the government troops and intensified shelling of living quarters of Damascus.

Acting strict to the UN Security Council Resolution 2401 dating from February 24, the Syrian government troops are eliminating Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists taken position in the Eastern Ghouta.

In order to prevent casualties among civilians, under the auspices of the Russian Reconciliation Centre, the humanitarian pause has been established since February 28. Humanitarian corridors have been organized in order to let civilians leave the area as well as to evacuate injured from the Eastern Ghouta.

Civilians are leaving Arbil, Douma, Kafr Batna, Sabqa, Hamouriyah, and Hazze through the special corridors.

Situation in the Eastern Ghouta has changed critically. Everyone can witness the unique humanitarian operation.

This morning, 27,610 civilians have passed through the humanitarian corridor. In total, 44,639 civilians have left the Eastern Ghouta.

Necessary infrastructure for receiving and transportation of refugees has been deployed near the humanitarian corridors. Under the auspices of Russian troops, post providing hot meal and medical assistance have been organized. Additional places for injured people have been deployed in the nearest hospitals.

It is possible to watch webcast demonstrating civilians leaving the Eastern Ghouta via webcams and unmanned aerial vehicles on the official website of the Russian Defence Ministry and central Russian TV channels.

A number of insurgents’ formations are ready to lay down their arms and leave the Eastern Ghouta. However, they are waiting for a command from their foreign patrons. The Russian party appeals for all forces influencing on illegal armed formations to promote their leaving from the area in order to prevent unnecessary casualties.

Over the past week, three humanitarian convoys have been delivered in the Eastern Ghouta. Civilians have received 445 tons of food and medical supplies as well as bare necessities. Another UN humanitarian convoy consisting of 25 trucks will reach Douma in order to provide assistance to civilians.

All actions aimed to evacuate civilians and provide humanitarian assistance are organized and held by the Russian Reconciliation Centre jointly with the Syrian authorities. Representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations are observing these actions.

Such actions by the Russian Centre are held in other Syrian regions.

In total, 3,806 civilians have leaft the Idlib de-escalation zone for Aleppo province through the humanitarian corridor located near Abu Duhur and Tell Sultan. The corridor has been organized by the Russia-Iran-Turkey Joint Coordination Centre.

Therefore, 23,841 people have returned to the areas located to the east form the Euphrates, Deir ez-Zor province. More than 12,000 people have returned to the settlement of Salkhiyah. The Russian Coordination Centre is located in the settlement.

It is be stressed that insurgents do not stop taking efforts to organize provocations with the use of poisonous agents in order to accuse the government troops of using chemical weapons against civilians.

In regard to information about preparation of provocations by insurgents in the Eastern Ghouta, the Russian party has evidence that American instructors have trained several groups of insurgents near al-Tanfa in order to hold provocations with chemical weapons in the south of Syria.

In the early March, the sabotage groups were deployed in the southern de-escalation zone near Daraa. formations of so-called Free Syrian Army are located there.

They are preparing provocations using explosive devices fitted with poisonous agents. In the future, this fact will be used in order to accuse the government troops of using chemical weapons.

Components for these chemical munitions have already been transported to the southern de-escalation zone under cover of humanitarian convoys of a number of non-governmental organizations.

Insurgents have not only components for poisonous agents but also detonating fuzes camouflaged as packs with cigarettes.

Besides, the Jabhat al-Nusra armed formations with support of so-called ‘White Helmets’ are preparing staged chemical attack near the settlements of al-Habid and Qalb Luza located 25 km northwest Idlib. Therefore, 20 containers with chloride have been delivered there.

It is planned that the event shall be widely broadcasted in the western mass media.

Such provocations will give the USA and its coalition grounds for an attack against military and government facilities in Syria.

“The Russian Ministry of Defence stressed that there is clear evidence of preparations for the possible strikes. There are groups of missile carriers deployed in eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea. It causes a question – whom will the USA support with these strikes? Will it be the Jabhat al-Nusra and its affiliates that commit outrages in the country? The Russian General Staff continues monitoring situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” said Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy.

The official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defence Major General Igor Konashenkov further stressed that over the recent years, months and even days, there has been a lot of criticism towards the Russian Federation, and especially the Russian Ministry of Defence, concerning disastrous situation in the Eastern Ghouta and necessity of urgent humanitarian aid. He reminded that it was always a matter of urgent delivering humanitarian convoys with food and medical supplies, the bare necessities to the residents of the Eastern Ghouta, as well as the evacuation of children, patients and wounded.

But all this did not work out because of terrorists’ interference who used the population of the Eastern Ghouta as a “human shield” and did not allow even patients to leave this area.

According to Major General Igor Konshenkov, Russia has received hundreds of documented reports made by the released residents, who passionately told to journalists, including Western ones, about the outrages committed by militants. Eyewitnesses tell where the humanitarian aid went to, including that of international organizations. Everything was stocked up by militants, when people got nothing of it. The prices for food in Eastern Ghouta are much higher than in Damascus. People in struggle for a living were forced to joint terrorist and fight against government troops. It is to be reminded that militants acted likewise in Aleppo back in December 2016. When the city was liberated from militants, large storages with hundreds of tons of expired food were found there, as well as large storage facilities with medical supplies. Militants kept all these items in their possession, while peaceful citizens were starving.

Therefore, those representatives of Western countries who are trying to present these militants as “moderate opposition” should understand that they become accomplices of serious humanitarian crimes.

Today, Aleppo, liberated more than a year ago is successfully recovering. There are markets, social institutions, schools and hospitals. More than 800,000 Syrians have returned to their homes and live in peace. The official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defence also compared Aleppo with Raqqa liberated by the US-led coalition. The city is ruined, there is no light and no water. Social and medical institutions do not work or are destroyed as a result of the bombing of the coalition aircraft.

The worst thing about Raqqa is that the air temperature increases, and the corpses under the debris decay and get into the soil and aquifers. That is, the epidemiological situation in the city is not serious, but disastrous.

But international humanitarian organizations as well as the US-led coalition that destroyed the city prefer to turn a blind eye to this. Today, no one can arrive in Raqqa, it is not clear who governs the city and who is responsible for the disaster.

“Today the Russian Centre for Reconciliation has managed to create favorable conditions to provide civilians with necessary aid after intensive negotiation process in the Eastern Ghouta”, stated Major General Igor Konashenkov.

He also added that today in order to secure work of the humanitarian centre deployed by Syrian authorities, the Russian Defence Ministry provided 4,100 sets of bed linen, pillows and blankets to residents of the Eastern Ghouta at the request of the UN Office. More than 427 tons of food supplies, field kitchens for cooking hot meals to the population of the Eastern Ghouta, as well as bottled water. The Russian military transport aircraft delivered 3,000 more sets of bed linen, as well as tens of tons of food for the residents of the Eastern Ghouta.

“Just before the briefing, I managed to talk with a Russian representative in the Geneva task force for humanitarian assistance to Syria,” Major General Igor Konashenkov said. – Yesterday the meeting of this group took place, where the UN coordinator in Damascus in videoconference gave a detailed report about the situation in Eastern Ghouta. He highly appreciated the work of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria at all stages of preparation, negotiation and organization of a safe evacuation of civilians from the Eastern Ghouta. The United Nations representative in Syria confirmed that people are leaving the area controlled by insurgents on a voluntary basis. He also told that there were no violations of humanitarian law by the Syrian security forces securing humanitarian corridors in the Eastern Ghouta.”

According to the abovementioned report, the representative of the United Nations registered numerous complaints of civilians leaving the Eastern Ghouta about abuses committed by militants, larceny of incoming humanitarian aid, medical supplies and interference with evacuation of the population from dangerous areas.

Major General Igor Konashenkov stressed once again that the Russian Center for Reconciliation is now carrying out a unique humanitarian operation, which has no analogues, to help the population of Syria in the Eastern Ghouta.

“Today, more than ever, it is necessary and there is possible to help these people. Not by words, but real deeds,” he said. “Since the live footage of daily flow of many thousands of civilians fleeing the Eastern Ghouta is available on the website of the Russian Defence Ministry and on the air of the media, there has been no real help from those who allegedly wanted to help most – the United States, Britain, France and Germany. Therefore, it is now clear that they were going to help not civilians of the Eastern Ghouta.”

“Russia has established all conditions to provide assistance to Syrian people. Dozens of citizens of the Eastern Ghouta are in safe areas. However, they need medical supplies, meal, water, warm clothes, and bare necessities. Therefore, the Russian party appeals for the western countries and international humanitarian organizations to move from words to deeds and keep their numerous promises about providing assistance to the population of the Eastern Ghouta,” stated Major General Igor Konashenkov.

Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation
 
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MOSUL EYE: “Omar Mohammed,” A Historian Undercover”

As the Old City crumbled, Mosul Eye sent coordinates and phone numbers for homes filled with civilians to a BBC journalist who was covering the battle, trying to get the attention of someone in the coalition command. He believes he saved lives.

via MOSUL EYE: “Omar Mohammed,” A Historian Undercover”

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MOSUL EYE: “Omar Mohammed,” A Historian Undercover”

The historian carried secrets too heavy for one man to bear.

Lori Hinnant & Maggie Michael

He packed his bag with his most treasured possessions before going to bed: the 1 terabyte hard drive with his evidence against the Islamic Stategroup, an orange notebook half-filled with notes on Ottoman history, and, a keepsake, the first book from Amazon delivered to Mosul.

He passed the night in despair, imagining all the ways he could die, and the moment he would leave his mother and his city.

He had spent nearly his entire life in this home, with his five brothers and five sisters. He woke his mother in her bedroom on the ground floor.
“I am leaving,” he said. “Where?” she asked. “I am leaving,” was all he could say. He couldn’t endanger her by telling her anything more. In truth, since the IS had invaded his city, he’d lived a life about which she was totally unaware.

He felt her eyes on the back of his neck, and headed to the waiting Chevrolet. He didn’t look back.

For nearly two years, he’d wandered the streets of occupied Mosul, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by IS. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and deaths by stoning, so he could hear the killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes.
The blogger known as Mosul Eye kept his identity a secret as he documented Islamic State rule.
He wasn’t a spy. He was an undercover historian and blogger . As IS turned the Iraqi city he loved into a fundamentalist bastion, he decided he would show the world how the extremists had distorted its true nature, how they were trying to rewrite the past and forge a brutal Sunni-only future for a city that had once welcomed many faiths.

He knew that if he was caught he too would be killed.

“I am writing this for the history , because I know this will end. People will return, life will go back to normal,” is how he explained the blog that was his conduit to the citizens of Mosul and the world beyond. “After many years, there will be people who will study what happened. The city deserves to have something written to defend the city and tell the truth, because they say that when the war begins, the first victim is the truth.”
He called himself Mosul Eye . He made a promise to himself in those first few days: Trust no one, document everything.

Neither family, friends nor the Islamic State group could identify him. His readership grew by the thousands every month.

And now, he was running for his life.

But it would mean passing through one Islamic State checkpoint after another, on the odds that the extremists wouldn’t stop him, wouldn’t find the hard drive that contained evidence of IS atrocities, the names of its collaborators and fighters, and all the evidence that its bearer was the man they’d been trying to silence since they first swept in.

The weight of months and years of anonymity were crushing him.

He missed his name.

___

From the beginning, Mosul Eye wrote simultaneously as a witness and a historian. Born in the midst of the Iran-Iraqwar in 1986, he had come of age during a second war, when Saddam Hussein fell and the Americans took over. At 17, he remembers going to a meeting of extremists at the mosque and hearing them talk about fighting the crusaders. “I should be honest, I didn’t understand.”

As for the Americans, whose language he already spoke haltingly, he couldn’t fathom why they would come all the way from the United States to Mosul. He thought studying history would give him the answers.

The men in black came from the north, cutting across his neighborhood in brand new trucks, the best all-terrain Toyotas money could buy. He had seen jihadis before in Mosul and at first figured these men would fade away like the rest. But in the midst of pitched fighting, the extremists found the time to run down about 70 assassination targets and kill them all, hanging enormous banners announcing their arrival in June 2014.

By then a newly minted teacher, the historian attended a staff meeting at Mosul University, where the conquerors explained the Islamic State education system, how all classes would be based upon the strictest interpretation of the Quran. To a man who had been accused of secularism during his master’s thesis defense just the year before, it felt like the end of his career.

In those first few days, he wrote observations about IS, also known by the acronym ISIS, on his personal Facebook page — until a friend warned that he risked being killed. With the smell of battle still in the air, he wandered the streets, puzzling over its transformation into a city at war. He returned to find his family weeping. The smell of smoke and gunfire permeated the home.

On June 18, 2014, a week after the city fell, Mosul Eye was born .

“My job as a historian requires an unbiased approach which I am going to adhere to and keep my personal opinion to myself,” he wrote. “I will only communicate the facts I see.”

By day, he chatted with Islamic State fighters and vendors, and observed. Always observed. By night, he wrote in his native Arabic and fluent English on a WordPress blog and later on Facebook and Twitter.

The city turned dark, and Mosul Eye became one of the outside world’s main sources of news about the Islamic State fighters, their atrocities and their transformation of the city into a grotesque shadow of itself. The things IS wanted kept secret went to the heart of its brutal rule.

“They were organized as a killing machine. They are thirsty (for) blood and money and women.”

He attended Friday sermons with feigned enthusiasm. He collected and posted propaganda leaflets, including one on July 27, 2014, that claimed the Islamic State leader was a descendent of the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter. Back home, writing on his blog in his other, secret identity, he decried the leaflet as a blatant attempt “to distort history” to justify the fanatics’ actions.

He drank glass after glass of tea at the hospital, talking to people who worked there. Much of the information he collected went up online. Other details he kept in his computer, for fear they would give away his identity. Someday, he told himself, he would write Mosul’s history using these documents.

The most sensitive information initially came from two old friends: one a doctor and the other a high school dropout who embraced the Islamic State’s extreme interpretation of religion. He was a taxi driver who like many others in Mosul had been detained by a Shiite militia in 2008 and still burned with resentment. He swiftly joined an intelligence unit in Mosul, becoming “one of the monsters of ISIS” — and couldn’t resist bragging about his insider knowledge.

Once he corroborated the details and masked the sources, Mosul Eye put it out for the world to see. He sometimes included photos of the fighters and commanders, complete with biographies pieced together over days of surreptitious gathering of bits and pieces of information during the course of his normal life — that of an out-of-work scholar living at home with his family.

“I used the two characters, the two personalities to serve each other,” he said. He would chat up market vendors and bored checkpoint guards for new leads.

He took on other identities as well on Facebook. Although the names were clearly fake, the characters started to take on a life of their own. One was named Mouris Milton whom he came to believe was an even better version of himself — funny, knowledgeable. Another was Ibn al-Athir al-Mawsilli, a coldly logical historian.

International media picked up on Mosul Eye from the first days, starting with an online question-and-answer with a German newspaper. The anonymous writer gave periodic written interviews in English over the years. Sometimes, journalists quoted his blog and called it an interview. In October 2016, he spoke by phone with the New Yorker for a profile but still kept his identity masked.

Intelligence agencies made contact as well and he rebuffed them each time.

“I am not a spy or a journalist,” he would say. “I tell them this: If you want the information, it’s published and it’s public for free. Take it.”

First the Islamic State group compiled lists of women accused of prostitution, he said, stoning or shooting around 500 in the initial months. Then it went after men accused of being gay, flinging them off tall buildings. Shiites, Christians and Yazidis fled from a city once proud of its multiple religions.

When the only Mosul residents left were fellow Sunnis, they too were not spared, according to the catalog of horrors that is Mosul Eye’s daily report. He detailed the deaths and whippings, for spying and apostasy, for failing to attend prayers, for overdue taxes. The blog attracted the attention of the fanatics, who posted death threats in the comments section.

___

Less than a year into their rule, in March 2015, he nearly cracked. IS beheaded a 14-year-old in front of a crowd; 12 people were arrested for selling and smoking cigarettes, and some of them flogged publicly. Seeing few alternatives, young men from Mosul were joining up by the dozens.

The sight of a fanatic severing the hand of a child accused of stealing unmoored him. The man told the boy that his hand was a gift of repentance to God before serenely slicing it away.

It was too much.

Mosul Eye was done. He defied the dress requirements, cut his hair short, shaved his beard and pulled on a bright red crewneck sweater. He persuaded his closest friend to join him.

“I decided to die.”

The sun shining, they drove to the banks of the Tigris blasting forbidden music from the car. They spread a scrap of rug over a stone outcropping and shared a carafe of tea. Mosul Eye lit a cigarette, heedless of a handful of other people picnicking nearby.

“I was so tired of worrying about myself, my family, my brothers. I am not alive to worry, but I am alive to live this life. I thought: I am done.”

He planned it as a sort of last supper, a final joyful day to end all days. He assumed he would be spotted, arrested, tortured. The tea was the best he had ever tasted.

Somehow, incredibly, his crimes went unnoticed.

He went home.

“At that moment I felt like I was given a new life.”

He grew out his hair and beard again, put the shortened trousers back on. And, for the remainder of his time in Mosul, smoked and listened to music in his room with the curtains drawn and the lights off. His computer screen and the tip of his cigarette glowed as he wrote in the dark.

The next month, he slipped up.

His friend the ex-taxi driver told him about an airstrike that had just killed multiple high-level Islamic State commanders, destroying a giant weapons cache. Elated, Mosul Eye dashed home to post it online. He hit “publish” and then, minutes later, realized his mistake. The information could have come from only one person. He trashed the post and spent a sleepless night.

“It’s like a death game and one mistake could finish your life.”

For a week, he went dark. Then he invited his friend to meet at a restaurant. They ate spicy chicken, an unemployed teacher and the gun-toting ex-taxi driver talking again about their city and their lives. His cover was not blown.

The historian went back online. Alongside the blog, he kept meticulous records — information too dangerous to share.

His computer hard drive filled with death, filed according to date, cause of death, perpetrator, neighborhood and ethnicity. Accompanying each spreadsheet entry was a separate file with observations from each day.

“IS is forcing abortions and tubal ligation surgeries on Yazidi women,” he wrote in unpublished notes from January 2015. A doctor told him there had been between 50 and 60 forced abortions and a dozen Yazidi girls younger than 15 died of injuries from repeated rapes.

April 19, 2015: “The forensics department received the bodies of 23 IS militants killed in Baiji. They had no shrapnel, no bullets, no explosives and the cause of death does not seem to be explosion. It is like nothing happened to the bodies. A medical source believes they were exposed to poison gas.”

July 7, 2015: “43 citizens were executed in different places, this time by gunfire, which is unusual because they were previously beheadings. A source inside IS said that 13 of those who were executed are fighters and they tried to flee.”

He noted a flurry of security on days when the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seemed to be in town.

Many in Iraq, especially those who supported the Shiite-dominated leadership in Baghdad, blamed Mosul for its own fate. Mosul Eye freely acknowledged that some residents at first believed the new conquerors could only be an improvement over the heavy-handed government and the soldiers who fled with hardly a backward glance at the city they were supposed to defend.

But he also wrote publicly and privately of the suffering among citizens who refused to join the group. He was fighting on two fronts: “One against ISIS, and the other against the rumors. Trying to protect the face of Mosul, the soul of Mosul.”

He tested out different voices, implying one day that he was Christian, another that he was Muslim. Sometimes he indicated he was gone, other times that he was still in the city. “I couldn’t trust anyone,” he said.

In his mind, he left Mosul a thousand times, but always found reasons to stay: his mother, his nieces and nephews, his mission.

But finally, he had to go.

“I had to run away with the proof that will protect Mosul for years to come, and to at least be loyal to the people who were killed in the city.”

And he did not want to become another casualty of the monsters.

“I think I deserve life, deserve to be alive.”

A smuggler, persuaded by $1,000 and the assurances of a mutual acquaintance, agreed to get him out. He was leaving the next day. Mosul Eye had no time to reflect, no time to change his mind.

He returned home and began transferring the contents of his computer to the hard drive. He pulled out the orange notebook with the hand-drawn map of Mosul on the cover and the outlines of what he hoped would one day be his doctoral dissertation. Into the bag went “Father Bombo’s Pilgrimage to Mecca,” an obscure American satirical novel from 1770 that he had ordered from Amazon via a new shop that was the only place in town to order from abroad online.

It was time to leave.

He wanted to make sure his mother would never have to watch the capture and killing of Mosul Eye.

On Dec. 15, 2015 he left Mosul, driving with the smuggler to the outskirts of Raqqa, a pickup point that alarmed him. From there he and other Iraqis and Syrians were picked up by a second set of smugglers and driven by convoy to Turkey.

They had no trouble crossing the border.

__

In Turkey, Mosul Eye kept at it: via WhatsApp and Viber, from Facebook messages and long conversations with friends and relatives who had contacts within IS. From hundreds of kilometers away, his life remained consumed by events in Mosul.

By mid-2016, deaths were piling up faster than he could document. The IS and airstrikes were taking a bloody toll on residents. His records grew haphazard, and he turned to Twitter to document the atrocities. In February 2017, he received asylum in Europe with the aid of an organization that learned his backstory. He continued to track the airstrikes and Islamic State killings

He mapped the airstrikes as they closed in on his family, pleading with his older brother to leave his home in West Mosul. Ahmed, 36, died days later when shrapnel from a mortar strike pierced his heart, leaving behind four young children.

It was only then that Mosul Eye revealed his secret to a younger brother — who was proud to learn the anonymous historian he had been reading for so long was his brother.

“People in Mosul had lost hope and confidence in politicians, in everything,” his brother said. Mosul Eye “managed to show that it’s possible to change the situation in the city and bring it back to life.”

As the Old City crumbled, Mosul Eye sent coordinates and phone numbers for homes filled with civilians to a BBC journalist who was covering the battle, trying to get the attention of someone in the coalition command. He believes he saved lives.

Then, with his beloved Old City destroyed, Mosul Eye launched a fundraiser to rebuild the city’s libraries because the extremists had burned all the books. None of his volunteers knew his identity.

An activist who helped co-found a “Women of Mosul” Facebook group with Mosul Eye describes him as a “spiritual leader” for the city’s secular-minded.

“He was telling us about the day-to-day events under ISIS and we were following closely with excitement as if we were watching a movie. Sometimes he went through hard times and we used to encourage him. He won the people’s trust and we became very curious to know his real personality,” said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she believed she was still in danger.

From a distance, finally writing his dissertation on 19th century Mosul history in the safety of a European city, he continued to write as Mosul Eye and organize cultural events and fundraisers from afar — even after Mosul was liberated.

The double life consumed him, sapped energy he’d rather use for the doctoral dissertation and for helping Mosul rebuild. And it hurt when someone asked the young Iraqi why he didn’t do more to help his people. He desperately wanted his mother to know all that he had done.

He felt barely real, with so many people knowing him by false identities: 293,000 followers on Facebook, 37,000 on WordPress and 23,400 on Twitter.

In hours of face-to-face conversations with The Associated Press over the course of two months, he agonized over when and how to end the anonymity that plagued him. He did not want to be a virtual character anymore.

On Nov. 15, 2017, Mosul Eye made his decision.

“I can’t be anonymous anymore. This is to say that I defeated ISIS. You can see me now, and you can know me now.”

He is 31 years old.

His name is Omar Mohammed.

“I am a scholar.”

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Prince MBS, Crown Prince of S.A.: “ISRAEL HAS A RIGHT TO EXIST”

Did he have “no religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?” The crown prince responded “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

via Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of S.A.: “”ISRAEL HAS A RIGHT TO EXIST”

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Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of S.A.: “”ISRAEL HAS A RIGHT TO EXIST”

An interview between The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, published yesterday, contains several firsts – not the least of which is the first public acknowledgment by an Arab leader that “the Jewish people [have a right] to have a nation-state of their own next to a Palestinian state.”

According to Goldberg, bin Salman “did not have a bad word to say” about Israel, his known ally, and expressed fair and even-handed opinions about both Israel and Jews.

To the question of whether “the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland,” Bin Salman responded “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

In terms of future ties with Israel, the interview did not contain explicit references to any official arrangements with Israeli lawmakers. Nonetheless, the public has seen the channels of communication between the two nations widening, as a Saudi general visited Jerusalem in 2016 and Saudi Arabia recently gave permission to Israel to fly over its airspace on flight routes to India.

Did he have “no religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?” The crown prince responded “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

The Prince was also insistent about the establishment of an agreement between the two sides, “But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” he said.

Nor did the crown prince have favorable words for Israel’s biggest enemy – Iran. Significantly, the crown prince’s regard for Iran’s supreme leader was summed up as follows “I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good. Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. … The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world.”

 

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Social and Political Economies of the Internet in the Middle East

Working for free is foundational to the Internet and its early development in the public sector, from the assiduous efforts of its creators to spread the ethos and practices of their work, to preserving those as alternatives against others that would modify the Internet.

via Social and Political Economies of the Internet in the Middle East

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THE TWO FACES OF KOREA…N&S

Peter Hayes & Chung-in Moon

Declassified CIA papers cast new light on South Korea’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons in the 1970s and show that the program continued for at least two years after the US thought it had ended. With some in South Korea again discussing a nuclear option, Peter Hayes and Chung-in Moon find lessons for today.

In recent years, many previously classified US diplomatic cables have been released relating to nuclear proliferation in South Korea during the later years of the Park Chung Hee era in the 1970s. They paint a more complete picture of the nation’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons than was previously known, especially in the period between 1976 and 1978.

In light of current discussions in South Korea about developing nuclear weapons, it is important to look back and realize that Park’s aggressive nuclear behavior was largely triggered by eroding or ambiguous security assurances from Washington, especially the end of the Vietnam War and President Jimmy Carter’s decision to withdraw key American forces in South Korea, including tactical nuclear weapons. The uncertainty of the period left Park wanting the country to have its own nuclear deterrent.

Declassified US State Department cables are the foundation of an important study published in 2011 by Sung Gul Hong on Park’s attempts to make a nuclear weapon, including in the post-1975 period when the United States threatened to rupture the security alliance if the Republic of Korea (ROK) proceeded down this path.1 But, as Hong concluded, far from making South Korea more secure, Park’s toying with the nuclear option made him an unpredictable and even dangerous client who needed restraint in US policy-makers’ eyes.

Global Asia has studied a recently declassified set of documents posted by the CIA that provides important new information on Park’s efforts, and on the US response. The documents show that considerably greater proliferation of missiles and fissile materials and related technology was going on even after 1976 and up to 1978 than was previously known. Most accounts have the proliferation activity ending in 1976.
The most important of the CIA documents is South Korea: Nuclear Developments and Strategic Decisionmaking (sic), issued in June 1978 and released in 2005 under a routine 25-year declassification program.2 The document has languished largely unnoticed on the Web since it was released, so in this essay, we review the insights provided by the report.

Given the public debate in Seoul about nuclear weapons, we believe that there are lessons to be learned from Park’s failed proliferation strategy. It was a misguided effort but it was triggered by real security concerns. What mattered then, and what matters today, is the ability of South Korea and the United States to respond to North Korean military aggression. In that light, the North Koreans know they would lose a military confrontation, but nothing could justify North Korean nuclear weapons more than South Korea reactivating its nuclear weapons program. South Korea paid a high price for Park’s nuclear program. We see no reason to repeat this history.

KEY FINDINGS

In late 1974, Park – a former army general who took power in 1961 and ruled the ROK until his death in 1979 – authorized a program to develop nuclear weapons technology. In January 1976, he ended negotiations with France to obtain reprocessing technology, and by December 1976 he suspended the nuclear weapons program under immense pressure from the United States. What is less well known, though, is the proliferation activity that continued after 1976, partly in response to the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons included in the pullout of the 2nd Infantry Division, Hong has shown.

With Park fearing that the United States would abandon South Korea after the Vietnam War, despite the ROK having sent troops to that conflict, North Korean aggression seemed particularly menacing. A commando raid on the Blue House in January 1968, followed three days later by the seizure of the USS Pueblo, created a climate of fear. In addition, Nixon and Kissinger’s opening to China without prior consultation with South Korea left Park wondering if Washington would also open a channel to the North behind the South’s back. North Korean infiltration tunnels were discovered under the DMZ in 1974-75, and Park also witnessed the murder of his wife by a pro-North Korean assassin in 1974. Another key factor was the unilateral withdrawal of the US 7th Infantry Division in 1971, and on-going discussion of further withdrawals.

American politicians and journalists also increased their criticism of Park’s dictatorial regime after he institutionalized his rule. His sense of abandonment by the United States was acute.

South Korea’s confidence in the US declined still further after Jan. 26, 1977, when incoming President Jimmy Carter ordered the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the ROK along with the 2nd infantry division.

South Korean nuclear researchers believed that “while bowing to US preferences on the line of work they pursue, certain activities can and should be undertaken to keep Seoul’s nuclear option open,” the report said. A program was undertaken to acquire a missile that could threaten Pyongyang, while long-term nuclear fuel cycle technology was sought to keep the bomb option open.

In the 1978 report, the CIA found:

• “No evidence that any nuclear weapons design work is under way at present.

• “No evidence that the South Koreans are trying to acquire a uranium enrichment capability.

• “No evidence of any current activity related to the acquisition of a reprocessing capability.

• “No evidence of stockpiling of fissile material.

• “No evidence of work on weapons fabrication.”

But, the CIA concluded, South Koreans were facing decisions in the 1978-80 period that could affect the lead time to acquire nuclear weapons later. “Among the decisions that are likely to arise are those concerning whether or not to assemble a prototype and then produce in quantity a surface-to-surface missile, and what to do with the substantial investment Korea has in nuclear research personnel.” Overall, the report argued, the most important factor would be South Korea’s “perception of the reliability of the US security commitment and, conversely, the imminence of the North Korean threat.”

It is worth noting here that the CIA’s relatively relaxed interpretation of Park’s nuclear program in 1978 is contrary to the widespread rumor in South Korea that the CIA might have orchestrated his assassination on Oct. 26, 1979, in order to stop his nuclear ambitions.3

PHASE 1: NUCLEAR MISSILE PROGRAM

The missile program (called Baekgom, or White Bear) was initiated on May 14, 1974, at Park’s instruction.4 By 1975, a dedicated nuclear weapons program had emerged, code-named Project 890, the CIA report says, with three teams working on missile design, nuclear and chemical warheads under the Agency for Defense Development (ADD). Korean scientists recruited from abroad by mid-1975 were working on warheads, high explosives fabrication, and computer codes. The warhead design effort involved about fifty scientists and technicians; the chemical warhead team was smaller, but by mid-1976, the missile team numbered more than 250. “This focus on missile systems,” the CIA noted, “implies an interest in acquiring a number of nuclear devices,” although exactly which type was not clear to it. Moreover, “It is clear that Seoul has not addressed the question of physical and chain-of-command control of nuclear weapons,” the report said.

By December 1976, the ADD completed its missile research and development site, Hong wrote, where work focused on modifying the US Nike-Hercules missile as a surface-to-surface weapon. Even without modification, the CIA added, it could already hit Pyongyang. South Korean modifications aimed to extend its reach to hit command centers and equipment within a 350 km range.5

Not surprisingly, the attempts to obtain American missile technology met with strong American opposition in 1975 and 1976, which forced the ADD to agree to limit the range of the missiles to 180 km and the warhead to 440 kg. As of May 1976, an initial design was nearly complete. The CIA was able to obtain detailed technical parameters for the ADD’s research: “The rocket motors, airframe, control system, and onboard guidance system would be dramatically upgraded or entirely redesigned,” the CIA report said. “Using French assistance for both propellant and production technology, the ADD succeeded in casting a reduced-scale motor.” ADD also circumvented US opposition to its acquisition of a Lockheed propellant plant from California by buying the manufacturing technology from a French company.6

The ADD decided not to modify the standard Nike-Hercules tracking radar with technology obtained from US firms because the ADD viewed it as running “too high a risk of exposing the program,” the report notes. Instead, it opted for the “use of solid-state electronics rather than the vacuum-tube technology of the standard Nike-Hercules.” By December 1976, the ADD had not produced a prototype missile when the program was suspended, and it remained in suspension until September 1977 when it received a green light to proceed anew.

FUEL-CYCLE LINKAGE

By 1974, South Korea also had undertaken a massive nuclear power program and had already moved toward advanced fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities that entailed separating enough plutonium for about one weapon per year. South Korea attempted to buy pilot reprocessing plants from Belgium, but the United States and Canada pushed the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) to drop those plans.

The United States was particularly concerned about KAERI’s negotiations to buy a Canadian NRX heavy water research reactor that would provide a pathway to plutonium. In 1975, KAERI negotiated a loan with Belgium to purchase a small mixed (plutonium-uranium) nuclear fabrication facility. “The Belgian facility would have given Korea the last key of the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle,” the report said.

The plans foundered when Canada suspended its talks about supplying the NRX to South Korea – this being the same reactor from which India had recently diverted plutonium for its 1974 nuclear test. Both the United States and Canada then used their financing leverage over nuclear power plants on order to force KAERI to drop its plans for both reprocessing and for a mixed oxide research plants. “Planners at the Blue House,” stated the CIA, “viewed [these facilities] as a necessary component of a covert program within the military to develop a nuclear weapons capability.”

Park suspended this effort in December 1976 after strong US diplomatic intervention. But, noted the CIA, “His willingness to suspend 890 was strongly conditioned by the poor performance of the ADD … and by the lack of any immediate need for nuclear weapons development.”

Park’s willingness was due primarily to demonstrations of American resolve in 1975 and 1976. US Defense Secretary James Schlesinger met with Park on Aug. 27, 1975, at which time the two men agreed that whatever might be said publicly about nuclear weapons to reinforce morale, in fact Seoul was more vulnerable to nuclear attack than Pyongyang, and US-ROK forces could “cope with a North Korean attack without the use of nuclear weapons.” 7

Park also may have been impressed by the US response to the attack by North Koreans at Panmunjom on Aug. 18, 1976, in which two American soldiers were killed. US and ROK troops were put on high alert, an armada of warships was sent off North Korea’s coast and B-52 bombers were sent daily on practice bombing runs.8

The impact of this event, combined with the US threat to cut off support for South Korea’s nuclear power program, prompted Park to end Project 890 two years after it began, according to an internal State Department document.9

‘UNGUIDED ROCKETS’

The CIA report also cast new light on the internal dynamics of Park’s nuclear weapons program. Although cabinet-level discussions of a nuclear weapons program began as early as 1969, a decision to proceed was made solely by Park in late 1974 based on a non-specific briefing. Disturbingly, the CIA noted, the policy planning for the nuclear weapons program “was erratic, even haphazard.”

“A written study assessing the pros and cons of developing, deploying and using nuclear weapons was not, and still has not, been produced,” reported the CIA. This was compounded by a tendency of Korean research and development agencies in general to overreach. Consequently, these agencies were “operating essentially as unguided rockets.” The ADD in particular, they noted, “intentionally exaggerated its own capabilities and depreciated the difficulty of organizing sophisticated programs” in order to maximize its budget allocation. Only when Project 890 was cancelled did Park transfer responsibility for overhauling the nuclear programs to the Blue House, the CIA said. The Senior Secretary in charge of the heavy-chemical and defense industry, O Won-chol, attempted to rationalize the nuclear research process via a Cabinet review, thereby reducing the independence of the nuclear research institutes.

These institutes were aware of the political risks that their activities posed to South Korea, but tried to manage these risks by arguing that they were only hedging against an uncertain future. Blue House staffers compared South Korea with Israel, noting that US military aid flowed in the midst of suspicions that Israel was developing nuclear weapons. According to the CIA report, these officials believed “that the United States – while opposing short-term weapons work in Korea – would eventually recognize and tolerate Korea’s need to have an independent nuclear capability.”

Only in late 1975, the CIA stated, did an informal group of Korean officials who had previously passively accepted the nuclear weapons program emerge as bureaucratic foes. The clinching argument was the threat to the alliance with the United States. However, the CIA’s portrayal of an emerging set of opponents may not be correct. Others have argued that rather than resisting, these officials may have been protecting the missile and nuclear activities from challenge by other actors. On this score history remains murky.

PHASE 2: REACTIVATING ELEMENTS OF PROJECT 890

Jimmy Carter’s election confirmed Park’s worst fears of a precipitous withdrawal of US ground forces and nuclear weapons from Korea. Indeed, within a week of taking office, Carter ordered that a plan be developed to withdraw US nuclear weapons,10 even before a formal review was initiated on Jan. 29, 1977, including consideration of “ROK nuclear intentions and efforts to acquire advanced missile technology.” 11

The government-controlled South Korean media soon began discussing a nuclear option starting in May 1977. The CIA characterized the propaganda offensive in a separate report as “designed to reassure South Koreans that the Park government was taking all steps needed to ensure security against the North, and also to pressure the United States to rethink its withdrawal plans.” 12 The agency concluded that there was no evidence that the ROK government was actually debating acquiring nuclear weapons, nor were there any signs of new research and development to support such a clandestine program.

By August 1977, US officials had serious misgivings about the impact of withdrawing nuclear weapons from Korea. A CIA memorandum that August, entitled The Implications of Withdrawing Nuclear Weapons From Korea, suggested that removing US nuclear weapons was in accord with the North’s strategic goals, but its leaders would still know that the United States could deliver them at any moment or reintroduce them to the Peninsula itself. South Korea, however, got a different message. “Seoul will read the total withdrawal of nuclear weapons as evidence of US intent to forego their use in a future conflict.” 13

The memo described how a sharp rupture in the alliance could threaten arms sales from the United States, could worsen trade relations, and could even accelerate the rate of US withdrawal and lead to the resumption of Park’s nuclear weapons program. “The withdrawal of all US nuclear weapons,” it concluded, “will clearly strengthen Park’s determination to move toward military self-reliance.” The Carter Administration withdrew 1,000 American troops in September 1977 and another 500 in November 1978, before he reversed the withdrawal policy in 1979.

As of June 1978, by the time the Strategic Decisionmaking report was published, the ADD nuclear weapons designers had been redirected from Project 890 to high explosives and chemical warfare work. Of course, the line between nuclear and non-nuclear remained problematic because, as the CIA analysts explained, “an established high-explosives capability would also be advantageous to Korea if a nuclear weapons program were resumed.”

For their part, the missile engineers were back at work by September 1977 when the ADD was given the go-ahead to resume work on extending the range of the modified Nike-Hercules. As of June 1978, the CIA reported that the ADD’s missile researchers were distributed across three of the six directorates of its Advanced Weapons Center at Taejon.

The ADD began to test-fire the modified Nike-Hercules in April 1978 “to demonstrate – or give the illusion of – its ability to develop a long-range surface-to-surface missile,” the analysts wrote, and thereby win Park’s approval for a missile with a 3,500 km range to be available by about 1985.

The CIA analysts admitted that they had no specific information on the type of nuclear warhead that ADD might develop for such a missile. “Refinement in weapons design requires extensive testing of high explosives at a site that consists of a firing pad and bunker, along with elaborate instrumentation, for example, ultra high-speed cameras, flash X-ray systems, and oscilloscopes. Seoul has acquired some of this instrumentation, but we are not certain where the equipment is installed.”

The CIA analysts inferred that the size and type of nuclear warhead would be strongly influenced by the missile. They anticipated that a South Korean warhead would be limited to a nuclear implosion system of 300-350 kilograms. They believed that South Korea could meet the constraints with a “simple conservative design” with a yield from a few to up to twenty kilotons.

KEEPING THE OPTION OPEN

According to the CIA, Park had not decided to actually build bombs in late 1974, only to acquire the capacity to do so as a “precautionary measure carrying a tolerable level of risk.” Similarly, in spite of the Carter attempt to withdraw US nuclear weapons from Korea in 1977-78, they found “there is no perception of immediate needs or opportunities for acquiring nuclear weapons.”

The CIA recognized that by 1978, South Korea was heavily invested in light water reactors, largely financed by the US Eximbank. They noted that spent fuel from these reactors was an easier, faster route to obtaining fissile material than uranium enrichment. This was because until 1974, it was perfectly legal to stockpile reprocessed plutonium, provided the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguarded supplies.

By 1978 the only way to get a reprocessing plant was to build one, and the United States had already blocked supplier nations from providing such plants to Korea. The American low-enriched and Canadian natural uranium that ended up as spent fuel in Korea after the fission process in earlier reactors also was subject to US and Canadian vetoes against it being reprocessed. Moreover, whether taken from a light water or a heavy water reactor, diverting even a few assemblies ran a high risk of detection, the CIA concluded.

As the CIA observed: “Planners at KAERI in the early 1970s recognized the importance of reprocessing to a nuclear weapons program, but they were primarily interested in reprocessing as it related to long-term nuclear power development.” Still, even in 1978, many Korean planners believed that not only was South Korea obliged to assume more responsibility for its own defense, but “that such ‘self defense’ may eventually require nuclear weapons development,” the CIA concluded.

Furthermore, the agency said, on-going dual-use research work on missiles, high explosives, and heavy water routes to power reactor development sustained these incremental attempts to obtain technology, not least due to institutional momentum. “Given the sophisticated technology requirements set by the type of nuclear weapons system Seoul has considered developing, some planners believe that their country should do more than rely on advances in nuclear technology to shorten the lead time to a bomb,” the report stated. “The strongest pressures in this regard arise quite naturally from the nuclear research community.”

The CIA concluded that Seoul would be greatly influenced by whether ground troop withdrawal by the United States would be completed and what impact that would have on the risk of a North Korean attack. “Irrespective of the ground troop question, however, South Korea will continue to question whether the United States would employ nuclear weapons on its behalf,” the report states. “Waning confidence in the US nuclear umbrella, particularly if accompanied by a decline of US influence in Seoul, would strengthen the hand of those who want to pursue a nuclear weapons option.”

ENTER CHUN

South Korea’s desire to become a missile power apparently continued into 1979, after the CIA’s June 1978 Strategic Decisionmaking report was produced. On Aug. 29, 1979, Congressman Anthony Beilenson wrote to then US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance that the ROK government had obtained from US firms in the Los Angeles area “the specifications, engineering drawings, instructions and designs, blueprints and certain assembly equipment employed in the United States Atlas Centaur [missile] program.” “Further,” wrote Beilenson, “I am told that nose cone materials, alloys and certain guidance systems have also been acquired … the Republic of Korea is now engaged in the procurement of associated computer equipment and software packages that would substantially upgrade and complement their current abilities to continue in this endeavor.” 14 What action was taken on this letter is unknown.

In the end, Seoul’s nuclear ambitions and missile aspirations were reined in by political rather than geopolitical considerations. Park was now dead from an assassin’s bullet, and after General Chun Doo-hwan seized power in a 1980 military coup, he was desperate to win support from the Reagan Administration. Chun downsized KAERI in 1981, in the course of which it was renamed the Korea Energy Research Institute and he scrapped the residual nuclear weapons and missile programs.

LESSONS FOR TODAY

This fascinating CIA narrative is not merely of historical interest but provides important lessons on how the South might respond to North Korea’s current nuclear capability.

First, it shows that even Park’s iron-fisted dictatorship could not conduct a clandestine nuclear weapons program without the United States quickly realizing what was going on. Given today’s democracy and openness, a clandestine nuclear weapons program is even less possible than it was in 1978.

Of course, current domestic advocates of South Korean nuclear armament know this and welcome disclosure, precisely because this puts maximum pressure on the United States to either re-introduce its own nuclear weapons or coerce the North to denuclearize and co-operate with South Korea and the international community. This position arguably mirrors the evolution of Park’s position from the early effort to develop nuclear weapons to using the nuclear option as a bargaining chip with the Americans.

Park was a military man, and he must have realized that nuclear weapons would only increase the South’s vulnerability to Soviet attack. In essence, Park strove for symbolic nuclear status rather than a meaningful nuclear force, and the effort backfired badly. Today’s proponents of a South Korean nuclear weapon would enter the same cul-de-sac as Park – with the additional risk of prompting an unstable nuclear arms race on the Korean Peninsula.

Second, Park’s strategy failed both militarily and politically. South Korea gained little actual weapons technology, and his threats undermined trust and confidence from Washington even as US officials were already attempting to reverse Carter’s withdrawal policy for fundamental strategic reasons.

Similarly today, South Korea proliferating nuclear weapons would harm the alliance and could lead to international sanctions, trade losses, the undermining of Japan’s non-nuclear commitments and strategic threats including the possible targeting of South Korean cities by China or Russia. Outside Korea, the current rhetoric appears irresponsible and demeaning to Korea’s dignity in light of its planned hosting of the Global Nuclear Summit in March 2012 and the efforts to renew and amend the US-ROK nuclear cooperation agreement in 2014.

Third, the outcome of the military crisis of August 1976 over North Korean aggression suggests that the massive mobilization of conventional force is what mattered, not the relatively distant threat of nuclear attack. The same lesson applies today. What matters at the DMZ is the ability of South Korea and the United States to respond to North Korean military aggression. North Korea knows it would lose and the South’s superior conventional forces backed by the US are almost certainly sufficient to deter or respond to a North Korean attack, whether nuclear or conventional.

An important factor in Park backing off his proliferation program was the creation in 1978 of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command, which had both wartime and peacetime operational control over South Korean forces. This meant that the US military would become automatically involved in a war in Korea at the outset and was a reassuring trip-wire for Park. Likewise, after Reagan reasserted the US security commitment to South Korea upon his election in 1979, Chun dropped all nuclear and missile programs, demonstrating that nuclear weapons tend to create stress on the alliance. This is as true today as it was when the CIA wrote its report.

Fourth, the CIA report wrongly concludes that unilateral withdrawal by the US could lead to the resumption of South Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In fact, the eventual unilateral withdrawal more than a decade later, in 1991-92, left lethal US conventional forces in place and did not lead either to war or to South Korean proliferation. Indeed, it arguably prepared the way for engagement with the North in a way that slowed Pyongyang’s nuclear proliferation by a decade, and led to its current isolation.

In the mid-1970s, the North Koreans were assuredly also intensely aware of the South’s nuclear drive, and this knowledge likely accelerated the North’s own early program.15 South Korean proliferation today would make it far more difficult to negotiate the denuclearization of North Korea. An inter-Korean nuclear arms race would almost certainly lead to a new Cold War in the region involving China and Japan.

The North’s continuing perception of a threat after nuclear weapons have been removed from the Peninsula for nearly two decades indicates the depth of North Korean distrust and fear of the United States. The mere possibility of nuclear retaliation by the United States is a great motivator in Pyongyang.

Finally, it is remarkable to us that during periods of improved inter-Korean and US-North Korea relations, dialogue and engagement have led to progress in stopping the North from gaining more nuclear weapons capacity. The opposite is also true – the North accelerated its proliferation activity during the height of the Cold War when Reagan confronted the former Soviet Union in the region, and again when President George W. Bush downgraded and degraded relations with Pyongyang.

The lesson for politicians and strategists today is obvious.

Chung-in Moon is Professor of Political Science, Yonsei University, Seoul, and is Editor-in-Chief of Global Asia. Peter Hayes is Director of the Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainability and Professor of Global Studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and is a member of the Editorial Board of Global Asia. Bruce Scott of the Nautilus Institute also contributed to this article.

NOTES

1 S.G. Hong, “The Search for Deterrence: Park’s Nuclear Option,” in B.K. Kim and E. Vogel, ed, The Park Chung Hee Era, The Transformation of South Korea, Harvard University Press, 2011, pp. 483-510.

2 US Central Intelligence Agency National Foreign Assessment Center, South Korea: Nuclear Developments and Strategic Decisionmaking, June 1978, declassified for release, October 2005, p. I, at: http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0001254259/DOC_0001254259.pdf

3 This speculative theory is based on prior contact between Park’s assassin, then head of the Korean CIA Kim Jae-kyu, and the CIA.

4 Byung-jin Park, “Story on South Korea’s Weapons Development- The Case of Baekgom Guided Missile, a Signal Of Military Self-Reliance,” Segye Ilbo, Oct. 5, 2010.

5 US Central Intelligence Agency National Foreign Assessment Center, op cit, p. 4. Hong provides a detailed account of the missile and propellant research and acquisition activities that entailed subterfuge and multiple purchasing strategies to evade US surveillance and controls; op cit, pp. 494-495.

6 S.G. Hong, op cit, p. 495.

7 In “Memorandum of Conversation, Seoul, August 27, 1975,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Vol. E–12, Documents on East and Southeast Asia, 1973–1976, Doc. 272.

8 See the account of this event in P. Hayes, Pacific Powderkeg: American Nuclear Dilemmas in Korea, Lexington Press, 1991, pp. 60-62.

9 Section 6, “Study Prepared by the Office of International Security Affairs in the Department of Defense, Washington,” circa Jan. 16, 1976, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Vol. E–12, Documents on East and Southeast Asia, 1973–1976, Doc. 274, at: http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve12/d274

10 “Secure Telephone Conversation with Secretary Harold Brown on Wednesday, January 26, 1977,” p. 1, marked Carter Library, Declassified E.O. 12958, Sec.3.S PER 1/8/98 NSS Hr RE NV-96-156, copy kindly provided by Sung Gul Hong.

11 Z. Brzezinski, Presidential Review Memorandum/NSC 13, National Security Council, Jan. 29, 1977.

12 US Central Intelligence Agency National Foreign Assessment Center, East Asia Review, RP EAR 78-003, Sept. 5, 1978, p. 5.

13 US Central Intelligence Agency, Regional and Political Analysis Memo, The Implications of Withdrawing Nuclear Weapons From Korea, RPM 77-10210 M, August 11, 1977, p. 2.

14 A. Beilenson, letter to Cyrus Vance, Aug. 20, 1979, released under US Freedom of Information Act request to Nautilus Institute, May 21, 1982.

15 See B. Jack et al, The South Korean Case: A Nuclear Weapons Program Embedded in an Environment of Great Power Concerns, Vol. II, Regional Rivalries and Nuclear Responses, Pan Heuristics Final Report to US Defense Nuclear Agency, DNA 001-77-C-0052, February 28, 1978, p. II-42.

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Russian Military Chief Lays Out the Kremlin’s High-Tech War Plans –

asymmetricd--The U.S. military isn’t alone in its plans to pour money into drones, ground robots, and artificially intelligent assistants for command and control. Russia, too, will be increasing investment in these areas, as well as space and information warfare, Russian Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov told members of the Russian Military Academy of the General Staff last Saturday. In the event of war, Russia would consider economic and non-military government targets fair game, he said.
The comments are yet another sign that the militaries of the United States and Russia are coming more and more to resemble one another in key ways — at least in terms of hyping future capabilities. The chief of the General Staff said the Russian military is already developing new drones that could perform strike as well as reconnaissance missions. On the defensive side, the military is investing in counter-drone tech and electromagnetic warfare kits for individual troops.
The Russians are building an “automated reconnaissance and strike system,” he said, describing an AI-drive system that sounds a bit like the Maven and Data to Decision projects that the United States Air Force is pursuing. The goal, according to Gerasimov, was to cut down on the time between reconnaissance for target collection and strike by a factor of 2.5, and to improve the accuracy of strike by a factor of two. The Russian government is developing new, high-precision strike weapons for the same purpose. “In the future, precision weapons, including advanced hypersonics, will allow for the transfer the fundamental parts of strategic deterrence to non-nuclear weapons,” he said.
Sam Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, says the moves signal that the Russian military is trying to push fighting further away from its borders, thus growing the area to which it can deny access, or at least appear to do so. “Russia’s current force composition is aiming at short-range, short-duration conflict where its forces can overwhelm the adversary close to Russian borders. The new technology Gerasimov discusses would allow Russia to conduct deep-strikes within enemy territory, thus ‘pushing’ the actual fighting far from Russian borders and Russian vulnerability to Western precision-guided weapons,” he said.
Says Bendett, “the use of such technologies is especially important given the type of war Moscow intends to fight. Gerasimov stated that potential adversary’s economic targets, as well as government’s ability to govern, will be fair game. Striking deep into enemy territory can be accomplished more easily by unmanned systems—whether armed with EW, various sensors or strike components … All this also depends on the Russian military-industrial complex’s ability to properly marshal the needed resources in an organized fashion in order to field this technology.”
One other explanation for the tough talk: Russia is hardly an even match for the United States in terms of either military spending or capability. The recently announced $61 billion increase in the U.S. military budget over last year’s budget (bringing the total to $700 billion) is greater than the entire Russian military budget, which sits around $46 billion. That number represents about 2.86 percent of Russian GDP. In December, Putin said that the government would “reduce” future expenditures.
“Gerasimov is, like anyone in a senior military post, a lobbyist as much as a soldier, and at a time when the Russian defense budget is going to continue to shrink, he is doing what he can both to maintain it as high as possible and also to tilt procurement away from older-fashioned metalwork — which is really a way for the Kremlin to subsidise the defence industries rather than what the military want — and towards advanced communications, reconnaissance and targeting capabilities,” said Mark Galeotti, the head of the Center for European Security at UMV, the Institute of International Relations, Prague.
According to Bendett, Russian government leaders are “hedging against impending geopolitical and economic uncertainty by trying to keep their military budget within certain parameters. The [Ministry of Defense] has been talking repeatedly about the rising share of new military tech in service of the Russian military, slowly phasing out older systems in favor of new ones. So the high-tech approach that Gerasimov outlined — space-based weapons, ‘military robots’ — is the next evolutionary stage in Russian military’s evolution to a more high-tech, sophisticated forces capable of rapid strike.”
Gerasimov also took a moment to denounce what he claimed were Western attempts to destabilize the Russian government through information and influence warfare and other subtle tactics. The charge may strike Western audiences as brazenly hypocritical given the Kremlin’s on-going attempts to sow misinformation to global audiences through social media, email theft and propaganda campaigns. But it’s an old talking point for Gerasimov.
Said UMV’s Galeotti: “At a time when the Kremlin is demonstrably worried about what it sees as Western ‘gibridnaya voina‘ [or hybrid war] being waged against it — we don’t have to accept their premises to acknowledge that the Russians genuinely believe this — he is staking out the military’s claims to being relevant in this age. And his answer, as in his infamous 2013 article, and as played out in the first stage of Zapad [the major wargame Russia executed in Belarus last summer] is that the military will deploy massive firepower to smash any foreign incursions meant to instigate risings against Moscow.”
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hat Comes Next?

via “BRAINWASHED” KIDS…What Comes Next?

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“BRAINWASHED” KIDS…What Comes Next?

Al Fitrah Islamic pre school presentation

AL-FITRAH islamic preschool kalikkadavu 2017

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Guccifer 2.0 Claims Responsibility for Purported DNC Network Hack

Kim LaCapria–On 14 June 2016, multiple news outlets reported that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and security firm Crowdstrike had confirmed a DNC computer network security breach for which they maintained unspecified Russian operatives were responsible:

Russian hackers penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, compromising a a raft of information including research on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, officials confirmed.

“The security of our system is critical to our operation and to the confidence of the campaigns and state parties we work with,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the DNC chairwoman. “When we discovered the intrusion, we treated this like the serious incident it is and reached out to CrowdStrike immediately. Our team moved as quickly as possible to kick out the intruders and secure our network.”

CrowdStrike, a cyber security firm, also confirmed the hack Tuesday, saying that its origins pointed to the Russian government.

The DNC and CrowdStrike both suggested that the security breach had occurred over the course of “months,” and that “a raft of information including research on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump” had been compromised. The story remained one of largely technology-centric interest until additional information of indeterminate provenance appeared the following day.

The day after the DNC and CrowdStrike admitted the breach and pegged Russian spies as the culprits, a purported hacker calling himself Guccifer 2.0 (not to be confused with a separate hacker known as Guccifer) set up a single-post WordPress blog. In that 2016 blog, Guccifer 2.0 tauntingly claimed responsibility for the DNC network breach:

Worldwide known cyber security company CrowdStrike announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers had been hacked by “sophisticated” hacker groups.

I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly))) But in fact, it was easy, very easy.

Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers.

Shame on CrowdStrike: Do you think I’ve been in the DNC’s networks for almost a year and saved only 2 documents? Do you really believe it?

Here are just a few docs from many thousands I extracted when hacking into DNC’s network.

By way of proof, Guccifer 2.0 published a smattering of purported DNC documents obtained in the breach while promising that a far larger cache had been turned over to the notorious WikiLeaks web site. That claim coincided with statements made by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a few days earlier in an interview about Hillary Clinton-related e-mail leaks:

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has said his organisation is preparing to publish more emails Hillary Clinton sent and received while US secretary of state.

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is under FBI investigation to determine whether she broke federal law by using her private email in sending classified information. A new WikiLeaks release of Clinton emails is likely to fan a controversy that has bedevilled her campaign and provide further ammunition for Donald Trump, her Republican presidential rival, who has used the issue to attack her.

Assange’s comments came in an interview on ITV’s Peston. “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton … We have emails pending publication, that is correct,” Assange said. He did not specify when or how many emails would be published.

Among the donor lists and other documents purportedly grabbed by Gucci 2.0 was material that struck a chord among supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders by suggesting that the DNC had strategized to collude with the news media in promoting Sanders’ rival, Hillary Clinton, long before the nomination process was completed:

DNC media collusion
DNC media collusion 2
DNC media collusion 3

New York Daily News columnist Shaun King, a Sanders supporter, called the documents “disturbing” if authentic, citing portions of the strategy that outlined utilizing news outlets “to drive a message …with no fingerprints”:

The DNC is supposed to be an unbiased arbiter of the campaign and this memo suggests anything but that. Furthermore, the memo gives strategies for they can best position her for general election. One of those strategies says they aim to, “Use specific hits to muddy the water around ethics, transparency, and campaign finance attacks on HRC.”

How ugly is that? Muddying the water? What a mess.

Another memo claims that they “will utilize reporters to drive a message” but do so “with no fingerprints” on the process so that the public believes the messages are coming from the reporters and not the campaign.

This is exactly what many of us have suspected was going on for the past year.

Well before Julian Assange’s comments, the DNC’s confirmation, or Guccifer 2.0’s claims, Daily Beast journalist Olivia Nuzzi had referenced one such “no fingerprints” pitch she said she had received:

Gawker also reported that additional related information had been released exclusively to them and that they had authenticated some of it:

According to the metadata associated with the file, the Trump dossier was last saved by someone named (in Cyrillic letters) “Felix Edmundovich.” This could be a reference to the historical Soviet figure known as “Iron Felix,” and is likely an alias. The hackers were able to access opposition files and may have been able to read email and chat traffic, but did not touch any financial, donor, or personal information, the DNC said. However, the user who sent the files to Gawker refuted that claim, writing, “DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said no financial documents were compromised. Nonsense! Just look through the Democratic Party lists of donors! They say there were no secret docs! Lies again! Also I have some secret documents from Hillary’s PC she worked with as the Secretary of State.” Among the files sent to Gawker are what appear to be several lists of donors, including email addresses and donation amounts, grouped by wealth and specific fundraising events. Gawker has not yet been able to verify that the Trump file was produced by the DNC, but we have been able to independently verify that the financial documents were produced by people or groups affiliated with the Democratic Party.

The Trump campaign responded to the news with an entirely separate theory, speculating that the DNC themselves had staged the “hack”:

Ars Technica culled information suggesting that if the breach didn’t originate in Russia, then whoever was responsible tinkered with metadata to create that impression:

Exhibit A in the case is this document created and later edited in the ubiquitous Microsoft Word format. Metadata left inside the file shows it was last edited by someone using the computer name “Феликс Эдмундович.” That means the computer was configured to use the Russian language and that it was connected to a Russian-language keyboard. More intriguing still, “Феликс Эдмундович” is the colloquial name that translates to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the 20th Century Russian statesman who is best known for founding the Soviet secret police. (The metadata also shows that the purported DNC strategy memo was originally created by someone named Warren Flood, which happens to be the name of a LinkedIn user claiming to provide strategy and data analytics services to Democratic candidates.) Exhibit B is this opposition research document on Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Exhibit B is also written in Word. Several of the Web links in it are broken and contain the error message “Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.” But in a PDF-formatted copy of the same document published by Gawker a few hours before Guccifer 2.0’s post went live, the error messages with roughly the same meaning appear in Russian … The other piece of evidence is more circumstantial, but it still strengthens the case that the person publishing the documents intentionally or unintentionally left Russian—or at least Eastern European—fingerprints on the leak. It’s the use of “)))” in the accompanying blog post. That’s a common way people in Eastern Europe and Russia denote a smiley in text.

All three pieces of evidence were teased out of the documents and noted on Twitter by an independent security researcher who goes by the handle PwnAllTheThings. The theory is also consistent with everything previously published by CrowdStrike, the security firm the DNC hired to investigate its suspicions that its servers had been breached. CrowdStrike researchers said they quickly determined that the servers had been infiltrated by two separate Russian hacking groups. In response to Wednesday’s leak, CrowdStrike raised the possibility that the leak was part of a Russian Intelligence disinformation campaign. Company officials declined to comment on Thursday for this post. “There’s also the fact that the hacker is publishing documents at all, which rules out lots of nation-states,” the PwnAllTheThings researcher told Ars in a private message. “China, for example, would happily spy on the DNC to try and get the Trump oppo [opposition] research to support their foreign policy objectives, but they wouldn’t publish the documents to influence the election.” Dave Aitel, CEO of Immunity Security, a firm that provides advanced hacking tools to security professionals, agreed with the researcher’s theory. “I think his analysis is very believable when you look at what CrowdStrike is saying and when you look at what other people are not saying,” Aitel told Ars. “You don’t have the FBI or DHS coming out and saying: ‘Hey we don’t think it’s Russia.’ If it is Russia, a nation state, it’s a pretty big deal. Otherwise the FBI would say: ‘We’re conducting an investigation.’ But they’re not saying that.” Of course, it’s still possible that the Russian fingerprints were left intentionally by someone who has no connection to Russia, or by a Russian-speaking person with no connection to the Russian government, or any number of other scenarios. The abundance of plausible competing theories underscores just how hard it is to accurately attribute attacks online and how perilous it is to reach summary conclusions.

Jordan Chariton of The Young Turks pursued the DNC for a denial of the documents’ authenticity, receiving first what he described as a “vague” response and no other comment:

By 17 June 2016, the only update to the initial confirmation of the hack provided by the DNC and CrowdStrike were unverified claims released by a hacker going by the name of Guccifer 2.0. The DNC has so far declined to comment on the authenticity of the documents leaked on 15 June 2016, and no one has definitively identified any parties responsible for the hack. And WikiLeaks hasn’t published any additional information since Julian Assange’s 12 June 2016 statement about an impending document dump of Hillary Clinton e-mails.

END NOTES

 

Sources:Biddle, Sam and Gabrielle Bluestone.   “This Looks Like the DNC’s Hacked Trump Oppo File.”
Gawker.   15 June 2016.

Goodin, Dan.   “‘Guccifer’ Leak of DNC Trump Research Has a Russian’s Fingerprints on It.”
Ars Technica.   16 June 2016.

Johnson, Kevin and Erin Kelly.   “Russia Hacks Democratic National Committee, Trump Info Compromised.”
USA Today.   14 June 2016.

King, Shaun.   “Hacked DNC Documents May Show Ugly Connections Between the Party and Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign .”
[New York] Daily News.   16 June 2016.

Tran, Mark.   “WikiLeaks to Publish More Hillary Clinton Emails.”
The Guardian.   12 June 2016.

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How Fake Data Can Help the Pentagon Track Rogue Weapons

 Jack Corrigan

                       The Pentagon is investing in software that uses big data to help intelligence officers keep terrorists from getting their hands on biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

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The Air Force Research Laboratory in January announced a $4.6 million contract with the software company IvySys to model different ways state and non- state actors could obtain and deploy “weapons of mass terror” around the world.

The contract supports an ongoing effort by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build tools to spot groups who are potentially stockpiling materials for
such weapons.

“Reports of chemical weapons use around the world raises serious concerns about non-state actors’ access to weapons of mass terror and reinforces fears of a possible terrorist attack with chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons in the West,” DARPA and IvySys said in a statement.

“Today’s terrorist networks move operatives, money and material across borders and through the crevices of the global economy, making tracking such adversaries a daunting challenge.”

The technology would generate fictional but realistic datasets of bank transactions, emails and inventory transfers, and embed them with indicators of suspicious activities, like a shipment of toxic chemicals getting intercepted or a banker doing business with terrorist- connected client. Agencies could then use the software to train algorithms and machine learning tools to pick up on threatening behavior buried within massive datasets.

IvySys Founder and Chief Executive Officer James DeBardelaben compared the process to repeatedly finding a needle in a haystack, but making both the needle and haystack look different every time. Using real-world data, agencies can only train algorithms to spot threats that already exist, he said, but constantly evolving synthetic datasets can train tools to spot patterns that have yet
to occur.

The software will eventually generate massive datasets containing 10 billion variable nodes and 1 trillion individual transactions. It will also allow users to make threat patterns easier or harder to find.

“It’s an enabling technology that allows [agencies] to build robust threat detection software tools,” DeBardelaben told Nextgov. “It gives them data to train against and it allows them to vary the threats that their tool can detect.”

IvySys began working on the project in September 2017, he said, and the DARPA contract will run for four years.

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A STAND IN THE MOMENT OF…2015

Iraqi Nun Testifies About Suffering of Christians and Other Religious Minorities:

Liveleak–Sister Diana Momeka, OP Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Mosul, Iraq appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today to testify about ancient communities under attack: ISIS’s war on religious minorities. Her visit to the United States was sponsored by two Washington-area organizations, the Institute for Global Engagement and 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.Following her testimony, which appears below, Sister Diana noted that “The situation for my people and my country is grave, but not without hope. I believe that the international community, and especially the good people of the United States, want to see my government fulfill its responsibility to protect defend, and promote the welfare of all of its citizens. I call on all Americans to raise your voices on our behalf so that diplomacy and not genocide, social well-being and not weapons, and the desire for justice, not selfish interests determine the future for Iraq and all of her children.”

Sister Diana Momeka’s Testimony:
Thank you Chairman Royce and distinguished Members of the Committee, for inviting me today to share my views on Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities. I am Sister Diana Momeka of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Mosul, Iraq. I’d like to request that my complete testimony be entered in to the Record.In November 2009, a bomb was detonated at our convent in Mosul. Five sisters were in the building at the time and they were lucky to have escaped unharmed. Our Prioress, Sister Maria Hanna, asked for protection from local civilian authorities but the pleas went unanswered. As such, she had no choice but to move us to Qaraqosh.

Then on June 10, 2014, the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, invaded the Nineveh Plain, which is where Qaraqosh is located. Starting with the city of Mosul, ISIS overran one city and town after another, giving the Christians of the region three choices: 1.) convert to Islam, 2.) pay a tribute (Al-Jizya) to ISIS or 3.) leave their cities (like Mosul) with nothing more than the clothes on their back.

As this horror spread throughout the Nineveh Plain, by August 6, 2014, Nineveh was emptied of Christians, and sadly, for the first time since the seventh century AD, no church bells rang for Mass in the Plain of Nineveh.

From June 2014 forward, more than a hundred and twenty thousand (120,000+) people found themselves displaced and homeless in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, leaving behind their heritage and all they had worked for over the centuries. This uprooting, this theft of everything that the Christians owned, displaced them body and soul, stripping away their humanity and dignity.

To add insult to injury, the initiatives and actions of both the Iraqi and Kurdish governments were at best modest and slow. Apart from allowing Christians to enter their region, the Kurdish government did not offer any aid either financial or material. I understand the great strain that these events have placed on Baghdad and Erbil however, it has been almost a year and Christian Iraqi citizens are still in dire need of help. Many people spent days and weeks in the streets before they found shelter in tents, schools and halls. Thankfully, the Church in the Kurdistan region stepped forward and cared for the displaced Christians, doing her very best to handle the disaster. Church buildings were opened to accommodate the people; food and non-food items were provided to meet the immediate needs of the people; and medical health services were also provided. Moreover, the Church put out a call and many humanitarian organizations answered with aid for the thousands of people in need.

Presently, we are grateful for what has been done, with most people now sheltered in small prefabricated containers or some homes. Though better than living on the street or in an abandoned building, these small units are few in number and are crowded with three families, each with multiple people, often accommodated in one unit. This of course increases tensions and conflict, even within the same family.

There are many who say “Why don’t the Christians just leave Iraq and move to another country and be done with it?” To this question we would respond, “Why should we leave our country — what have we done?”

The Christians of Iraq are the first people of the land. You read about us in the Old Testament of the Bible. Christianity came to Iraq from the very earliest days through the preaching and witness of St Thomas and others of the Apostles and Church Elders.

While our ancestors experienced all kinds of persecution, they stayed in their land, building a culture that has served humanity for the ages. We, as Christians, do not want, or deserve to leave or be forced out of our country any more than you would want to leave or be forced out of yours.

But the current persecution that our community is facing is the most brutal in our history. Not only have we been robbed of our homes, property and land, but our heritage is being destroyed as well. ISIS has been and continues to demolish and bomb our churches, cultural artifacts and sacred places like Mar Behnam and Sara, a fourth century monastery and St. Georges Monastery in Mosul.

Uprooted and forcefully displaced, we have realized that ISIS’ plan is to evacuate the land of Christians and wipe the earth clean of any evidence that we ever existed. This is cultural and human genocide. The only Christians that remain in the Plain of Nineveh are those who are held as hostages.

The loss of the Christian Community from the Plain of Nineveh has placed the whole region on the edge of a terrible catastrophe. Christians have for centuries been the bridge that connects Eastern and Western cultures. Destroying this bridge will leave an isolated, inculturated conflict zone emptied of cultural and religious diversity. Through our presence as Christians, we’re called to be a force for good, for peace, for connection between cultures.

To restore, repair and rebuild the Christian community in Iraq, the following needs are urgent:

[list=1]Liberating our homes from ISIS and helping us return. Coordinating an effort to rebuild what was destroyed — roads, water and electrical supplies, and buildings, including our churches and monasteries. Encouraging enterprises that contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq and inter-religious dialogue. This could be through schools, academics and pedagogical projects.[/list]I am but one, small person — a victim myself of ISIS and all of its brutality. Coming here has been difficult for me — as a religious sister I am not comfortable with the media and so much attention. But I am here, and I am here to ask you, to implore you for the sake of our common humanity, to help us. Stand with us as we, as Christians, have stood with all the people of the world and help us. We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home.

Thank you and God bless you

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Foundations Sponsoring Putin’s Re-Election

This is the first time Putin’s election has been funded in this way. When he last ran for reelection in 2012, a significant portion of the funds were provided by businesses and private individuals.

The actual source of the foundations’ funding is not clear — so the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project decided to try to find out who was behind them.

Reporters found a number of insiders, including Gennady Timchenko, one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen; relatives of Andrey Vorobyev, governor of the Moscow region; and Irina Shoigu, the wife of the minister of defense. Furthermore, some of the foundations have, in the recent past, received support from the state and from state-controlled companies.

The approach is a novel way to finance a presidential race.

“It’s a headache, since the scheme isn’t transparent. Before we were able to at least see and legally identify those individuals who were officially and directly contributing funds to Putin’s electoral campaign,” said Stanislav Andreychuk, coordinator of Golos, a movement that protects voters’ rights. “Now, thanks to these foundations, we don’t even know who stands behind these … donations.”

Indeed, the foundations have not revealed who sponsors them, and they don’t like to talk about themselves. Reporters were not able to find a single website with any financial accounting. And attempts to find out more by telephone twice ended with the same demand — to end the conversation.

“There’s no website. All the accounting can be found at the ministry of justice and tax inspectorate. We’re not a public company,” snapped one representative of a foundation located at United Russia’s Moscow address. “Let’s end this discussion. Anyway, your calls are getting a little exhausting.”

“Independent” Foundations

The central foundation behind Putin’s reelection campaign is the National Foundation for the Support of Regional Cooperation and Development (NFPR in Russian). It is the founder of 20 regional foundations, all using similar names, which contributed to the pre-electoral race.

Many of these are registered at the addresses of regional United Russia party offices, and until 2015 all of them — including the NFPR — used the words “United Russia Party Support Foundation” in their names.

Oleg Polozov is the NFPR’s president. Portraits of President Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev hang in his Moscow office at 3 Banniy Alley — which he shares with United Russia’s Central Executive Committee.

Nevertheless, Polozov assured OCCRP that the foundations are independent of the political party, and that though they were founded in the early 2000s to provide it with financial support, it exercises no direct control over them.

After 2014, a legal change meant that the foundations were no longer able to collect money for the party directly. But they could support its social projects — planting trees, holding sporting events and so on, said Polozov. He isn’t himself a member of United Russia, but said that he “sympathizes with its projects.”

So how did these foundations become the sole sponsors of Putin’s presidential campaign?

“There was no order from on high about it. The initiative came from the foundations themselves. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm,” said Polozov. “We got together, discussed everything, and in a few days got all the money together for a special pre-election account [for Putin] with Sberbank.”

A person who worked for the United Russia party confirmed to OCCRP that there had been no official order for the foundations to play such a role. Nevertheless, the source said, their initiative was discussed informally at the highest political levels and there appear to have been no objections.

None of the foundations are public and transparent about their finances. Though they are legally required to publish their reports on an annual basis, they have yet to do so.

“Is that necessary?” asked Polozov in response to questions about the foundations’ transparency.

“In many traditions it’s not acceptable to shout from every corner that you’re doing a good deed. Furthermore, there are different organizational cultures. In one of them, one needs … publicity to attract sponsors. In the other, the circle of sponsors has already formed, and it’s no longer necessary to advertise oneself. If the goals and tasks of the foundation are being realized, then why does it need a website?” said Polozov.

The Importance of Keeping in Touch

The ties that bind: shared telephone numbers and addresses link the ostensibly independent foundations donating to Putin’s election campaign to a number of high-profile Russian businessmen, politicians, and their families. Photo: Edin Pasovic / OCCRP

The NFPR and its associated foundations were founded in the early 2000s, around the same time that the United Russia party itself was formed. When reporters investigated their registration documents, they found that some of them, including the NFPR, shared their Moscow address and telephone number with businesses connected to prominent officials, their relatives, and people known to the president.

This use of the shared telephone number, which appeared in the foundations’ registration documents as recently as January 2018, is unusual, experts pointed out, except in cases when a general number for a building, accountants’, or lawyers’ office is used. That is not the case here, however.

“This could be one of several signs that these organizations are connected with one other,” confirms Alexander Zakharov, a former Russian tax ministry assistant and partner of Paragon Advice Group.

Fishy Relations

One of the connected firms is the Russian Fish Company, once a major fish supplier in the Russian market. The company was once owned by Andrey Vorobyev, the current governor of the Moscow Region and an old acquaintance of one of the founders of United Russia — Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu. Vorobyev’s father had worked with Shoigu for many years.

In early 2000, Andrey Vorobyev left the business to begin a career in politics, first becoming an advisor to Shoigu during the latter’s brief tenure as deputy prime minister. Vorobyev then headed the United Russia Support Foundation (the NFPR’s name before 2015).

After Vorobyev’s transition to politics, he transferred the seafood company to his brother Maxim, according to Forbes. As the publication reported, the company’s fortunes grew alongside Vorobyev’s political successes in the 2000s. This was when the Russian Fish Company, which later became a subsidiary of the Russian Sea Group, became one of the leading suppliers of salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, and smelt to the Russian market.

In 2011, Maxim Vorobyev found a new, powerful partner — Gennady Timchenko, a friend of the president, became a co-owner in the seafood business.

The Ministry of Emergency Investments

The seafood business is not the only connection between the foundations, Timchenko, and Vorobyev. Some of the foundations own businesses themselves — and these were connected to the same men.

According to the Russian company register, the NFPR once owned a significant share (60 percent) of a firm called Arleya Palatium, also originally registered at United Russia’s address in Moscow. Judging by telephone directories, Arleya Palatium used the same telephone number as the party foundation and the fish company.

Among Arleya Palatium’s owners was an offshore firm based in Cyprus that also owned a share of Vorobyevs’ and Timchenko’s seafood company.

It’s also curious that the phone number indicated by Arleya Palatium in its registration document was used by Kordex, a Timchenko company which owns a 12.5 percent share in SOGAZ, the insurer of Russian state gas giant Gazprom. In 2013, the value of this share was estimated at approximately six billion rubles ($185 million). Following the introduction of sanctions against him, Timchenko transferred Kordex to his daughter.

The company has an illustrious pedigree — it was previously owned by a company that helped finance the construction of the elaborate mansion known as “Putin’s Palace” in Gelendzhik, on Russia’s Black Sea coast, which is allegedly owned by the Russian president.

The Matviyenko Connection 
An organization called “Culture and Law,” founded by the NFPR, once owned 40 percent of Arleyia Palatium and shared the foundation’s telephone number.
 Culture and Law was also registered to the same address as the Grand Land Group of Companies, which belongs to Lyudmila Vorobyeva, the mother of Maxim and Andrey Vorobyev. The group offers real estate development services in the Moscow region. Among its partners were Irina and Ksenia Shoigu, wife and daughter of the Minister of Defense, as well as Sergey Matviyenko, son of the chairman of Russia’s Federation Council,Valentina Matviyenko.
An assistant to the director of Grand Land stressed that neither the company nor Maxim or Lyudmila Vorobyeva were in any way connected with the party foundations and Arleyia Palatium, had neither business nor financial relationships with them and never sponsored them. The assistant added that the company neither participates nor has ever participated in any electoral campaigns.
Neither Timchenko nor Vorobyev explained these connections, nor did they answer questions as to whether these companies supported United Russia’s party foundation.

Enter Shoigu

Arleya Palatium also connects the foundation to the family of Russian Defense Minister Shoigu.

Though the company was a complete unknown, and had been founded just months before, it was named by the Ministry of Emergency Situations — which was then headed by Shoigu — as an investor in the construction of a rehabilitation center for firefighters and emergency workers just 300 meters from Josef Stalin’s dacha in Moscow’s Matveyevsky forest. Soon after the building was finished, Arleya Palatium moved in.

Sometime later, a diagnostic laboratory owned by the Russian firm Rekapmed appeared in the same office. This firm is majority owned by Irina Shoigu, wife of Russia’s Minister of Defense, and by Yekaterina Zhukova, wife of the first deputy chairman of Russia’s State Duma.

Contacted by reporters, Rekapmed said that the firm was founded to research eastern medicine, and that it does not collaborate with the other organizations registered at the same location. The firm also said that Irina Shoigu had only been the firm’s “temporary founder” until February 2015, and that Yekaterina Zhukova was the founder until May 2015. Nevertheless, according to state registry documents, the two women are still the company’s co-owners. Sergey Shoigu did not respond to requests for comment.

Whose money?

The case of the secretive foundations exemplifies the interrelated nature of politics and business in Russia, say observers.

A former employee of the presidential administration said that some of the people connected to the foundations — Andrey and Maxim Vorobyev, Sergey Shoigu, and Gennady Timchenko — are a fairly close-knit group who enjoy the trust of the president himself. While there are no records available to prove how much money, if any, the trio have provided to the Putin campaign, they have certainly provided it with the necessary infrastructure to collect money.

Polozov, the head of the NFPR, says that, at least since 2013, the foundation has not worked with Maxim Vorobyev and Timchenko’s businesses in any way, has never received any funds from them, and does not do so today. Polozov calls “ridiculous” the idea that the 22 foundations were made sponsors of Putin’s election campaign in order to hide the identity of the real donors.

“If somebody wanted to hide it away, they’d just hide anyway,” said Polozov.

The NFPR head said that the foundations serve the purpose of making sure donations are vetted and improper donations are quickly removed.

Polozov told reporters that many people wanted to contribute to the president’s reelection campaign, and the idea was not to single anybody out. “The foundations solved that problem,” he concluded. He assured reporters that the NFPR, at the request of regional foundations, thoroughly examines the “cleanliness” of all donations, and that the Ministry of Justice knows the donors and has thoroughly checked them.

Once again, Polozov would not disclose who exactly donates to the foundations.

It’s not even clear whether they currently receive money from state-owned companies and state institutions — but at least some of them have in the past.

In 2015, Omskenergo, a state-controlled energy company, decided to provide financial assistance to the Omsk Foundation for Regional Cooperation and Development. One year later, the Yugra Territorial Energy Company, also controlled by the state, provided charitable support to one of the local foundations (as the company’s press release says). And in 2017, the Voronezh City Council decided to grant the use of a municipal building to the Voronezh Foundation for Regional Cooperation and Development for five years, free of charge. Meanwhile, the Samara Foundation is hosted by Samara’s municipal center for communal services.

Deep pockets

The secrecy of the foundations sponsoring Vladimir Putin’s electoral campaign is not the only issue which raises questions. The financial accounting of these foundations shows that not all of them had always been wealthy enough to donate substantial sums to the presidential race. In fact, for the entirety of 2016, several earned less money than they’re currently donating to the campaign.

According to their tax filings, the Kaluga Foundation for Regional Cooperation and Development collected a little over half a million rubles ($7,600) in 2016, but donated a single sum of 15 million rubles ($227,000) to the campaign. The Volgograd Foundation, which collected five million rubles ($76,000), has mustered a one-off payment of 10 million ($152,000). The Pskov Cooperation Foundation, which scraped together 840,000 rubles ($12,700), gave three times that number to the presidential race. Meanwhile the Kemerovo Foundation, which had collected 20.9 million rubles ($315,000), poured 25 million ($380,000) into the campaign, according to the Central Electoral Commission. And all the while, all these foundations still spend money throughout the year on events and the maintenance of their organizations.

NFPR president Polozov explained that the larger sums of money being donated by the foundations can be explained because their own donors made contributions specifically for Putin’s electoral campaign. In Polozov’s words, while the foundations did not publicly announce that they are collecting funds for the presidential race, their permanent sponsors had been informed.

The Generosity of Future Generations

The list of donors to the presidential campaign includes two wealthy foundations which both gave a minimum of two million rubles ($30,300) each. These are the People’s Projects and Civic Initiatives Foundation and the Foundation for the Support of Future Generations, which are both also registered at the United Russia address in Moscow (the latter of which also uses the same telephone number). In 2016, donors gave them nearly one billion rubles.

A multi-sided transformable board, which advertises the campaign of Vladimir Putin ahead of the upcoming presidential election,  on display in a street in Moscow, January 2018. Photo (c): REUTERS/Sergei KarpukhinA multi-sided transformable board, which advertises the campaign of Vladimir Putin ahead of the upcoming presidential election, on display in a street in Moscow, January 2018. Photo (c): REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Nobody could explain exactly which “people’s projects” or “future generations” these foundations support, nor how they came by such sums of money. But it is known that they have supported the electoral campaigns of United Russia’s parliamentarians and regional governors. Neither foundation has a website. And people listed as their directors or founders on the state registry did not want to answer questions, or assured reporters that they hadn’t had anything to do with the foundations for a long time.

The President of the People’s Projects and Civic Initiatives Foundation, Olga Tomenko, asked reporters to call back, and then stopped answering her phone altogether. Yury Puzynya, one of the co-founders of both foundations, asserted that he hadn’t had anything to do with them for over two years.

“I haven’t worked for United Russia since 2015, I passed everything onto… Let’s stop this conversation,” said another of the co-founders, Olga Shabalina.

Unusually, a representative of United Russia told reporters that the party knows nothing about its two wealthy benefactors.

Why Now?

The reason behind the change from individual support to Putin, as has been done in the past, to the new wall of opaque foundations, is unclear.

Some experts believe one possible reason could be to “not spoil the whole picture of donations to Putin’s election with companies and individuals,” since in previous years some donations to his campaign had to be returned for various reasons. The process of screening undesirable donors and casting them aside had taken a lot of time and energy.

It’s also possible that this method of financing was chosen so that sponsors would not be put off by foreign sanctions.

“Some sponsors might be disturbed by the risk of suddenly appearing in a sanctions list due to their supporting Putin. Others, it’s possible, are already under sanctions and do not want their names and the names of their companies publicly listed among the donors to the presidential electoral campaign,” suggests Golos coordinator Andreychuk.

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Iran bans US dollar

Iran bans US dollar thumbnail

The government of Iran imposed new restrictions on the use of the US dollar in the country. The use of the US dollar for import operations in the Islamic Republic of Iran has been banned from February 28, Forbes reports with reference to Iranian media. – Peak Oil

Starting from February 28, any supply orders or other import declarations where US dollars are used will not be processed by the Iranian customs authorities.

According to Mehdi Kasraipur, the director of Foreign Exchange Operations and Policy Department of the Central Bank of Iran, the new rules should not affect current trading operations much, given that the use of the American currency in Iran was already limited. Iranian banks could not conduct operations in US dollars because of US sanctions.

“Given that the use of the dollar in Iran is already prohibited, traders use alternative currencies in their transactions. Therefore, there is no longer any reason to quote prices in dollars in invoices,” the official said.

It is worthy of note that the Iranian national currency, the rial, has dropped vs. the US dollar by eight percent this year. Specialists believe that most of Iran’s foreign trade transactions will be carried out in euros.

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Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

More than 4,200 websites, including many run the U.K. and U.S. governments, were infected on Feb. 11 by a Monero cryptocurrency miner delivered through Browsealoud, a hosted accessibility service that can read website content aloud for people with visual impairments.

Browsealoud developer Texthelp has taken the service offline temporarily while it works on a fix. The exploit was active for four hours and Texthelp had been preparing for such an attack for a while, CTO and data security officer Martin McKay said in a statement.

“Texthelp has in place continuous automated security tests for Browsealoud, and these detected the modified file and as a result the product was taken offline,” he wrote. “This removed Browsealoud from all our customer sites immediately, addressing the security risk without our customers having to take any action.”

No customer data was compromised or lost, and an investigation is underway, according to McKay. A list of the affected websites, which stands at 4,275, is available here.

The infection was first reported by security researcher Scott Helme. A friend of Helme’s told him that his antivirus software was issuing a warning when he visited the site of the U.K. Information Commissioner’s office, prompting Helme to investigate.

“They’re the people we complain to when companies do bad things with our data,” Helme wrote. “It was pretty alarming to realize that they were running a crypto miner on their site, their whole site, every single page. … I quickly realized though that this script, whilst present on the ICO website, was not being hosted by the ICO, it was included by a 3rd party library they loaded.”

That turned out to be Browsealoud, which had been compromised by attackers that altered one of its hosted JavaScript files, Helme said.

“This is not a particularly new attack and we’ve known for a long time that CDNs or other hosted assets are a prime target to compromise a single target and then infect potentially many thousands of websites,” Helme added.

The attack could have been averted if the sites had employed a simple technique called subresource integrity, Helme said. This tells web browsers to run an integrity check on anything being loaded from a third-party source.

Helme explained the technique in a previous blog post.

“By embedding the base64 encoded cryptographic hash digest that we expect for the asset into the script or link tag, the browser can download the asset and check its cryptographic hash digest against the one it was expecting,” he wrote. “If the hash of the downloaded asset matches the hash that we provided, then the content is what we were expecting to receive and the browser can safely include the script or style. If the hash doesn’t match then we know we can’t trust the data and it must be discarded.”

It’s not clear how much Monero the managed to generate, but crypto mining schemes have been coming into vogue among cybercriminals. The Smominru botnet, which infected more than half a million machines, has made up to $3.6 million worth of Monero since May, Proofpoint reported.

Last week, a Monero botnet showed up in China and South Korea, infecting Android devices through port 5555, which is associated with the OS’s Debug Bridge tool.

via Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

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Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

Joseph Menn-Reuters The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said.

The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.

A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky’s analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines declined to comment.

Kaspersky published the technical details of its research on Monday, which should help infected institutions detect the spying programs, some of which trace back as far as 2001.

The disclosure could further hurt the NSA’s surveillance abilities, already damaged by massive leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden’s revelations have hurt the United States’ relations with some allies and slowed the sales of U.S. technology products abroad.

The exposure of these new spying tools could lead to greater backlash against Western technology, particularly in countries such as China, which is already drafting regulations that would require most bank technology suppliers to proffer copies of their software code for inspection.

Peter Swire, one of five members of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, said the Kaspersky report showed that it is essential for the country to consider the possible impact on trade and diplomatic relations before deciding to use its knowledge of software flaws for intelligence gathering.

“There can be serious negative effects on other U.S. interests,” Swire said.

TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH

According to Kaspersky, the spies made a technological breakthrough by figuring out how to lodge malicious software in the obscure code called firmware that launches every time a computer is turned on.

Disk drive firmware is viewed by spies and cybersecurity experts as the second-most valuable real estate on a PC for a hacker, second only to the BIOS code invoked automatically as a computer boots up.

“The hardware will be able to infect the computer over and over,” lead Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said in an interview.

Though the leaders of the still-active espionage campaign could have taken control of thousands of PCs, giving them the ability to steal files or eavesdrop on anything they wanted, the spies were selective and only established full remote control over machines belonging to the most desirable foreign targets, according to Raiu. He said Kaspersky found only a few especially high-value computers with the hard-drive infections.

Kaspersky’s reconstructions of the spying programs show that they could work in disk drives sold by more than a dozen companies, comprising essentially the entire market. They include Western Digital Corp, Seagate Technology Plc, Toshiba Corp, IBM, Micron Technology Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Western Digital, Seagate and Micron said they had no knowledge of these spying programs. Toshiba and Samsung declined to comment. IBM did not respond to requests for comment.

GETTING THE SOURCE CODE

Raiu said the authors of the spying programs must have had access to the proprietary source code that directs the actions of the hard drives. That code can serve as a roadmap to vulnerabilities, allowing those who study it to launch attacks much more easily.

“There is zero chance that someone could rewrite the [hard drive] operating system using public information,” Raiu said.

Concerns about access to source code flared after a series of high-profile cyberattacks on Google Inc and other U.S. companies in 2009 that were blamed on China. Investigators have said they found evidence that the hackers gained access to source code from several big U.S. tech and defense companies.

It is not clear how the NSA may have obtained the hard drives’ source code. Western Digital spokesman Steve Shattuck said the company “has not provided its source code to government agencies.” The other hard drive makers would not say if they had shared their source code with the NSA.

Seagate spokesman Clive Over said it has “secure measures to prevent tampering or reverse engineering of its firmware and other technologies.” Micron spokesman Daniel Francisco said the company took the security of its products seriously and “we are not aware of any instances of foreign code.”
According to former intelligence operatives, the NSA has multiple ways of obtaining source code from tech companies, including asking directly and posing as a software developer. If a company wants to sell products to the Pentagon or another sensitive U.S. agency, the government can request a security audit to make sure the source code is safe.

“They don’t admit it, but they do say, ‘We’re going to do an evaluation, we need the source code,’” said Vincent Liu, a partner at security consulting firm Bishop Fox and former NSA analyst. “It’s usually the NSA doing the evaluation, and it’s a pretty small leap to say they’re going to keep that source code.”

Kaspersky called the authors of the spying program “the Equation group,” named after their embrace of complex encryption formulas.

The group used a variety of means to spread other spying programs, such as by compromising jihadist websites, infecting USB sticks and CDs, and developing a self-spreading computer worm called Fanny, Kasperky said.

Fanny was like Stuxnet in that it exploited two of the same undisclosed software flaws, known as “zero days,” which strongly suggested collaboration by the authors, Raiu said. He added that it was “quite possible” that the Equation group used Fanny to scout out targets for Stuxnet in Iran and spread the virus.

 

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AI MONITORING YOU…..

 

There’s wisdom in crowds, and scientists are applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to better predict global crises and outbreaks. You Could Live On One Of These Moons With an Oxygen Mask and Heavy Jacket
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The Exoneration: “Al – Zawahiri’s Book full of lies, calumnies, jurisprudential fallacies, and indirections”- Dr. FadI Sayed Imam Abdulaziz al-Sharif

The book of al-Zawahiri, ‘The Exoneration of the Nation’ appeared encyclopaedic and contrived: despite attempts to embellish it with all kinds of fakeries, and using all sorts of arguments, al-Zawahiri’s book is trite and fails to make an impression on the reader or evoke his interest, let alone convince him.

via The Exoneration: “Al – Zawahiri’s Book full of lies, calumnies, jurisprudential fallacies, and indirections”- Dr. FadI Sayed Imam Abdulaziz al-Sharif

 

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The Exoneration: “Al – Zawahiri’s Book full of lies, calumnies, jurisprudential fallacies, and indirections”- Dr. FadI Sayed Imam Abdulaziz al-Sharif

Is the Jihad movement collapsing on itself from the inside?

Dr. FadI Sayed Imam Abdulaziz al-Sharif  Jihad theoretician and allegedly the founding father of Al Jihadi, the precursor to Al-Qaeda) released a revision of the rules of Jihad. (Rationalizations on Jihad in Egypt and the World [2008]). – Full Document Below

BACKGROUND:

Dr Fadl’s position among the jihadists and the nature of his long relationship with Dr al-Zawahiri. Certainly, Dr Fadl had for years been regarded as the master mind and ideologue of jihadi activity, so much that the Jihad Group (Jamaa’at al-Jihad) of Egypt had no hesitation conferring on him the title of “The mufti of the jihadists worldwide”. Also his friend Ayman al-Zawaheri was so convinced of his credentials that he vehemently urged him to take on the role of leader (Amir) of the Jihad Group when they met in the city of Peshawar on the Afghani-Pakistani border during the eighties of the past century. This title
of Amir that al-Zawahiri was eager to bestow upon Dr Fadl does in fact reflect his yearning to imitate and at the same time rival the Islamic Group (al-Jamaa’a al-Islamiyya) which had at its helm another great legal scholar in the person of Sheik Omar Abdal-Rahman.
Al–Zawahiri met Dr Fadl fifty eight years ago in the corridors of the medical faculty at Cairo University in 1968. This collegial environment of the university allowed the two to meet regularly and converse about all kinds of issues beyond their common interest in medicine, and to ultimately form a friendship that would last many years after the two had graduated. This friendship, it is worth recalling, was to take on other proportions about forty years ago, particularly in the wake of the collapse of the grand Nassiri project, and was to consolidate further during the wave of political Islam that swept through Egypt during the era of the late president Anwar al-Sadat and reached its peak after the assassination of the latter in 1981. Following this event, Dr Fadl left for Saudi Arabia where he was soonjoined and by al-Zawahiri after his release from jail in 1986. From there, they went to Afghanistan and were at the heart of the jihadi resistance to the Soviet invasion, and then both made their way to Sudan where they finally parted ways in 1994, following a growing difference of opinion between the two of them regarding the jihadi philosophy of the Tanzeem, notably after al-Zawahiri had succeeded inswaying the Group towards the course of violence and armed confrontation withthe Egyptian regime, and before the latter had finally joined al-Qaeda followinghis infamous deal with Osama Bin Laden in 1998, which saw the birth of theInternational Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders (al-Jabhaal-Islaamiyaa al-‘Aalamiyya li Jihad al-Yahud wa al-Nasaara)  After Sudan, Dr Fadl went to Yemen where he worked as a doctor under his real name, al-Seyyid Imam Abdul-Aziz. However, the authorities in Yemen handed him over to Egypt to face the sentence of life imprisonment in a court trial known the case of “The returnees from Albania”. While Abdul-Aziz was doing time in jail, his friend continued on the path he had chosen for himself along his new companion Osama Bin Laden. Both al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden had dreams in the Afghani caves that soon turned to crazy quests that Muslims all over the world had to pay the price for. When Dr Fadl published his Document for the Guidance of Jihadi Action about a year ago, it fell like a bombshell whose impact was most disruptive to the jihadi planners of al-Qaeda. The die-hards of the organisation were so taken aback by Dr Fadl’s document; they wasted no time nor spared effort in mounting a response to it. Al-Zawahiri and his ilk were naturally fully aware of the weight of such a document: it was after all authored by the Sheik Abdul-Qader Bin Abdul-Aziz (Dr Fadl) who may not only be regarded as the foremost ideologue of jihadi activity in the organization (tanzeem), but also of al-Qaeda if one takes into consideration the fact that his books and ideas have become the very basis of the organisation’s ideology after it had formed an alliance with the Group. It was due to this trepidation that The Document had caused in the ranks of al-Qaeda, that the book of al-Zawahiri, ‘The Exoneration of the Nation’ appeared encyclopaedic and contrived: despite attempts to embellish it with all kinds of fakeries, and using all sorts of arguments, al-Zawahiri’s book is trite and fails to make an impression on the reader or evoke his interest, let alone convince him.

Perspectives on the occupation of Iraq and Al-Qaeda coming from the insides of those organizations. a way to glimmering of understanding of their motives and rationales.

Summary of Rules he suggested;

1. The life or property of a muslim can not be harmed or taken from him.

2. Jihad against the leaders of muslim countries is not allowed.

3. It is forbidden to harm foreigners or tourists in muslim countries.

4. It’s an illegal betrayal to kill people in a non-muslim country if you have gotten into the country with permission of the government.

5. People shall not attempt to commit Jihad on their own.
6. The person committing Jihad must not only be physically capable, but also financially capable in his own right. There is nothing in Islam which condones kidnapping or theft as a way to finance Jihad.

7. The Jihadists must be able to take care of their family, also after they have comitted Jihad.

8. The parents must approve if their children wish to commit Jihad. God does not accept Jihad without the parents’ permission.

Dr. Fadl is currently in Egyptian prison. He is claimed to have divorced from the practical side of Jihads in 1994 and lived oddly in peace with Yemen security forces until he was arrested after 9/11, because of pressure from the US.

EXCERPTS: “Commenting further on the behaviour of the Arab  Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, Dr Fadl went on to say:  “This emotionality and impulsivity appears to have taken a much tighter grip over  the action of the jihadists and have become in time their hallmark, such that in  recent years they were led to commit mass-killings and genocides in the name if Islam and jihad. I know the people who perpetrated those crimes, just as I know the extent of their religious knowledge and their stance vis-à-vis religion. Indeed, not only have these people committed crime, they have even had the audacity to find a jurisprudential basis for it in Islamic law. Dr. Fadi pointed to some of the salient features of this ‘exonerative jurisprudence’ and have exposed it in my Document for the Guidance of Jihadi Action and in the journalistic interview which was later added to that document. But the followers of this corrupt doctrine and jurisprudence from the members of alQaeda were led by arrogance to morecrime and so after months were able to summon up a reply to the document, though it seems that they have began preparing their response well before my document was published, and that more than one attempt was tried prior to the present response. Indeed, the first attempt appears to go back a few years and came to an end in July of 2007, when one of those members who took on the task of replying to the document was killed in Sana’a, Yemen, this was followed by a second attempt which was discontinued in January 2008 when another member was killed in Waziristan in Pakistan, and finally that most hapless wretch from among them, al-Zawahiri, rushed forward to commit his evil deed in March of the same year, and wrote his own response to the “document” in a book he named ‘The Exoneration of the Nation’. Al-Zawahiri had no qualms tampering with the truths of Islam and seemed to have completely ignored the lesson in the death of his two precursors, no doubt thinking that he could not possibly meet the same fate as theirs. Concerning such behaviour, God, may He be exalted, has said: “And, indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did not abase themselves before their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves” (23:76), and also:”

Full Document:  Unveiling th e Great Deception in al – Zawahiri_s ‘Exoneration of the Nation_

 ———–

2010, Al-Zawahiri released a 2016-page rebuttal (“The Exoneration”) of the document, choosing to highlight the fact that Dr. Fadl contradicts his own, earlier work and leaves important questions Dr. Fadl brought to the forefront unanswered.Al-Zawahiri also chooses to warn the author and readers of the work  that Dr. Fadl wrote this while under incarceration and the only beneficiary of the document is the United States. He claims that Dr. Fadl has been pressured by “Crusader and Zionistic” forces.

BULLET POINTS: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, has engaged in an ideological counter offensive against his detractors.

First, in early March 2008, he published a 188-page Arabic book online titled The Exoneration: A Treatise Exonerating the Community of the Pen and the Sword from the Debilitating Accusation of Fatigue and Weakness.   In it, he responds to the November 2007 criticisms of his former mentor, Sayid Imam Abdel-Aziz Al-Sharif (Abdel-Aziz), who lambasted him for misapplying the doctrine of jihad and for bringing harm to the Muslim world. Then in late March, Zawahiri released part one of his response to questions he solicited online from other militants.

Around the same time, he also released a statement on the plight of the Palestinians.
Many of the themes and arguments in the book, the Q&A, and thestatement overlap, suggesting a campaign to repair the ideological and pu blic relations damage done to
Al-Qaida over the past year. The broad thrust of the campaign is to defend the religious legitimacy and political efficacy of attacks that affect civilians. It is also to explain why Al-Qaida’s strategic focus has been on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Algeria instead of the Palestinian Territories and Egypt or responding to European insults to the Prophet Mohammed. The number of his statements which have been released and their detailed nature suggest that Al-Qaida’s senior leadership is concerned that it is losing its relevance among its base.
Zawahiri gives four indications as to Al-Qaida’s current strategic orientation.
First, he wants Al-Qaida in Iraq to shift its violence away from Shi’a civilians and towards Shi’a militias.
Second, Zawahiri calls for militants to increase attacks against Jewish targets
abroad in the near term and against Israeli targets in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the long term.
-Third, he calls for the death of those associated with the cartoons of the Prophet in Europe.
– Fourth, Zawahiri wants militants in Egypt to ready themselves to seize the opportunity when Hosni Mubarak dies. By focusing on Israel, ending sectarian viol ence against civilians in Iraq, punishing Europeans who have insulted Mohammed, and overthrowing the unpopular Mubarak, Al-Qaida may be tryingto increase its diminished popularity by highlighting issues that resonate with popular Muslim resentment.

For more on Al-Zawahiri’s rebuttal, SIW-AQ-2010

 

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CELL 180: N.KOREA CYBER EYE…

Never before has a nation-state attempted billion-dollar bank heists like North Korea is now accused of masterminding. The goal, experts say, is funding the nuclear weapons that act as a morbid guarantee of the regime’s survival.

via CELL 180: N.KOREA CYBER EYE…

 

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CELL 180: N.KOREA CYBER EYE…

In the shadow of nuclear weapons, bank robberies tend to be forgotten. In North Korea’s case, the two are closely connected. Reuters

Conventional wisdom says North Korea is an arsenal-craving backwater under the rule of despots. The regime, however, is driving toward a modern version of authoritarianism, with cyberwar capabilities complementing hydrogen bombs. While the nukes purposefully grab the world’s attention, the regime is taking unprecedented steps in the cyber domain. And it’s targeting more than just its critics.

It’s been just over one year since the collective known as Lazarus Group stole $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh in a heist that ran through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The theft, one of the biggest bank robberies in modern history, initially targeted $1 billion but came up well short because of a simple typo during the online bank transfer process. It’s now the subject of a U.S. federal inquiry looking into North Korea’s possible role in what amounts to modern bank robbery.

This is just one in a series of hacks that prompted accusations against North Korea of targeting, hacking and stealing money from financial institutions from at least 18 different countries.

Never before has a nation-state attempted billion-dollar bank heists like North Korea is now accused of masterminding. The goal, experts say, is funding the nuclear weapons that act as a morbid guarantee of the regime’s survival. While the amount of money stolen is unprecedented, the country’s actions match its longstanding tactic of borrowing from the criminal playbook to skirt crushing economic sanctions.

“What the North Koreans are very good at is continuing to find ways to earn income around the sanctions regime,” Stephan Haggard, visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics, said. “Because they’re sanctioned and because they have absolutely no compunction about violating international law and norms, they’re perfectly happy to devote resources to sanctions circumvention. The cyber piece of this is an income earning piece of a larger picture.”

If the bank hacks continue to be successful, there’s no reason to believe they will stop anytime soon.

“If I were a consumer bank right now, I would be pretty concerned about attempts from North Korea to exfiltrate money,” Jon Condra, director of East Asian research and analysis at the threat intelligence firm Flashpoint, told CyberScoop.

The Lazarus-Pyongyang Connection

Lazarus’s involvement in the heists was first pointed out by Symantec as it investigated both the group and North Korea’s increasingly aggressive and idiosyncratic cyberattacks. 

“We find them to be quite unpredictable,” Eric Chien, technical director at the security firm Symantec, said. “People try to put [North Korean hackers] in a box and say, ‘This is how they operate.’ They did the Sony wipe, they did the South Korean wipe. If you asked me at that time, ‘Are they going to try to steal $1 billion out of the Bangladesh Bank?’ I would have said, ‘No, that doesn’t fit their profile at all.’”

Earlier this month, Symantec announced a new set of links between Lazarus and hacking attempts on Polish regulators and banks, a cybersecurity incident deemed the most serious the Polish banking system has ever faced.

Chien’s team at Symantec has been actively tracking the Lazarus Group since the Sony hack in 2014, an attack the U.S. government has attributed to North Korea. Researchers have watched the group grow in both ambition and impact but, despite it all, Chien says Lazarus remains “quite low” on a technical perspective.

“Only now they’re starting to take on some of the most modern techniques, the regular techniques you’d see any cybercriminals use in these latest Polish attacks,” he said. “Just because you have low sophistication doesn’t mean you can’t have high impact. We see that with the attack on the Bangladesh Bank. It was really only a typo and some procedural errors that prevented them from getting away with $1 billion and only getting away with $81 million.”

A Connected Dictatorship

For the Kim dynasty, criminal activity is a matter of national security. North Korea’s cyber activity is just the latest step in a decades-long provocation performance.

“They have switched across different domains,” Jon R. Lindsay, a professor at the Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, told CyberScoop. “In the last 10 years, it’s switched to cyber. North Korea keeps trying to find ways to come in under threshold deterrence, response, retaliation. The means it uses to do that have continually varied as the U.S. and South Koreans have come up with more effective deterrent regimes to lock that out.”

Even while revenue has been choked out of the country with sanctions, the dictatorship has poured considerable resources into developing cyber capabilities over the last 38 years. According to South Korean intelligence, it came into stark focus in 1986 when North Korea hired 25 Russian instructors to train “cyber-warriors.” The training took place at Mirim Command Automation College (now known as Kim Il Military College), an institution that became legendary for its shadowy activity. The Korea Computer Center, a top research center from the Pyongyang regime, was established in 1990 and has since branched out to offices and commercial dealings around the world.

The hackers who make up Lazarus may have been part of the North Korean programs that educate students from middle school to the university level at institutions like Kim Il Sung Military Academy, the top school in the nation. By 2000, as the country emerged from a four-year long famine that killed as many as 3.5 million people, North Korea increased investments in technology, connectivity and personnel that slowly began to open the country up, albeit through the internet, to the outside world.

“North Korea is not famous for its considerable levels of access to the international community nor its internet infrastructure,” Condra said. “That said, they’ve invested significantly in developing asymmetric cyber capabilities as a means of countering a symmetric military advantage on behalf of the United States and its allies in the region.”

Beyond attacking financial institutions, information warfare provides North Korea with a force multiplier in the looming specter of military conflict with its southern counterpart. South Korean intelligence assessments show a low enough stockpile of conventional weapons to emphasize North Korea’s need for asymmetric weapons that would enable it, in theory, to strike quickly and with a high impact. Along with cyberweapons, nuclear arms, biological weapons and electronic warfare characterize this approach.

“Grooming prodigies, deploying them, setting up internet, buying programs, and providing conditions for them to operate in China or another third country is considerably cheaper than buying new weapons or fighter jets which cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to a North Korean defector interviewed in 2011.

According to former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) — North Korea’s top spy agency — is responsible for Lazarus. Within RGB, different groups handle different aspects of cyberwar. It’s RGB’s 110 Institute, the Technical Reconnaissance Group, which South Korean officials say command the Lazarus Group. The 110 Institute is one among several known to send operatives abroad to work within international private and public industries as cover for conducting operations.

How Lazarus Works

The hacking group started operations in 2009, the same year as Operation Troy, a cyberattack in which South Korean military secrets were stolen. That same year saw a flurry of activity including denial of service attacks against South Korean and U.S. targets. Financial institutions and other targets have been hit with attacks every year since by North Korean-affiliated targets, though never with the same level of success that Lazarus saw inside the systems of the Bangladesh Bank. All of these attacks have been pinned on the Lazarus Group.

“Directly stealing money out of bank accounts is something that has not traditionally been the purview of nation-states,” Condra said. “This has been an interesting twist in the APT saga coming out of the East Asian region.”

Offering an estimate, Haggard said that over the last two decades North Korea has made from 10 to 15 percent of its foreign exchange earnings — several hundred million dollars per year — through various shifting forms of illicit activity.

Describing Lazarus’s tools, tactics and procedures, Symantec’s Chien said the whole package is very distinctive.

“When you look at the way they write their code, it’s all written in kind of a different way,” he explained. “If you didn’t have the internet as a reference manual, if you didn’t have the classic text books and computer science university knowledge, you would maybe do it in a different way, whatever way you thought. A bunch of their code is written in a nonstandard, nontraditional method.”

This almost exactly matches up with how North Korea universities operate. A former teacher at a North Korean university who spoke to CyberScoop on the condition of anonymity described students reading from books and other slow, tightly controlled sources of information because the country so thoroughly monitors and blocks internet usage. Whereas hackers in China, Russia or elsewhere might simply rely on Google to solve a problem, North Korea’s students have been thoroughly siloed. As a result of that relative separation and lack of contact, they’ve simply done things differently than the rest of the world.

“We go back to Sony as a start,” Chien said. “Just the most obvious things are when they got into Sony they displayed this blinking animation, skull and cross bones, a ‘was here’ animation with their names scrolling across the bottom. It was a bit laughable, but unfortunately, there was real impact there on Sony.”

That’s slowly changing now as North Korea’s cyber operatives increasingly adopt tactics like watering hole attacks.

“We had never seen them reuse off-the-shelf code before,” Chien said while discussing the recent attack on Polish banks. “It’s the kind of thing where if you took an average person in the U.S. and they became a hacker they might do this from the start: Go out on the internet, see how are people doing this and start there. [The Lazarus Group] is at that stage now.”

While the group does have sophisticated capabilities in regards to disk-wiping malware and destructive attacks, according to Condra, they’ve fallen so short of their goals when it comes to stealing money.

“They do seem to manage to get their way into financial institutions but as far as actually exfiltrating the money, they’ve proven less than capable at that,” he said. “It was $81 million they successfully got in the Bangladesh incident out of almost a billion they tried for. I think they are learning and evolving over time, I would certainly venture to say they are more sophisticated than they were in 2009 when they started, but they haven’t proven incredibly successful from the financial theft perspective yet.”

The Chinese Conundrum

When tracking the history of North Korea cyber capabilities, the trail runs right through Xi Jinping’s China.

“[North Korea has] obviously benefited tremendously from their relationship with China,” Condra told CyberScoop. “China is their primary benefactor and many people see China as the only reason North Korea continues to exist in its current form.”

While North Korea was top of discussion between Presidents Xi and Trump during their recent meeting, neither side expects the problem to be solved any time soon. Theft against banks by Pyongyang may end up continuing into the foreseeable future. The current U.S. investigation into the bank hacks could force North Korea to retool but few expect a stop to the hacking or, in a larger sense, provocation.

“I do think that North Korea is really going to be the issue that defines U.S.-China relations under the Trump administration,” Shannon Tiezzi, editor at the Diplomat magazine, said earlier this month. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “put it quite directly that strategic patience, the Obama administration’s policy, is dead. The Trump administration is determined to craft a new policy. Realistically speaking, unless that policy is we’re going to enter into unconditional dialogue with North Korea, any of the other options are going to be upsetting to China.”

Although Flashpoint’s Condra warns banks to worry about North Korea’s activity, he says they face more common day-to-day threats from elsewhere. “[Lazarus is] a high-impact, low-probability event for most organizations. The more likely vector is cybercrime affecting consumer banks is still probably the cybercrime communities particularly coming out of Eastern Europe. Those guys don’t tend to go after the bank itself, they go after the customers,” he said.

“If we’re ever going to solve the North Korea issue, at least from the cyber domain, China’s going to have to play ball, Condra said. “China is going to have to make the determination that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Fundamentally, the decision is going to have to be made in Beijing.”

North Korean representatives have repeatedly denied the country has been involved in any hacking whatsoever.

North Korea has been blamed in recent years for a series of online attacks, mostly on financial networks, in the United States, South Korea and over a dozen other countries.

Illustration photo of binary code against a North Korean flag

Cyber security researchers have also said they have found technical evidence that could link North Korea with the global WannaCry “ransomware” cyber attack that infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries this month. Pyongyang has called the allegation “ridiculous”.

The crux of the allegations against North Korea is its connection to a hacking group called Lazarus that is linked to last year’s $81 million cyber heist at the Bangladesh central bank and the 2014 attack on Sony’s Hollywood studio. The U.S. government has blamed North Korea for the Sony hack and some U.S. officials have said prosecutors are building a case against Pyongyang in the Bangladesh Bank theft.

No conclusive proof has been provided and no criminal charges have yet been filed. North Korea has also denied being behind the Sony and banking attacks.

North Korea is one of the most closed countries in the world and any details of its clandestine operations are difficult to obtain. But experts who study the reclusive country and defectors who have ended up in South Korea or the West have provided some clues.

Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea who defected to the South in 2004 and still has sources inside North Korea, said Pyongyang’s cyber attacks aimed at raising cash are likely organised by Unit 180, a part of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), its main overseas intelligence agency.

“Unit 180 is engaged in hacking financial institutions (by) breaching and withdrawing money out of bank accounts,” Kim told Reuters. He has previously said that some of his former students have joined North Korea’s Strategic Cyber Command, its cyber-army.

“The hackers go overseas to find somewhere with better internet services than North Korea so as not to leave a trace,” Kim added. He said it was likely they went under the cover of being employees of trading firms, overseas branches of North Korean companies, or joint ventures in China or Southeast Asia.

James Lewis, a North Korea expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Pyongyang first used hacking as a tool for espionage and then political harassment against South Korean and U.S. targets.

“They changed after Sony by using hacking to support criminal activities to generate hard currency for the regime,” he said.

“So far, it’s worked as well or better as drugs, counterfeiting, smuggling – all their usual tricks,” Lewis said.

COST-EFFECTIVE, DENIABLE

The U.S. Department of Defense said in a report submitted to Congress last year that North Korea likely “views cyber as a cost-effective, asymmetric, deniable tool that it can employ with little risk from reprisal attacks, in part because its networks are largely separated from the Internet”.

“It is likely to use Internet infrastructure from third-party nations,” the report said.

South Korean officials say they have considerable evidence of North Korea’s cyber warfare operations.

“North Korea is carrying out cyber attacks through third countries to cover up the origin of the attacks and using their information and communication technology infrastructure,” Ahn Chong-ghee, South Korea’s vice foreign minister, told Reuters in written comments.

Besides the Bangladesh Bank heist, he said Pyongyang was also suspected in attacks on banks in the Philippines, Vietnam and Poland.

In June last year, police said the North hacked into more than 140,000 computers at 160 South Korean companies and government agencies, planting malicious code as part of a long-term plan to lay the groundwork for a massive cyber attack on its rival.

North Korea was also suspected of staging cyber attacks against the South Korean nuclear reactor operator in 2014, although it denied any involvement.

That attack was conducted from a base in China, according to Simon Choi, a senior security researcher at Seoul-based anti-virus company Hauri Inc.

“They operate there so that regardless of what kind of project they do, they have Chinese IP addresses,” said Choi, who has conducted extensive research into North Korea’s hacking capabilities.

MALAYSIA LINK

Malaysia has also been a base for North Korean cyber operations, according to Yoo Dong-ryul, a former South Korean police researcher who studied North Korean espionage techniques for 25 years.

“They work in trading or IT programming companies on the surface,” Yoo told Reuters. “Some of them run websites and sell game and gambling programs”.

Two IT firms in Malaysia have links to North Korea’s RGB spy agency, according to a Reuters investigation this year, although there was no suggestion either of them was involved in hacking.

Michael Madden, a U.S.-based expert on the North Korean leadership, said Unit 180 was one of many elite cyber warfare groups in the North Korean intelligence community.

“The personnel are recruited from senior middle schools and receive advanced training at some elite training institutions,” Madden told Reuters.

“They have a certain amount of autonomy in their missions and tasking as well,” he said, adding that they could be operating from hotels in China or Eastern Europe.

In the United States, officials said there was no conclusive evidence that North Korea was behind the WannaCry ransomware, but that was no reason to be complacent.

“Whether or not they are directly involved with ransomware doesn’t change the fact that they are a real cyber threat,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of prominent U.S. security firm CrowdStrike Inc, added: “Their capabilities have improved steadily over time, and we consider them to be a threat actor that is capable of inflicting significant damage on U.S. private or government networks.”

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ONCE UPON A TIME…AN “ISIS” DEFECTOR

Over the summer of August 30, 2016,, Majalla has been in contact with a figure they referred to as Abu Ayyub al-Iraqi, though this is not his real name. He has presented credible evidence that he was a senior commander of ISIS and, before 2003, a Brigadier General in the Iraqi military.

Abu Ayyub supplied documentation verifying his identity, as well as several recorded audio statements providing key identifying information. Majalla corroborated the details with sources personally familiar with him, including several ISIS members who were in detention in Iraq and Germany. All confirmed that, until recently, he was one of ISIS’s most prominent military commanders. Abu Ayyub also demonstrated that he maintains an active presence on jihadist web platforms affiliated with ISIS.

Majalla independently verified the details in collaboration with a former Iraqi intelligence agent personally familiar with Abu Ayyub. The agent contacted him, verified his identity, and confirmed his standing within ISIS-affiliated web forums.

The following is a summary of Majalla’s findings:

Who is Brigadier General Abu Ayyub al-Iraqi?

Abu Ayyub was a Brigadier General in the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein’s regime. More recently, he joined ISIS, acting as a military adviser. He helped SIS establish military courses specializing in the manufacture of bombs and explosive belts, and taught courses on intelligence, security and covert activity. At the time, he was residing in Kurdistan and operating from there.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s Front Man

On June 29, 2014, ISIS announced the establishment of what it called an “Islamic caliphate,” naming Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as “the Imam and Caliph for Muslims everywhere.” Standing from the pulpit of Mosul’s Great Mosque, he called on all Muslims to swear a bay’ah — an oath of allegiance — to him. But, according to Abu Ayyub, this swearing-in was theatrically, but not operationally, significant.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Ayyub has provided Majalla with audio recordings and other evidence demonstrating that, while Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an important doctrinal voice within ISIS, in operational terms he is more a secondary figure. Indeed, as he recounts, Baghdadi has not commanded any of ISIS’s battles. His main contribution to the front lines was to visit Anbar on two occasions as a preacher to boost the morale of fighters.

Abu Ayyub added that Baghdadi joined ISIS at the end of 2007. Prior to that, he had no military experience. At the time, he was known as a preacher who would give sermons in the mosques of Fallujah. He issued fatwas, or Islamic legal rulings, on behalf of ISIS from the pulpit, even though he was not then affiliated with the group. Up till then, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had worked with a local Anbari faction.

‘The Prince of Shadows’: Hajji Bakr

In June 2010, ISIS was at the nadir of its fortunes. Its nominal leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi had been killed two months before, making him the third leader of the group to be killed in four years. It had lost most of its territory in Iraq, and was reduced to several hundred fighters on the fringes of the Iraqi desert.

Enter Hajji Bakr, whose real name was Samir al-Khlifawi — widely known as the “prince of shadows.” In Abu Ayyub words, “Hajji Bakr was a former Army colonel in the pre-2003 Iraqi regime. Afterwards he joined Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group, Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which later evolved into Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was very close to Zarqawi, and in time he grew to become one of ISIS’s most powerful and influential operatives, running the organization and acting as its de facto operational leader until he was killed in Syria in 2014.”

Hajji Bakr
Hajji Bakr

Hajji Bakr moved energetically to re-organize ISIS’s ranks. He aggressively recruited deputies with military and intelligence experience. According to Abu Ayyub, Hajji Bakr recruited several individuals who would later prove to be key players in the organisation:

Mazen Nuhairi, known as “Abu Safaa al-Rifai”. Born in the 1970s, he had been a Colonel in the Iraqi Army before the US invasion in 2003.

Abd ar-Rahman al-Qaduli, also known as “Abu Ali al-Anbari”, a former physics teacher and jihadist veteran of Afghanistan. He would go on to play a key role in the establishment of ISIS’s presence in Syria and foothold in Libya, before being killed by US special forces in eastern Syria in March 2016.

‘Adnan al-Bilawi, also known as “Abu Abd ar-Rahman al-Bilawi”. Al-Bilawi was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib until 2013, when he escaped in a massive, ISIS-orchestrated prison break. In the following months, he travelled between Iraq and Syria before being killed by Iraqi security forces in Mosul, just prior to ISIS’s capture of the city in June 2014.

Abu Ayyub also notes that most of ISIS’s current high command “was shaped inside prisons. Men such as Abu Abd ar-Rahman al-Bilawi, the military commander and mastermind of the Mosul operation; Abu Ali Anbari, a senior security official and religious leader; and Abu Muhannad al-Suwaydawi (nicknamed Abu Ayman Al-Iraqi), a major ISIS official in Syria. And many others besides them.”

The three were detained in Boca Prison in Basra in 2006, and most were released in 2007. Working under Hajji Bakr’s direction, they devised a plan for revitalizing the then-moribund ISIS.

First, they decided the organization needed a new public face. They were men with checkered pasts, veterans of Saddam’s army and the Ba’ath Party, neither of which commanded much respect at the time. But Sunni clerics are highly respected in Anbar, and installing a man with Al-Baghdadi’s profile in the fore would make it easier to win local support. As an added benefit, employing Al-Baghdadi as the face of the organization enabled them to avoid competing amongst themselves for the post.

After the three commanders came to an agreement amongst themselves, they decided to meet with Al-Baghdadi. When they first approached Al-Baghdadi with their proposed reorganization of ISIS, he rejected it. However, Hajji Bakr ultimately persuaded him to go along, informing Baghdadi that he would be the State’s leader in name, while Hajji Bakr would retain actual control.

‘Those Who Loosen and Bind’

Abu Ayyub claims that ISIS’s principal operational commander today is a man named Mazen Nuhairi, who goes by the nom de guerre “Abu Safa’al-Rifa’i.” A former colonel in Saddam’s army, he is hardly a cleric and not a Sunni. According to Abu Ayyub, he is the acting successor to Hajji Bakr.

Abu Ayyub’s most important claim is that ISIS is run on a day-to-day basis by a committee known internally as Ahl al-Hall wal-’Aqd, a classical Arabic term meaning “those who loosen and bind” and denoting powerful decision makers.
According to Abu Ayyub, it is they, and not Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who supervise ISIS’s overall hierarchy, including its specialized offices (known as diwans) and network of provinces (known as wilayat).

ISIS itself partially corroborated this arrangement in early July 2016, releasing a video documenting the existence of a so-called “Delegated Committee” which oversees the entire organization, including all its provincial offices and specialized bureaus.
Within the Delegated Committee, according to Abu Ayyub, seven commanders have stood out as particularly important in recent years: Hajji Bakr, Abu ‘Alaa al-Afri, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, Ni’ma Abd Nayyef, Abu Abd ar-Rahman Al-Bilawi, Abu Muhannad al-Suwaydawi and Abu Ahmad al-’Alwani.

Since their appointment, all seven have been killed. They have been replaced by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, Abu Muhammad al-Shamali, Saleh Haifa and Iyad al-Jumaili.

Abu Ayyub believes that “the Delegated Committee represents the Ahl al-Hall wa’l-Aqd. It is more important than al-Baghdadi himself. It supervises 14 bureaus, 35 provinces as well as six offices and agencies.”

Mazen Nuhairi: ISIS’s Operational Commander

Nuhairi, according to Abu Ayyub, was born in the 1970s. He joined the Iraqi military and rose to the rank of colonel. After the US-led invasion, he joined the insurgency and eventually became one of ISIS’s founding members. Today he goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Safaa al-Rifa’i, and has succeeded Hajji Bakr as ISIS’s effective operational commander.

He is one of the key architects of ISIS’s revival, recruited by Hajji Bakr in the dark days of 2010. A succession of high profile casualties has contributed to his rise. Hajji Bakr was killed by Syrian rebels in the Aleppo countryside in early 2014; Abu Abd ar-Rahman Al-Bilawi fell to an Iraqi special forces raid a week before ISIS took Mosul in June 2014. Mazen Nuhairi’s role grew still more important after the killing of Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Ali al-Anbari, who represented the second tier of ISIS leadership.

Nuhairi essentially modeled ISIS’s intelligence apparatus after the Baath regime in which he came of age, with the added responsibility of providing personal security to ISIS field commanders.

According to Abu Ayyub, Nuhairi works behind the scenes, minimizing exposure even to ISIS’s second tier commanders. The intelligence bureau for which he is primarily responsible has been linked to covert suicide operations carried out by ISIS cells abroad.

ISIS Compounds the Mistakes of Al-Qaeda

As ISIS sought to recover from its defeat in Iraq in 2007-10, it remained scarred by the “Sunni Awakenings” which had seen Iraqi tribesmen and former Sunni insurgents turn on the group. This led ISIS to become obsessed with the rise of other extremist factions and groups in Syria, seeing in them potential “Syrian Awakenings.”

For its part, the Assad regime had a vital interest in ISIS’s early success, in that it would inevitably come to blows with the Free Syrian Army and mainstream Syrian opposition factions.

Soon ISIS’s ire was trained on the Nusra Front. Founded by Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, a Syrian veteran of ISIS, and initially funded by the group, it soon grew into Syria’s strongest jihadist faction. As Jawlani grew increasingly powerful, ISIS’s leadership proved unable to maintain control over him.

In his conversations with Majalla, General Abu Ayyub claimed that ISIS’s most senior military leaders plotted to assassinate Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani. Jawlani’s death would have been a boon to the Assad regime, which had suffered significant losses at the hands of the Nusra Front. At the same time it would have rid ISIS of a formidable adversary.

Al-Baghdadi Enters Syria

In early 2013, ISIS began to move against the Nusra Front. According to Abu Ayyub, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Col. Hajji Bakr and their operational team entered Syria in mid-March 2013. They took up residence along the Turkish border near the Klis area, traveling in mobile homes not far from a Syrian refugee camp. Al-Baghdadi and his team held intensive meetings with branch commanders of the Nusra Front and sought to impose his authority on them. He deceived these leaders, keeping in the dark his split with Jawlani and saying that ISIS had come to serve “the common good” with unanimous consent and the support of both Zawahiri and Jawlani. Al-Baghdadi also promised them that he would embrace Nusra Front commanders, religious officials, and advisers, with the general aim of restoring the [Nusra Front] branch to the [ISIS] root.”

In an effort to force Jawlani to fall into line, Al-Baghdadi formally announced the merger of the two groups on April 8, 2013 into the newly proclaimed ISIS of Iraq and Syria. Jawlani rejected the merger the following day, and a period of bitter infighting ensued.

Meetings with Iranian and Syrian intelligence officers

Abu Ayyub went on to say that “Hajji Bakr made constant visits throughout Syria and coordinated directly with the Syrian regime, through Syrian intelligence agents named Moaz Safouk and his cousin Ziad Safouk, both of whom were prior acquaintances of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Hajji Bakr and Al-Bilawi met with several intelligence officers including Hossein Al-Khedr (an official in Syrian intelligence) and Ali Faramani (an Iranian officer who took over the ISIS file within Iranian intelligence at the end of 2014). Nevertheless, the extent to which the Syrian regime proved helpful to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was limited. It was more economic than political or military. For by then the Syrian regime had begun to lose control on the ground, especially in the areas outside Damascus. Faramani was in contact with al-Baghdadi and provided him with information on the leaders of extremist organizations and factions in Syria, especially the commanders of the Nusra Front.”

Iran’s Ties to Sunni Jihadists: A Backgrounder

The ideological and sectarian divide separating Iran from the Sunni jihadists of Al-Qaeda and ISIS often casts doubt on claims of cooperation or collusion between them. However, since the 9/11 Commission Report, evidence has accumulated that Iran acted as a gateway for jihadists to and from Afghanistan and Iraq. Many reports have noted the presence of Al-Qaeda leaders and families in Iran, including the family of Usama bin Laden. Several top-tier commanders have also taken shelter in Iran, to such an extent that Iran has been described as a “reserve” of Al-Qaeda’s leaders.

Bin Laden’s personal letters disclosed a good deal about these ties. The relationship between Iran and Al-Qaeda, and later between Iran and ISIS, reflects the Islamic Republic’s focus on waging unconventional war by relying on militias, its intelligence cells, and a network of spies in targeted states, including the Gulf States, Europe, and the U.S.

Last June, Majalla published a number of documents taken from a vast collection of over one million documents retrieved from Usama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan during the May 2011 operation in which he was killed. Some of the material showed that, after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, some Al-Qaeda leaders and families fled to Iran, where they were kept under house arrest. Some of them, including Bin Laden’s family, were later released. Others remained in custody.

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who rose to Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command after Bin Laden’s death but before Al-Zawahiri was chosen as his successor, complains in those documents about Iranian behavior in negotiations.

A New York court summary judgment against Iran in December 2011 found that Iran provided important material support to Al-Qaeda both before and after the September 11 attacks. Skeptics often note that in 2001 Iran aided the international coalition in toppling the Taliban (which had been its enemy throughout the 1990s). However, according to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, by 2007 the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had begun supplying arms to the Taliban in an effort to harry the Western military presence on its borders.

More recently, in early June 2016, a conservative Iranian website confirmed that former Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour had been residing in Iran for two months, during which time he signed an agreement to secure aid from Iranian officials after intensive talks — despite repeated Iranian Foreign Ministry’s denials that Mansour was even in the country.

Iran has a long history of forging relationships with extremist organizations and providing them with logistical support and a haven.

Iran possess an extensive network of spies engaged in activities ranging from espionage to technological piracy to terrorist bombings and assassinations. In an unclassified report, the Library of Congress detailed extensive support provided by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence to extremist groups in Iraq. The report noted extensive “cooperation” between Iran and al-Qaeda “based on their shared opposition to U.S. hegemony in the region.” Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC have participated in terrorist attacks from Argentina to Lebanon.

Clandestine Iranian-ISIS Meetings

The mutual hostility of Iran and ISIS to the US is well known. Less appreciated is their shared antagonism to mainstream Sunni factions opposed to Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria.4Middle East Media Scope , LTD Likewise, Iran’s interest is to keep America and the West preoccupied with the burdens of dealing with ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. So there are shared interests and informal agreements between the two parties.”

It was Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of the IRGC, who set the tone for Iranian policy towards ISIS. In Abu Ayyub’s telling, he acted primarily through a deputy known as Ali Faramani: “Hossein Salami was communicating with Iraqi and Syrian figures to clear the way for ISIS’s expansion. He was authorized to represent the Supreme Leader in foreign affairs. Ali Faramani carried his messages to senior [Syrian and Iraqi] officials in order to secure the release of prisoners affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Ba’ath party.”

According to Abu Ayyub, Hossein Salami “has an intelligence officer’s mindset par excellence.”

Abu Ayyub alleges that his Syrian and Iranian interlocutors then “facilitated the escape of prisoners in Iraq, and the release of [jihadist] detainees in Bashar al-Assad’s prisons. All that took place on Iran’s orders. ISIS’s leadership didn’t believe that such things could simply be ordered, until a meeting was held between a Syrian intelligence officer named Khedr Al-Hossein, Ali Faramani, Safouk and Hajji Bakr in Syria. Ali Faramani detailed how Iran’s activities benefited ISIS, and claimed that he personally facilitated the prisoners’ release. That was when Iran’s indirect support for ISIS began.”

Abu Ayyub went on to say: “Communications between Iran and ISIS were carried out through Syria, and later through some Kurdish operatives. With the assault on Mosul, Iran played a major role in aiding ISIS, as Iraqi commanders ordered their troops to withdraw and leave behind their weapons and equipment for ISIS to capture.”

The Iran-ISIS Oil Trade

According to General Abu Ayyub, “ISIS sold Iraqi oil at a discounted price to Iran through Iraqi and Syrian middlemen at the height of the Iranian sanctions. This Iraqi and Syrian oil started to flow into Europe through Turkey, with some being transported in tankers through Bandar Abbas as if it was Iraqi oil. For Iran, the benefits were twofold: first, it managed to partially lift the blockade and benefit from Iraqi and Syrian oil supplies; second, it supported ISIS. All this proceeded along lines planned by Hossein Salami.”

Abu Ayyub confirmed that Salami received letters of thanks from ISIS’s operational leadership — though not al-Baghdadi — for his role in propping up ISIS.

“However,” the dissident general hastened to add, “the organization knew full well that Iran was planning [against them], but their interests, and dire necessity, required they accept the support.”

Iran continued to provide ISIS with weapons in exchange for oil. The most visible deals between both sides took place at the end of 2014. Most crucially for ISIS, it received TNT, C-4, and other munitions that Tehran managed to purchase from Western countries via Kurdish intermediaries.

Abu Ayyub claims that Iran trafficked arms in this roundabout manner to dispel suspicions: if the weapons were discovered, they could plausibly claim that they originated in the US and Europe.

Iran’s Deepening Hold

Two years later, Iran’s hold over Iraq is stronger than ever. Media reports and private testimony indicate that hundreds of Iranian advisers are participating in the fight against ISIS in Samarra, Diyala, Salah ad-Din, and Anbar, and that Iran is providing logistical support and training to several dozen predominantly Shi’ite militias. International wire reports have noted the presence of dozens of advisers from the Quds Force in the Iraqi battlefronts. They are providing arms and jointly directing military operations with Iraqi commanders.

The Iranian presence has grown so overt that Qassem Soleimani, the once secretive head of Iran’s vaunted Qods Force, now openly flaunts his role in directing Iranian offensives across both Iraq and Syria. He has appeared in dozens of photos and videos with Shi’ite militias near the front lines. These appearances have raised new questions about the extent of Iranian control of the Iraqi security sector, now exercised more openly than ever. These Iranian gains won tacit acceptance by prominent members of the international coalition against ISIS due to the threat posed by the organisation.

Faramani continued to meet with leaders of the organization in several European countries, while some secret meetings took place in Iraq in the areas of Suleiman Bek and Tuz Khurmatu. He conveyed Salami’s messages to ISIS commanders. Abu Ayyub was not privy to their contents.

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The ‘missing’ muslim regiment: Without rebuttal, pakistani propaganda dupes the gullible across the board

There was no Muslim Regiment ever and certainly not in 1965. But Muslims fighting as part of multi class regiments proved their absolute commitment and worth. Abdul Hamid’s Param Vir Chakra, although a legend, is insufficiently recalled today. Major (later Lt Gen) Mohammad Zaki and Major Abdul Rafey Khan both won the Vir Chakra, the latter posthumously even as he battled the Pakistani division commanded by his uncle, Maj Gen Sahibzada Ya

via The ‘missing’ muslim regiment: Without rebuttal, pakistani propaganda dupes the gullible across the board

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Pakistan: Allah, Army and America continue to remain relevant

via Pakistan: Allah, Army and America continue to remain relevant

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The Solberetsky. The Bellingcat and The Insider managed to confirm the involvement of Petrov and Boshirov in the special services

According to the data on the registration of passengers on the flight (the document is available to The Bellingcat and The Insider), the numbers of Boshirov and Petrov’s passports differ by only one figure (Boshirov’s passport ends at 1294, Petrov’s at 1297).

via The Solberetsky. The Bellingcat and The Insider managed to confirm the involvement of Petrov and Boshirov in the special services

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Pakistan: Allah, Army and America continue to remain relevant

Pakistan’s role as a strategic ally had little use in the changed geo-political calculation in a unipolar world, of which the U.S. was now the only super power. But Allah wished otherwise.

via Pakistan: Allah, Army and America continue to remain relevant

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